Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Good Old Rocky Horror, Rocky in Tennessee, Horror in Tennesseeee!

play: The Rocky Horror Show
director: to be announced (I don't have the pamphlet with me...program--rather)
when: Well, damnit, it wouldn't be a review by me if it weren't already OVER
where: The Fairbanks (everyone go to the Fairbanks! Everyone! Right now! Well, maybe not right now. Depending on the time you're reading this...)
cost: 20 bucks at the door or KnoxTix.blahblahblahinternet.

about: If you saw this play I hope that you saw the movie first. Especially if you were sitting down from a woman who knew every single blasted catcall in the entire movie! If you're sitting there, now, thinking, "What does she mean, these catcalls? Perhaps I should have seen it..." you are good to have not. Or, perhaps, you should've. Bad on you.

Anyway, The Rocky Horror Show is about a couple, Brad and Janet, and this extraterrestrial transvestite, Frank N Furter (from Transsexual, Transylvania, post code:696969...okay, I just added that last bit.) Brad and Janet have just come from a wedding (not theirs, though he does ask her hand in marraige) and Brad's stubborn nature of not admitting when he's lost coupled with the sudden flat tire as they hit something in the road, including the rain that's coming down in sheets around them, makes for a rather unsavory situation.

Rushing into an old spooky house "There's a light, over at the Frankenstein place..." both Brad and Janet are suddenly caught in the middle of this insane, fantastically inappropriate romp. Met by the butler and the maid (suitably creepy and deliciously sexual) they go into a "Time Warp," "Sweet Transvestite," add a side of generic Meatloaf and there you've got the play. Honestly? If you haven't seen the movie or know the plot see it. It'll take up two internet pages just trying to describe the crutch in the crotch of Roane State faculty and Bible Belt people everywhere.

review: Where do I begin?

I'll get the names of the actors I don't know later because, as I said, I don't have the pamphgram with me, right now.

First of all. The Fairbanks was the absolute perfect place for this to take place. Alcohol consumption and dim lighting made for even the shyest people to take off copious amounts of clothing and dance. The show started off with the M.C. Mr. Say My Profane Nickname. He invited the Rocky Horror Show Virgins (those who have neither seen the live show nor a showing of the movie) to give fake orgasms as an initiation. (Before that was a costume contest. People won stuff.) I was a virgin, but forwent the opportunity to embarass the hell out of myself.

After the initiation was complete, and startlingly accurate *shiver*, we got on with the show, eventually.

From the aspect of an audience member and not with knowledge of a technician all I knew was when one of the most popular songs was sung "Sweet Transvestite" I couldn't hear half the lyrics. The microphone proferred suavely to Frank N Furter didn't do much better than the personal microphone. But future problems were at a minimum and Frank was heard through the rest of the show in booming clarity. The actor never skipped a beat and, actually, the microphone was accurately phallic during the song. If it had worked it would have been perfect.

Now, to the performance:

Brad--Oh good God. Who is this man? Where has he been? Is he staying? Can I keep him? I'll feed him. I'll clean his cage. We're keeping him, right? He conveyed this bumbling, controlling, sexually repressed man nearly better than Barry Bostwick did! Bravo, Mr I'll Find Your Name On The Program When I Get Home! A double bravo to Mr. Cameron Watkins!

Janet--Jodie Manross (seems unfair that I know her name and not nearly everyone elses). She was made for this character. She has this sweet disposition about her that just lends her to this role. This tentative attitude even in her every day life. "I'll just--ooh, maybe I shouldn't--oh, but I want to!!" Virginal Janet. Planet Janet orbiting around temptation and naughty desire.

Riff Raff--a.k.a Jacques Durand. Manic, angry, unloved as a child, Riff-Raff. The actor was...*drumroll please*...FANTAAAASTIC! I love when he explodes in the end. Can you channel an actor who's not yet dead? Because there was definitely some Richard O'Brien present. At the same time, though, the same way that the other actors made these characters their own, he did too. But you're not allowed to deviate too much because you'll get hella backlash from devoted fans.

Magenta--a.k.a Sara Schwabe. I'd do her. I'd do her twice. But that's not a review of her acting. And singing. And boobs, I mean lung capacity. She was fantastic! She had the pipes! She was the perfect compliment to Riff-Raff. And I'm certain Roane State appreciated her talent.

Columbia--a.k.a Tiffany Tallent. Mic her more! She had the voice, I just couldn't hear it very well... But honestly, from a layperson's view, she could have been more dramatic. Not that she didn't do a fantastic job (all of them did) but maybe the movie just pampered me. Regardless of uneducated criticism, nearly everyone in that show was very near perfect for the part they took on.

