theater

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

The heat is on in Serenbe

Posted By on Tue, Jul 19, 2016 at 11:41 AM

KIM IN DREAMLAND: From left, Niki Badua (Kim), Linder Sutton (Tam), and Chase Peacock (Chris) appear in Miss Saigon. - BREEANNE CLOWDUS
  • BreeAnne Clowdus
  • KIM IN DREAMLAND: From left, Niki Badua (Kim), Linder Sutton (Tam), and Chase Peacock (Chris) appear in Miss Saigon.

One of Atlanta’s hottest theater tickets this summer is Miss Saigon at Serenbe Playhouse. The musical has pre-sold five times more than the venue’s previous biggest hit, last summer’s Evita. The run has also been extended for a week — all this before opening night! Artistic Director Brian Clowdus and co. are bringing all of the drama you’d expect from a Serenbe production, including landing a real Huey helicopter at the show’s conclusion every night. It’s a spectacular way to usher out the show’s final regional production before a Broadway revival, slated to arrive in 2017.


Clowdus channels highly cinematic elements for this production, including costuming actors as Vietnamese locals and U.S. soldiers serving drinks and greeting the audience. Miss Saigon  comes from writers Claude-Michel Schonberg and Alain Boubill, who both also co-wrote Les Miserables. The musical  is based loosely on the story of Puccini’s opera “Madame Butterfly,” but set in 1970s Saigon.


“It deals with one of our most heated topics, the Vietnam War, but that really serves as the background to a love story,” Clowdus says. “For me, I’m never interested in telling a story about a war, it’s a story about people and how they are affected by the war.”


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Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Bohemian rhapsody

Posted By on Wed, Jun 15, 2016 at 9:36 AM

L8R BOI: Branden Hembree and Kristina Adler as Jacob and Grace in The Last Time We Were Here at Synchronicity Theatre. - PHOTO COURTESY JUMP CUT COLLECTIVE
  • Photo courtesy Jump Cut Collective
  • L8R BOI: Branden Hembree and Kristina Adler as Jacob and Grace in The Last Time We Were Here at Synchronicity Theatre.

There’s a fight brewing in a dingy apartment, strewn with dirty clothes and last night’s beer bottles. “You write words and it hurts when no one listens,” actor Kristina Adler sings, nearly lifting above the torn up loveseat, “but God, I listen.” Adler plays Grace in Synchronicity musical The Last Time We Were Here, and the mixture of heartache and spite in her delivery sums up the lovelorn angst that fuels the show.

Bar band frontman Jacob (Branden Hembree) provides the bulk of that. The arc of he and Grace’s love affair is told in flashback and through two sets’-worth of original songs. When Jacob sets his beloved Fender down for a moment, the story comes tumbling from his mouth as beat poetry. Adler plays Grace as a wide-eyed intellectual, a romantic who is nevertheless wise to her on-again-off-again boyfriend’s womanizing ways. Arguments that start with the smallest turns in quiet conversation become epic battles as Jacob sets them to music.

The show could be read as wish fulfillment for angry young men, with Jacob landing a beautiful woman way out of his league through the power inherent in electric guitars and unkempt hair. It could also read as a counter to those same self-destructive emo dudes as Grace repeatedly calls Jacob on his BS. At its center, though, it’s a love story characterized by the intense and almost painfully sincere guise of rock ‘n’ roll.


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Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Beauty’s in the house

Posted By on Wed, Apr 13, 2016 at 1:25 PM

WORK IT: Beauty's mom shows the way around a beauty parlor as well as her side gig making hype workout videos. - KATHRYN KOLB
  • Kathryn Kolb
  • WORK IT: Beauty's mom shows the way around a beauty parlor as well as her side gig making hype workout videos.


Parents who feel like Portlandia’s parenting sketches sometimes hit a bit too close to home should take their kale-eating, free-range darlings to see Beauty and the Beast at the Center for Puppetry Arts post haste. Local shopping, no batteries playing, feminist, and multicultural riffing — this puppet show has it all.


Fairy tales pass down culture and societal norms. They teach children moral lessons and common sense: Little Red Riding Hood gives kids a healthy dose of stranger-danger 101, Pinocchio outlines the dangers of lying, and Sleeping Beauty, well, maybe parents should skip that one unless they are ready to explain that “YES” means consent. Beauty and the Beast is no exception, and the mores the puppet version celebrates are more hip than aristocratic.

