Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘coca’

The Gradient
by Steph Del Rosso
Directed by Amelia Acosta Powell
Repertory Theatre of St. Louis
October 8, 2021

Stephanie Machado, Yousof Sultani
Photo by Phillip Hamer
Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

It would be nice to have a “quick fix” or “miracle cure” for many of the world’s problems. Most of the time, however, despite slick packaging, savvy marketing, and smooth sales pitches, often times when something is promised as a “cure” for a given evil, it turns out to be “too good to be true”. The Gradient, a new world-premiere play at the Rep, brings this concept to the “#MeToo” movement. With a clever, satirical script, sleek production values, and an excellent cast, this show takes a thought-provoking, somewhat fantastical approach to a very real, timely issue.

The first aspects of this show that make an impression are the set and the sales pitch. “The Gradient” of the play’s title is a company that’s hawking a “cure” for sexual misconduct mostly among men–including sexual harassment and assault–by means of an algorithm that is supposed to help the company’s counselors target their approach to the individual clients they are working with. Company co-founder Natalia (Christina Acosta Robinson) is featured in the marketing materials, using her best “infomercial” voice to tout this revolutionary new method, and promising near-miraculous results. The slickly produced video is projected on screens on scenic designer Carolyn Mraz’s stylish set that evokes a trendy office environment, highlighted by Mextly Couzin’s eye-catching lighting design. When we first see Natalia outside of the video, she’s welcoming a new employee–the idealistic Tess (Stephanie Machado)–to the office. Natalia comes across as somewhat gruff at first, but Tess’s co-worker Louis (William DeMerrit) assures his new colleague that she improves on acquaintance. As the story plays out, we get to see what life is like at The Gradient for Tess as she interacts with her co-workers and with her new clients, and especially Jackson (Yousof Sultani), a smooth-talking client who may or may not be making actual progress. The approach to the story is largely comic, but with a somewhat ominous undercurrent suggesting the reality of The Gradient’s “success stories” might not be exactly as the promotional materials have been suggesting, as well as contrasting the initially enthusiastic Tess’s reactions to her experiences at The Gradient to that of her more “realist” colleagues. 

With the focus here being mostly on Tess and her fellow Gradient employees, we don’t get a detailed explanation of what most of the clients did to be referred to the Gradient (as an alternative to prison or jail, apparently), but we see a range of personalities and attitudes represented, from the “charmer” approach of Jackson to a variety of other clients all played by one actor (Stephen Cefalu, Jr.) who approach their sessions with Tess differently–from denial, to fear, to open hostility, etc. The scenes of Tess’s counseling sessions are alternated with “behind the scenes” moments at the office, and occasionally more of the promotional pitches, as we see “testimonials” from former clients and more insistent voiceovers from Natalia, with the contrast between the packaging of The Gradient’s product and the reality of its results becoming more apparent, and its effects on the company’s employees are also starkly compared. In addition to the main issue being presented, the play also deals with issues of work-life balance, corporate culture, and advertising vs. reality. In addition to some broad satire, The Gradient also features some intense emotional moments and a story that isn’t quite as predictable as it may seem at first. 

While the client characters are more one-dimensional, the Gradient employees are much more complex, and the performances across the board are excellent. Cefalu’s comically strong portrayal of eight distinctly different clients, and Sultani’s ingratiating Jackson are memorable, and DeMerrit’s friendly, mostly upbeat Louis also makes an impression. The biggest standouts, though, are Robinson as the enigmatic Natalia, and Machado as the initially idealistic but increasingly unsettled Tess. These two are the dominant characters in the story, representing a contrast in approaches as well as characters who have a lot more going on inside than they first let on. Both give stunning performances, with Machado having a memorable emotional moment late in the play that’s especially remarkable, and Robinson getting to deliver almost as strong an emotional punch in a more understated way in the play’s denouement. The interplay between the various characters is also impressive and memorable.

