Monday, July 27, 2015

Archive: September, 2012

POSTED: Wednesday, September 19, 2012, 12:43 AM

The names of the company and the show tell you nothing, but 7 Fingers' Sequence 8 is fantastic, one of the most memorable Live Arts/Fringe performances I've seen over the years.

The show, which had its U.S. premiere Tuesday night at the Merriam Theater, seamlessly blends circus arts with modern dance and hip-hop in a family-friendly array of acrobatic feats reminiscent of Olympic gymnastics. All eight performers are clowns at times, but no one is creepy or annoying.

Set to music ranging from Tosca to the Squirrel Nut Zippers, Sequence 8 includes group dance sections with a heavy dose of aerial acrobatics; a Russian bar routine that's a cross between trampoline and balance beam; and performers who defy gravity juggling cigar boxes, on a trapeze, or by dashing up a Chinese pole.

Ellen Dunkel @ 12:43 AM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Tuesday, September 18, 2012, 4:51 PM

By Wendy Rosenfield

I don't really go to Atlantic City much, and haven't yet visited any of the Philadelphia area's casinos. But I can say this: whatever I've learned about the pleasures and pitfalls of taking a gamble, I learned at the Philadelphia Live Arts/Fringe Festival. 

Last night I saw the last of my Critic's Picks (minus one--missed Some Other Mettle due to a scheduling snafu), those as yet unseen works we were asked to recommend to the public right before the start of the fest. As in any gambling endeavor, it's best to assess the odds. You read the press release, peep the Kickstarter campaign, listen to the buzz, go with what you know about the company's history and performers, or their subject matter. 

Wendy Rosenfield @ 4:51 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Monday, September 17, 2012, 2:18 PM

[/SUBHED18_2][AGATE_LG]Shows: 8 p.m. Tuesday<NO1>9/18<NO>-Thursday<NO1>9/20<NO>, 10 p.m. Friday<NO1>9/21<NO> and Saturday<NO1>9/22<NO>. Tickets: $28-35. Information: 215-413-1318<NO1>cq<NO> or www.livearts-fringe.org<NO1>cq<NO>
[/AGATE_LG]<EM>
A huge, hexagonal, cagelike structure that reached to the ceiling commanded the space inside Pier 9 on Friday night for the premiere of Brian Sanders’ [ITALIC]The Gate Reopened[/ITALIC]. Surrounding it was a packed audience. As Sanders’ eight muscular performers — six men and two women — emerged, fleetly circling the Gate’s base to the wild cheers of the crowd, I couldn’t help but see them as gladiators. 
Instead of fighting each other, they fought height and gravity, calculating risk as they swung on bungees or launched themselves like simians against the chain-link fencing, which they gripped only by their fingertips and the J-hooks on their boots. 
[KERN-3]Sanders’ work is always thrilling, inventive, daring, even ingenious and very witty. It was gratifying to see him have a free hand with a good budget for the set and the Pedro Silva/Conrad Bender lighting design. The men — Connor Senning, Gunnar Clark, Teddy Fatscher, John Luna, Billy Robinson, and Tommy Schimmel and the women — Jerrica Blankenship and Tamar Gutherz — were all topless, so the low lighting was perhaps to cast them in shadow.
[/KERN-3][KERN-3]Blankenship and Gutherz performed daredevil feats on a swinging ladder. Robinson took a big leap from the top into a watery canvas, only to be caught up in a sheet of plastic and then writhe his way out again. A mist sprayed them all in the final moments, catching the light magically and casting a mystical cloud over the scene. This was one of those performances where the line between dancer and athlete was blurred, if not obliterated. Indeed, the crowd strolled out into the fine evening in high spirits, as if we’d just been to a sporting event.
[/KERN-3][SIGNATURE]<QM>— Merilyn Jackson

A huge, hexagonal, cagelike structure that reached to the ceiling commanded the space inside Pier 9 on Friday night for the premiere of The Gate Reopened by choreographer Brian Sanders' company, Junk. Surrounding it was a packed audience.

As Sanders’ eight muscular performers — six men and two women — emerged, fleetly circling the Gate’s base to the wild cheers of the crowd, I couldn’t help but see them as gladiators. Instead of fighting each other, they fought height and gravity, calculating risk as they swung on bungees or launched themselves like simians against the chain-link fencing, which they gripped only by their fingertips and the J-hooks on their boots.

