Theater

Local playwright a national finalist

Local playwright a national finalist

Local playwright Chandler Hubbard is a finalist for national recognition. His play Animal Control, which premiered last season, is one of 6 finalists for this year’s American Theatre Critics Association Harold and Mimi Steinberg / ATCA New Play Award.

 

It was actually produced by Firehouse Theatre two times with a slightly reworked cast. Here’s my review of the first production and here’s the 2nd.

 

About the honor, Hubbard responded”

In the past weeks and months I’ve been experiencing an overwhelming maelstrom of emotions, exacerbated by the fact that I couldn’t tell anyone until the finalists were announced. I’m simultaneously grateful and honored but also really anxious – I was supposed to go to the ATCA conference in April, be a part of a new works panel and attend the award ceremony, but that, of course, has been postponed. 

More than anything else, really, I’m shocked and blown away. I’m a small town kid, this is the first play I’ve written, and the show has really taken on a life of its own in the past two years or so.

Looking at the list of past Steinberg winners and finalists, I’m definitely a small fish in an enormous pond. Some of the past honorees include August Wilson, Arthur Miller, Lanford Wilson and Moises Kaufman. So many of the finalists have gone on to win other major national awards or be produced on Broadway. To be thought of in the same vein is astounding. I just hope and pray I’m not a one hit wonder!”

 

The ATCA has been administering this award since 1977, honoring the best new work premiering outside New York City. The top award of $25,000 and two citations with $7,500 each is funded by the Harold and Mimi Steinberg Charitable Trust. The award was to be presented during ATCA’s conference at the Pacific Playwrights Festival in Costa Mesa, but the COVID-9 intervened. A new date will be announced at a later time.

 

Here’s the list of finalists:

– Animal Control by Chandler Hubbard (Firehouse Theatre of Richmond VA)

– The Coast Starlight by Keith Bunin (La Jolla Playhouse)

– The First Deep Breath by Lee Edward Colston II (Victory Gardens Theatre, Chicago)

– How the Light Gets In by E.M. Lewis (Boston Court, Pasadena CA

– Nonsense and Beauty by Scott C. Sickles (Repertory Theatre of St. Louis) – Sheepdog by Kevin Artigue (South Coast Repertory, Costa Mesa CA)

 

Thx to local member of the ATCA Susie Haubenstock for the heads up.

Legends at Home

Legends at Home

The Richmond Performing Arts Alliance (RPAA) wanted to do something special for our community that supports, so they’ve launched Legends at Home (an extension of their “Legends on Grace” series).

 

Starting Monday, 3/30, the performances will be streaming on Facebook @RPAAlliance and the RPAA website. They will air each Monday, Wednesday and Friday at noon and 7pm (two times per show).

 

Jason Marks is kicking off the series with “A Corona Cabaret,” 40 minutes of musical theater songs, witty banter and games (with himself). There will also be a cameo by a famous dead musician!  Jason’s also serving as music director/coordinator for all the cabaret artists which includes (dates have not been set for some of them):

– Desiree Roots Centeio (April 1)

– Anthony Cosby Knowles (April 3)

– Debra Wagoner

– Audra Honaker

– Georgia Rogers Farmer

– Susan Greenbaum

– Cathy Motley-Fitch

– Ali Thibodeau

 

To provide employment for these artists, RPAA has created the “Performing Artist Support Program” with a link to donate to these Legends at Home. All contributions will be shared equally among the performers.

 

Everyone’s cabarets will be totally different, offering more at-home glances of life rather than traditional song/entertainment. Still, these events should provide a fun outlet of amusement during this scary time.

 

 

 

 

 

New play performed tonite!

New play performed tonite!

As a result of our current virus isolation, playwright Chandler Hubbard penned a play in a 12-hour frenzy yesterday. The RICHMOND QUARANTINE FRINGE ls using their collective brain cell to perform a play and livestream it on Facebook!

 

Tonite, 8:30pm

Here’s a link to watch it live on Facebook

Click “Discussion” and scroll down to watch.

 

Chelsea Burke, Adam Turck, Cooper Sved and Chandler Hubbard (collectively known as the House at Pooh Corner) will be performing AKELDAMA, a quarantine play about desperation, hope, found family, and witches. This is the inaugural presentation of Richmond Quarantine Fringe. Estimated running time: 45 minutes.

