Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘alan knoll’

The Last Romance
by Joe DiPietro
Directed by Alan Knoll
Insight Theatre Company
March 3, 2018

Tommy Nolan, Joneal Joplin
Photo by John Lamb
Insight Theatre Company

Now onstange at the Kranzberg black box, Insight Theatre Company’s latest production is Joe DiPietro’s romantic comedy-drama The Last Romance. A look at love, life, loss, and opera, the show boasts a top-notch cast of veteran St. Louis performers. It’s a small-ish play, with a close focus on well-drawn characters and a somewhat melancholy air.

The story follows 80-year-old Ralph Bellini (Joneal Joplin), a widower and lifelong opera lover in New York City who once had an audition with the Met. He lives with his sister Rose (Maggie Ryan) in a small apartment and has a relatively routine, predictable life until one day when he spots Carol (Tommy Nolan) at a local dog park and makes an effort to get to know her.  Carol, for her part, is initially reluctant to engage with Ralph, and she’s got a few secrets she’s not eager to share. Rose, in the meantime, has her own issues that make her a little more protective of Ralph than may be expected. Ralph is also accompanied by memories of his past, represented by The Young Man (Clark Sturdevant), who appears in flashbacks and fantasy moments singing a selection of classic operatic arias, usually as a reprentation of the younger Ralph. It’s a simple, character-focused story with humor, music, and a good amount of reflective drama, played well by the excellent cast.

Joneal Joplin is, as usual, excellent as Ralph. With his prolific theatrical career, Joplin can be expected to turn in a strong performance, and he does so here as the persistent, personable, somewhat regretful Ralph. His chemistry is strong with Nolan’s evasive and also compelling Carol, as well as the equally strong Ryan in a poignant performance as the overprotective Rose. Sturdevant is in excellent voice and has a strong presence as the Young Man, as well. The real heart of this play is in its relationships, and all of the cast members work together well to present a touching, believable emotional journey. There’s also a memorable appearance from Yorkshire terrier Oscar as Carol’s dog, Peaches.

The atmosphere here is at once realistic and fantastical. The set by Landon Shaw represents the New York park setting well, as well as Ralph and Rose’s small apartment and a few other locations as needed. There’s also an ethereal air lent by Geordy Van Es’s lighting and Robin Weatherall’s sound design that adds to the flashback sequences and musical interludes. Teresa Doggett’s costume design is appropriately on point, as well, and director Alan Knoll’s staging is intimate and personal, effectively showcasing the insightful script and excellent cast.

The Last Romance isn’t a big, flashy play, and the situations presented aren’t flashy or spectacular either. These are more of the authentic, “every day” moments of a long life full of regret as well as joy. The alternately melancholy and hopeful air is well-portrayed in the music, as well. There’s a great cast here, of great local performers, telling a story with a lot about which to relate, no matter your age, and even though it’s not a musical, music a vital part of this story. It’s well worth seeing, and hearing.

Maggie Ryan, Joneal Joplin
Photo by John Lamb
Insight Theatre Company

Insight Theatre Company is presenting The Last Romance at the Kranzberg Arts Center until March 18, 2018.

Read Full Post »

The Odd Couple (Female Version)
by Neil Simon
Directed by Alan Knoll
Dramatic License Productions
April 25, 2015

The Cast of The Odd Couple (Female Version) Photo by John Lamb Dramatic License Productions

The Cast of The Odd Couple (Female Version)
Photo by John Lamb
Dramatic License Productions

Neil Simon’s The Odd Couple has had many incarnations over the years. It’s been a play that’s seen several revisions and revivals, as well as a film and a popular TV show, along with several attempts at remaking the TV show. The latest production at Dramatic License, of Simon’s 1986 female version of the play–reflects the company’s new focus on women.  An ingenious and entertaining re-invention of the play, this version is a fitting first venture on the company’s new track.

This isn’t just the male Odd Couple with women subbing for the men. Having never seen this version before, I’m impressed with how well Simon has translated the material, especially since the dynamics of female friendships are often very different than those of male friendships. The basic situation is similar, but the overall effect is quite different. The play tells the story of laid-back, somewhat slovenly Olive Madison (Kim Furlow), who lives alone but hosts a regular evening playing Trivial Pursuit with her group of friends, including Sylvie (Kirsten Wylder), police officer Mickey (Carmen Larimore Russell), Renee (Christine Alsop), and Vera (Mara Bollini). Soon into the evening, the friends are informed that their fastidious friend, Florence Unger (Colleen Backer) has gone missing after splitting with her husband. Eventually, Florence turns up at Olive’s place, and Olive offers to let Florence move in.  This sets off the inevitable conflict, as their personalities couldn’t be more different, and Florence is dealing with her own issues of insecurity over her failed relationship. The usual comedy ensues, including a situation involving a pair of romantically inclined Spanish brothers (Paul James as Manolo, Phil Leveling as Jesus) who live in their building and who Olive invites over for dinner.

This story plays out both similarly and differently than its male-centered counterpart. The situation is similar, as are some of the conflicts, but the personalities come across much differently in this version. For instance, I always found the Felix character in the male version to be somewhat unbearable, but in Florence, the neurotic neat-freak characteristics appear much more sympathetic, especially here, as played by the excellent Backer.  She lends an endearing quality to the character that isn’t quite as apparent in the male version, and her interactions with Furlow’s Olive are still combative, but there’s an underlying affection there that’s easier to see in this version. Furlow gives an equally strong performance as Olive, who portrays an effective air of vulnerability in the midst of her character’s outward bravado. The two leads are what really make the show here, although they get some good support from the rest of the cast as well, especially Bollini as the somewhat naive Vera, Wylder as the sarcastic Sylvie, and Leveling and James as the charmingly goofy Costazuela brothers.  There’s a strong sense of energy throughout the ensemble, as well as some good moments of physical comedy.

