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REVIEWERS SIX DEGREES
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Companies Reviewed#
Class Act Theatre3
Onstage Atlanta, Inc.1
Neighborhood Playhouse1
Dad's Garage Theatre Company1
Average Rating Given : 4.16667
Reviews in Last 6 months :
REVIEWS

A Satisfied Mind, by Jai Anthony-Lewis Husband
GEE-NEE-USSS!
Monday, October 31, 2005
5.0
A Finger Snapping Crowd Pleaser

I had the chance to catch A Satisfied Mind this past Saturday at Class Act Theatre, and I need to confess from the outset of this critique that words cannot even begin to express my profound respect for the playwright, awe at the talented cast, or euphoria at having experienced this stellar production. Once again, Jai Husband and the folks at Class Act Theatre are proving that the only difference between community theatre and professional theatre is smaller budgets, and that the actors do it for the love of their craft instead of being paid a living wage for it. I have seen professional theatre from L.A. to New York and it was hard to believe I wasn’t sitting in a Broadway show on Saturday. This amazing cast ripped through one of the funniest plays I have ever seen, with the pace and comedic timing of the sharpest sit-com.

Kudos and accolades must first be showered upon Rona Dana. I always wonder how Mr. Husband finds some of the actors he springs on us in his plays, because they’re so amazing that you wonder why you haven’t heard of them before! Ms. Dana’s execution of the lead, Elly Mae Waters was flawless…let me repeat, FLAWLESS! (one needs to snap his or her fingers in a decending Z motion to garner the correct emphasis I’m looking for here.) Not only did this woman rattle off some of the most copious amounts of dialogue I’ve heard outside of Shakespeare without missing a beat or seemingly taking a breath, her hilarious caricature of black charismatic holiness women was dead-on perfect. She had me and the audience shouting and saying “amen” with her, and LORD, when she got worked up and the fast church music came out of nowhere, I thought I was going to die from laughter. I wish I could decide which was the funniest scene in the show. Between the burglar scene, the scene where she was casting “sickness demons” out of the other two maids, the kitchen baptism, or the scene where she was preaching the blues singer back to her church roots, it’s a miracle that I made it out of the theatre with clean drawls on. This show is hilarious.

One side note, I could kill Mr. Husband for teasing us so badly with Bartyce Colbert’s voice. Ms. Colbert (who played Simone Lewis in Mr. Husband’s Crimson Stain earlier this year) started to sing the church hymn, Couldn’t Keep it to Myself, and I thought I would jump out of my skin. Y’all, take note of this woman and mark my words—SHE IS GOING TO BE FAMOUS…let me repeat, FAMOUS! (snap your fingers again.) She was doing her best to slay all of us with that amazing voice of hers, singing this song like Jesus was coming back tomorrow, and right when it got good, Mr. Avery (played excellently by Nykki Lamarr) came through the back door of the kitchen and the ladies all shut their mouths and hopped into chairs as if to pretend nothing was going on. It made for a highly comical moment, but I’d be lying if I wasn’t cursing the director under my breath for not letting that number go on for just a little while longer.

That scene was actually quite endemic of the entire play. An exciting build-up of emotion and frenzied experience that would get the audience riled up with laughter and shouting, and then cascade into some poignant bit of sobriety that kind of caught you off guard. It was a bit like an actual charismatic church service, and I don’t mean that it was preachy. Actually, all of Ms. Elly’s sermonizing was done so well, my little heathen behind didn’t feel the least bit proselytized when it was all over. I mean, there was a very interesting message behind all of the fun once we got down to the very last scene (the kind of last minute revelation that Mr. Husband is proving to be a master of ), but even amidst all the tension between the two main characters and the exaggerated, over-the-top characters like the spoiled brat accountant played by Jerome Davis or the nosy-neighbor played by Rene Voige (who integrated extremely well into the otherwise all African-American cast in a way that I found funny, interesting and believable), even amidst all the slap-stick revelry I found myself constantly feeling that what was going on was very important. And that’s exactly how I felt when leaving the theatre. I felt like I had been a part of something significant and great, from the acting to the words. I dare to say I wasn’t the only one with the warm fuzzies after the curtain call. Everyone in the audience was smiling and chattering about which was their favorite scene or how amazing the performances was, and some of the more emotional types were dabbing tears solicited by Rona Dana and Nykki Lamarr’s riveting final scene together (won’t ruin it for those who have yet to see it in its final weekend, but it’s quite an emotional sucker punch after almost two hours of non-stop laughter!). I can only bow and take my hat off to Mr. Husband for having (pardon the cliché) done it again. By the way, Mr. Husband makes a cameo appearance in his own work as the apologetic pastor who pays a house call to smooth over a bad impression made on the rich banker in his mercy visit to Elly’s church (which Mr. Avery hysterically calls, “The Wringling Brothers Baptist Church!” GENIUS…GEE-NEE-USSS! Snap those fingers one more time!)

