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Dead Movement and Liner Notes

a Comedy/Drama
CATEGORY : COMEDY DRAMA
by John Patrick Bray

COMPANY : Onion Man Productions [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Onion Man [WEBSITE]
ID# 5332

SHOWING : September 06, 2018 - September 16, 2018

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PRODUCTION DESCRIPTION

A riveting evening of theatre that examines people forced to reveal dark secrets and confront their pasts.


CAST & CREW LIST
Director Greg Fitzgerald
Bicycle Guy Jonathan McCullum
Resident Parris Sarter
P.I. Paul Spadafora
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REVIEWS

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The Gasping Song of a Dying Swan
by playgoer
Monday, September 10, 2018
2.0
It’s probably not a good idea to pair two one-act plays for an evening’s entertainment when each of the plays runs nearly 1.5 hours. It makes for a very long evening. When you have long scene changes and scripts that don’t uniformly hold attention, the evening tends to drag.

John Patrick Bray’s first play, "Liner Notes," has an indie film quality. It involves a young woman, daughter of a recently dead rock semi-star, who travels from Montreal to South Carolina to confront her "Uncle" George, her father’s bandmate, who didn’t attend the funeral. They end up making a trip up north, stopping in upstate New York to perform at an open mic night, then on to Montreal. After a time lapse, we see them back in South Carolina to tie up loose ends. The plot seems vaguely familiar from several movies of recent years, and the road trip element doesn’t work particularly well in a stage presentation.

The man is played by Reed Sellers, who is a fine actor, guitarist, and singer. The young woman is played by Hattie Smith, whose singing leaves much to be desired, making the open mic night sequence fall flat, when it should be a highlight. Her opening monologue is basically a non-stop screeching attack, making her character unpleasant from the start. The non-biological relationship with her "uncle" isn’t as clear as it could be in the script, complicating the sexual tension between the two. All in all, it’s a mildly interesting two-character story that doesn’t seem well-suited to the stage.

The second play, "Dead Movement," has much more comedy. It’s sort of "Hot L Baltimore" meets Goth and the mythic, with a little bit of a murder-heist plot thrown in. We’re in the lobby of a hotel, where Patrick (Max Goodhart) has come to rent a room for an extended stay from the Goth concierge/front desk clerk Rachel (Amber Neukum). First he meets Joe Joe (Matthew Easter), a back-slapping auto mechanic with dreams of becoming a car salesman. We eventually meet another resident (Parris Sarter), whose alcoholic lesbian lover runs the hippie restaurant next door, and a bicycle guy (Jonathan McCullum), who is checking out to bike to North Carolina. Once a defenestration takes place, we have single scenes featuring a private investigator (Paul Spadafora) and a policewoman (Veronica Burman).

This play goes all over the place, seemingly unfocused until it veers into the supernatural at the end. It features excellent performances by the super-energetic Mr. Easter and the lithe and lithesome Ms. Neukum. Mr. Goodhart underplays his role, using a speaking voice that barely carries to the first row. Ms. Sarter has an extended drunken monologue that adds very little to the action of the play, and the others have roles that are basically cameos. The play acts more as a showcase for the performers than as a coherent piece of theatre.

For this final production at the Onion Man Productions venue in Chamblee, the auditorium has been expanded to have seating on both sides of the playing space. Gregory Fitzgerald’s set design is consequently oriented so that seating presents the actors primarily in profile. For the second act, though, there’s a bench positioned so that only those in the audience proper can see Joe Joe seated on it. At least "Dead Movement" uses a unit set; "Liner Notes" requires frequent set changes that have a cabinet next to the ever-present centerstage square pillar representing a stove, a table, and a gravestone, with furnishings moved on and off the stage or uncovered for one scene, then covered again for the next.

Kurt Hansen’s lighting design works well for "Dead Movement," but has some problems delineating the different locations represented in "Liner Notes." Shadows associated with the pillar and with movement near the pillar mar some sequences. Props, provided by Courtney Loner, Gregory Fitzgerald, and Veronica Burman, generally work well, although fabricated album covers in "Liner Notes" seem to be pasted onto real record albums with the supposed liner notes side left unaltered, and a cat in "Dead Movement" isn’t very realistic. Costumes, by Courtney Loner and the cast, generally work well.

Sound has some impressive moments. Gregory Fitzgerald’s and Courtney Loner’s design includes sounds of a scuffle upstairs in the hotel of "Dead Movement" that works quite well, and other sound effects in this play come off well too. "Liner Notes" uses a live amp and guitar and microphone for the open mic sequence, giving it a raw edge that works to the scene’s advantage.

Gregory Fitzgerald has directed two dissimilar plays in a way that lets the performers shine, but only when the performers step up to the task and deliver the goods. Blocking tends to favor the audience proper side, but the auditorium set-up ensures that all audience members will get backside views from time to time. The two plays each have problems, and the direction and acting can’t overcome them. It’s a noble effort, but a failed one. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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