Technically, the show is especially impressive, with the stunning set and lighting, as well as memorable projection design by Kaitlyn Pietras and Jason H. Thompson, providing the ideal atmosphere for the action. There’s also excellent sound design by Sadah Espii Proctor, and well-suited costumes by Raquel Barreto. The pacing is well-timed, with occasional deliberately uncomfortable audience engagement in keeping with the plays generally satirical tone. 

While the ending is somewhat abrupt, the overall idea seems to be that there aren’t any “easy answers” to the problems dealt with here. While that conclusion isn’t really surprising, The Gradient deals with its subject in a way that’s sure to provoke thought and discussion. On stage at COCA’s new Catherine B. Berges Theatre, this is a new show that’s worth checking out. 

Christina Acosta Robinson, William DeMerrit
Photo by Phillip Hamer
Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis is presenting The Gradient at the Catherine B. Berges Theatre at COCA until October 24, 2021

Read Full Post »

stlcircleawards1

Mark your calendars for Monday, March 23, 2015.  That’s the day of the third annual St. Louis Theater Circle Awards, which will be presented in a gala ceremony at COCA in University City, and broadcast on television locally on HEC-TV and streamed live on their website. The awards are voted on and presented by the St. Louis Theater Circle, the organization of local theatre writers and critics, of which I am honored to be a member. I attended the ceremony last year as spectator, shortly before officially joining the Circle, and this year I am a voting member and will be presenting awards along with my colleagues.  I’m looking forward to it. It’s a wonderful opportunity to celebrate and recognize the remarkable contributions to the vibrant St. Louis theatre scene by a variety of talented artists and companies.

Congratulations to all nominees!  For more information, you can follow the St. Louis Theater Circle page on Facebook. Here’s the full list:

Outstanding Ensemble in a Comedy

All in the Timing, St. Louis Actors’ Studio

Blithe Spirit, St. Louis Actors’ Studio

The Liar, St. Louis Shakespeare

Noises Off, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

One Man, Two Guvnors, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy

Caroline Amos, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

Nancy Lewis, Blithe Spirit, St. Louis Actors’ Studio

Ruth Pferdehirt, Noises Off, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

Jamie Pitt, The Liar, St. Louis Shakespeare

Donna Weinsting, Chancers, Max & Louie Productions

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy

Paul Cereghino, The Little Dog Laughed, Stray Dog Theatre

Joneal Joplin, Noises Off, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

Michael James Reed, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

Ben Ritchie, The Liar, St. Louis Shakespeare

Evan Zes, One Man, Two Guvnors, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

Outstanding Actress in a Comedy

Sarajane Alverson, The Little Dog Laughed, Stray Dog Theatre

Nicole Angeli, The Liar, St. Louis Shakespeare

Nancy Bell, Blithe Spirit, St. Louis Actors’ Studio

Teresa Doggett, Shirley Valentine, Dramatic License Productions

Dale Hodges, Noises Off, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

Outstanding Actor in a Comedy

Ted Gregory, Quills, Max & Louie Productions

Raymond McAnally, One Man, Two Guvnors, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

Ben Nordstrom, Reality, HotCity Theatre

Michael James Reed, Blithe Spirit, St. Louis Actors’ Studio

Jared Sanz-Agero, The Liar, St. Louis Shakespeare

Outstanding Director of a Comedy

Paul Mason Barnes, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

Elizabeth Helman, All in the Timing, St. Louis Actors’ Studio

Bobby Miller, Blithe Spirit, St. Louis Actors’ Studio

Suki Peters, The Liar, St. Louis Shakespeare

Edward Stern, Noises Off, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

Outstanding Production of a Comedy

All in the Timing, St. Louis Actors’ Studio

Blithe Spirit, St. Louis Actors’ Studio

The Liar, St. Louis Shakespeare

A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

One Man, Two Guvnors, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

Outstanding Ensemble in a Drama

Death of a Salesman, Insight Theatre Company

The Diary of Anne Frank, New Jewish Theatre

Eat Your Heart Out, R-S Theatrics

The Normal Heart, HotCity Theatre

The Price, New Jewish Theatre

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama

Katie Donnelly, Eat Your Heart Out, R-S Theatrics

Amy Loui, The Diary of Anne Frank, New Jewish Theatre

Susan Pellegrino, A Kid Like Jake, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