 

 

 

Small Mouth Sounds (review)

Small Mouth Sounds (review)

THE PLAY: Six people attend a silent yoga retreat.

 

THE PRODUCTION: One of this play’s biggest challenges is the “silent” part. How does a production create dramatic momentum and character development without many words? The play mostly succeeds: We get glimpses into each person’s issues that offer minimal character insights. Weirdly, there was only one explanatory monologue, which was confusing…why him and not all of them? Director Laine Satterfield has guided this first-rate cast in creating compelling, if not enigmatic, individuals. Each person has a few moments to shine, bringing out their characters’ frustrations or foilables with precise skill and quiet comic appeal. The leader (voiced by Marisa Guida) is only ever heard, but she provides a perfect grounding voice. Emily Hake Massie has designed an attractive semicircular space with yoga imagery decorating the walls and trees filling the windows. Joey Luck has created an immersive sound design that brings out the environment. Running time: 1:10

 

THE POINT: While not fully fulfilling in the traditional theatrical sense, this excellent cast offers amusing and sometimes tender insights into a group of encumbered strangers in a unique situation.

 

4.5 out of 5 stars (4.5 / 5)

 

A Virginia Rep / Cadence Theatre co-production at the Theatre Gym now closed due to the virus

 

LISTEN TO MY REVIEW (as aired on WRIR)

 

Adam Valentine, Jenny Hundley , Lauren Leinhaas-Cook, Maura Mazurowski, Jim Morgan, Larry Cook. (Photos by Jason Collins Photography)

The Great Gatsby (review)

The Great Gatsby (review)

THE PLAY: Taken from the classic novel about an enigmatic man, his frustrated passion and sociological issues from the 20s.

 

THE PRODUCTION: The dance number that opens this show is an awkward attempt to create the mood and style of the story. This uneven start effectively symbolizes the rest of the production. Some of it’s interesting, but lacks an overall flow and focus that would have made it more effective. As the titular tycoon, newcomer Kurt Smith’s comic hesitance adds a humorous element to his troubled character (bringing Cary Grant or Jimmy Stewart to mind). As Daisy, Rachel Rose Gilmour has transplanted the delicate desperation of a Tennessee Williams character to her interpretation. Chandler Hubbard’s Nick Carraway creates a bland observer without much character growth. Returning to Richmond as director, Dr. Jan Powell has created some effective moments and attractive stage pictures, but hasn’t managed to give this show a cohesion that makes the social or romantic circumstances involving. It didn’t help that much of the action is played deep in the stage. Combine this with the fact that some of the actors couldn’t project effectively makes the dialogue even more challenging to follow. The set by Reed West consists of one revolving scenic element framed by billowing sheers and Tennessee Dixon’s projections, which are sometimes realistic and sometimes abstract, adding more mixed signals. Cora Delbridge has assembled some luxe dresses and elegant suiting, even though Gilmour’s dresses are sometimes unflattering. Running time: 1:45

 

THE POINT: Novels are challenging to turn into plays and this production hasn’t managed to capture the power, purpose or appeal of its namesake.

 

2.5 out of 5 stars (2.5 / 5)

 

A Quill Theatre production at VMFA’s Leslie Cheek Theatre thru 3/22

 

LISTEN TO MY REVIEW (as aired on WRIR)

The Revolutionists (review)

The Revolutionists (review)

THE PLAY: A playwright witnessing the French Revolution’s Reign of Terror struggles to express her concerns and inspire activism thru 3 additional women.

 

THE PRODUCTION: Even though this play sometimes overstates its messages, the writing is clever with snappy retorts and contemporary slants. It’s brought brimming to life by this wonderful ensemble. Maggie Roop leads the quartet with strength and assurance. Lydia Hynes makes a plucky assassin. Maggie Bavolack creates an amiably oblivious and sweetly amusing Marie Antoinette. Katrinah Carol Lewis, who’s always good, gives one of the most amusing and incisive performances of her career. Director Chelsea Burke kept the women in motion with the rollicking repartee of Act One and effectively transitioned to the emotive drama of Act Two. Ruth Hedberg has created attractive historical costumes with modern touches. Dasia Gregg’s set doesn’t rise to the same artistry. Michael Jarett’s lighting and Kelsey Cordrey’s sound design add effective support. Running time: 2:00

 

THE POINT: This witty and ultimately compelling production is elevated by the superb performances of this excellent ensemble.

