The WashPo's indefatigable Nelson Pressley was a busy one this week:
- he turned a jaundiced eye upon the gender-bent Owl and the Pussycat at Actors' Theatre of Washington ("Double the Men, Half the Fun," said the suitably bitchy headline)
- he weighed in on Robert O'Hara's "impossible" Insurrection: Holding History ("a true dialectical smashup")
- he even wrote the I-can't-believe-I'm-reviewing-this review of Cats, whose chorus-kitties "perform as if it really means something, bless their hearts."
Speaking of smashups: Tboy is afraid he saw Owl, too. He never imagined he'd think longingly of Barbra Streisand's comic flair.
Tboy was happier with Insurrection, not minding that the mashup doesn't exactly add up. (In fact, Tboy is OK with the idea that the mashup is itself the point, if that's in fact what O'Hara intended. Even though it's probably not.)
More important, the cast was daaaaazzzzzzling--total shoo-in for that new Ensemble category at next year's Helens.
And since we seem to be hung-up on mashups this week: Tboy also got out to Gunston to see Steven Mazzola's '20s-distaff collage, Drama Under the Influence. It's smart & subtle (second item), if a little uneven now and then.
As for Kiss Me, Kate, which was possibly the slowest-moving evening of musical theater Tboy has ever, ever attended: Ouch. The City Paper's Glen Weldon was kind(ish), saying the Savoyards are "serving it up like the theatrical comfort food it's always been: thick n' cheesy, but pretty satisfying."
Not so the WashPo: The cast "bedim[s] the stage with a fog of amateurishness," sniffed Celia Wren. She liked lead actor Michael Nansel (Tboy thought he sang dreamily and acted like, well, a singer), and said Rosie Sowa "sashays with sex-kitten flair through 'Always True to You in My Fashion'," but otherwise -- feh.
Tboy kinda wished the final moments had more of the ambivalence that haunts the middle of the play -- he's not sure there's really any future for that relationship, but Muse seems to hope otherwise.
Probably Terrence McNally does, too -- which is probably one reason Tboy doesn't usually buy his plays.
Bob leads off with Shaw's Shorts, the Stage Guild omnibus (what's with the short-play evenings suddenly?), and darn if he doesn't sound cranky at first: "The old windbag is back."
But while he is in fact a little cranky about one of the playlets ("staged and acted with a broadness than sometimes verges on slapstick, [The Man of Destiny] quickly wears out its welcome"), he ends up thinking it's rather a nice evening: The Stage Guild "is comfortably in its element ... with John MacDonald’s staging getting things sparklingly right."
Celia seconds that emotion in the WashPo, calling it "a buoyant, intellectually stimulating showcase ... cannily directed ... a diverting, surprisingly topical production."
Topical? Naturally: As usual (and as both critics point out) Shaw has a few broadsides to launch at jingoism and such.
P.S. -- Peter did in fact get to the Hamlet. It's often about "self-conscious moments that are more theatrical than illuminating," though ultimately it's "a fun evening, if one that is not especially affecting." Not much, sez the oracle, "in the way of fresh observation."
Photo credits: Jeffrey Johnson, top, by Ray Gniewek, courtesy Actors' Theatre of Washington; Insurrection cast, middle right, by Colin Hovde, courtesy Theater Alliance; Kate Buddeke and Vito D'Ambrosio by Scott Suchman, courtesy Arena Stage.