Susie Wall, Death of a Salesman, Insight Theatre Company

Sharisa Whatley, A Raisin in the Sun, The Black Rep

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama

Jason Contini, Death of a Salesman, Insight Theatre Company

Gregory Fenner, The Whipping Man, New Jewish Theatre

Bobby Miller, The Price, New Jewish Theatre

Tim Schall, The Normal Heart, HotCity Theatre

Eric Dean White, The Normal Heart, HotCity Theatre

Outstanding Actress in a Drama

Andrea Frye, A Raisin in the Sun, The Black Rep

Linda Kennedy, Windmill Baby, Upstream Theater

Kate Levy, The Other Place, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

Samantha Moyer, The Diary of Anne Frank, New Jewish Theatre

Em Piro, The K of D: An Urban Legend, Blue Rose Stage Collective

Outstanding Actor in a Drama

Jim Butz, Henry V, Shakespeare Festival St. Louis

John Contini, Death of a Salesman, Insight Theatre Company

John Flack, The Normal Heart, HotCity Theatre

Bobby Miller, The Diary of Anne Frank, New Jewish Theatre

Jerry Vogel, Forget Me Not, Upstream Theater

Outstanding Director of a Drama

Fred Abrahamse, Stairs to the Roof, Sudden View Productions

Gary Wayne Barker, The Diary of Anne Frank, New Jewish Theatre

Bruce Longworth, Henry V, Shakespeare Festival St. Louis

Wayne Loui, Death of a Salesman, Insight Theatre Company

Marty Stanberry, The Normal Heart, HotCity Theatre

Outstanding Production of a Drama

Death of a Salesman, Insight Theatre Company

The Diary of Anne Frank, New Jewish Theatre

Eat Your Heart Out, R-S Theatrics

The Normal Heart, HotCity Theatre

The Price, New Jewish Theatre

 Outstanding Set Design in a Play

Jim Burwinkel, The Diary of Anne Frank, New Jewish Theatre

Michael Ganio, Other Desert Cities, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

Rob Lippert, And Then There Were None, Stray Dog Theatre

Marcel Meyer, Stairs to the Roof, Sudden View Productions

Mark WIlson, The Price, New Jewish Theatre

Outstanding Costume Design in a Play

Eileen Engel, And Then There Were None, Stray Dog Theatre

Jennifer “JC” Krajicek, The Liar, St. Louis Shakespeare

Marcel Meyer, Stairs to the Roof, Sudden View Productions

Michele Friedman Siler, Blithe Spirit, St. Louis Actors’ Studio

Susan Branch Towne, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

Outstanding Lighting Design in a Play

Lonnie Rafael Alcaraz, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

Patrick Huber, Stairs to the Roof, Sudden View Productions

John Lasiter, The Other Place, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

Bess Moynihan, Mary Shelley Monster Show, Slightly Askew Theatre Ensemble

John Wylie, Henry V, Shakespeare Festival St. Louis

Outstanding Sound Design in a Play

Justin Been, And Then There Were None, Stray Dog Theatre

Barry G. Funderburg, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

Fitz Patton, The Other Place, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

Rusty Wandall, Henry V, Shakespeare Festival St. Louis

Rusty Wandall, Opus, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

Outstanding Set Design in a Musical

Rob Lippert, Bonnie & Clyde, New Line Theatre

Robert Mark Morgan, Seussical, The Muny

Michael Schweikardt, The Addams Family, The Muny

James Wolk, Fiddler on the Roof, Stages St. Louis

James Wolk, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, Stages St. Louis

