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Sweet Babboo [ALL REVIEWERS]
Companies Reviewed#
Blackwell Playhouse3
Theatre in the Square1
Centerstage North Theatre1
Kudzu Playhouse1
Polk Street Players1
Stage Two Productions1
Cobb Playhouse and Studio1
Next Stage Theatre Company1
Actor's Express1
Average Rating Given : 3.86364
Reviews in Last 6 months :

The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, by William Finn and Rachel Sheinkin
Still Casting a "Spell" Over Me
Tuesday, March 27, 2012
I'm quite certain the creative team behind the original production of "Spelling Bee" had their challenges in selling the concept of this show to investors. I can almost see the perplexed looks they received after announcing "We've written a quirky musical about a Middle School Spelling Bee". But what on paper seems like an unlikely subject matter for a musical comedy is actualized into one of the most delightful evenings in the theatre. William Finn and Rachel Sheinkin have created one of the funniest, entertaining musicals of the past decade.

I've made no bones that I believe the Rob Hardie is the most creative musical directors working in Atlanta. His productions never cease to impress me. And once again, Mr. Hardie does not disappoint. He has assembled a multi-talented ensemble of young performers who have captured the over-the-top yet endearing qualities of these quirky misfits.

Nicholas Crawley is the strongest of the "kids" as the intellectually-challenged Leaf Coneybear. Clad in a makeshift Superman getup, the highly-energetic Crawley brings goofy charm and true likability to the fun role. Lindsay Marcus shines as the insecure, lisping Logainne SchwartzandGrubenierre. Ms. Marcus had the extra challenge of making Logainne's signature lisp both adorable and understandable, which some actresses I've seen in the role have not been able to accomplish. Wide-eyed Danielle Girardeau is delightful as the sensative Olive Ostrovsky, who would much rather have her distant and distracted parents' unconditional love than any spelling bee trophy. Katie Patterson is commanding as the driven overachiever, Marcy Park, who learns that sometimes it's cool not to win everything.

As defending champion, Chip Telntino, Matt Jones has true comic stage presence, almost reminding me of a young Topher Grace. However, if I'm sitting in the second row and have trouble hearing you sing even with a microphone in front you, you really need to work on your projection. And although his vocals were strong, I felt that Chris Brent Davis didn't quite deliver the comic goods with his portrayal of the most eccentric of the spellers, the geek extraordinaire William Barfee. Davis downplays Barfee's droll demeanor and antisocialism. I felt his portrayal of the character wasn't on the same over-the-top level as the other performers.

As the "adult" officals in charge of the bee, Next Stage hits a home run will all three. Zip Rampy is in top form as the lovestarved, semi-seedy Vice Principal Douglas Panch. His circa 1975 plaid sportscoat, polyster disco shirt and sideburns alone are worth the price of admission. The lovely Traci Weisberg is wonderful as Rona Lisa Perettit. One could quibble that Ms. Weisberg is about 10 years too young for the role. Nevertheless, she has the talent and confidence on stage as someone twice her age. With her winsome beauty and strong soprano voice, she has a very bright future ahead of her as a musical comedy performer.

What else can I say about Alejandro Gutierrez as Comfort Counselor Miguel "Mitch" Mahoney? All Mr. Gutierrez has to do is just walk on stage and I start smiling. Mr. Gutierrez is also blessed with a powerful singing voice and is quickly establishing himself as one of the best character actors in the Atlanta theatre scene.

For some reason, Mr. Hardie chose to change the original setting from a typical Middle School gynasium to "The Blackwell Theatre", a former third-rate movie theatre now operating as a strip club. The lascivious background is worthy of a small chuckle, but I felt it was a gratuitous choice. The show itself is funny alone without adding the X-Rated element to it.

I must give kudos to Paulette Weiberg who did an incredible job with the costumes. Even the lighting design by Stephen Lee is excellent. In fact, I consider that in itself a small miracle considering the venue.

It's a shame this production has already closed after a brief, two weekend run. I felt that with a little more publicity and good word-of-mouth, it could have easily run another weekend to hopefully larger houses. If you missed it, it was your loss. Rob Hardie and Next Stage Theatre present exceptional theatre that deserves sell-out crowds. Perhaps they will have better luck with their upcoming productions of "The Glass Menagerie" and "Assassins".