Merilyn Jackson @ 2:18 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Monday, September 17, 2012, 2:05 PM

[TEXT]Nudity or near-nudity has been featured in almost every Live Arts/Fringe event I’ve attended — and I’m only halfway through the festival. Since I haven’t  heard anyone yell “Let’s get naked!” I’ve kept my clothes on so far. I can’t say the same for the performers in <NO1>Swarthmore and UArts dance instructor<NO> Jumatatu Poe’s [/TEXT][ITALIC]Private Places[/ITALIC] — members of Poe’s company, idiosynCrazy — which opened Saturday at the Live Arts studio. 
In the lobby we checked our bags, then were divided into four alphabetized groups and herded in as meekly as airline passengers. Some were seated in aisles and some around the periphery of the black-and-white space. 
Imagine your flight attendant breaking into J-Sette, a mix of southern black marching band moves stylized by gay men — often in competitions — or into mad cackling abruptly terminated when another dancer bops them on the head. Their silvery gray and black strappings by Katie Coble come off in pieces by evening’s end, leaving scanty purple and chartreuse underwear that eventually is shed for the final 15 minutes of the 75-minute show. 
Until then the dancers squirm zombie-like into suitcases and bully each other into bullying audience members into standing up, sitting down, changing seats, and rearranging the space until the center is cleared for the frontal nudity, the plastic sheeting, the oil bath, the towel down. 
Leanne Grieger, Gregory Holt, Shannon Murphy, Gabrielle Revlock, Samantha Speis, Zornitsa Stoyanova, Michele Tantoco and Poe performed it all with stoic intensity. Murphy brutalized the others, feverishly shouting orders as the senior, what, captain?
I didn’t think I could be bored looking at beautifully built dancers in the buff, but absent a single touch of irony or comic relief throughout, I was. If Poe’s intention was to annoy and bore his audience, he succeeded mightily; many of us left rolling our eyes and muttering under our breaths about having been held captive on the runway so long, waiting for the piece  to take off.
[SIGNATURE]<QM>— Merilyn Jackson
Nudity or near-nudity has been featured in almost every Live Arts/Fringe event I’ve attended — and I’m only halfway through the festival. Since I haven’t  heard anyone yell “Let’s get naked!” I’ve kept my clothes on so far. I can’t say the same for the performers in Jumatatu Poe’s Private Places — members of Poe’s company, idiosynCrazy — which opened Saturday at the Live Arts studio.

In the lobby we checked our bags, then were divided into four alphabetized groups and herded in as meekly as airline passengers. Some were seated in aisles and some around the periphery of the black-and-white space. 

Imagine your flight attendant breaking into J-Sette, a mix of southern black marching band moves stylized by gay men — often in competitions — or into mad cackling abruptly terminated when another dancer bops them on the head. Their silvery gray and black strappings by Katie Coble come off in pieces by evening’s end, leaving scanty purple and chartreuse underwear that eventually is shed for the final 15 minutes of the 75-minute show. 

Merilyn Jackson @ 2:05 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Monday, September 17, 2012, 3:29 PM
Blog Image
Michelle Pauls as Cornella Jennings in 3 Wishes

Gerald van Wilgen wrote his play 3 Wishes in response to E.L. James’ novel Fifty Shades of Gray. But whether Wilgen intended it as satire or homage (or something else) still escapes me after seeing B. Someday’s staging. 

Like Fifty Shades, 3 Wishes deals with a sexual awakening, in this case, of Cornella Jennings (Michelle Pauls). But unlike James’ 22-year old paramour, Wilgen gives us an uppity middle-aged, sexually repressed executive, circa 1958. She’s followed everywhere by Voce (Sarah Braun), who represents her inner lust. When Voce causes Cornella to inadvertently grope a plumber (Matt Shell), he demands three wishes, each a bit more erotically escalating, from G, to PG to PG-13.

Themes of misogyny (via Cornella’s boss) and gender disparity in the workplace cloud this  fantasy, at times making 3 Wishes feel like a history piece culled from 50’s home-ec education reels. The dated language and lame double entendres add to the historical distance, whether referring to a toilet as the “crapper” or having Cornella respond to a plumber’s question about her leaky sink with “oh, yes, my wet spot.”

@ 3:29 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Monday, September 17, 2012, 3:10 PM