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Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Synchronicity Theatre attempts justice to Troy Davis case with Beyond Reasonable Doubt

Posted By on Wed, Apr 6, 2016 at 12:51 AM

From left: John Benzinger (Tony, John, Utility No. 1), Eddie J. Bradley (Utility No. 2), Danielle Deadwyler (Utility No. 3), Terry Henry (Mary), Lane Carlock (Alison), Cynthia Barker (Lucy, Utility No. 4), and Stephen Ruffin (Curtis), Eric Mendenhall (Bob). - BREEANNE CLOWDUS
  • BreeAnne Clowdus
  • From left: John Benzinger (Tony, John, Utility No. 1), Eddie J. Bradley (Utility No. 2), Danielle Deadwyler (Utility No. 3), Terry Henry (Mary), Lane Carlock (Alison), Cynthia Barker (Lucy, Utility No. 4), and Stephen Ruffin (Curtis), Eric Mendenhall (Bob).

Synchronicity Theatre addresses one of the most incendiary legal battles of recent Georgia history with the world premiere of Beyond Reasonable Doubt: The Troy Davis Project. Directed by Rachel May, the drama revisits the 2011 execution of Troy Davis for the murder of police officer Mark MacPhail, interweaving fictional characters with trial transcripts, legal documents, journalism, and interviews. Decatur-based playwright Lee Nowell explains how her four-year obsession with the case contributed to Synchronicity Theatre’s dramatization.

How close attention did you pay to the Troy Davis case when it was going on?
Lee Nowell: I was obsessed with the Troy Davis case when it was happening. It was extremely polarizing, and emotions ran high on all sides. Rallies happened in Atlanta, New York, D.C., Paris, and Morocco. Quite literally millions of people were involved all over the world to try and stop the execution. And yet the prosecution consistently won the case in court. I couldn't figure out how Troy Davis could win in the court of public opinion but lose in the court of law.


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Monday, March 21, 2016

Take a dark spin on Serenbe’s Carousel

Posted By on Mon, Mar 21, 2016 at 1:24 PM


click image YOU SPIN ME: Edward McCreary and Kelly Martin in Serenbe Playhouse's Carousel - BREEANNE CLOWDUS
  • BreeAnne Clowdus
  • YOU SPIN ME: Edward McCreary and Kelly Martin in Serenbe Playhouse's Carousel
It’s that old story: Girl goes to fair, girl meets cute carnie boy, boy gets fired, girl ends up pregnant and alone. Serenbe Playhouse’s artistic director Brian Clowdus is staging another Rodgers and Hammerstein classic, but it won’t be the traditional take on Carousel. “You know me,” Clowdus says. “Anything I do, I want to reinvent and shake up.” Serenbe’s productions take place outdoors and for this show, Clowdus continues the trend and plans to bring in an actual fair — complete with a Ferris wheel, strongman mallet game, and, naturally, an actual carousel. The audience can buy tickets to ride the rides and munch on popcorn, cotton candy, King of Pops treats, and specialty cocktails before the show and at intermission.

The artwork for the show indicates this will be a darker, more gothic environment, somewhere between American Horror Story’s “Freak Show” season and an afternoon at Buford Highway’s Plaza Fiesta. “The turn-of-the-century carnivals and sideshows kind of went hand in hand,” Clowdus says. “It was very normal for a carnival to have human wonders or ‘freaks.’” In this production, there will be sideshow characters throughout the show, representing the grim world of the hero, Billy (Edward McCreary), as well as the more refined townie characters who reflect the heroine, Julie (Kelly Martin), and her world. For those unfamiliar with the play, an innocent day at the fair turns bleak for Julie when she is seduced by Billy, starting a chain of events that results in him losing his job and leaving her with child and on her own. So, perhaps best to leave the preteens at home for this one, as the subject matter airs on the adult side.