Parade, by Jason Robert Brown and Alfred Uhry
Second Time's the Charm
Sunday, January 10, 2010
Back in 1998, my husband and I attended the Broadway production of "Parade" at the cavernous Lincoln Center. The multi-million dollar production directed by the legendary Harold Prince was colossal and slick...and utterly unmoving to me. At the time, neither the score by Jason Robert Brown, book by Alfred Ulry, nor the "Tony-caliber" performances failed to wow me when it should have. The most distinctive factor of the production I recall was the ominous backdrop of an enormous oak tree that stayed constant throughout the entire show. I recall joking with my husband that instead of a tree, it should have been The Big Chicken (A bad joke on my part, referencing the close proximity of the Leo Frank lynching to the now-famous Marietta landmark). Forgive me, but we hadn't moved to Marietta yet and, frankly, this show is not exactly a travelogue on how Southerners treat Yankees who relocate to Georgia. Perhaps the only lasting thing that the Broadway production gave me was a genuine interest in the Leo Frank/Mary Phagan murder case of 1913 that has lasted over a decade. The century-old true story alone is fascinating without the help of show tunes and big splashy production numbers.

Flash forward 12 years later. I willll admit that since I was not bowled over by "Parade" on Broadway the first time around, I did not know what to expect with Rob Hardie's production at Blackwell. Although, I consider Mr. Hardie one the best musical directors working in Atlanta today, I didn't know if the production would once again leave me cold and unmoved.
What can I say? This production hooked me from the opening number of “The Old Red Hills of Home” and held me spellbound throughout the evening. Rob Hardie has once again managed to enthrall his audiences with the magic and raw power of good storytelling. Maybe it is because of the far more intimate nature of Blackwell Playhouse that made Leo Frank’s tragic tale of injustice far more compelling this time. I opening cried at least three times during Act One alone. It’s a shame for Blackwell that this show is not MAT eligible this year. Thanks to Rob Hardie’s superb direction, it would have swept the awards.

After his brilliant performance last year in “Man of La Mancha”, I sort of expected Jason Meinhardt to knock my socks off again as the wrongfully maligned Leo Frank. Once again, Meinhardt delivers the goods in spades. Although, Meinhardt does not resemble to real Frank physically, he embodies all of Frank’s nervous insecurity of being a Yankee Jew in the Bible belt; an outsider even to his own native-born wife, Lucille (Michelle Peck). Meinhardt vocal strengths and fine acting allow us to see Frank’s transformation from a distant, workaholic nebbish to a bold and passionate force of nature. Jason Meinhardt has quickly established himself as one of the finest musical actors working in Atlanta today. Already a two-time MAT award winner, I only wish his inspired Leo Frank performance could earn him a well-deserved third trophy.

As Frank’s Southern Aristocrat wife, Lucille, Michelle Peck is nothing less than a gem in another powerhouse performance. She looks and sings like an angel. Yet, her inner strength as Lucille shines through with her solo “You Don’t Know this Man”. Her scenes with Meinhardt are amazing as the mismatched couple realize almost too late the deep, unshakable love they discover for each other only after the guilty verdict was passed. Michelle Peck is a marvelous welcome to the Atlanta theatre community and I hope to see her in many more future productions.

The entire supporting cast is also first rate. Fabulous performances include; Don Goodner as the ambitious and ethically-challenged D.A. Hugh Dorsey, Patrick Hill as the brash Atlanta Constitution reporter, Britt Craig, Brandon Sartain as Frank’s blowhard good ol’boy attorney, Luther Rosser, Brad Dickey as the always charming Governor Slaton who decides to choose his conscience over his political ambitions., Edwin Watson as the sly, conniving Jim Conley (long believed to be the real killer of Mary Phagan) and Gary Heffelfinger as racist demagogue , Tom Watson . Special kudos also goes out to Lisa Hatt as Mrs. Phagan. There isn’t a dry eye in the house as Ms. Hatt sings her haunting ballad “My Child Will Forgive Me” about how life’s cruel circumstances led her to send her precious young daughter to work in the downtown Atlanta pencil factory and ultimately to her untimely death.