 

4.5 out of 5 stars (4.5 / 5)

 

At TheatreLAB thru 3/21

 

LISTEN TO MY REVIEW (as aired on WRIR)

 

Maggie Roop, Lydia Hynes, Katrinah Carol Lewis, Maggie Bavolack (Photo by Tom Topinka5.jpg

Maggie Roop, Lydia Hynes, Katrinah Carol Lewis, Maggie Bavolack (Photos by Tom Topinka)

Souvenir (review)

Souvenir (review)

THE PLAY: Socialite Florence Foster Jenkins rose to fame in 30s New York because of her astoundingly off-key singing. This play revolves around her relationship with the conflicted pianist who became her accompanist, despite knowing of her foible.

 

THE PRODUCTION: This the inaugural production of “Into the Woods” and they’ve chosen to stage it in a Fan District home. As the singer, Gabrielle Maes is completely at home in the role (literally…it’s her place and she’s done the role before). She has a powerful voice (even when discordant) and creates a believeable character.  As the reluctant pianist, Levi Meerovich, who is often enjoyably exagerated in his performances, creates a more subdued character in voice and style. Director Chelsea Burke has done what she can to make use of the limited space (basically, a chair and a piano), but the pacing often feels intimately self-indulgent. The approach is more melancholy then amusing, which misses the situation’s inherent comic opportunities. Note: The sight lines from some the edge seats might be compromised. Running time: 2:00

 

THE POINT: Even though the duo’s interactions are sincere, the play’s comic potential falls a bit flat (pun intended).

 

3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

 

An Into the Woods production at 2521 Stuart Avenue thru 3/7. Click here for tix.

 

Photos by WolfCrest Photography.

Bloomsday (review)

Bloomsday (review)

THE PLAY: A couple meets in Dublin, 35 years after their first encounter. They also travel back in time to meet their younger selves.

 

THE PRODUCTION: This is a genteel story with wistful writing carried out in long scenes of dialogue. As a result, it requires a strong production to make it interesting. The performances are genuine, but the two younger members of the cast (Lydia MacFarlane Watt and Jordan Stroud) are more successful at bringing the words to life. Their interactions in Act 2 are the only time when the play becomes truly involving. Her accent is strong and he needs to pull his hair back (it blocks his face in several scenes). Director Jimmy Mello has done little to boost the play’s reflective sentiment. The pacing is slack and the staging is mostly stationary. The set design by Mike Fletcher and Joe Bly features an interesting streetscape with hints of architectural details and book pages scattered about. Instead of obviously period clothing, Alison Eichler’s has opted for generic costumes. Running time: 1:25

 

THE POINT: The quiet sentimentality of this play is seldom brought to life by this production.

 

2.5 out of 5 stars (2.5 / 5)

 

At Chamberlayne Actors Theatre thru 2/22

 

Martha Kelly & Mike Fletcher (Photos by Daryll Morgan Studios)

The 39 Steps (review)

The 39 Steps (review)

THE PLAY: This spoof of Hitchcock’s classic thriller is about a man, falsely accused of murder, who escapes across England to stop a spy ring.

 

THE PRODUCTION: With the exception of Alec Beard, who makes an assured, refined protagonist, the other actors play numerous roles. Irene Kuykendall is elegant and stylish as the prominent women. Audra Honaker and Paul S. Major fill out the cast with a zany variety of crazy characters and a panoply of accents. Some of their hi-jinks are amusing, while others are more energetic than funny. Director Nathaniel Shaw has staged the show with nimble skill, taking full advantage of the theatrical tropes and cinematic flourishes that add a layer of spoof. Usually the second act of a thriller/comedy ramps up the pace, but this one slows the comic and narrative momentum. All of the technical elements contribute well to the experience. Running time: 1:55

 

THE POINT: With so much energy on stage, it’s hard not to be entertained, even when this production doesn’t always crackle.

