Monday, November 7, 2016

SCRAP's Dog Sees God Review

Dog Sees God (Confessions Of A Teenage Blockhead)
SCRAP Productions

Dog Sees God is a play written by Bert V. Royal and is a parody of the beloved Peanut characters created by Charles Schulz. Because this is a parody, does not mean it is a comedy. Although there is some comic relief, the play addresses issues like sexual abuse, suicide, eating disorders, teen violence, sexual identity and much more.  
Dog Sees God is directed by Rashaad Bond, and is a SCRAP Production. SCRAP is a Student organisation that produces their own plays with student directors, Designers, Stage Management , and Actors. Bond is a senior at UNM and is making his directing debut with Dog Sees God.
To be completely honest, this is not the type of play I would normally see, and I can’t say that I really enjoyed it. Not because it was a drama, but rather because the reality of this play was heightened in a darker way than I'm normally comfortable with. That is not to say it is a bad play. It’s just not the kind of feel good play you see when you’ve got an hour or two to spear. At first glance I found that this play was filled with characters I could not possibly relate to. There bad tempered people with a limited vocabulary that is showered with profanity. That's not to say that these people don't exist in the real world, but the only people that I know that act like this are literally the worst people I know. But I realized that these characters aren't the post to be likeable, and the characters that I should care for have a much more relatable personality. Throughout the play, other characters that once alienated the audience changed to become more relatable, and pretty soon you start to feel for these characters. This set up for the extra emotional impact at the end.      
Dog Sees God features a homosexual relationship which help progresses the story and character development. This element could have easily hijacked the story and turned it into a statement piece about tolerance. I do not believe this is the story Bert V. Royal wanted to tell, and Bond did a great job as the director in finding the playwrights intended meaning and put it on the stage. In my opinion, I believe the theme of this play is not of tolerance or acceptance, but of support for those who need your help. Most of the characters in this play are bullies of some sort and in this play we see one of the characters make the leap from bully to friend, and stands up for his friends even when it means destroying his reputation.
One stand out performances that I feel must be recognized is that of Nick Pippin as CB. Pippin carries the play through from beginning to end with an fantastic emotional performance.    
The set design by Kevin Holman resembled comic strip panels and worked great with the plays quick change of location. Joseph Gurule costume design worked well with the set to create a unified world in which the play can exist.    
As I said before, This play is not my cup of tea, but I do believe I have grown after seeing it. In the end I believe that’s what theater is all about. If you would like to see Dog Sees God, You can see it November 11 - 13 at Rodey Theater        .

Sunday, October 2, 2016

UNM's Dream Boxes Review

Dream Boxes

Two Contemporary Pieces For Theater
Review By: Kay Vatea

The University of New Mexico’s production of Dream Boxes directed by Bill Walters is comprised of two contemporary theatrical pieces, My Father’s House, and The Forest, The Desert.  
My Father’s House is based on five Greek tragedies, Iphigenia, Agamemnon, Elektra, Orestes, and Iphigenia in Tauris. The stories are told through pure movement with no dialogue, and dream like visuals, intense sound cues, and stories whose elements overlap and circle back to each other.
I can’t say much about the story because I didn’t get it, I do not believe anyone would be able to decipher this play if they are not first familiar with the five Greek tragedies it is based on. It is not hard to see that there is a continuous narrative that runs throughout the duration of the play, but it is not clear as to what the narrative is, or who the characters are, what they are doing, or what they represent. I do not believe the muddled story was cause by the lack of dialogue. There are so many theatrical forms that do this so well. I believe the problem is the director himself. It seems to me that Walters had forgotten about the audience when directing this play. He made no attempt at making the given circumstances of the characters clear. It was impossible to tell what the characters motivations were. Walters seemed to have only thought of himself and what he thought would be cool to see rather than finding an effective way to tell the story. In essence, this is a great piece of masturbatory theater for Walters and a waste of time for the rest of us.      
I think it is important to note that My Father's House is a collaboration between the theater and dance departments. For some reason it is rare to see UNM’s Department of Theater and Dance combine theater and dance, or cast dancers in theatrical productions. I hope that this becomes a constant in future UNM Productions.