The appropriately grim unit set design by Matt Fino and Becca Hardy is wonderfully utilized throughout the evening. Brad Dickey pulls double duty as the costumer and captures the early 20th Century period nicely. Mark Schroeder does a great job as Musical Director as he managed to do the impossible; make Brown’s score highly memorable for me this time. The hidden five-piece band sound like a full orchestra, which is a marvel unto itself.
I never thought I’d say this but “Parade” is an unforgettable night in the theatre. Hardie’s scaled-down, intimate production in ten times more entertaining and riveting than I ever imagined it could be. It’s not exactly perfect. There were some opening night technical flubs that can happen in any show and the lighting equipment at Blackwell is somewhat limited. But I highly recommend that you trek out to Marietta to catch it before it closes. You won’t be disappointed.

Now if Rob Hardie ever wanted to take a stab at “Carrie, The Musical”, I’d be first in line for a ticket.

A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum, by Stephen Sondheim, Larry Gelbart
Guys in Togas are Soooo Hot!!
Sunday, July 19, 2009
This statement has nothing to do with my review I just wanted to use it as my header.

Anyhoo...I had a blast last Friday night at this production! Rob Hardie does it again with another entertaining and well designed and executed show. He must work attached to a Red Bull IV drip. Here is my general yet humble opinions:

Something Familiar: A great book by Larry Gelbart and Stephen Sondheim's classic, toe-tapping first score (for both music and lyrics) from 1962. It holds up very well today and is one of my personal favorites.

Something Peculiar: Hardie injects a plethura of modern pop culture references and gag props into the show. Most of them work and a few are downright inspired. I know this isn't everyone's cup of tea, but I think it's a hoot. Hardie even makes a charming cameo late in Act Two. But I won't divulge anything else. You'll just have to see for it yourself.

Something for Everyone!: This show is just pure fun and doesn't try to be anything else - which is why is succeeds so well.

The casting in this production is practically perfect in every way. There is not a weak link in the entire first-rate ensemble. Zip Rampy is a treasure as Psuedolus. He is vocally top notch and makes the character his own without having to borrow humor from the many famous Broadway actors who've won Tonys playing this dream role. He carries the show like a pro. The always delightful Patrick Hill as Hysterium is, well, hysterical. Jonathan Horne and Katie O'Neill are funny and adorable as the clueless young lovers. Brad Dickey and Anita Stratton are splendid as the bickering Senex and Domina. Brian Clements takes the John Wayne in The Greatest Story Every Told approach to the imposing blowhard Miles Gloriosus and knocks it out of the ballpark...or Colossuem. And Murray Sarkin just about steals the show as the hapless, befuddled Eronius.

Kudos also to Reed Higgins for a simple yet wonderful set that invokes titters from the audience even before the oveture starts. The technicolor costumes are of professional quality. The small orchestra consisting of Alex Lipskey, Annie Cook and Ryan Harris do an admirable job and even get to join in on the hijinks.

This show is the perfect summer night treat for musical theatre lovers. Don't miss it!

The Sting, by David Ward, adapted from the screenplay by David Rogers
A Winner Right out of the Gate
Sunday, June 7, 2009
Never seeing the 1973 film this show was based on, I had no expectations of this play-within-a-vaudeville show. However, I found myself pleasantly surprised by this tale about two professional Grifters named Gondorff and Hooker, who plan an elaborate scheme in order to out-con a sinister Chicago mob boss named Lonnegan.

Rob Hardie is to be highly commended (or committed) for pulling off triple-duty as the Director, Set Designer and still managing to deliver an intriguing performance and the menacing, thick-brogued Lonnegan. His staging is crisp and clever. His 1930's Burlesque Show concept works exceptionally well. The top of show starts off with a sampling of a typical evening of Burlesque, complete with musicians, comics, and, naturally, a statuesque buxom blonde known only as Card Girl (A bubbly Jennifer Fischler) who assists the narrator, Billie (A wry and engaging Katy Harlow) in setting up each segment. The vast differences between the two women provide much of the comic relief from the gritty crime story. There are also strong supporting performances from Jerry Harlow, Amanda Whittle and James Calhoun. Overall, this is a fine ensemble cast who work very well together.