Outstanding Costume Design in a Musical

Amy Clark, Hello, Dolly!, The Muny

Leon Dobkowski, Seussical, The Muny

Andrea Lauer, The Addams Family, The Muny

Sarah Porter and Marcy Wiegert, Bonnie & Clyde, New Line Theatre

Alexandra Scibetta Quigley, Cabaret, Stray Dog Theatre

Outstanding Lighting Design in a Musical

Rob Denton, Seussical, The Muny

Tyler Duenow, Cabaret, Stray Dog Theatre

Rob Lippert, Bonnie & Clyde, New Line Theatre

Matthew McCarthy, Fiddler on the Roof, Stages St. Louis

Matthew McCarthy, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, Stages St. Louis

Outstanding Musical Director

Jeffrey Richard Carter, Bonnie & Clyde, New Line Theatre

Valerie Gebert, Seussical, The Muny

James Moore, Hello, Dolly!, The Muny

Chris Petersen, Cabaret, Stray Dog Theatre

Justin Smolik, Rent, New Line Theatre

Outstanding Choreographer

Stephen Bourneuf, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, Stages St. Louis

Denis Jones, Grease, The Muny

Gary John LaRosa, Fiddler on the Roof, Stages St. Louis

Ralph Perkins, Hello, Dolly!, The Muny

Zachary Stefaniak, Cabaret, Stray Dog Theatre

Outstanding Ensemble in a Musical

Cabaret, Stray Dog Theatre

Fiddler on the Roof, Stages St. Louis

Hands on a Hardbody, New Line Theatre

How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, Stages St. Louis

Seussical, The Muny

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Musical

Rachel Hanks, First Lady Suite, R-S Theatrics

Sara Kapner, The Addams Family, The Muny

Teressa Kindle, Grease, The Muny

Mamie Parris, Hello, Dolly!, The Muny

Sarah Porter, Bonnie & Clyde, New Line Theatre

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Musical

Patrick Kelly, Assassins, November Theater Company

Rob McClure, Hello, Dolly!, The Muny

Joseph Medeiros, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, Stages St. Louis

Whit Reichert, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, Stages St. Louis

Luke Steingruby, Rent, New Line Theatre

Outstanding Actress in a Musical

Lavonne Byers, Cabaret, Stray Dog Theatre

Kari Ely, Fiddler on the Roof, Stages St. Louis

Abigail Isom, Seussical, The Muny

Beth Leavel, Hello, Dolly!, The Muny

Larissa White, Bonnie & Clyde, New Line Theatre

Outstanding Actor in a Musical

Rob McClure, The Addams Family, The Muny

Ben Nordstrom, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, Stages St. Louis

Matt Pentecost, Bonnie & Clyde, New Line Theatre

Bruce Sabath, Fiddler on the Roof, Stages St. Louis

John Tartaglia, Seussical, The Muny

Outstanding Director of a Musical

Justin Been, Cabaret, Stray Dog Theatre

Michael Hamilton, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, Stages St. Louis

Scott Miller and Mike Dowdy, Hands on a Hardbody, New Line Theatre

Scott Miller and Mike Dowdy, Bonnie & Clyde, New Line Theatre

Rob Ruggiero, Hello, Dolly!, The Muny

Outstanding Production of a Musical

Bonnie & Clyde, New Line Theatre

Cabaret, Stray Dog Theatre

Hands on a Hardbody, New Line Theatre

How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, Stages St. Louis

Seussical, The Muny

Outstanding New Play

Jennifer Blackmer, Human Terrain, Mustard Seed Theatre

Rebecca Gilman, Soups, Stews and Casseroles: 1976, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

Nick Otten, Mary Shelley Monster Show, Slightly Askew Theatre Ensemble

Stephen Peirick, Four Sugars, Stray Dog Theatre

Lia Romeo, Reality, HotCity Theatre

Special Awards

Donna Northcott, St. Louis Shakespeare

Agnes Wilcox, Prison Performing Arts

 

Read Full Post »