The Forest, The Desert is a theatrical performance art piece based on personal narratives from Dante’s Inferno and Chief Joseph's Surrender. I didn’t quite get this on either. For me this was about forty minutes of sensory overload. There were so many things happening at once that it was difficult (nearly impossible) to tell what to focus on. The Performers are often dipping microphones into buckets of water, while others are typing away on typewriters, and when the performers speak, there are two other performers translating the dialogue into different languages at the same time. Sometimes the dialogue isn’t even in English and none of the translations are in English either  This leads me to believe that the dialogue (that was difficult to hear in the first place) shouldn’t be taken literally. Now I’m back to square one and I have to figure out what all these actions mean. Needless to say, I wasn’t able to figure it out before everything changed. In the next scene they tear open pillows and blow feathers  all over the stage. This was interesting at first but lasted about ten minutes too long. Then someone very slowly dumps a bag of sand on the stage.
I’m sure there was a solid concept behind this performance, but the concept was not clear. The only reason I knew this performance was based off of Dante’s Inferno is because the program said so. This is another example of Walter disregarding the audience when directing this play. The reason I get so upset by this is because as an audience member I don’t like to be ignored. I go to the theater to be entertained, to experience something, and to feel something. I don't feel like those needs were met. This is once again a great piece of masturbatory theater for Walters and a waste of time for the rest of us.

If for some reason you want to see Dream Boxes, you can see it at Rodey Theater
from Sep 30 to Oct 9.     

Monday, June 6, 2016

ALT's Harspray Review

 Hairspray is a colorfuly fun musical about the spunky plus sized teen, Tracy Turnblad ( played by Chisty Burbank), living out her dream of being on the most popular local television program “The Corny Collins Show”, and sharing that dream with all her friends. Even when that could mean going to jail.

Hairspray  is directed by Henry Avery, with music directed by Shelly Andes, and choreography by Peter Bennett. This production used the full length of the stage, and Avery and Bennett did a fabulous job filling the space. This is very much a dancing show and all the dancing was on point. This is also a comedy, and the comedic timing by the cast insured that every joke stuck the landed.

There are interesting visual perspectives that have been snuck into this show to display the oppressive undertones of the show. This show takes place in the 1960’s during the Civil Rights area. To demonstrate the discrimination between the blacks and whites, the blacks are often seen dancing in the back, but when there scene comes up, instead of simply coming to the front, everyone else turns around, so they are still in the back of the crowd. The only time they come to the front is when Tracy interacts with them. This makes Tracy the bridge between the two social groups. The message is subtle, but powerful.

In live theater it is difficult to be perfect every time. On the night I went the show seemed to start off a little shaky. Burbank sounded like she might have been getting over a cold, because of this her vocal performance wasn’t quite where I would expect it to be. Hopefully this is just temporary issue and she will be in full swing by next weekend. That being said, I don't think it took away from the show. Burbank’s fun attitude brought an energy to the stage that you couldn’t help but to love.

The duo that I felt surprising stood out was Edna and Wilbur Turnblad played by Joshua Vallano and Deron Foster. Vallano and Foster had a chemistry on stage that was that was pure, and hilariously magical. Whenever they left the stage I couldn’t wait for them to come back.  

Another duo that I feel deserve some recognition is the that of the two Costume designers Mejo Okon and Sheron Welz. This is a very costume heavy show. With a cast of 36 and at least three costume changes for each, it’s definitely a huge endeavor, but nothing seemed rushed. Every costume fit perfectly within each scene.

The set design by Ryan Jason Cook worked perfectly with the costumes to create a colorful world for the characters to live in. Cook made use of different levels on the stage so the full length of the stage could be used without losing anyone, or making the stage feel crowded. Each scene change was so smooth that I didn’t even know they were happening.

Over all I found the show extremely enjoyable. It is definitely a show for the whole family. If you want to see it, Hairspray will be showing on friday, Saturday, and Sunday through to June 19th 2016.   

Saturday, April 30, 2016

MTS's Clue The Musical Review

Clue The Musical is a fun quirky musical based off the board game by the same name. The play features all seven characters from the board game with the addition of the detective character.

Clue the musical is directed by Robb Anthony Sisneros. Sisneros did a fabulous job blocking out each scene. The production is performed in the round. Meaning the audience surrounds the stage. One issue that often occurs with this configuration is the actors can’t face the audience all the time, so the audience often feels ignored. But in Clue The Musical, I never felt ignored. This is the perfect show to do In The Round because the actors are constantly engaged with the audience. The minimalistic set design by Michael and Wendie Cutcher also worked well to ensure there wouldn’t be any sight line issues.    

The costume design by Shannon Scheffler added the perfect amount of color to the production. Scheffler was able to capture each character and bring them to life though there costumes. The acting was phenomenal as well. Each fitting there roles perfectly.

One thing that sets this musical apart from other musicals is you won’t find any of the songs stuck in your head after you watch it. In fact, I personally can’t tell you how any of the songs go. This is by no fault of MTS. The music was written by Galen Blum, Wayne  Barker, and Vinnie Martucci who were able to write music that was not memorable at all.

Over all, I think it was a fantastic show. I encourage anyone of any age to see it.           

