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27 March 2009

What's LYLAS Got To Do With It?

Review: LYLAS bring on laughs in new show

Asheville's all-women's comedy sketch troupe LYLAS (Love Ya' Like a Sister) does original comedic skits better than most of our other local, slap-happy, high-energy troupes, all seemingly inspired by NBC's venerable “Saturday Night Live.” Like SNL, with LYLAS nothing is sacrosanct or immune from the LYLAS magic touch, or slash.

This high-estrogen bunch has imagination and skills galore. LYLAS' seventh original show in less than four years, “What's LYLAS Got to Do With It?” is laughs all the way.

Seven lively 30-somethings bounce about the stage and tear into all things Asheville. Jenny Bunn provides a cleverly conceived “curtain speech” adjacent to an edgy “Martini Mom” sketch. Hip haiku and fast-paced references to current events keep listeners on their toes.

Probably the most innovative and insightful skit is a tour of downtown Asheville by Segway, with the women getting a guide's narrative that is simply brilliant. Downtown's Urban Trail, BB&T building, former City Councilman Brian Freeborn, the Asiana buffet, metrosexuals, the cobblestones on Market Street and other aspects of our Mountain Metropolis all get the treatment.

Another high-point of the evening was a commentary on Roman Catholicism, Wiccans, Lutherans and Unitarians, related to tattoos, worthy of Garrison Keillor's weekly NPR show, “A Prairie Home Companion.” Some other sketches get downright randy and raunchy, and demand that this reviewer alert potential audiences that this is not a show for the kiddos.

At those points only certain oldsters and grandmas will be entertained more than offended. But, fortunately, Asheville could fill the hall every night with enough grandmas who would, totally “get it” and embrace the whole show. Maybe a few grandpas, too. Maybe....

Additional cast performers include Marissa Williams, Robin Raines, Emily Miller, Delina Hensley, Sarah Carpenter and Kerri Brantley Ostergaard. These six and Bunn are all introduced with superbly produced video snippets of each at the wheel of her respective auto. Very original and very cool. The Segway tour is also enhanced by skilled video projections.

These videos, and sound work of Peter Brezny, are an inspired contribution to the whole, with cinematography, editing and projection of the highest quality. Brezny's work, coupled with filmed cameos of Scott Bunn and David Ostergaard, show that if they are sharp enough, and marry well, there is still room for a limited number of men in the universe.

Jim Cavener reviews theater for take5.


CT again

Review: Strong cast, music make ACT's ‘Narnia' a delight

Asheville Community Theatre presents C.S. Lewis' fantasy world for children in the enchanting musical “Narnia,” based on Lewis' “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.”

A large cast and a big sound make this one of the more ambitious undertakings on the ACT stage. They troupe pulls it off with energy and enthusiasm thanks to deft directing by Cindy Baldwin and lavish costumes by Deborah Austin and Susan Dillard.

Bradshaw Call gives a commanding performance as the lion king Aslan, whose blood-curdling roar is tempered by his sacrificing spirit. Christina Johnson is mesmerizing as the White Witch, who torments the people of Narnia in a perpetual winter with no Christmas.

The story centers on four siblings who flee to a relative's huge home during World War II. While exploring a wardrobe, they step into the strange world of Narnia, where ancient prophecy says that four human children will rescue the land from the White Witch.

Edmund (Lincoln Belford) is duped by the witch into her scheme to negate the prophecy by capturing his brother Peter (Dylan Murray) and sisters Susan (Meredith Matsakis) and Lucy (Danielle Germann). Narnia's residents rejoice to see the “children of Adam” as the hoped-for relief from their suffering under the White Witch. Ryan Jevne and Katie Jevne nearly steal the show as Mr. and Mrs. Beaver, who dance and prance in delight over the prospect of an end to the White Witch.

With the children's presence, the snow begins to melt, and Father Christmas (Frank Avery) appears bearing special gifts for the human children. But the White Witch is not done yet and manages to tempt Edmund into betrayal and turns half-man/half-goat Mr. Tummus (Robert Shupe) into stone. Only Aslan can end the enslavement by the White Witch in a plot twist that seems Christ-like and reminiscent of the author's deep religious faith.

Musicians Linda Walker, Gary Mitchell, Jim Anthony, Sabrina Kumar and Kit Powell produce the sound that helps makes the land of Narnia so mysterious and yet so appealing. “Narnia” still charms more than five decades after its creation. This adaptation with book by Jules Tasca and music by Thomas Tierney is sure to please children of all ages.

Tim Reid reviews theater for the Asheville Citizen-Times.