Dr. Everett Von Scott--a.k.a. Joe Casterline. Great Scott! No, really, he had the doctor down. Perfect accent. Just the right amount of lunacy. In the costume contest there was a Scott. His costume was spectacular. I quite liked his better than the character in the play.

The Criminologist/Narrator--a.k.a. Dennis Bussell. Oh my God! Oh my mother loving God. Where did he come from? He was so...good! That's all I can say. Good! Great! Knew nearly all of the cat calls. Heckled as much as he got. Couldn't have picked it better.

Eddie--a.k.a. Phil Pollard. Meatloaf reincarnated. I swear. No, really, I swear. A little off in the tune of his song, but that was Meatloaf. As I'm sitting here today. Oh, wait. Meatloaf is still alive...

Rocky Horror--a.k.a. James Harrison. Oh cute. I want him too. He had the right attitude. That "What the hell is this?" face. A little dopey but, at the same time, obvious of his lot in life and his attractive self. He had a mohawk! I would've done him. I don't even know what "done him" means. He could moooove. Boy he was flexible and definitely a dancer. Oh, and he was fabulous in little red heels.

Lessee...who'm I missing? Hmmmm. Oh, there is someone I didn't cover but I can't think--oh yeah!

The Transylvanians!
Ashley Austin, Abbey Austin, Hannah Baker, Elizabeth DAvis, Renee Hickman, Andrew Macdonald, Matthew Melton, Jennifer Osborn, Kelly Owen, Wes Wyrick, Valerie Solomon, Samantha Strader, Heather Taylor, Robyn Vanleigh.
They were fantastic. I actually had a friend in there from highschool back when he was a good Catholic boy. I must say, I like him better on stage with glowing sunglasses and shiny shirt than in a button down shirt and ironed khakis.

Okay. Now for it. Alright, here we go.

Frank N Furter--Joe "Mona Lisa" Beuerlein. (not his official nickname, nor one to be used except in my head)
I get the most inspiration from talking to my mom and listening to her opinions. I know that sounds a bit dorky, but it's true. And I never denied my dorkiness.

I want to preface this with the statement that in every single performance (all three) thing I've seen Mona in, he's been fantastic. And the only reason I'm writing what I'm about to write is because he is genuinly a good actor. It seems to my inadequate figurings, that Joe is constantly pushing himself into these very hard to play characters. Complex characters. So it gives me so much joy that Joe played Frank N Furter especially after Hedwig. He nailed Hedwig. He nailed his character in The Unidentified *mumble mumble* True Nature of Love.

But after serious consideration supported from my mom's comments I realized that despite getting everything right, despite putting loads of passion into the performance (and probably taking in account exhaustion and painful shoes) Mr. B did not (in my very humbled opinion) quite nail Frank N. Furter. (Though me might've "nailed" him--badumpcha)

I normally wouldn't go into this much depth but anyone who's seen Mr. B in a performance knows that he is probably one of the most talented actors in Knoxville. Which is why, when he doesn't nail a role (again, opinion here) I want to explore why. For my own personal content. Not for anyone else's.

Joe seems confident. He's harsh. He's passionate. He builds up the hardness of a character only to break it down in the end leaving you whimpering silently to yourself. Frank N. Furter isn't confident. He's squishy. He's innocent. He's emotional. He wants everything. He's a whiney baby. He isn't stoic. He isn't really in charge. He's manic depressive. He's complex because while he seems to have everything at his fingertips at one moment, it's obvious that he's unstable and about to crack the next. He's trying to seem confident, but he isn't really. It's obvious that he isn't.

Joe plays harsh characters and Frank N. Furter isn't harsh. He's outlandish and shocking, but he isn't harsh. At least, the version of him that I've seen and loved. Tim Curry is a lot to be compared to. But you know how you'll give an A to a student who's improved but give a B to a student who's written a paper loads better, but it isn't quite his best work? Mr. B is worth the critique. He did everything right, but it wasn't quite.

Luckily no one really reads this blog. I wouldn't mind the backlash though.

Oh, and if there is anyone who does read this review blog, don't feel scared to critique me or disagree with me. There are more experienced writers out there and I'm certainly not at my peek of writing. But, gosh, I genuinly love to do it.

