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Show reviews by William Beeman

The Princeton Seventh
Watch the Pros and Learn by William Beeman
Rating: 5 kitties
I would advise everyone not to miss this brilliant production. I understand this play was presented four years ago, but I would go to see it over and over to savor the consummate artistry of the actors and the clever, tight construction of this beautiful short play. I have not enjoyed anything in the theater quite so much as I enjoyed this. The ending comes as a surprise, and like a fabulous joke completely reframes the entire action that has gone before. However, it is the absolutely award-winning acting that really stuns the audience. We expect a wide range of performance at the Fringe, and revel in the variety, but when you see playwright and actors at the absolutely top of their profession, it is inspiring. Aspiring artists: go, watch, learn.

Trouble in Tahiti
Great production of a beautiful opera by William Beeman
Rating: 5 kitties
It is astonishing how well Trouble in Tahiti stands up after fifty-plus years. This beautiful Bernstein work is often done at colleges and music schools, but the music and the book are so clever, it deserves to be a part of the regular opera repertoire. The set piece "What a Movie" is often done as a comic concert piece for soprano--and here it gets an over-the-top hilarious treatment that had the audience in stitches. But this comic juxtaposition is part of the brilliance of the piece, which finds melancholy poignancy in the desperate emptiness of American suburbia. The performers are vocally up to the task. Merideth Cain-Nielson and Ben Henry-Morel as Dinah and Sam are strong actors with lovely voices. Aside from "What a Movie," Ms. Cain-Nielson's lovely rendering of the beautiful "There is a Garden" is heart-wrenching. The goofy and bubbly jazz trio (Paul Coate, Jake LaSota and Leah Reddy) that serves as a counterpoint to the emptiness that haunts Sam and Dinah's life blend their voices beautifully, play numerous supporting roles and bounce around the stage like manic rubber balls. I have seen many productions of this piece, and found Robert Neu's direction imaginative, with beautifully choreographed stage movement. Don't miss this.

An Adult Evening of Shel Silverstein
Quirky, irreverent and superb by William Beeman
Rating: 5 kitties
Lacy Piotter and John T. Zeiler were born to do this show--a series of irreverent vignettes from the late Shel Silverstein. Sadly the one hour format only allowed six of the original ten vignettes in the production, produced first two years after Silverstein's death in 1999. Piotter and Zeiler's timing and delivery were impeccable, presenting the most outrageous social situations and outright vulgarities with utter charm and grace. I especially appreciated their superb vocal delivery even during the most maniacal stage action. Every dirty word was beautifully articulated. This show was a sellout on Sunday night, and no wonder. It rocked the audience. Get reservations!!

O(h)
Brilliant work by two masters by William Beeman
Rating: 5 kitties
This show nearly sold out the Southern Theater on Sunday night and received a standing ovation. Casebolt and Smith are complete masters of their craft, which is . . . well, certainly beautiful coordinated dance, but a great deal more. They deconstruct the aesthetic of their performance as they do it, and make it seem effortless. They manage a running narrative of ironic commentary on their own seriously strenuous dance moves to the delight of the audience. Little asides, wry winks and nods and direct address to the audience with perfect breath control lift this way out of the genre of a dance concert. This is not to deny their chops. In many ways the most impressive piece was a dance number to a narration about the "Amen break," a six-second drum solo performed first in 1969 by C.G. Coleman. This famous drum break became the basis for a plethora of pop-music styles shading into hip-hop. Casebolt and Smith managed a perfectly coordinated expressive pas-de-deux, flawlessly executed, against this seven-minute verbal narrative with nary a musical beat or note. We all learned something and marveled at the dance chops. It was a tour-de-force. These two dancer-entertainers are first-class artists at the top of their game. We are deeply privileged to have them in the Fringe.

The Damn Audition
Wild and wonderfully acted by William Beeman
Rating: 5 kitties
This show nearly sold out the large Rarig Thrust theater. Joseph Scrimshaw is really a local treasure--a wonderful actor and playwright, and he has assembled a crack ensemble for this hilarious farce. Anyone involved in theater will get belly laughs from this audition from hell. Randy Rayes, Maggie Chestovich, John Middleton and David Mann as well as Scrimshaw himself chew the scenery in a series of improbable situations that have a surprisingly poignant underbelly. All great humor is at base serious about human foibles, and there is no lack of them here--and that includes the city of Los Angeles and its entertainment scene, which gets a good drubbing. Anyone who loves good theater should see this show.

