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Keyword: ‘Laurel Johnson’

Humble Boy

June 11th, 2010 No comments

Saw this on the last night it was up at Dobama.  It was alright.  The cast and direction was very good, but the play itself was a little up and down. 

For me, the opening scene of the second act saved the play.  I was nearly ready to leave after the first act and several people that I know who were in attendance did leave.  I also saw two people sleeping (of course, this could have as much to do with the aging of the audience as the play itself).  The first act was almost entirely exposition.  That is really what dragged the thing down.  The second act saved the play because it took advantage of the painstakingly laid ground work of the first.

There were some intriguing interludes, where Felix Humble (Andrew Cruse) has a sort of twilight cranial experience that conjures his dead father.  But these were few.  The whole play reminded me of a collision between Proof, by David Auburn, and Hay Fever, by Noel Coward.  That is, it has the whole self-righteous young, brilliant, diffident intellectual child who can’t get out of the shadow of a dead father (and in Felix Humble’s world a strong willed, overbearing, selfish mother)–whose ghost appears in the play; as well as the flighty, ferociously French-scened encounters with screwball family members, neighbors, friends, etc.  The play is periodically funny and periodically witty.  I don’t think it accomplishes what it wants.  I, for one, wasn’t affected by it–in the sense of having any profound revelation or connecting to the characters in any deeply, meaningful way.  After the first act I wanted to swat Felix every time he stuttered.

The characters were well-drawn and believable: smart, unbelievably stupid and frustrating, funny, vulnerable, assertive, crazy–in short, like real people.  Greg Violand, as George Pye, was terrific and without a doubt a scene stealer.  His rough, vulgar, enthusiastically funny Pye was like many men I know from Mount Vernon/Fredericktown where I grew up: unassuming, direct, rustic–the kind of guy who’ll drink a beer, tell a dirty joke, cut a fart, and then comment on the ass of the woman who just passed by.  Nevertheless, he was earnest and tried his best to win the heart of Flora Humble (Maryann Nagel), who did  a splendid job of portraying and imperious and unforgivingly bitter cougar.  I enjoyed seeing Laurel Johnson, as I always do (Rosie Pye); and Laura Starnik (Mercy Lott) did a wonderful job as Flora’s greatly abused friend–one diatribe in particular that was delivered through a five-minute meandering dinner grace was especially funny and earned great enthusiasm and applause.

There is much that writer Charlotte Jones put into the naming of characters and the themes/events of the play: Flora, Felix, Humble Pye, George (Georgie pordgie pudding and ), Rosie, Mercy lott, bumble bees, gardens, gardners, etc.: a virtual explosion of nursery rhymes and archetypal events–the lost father, oedipal difficulties of the son (Hamlet), unknown daughter, ghosts, etc.  I’m not really certain what it all added up to, though and unfortunately I’m not sure if Johnson does either.  The problem for me is that I don’t know if is supposed to be mysterious, or if she just wasn’t sure herself.

The set was great. It was the first time I had been in the newly constructed Dobama space on Lee Road.  I thought Joel Hammer did a great job of exploding the farcical points and ratcheting together a clearly talented cast.

Big Love

August 21st, 2009 No comments

Full nudity, raving lunatics throwing themselves about, violence blood and murder! What more could you possibly desire? Big Love at convergence is mayhem, a theatrical free for all: part Greek tragedy (which it was) part Grand Guignol and part battle of the sexes.

Based on Aeschylus’ The Suppliant Woman, Charles Mee updates the ancient play to make it a little timelier and Clyde Simon, director, does the rest, adding his unique penchant for comic timing and three-dimensional sense of theater. This sense is perhaps best demonstrated by the spontaneous musical interlude during which the grooms perform a combination rap number and Tom Waits extravaganza—utilizing metal pails, stomping feet, and other make shift instruments.

Liz Conway is great as Lydia, who ultimately betrays her sister’s compact of nuptial slaughter because she truly (accidentally) falls in love with Nikos (Scott Gorbach). Bobby Williams plays a wonderfully remote Piero; Laurel Johnson does an excellent job as the often confused and bubble-headed Olympia; Tony Thai provides much needed light-hearted relief as the gay mediator between the sexes; and, as always, one cannot miss the performance of Lucy Bredeson-Smith as Bella.

The rants and diatribes from each sex are often too long and border on cliché and tedium. But the glorious absurdity of the play is a strength, as is the hard-chiseled difference between the sexes.

The play is worth seeing if you can manage to get in, as I think its on its way to selling out.

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