14 March 2009

Blog issue

Hi all -- we have heard some rumors a few posts getting deleted from ARAR recently. Editorship has not deleted anything, so if you have recently tried to make a post that never showed, or disappeared, please email berngrier@gmail.com, and we'll try and figure out what the problem is.
Thanks for reading. Thanks for posting.

12 March 2009

Stones at DW


Theater review: North Carolina Stage strikes gold with "Stones in His Pockets"

Tony Kiss • TKiss@CITIZEN-TIMES.com • published March 12, 2009 10:39 am

ASHEVILLE “Stones in His Pockets” rocks at North Carolina Stage Company. For a second time, this Asheville theatre hits the mother lode with this comedy-drama about a little Irish village, besieged by a crew of Hollywood moviemakers who have turned the place on its ear.

The show, written by Marie Jones, again stars Charles McIver and Scott Treadway, handling a variety of roles, but mostly playing two blokes who are extras on the movie. McIver and Treadway have become Asheville’s acting dynamic duo, with a unique back-and-forth chemistry much needed for this type of show. Director Christopher Burns makes the most from this acting electricity.

“Stones” seems even timelier than its previous production three years ago, with its underlying theme of economic upheaval, and people being “dispossessed” from their homes and land. The Hollywood movie makers are pouring big bucks into this town – for now – but soon they’ll be gone, leaving the locals to again fend for themselves. And with St. Patrick’s Day just around the corner, “Stones,” well, that’s just as lucky as a four-leaf clover.

Jake (McIver) and Charlie (Treadway) meet on the set of this movie epic. The men have different stories – Charlie is a bit of a schemer, forever trying to get someone on the movie to look at his screenplay. Jake is more laid back, just back from the states and uncertain of what lies ahead. These two characters would make a fine play themselves – and as the show unfolds, we learn much more about what makes them tick.

But Treadway and McIver have much more work at hand, each transforming into different characters with just a magical spin of their bodies. Treadway has a nice bit of gender-bender performance as Caroline Giovanni, the American movie star, while McIver’s best moments come in a brief turn as cousin Sean, the ne’er-do-well extra, and also as feisty old Mickey, “one of the last surviving extras” from the John Wayne Irish movie “The Quiet Man.”

Among the best moments: the actors play boys dreaming of their lives ahead, and later, do a superb, if silly, dance routine.

The ability of Treadway and McIver to pull this off is worth the price of admission alone; really, any pairing of the two would be worth the money. It is truly a testament to their superb acting abilities. Equally intriguing is the “Stones” script, which might be comedy with powerful moments, or perhaps drama with some laughs. Either way, it works.

“Stones in His Pockets” by North Carolina Stage Company

When: 8 p.m. through Saturday, 2:30 p.m. Sunday

Where: Diana Wortham Theatre, Pack Place, Pack Square

How much: $25

Information: 257-4530

Offending the Audience

This weekend, I had the extreme please to go see two excellent plays (well, sort of). Today, I will tell you about the "sort of."

On Thursday, I saw the Corpus Theatre Collective's production of "Offending the Audience." This is best described as an anti-play. There is no plot and no characters. It is simply people talking to (and offending) you, the audience. This is a very good production, as the ensemble is a well chosen group of people who are excellent public speakers (which is really all this "play" needs). The "set" is only a series of stools and barricades to hook some lamps on. The show is the ultimate in meta-theatre. It is so meta, I'm sure some would even argue that it isn't even theatre.

I had some issues with it though. My biggest issue was that the production did not seem to present the spirit of the piece as effectively as it could have. The whole point of the piece (or it least, the presented point of the piece) is to present no artifice, no symbolism, nothing but the text. Now whether or not that is possible is another matter entirely. But there were certain things present in the production that certainly symbolised something. Now, the text also states that the text will contradict itself, but I feel that it would have been more interesting to show even less and present the audience with an even more conflicting question about whether it is possible to present artifice, without tipping the scales in either direction. (Of course, given how confusing this whole play/show/idea is, I freely admit I might be missing something.)

The best part of this play (and the fact that Corpus is presenting it) is just how mind spinning it is. While it is from the 60's and does have a little dust on it, it FORCES you to think about the basic concepts of the threatre, and your view on them. Articfice, shows vs plays, actors, the fourth wall, etc. This play gets you thinking.

As a theatre person, I loved this show. I have heard that many non theatre folk also loved the show. Go see it. It's high quality, cheap, and the best theatre mind f*ck I have ever seen.

Nathan Adams



Theater review: ‘Titus Adronicus' is wild and well-played

There are reasons why Shakespeare's earliest tragedy is rarely performed. “Titus Andronicus” is not a pretty play. Not that the words fail to flow smoothly, nor that the meter and cadence fail to inspire. It's that Montford Park Players' season opener is rife with violence and vengeance, murder and mayhem.

