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Love! Valour! Compassion!

a Comedy/Drama
CATEGORY : COMEDY DRAMA
by Terrance McNally

COMPANY : Onstage Atlanta, Inc. [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Onstage Atlanta, Inc. (Decatur) [WEBSITE]
ID# 927

SHOWING : May 07, 2004 - June 12, 2004

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PRODUCTION DESCRIPTION

Mature Audiences only. Nudity and language. NO ONE under 18 admitted.
Winner of the 1995 Tony Award for Best Play. "…LOVE! VALOUR! COMPASSION! The new play…is a big, generous, haunted comedy that in its vaguely neo-Chekhovian way is both very funny and filled with intimations of time's passage, of loss and death…it's Mr. McNally's breadth of vision and his ambitious attempt to deal with characters, who are both privileged and threatened, in a way that ignores self-pity but doesn't ignore the larger world outside…Mr. McNally is in rare form." —NY Times. "…in this beautifully written work McNally…presents humbling evidence of what human love is and can be." —The New Yorker. "…LOVE! VALOUR! COMPASSION! is one of [McNally's] very best. Unshowy and quiet, it rings louder with authenticity than his satiric farces do with laughter." —Village Voice. "It is [McNally's] Chekhovian apotheosis, his most satisfying tapestry of emotional brights and darkness—so witty and tough and beautiful that it helps identify our terrible time as a golden age for ...theater. This also happens to be his most ambitiously unambiguous gay play, and it speaks difficult truths with acid grace and all those generous words exclaimed in his title." —NY Newsday


CAST & CREW LIST
Director Scott F. Rousseau
Sound Designer Dan Bauman
Props Mistress Chris Franken
Lighting Designer Harley Gould
AD, Light Board Op Chris Montedoro
Stage Manager Josh Williams
Costumer Alan Yeong
Bobby John Brinkman
Gregory Jeff Graham
John/James Charles Green
Buzz Ken Hornbeck
Arthur Clint Horne
Ramon Jai Husband
Perry Paul Spadafora
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REVIEWS

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tricky dicks
by Okely Dokely
Wednesday, June 2, 2004
4.0
Scott Rousseau has been something of a celebrity in Atlanta for at least as long as I’ve been doing shows around town. I vividly remember his other two shows that I saw him direct: Joseph…Dreamcoat at Stage Door Players (the 1993 show) and Cinderella at the Village Playhouses. He consistently thinks out of the box and infuses clever things in his shows. I remember the Narrator in “Joseph” reading about Joseph’s imprisonment in Creative Loafing. I remember “Those Canaan Days” – the N in Canaan was extended, and became a pantomimed insect flying around, until Simeon squashed it and ate it because he was so famished. I remember the clock that turned to midnight on the dot and on cue, letting Cinderella know that she needed to get back home, and I didn’t see this show, but I heard that when the giant was killed in his “Into the Woods,” they painted a beach ball to look like an eyeball so they could bounce it across the stage. I have much respect and admiration for the man – he is the Steven Spielberg of Atlanta theatre. There are no flying eyes or invisible bugs in his staging of “Love! Valour! Compassion!” at Onstage, but there is a sweet story here that is actually brought to life more by the actors than by Rousseau.

I was almost completely satisfied with the performances. In Act One, I didn’t know what John Brinkman was going for in his character. I felt he overacted a bit and was trying to play the character as somebody with a severe mental condition, when in reality, the only handicap Bobby has is blindness. In Act Two, however, he showed much more dimension and since that is when his character finds out some tragic and shocking news, he gets some heart-breaking and gut-wrenching moments, and he played those well. From then on, once I got used to him, I adored his performance. I unfortunately can’t say the same about Jeff Graham as Gregory. He wasn’t bad by any means, but with a cast that boasted such incredible talent, he didn’t really step up to the plate as much. His stuttering seemed so systematic and scripted, even though I understand Rousseau really pushed for all the “um”s to be in their correct spots.

The rest of the cast was nothing less than stellar. Clint Horne as Arthur played one of the roles in the show that I’d love to play someday. Aside from Buzz, he seemed to have all the best lines – that one about nocturnal emissions kills me every time. As a character who I suspect gets put on the mental sideline too often (from an audience member’s standpoint), Mr. Horne gave Arthur some much-welcomed flavor. Paul Spadafora gets the thankless chore of providing narration almost throughout the whole play. While there wasn’t really anything showy about the character, he makes the most with the sometimes tedious monologues he’s given. Jai Husband’s Ramon was very nicely done. He spends most of Act 2 on the raft (which looks more like a dock in OSA’s version, even though it’s constantly called a raft), but in the third act, just when you think he’s getting boring, he throws a curve and launches into an incredible sequence of song and dance, which I wish had gotten applause. Lastly, my two favorite performances came from Ken Hornbeck as Buzz and Charles Green as John/James. Hornbeck is the next best thing to seeing Jeff McKerley play Buzz, and I mean that as an immense compliment. He somewhat resembles Mr. McKerley physically, and has a similar acting style. It would have been so easy to play a carbon copy of Nathan Lane, who originated the role, but Hornbeck does it light years differently. Finally, Charles Green must be seen to be believed. It is a pair of performances that will resonate in my mind and heart for a long time, I suspect. I want his acting teacher.