Fillarius A. Mann

Crimson Stain, by Jai Anthony-Lewis Husband
A must-see if there ever was one!
Monday, February 28, 2005
5.0
Crimson Stain, by Jai Anthony-Lewis Husband is, quite frankly, one of the best productions to grace an Atlanta stage-ever! This play delivers on so many levels, it is impossible to walk away without recognizing that you have experienced something significant. As a socially timeless and relevant story, Crimson Stain’s greatest asset is the content of this beautifully written drama that I’m sure is destined to become an important chapter in the canon of great American dramatic writing--yes, it’s that good.

Running the gamut from a soul-wrenching, theologically profound tour-de-force, to a scathing, no-holds-barred reprimand of the self-righteous, Crimson Stain attacks the subject of religious imperialism with humor, wit, music and drama. This is one of those plays in which even a half-assed execution of the content wouldn’t have been half bad. But, far from half-bad, the talent assembled on stage at Class Act Theatre for the professional premier of Mr. Husband’s collegiate opus is nothing short of stellar.

Jai Husband himself heads up this phenomenal cast as the title character, Crimson LaMar. His performance is so captivating and tenacious, one might think it would threaten to upstage anyone sharing the spotlight. But just as captivating as Husband’s Crimson is the incredibly talented Jerome Davis, who portrays Chrysler, the younger of the LaMar brothers. Where this kid came from, I don’t know. Eighteen years old and commanding the stage like a seasoned vet, him and Husband, acting out their turbulent, emotionally charged sibling rivalry kept me riveted scene after scene. And, as if the weight of the show couldn’t easily be carried on their shoulders, Stain’s cast list is a roll call of dynamic performances that makes you wonder what such a prolific production is doing at a humble little venue such as Class Act Theatre; obviously one of metro-Atlanta’s best kept theatre secrets.

Coming out of its corner swinging, the play begins with Bartyce Colbert, scatting out a bluesy musical number that’s worth the price of admission alone. Then, colorfully costumed in period garb, the rest of the cast begins to deliver line after line of some of the wittiest, and most well written dialogue I have heard in years. Sabrena Farmer’s ‘House-Madame’, Marva is particularly engaging as a bold maternal figure that’s as beautiful as she is fiery. With an engrossing stage presence and classy mannerisms, Ms. Farmer had the audience anxiously attending her every word.

One cannot say enough about the dynamic performances in this show. James Womack’s powerful run-away-preacher’s son-turned bartender, Nigga-Rae Harris was a second act scene stealer, and the harmonizing church ladies played by Adrienne Moore, Chimere Love and Monique Diaz-Piedra kept us in stitches throughout. The emotional force of Candice Smith’s overbearing minister’s daughter was absolutely fantastic. Riding in on a zealous high horse at the top of the show, she took us on an emotional roller coaster of love/hate for this character that ranged from wanting to stone her to wanting to hug her. The hissing heard in the audience at some points during her performance and the sniffling and tears heard at others offers testimony of her passionate range.

If ever there was a must-see of Atlanta theatre, this is it. This play must be seen. When the show was over, after the very genuine standing ovation, more than a few patrons sat or stood in awe, completely unable to leave the auditorium (And I’m not talking about people who knew cast members and were hanging around to meet them). It’s that kind of must-see. See it while you can, but if you don’t, fear not. I am certain of one thing--Class Act Theatre is a mere debarkation point for this production, so remember the little guys, Mr. Husband.


