A User-Driven Site for Theater in Atlanta, Georgia
Companies Reviewed#
Georgia Ensemble Theatre1
Stage Door Players1
Theatre in the Square1
Average Rating Given : 2.00000
Reviews in Last 6 months :

And The Winner Is...., by Mitch Albom
A Different Opinion
Thursday, May 28, 2009
I've seen many plays at Stage Door, and have been greatly entertained and moved by a lot of them. This was not one of those plays. Normally, not having much nice to say, I'd just keep quiet about it. But since the earlier glowing review was one of the reasons I made the trip to Dunwoody, in addition to the solid work many of the artists involved have done before, I had to say something. I felt it was misdirected, miscast, misdesigned (?), and mis-written.

No one was well served by Mitch Albom's script - not the director, the actors or the audience. I can handle a ridiculous premise if it's pulled off well. This wasn't. The 'jokes' were creaky, forced and labored, and if you missed the chance to laugh at them once, don't worry - they'll be back around in a few minutes. "Johnes. With an H," for instance: not amusing the first time, or the third, or the tenth.

Nor was the set any help. Act One was played on a postage-stamp sized platform upstage that felt crowded with just two people on it. As, one by one, most of the other actors were forced to compete for footing, it seemed increasingly like the Stateroom Scene from "A Night at the Opera." Except not funny. Meanwhile, downstage, a vast sea of unused space begged to be utilized, a call that went unanswered until the second act.

I don't know if the script calls for Luis Hernandez's character, Teddy LaPetite, to speak with an Outrageous French Accent, or if it was his idea, or director Jessie Dean's, but it should have been nipped in the bud at conception. His dialogue was absolutely unintelligible. If you can't understand it, you can't laugh at it. Simple as that. Look, a high-powered Hollywood agent, cigar clenched firmly in teeth - we all know how he should sound, right? And with a script as rich in stereotypes as this show unfortunately is - why mix it up NOW? There is no comic ore to be mined there.

Someone thought it would be cute to include names of DSDP designers and artists in the list of Oscar nominees announced in Act Two. That person should not be allowed creative input in future productions. One or two audience members chuckled politely at first, the night I was there, then were silent. An awkward, embarrassed, disappointed silence that was sort of the hallmark of the evening.

I would like to, and did, applaud Kevin Dougherty and Shayne Kohout for rising above the material and really coming off smelling like roses. You know how it can rain and rain and rain, til you think your soul is dying, but then the clouds part and a beautiful beam of sunshine comes down and BAM! the world is alive again and the birds sing? Hyperbolically, that's what it was like whenever one of them carried a scene.

I also applaud Mr. Egizio for his enthusiasm and talent, for the work he's done at DSDP, generally raising the quality and diversity of their offerings and creating a good energy there. This one was a miss, I thought. Obviously, at least one person disagrees with me. An Artistic Director on a tight budget has to choose from a limited stable of directors to helm his shows. Likewise, a director can only cast a show from the pool of actors that audition, or who happen to be married to her. It's a tricky business, but when all the stars align, and the elements work together, it's a wonderful thing to behold. I wish better things ahead for all the artists involved, and for another sick old man for Mr. Albom to visit on Tuesdays, to keep his mind off further playwriting attempts. Then, the winner will

Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story, by Alan James and Rob Bettinson
Rave on
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
This is the closing week for "Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story" at Georgia Ensemble, and if you're looking for a great evening, drive your Chevy to levee, er...Roswell, and grab a seat.

I'm always happy when actors I admire surprise me by exceeding what I know they're capable of, and this cast does it repeatedly. The wonderful Rob Lawhon takes the stage as Buddy and, for the next two hours, nails it again and again, knocking out 20 or more classics, along with the Crickets (Mark Schroeder on bass, and Ryan Richardson - also the show's Music Director - on drums).

Several other cast members are also pulling double duty. Not only did Ricardo Aponte choreograph, but he stops the show as Richie Valens, performing "La Bamba." And Bethany Irby, who just dazzled Marietta audiences in the Lyric Theatre's "The IT Girl," not only sings and acts here, but goes all Jerry Lee Lewis on piano in the shows second act. An earlier scene at Harlem's Apollo Theatre gives Tameka Scotton a bully pulpit for her amazing voice.

Act II is staged as a concert featuring Buddy, Richie Valens, The Big Bopper (the multi-talented Dolph Amick) and others, and the audience is....The Audience! An area has been cleared down front for dancing, and on the night I was there it was full, and many of those patrons who chose to stay at their seats were on their feet anyway.

Can you tell I had a good time? Is this show great art? No. Is it great theatre? No. Is it one heckuva lot of fun? Absolutely. You're not going to be educated, or preached at, or made to think at this show. You're going to be entertained. Very entertained. It's so easy to fall in love with this production. Director Bob Farley has given his audience a grand incentive to come back next season. Or sooner? How about this weekend!

Speech and Debate, by Stephen Karam
Worth the Trip
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
I wouldn't really consider this a review. If Brad Rudy's able to see this show, he is much better equipped to do that, and will do a much more eloquent and thorough job of it. I'd just like to commend director Clint Thornton for casting it with such a dynamic group of young actors.

Chances are you haven't seen them before, at least not headlining a show. But I'm guessing that will soon change.

I certainly mean no disrespect to Katherine Nora LeRoy who has the least stage time, and who plays two supporting roles and plays them well. But it's the three younger actors who really drive this show - Jeremy Ledbetter, Nick Arapoglou and Maria Sager. Each of them gives an engaging, energetic and completely believeable performance, endowing their characters with more life than the sometimes-less-than-satisfying script would seem to allow.

The standout is Maria Sager. She is fearless. In a role that could become tedious in less capable hands, she is a cyclone of controlled manic energy that just left me slack-jawed. She is a force of nature, complemented by Nick and Jeremy's lower-keyed, but equally brave, performances.

The play feels about 20 minutes too long. Watching these gifted young actors at work, though, I didn't really mind. It was a pleasure and a privilege, and I think you'll feel the same way if you head up to Theatre in the Square's Alley Stage.

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