But Hardie's biggest coup is the perfect casting choices of leads Randy Randlph and Daniel VanHiel as Gondorff and Hooker, respectively. The two fine actors have a wonderful chemistry together onstage that make all their scenes together seemingly click. I loved watching the dynamic pair.

The show is not exactly perfect. There were some technical glitches which I am sure will be corrected by the second weekend. The scenes and set changes could use some more underscoring. Some costumes are more detailed and true to the period than others. And being unfamiliar with the film, I will admit getting lost once or twice in the complicated plot. I laughed, but others may groan as modern reference gags are tossed in occasionally. However, this should not deter anyone from trekking out to Blackwell to see this entertaining, fast-paced show.

I look forward to seeing more of Rob Hardie's work. Blackwell should benefit highly from having such a creative director in their midst.

P.S. Brad Rudy gives an...interesting performance as an elderly train conductor strangely stricken with TB and hacking his way through Act One. He is much more effective - with less phleghm - as the tough-talking FBI Agent Polk in Act Two.

Man of La Mancha, by Dale Wasserman, music by Mitch Leigh, lyrics by Joe Darion
It's Not Always the Same...Sometimes it's Better.
Sunday, April 26, 2009
After attending multiple productions of Man of LaMancha during the past 20 years, I had certain expectations that I initially did not expect Kudzu to meet. I am used to seeing the leading role of Cervantes/Don Quixote played by a middle-aged or older actor with a rich, booming baritone voice that can shake the rafters. When Jason Meinhardt opened his mouth to sing the first title song, I will admit that I was underwhelmed. I thought that he was about 15 years too young for the role and that the score was a tad out of his vocal range. I was prepared to watch an evening of what I predicted to be, at best, a mediocre and unmemorable performance.

Halfway through Act One I realized that I was gravely wrong.

Mr. Meinhardt pours 110 percent of himself into this performance and the audience is complete enthralled by it. His Cervantes is so profoundly vibrant and textured, that it transcends any shortcomings that I had assumed at the very beginning. I felt and believed everything his Don Quixote did, his passion, fear, heartbreak and despair. By the end of Act One, I was breathless as he sang The Impossible Dream. Like Aldonza and Sancho, I would follow this guy anywhere after that. His Cervantes is the finest I've ever seen in the role. It is truly a great performance not be missed.

Not to take anything away from the rest of the cast. They all do a fine job. But this is Meinhardt's show, hands down, and he owns it.

The 2-story set is impressive and richly detailed, as are the costumes. Adrianna Warner's skilled direction is also to be commended. The only quibble I had was that the 3-member orchestra, although pleasant sounding, couldn't provide a more full-bodied sound that the score demands.

With only one more weekend left in the run, this show isn't to be missed. If you do, you'll be missing out on what I predict (although I have nothing to do with them) will be a MAT Award-winning production and leading performance in that of Jason Meinhardt.

1776, by Sherman Edwards & Peter Stone
You Won't Snooze During This History Lesson
Sunday, June 22, 2008
This being my all-time favorite musical, it's difficult for me NOT to sing the praises of this show. It's a show that musical theatre people love with a passion - present company included. The score and book are still brilliant, charming, biting and relevant even after almost 40 years since it took home the 1969 Tony for Best Musical (Beating out the outrageously popular "Hair" for the honor, I may add). It's not done that often because of the sheer size of its almost all-male cast of thousands and period costumes. It's also often a hard sell to those not familiar with it. "A musical about the signing of the Declaration of Independence! Who the heck wants to see that?" But believe me, this show is worth the time and effort. Not only is it engaging, funny and delightful as a musical comedy alone, but it is very thought-provoking. When I first saw 1776 in my mid-20's, it gave me, for the first time, a deep respect and appreciation for the founding fathers. For the first time in my life, I truly understood the guts it took for those men to risk everything they had in signing that document and just how close it came to not happening at all. This show had such an impact on me, that I make it a point to watch the movie every July 4th. It's not about the fireworks and parades for me and this show reminds me every year just how proud I am to be an American.