--Fillarius Mann

Cabaret, by Kander and Ebb
Definitely worth seeing...
Friday, February 18, 2005
3.0
As folks are want to key your car and send manilla envelopes full of anthrax should one say a disparaging word about a show on this forum, I'll have to save my "contructive" criticism for the end, and begin with words of praise for the cast of Cabaret at Neighborhood Playhouse. While not the finest show I've seen at the venue, it certainly was worth my deutsche marks to witness this campy, slinking ensemble in this dark musical preamble to the second world war and the hypocrysie that was the burgeoning nazi party. Choreography and lighting were spot-on in this production that was a bit skimpy on set design. I didn't mind the minimalism so much as the execution of the actual set pieces. I think one can make something look run-down while still maintaining a sense of production value. I've read the word "distracting" in more than one review and along that thread, I'd have to say that the two sides seemed more of an eyesore than seedy Berlin underbelly accouterment.

While I thought highly of, and cannot say enough about the calibre of acting and performances in the show, I felt a bit let down by some of the direction. The show seemed to drag on laboriously, and again, while it was apparent that the sluggishness was meant to accentuate the playwright's premise, after the hour-and-a-half first act, I was seriously debating whether or not I could make it through another.

The choreography was quite good and subtle enough to be an homage to Fosse without being an uninspired rip. I especially loved the number with the chairs. The slow-motion bits didn't go over too well, but I would imagine that was a director's choice and not Ms. MacQueen's. The costumes were nice and consistently period, which, along with the choreography and the lighting were, to me, the strongest elements of the show's direction.

On performances, David Rossetti stood out light years among the cast, but I'm sure that role is always quite a draw for any staging. He had a cryptic and mischievous mannerism that at times made me laugh and at others gave me the willies. His hissing execution of some of the darker numbers helped salvage much of what I found lacking or distracting about some of the direction. And (Jesus protect my car tires)I must say this--the accents got in the way. They made much of the dialogue and some of the song content unintelligible, but the inconsistency was the major monkey-wrench. Even a poor accent, maintained faithfully, is easy to swallow. But slipping in and out of them, as most of the principals did, just made the show an exercise in comprehension.

The singing was beautiful. I loved Laine Binder's Sally, but unfortunately never developed an attachment to any of the characters, and I suppose that was the greatest frustration to my viewing. If you don't love or hate a character, it's hard to give a 'shiitake mushroom' what happens to them, no matter how great their singing is. I developed an immediate connection with Rossetti's Emcee, but as an element of narration and commentary, it wasn't enough to redeem the rest of what was going on upstage. Normally that would be a content issue, but in this case, I've seen other productions of Cabaret and found myself enthralled by the characters and deeply invested in what they were doing and what would happen to them. When Fraulein Schneider "punked" out and called off the wedding with Herr Schultz, rather than feel anything for her or a pang of empathy for a frustrated person caught in the vise of a complicated, tormenting, multifaceted decision, I just thought, "Wow...what a weak woman." (And perhaps that's what the director was going for in this case, but I've seen the role presented with much more depth and I suppose I am just partial (which makes a poor critic as the job of theatrical criticism is to judge theater on the specific merits of its own objective criteria--consider me slapped on the wrist.)

I hope what I have brought to this evaluation is not seen as wholly negative. As I stated in the beginning, I do believe my time was well spent and I am glad to have partaken from the feast prepared at NPH's table. It is actually because of the profound talent that was assembled on the stage that I felt a bit let down. I believe they were a bit limited in what they were allowed to sell, but you would be remiss not to see it for yourself and take from it what you can. The story of Cabaret is important. And even though it seemed to take forever to get there, I've not experienced so haunting a moment as when Mr. Rossetti disrobed to reveal his concentration camp garb at the end and waved his twisted good-bye to the auience just before blackout. The currency is no longer deutcshe mark, but the issues are just as real, just as relevant, and just as disturbing, as demonstrated by Ms. Binder's dysphoric rendition of the title song. Go see it.