E.M.Green approved

Saturday, September 02, 2006

The Unidentified Human Remains and the True Nature of Love

play: Unidentified Human Remains and the True Nature of Love
director: Tony Cedeño
when: August 24-September 16th LAST SHOWING TODAY AND TOMORROW!!!!
where: Black Box Theatre
cost: Thurs. $8 Fri.-Sun. $16 students and seniors $12

about: David is a incredibly sexually active, nearly 30 gay man, former PBS superstar, living with one of his best friend's, Candy, in an apartment. Candy is a smart lady who obsessively watches her weight while looking for love anywhere she can get it. Bernie is also part of the friend gang but currently living with his wife and in a government job. He is constantly cheating on his dear wife every chance he can get. Dana is the deceased character of this play, formerly one of the gang, she apparently committed suicide after getting an abortion. David doesn't believe in love, though loves someone forbidden to him. Candy believes in it too much. Bernie is stuck desperately trying to get out. To top all of this off there is a muderer going around raping innocent women and then killing them. Maybe not-so-classic who-done-it play full of people just trying to find that acceptance from someone, anyone. Just trying to find a place to fit, finally.

review: UHRTNL (jeebus, it's even an obnoxiusly long acronym) is a dark humour plus murder mystery who-done-it with a dash of urban legend, a smattering of after school special, and a homosexual theme, which is fabulous in the true cliché of the word.

Joseph Beuerlein shows that not only is he good in a hilariously tragic drag role (Hedwig and the Angry Inch) but also as a hilariously tragic gay man, David, who is in love with his best friend, Bernie. The entire cast really brings otherwise hard to relate to characters to the forefront, gaining sympathy and understanding to people that you might on every day meeting scoff at.

Shane Chuvalas (Bernie) played a cheating alcoholic really well. I'm not quite sure if that's a compliment or not. Who knows, Shane Chuvalas could really be a cheating alcholic. Regardless, Bernie is the type of person that you want to smack and pet lovingly all at the same time.

Sarah Campbell has my heart in both of the things she's been in that I've seen. The first time I ever saw this gal she was in The Black Box Theatre's Romeo and Juliet as Juliet's maid. I loved her then and I love her even more now as she plays Jerri, the very butch lesbian obsessed with Candy, the very not lesbian love-seeker.

Jacques Durand was sufficiently creepy as Robert, the bartender. Robert had a girlfriend named Evelyn. She has a fetish for feet. Just for the record, I wasn't insulted that Evelyn had a foot fetish. I'm sure Evelyn was an, otherwise, fantastic person. She has a good name. Anyway, Robert is also slightly obsessed with Candy who comes in every day for a Seltzer water fix. The thing I really loved about Jacques performance was his stare. He had this reeeeally creepy stare like at any moment he was going to devour you whole. Very impressive.

Oh, Laurel. Miss Laurel Hackworth perched so precariously on top of that door looking down on the characters in her own urban legend. Benita is this fabulous character and, physically, Laurel Hackworth is perfect for the role. She also has this very creepy innocent voice and just gives you the chills when she sings the trademark song "Diddle Diddle, or the Kind Country Lovers" (as it was called, originally written in the 1600s). The pertinant lyrics were "Lavender's blue, diddle diddle/ Lavender's green,/ When I am king, diddle diddle/ You'll be my queen." Laurel also had these magnificent eyes that peeked from under her black fashion wig and really added to the childlike story telling of Benita's fetish with Urban legends.

Mandi Lawson was just fantastic as the wanting for love, self-consious Candy. She was a perfect match with Joseph Beuerlein's David. They played off of one another like they'd been in a comedy troupe for ages. Candy just wants love. What it seems, though, is that the love she could really do for is the love of herself. Then again, isn't that usually the case with most of us?

Joseph Samuel Wright plays Kane, the rich year old who is infatuated with David as well as his short stint as an actor on PBS. Though he seemed impassionate at times, Joseph was good for the part. Note: lower butt cheeks will be seen from Mr. Joseph.

I usually wouldn't center on the actors of the play in such detail but if they had been anyone else the play would have come across as impassionate and stereotypical.

The blocking of the play really caught my eye. If you'll notice, there seems to always be three groups or people of focus in every scene. Benita is usually one, always from her high perch on the door looking down to the other two below. But near the end there are three groups and Benita's sorta darkened out. There is also the "lover's triangle" plot. The entire play is like this verbal and physical montage. Lines of dialogue come spilling out of those who aren't onstage adding to the current scene. Unsaid truths and desires and wantings are known from the get-go.

[side rant: A theatre teacher at Pellissippi told my friend, Jay, that the reason he didn't want to go see the play was that he didn't like the characters nor the fact that none of them changed during the progress of the play. I dispute this emmensly. Fine if you don't like the characters, but don't insult the storyline before you've seen the play. Even if you've read the script or seen the movie, you, as a theatre teacher, should know that it is nothing compared to actually seeing a performance of it, live. How dare you discredit a play so much as to tell your students it's not worth seeing.]

The best stories are about love. Love is a terrible, wonderful thing. And sometimes you have to do terrible, wonderful things in the name of it. I know this review is scattered and disjointed, but I hope it at least gets the point across that this play is fantastic and should be seen in one of its last nights.