 

3.5 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5)

 

A Virgina Rep production at Hanover Tavern thru 3/29

 

LISTEN TO MY REVIEW (as aired on WRIR)

Alec Beard., Irene Kuykendall, Paul Major and Audra Honaker Photo by Aaron Sutten.

The Cake (review)

The Cake (review)

THE PLAY: A baker’s beliefs are challenged when two lesbians (one a close family friend) ask her to make their wedding cake.

 

THE PRODUCTION: Comparisons to Paula Deen and Terri Moore’s charismatic Southern cook are inevitable. Even more similar (and recent) is her hilarious portrayal of the fan in Always Patsy Cline (my review).  Pair her accent and attitude with her flawless delivery and perfect timing and you’ve got a delightful performance. As her husband, Gordon Bass adds some charming moments. The women who play the couple (Nicole Morris-Anastasi and Zakiyyah Jackson) create genuine characters without much personality. When Moore is on stage, the play is usually fun. At other times, it slides into predictable political advocacy. Considering that playwright Bekah Brunstetter also works on the TV drama This Is Us, you can also expect tearful moments. Director Dawn Westbrook keeps things lively and amplifies the comic potential. David Allan Ballas has designed a delicious pastel pastry shop that cleverly converts into 2 bedrooms. Running time: 1:45  (no intermission)

 

THE POINT: Thanks to Terri Moore’s charming characterization, this Virginia premiere is chocked with well-baked fun that only slows when the message dominates.

 

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

 

At Richmond Triangle Players thru 3/7

 

LISTEN TO MY REVIEW (as aired on WRIR)

Nicole Morris-Anastasi and Zakiyyah Jackson (Photos by John MacLellan)

Daddy Long Legs (review)

Daddy Long Legs (review)

THE PLAY: A young woman who grew up in an orphanage is given a free college education by a mysterious benefactor. Their only communication is thru her letters.

 

THE PRODUCTION: Based on a the titular novel (not the Fred Astaire movie), the narrative primarily revolves around the solo reactions of these two characters. Rachel Marrs is pleasant with a wide-eyed manner and smiling voice. Matt Polson creates a more nuanced character with subtle comic moments and rich, expressive vocals. While there are basically only one-note emotions in the first act, some minor conflicts develop after intermission. Director Steve Perigard has kept the staging alive, while allowing the small opportunities for comedy and creating an affecting finish. Even though the songs all sound similar, Musical Director Paul Deiss has guided his excellent trio to provide effective support. Mercedes Schaum has designed a nice-looking multi-use set and Joe Doran’s lights add focus, but some of the accents are unnecessary (esp. that pink). The period clothes by Maura Lunch Cravey are attractive. Running time: 2:20

 

THE POINT: A sweet love letter in an appealing package.

 

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

 

At Swift Creek Mill Theatre thru 2/22

 

LISTEN TO MY REVIEW (as aired on WRIR)

Fences (review)

Fences (review)

THE PLAY: This August Wilson drama revolves around a strict, restricted black father, who verbally bullies his wife and son, while ranting about his authority and significance.

 

THE PRODUCTION: While Wilson’s language transcends traditional dialogue, the father’s unsympathetic character makes the situations hard to handle. In that role, James Craven starts off as a dynamo, telling his stories with outsized charm. He gets the show off to a spirited start, but it loses some of that steam by intermission. Part of the fault lies in the play: Every scene extends too long, exchanging language and atmosphere for pace. As his wife, Lisa Strum never delves below her character’s surface to catch hold emotionally. Jamar Jones expands his versatility as the son, literally bounding about the stage. Horace E. Smith as Gabe is touchingly sweet. Director Tawnya Pettiford-Wates has allowed the leisurely scene changes to depict the passage of time. At 2:40, this is one area when a tighter pace might have helped. As the show runs on, the dramatic moments don’t always grab hold. Set designer Josafath Reynoso has created a scaled-down back yard surrounded by fences extending into the theatre. Running time: 2:40

 

THE POINT: This hard-working ensemble sometimes captures the soul of Wilson’s world, but falls short of the dramatic muscle that could have elevated this production.

 

3.5 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5)

 

At Virginia Rep thru 3/1

 

Joe Marshall, J. Ron Fleming Jr., James Craven (Photos by Jason Collins)

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