Debbie Does Dallas, The Musical, by Adapted by Erica Scmidt
Nice rack, but still a little flat.
Tuesday, October 26, 2004
3.0
While Dad's Garage's production of Debbie Does Dallas was consistently entertaining, I found that it did not hold up to the expectations I had going in to see a romping musical at the Garage. I'll preface this review by fully allowing that good, objective criticism is based on the merits of the production in question, and not what has come before, therefore my lackluster experience with Debbie may be unfairly based on my phenomenal experience with the last musical I saw at Dad's--namely, Bat Boy the Musical. Production-wise, D-3 could not even compete with B-2, so in all honesty, I was simply disappointed, and the exepectations I went into Debbie with were simply not met. Having gotten my backhanded slight in at Dad's for letting the property value of it's productions slide downhill (understandable in the absence of an artistic director presently), I'll move on to the juicy gossip about my date with Debbie based on her merits as a musical alone.

And that is truly where I begin. I felt that Debbie was less a musical than a comedy with songs thrown in for comedic value. That left me disappointed. If you're going to call it a musical, you've got to come correct on the production value of the musical numbers so they seem like show stoppers, or at least significant contributions to the advancement of the plot, and not just comedic sides for a laugh. Not to slight Kristie Krabe's deft vocal skills in any way (which I felt this show didn't do justice by a long shot, the girl's got chops and knows how to use them--when given half a chance with REAL songs). Also, accoustically, (is that a word?) Dad's could spend a few more bucks on its sound system, because I know that Katy Carkuff had a mic in her hand and her lips were moving, but I'll be done-by-debbie if I heard anything coming out. So...the whole musical thing didn't work for me.

Should I even mention the choreography? To be honest, the cast really looked like this is the end of a very long, extended run. Not only did I notice that Kristy seemed a step behind everyone else in most of the cheer numbers, but the ensemble's dance numbers just looked sloppy. It definitely did not look effortless on the part of the guys, and while it might be said that it was in character for the dumb jocks, what was everyone else's excuse? If you're too tired to hoof, perhaps that's a sign that it's time to put the show to bed. (I do wish I had seen the show in the initial run in order to better judge whether or not it's the choreography or the execution in question here.

In general, Debbie also went on a little long. How many sexual entendres and staged fallatio acts does it take to 'come' to the point? Especially when, due to the introduction of the characters and the exposition, I didn't really care much for any of the characters, therefore, sitting through painstakingly redundant scenarios of each girl's decline into the cess pool of self-deprication got old really fast.

The redeeming stand out of the production? Tim Stoltenberg's Tammy, hands down. If I was emotionally and comically invested in any character in the show, it was his dyked-out, deep-voiced, teen-aged incarnation of the Beverly Hillbilly's Jane Hathaway. His homliness as a woman only lended itself to his gangly, misfit characterization as the sexually confused non-barbie of the group. There were also some amusing characterizations of merit like Z Gillespie's Roustabout and Doyle Reynolds' Mr. Greenfelt, but on the whole, I'm glad there was no intermission, as I was debating whether or not I'd ride Debbie all the way to Dallas if there was indeed a halftime show.

I laughed out loud once or twice, but it was more the kind of take that happens when something so amazingly rude happens on stage that you can't believe they're doing that and you're not even in the restroom at Hooters. The audience did seem to be enjoying itself, though most of what I heard was the couple behind me that kept saying, "Oh my God!" While I'm sure the intention of Debbie was to shock with outlandish mockery and satire, and while stopping the show with a fourth-wall-breaking moralizing disclaimer before climaxing at the point of the play's unredeeming conclusion was noble, it all just fell really flat for me. Or, as one could hear me muttering as I left the theatre, "Man...Bat Boy was REALLY good!"

Death In England, by Sam Bobrick
Details to D.I.E. for!
Wednesday, October 13, 2004
5.0
Okay, admittedly I'm a card-carrying fan of the work of Jai Anthony-Lewis Husband, but up until now, my fanatic groupie-ism has revolved around his acting. This was the first play I've seen him direct (well, first full length piece. I saw a short play that he directed earlier this summer.), and now I'm sold on the directing front. Brilliant, is all I can say. Brilliant execution of what I'm sure was a funny script to begin with. But Mr. Husband and this extremely talented (and young, might I add) cast have really brought this show to another level of quality theatre experience. For me, the details in this production were simply amazing. From playing Beatles music during pre-show that put you in the british mood right away, to the campy soap-opera organ rifts during the outlandish character revelations in the plot, the details just really sold this production.

