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Companies Reviewed#
Jack In The Black Box Theatre Company1
Onstage Atlanta, Inc.1
Average Rating Given : 4.00000
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REVIEWS

Same Time, Next Year, by Bernard Slade
Not just reciting the lines...
Sunday, February 6, 2005
4.0
First, the obligatory disclaimers: I have worked on several shows at OSA, I know both of the actors in this show personally and consider them good friends as well as wonderful theatrical collaborators, but I've had no involvement with this particular production.


One of the downsides of being involved in the production of live theatre is that, all too often, it's impossible for me to set aside the practitioner in me and just be the audience. I'm listening to the dialogue, but I'm also looking at (critiquing) the lighting design, the set, the staging, etc. So when I actually do find myself getting caught up in the emotion of the scene, it's unusual... and another reminder of just why we do what we do, I guess.

I've never seen any other production of this show, and have only seen snippets of the Alan Alda/Ellen Burstyn movie (which a trusted friend of mine describes as "maudlin"), so I can't make those sorts of comparisons. There probably are some elements of the script that are emotionally manipulative, but even on a cynic like me, the manipulation worked.

This is a wonderful job in the acting and the direction. The moments are real; the laughs are well-timed and well-earned; the emotional levels vary as the scene requires, with an honest-to-goodness build in the second act that put a genuine lump in my throat. That doesn't happen to me very often.

This is a showcase for two fine actors who know what they're doing and a director who apparently knows how to work with good actors.

Wilhelm Reich In Hell, by Robert Anton Wilson
wonderful surrealism
Saturday, August 16, 2003
4.0
This is a very entertaining production of what is obviously a difficult script. I think that the primary plot device -- the "sane" title character being put on circus trial by the less-than-sane -- is a bit of a cliche now; during the performance I even had a couple of nasty personal flashbacks to the lame "Q" episodes from "Star Trek: The Next Generation." But the energy of the cast overcomes the weaknesses of the script.

There probably is an important, History Channel-type documentary (or maybe SciFi) to be found in the story of Wilhelm Reich and his ideas, and while the script touches on these themes, it doesn't really illuminate them -- they serve more as convenient jumping-off points for absurdity. Reich's work isn't really supported, but the opposition to his work is certainly denigrated. In that sense, this isn't an "important" play, even if Reich's story might actually have some importance (the play may work better as something to be read rather than something to be acted). However, the cast and director make the most of their opportunities to jump with both feet into those moments of absurdity, right from the moment that the doors open to the house, with members of the ensemble dancing robotically to No Doubt's "Hella Good" -- a great choice from all sorts of angles (visual, audible, lyrical), but I'm somewhat PO'd that I can't get the stupid song out of my head now.

The production is very tightly directed; the action and dialogue are almost constant motion and the audience is expected to keep up, there is always something going on worth looking at (and not necessarily the person who is speaking). The set makes good use of the space, using wagons to bring the "witnesses" forward, sometimes right to the edge of the audience/jurybox, and using upper-level acting areas at the far upstage for some incidental scenes; the tribute to Ma and Da was a nice comic touch. The lighting is broken into tight pools of sometimes very saturated color, accentuating specific acting areas and also reinforcing the circus motif; this gives some wonderful opportunities for actors to move in and out of shadow, so that the visual picture is never static. In some cases, the pacing seems to outstrip the actors' abilities to spit out the dialogue, which is often more poetry than prose and contains more than its share of mannered or archaic turns of phrase. There are also some inconsistencies in the accents being used, but this is really just a quibble, since historic or period accuracy really isn't all that important in the midst of all the other absurdities going on.

In sum, this is a good and energetic production of a script that, probably for good reason, does not get produced often. There are standout performances here from Jim Sligh as the judge/Satan and Lisa Parks as Marilyn Monroe, and no weak performers in the cast. Not recommended for family viewing (besides the difficult thematic content, there is nudity and simulated rape), but adults who have an interest in theatre should make the effort to see this show, because there will likely be few opportunities to see it done at all, much less done this well. If you do plan to go, dress lightly -- the A/C at Art Farm leaves something to be desired.

CLOSING SOON
Eclipsed
by Danai Gurira
Synchronicity Performance Group
Incorruptible
by Michael Hollinger
Onstage Atlanta, Inc.
Summer Harvest - The Corporate Collection
by various
Onion Man Productions
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by William Gibson
Gypsy Theatre Company
NOW PLAYING
Eclipsed
by Danai Gurira
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by John Babcock
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Summer Harvest - The Corporate Collection
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