Peter Marks said ho-hum in the WashPo, more or less, about Gem of the Ocean at Arena Stage: "a fitting prologue" for the cycle, he says, but ultimately "a lesser achievement" in the context of August Wilson's best.
Me, much the same. The play does have an opening-chapter feel, but I think the production lets Wilson down: "Handsomely staged but unfortunately flat, Arena’s production suffers most where the play’s richest: in its language." As with Shakespeare, you've really got to know how to shape the speeches in a Wilson play, and too many of 'em are getting thrown out full throttle in the Fichandler.
(Another aside: Said podcast seems to be produced by ex-Round Housers Mark Blackmon and Kathy Feininger, who seem to have set up a company. Hmmmm. Tboy has a podcast he's too lazy to produce on a regular basis. He wonders what their rates are.)
The Mondello has decamped to New York this weekend to see Spring Awakening and whatnot. But he managed to file a review of Noah Haidle's Vigils before he skipped town, and it's largely a happy one: "Haidle’s antic romp is as exuberant, and far funnier, than any play about letting go of a dead spouse has any right to be." PeterM agreed, calling Vigils a "sweetly addled tale, acted with comic relish in the appealing incarnation at Woolly Mammoth Theatre."
(That breeze you felt was the huge sigh of relief from the folks at Woolly, whose stuff has mostly been getting the crap kicked out of it in the Post for the last two seasons. And while Tboy doesn't know whether to attribute it to good reviews or J. Fred Shiffman's abs, sales are apparently brisk enough that Woolly's extended the show through March 4.)
Mondello also turned in a few words (second item) about Teatro GALA's Las Paredes, which he thought "serviceable if not always subtle ... doesn’t pack the emotional wallop it should." Celia Wren basically agrees in the WashPo: "[D]irector Gabriel García and set designer Guillermo de la Torre capably dole out menacing atmospherics while preserving the emphasis on the banality of evil"--but something's not right, she indicates, when "it's the set, not the dialogue, that yields the greatest sense of movement."
Tboy's other excursions last weekend took him to see Crave and The Small Things, both monumentally cheerful plays. (That's a total lie, but go see 'em anyway: They're tough going, but honestly worth the effort.)
PeterM didn't like Crave as much as Tboy did: The play's "an emotionally sterile venture" and "a wildly anticlimactic choice" as the opening event in Signature's very nice new black-box, he argues. And he didn't much like Jeremy Skidmore's decision to have the actors "engage one another whenever possible."
As for The Small Things at Solas Nua, well -- it took until yesterday for the WashPo to wedge the review in (it was a helluva busy week), but Nelson Pressley, hoorah, seems to understand what's so stirring about it: Enda Walsh's play "feels elegiac, yet oddly hopeful," never mind the horrors it chronicles. Kathleen Akerley's "finely calibrated ... unerringly tasteful ... visually beautiful" production makes the story feel "queerly lyrical"; Kate Debelack is quietly heartbreaking, and as Nelson and I both indicate, Chris Davenport's performance is absolutely not to be missed.
(Tboy would like to request, however, that in future you people consult each other and try not to schedule two giant downers in one weekend. It's like mixing the booze and the pills (he imagines); each has its worthwhile qualities, taken individually and in judicious quantities, but consumed together they're not so hot.)
The City Paper sent Glen Weldon to Catalyst Theater, where he admired Scott Fortier's "squirrelly, tic-ridden" characterization (no really, it's a compliment) in Sheila Callaghan's We Are Not These Hands. The play, a little less: Callaghan "wrestles with some big and potentially disturbing ideas ... [but ultimately] keeps the more unsettling stuff at arm’s length." The playwright's in town to check out the production, according to her blog, so you might want to watch for her reaction there.
In the not-so-much-a-review department:
- The City Paper's Nick Green profiles Jessica Burgess and Mary Resing's new Maryland-based company, Active Cultures, and their opening offering, Hansel & Gretel Eat Crabs. ("These girls are lured into a strip club, as opposed to a gingerbread house.")
- Wee Jane gets Andre de Shields to talk about his G-string. More or less.
- The WashPo's Bill Triplett separates fact from fiction as regards Kenneth Tynan, Orson Welles, and Laurence Olivier.
Speaking of which: PeterM likes Orson's Shadow (it was a Monday night open, so Tboy's review will be in next week's paper) and seems enchanted by Lypsinka: The Passion of the Crawford (a Wednesday open, so ditto) -- though I sense a bit of apologia in the latter. Or maybe that's just me: I do understand how technically perilous John Epperson's chosen art is, and I do admire both the astonishing timing andd the way Lypsinka's nonverbals create a characterization--a very different one, a comment on The Crawford--between the lines. But the dazzle wears off after about half an hour.
And that, germs and ladies, was the week that was ...