E.M. Green approved

Friday, August 18, 2006

Hedwig and the Angry Inch

play: Hedwig and the Angry Inch
director: Amy Hubbard
when: July 14th to August 5th FINISHED
where: Black Box Theatre
cost: Thurs. $8, Fri-Sun $16, seniors and students $12

about: Hedwig is a story about finding love, generally. Specifically it involves a boy named Hansel who grew up during the Berlin Wall Era on the Eastern Communist side of the wall. His goal was to get over the wall, but how? As he grows up he listens to the American Forces radio hearing the great rock and rollers of the period and falls in love with them. In his desire to go over the wall he meets an American G.I. named Luther who mistakes him for a girl. Luther is willing to bring Hansel over to the West by marrying him, but first Hansel must officially become a woman. Well, the poor boy's sexual reassignment surgery doesn't go well and so the title comes "And the Angry Inch." Hansel changes his name to Hedwig but a year after he moves to America with Luther, Luther leaves him. Hedwig has a fabulous affair with Tommy Spec who shares in her desire to play music and they perform "selling out monster truck rallies in Witchitaw" until Tommy discovers the truth about the angry inch. Tommy steals Hedwig's songs and becomes terribly and undeservably famous. Hedwig is left, once again, to scrounge the pieces of her life back together and plan a parallel tour to Tommy's in order to get what was hers back again. At the end its your decision whether or not she succeeds.

I have always enjoyed the movie version of this. I often wondered how it had started as a play in the first place, as the movie had been so precise and vivid. So when I heard that Knoxville, of all places, was putting it on I was a little more than ecstatic, if not a bit nervous of the results.

The setting is in the Black Box Theatre (which, by the way, is a black box theatre in style as well as name, imagine that!). What a black box theatre is, is, well, a large black box. The theatre is perfect for interactive pieces as well as actors who find their forte is expressing themselves in a more subtle way than dramatic gestures and overly wide eyes and mouths. And it was also a perfect setting for a German Drag Queen character who's supposed to be performing in the crappy doppleganger bars and theatres of her arch enemy, Tommy "Gnosis." I couldn't have picked a more perfect theatre for the production, frankly. The only drawbacks to a black box theatre, really, is the limited number of people who can fit.

Most black box theatres use minimal sets and more implication of an object existing than acutally having a fifty foot tree or lake set. With this play, though, the sets were nearly accurate. There was a band and this was the setting. You became part of the play and not a viewer. You were an important part. You were Hedwig's ever faithful fans or her disgruntled happenstance audience.

The band (Nathan Barrett, Lucas Flatt, Mike Murphy) that this production used was perfect. Just the right amount of clueless, immigrant stares and boredom at their diva's less-than-par comedy routine--which is actually pretty funny. They also rocked the night by playing some of the best songs from a musical you'll ever hear.

The acting blew me away. Joseph Beuerlein, who played Hedwig, gave just the right amount of bitterness but passion as well. His portrayal of the key figures in Hedwig's life and the depth he gave to an otherwise hard to relate to character woos me to no end. There were so many things that could have gone awry in this production and the sensitivity of fans to the story, but everything went more than right.

Jodie Manross played Yitzhak, Hedwig's husband. Dressed in boy-drag, Jodie had my heart. So wonderful with the resentful brooding. I almost regretted seeing her as a woman again after it was all over. And, as always, a voice that would woo baby's to sleep while calling lost sailors from their travels.

But my mother put it best: "I didn't know how you were going to get what was in the movie into a play, but you did it!"

If you missed your chance to see Hedwig and the Angry Inch this time cross your fingers for a tentative comeback on Halloween. Nothing cemented, that I know of. Just talk around the wine cooler, so far.

E.M.Green approved.


I've decided to publish this blog because I'm just getting into seeing plays on a regular basis. Alright, so I've only seen one so far but, soon to change, I will see two. Two will turn to three. And then, sequentially, to four. And, if I remember my preschool, the numbers will steadily keep getting greater.

You see, if you are determined enough to experience something different, you'll do it. Regardless of the money involved or the time involved you'll make both of them come to fruition. And so, once a month, I've committed to myself in seeing at least one play.

It's about stepping out of what I normally do for entertainment. It's about experiencing a thing regularly enough to have an opinion about it. Being opinionated is growth. To form a self-aware diagnostic of something is widening a perspective that wasn't there before.

So, these uneducated laymen reviews won't know who the actors are, really. They won't have any insight on directors, except the growth of familiarity with which director has directed what play and what actors have acted in which play. I don't know anymore than anyone else. I think that's the best place to come from.

E.M. Green approved.