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Friday, March 18, 2016

Hollywood legend Ethel Waters' glamorous, tumultuous life gets bio treatment

Posted By on Fri, Mar 18, 2016 at 9:53 AM

SING IT AGAIN: Terry Burrell as Ethel Waters at a past performance. - WALNUT STREET THEATER
  • Walnut Street Theater
  • SING IT AGAIN: Terry Burrell as Ethel Waters at a past performance.
For Atlanta actress Terry Burrell, she dreamt of creating a one-woman show about stage and screen star Ethel Waters back in 1990. But it would be 20 years before she had the real life experience necessary to bringing such a complicated woman’s story into full form. (Waters was born in 1896 to a teenage rape victim, spending her childhood in poverty before entering an abusive marriage at an early age — the woman underwent a lot of strife before embarking on a rich career in theater.) After staging runs of Waters' Ethel in Philadelphia in 2012 and the Alabama Shakespeare Festival in 2013, the play preps to hit the stage in Atlanta as part of the Hertz Stage Series at the Alliance Theatre.

“Back in 1990, I just had this intuitive sense that I was going to need something like this one day,” Burrell says. “At the time, I had no interest in writing it because I didn’t consider myself a writer — just an actor.” She made attempts with co-writers over the years, but nothing ever gelled. “Then in 2010, literally this voice spoke to me and said ‘If you don’t do this now, it is never going to be done,’” she says.


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Thursday, February 11, 2016

This foul-mouthed puppet show gives romance a remix

Posted By on Thu, Feb 11, 2016 at 9:39 AM

FLUFF OFF: Host and producer of the Valentine's Day Puckin' Fuppet Show Beau Brown. - BRIAN BROWN
  • Brian Brown
  • FLUFF OFF: Host and producer of the Valentine's Day Puckin' Fuppet Show Beau Brown.

This year there’s no need for the post-Valentine’s Day blues, because love is in the air at Village Theater. Beau Brown, the producer and host of the Valentine’s Day Puckin’ Fuppet show, is ready to have the whole audience rolling and LOLing. Not only will Cupid’s presence be known, but special guest artist and National Puppet Slam alum, Gwen Bonar, will make an appearance. Whether you’re single, in an open relationship, or seriously committed, this is a show for all of you secret lusters. An open mic event with no scripts, the show could go all sorts of comical directions, especially with an MC like Brown. Don’t be shocked if there is a puppet penis appearance on stage, says the producer. Oh, and he also strongly suggests pairing this comical Saturday evening at the theater with a healthy swig of your favorite spirit.

Creative Loafing talked with Brown about Atlanta, puppetry, and what viewers can expect from this
highly competitive puppet slam.

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Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Don’t rot at home this Valentine’s Day

Posted By on Wed, Feb 3, 2016 at 1:27 PM

HIGH TIMES: Atlanta Ballet’s “Moulin Rouge” sets a romantic tale on its toes. - CHARLIE MCCULLERS
  • Charlie McCullers
  • HIGH TIMES: Atlanta Ballet’s “Moulin Rouge” sets a romantic tale on its toes.

Scrambling to make some sad last-minute dinner at home on V-Day is a bad look. Whether you are riding the high of a new romance, just looking for a silly night out with friends, or plain not feeling the love this year, there are plenty of romantic, goofy, or darkly dramatic live theater and dance options to make the night one you won’t forget. Here's a breakdown of options for three very different, very rad options for how to treat this sweet season.

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Tuesday, December 1, 2015

The 12 Dates of Christmas is a celebration of clichés

Posted By on Tue, Dec 1, 2015 at 2:19 PM

PAJAMA PARTY: Jacyln Hofmann runs the one-woman show as Mary. - CASEY GARDNER
  • Casey Gardner
  • PAJAMA PARTY: Jacyln Hofmann runs the one-woman show as Mary.

Lawrenceville's Aurora Theatre rolled out a festive, mildly raunchy offering by way of the one-woman play The 12 Dates of Christmas November 28. The production first appears to promise an empowering, festive narrative starring Mary, a struggling NYC-based actress, post-public breakup. What it serves up instead is a one-dimensional, tangled string of tired rom-com tropes embedded into one woman's dating misadventures.

Ginna Hoben, the playwright behind The 12 Dates of Christmas, first staged and starred in the production in 2010 at The American Shakespeare Center in Staunton, Va. Although the script performed at Aurora is lightly updated with a smattering of Scandal references, as a whole, it doesn't hold up just five years after its maiden voyage. The idea that potential suitors default to communication as invasive as a telephone call does not come off as remotely realistic in 2015. Even in 2010 it was uninventive and gauche to place a single 30-something woman in the center of a plot and allow the "ticking biological clock" phase to enter the script. Then there's the record-scratch sound effect to portray a knee-slapping say what? This might have been overlooked had it not happened twice in the relatively short production.