Oedipus Rocks!
Truly silly and light-hearted by William Beeman
Rating: 4 kitties
OK, New Breath Productions structures its productions to combine young performers "in training" with more seasoned professionals. These are their ground rules, which I absolutely applaud. It means, however that there is some unevenness in the cast of this show. However, the show itself is fast paced and relentlessly silly (in a good way) with verbal puns, musical puns, groaning references to Shakespeare, Gilbert and Zullivan, Zeno's paradox (!), Cole Porter and a murder mystery with dinner-theater audience feedback to find the perpetrator. It is a bit like Offenbach meets Noises Off. About halfway through I realized that I had forgotten about the creakiness of the performances and was thoroughly enjoying the romp. This is not the classic Oedipus story, but a fantasy with a thin story and all that hilarity. Almost anyone will enjoy it.

Deviates from the Master Plan / Apprentice & Sorcerer Trip on the Light Fantastick
Go with the flow by William Beeman
Rating: 4 kitties
This is a piece of inspired clowning in the finest tradition. These two very funny pieces have their own quirky internal logic made up of a few simple elements that take a few minutes to comprehend, but once the audience enters the world of the players, all becomes clear. It would be a disservice to reveal too much in a review. One piece features a masochistic mermaid, a wood-nymph, a blindfold maid, a sad-sack with baggy pants, a computer and water bottle. The other involves a magus-for-hire and apprentice speaking in Latin, a scene from "The Red Shoes," a devil and objects flying out of a kettle. Suffice it to say that it needs to be seen. Once the mechanism of the pieces gets rolling, there is plenty to laugh at as the variations on the thematic elements play out against each other. The performers are accomplished physical comedians who work beautifully together. The only drawback is that the pieces don't quite know how to end. They need a solid punch-line, but to be sure, it is hard to find any way to top the clowning that has come before.

Naked Yoga (and Other Gay Love Stories)
Cute Gay-themed vignettes by William Beeman
Rating: 4 kitties
On Saturday afternoon the Theater in the Round (hooray! They finally are a venue in the Fringe Festival) was filled with gay couples and a few others to see these cute vignettes. One gets a selection of four of the six plays rotating through the production. It is hard to achieve much depth in 15 minute plays, but these are amusing. The actors are attractive, well paced with good timing and movement but just a tiny bit too "actor-y" in their depictions of the characters in these pieces about gay shopping and romance at IKEA, blind date with a purported vampire, a comedy S&M abduction, and finally the Naked Yoga, which disappointingly for the afternoon crowd was a bit stingy on the "naked" part. The pieces needed a little staging work to make them better suited for theater in the round, but they garnered a lot of laughs from the camp humor. Blessedly we have gotten to the point where gay situations can be presented without lisping and limp wrists. The cast refused stereotyped characterizations, that took this performance way beyond Will & Grace. Definitely enjoyable.

St. Christopher of Financial Aid
Pulls out all the stops by William Beeman
Rating: 4 kitties
Christopher Kehoe has crafted a beautiful theater exercise that draws on all the techniques and tricks of live performance without being cutesy or gimmicky. He breaks the fourth wall immediately, then creates a seventh-inning stretch/dance routine for the audience. He uses multiple narrative frames, creates multiple distinct characters, and brings the audience along with him in a beautifully constructed vignette centering on a guy in a cubicle trying to transcend the inhumanity of restricted contact with the clients in an on-line University. That said, the show could have been trimmed by 8-10 minutes and it would have had more punch at the end. Also it needed a better "button" at the very end of the show, which just fades to black (he asked for honest reviews in his curtain speech at the end of the show). There were a couple of lighting and other cues that were completely unnecessary, since Kehoe has no trouble holding the stage or the attention of his audience. Even the sound cues were probably unnecessary. Trust, trust trust. Kehoe is an obviously talented performer. He plays all the notes of emotional expression with great care and true mastery. Since I had not seen him before, I would very much have appreciated a bio sketch. Programs cost money, but a half-sheet with a little information about the genesis of the show and his personal history would have been very welcome. Aspiring actors should come and watch Kehoe ply his craft. They will learn something from this show. The rest will merely enjoy it.

Alexander at Delphi
Ambitious, and not quite together by William Beeman
Rating: 3 kitties
This is a very ambitious musical production with a large cast. The theme--Alexander at Delphi--is fascinating, and the book transcends time and place. Shirley Mier's music is haunting and imaginative, reminiscent of Ancient Greek music from the little we know of it. On opening night the large, uneven cast was still struggling somewhat to get the piece to come together. The numerous scenes were unevenly paced and didn't flow well together making the piece seem longer than an hour. There was a lot of vocal unevenness. A few lovely voices, but not always well-projected, and others who were still unsure of their music. In the end the deaths of the young priestess, Alexander and his general were anti-climactic where they should have been poignant. It is certainly worth going to hear Ms. Meir's music, and I am sure that as the piece continues it will find its legs.

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