There was not a weak link in this production. I loved how Clint Johnson's Death wore sandals--again, details--underneath his macabre robe. And the crazy maid, played by Marissa Weaver had me nearly peeing my pants everytime she bounced into the room to introduce someone. She literally entered a different way each time, whether it was shuffling, tap dancing, or goose-stepping, this girl was so over the top, it was like watching a Warner Brothers cartoon. Special mention goes to John Brinkman who plays the confusingly idiotic/supersleuthing, fast-talking Inspector Mirabelle. With his handlebar mustache and his effet execution of the role, I couldn't help but join the others in the audience in offering several rousing ovations after his crazy monologues. And that bit on the piano! I've never laughed so hard. It was like Inspector Clousseau possessed by the spirit of Little Richard! But like I said, there were no weak links. Kudos to Kayesha Belnap, Rex Ottington (how he stayed still on the ground for nearly two acts while all that craziness was going on around him I don't know!), Steve Banks (brilliant, by the way), Sara Crawford, and Jai Husband (loved the chain-smoking bit that went as far as smoking eight cigarettes at one time!)

This is definitely an Atlanta theatre must-see. Quality from the set to the props--when Kayesha Belnap pulled that flask out of the couch to give the other lady a hit of booze out of nowhere, I wanted to stand up and and scream how much I loved this show! It's exciting to know that small community theaters are putting on shows that rival, if not surpass, the quality of larger, professional companies. This is the kind of play you want to get a group of friends together and go back for a second time, which is exactly what I plan to do. The cast looks like friends having a bloody great time and that's what I had experiencing it. Hats off to Mr. Husband for this excellent show. You guys have got a hit.

Love! Valour! Compassion!, by Terrance McNally
long but likeable (and I'm not talking about the nudity!)
Monday, May 10, 2004
4.0
I saw LVC on Sunday the ninth of May, and while I'm glad I saw it at matinee (three hours would be way past my bedtime even on a Friday night), I must say it was enjoyable to the very last blackout. I wasn't familiar with the play, and have to admit that the whole "mature audiences only" was an immediate plus for me as a box-office draw (I'm a pig and I admit it.)The play started very fast paced with the disjointed, criss-crossing dialogue that I keep hearing described as Chekovian (what Star Trek has to do with live theatre, I don't know)but slowed down a great deal to start introducing the tension of the plot.
I have to admit the nudity did not seem exorbitant or gratuitous, as I assumed it would be for a play about eight gay men. It was mostly accomplished in the character of Ramone, who, by the way, knocked my socks off (and I'm not just talking about the brickhouse body!). The actor made this character stand out to me in a way that the others didn't. The other characters seemed very typically gay (hoping not to offend, I'm speaking of popular generalizations, here), while I enjoyed extreme subtlty in this character that wasn't over the top queeny, pretentiously butch or kinda blahzay-bland that I found most of the other characters. It's not that the sterotypes bothered me, it was just refreshing to see a character who didn't fit the pre-fab mold so common in characterizations of homosexuals. Kudos to this guy.
Another exception was the Dr. Jeckyll character (he wasn't really a doctor, but the last name of these twins played by the same actor was actually Jeckyll). When he first came out, I wasn't excactly sure what was going on, because of the wild costume, but when he informed the audience comically that he wasn't "the other one", I found myself letting down my Parent Trap guard, you know, where you're constantly looking for the seams in his performance and just enjoyed the two personalities he had undoubtedly perfected. It was really great, and one of those things that help you remember the merits of live theatre versus movies where those kind of things are accomplished in Post. He even did a scene onstage as both characters and that was really captivating.
While I wondered if the plot was going anywhere, by the end I realized it was sort of like a gay Breakfast Club, and it wasn't so much about what happened, but about what happened inside each of these people. The blind guy was decent, but I don't know that I ever bought that the actor was really blind. I found myself critically waiting for him to anticipate things visually and was seldom disappointed. I also found it a little difficult to feel for him as he waxed a little whiny. Overall, it was charming and time well spent. I always want to feel like I've experienced something significant when I make it out to the theater, and while I didn't leave feeling like I had the meaning of life explained, I did have some poignant reflections of unconditional love in my pocket along with my ticket stub. I felt very sorry for the John character. I think we all know people like that. People we love but don't like very much (and if we don't know any, it's probably because we are that person, huh?)
Neat slice of life...even gay life.



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