The production maintains the 1986 setting of this version’s first staging, and that atmosphere is maintained well through the use of 1980’s music played between scenes, as well as Lisa Hazelhorst’s costumes. The set, designed by Kyra Bishop, is sufficiently detailed and also appropriately rearranged between scenes to reflect Florence’s influence after she moves in.

This is a very funny show, reflecting the importance of friendships among women, as well as the need for individual independence. I find the characters of Florence and Olive easier to relate to than their male counterparts, and even though the male version of this show is more famous, I think I actually prefer this version.  It’s been given a lively and hilarious production at Dramatic License Productions that’s well worth seeing.

Kim Furlow, Colleen Backer, Carmen Larimore Russell, Kirsten Wylder Photo by John Lamb Dramatic License Productions

Kim Furlow, Colleen Backer, Carmen Larimore Russell, Kirsten Wylder
Photo by John Lamb
Dramatic License Productions

The Odd Couple (Female Version) is on stage at Dramatic License Productions, in Chesterfield Mall, until May 10th, 2015.

Read Full Post »

The Great American Trailer Park Musical
Music and Lyrics by David Nehls
Book by Betsy Kelso
Directed by Alan Knoll
Dramatic License Productions
September 6th, 2014

Cast of The Great American Trailer Park Musical Photo by John Lamb Dramatic License Productions

Cast of The Great American Trailer Park Musical
Photo by John Lamb
Dramatic License Productions

Welcome to Armadillo Acres!  In their latest offering at their location in Chesterfield Mall, Dramatic License is hosting this over-the-top tribute to life in a Florida trailer park, complete with all the characters one might expect, and few real surprises. Still, while this show may not be for all tastes, it certainly draws a large, enthusiastic audience.  With a great, highly energetic cast and strong production values, this show manages to entertain despite any shortcomings in the script.

The story takes us to Stark, Florida, where the Armadillo Acres trailer park is populated by a range of colorful, if somewhat stereotypical, characters. There’s a Greek Chorus of sorts, consisting of the park’s owner Betty (Kim Furlow); perky teenager Pickles (Stephanie Benware), who may or may not be pregnant; and the brash Linoleum (Stephanie Merritt), whose convict husband is on Florida’s Death Row.  These three serve as our tour guides throughout the play, directly addressing the audience and occasionally playing a variety of other characters as the scenes require.  The main plot revolves around the troubled marriage of the agoraphobic Jeannie (Jamie Lynn Eros), and her husband Norbert (Jeffrey Pruett), a toll collector who is increasingly frustrated at Jeannie’s inability to leave the trailer (she’s been in there for 20 years).  When feisty stripper Pippi (Leah Stewart) moves into town, a smitten Norbert is torn between his sweet but anxious wife and the available new neighbor. But wait–maybe Pippi isn’t so available after all, as her enraged, glue and marker-sniffing ex-boyfriend Duke (Luke Steingruby) is determined to win her back or else. In the course of the plot, loyalties are tested, secrets are revealed and many, many jokes are told.

I have to admit this is not really my type of show, but in the hands of the excellent cast members who all seem to be having a wonderful time, I often found myself laughing along with the packed audience. There are certainly problems with the script, some of the jokes go just a little too far in their outrageousness, and it’s not always clear whether this parody is affectionate or belittling. The plot is also fairly predictable, and one very big revelation toward the end of the play is telegraphed in the first few minutes.  The music is very energetic, though, with a great little band and the strong voices of the talented cast, and some clever lyrics (such as “make like a nail an press on”).  Most of the music is country-styled, but there is one hilarious foray into disco at the end of Act One that is among the highlights of this production, as well as showing off the great costuming by Lisa Hazelhorst, energetic choreography by Zachary Stefaniak, and Max Parrilla’s wonderful lighting effects.  There’s also a very colorful, atmospheric set designed by Kyra Bishop that enhances the overall energy of the production.

The real highlight of this show is its wonderful cast.  Most of the characters here are very broadly portrayed and don’t seem to have much depth, although the performers seem to be having a lot of fun, and manage to bring some substance when there isn’t much in the script.  Furlow, Benware and Merritt make excellent guides through the proceedings, with lots of charm and energy, and there’s also a fun comic performance by Steingruby as the deranged and determined Duke.  Pruett has a difficult role as the vacillating Norbert, although he manages to find some sympathy for the character, and he has good chemistry with his two rival leading ladies.  The real standouts here, though, are Eros as the anxious but earnest Jeannie, and Leah Stewart as the new neighbor, Pippi. Eros gives a thoroughly winning performance, displaying a lot of guts and a strong voice, making the audience cheer her on in her efforts to overcome her agoraphobia and sympathize with her as she deals with the challenges to her marriage. While Jeannie is definitely the character with the most depth in this show, Stewart manages to find a lot of substance to her role as the conflicted “other woman”, and she also has a great big voice that she shows off to great effect throughout the show. There’s also a very strong finale in which all of the cast members get to show off their voices as all of the plot’s loose ends are tied up in various hilariously improbable ways.

Ultimately, a show like this is about entertainment. Even though it does have its issues plot and script-wise, it certainly does succeed in being entertaining. Some people will like it more than others, but I’d be surprised if anyone would be able to see this show and not laugh at least a little. Thanks to the great cast that Dramatic License and director Alan Knoll have assembled, this show manages to succeed in eliciting an uproarious response from its audience.

Cast of The Great American Trailer Park Musical Photo by John Lamb Dramatic License Productions

Cast of The Great American Trailer Park Musical
Photo by John Lamb
Dramatic License Productions

Read Full Post »