The production at Stage II is very competent and enjoyable. The audience (including several college-aged members) were engrossed throughout the entire production, as if they didn't know what the final outcome would be. The cast works extremely well together as an ensemble. But this show soars or sinks on the shoulders of John Adams and Gary Heffelfinger does the demanding role very proud. Mr. Heffelfinger adds the right amount of charm and stubborness and vocally hits all the right notes. Other standouts in the cast include Dennis Lewellen as John Handcock, William Mahlandt as Richard Henry Lee, Allan Dodson as Adams' antagonist, John Dickinson, Brad Dickey as Edward Rutledge, Kathy Kuszka as Abigail Adams, Joshua Brown as Thomas Jefferson (Great Hair!) and Johnny Griffin as Ben Franklin (Great acting, but a bad wig).

The set is attractive and (mostly) accurate. I'm from Philadelphia originally and the tour guides at Independence Hall always told us that there never was an actual toteboard at the second Continental Congress. Nevertheless, it's most attractive to see and adds to the suspense of the show. The costumes are beyond fabulous in luxury and detail. They simply took my breath away. Although, I must quibble about Roger Sherman "A simple cobbler from Connecticutt" dressed in sumptuous red velvet with gold trim. And The Courier (Patrick Hill, beautiful voice!)didn't have even a speck of mud on his pristine blue velvet costume. The lighting is minimal at best and there are just not enough instuments to effectively light the stage, let alone offer much variety in design. The orchestra is small, but excellent, providing a rich, full sound to Sherman Edwards' wonderful score. Some of the soloists had volume trouble during their numbers, which in a small venue as this was a shame. But I know this score backwards and forwards, so at least I know what I was missing.

If you've never seen 1776 before, this production is definately worth the drive out to Dunwoody for. It's not done in the Atlanta area that often, so when it is, it's a rare and beautiful thing. Kudos William Mahlandtt and Stage II for mounting an enjoyable, well-directed production. Happy 4th!

The Great American Trailer Park Musical, by David Nehls (score)/Betsy Kelso (book)
Dang! That wuz some mighty fine the-ater!
Monday, April 16, 2007
More fun than a case of PBR at a Tractor Pull!

Okay, I've never actually been to a tractor pull and even the faintest whiff of PBR makes me nauseous. Nevertheless, the gang down at AE charmed the pants off me (not as easy a feat as rumored) all evening long. Catchy songs with surprisingly clever lyrics, interesting characters who didn't succumb to being one-note caricatures and a first-rate cast who knew how to sell this material.

Other than I saw the twist-ending coming a mile away, I can't quibble about anything about this production. This has been the most fun I've had in the theatre so far this year. Run, don't walk, to AE to catch this production before even the extended run sells out...And I hope it does.

Into the Woods, by Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine
Into the Words
Wednesday, August 2, 2006
I have always admired Sondheim's masterful work (Company and Assasins are my faves) yet for some reason, this show has never been a true favorite of mine. I guess it's because I can usually enjoy Act One - charming and clever as it is - think that it's all over and then realize that I also have to sit through that dark and depressing Act Two. (The worst production I'd ever seen (a professional one in Philly) had a male drag queen playing the witch that didn't fly at all.) I can honestly say that I like it. I've just never loved it.

Nevertheless, my five year-old daughter does love this show ever since her father, Dedalus (real shocker there) showed her a production on video that he had designed lights for over 15 years ago. I took her to see it just for that reason and ended up liking the production more than I had expected it to. The cast is delightful and very competent in handling the piece's extremely difficult score with ease and style. I don't know any of them personally, so I can say this without bias. My personal favorites were Sara Holton and Clint Pridgen as Cinderella and her swaggering Prince. Ms. Holton was exquisite in her singing and acting. Mr. Pridgren made the most of every moment on stage. His voice was excellent and his comedic timing impeccable. He cracked up the entire audience all night long. Yet, his break-up scene with Cinderella in Act Two was quite touching. Ladies, he also looks great in tights. This guy definately has got the goods!