“They say you don’t miss your water until your well run dry.”
 These words, spoken softly and without sentiment, could describe many of the themes in People’s Light and Theatre Company’s monumental production of August Wilson’s [ITALIC]Seven Guitars[/ITALIC]: the melancholy mood of its blues music, the funeral that opens and closes the play, the revolving door of the boarding house where this story takes place, and the promise and eventual burnout of northern cities that lured African Americans up from the Deep South after World War II. 
Set in 1948, the flashbacks in Wilson’s play chronicle a few weeks in the lives of seven boarding-house residents. The three-story structure, complete with backyard and garden, anchors a literal street of Hill District tenements in designer Alexis Distler’s startling set. Here, blues guitarist Floyd Barton (the charming Morocco Omari) has just returned to Pittsburgh from a 90-day vagrancy stint in a Chicago jail. 
He wants to persuade the girlfriend he abandoned 18 months earlier to leave her life for Chicago, where a recording contract awaits. But he must compete for her affections with the interloping Canewell (Francois Battiste) and Red (Brian Anthony Wilson). 
Little but life happens. More bad luck follows bad decisions, corruption peels away fraying fragments of possibility, older generations chime in with crazed or cynical criticism, and each man longs for the chance to correct the mistakes of the past. Barton can either drift permanently into their rut or take a bold risk to build a life where “everything can’t go wrong all the time.” 
Through her subtle direction, Jade King Carroll turns this tragicomedy into a study in contrasts: moments of hope punctured by misfortune, friendship brokered by violence, levity lessened by loss. She tempers all of it with the blues motif embodied in Barton’s hit song, “It’s All Right.” In a play filled with broken dreams, Dennis Parichy’s lighting evokes the promise of each day's sunshine against the nightmarish violence that erupts after twilight. 
Lines of poetry pour forth, particularly from Battiste’s silvery tongue, telling symbolic stories of proud roosters and idle men, and of Highway 61, a route that carried millions of African Americans north like a river, blues music filling their sails like a great billowing soul now dispersed into vapors. At People’s Light, that river runs again.
Seven Guitars. Presented by People's Light and Theatre Company, 29 Conestoga Road, Malvern. Runs September 12 to October 7. Tickets: $25-$45. 610-644-3500 or peopleslight.org

By Jim Rutter

FOR THE INQUIRER

Jim Rutter @ 3:10 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Sunday, September 16, 2012, 8:56 PM

By Toby Zinman

For the Inquirer

Toby Zinman @ 8:56 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Sunday, September 16, 2012, 12:30 AM
Blog Image
In "Gutenberg! The Musical!" Sonny Leo plays keyboards in the background while Tony Braithwaite (left), and Steve Pacek perform. Photo by Bill D’Agostino.

By Howard Shapiro
INQUIRER STAFF WRITER

Johannes Gutenberg built his first printing press in 1450, and if he’d seen the irresistibly ridiculous Gutenberg! The Musical!, we might still be reading handwritten scrolls — forget about online media.

Gutenberg! began theatrical life as a one-act by Scott Brown and Anthony King, workshopped by the Upright Citizens Brigade. The two-act version, starring the authors, premiered in London in 2006, then went on to an Off-Broadway run. A frenzied exercise that demands actors with precise comedic timing and a game musician to accompany them, it has all that in the show that opened Saturday at Souderton's Montgomery Theater, where two of the region’s busiest actors — Tony Braithwaite and Steve Pacek — would have chewed the scenery if there had been any.

howard shapiro @ 12:30 AM  Permalink | 0 comments
About this blog

Toby Zinman's night job since 2006 is theater critic for the Inquirer where she reviews New York and London as well as Philadelphia. Her day job: Prize-winning prof at UArts, author of five books about modern and contemporary drama, and doer of scholarly deeds (winner of five NEH grants, Fulbright lecturer at Tel Aviv University, visiting professor in China). She was recently named by American Theatre magazine "one of the twelve most influential critics in America."


Wendy Rosenfield has written freelance features and theater reviews for The Inquirer since 2006. She was theater critic for the Philadelphia Weekly from 1995 to 2001, after which she enjoyed a five-year baby-raising sabbatical. She serves on the board of the American Theatre Critics Association, was a participant in the Bennington Writer's Workshop, a 2008 NEA/USC Fellow in Theater and Musical Theater, and twice was guest critic for the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival's Region II National Critics Institute. She received her B.A. from Bennington College and her M.L.A. from the University of Pennsylvania. She also is a fiction writer, was proofreader to a swami, publications editor for the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, and spends all her free time working out and driving people places. Follow her on Twitter @WendyRosenfield.


Jim Rutter has reviewed theater for The Inquirer since September, 2011. Since 2006, he covered dance, theater and opera for the Broad Street Review, and has also written for many suburban newspapers, including The Main Line Times. In 2009, the National Endowment for the Arts awarded him a Fellowship in Arts Journalism. Thames & Hudson released his updated and revised version of Ballet and Modern Dance in June, 2012. From 1998 to 2005, he taught philosophy and logic at Drexel, and then Widener University. He also coaches Olympic Weightlifting for Liberty Barbell, and has competed at the national level in that sport since 2001.


Merilyn Jackson regularly writes on dance for The Inquirer and other publications. She specializes in the arts, literature, food, travel, and Eastern European culture and politics. In 2001, she was dance critic in residence at the Festival of Contemporary Dance in Bytom, Poland; in 2005, she received an NEA Critics’ Fellowship to Duke University’s Institute for Dance Criticism. She likes to say that dance was her first love but that when she discovered writing she began to cheat on dance. Now that she writes about dance, she’s made an honest woman of herself, although she also writes poetry.

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