There is actually water under the dock (not raft) to simulate a lake, and I heard that it is absolutely frigid, but you won’t be able to tell from seeing the show. Everybody jumps in and looks like they’re having the time of their life. Well done as usual, OSA. I’d give this a 4.5 if possible.

Anyway…
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From a Staight Man's Point of View
by Paul
Monday, May 24, 2004
4.0
I will have to preface my review with the comment that I did not have any idea what I was getting my self into. My wife Jill has a friend who had tickets that they could not use and gave them to us. Jill did prepare me by advising me that there were some gay characters in the show, an understatement if there ever was one. Therefore I will advise my review is from that of a middle-aged WASP heterosexual. Did I enjoy the show? Yes I am open-minded and have gay friends. I will say that I am guilty of stereotyping to a degree and for that reason I think I enjoyed the show more so. Here were a group of men with loves, hopes, wants, and desires that are not all that unlike mine. They are plagued with same fears and foibles that everyone is plagued with. And to complicate matters they are also faced with a problem that rears its ugly head time and time again. I agree with woahfred, the scene between Buzz and James was touching and to me heartbreaking. To me it made AIDS very real and not just something that I read about from time to time in the paper. I was also very impressed with the Jekyll and Hyde performance of Charles Green. He was believable as both characters.

As to the nudity, I am a prude it did make me a little uncomfortable, but so have performances of “Equs” and “Hair” that I have seen. I guess part of me feel embarrassed for the actors on stage.

I would recommend this show and hopefully I have not offeded anyone with my review [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]
long but likeable (and I'm not talking about the nudity!)
by thatsFillarius
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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not just a "gay play"
by GCherry
Sunday, May 9, 2004
3.0
I usually don't like to see a show opening weekend, but I have a friend in the cast of LVC! so off I went. I would have given the performance a 3.5 rating if the format of this site would allow but I just couldn't label it a "4" and feel honest about it.

I had never seen the show and didn't know what to expect. I was surprized that the set was so minimalist, very different from what one usually thinks of for a Rousseau design, but after the first 10 minutes I forgot about it. Typical to an opening weekend performance, there were a few of line problems and bad lighting goofs. However I was completely charmed by the actors playing Buzz and John/James. Both were a delight to watch and kept my interest throughout. I really hate shows with two intermissions, but I guess there is no way around it with the way this show was written, but I do have to say that I never looked at my watch and I was not aware how late it was when the show was finally over. The actor playing Ramone was quite good but the script did not allow for as much character development as Buzz or John/James. I had prepared myself for lots of nudity, but I never felt uncomfortable about it. It was not gratuitous or fake. Same for the language- it was strong, but realistic.

Mostly, I had feared that this would be a dated "gay play" which it is not. It is really more about love and friendships and maintaining a bond. Sure, there are some moments that are strictly '90's in theme, but the central message is timeless. It is my prediction that the show will tighten up post-tech week and become a delight for audiences. If I am wrong, then I expect to hear about it here. Now that is really taking a chance! [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]
The material isn't offensive--in this case, it's the acting!
by woahfred
Sunday, May 9, 2004
2.0
Onstage Atlanta's current production of Love! Valour! Compassion! falls far short of the audience's expectations for this amazing show. As you enter the theatre, there is a disclaimer on the door warning unwary theatre-goers of the situations and subject matter presented throughout the show. It states that if any of the afore mentioned offends you, to go ahead and leave. The nudity or language doesn't offend, but the acting sure did.

The performance was shaky from the very start. The exposition was extremely slow and lacked the energy it needed to pull the audience into these character's lives. Once it had finished, the show did pick up a bit, however small it was. Consistently throughout this play, actors flubbed lines (even character's names!) and crawled to the finish line so sluggishly, the audience seemed to be watching a run-through of the show a week ago during rehearsals. The cast just didn't seem to have any sort of path to take in order to perform the play. This could very well be blamed on the direction as well, since the actors didn't seem to have a grasp on what was being presented. Who's not to say that by the time the show closes, the cast will have found their "groove" and glide effortlessly towards the end?

There were however, in this lack-luster performance, two stand-outs: Charles Green as "John/James Jeckyll" and Ken Hornbeck as "Buzz." These actors consistently delivered lines as if they understood what they were saying (which most did not) and had such enormous energy that they seemed to carry the entire cast through this show. Green's character of "John" was played with the absolute perfect amount of bitterness. In contrast, his "James" character was brilliantly played with the heart and soul that this show was lacking. Green's dialogue between the two characters near the end of the show was outstanding.

Hornbeck's "Buzz" was an absolute delight everytime he was on stage. There are several comedic moments throughout the show, however, Hornbeck's were the only ones which caused the audience to laugh out loud. His interaction with Green as "James" was superb. During their dialouge about "James" lesions, the audience was literally sucked into that single moment and caused to feel many emotions which were absent from other actors.

An honorable mention is also deserved for Jai Husband's character of "Ramone." I believed him, I just felt his character needed a little more development. In contrast to other actor's deliveries (who instead of taking a dramatic pause took dramatic clauses) Husband's timing and reactions seemed a little rushed.

Overall, this production of Love! Valour! Compassion! was under-performed, under-directed and under-rehearsed. If you plan on seeing this show, don't allow your expectations to exceed what you would allow of any ordinary community theatre. Onstage usually scores high with each production they mount. In this case, however, they fall far short of reaching their goal. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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