Saturday, April 23, 2016

UNM’s The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee Review

The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee is a fun musical about the struggles of being a child in an extremely competitive environment. The play is Directed by Kathleen Clawson and Choreographed by Donna Jewell.   
An important element in this play is the audience volunteer participation. In each performance there are four audience members that are chosen to participate in the Spelling Bee. This makes for some hilarious situations, and it makes the show a little different each night.
Each individual member of the cast stands out to create memorable characters.   The only one that I didn’t feel stepped up to the plate was Josh Jones who played William Barfee. I feel like Jones was cast for his voice which show cases many of his talents, but he was the only cast member that was not convincing as a middle schooler.   
The choreography is a fun twist. This play isn’t known for it’s dancing, but Clawson’s choice to add dance sequences Choreographed by Donna Jewell made for a fun and exciting show. Because of the energy the dancing provides to the performance, I feel that this is one of the better version of this play that I’ve seen.
The Set Design by Inseung Park and Costume Design by Kevin Thornburg worked perfectly to create a colorful, cartoony world.    
Over all this show is just plane fun. I would suggest this play for anyone, even if you're not a regular theater goer. It’s fairly short for a musical only lasting 90 minutes. It’s also well paced leaving no dull moments. Because of some of the mature humor, parental guidance is suggested when bringing children.       

You can see The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee at Rodey Theater on April 23rd, 28th and 29th at 7:30pm or 24th, and 30th at 2:00pm

Sunday, April 10, 2016

University of New Mexico’s Angels All Die

Angels All Die is part of The University of New Mexico’s Linnell Festival of New Plays. The play was written by Denise Hinson and directed by Dan Rogers. Denise Hinson is currently in the Dramatic Writing MFA program at UNM. Dan Rogers is a guest director from Philadelphia.

Angels All Die takes place in a dressing room on the set of a soap opera, and tells the story of Frank the hair dresser who spends every waking moment haunted by James Dean’s ghost. Frank lands a job working on the hottest soap opera on television and assigned to the leading actress Petra. Chaos ensues when Frank tries to ignore James Dean to get closer to Petra.

This play is hilarious, and comedy is not easy to pull off. The relationship between the playwright, director and actors seemed to work perfectly. Hinson was able to write humor into every scene, and Rogers was able to recognize the comedy and block it into the action, and the actors were able to deliver it with expert timing. The comedy isn’t the only thing Hinson did well. The character arch for Frank and James Dean was perfect. They were able to learn and change with every situation. The acting was phenomenal, but the performance that stands out is from Drew Morrison who is able to bring James Dean to life on stage.
There were only a few issue to point out.  The play is performed in a black box theater with a thrust configuration. Because of this there are some sight line issues. The best place to sit would be either center stage or stage left. From stage right there are some set pieces that obstruct the view and I missed some of the jokes because I couldn’t see what was going on. There is also a radio on stage right to add some ambiance at the beginning, but the music was distracting from what was happening on stage. It’s hard to concentrate on dialogue when American Pie is playing in the background.  

Over all Angels All Die is very well written and I encourage everyone to see it.

Angels All Die  will be performing at the Experimental Theater at UNM April 10th 7:30pm  and 16th 2:00pm     

Saturday, April 9, 2016

University of New Mexico’s Chatterbox Review

Chatterbox is part of The University of New Mexico’s Linnell Festival of New Plays. The play was written by Rebecca Sanchez and directed by Morgan Green.Rebecca Sanchez is currently in the Dramatic Writing MFA program at UNM. Morgan Green is a guest director from Brooklyn.

Chatterbox takes place in modern day Albuquerque New Mexico and features Valentina, a free spirited kindergarten teacher, and Marco, a literature analyst and college professor, and their relationship with one another. Sanchez does a good job addressing social issues and cultural situations in a light-hearted and also heart breaking way. The story is told through short vignette, each showing the different dynamics of their relationship. How their relationship works, how it doesn’t work, and how they make it work.             

The scenic design by Zoe Bell and the costume design by Emilie Norris works well with the abstract form of storytelling. The blocking for the actors on the other hand didn’t work as well. For most of the play there was at least one actor that had his or her back to the audience. This seem less like an artistic choice and more like poor planning on the director's side. Green also adds a mix of realism and symbolism that didn’t seem to work in her favor. For instance, the actors are often seen eating real pastries and drinking real coffee, but when Valentina is the post to be baking cookies she spreads glitter all over herself instead. The journey from the real world into an abstract world then back again can get a little confusing. The writing isn’t perfect either. It’s difficult to tell why Valentina stays with Marco for so long when there are so many reasons to leave. Also, Marco’s character doesn’t ever change or learn.

Even with it’s flaws, I thoroughly enjoyed this play. The acting was phenomenal and the story was well told.

Chatterbox will be performing at the Experimental Theater at UNM April 16th 7:30pm  and 17th 2:00pm