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14 May 2007


Hi-- here's another C-T review. You can find the original at http://www.citizen-times.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=200770510094

Provocative play ‘Chesapeake’ wins with outrageous humor
by Tony Kiss, Tkiss@CITIZEN-TIMES.com
published May 11, 2007 12:15 am

ASHEVILE — North Carolina Stage Company finishes its fifth season with the biting political comedy “Chesapeake,” the story of a conservative Southern senator, a wild performance artist, and the lawmaker’s dog, which comes between them.

Except for the pooch, the show recalls the 1993 clash between controversial performance artist Karen Finley and the former U.S. Senator Jesse Helms of North Carolina.

But wild as Finley is, “Chesapeake” playwright Lee Blessing goes way beyond reality in this witty piece. It’s a one-man show, delivered with exceptional skill by Charlie McIver, directed by his wife Angie Flynn-McIver, both co-founders of N.C. Stage. The language and subject matter can be adult in nature, but it’s performed with outrageous humor — humor that clicked on opening night, with McIver rightly earning a standing ovation and a couple of curtain calls.

He plays the role of Kerr, an artful eccentric who has received a National Endowment for the Arts grant for his “show,” which consists of having audience members come on stage, and remove pieces of his clothing, one at a time until he stands naked before them. None of this is actually performed at N.C. Stage, but is part of Kerr’s dialogue.

Kerr’s performance, and the grant, earns him the wrath of fictional U.S. Rep. Therm Pooley, whose condemnation of the piece basically gets him elected to the Senate. Kerr then vows revenge against Pooley, and turns his wrath against the man’s dog, a Chesapeake Bay retriever.

That’s as far as we’ll go with the story line, except to say that Kerr’s plot goes horribly out of control, and leads to a transformation of everyone involved.

With no one to share the dialogue, and little in the way of props or staging (except for a rear projection screen), McIver caries the load alone, reeling off this monologue, mostly in the role of Kerr, but sometimes as Pooley or the dog. It’s a masterful bit of acting, showing again that he is among the top players on the local scene.

04 May 2007

Take Me Out

Once again, of course, this review is taken from the Mountain Xpress, without their knowledge or consent, and we hope they don't mind.

Scapegoat hits a home run

Take Me Out parks local theater collective in the majors

by Cecil Bothwell in Vol. 13 / Iss. 40 on 05/02/2007

Going into the 2007 season, Director Taryn Strauss had loaded the bases, having previously coached the Scapegoat Theatre Collective productions of Everything in the Garden, The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told and The Exonerated. Now, like any pinch hitter worth the name, she has blasted one over the fence. The company’s current production of Richard Greenberg’s Take Me Out is superb.

The play scooped up a Tony Award for Greenberg—a good starter for any acting team, but the scale of the drama had to pose a directorial challenge. Eleven male actors on the bench, cast in 14 roles and scenes that ran from bar-room intimacy to group nudity in a locker-room shower offered plenty of opportunities to drop the ball. At the end of the action, the players, the 18-member crew, producer Lauren Alleman and Strauss deserved the roar of the crowd and the extended standing ovation accorded them on opening night.

OK. Enough with the baseball metaphors. For all the fun—and the play is oft-times hilarious—Take Me Out is also a deadly serious examination of homophobia, racism and personal responsibility. The story is that of a major-league star who comes out of the closet in the middle of a winning season. More importantly, it’s an exploration of the reaction of his teammates and coach, his business manager and friends. The casual, even slightly homoerotic behavior of sports players in jock straps is cast in a new light. The fact that the gay player is black adds another layer of tension, with racism tossed into the uneasy mix.

As the producers have accurately explained, “This show explores what happens when America’s favorite pastime becomes a true reflection of our country’s diversity, and how this affects the boys who are faced with that all important question, ‘Which team do you bat for?’”

Jason Williams shines as business manager Mason—adroitly funny, and sweetly gay. Liam Smith brings a quiet, goofy charm to his portrayal of Jason, lifting a supporting role to the heights. And Darren Marshall, perhaps type-cast as team coach, delivers in three roles with a stunning dynamic emotional range. The casting is excellent throughout, and Anna Tillman deserves high marks for her imaginative and convincing set design.

Scapegoat’s mission is to create “exceptional, transformative theatre,” and they are rapidly establishing a reputation as Asheville’s cutting-edge troupe. It’s easy enough to be political and artsy, and to expect that the choice of hot-topic plays would suffice to make a mark. The troupe far exceeds expectations, again. Extending its reach from proselytizing to practicality, Scapegoat also uses its productions as fund-raisers. Take Me Out is a benefit for I-RISE, a GLBTQ nonprofit that aims to be a forum for communication and education and provide a safe venue for socialization and entertainment for the other-than-straight community.

A hint for I-RISE: You don’t need to worry about the entertainment. A hint for everyone: You don’t need to be other-than-straight to love this play, but there is some strong language and one pair of naked buttocks.

Applause. Applause. Applause.