In 12 Dates, we meet Mary in the wake of a truly horrendous split. She caught her fiancé kissing another woman on a broadcast of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. A residency in sweats and hearty swigs of Chardonnay from a Maxine coffee mug ensue. Eventually, as the title suggests, Mary concedes to 12 set-ups over the course of a year via her zealous Aunt Kathy, her endorphin-hyped sister Sally, and so on. One such foray features a one-night stand with an Irish bartender spawned from his St. Paddy's Day shift, another focuses on a run-in with the aforementioned trash ex-fiancé and the inevitable catch-up coffee (classic). 

It's tough to get behind and root for Mary when she panders to cliché after cliché. She chases the disinterested dude and ices out the other who gives a damn. She resents family for taking interest in her personal life. After rejecting her ex over coffee, she has An Independent Woman Moment soundtracked by Alanis Morrissette. And at the end of it, she finally emerges from her pajama uniform only for the promising prospect of ensnaring a wealthy single father. We've seen this kind of thing before. A lot.

Star Jacyln Hofmann does a decent job with the dated script handed to her. It takes a tremendous amount of gall to carry a play completely solo and for the most part Hofmann succeeds in holding the audience's attention. She shows promise with comedic timing and at least two regional accents. It'd be interesting to see her in a role with some depth — a quality Mary regrettably lacks. 

The 12 Dates of Christmas could make for a fun, wine-soaked girls' night out in lieu of a Katherine Heigl film screening. But if taking up that alternative, expect the same absence of imagination and perpetuation of sad single lady stereotypes.

The 12 Dates of Christmas runs through Tues., Dec. 29 at Aurora Theatre.

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Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The Santaland Diaries enchants Sedaris fans and Scrooges alike

Posted By on Wed, Nov 25, 2015 at 10:13 AM

REIGN IN: (From left) LaLa Cochran, Harold M. Leaver, and Enoch King 'sleigh' in The Santaland Diaries. - COURTESY HORIZON THEATRE COMPANY
  • courtesy horizon theatre company
  • REIGN IN: (From left) LaLa Cochran, Harold M. Leaver, and Enoch King 'sleigh' in The Santaland Diaries.

Expectations can weigh heavy on experiences. It isn’t particularly fair, but it often applies when approaching art. So was my struggle when ascending the Horizon Theatre Company’s lavender stairs to catch a showing of David Sedaris’ The Santaland Diaries. The show is based on his essay of the same name, chronicling a seasonal gig as a Macy department store elf called Crumpet. It’s an essay I’ve known and loved since my teen years from a writer I’ve known and loved just as long. I did my best to settle into a back row, plastic cup of wine in hand, with as few expectations as possible.

My sister and I, regardless of sharing a zodiac sign, grew up and continue to be very different people. We let those differences cancel each other out, allowing respective prowesses fill in the others’ cultural cracks. Most holidays I gifted her music and she gave me books. In high school, I peeled pages from our local daily off the David Sedaris compilation, Me Talk Pretty One Day. “He’s got a funny way of telling stories,” she said. “Ones that might otherwise be boring.” I took zero pause before consuming the entirety of his published works. It kickstarted a worship transcending into college when I cobbled together meager paychecks from the record store to hear him read at the posh Florida Theatre. He spoke with ringing clarity and ease, cruising through personal narratives just as I’d heard him do countless times before on public radio.

I first encountered his “The Santaland Diaries” essay in the seasonal collection Holidays on Ice (1997) after the aforementioned gifting. Deep into my first job as a burrito shop counter girl, I knew the complex feelings that come with working a service industry job. But that was at 17. Later on, as an adult, I’d be subjected to a string of humiliating gigs — yes, often involving uniforms — and only then would I actually get the struggle Sedaris details with charming hindsight.

In its 17th iteration, Horizon’s spin on The Santaland Diaries is presented with the same ringing clarity Sedaris likely intended. Harold M. Leaver takes on the role of Crumpet, also for the 17th time. Leaver breathes animated life into Crumpet, a disgruntled, hypersexual writer desperate for a buck while living in New York City. I’ve lived this reality — it’s dark — however, like Sedaris, Leaver’s Crumpet takes crummy circumstance with winking stride. After all, it’s a job — a fact Crumpet trumpets throughout the 90-minute work. It’s a cadence many of us are familiar with.

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