Otherwise, the pacing was brisk. It managed to hold mine and my daughter's attention (NOT the easiest task in the Universe) for most of the 2 1/2 hour length. She got a little squirmy in Act Two. But then so did Mommy. The costumes were well thought out and executed. (Kudos to the fabulous Anne Voller) Overall, a very enjoyable night at the theatre.

My only quibbles; This is a very small stage and gets overcrowded rather quickly with a cast this size. I also saw more than one actor stumble over set pieces that were far too small to support them for long. Plus, I would have made some attempt to conceal the actress playing the voice of the giant. Having her standing in plain view in the rear of the auditorium killed the illusion she was trying to create.

Funny Money, by Ray Cooney
Desperation, Desperation, Desperation!!!
Sunday, May 21, 2006
That is the key to any successful farce - particularly British. The more frantic and over-the-top the actors are as the wild events spin further out of control, the better it works. It doesn't work when played at the pace as if it were a Neil Simon comedy. This production started off alright in Act One but completely lost steam in Act Two and came to a screaching hault. When the audience heard the lines at a normal speed, the more contrived and unfunny they sounded. The direction was a little fault, too. Actors were stationary far too long. The need to run around - a lot - in a farce. Granted, the stage is not much bigger than a postage stamp and gets crowded when there are more than four people are on it at one time. Also, this is not Cooney's best script either. Lots of rehashed material from other, more sharper, plays. The actors were capable, but there were no standouts. Plus the main character of Henry is basically a thoughtless jerk and found no reason to root for him. Not the worst production of a farce that I've seen, but miles away from hitting it's mark.

The Wizard Of Oz, by L. Frank Baum, Adapted by John Kane, Music/Lyrics by H Arlrlen & EY Harburg
A minor bone to pick
Monday, August 30, 2004
I took my 4-year old to see this last Friday. She is fanatical about the movie, so I thought she's like this. She loved it and couldn't get enough of it.

Since this show was primarily geared for kids under the age of 10, I won't review it using the same criteria that I would for an adult show. It's all meant to be fun and entertaining and not much else.

The one problem that I had was that the actor playing the Wizard. He does his last scene pretending to be stinking drunk which included swigging heavily from not one, but two, open bottles of hard liquor thorughout the entire scene. The whole moral of the piece lies in that one crucial scene and it was (in my opinion) ruined by one actor making the choice to act like a pathetic drunk. He seemed to be channeling the spirit of Foster Brooks (Yeah, I know, I'm old). And it didn't come off as funny as it was intended to. I grumbled to the parent sitting next to me who could the Wizard go to ask for a new liver.

I'm no teetotaler. In adult plays, this sort of schtick can often come off as hilarious. But in a children's play, it just seemed wrong and irresponsible. I know that my four year old wasn't going to pick up on how smashed the Wizard was. But I'd feel much stronger if my child were older. I just thought it was a bit irresponsible and unnecessary for a children's play.

There, I'll get off my soapbox now.

Much Ado About Nothing, by William Shakespeare
Dedalus was Being Kind
Saturday, August 28, 2004
I thought that this production crashed and burned five minutes after takeoff. A gorgeous set and pretty costumes can only hold my attention for two minutes. With some actors stumbling over their lines and others spitting them out incoherantly, it was impossible for me to be charmed by this production. And this is my all-time favorite Shakespeare comedy. I came in wanting to love everything about it and ended up walking out during intermission, extremely disappointed instead. Which, considering that I usually find the work done at Theatre in the Square and by Ms. Phelps-West to be exceptional in other plays, was not what I had expected to do at all. I will walk out on a play only if it truly is a waste of my time.

Believe me, this turkey was.

I won't name names and rant about how completely miscast some of the principals were. That's not fair or right. I've seen these actors do fine work in other plays. It's just that as an ensemble group, these people didn't click together and had the chemistry of a pot of soggy noodles. If you don't have a dynamic group of actors bringing this often absurd comedy to life with humor, charm and depth then you might as well call it a day. I can (sometimes) accept this from a community theatre company who stages Shakespeare with an eneven level of talent pool to work with. But when a company who prides themselves on casting the best professional actors in the city, then I just have to throw up my hands in defeat.