It has too much gore, including at least 14 murders, nine of them before our very eyes. We will spare you the other brutality.

The Montford Park Players has produced much of the Bard's alleged canon over its 36 seasons of outdoor summer theater. To achieve the whole body of work, “Titus” would have to be mounted sometime. This feisty company decided that the appropriate time was now.

Seeing this stylized production is not for the faint of heart. The seventy-some seats around the large thrust stage makes for an intimacy maybe more pleasing for comedic/romantic Shakespeare.

None of this is a criticism of the quality of this worthy production. The cast is large, all members competent, some inspired. Lovely young Peyton Siler Jones as Lavinia is compelling in her presence, and she's a 16 year-old sophomore at Asheville High School. David Hopes gives a powerful Marcus, the Tribune. There is no shortage of gender-bending in this cast, as many of Titus' sons are portrayed by women. One of the most impressive role switches is the ever-impressive Stephanie Hickling as Aaron, “the Moor,” lover of Tamora, queen of the Goths. Rae Cauthen is effective as that deeply detestable royal personage.

Greg Gassler as Saturninus gives a dazzling tour-de-force fling, while versatile director Jason Williams also carries the role of Demetrius. Charlotte Lawrence, recent grad of Warren Wilson College, gives us four roles, but her childlike Lucius the younger is a marvel, playing the future Roman ruler. From small to large is Lucius the elder, played by six foot-eight inch tall Travis Kelley. His is a strong portrayal. But, the scene stealer must be Jim Slautich in the title role.

There is symbolism galore: black fascist attire, color-coded armbands, mixed with contemporary threads making for rich, motley and varied costuming, attributed in the program to Rae Cauthen and Jason Williams.

Jim Cavener reviews theater for take5.

01 March 2009


I'm reprinting this C-T review to give folks another opportunity to respond to the show. Since the original posting has led to a discussion about larger review issues, it seemed reasonable to make it as easy as possible for folks to contribute to one or the other of these threads.
Hope this makes sense.

Review: ‘Rosencrantz' is complex but entertaining


There are some shows that require total concentration while watching, and even then, it's difficult to grasp just what's going on. The absurdist comedy “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead” is like that, but it's well worth seeing, because of the superb acting in this cast. And as puzzling as it can be, there is a payoff.

Playwright Tom Stoppard has taken Shakespeare's “Hamlet” and given it a very odd twist, pulling two minor characters from the classic, putting them in the spotlight and dropping them into a weird “Twilight Zone” like setting. And there is no Rod Serling to step out from behind the curtain to explain what's going on.

So unless you've seen this one before, or really understand “Hamlet” or Stoppard, don't feel bad sitting there, scratching your head. It's not supposed to be easy.

Director Angie Flynn-McIver has assembled an amazing cast, fronted by two familiar faces: Hans Meyer as Rosencrantz and Willie Repoley as Guildenstern, loyal but mostly unimportant friends of Prince Hamlet (Chris Allison).

The two have been cast into an odd world that they don't understand and have no way of escaping. They while away the hours tossing coins or playing back-and-forth word games, trying to remember who they are and how they came to be there. Rosencrantz is more of a simpleton and Guildenstern poses as the more knowledgeable of the pair, but it's a sort of Laurel and Hardy set-up.

Through the course of the story, they meet a traveling band of actors led by The Player (Michael MacCauley), who comes in and out of their world but offers little help in sorting it out. Our boys sometimes find themselves where they belong — as characters in “Hamlet” — as the King and Queen (Joe Sturgeon and Lauren Fortuna) seek their help in understanding the madness of the Prince.

And so it goes. But there is a point in the show — as in its title — where it become obvious, even to non-Shakespeare readers, and to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern themselves, what lies ahead. They are on a journey to which there is no good end and no escape.

There are two intermissions here, and while they are 10 minutes each, that lengthens this evening to just short of three hours. In the second intermission, the audience must leave the theater, so that a mighty set change can be made. We won't spoil the surprise, but it is worth it, although the second intermission found much of the sold-out crowd jammed into the lobby, hands in pockets, with others puffing their cigarettes outside the theater on Stage Lane, filling the air with an unpleasant smell.

As for the performances, Repoley gives a masterful turn as the smug Guildenstern, proving again why he is among the finest actors in Asheville. There's fine chemistry with Meyer, equally impressive as the more naïve Rosencrantz. It's a rare chance to see Meyer act, as he usually directs.

Coming close to stealing the show is MacCauley as The Player, who gets some great scenes. And it is good see Allison as Hamlet, sinking into madness, although he has less to do than the others.