Monday, May 14, 2012

Cast Shines In Intense Drama

In a South American country where a brutal dictator as just been disposed, a lawyer brings home a Good Samaritan, who rescued him from car trouble.  Unbeknownst to the lawyer, the helpful man turns out to be the brutal captor, torturer and rapist of his wife.
Mark Staley, Ken Bolden, Adrienne Wehr
This is the basis for Death and the Maiden by Ariel Dorfman, the current offering at Off The Wall Theater in Washington PA.
As you can imagine, this plot leads to an evening of intense, emotional drama.
And the strong cast is well up to the task.  Adrienne Wehr (as the wife), Mark Staley (as her husband) and Ken Bolden (as the sadistic torturer) wring the raw emotions from the script brilliantly.
Where the production seems to falter is with the direction.
Director Maggie Balsley had chosen to open the play with a video projection of the first scene between Wehr and Staley (all while the two actors move around the stage in a kind of “dumb show”).  I had no clue what it was supposed to mean. Consequently, I probably didn’t pay as close attention to the next few vignettes as I was trying to figure out the projection.
For a play that addresses such high-charged issues, there was a lot of sitting and talking.  Staley sits at a table talking to Bolden.  Then Staley goes to the balcony and sits and talks with Wehr.  Then Wehr comes in and sits at a table talking to Bolden.  Center stage got very little use.
What made matters worse is the balcony is far stage right behind a large sofa.  Very often all I could see of Wehr and Staley were their heads peeking over the top of the sofa.
Then the production ends with more baffling video (after a long pause for costume changes).
Designer Paul A. Shaw has once again transformed the small Off The Wall stage into a completely new look.  Unfortunately, Balsley groundplan does more harm then good.
But the cast preservers and doesn’t allow the odd videos or the stagnant blocking prevent them from delivering memorable performances.
Death and the Maiden continues through May 19.

Friday, May 11, 2012


Desperate times call for desperate measures.  And no is more desperate than unemployed factory workers in 1980’s Buffalo in the musical The Full Monty, the current production at McKeesport Little Theatre.
These down-on-their-luck fellows turn to stripping!
Up front, I give the men in the cast a great deal of credit.  I don’t even undress to take a shower, let alone strut my stuff on stage.
This production has good points…and not-so-good points.
There are some very strong voices as well as some very funny moments.
Unfortunately, Director Edward E. Bostedo, Jr. has failed to get the full potential from his cast.
While Bryan D. Padgett (as Jerry) and Timothy Doughtery (as his best pal Dave) have some laugh-out-loud moments, their deep friendship is never fully felt by the audience.  Likewise when Padgett has book scenes with his young son (played by Matthew Fedorek), you get the feeling they are just “marking time” to get through these lines so everyone can get back to singing or dancing or being funny again.
If audiences don’t buy these two crucial relationships, the heart goes out of The Full Monty.
It doesn’t help the cast that the blocking and stage pictures are weak.
Bostedo has also designed the set, which consists of what looks like Japanese screens.  It gives The Full Monty a peculiar “kabuki” look.  The screen panels are actually doors that open.  They could have been used effectively; however, they are not.
Choreographer Heather Yaksic Atkinson has created some very clever dance numbers, and the men perform them to the best of their ability.
Lamont Freeland nearly steals the show as “Horse” with his funny one-liners and the amusing song “Big Black Man.”  Anna Colecchi gets in some good wisecracks as “Jeanette,” the piano player.
Ryan Baker and Nathan Hough (as “Malcolm” and “Nathan” respectively) bring a great deal of charm to the production.
Act One moves along at a good pace.  Act Two tends to slow the production down.
Hats off to McKeesport Little Theatre for having the courage to attempt The Full Monty.  And it is a fun evening in the theatre.  With this talented cast, it had the potential to be so much more.
The Full Monty runs through May 20.