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Be Aggressive

a Atlanta Premiere
CATEGORY : COMEDY
by Annie Weisman

COMPANY : Synchronicity Performance Group [WEBSITE]
VENUE : 7 Stages [WEBSITE]
ID# 939

SHOWING : May 09, 2004 - June 20, 2004

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PRODUCTION DESCRIPTION

Cheerleading and Grief Collide in this Black Comedy about a California Cheerleading dealing with her mother's death by taking a road trip to Cheerleading Camp.


CAST & CREW LIST
props designer Elisabeth Cooper
Stage Manager Rita Ann Marcec
Click to Submit Cast & Crew Info for this production
REVIEWS

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The low-comdram diet
by troyhill
Monday, June 14, 2004
2.0
I agree with Dedalus on a number of points, most importantly on the disjointed feel of the script. Maybe the playwright's goal was just to show us all that a play doesn't have to make a choice between the "wacky cheerleader" comedy and "my mom's dead, but i don't want to grow up" drama, but Annie Weisman proves just the opposite. The play itself begs to be given a solid identity, and I was begging right along with it. This pastry burned before it rose. The comedy is underwhelming and the drama overbaked.

Performance-wise, Megan Hayes as Leslie is enjoyable and serves as the comedic banner carrier. Cheri Christian as Laura finds some nice moments, but, perhaps owing to the script, doesn't always muster the sincerity that makes us care. The first smoothie monologue is fine, but the monologue as a device is overused in the text. Jeff Portell as Laura's father seemed disinterested and borderline apologetic on the night of this performance, and Allison Fleming could not overcome being miscast and tragically miscostumed as Leslie's mother. The cheerleader chorus device was ok for small cheer sequences, but the snippets of character performances were weak.

In terms of overall production values, the scrim scenery panels were an interesting choice but not really a good one for such a small space. As transformable walls they were ok, but the choice of incorporating them into scenes as doors or windows was awkward as was seeing the stagehands waiting behind them during certain scenes. The music choices (typical sports arena fare) and the marketing materials were focused uniformly on the wacky cheerleader aspect of the script which may be a contributing factor in both reviewers' confusion.

Ms. Hayes' fun performance, the comfortable seating and my childhood fondness for Twinkies account for the 2 rating. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]
Be Accaricature
by Dedalus
Tuesday, May 18, 2004
2.0
It sounds like a good idea – show a teenage girl dealing with grief by running away to Cheerleading Camp. The opportunities for Cultural Satire or Black Comedy or even a simple and moving tale of growing up seem countless. Unfortunately, Synchronicity’s production of “Be Aggressive” by Annie Weisman left me with a very disappointed “Been-There-Seen-That” Feeling.

Most of the problems are with the script. It starts out promisingly enough with a chorus of cheerleaders announcing the death of one of their friend’s mother as if at a pep rally. This is followed by a touching scene of two sisters recovering from the shock of their loss. The problem is, the scenes do not belong in the same play. The opening is pure satire – exaggerated, funny, and “over-the-top.” But the sisters scene is extremely realistic – I could believe these were real girls talking about everything but what was really on their minds. I enjoy plays that challenge our concepts of style and genre, but in this case, the mix had no focus – it had no contextual reason other than contrast for its own sake.

The play went completely off the rails for me with the introduction of the best friend. There were many funny lines and California Girl satire moments, but that’s been done so often and so much better that both characters went no deeper than caricature. What should have been a moving monologue at the end when the death is finally acknowledged comes across flat and emotionless, an actress doing a “set speech,” not a girl grieving her mother.

After films like “Clueless” and TV shows like “My So-Called Life” and even “Buffy, the Vampire Slayer,” the culture of being a teenager has been examined at depth and with humor and style. By focusing on this aspect of the story more than the family crisis just emphasizes how shallow and, well, clueless this playwright’s approach is. It is an outsider looking down on teenagers, and, to be frank, it is patronizing and insulting. What is unusual is that the playwright treats the parents with same contempt – he father and the friend’s mother rarely go beyond unlikeable plot devices.

The cast has to bear some of the blame here. They were energetic, but they rarely made these characters more than the stereotypes they were on the page. I suppose it was a challenge to make us like and understand characters the playwright apparently didn’t like and understand, a challenge that was not met with much success.

In the last two years, Synchronicity has become one of my favorite groups to watch – they do plays that challenge, that entertain, and that look at life and theatre in new and exciting ways. The last thing I expected from them was a shallow Same-Old Same-Old piece like this.


-- Brad Rudy (BKRudy@aol.com)

Note – I saw this play at Alliance Theatre as part of the City Series II festival. It is moving this week to the 7 Stages Back Space. Perhaps that more intimate venue will give the cast more of an opportunity to connect with the audience (or “connect-the-dots” of the Stew of a Script).




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Addendum: The Holman Factor by Dedalus
Yes, I know, it's the height of pretention to comment on my own review. I just felt this neurotic need to put down a few thoughts after reading Curt Holman's essentially positive review in today's Creative loafing.

The most significant thing I noticed is that many of Mr. Holman's positive points were things I wish I would have seen but didn't -- connections between the satire and the family drama, confrontations with grief and sadness. These aspects weren't in the performances and I don't recall them being in the words (though, again, my so-called memory may be at fault here).

The point I'm trying to make (in my roundabout way) is this -- Is our memory of a nuance or moment real or based on a multitude of factors (not least of which is our own state of mind/drowsiness) when seeing it?

To the point, what exactly does (or should) the playgoer, critic, pseudo-critic bring to the play? I've yet to see a scholarly analysis of the playgoer's personal contribution to a theatrical experience. Theatre, in my humble opinion, is an interaction. Most scholastic work seems focused on the artist -- what does the actor or director or designer do to contribute to the experience. But I believe what the audience contributes is just as important (maybe more so) -- how often has a show been less than than stellar because "we got nothing back from the audience?"

Anyway, just hoping to start a discussion ....

Brad
Interesting comment.... by JasonMeinhardt
Brad, I found what you had to say very interesting. I was wondering if I could add a little to it. I couldn't agree with you more. I believe as actors, we rely on the audience's vibe (sometimes a little too much). I remember Jeff Watkins telling us during a rehearsal that the process is not complete until the last cast member joins us...meaning the audience. I believe, as a playgoer, that our perception of the show can be totally different based on any given night/audience. I believe, also, that is why, on this site that we see so many incredibly different reviews and takes on a single performance or production (i.e. Deathtrap, Joseph, etc.). Great conversation starter! :)


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