John Ammerman was the sole acception. His Benedict was witty, captivating and insightful and the only pleasure to watch that evening. I'm sorry that I didn't stick around long enough to watch him in Act II...Almost.

If I must pick on one thing in particular, it should be the awkward and amateurish staging. Too many scenes had actors remaining stationary for too long in kick lines. That's a major pet peeve of mine. And the overkill of bad Three Stooges/Marx Brothers schtick at the end of Act One was the kiss of death for me. I agree with Dedalus on every point he made about the "tricking" of Beatrice & Benedict scene at the end of Act One. To be blunt, it was jaw-droppingly bad. I had to leave after that. I couldn't take it anymore.

And maybe I'm reading more into this than it probably is, but for the most part, the actors onstage didn't look like they were having any fun performing in this show. Now if the actors aren't enjoying themselves up on stage, why should the audience do so?

Five Women Wearing the Same Dress, by Alan Ball
Always the Bridesmaid
Friday, August 13, 2004
This play can be compared to a slice of wedding cake; nutritonally empty and superficial but irresistable nevertheless. It is more of an amusing character study than a skillfully crafted play.

Five rather reluctant bridesmaids hide from the boorish (and never-seen) society bride at her pretentious at-home wedding reception in her little sister's bedroom (which is appropriately decorated in toxic-cute-dump shades of lilac and yellow). They get drunk and eventually stoned and start spilling their guts. Trisha is a sexually-liberated free-spirit who fears committment as much as any man could, Georgeanne is trapped in a loveless marriage and desperate to inject some thrills into her staid life by sleeping with an old high school flame who broke her (along with everyone else's) heart, Meredith is an angry, rebellious young woman with a secret, Frances is an uptight virgin using Jesus Christ as her protective shield from the real world.

The plot - or what passes for it - has no real climax. The pace goes along a leisurely trot. There's no particular hurry for it to get somewhere. What makes this production work, however, is the impressive work of the five main actresses in this piece. One could argue that Kim Bennett is at least 10-years too old to play Trisha, but she still sold me in this role. She conveyed the right amount of frank sexiness and vulnerability required. As the boozy Georgeanne, Sarah Mitchell, as usual, makes being depraved and pathetic look hysterical. All she has to do is make an entrance and the audience starts laughing. Her comic timing is impeccable. Melissa Malone's Mindy, the lesbian sister of the groom, is a likable and funny; a real, unapologetic woman who is comfortable in own skin, Amy Dell's squeaky-voiced Frances brings intelligence and dignity to what in lesser hands could be an annoying stereotype, Lauren Nutt had some vocal projection problems, but still conveyed the wounded little girl underneath her her angry exterior.

The major complaint I have with this production is that Act II comes to a screeching halt by introducing - in my own opinion - an unneccessary male character named Tripp with romantic designs on Trisha. The scene just seems to go forever and doesn't add anything to the play. This is a fault with the script. I'd seen this same play at another theatre and with the exact same results. With an obvious 20+ years age difference between Tripp and Trisha, the scene has a definate "Mrs. Robinson" feel to it, which you could either find provoative - or creepy. Will Lee is a capable young actor who is very easy on the eyes.

Overall, CSN does a fine job with this entertaining, if shallow, play. Kudos to director Jeffrey Bigger for assembling a talented group of women who provide us with an entertaining evening at the theatre. You may forget all about it an hour after it's over, but you'll have a good time while it lasts.

And, yes, the fuschia and teal bridesmaids dresses are truly hiddeous.

Go, girl power, go!

Barton Field
by John Ammerman
Relapse Theatre
Last Laugh! Stand-Up Competition
by Justin Spainhour-Roth
Elm Street Cultural Arts Village
Last Laugh! Stand-Up Competition
by Justin Spainhour-Roth
Elm Street Cultural Arts Village
Almost, Maine
by John Cariani
Centerstage North Theatre
Daddy Long Legs
by John Caird (book) and Paul Gordon (songs)
The Legacy Theatre
Four Old Broads
by Leslie Kimbell
Onstage Atlanta, Inc.
Midnight at the Masquerade
by The Murder Mystery Company
The Murder Mystery Company in Atlanta
Titus Andronicus
by William Shakespeare
Live Arts Theatre

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