Thursday, February 4, 2016

Review of Shattered Globe's Animals Out of Paper

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Animals Out of Paper. It was by Rajiv Joseph and it was directed by Devon de Mayo. It was about a woman named Ilana (Cortney McKenna) who was a origami artist. She has gotten a divorce and her dog has run away. She can't fold anymore ever since her dog ran away but now she is going to teach a teenager named Suresh (Awate Serequeberhan) because there is this guy named Andy (Joseph Wiens) who convinces her to teach him. It is about loving what you do, friendship, and origami. I thought this play had a lot of unanticipated things happen it, which makes it interesting to follow.

I thought the set (by Grant Sabin) was cool. There was a shelf that became so many things. It became a bed. It became a restaurant wall. They also transform the space from a very very messy apartment to a very clean apartment. It was cool how just one person (Suresh) could pick up what looked like a whole pile of things, but it was all glued together so that he could just pick it up in one swoop. Also he would toss clothes into a ottoman from across the room. There was origami (by Christine Edison) all over the place and I thought that it was all very beautiful. I loved the orbs.

I also really liked Suresh's music (sound design and original music by Stephen Gawrit) that he listened to and also that he rapped. I thought it was super cool how they had a character rapping to make a point about origami. That is an unusual pair, but it actually worked. I liked how it included two things that he loved. I think Suresh was my favorite character. I think he was super funny and interesting. You really wanted to know his entire story. I thought the arguments he made were very cool and true about it being okay to embrace the culture of hip hop even if you aren't African American. Origami was originated by the Japanese, but it was important to everyone in the show even though none of them are Japanese. I thought that really proved the point Suresh was making that you don't need to be of a certain race to like the things that that race originated.

I thought the first scene really showed you a lot about Ilana and Andy. She was freaked out by him at first, but you got to see their relationship develop over the show. He had this book of blessings and he would write them down over time. It showed you that he tired to make the best of everything. Ilana could use more of that in her life, but when you see the play you can see what happens with that. They were so different and their feelings weren't mutual, so I kind of felt sorry for Andy, but you kind of know that they should not stay together forever. The Valentine's Day dinner was very awkward too. It seemed like the relationship was awkward because she was concealing too much and he wasn't concealing enough.

People who would like this show are people who like origami, hip hop, and counting your blessings. I thought that this was a very interesting and cool show. I noticed a lot about origami and about life.

Photos: Michael Brosilow

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Review of Bye Bye Birdie at Drury Lane Theatre

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Bye Bye Birdie. The book was by Michael Stewart. The music was by Charles Strouse and the lyrics were by Lee Adams. It was directed and choreographed by Tammy Mader with music direction by Alan Bukowiecki. It was about this town called Sweet Apple, Ohio where there were a bunch of teenage girls who were superfans of the rock and roll singer Conrad Birdie (Jason Michael Evans) and he had to go to that town and kiss one girl--Kim MacAfee (Leryn Turlington)--as a goodbye kiss because he was going off to be in the war. But Conrad Birdie's manager Albert Peterson (Matt Crowle) is in a lot of trouble because his biggest deal is with Conrad Birdie. And also his secretary Rose Alvarez (Michelle Aravena) is in love with him. He is in love with her too, but everything is hard for them because of all the work they have to do and because of his mother (Catherine Smitko) who doesn't like Rose. This was a cute musical and I liked the dancing and the performances. It is not my favorite musical of all time, but I think they did a really good job with what they had.

I really liked the tap dancing number, "Put on a Happy Face." There is one girl (Isabelle Roberts, Maya Lou Hlava) who is very sad because Conrad Birdie is going away. And Albert tries to cheer her up with a big tap dancing number. I thought that scene was really fun. Before he was a little business-y, so it is a different side of him which is fun. Everything was so coordinated and it was my favorite dance number. Sometimes Albert Peterson doesn't realize that even if he does lose Conrad Birdie everything will be okay because he has something else he can do that might make him even happier: becoming a teacher. Rose sings a song ("An English Teacher") at the very beginning about how he could have become a teacher. I thought that was a really good song. I loved the music and the lyrics were very clever. I can't get it out of my head. I thought it was kind of funny that Rose was talking to the guy in the rock and roll business with a really successful client and saying, "I wish you were an English teacher." Instead of a teacher wanting to be a music producer, the music producer wants to be an English teacher.

Rose becomes very angry with Albert because he seems to care more about Conrad Birdie than her. So she decides to go away in a "scandalous" red dress cut up the side and calls herself Spanish Rose, even though she is from beautiful, exotic Pittsburgh. She starts drinking at a tiki bar and trying to find cute boys. But she is in a small town in Ohio, so there's not a lot to choose from. So she ends up going into a Shriners' meeting and tries to dance, but then none of them seem to like that very much, so she goes under the table and people keep getting pulled down under the table. I thought it was hilarious to see them reaching up to the surface like they were in a horror movie. It made me laugh so hard. Rose was my favorite character because she was so sassy. If she wants something, she is going to get it most of the time.

I liked this show, but I did have some problems with it too. I wasn't a huge fan of the overture, but that is not the Drury Lane production's fault. One of the first things you hear is teenage girls scream-singing "We love you, Conrad" in high-pitched squeaky voices. I didn't feel like it was a great way to open up a show. All the teenagers repeat the song throughout the entire show, which was another thing I wasn't a huge fan of. This musical depicts teenage girls as screaming and annoying and only caring about boys. And that is not what all teenage girls are like. They could have had maybe one of all the teenagers not be a crazy person who only cares about boys. And the entire MacAfee family (Brianna Borger, George Andrew Wolff, Rowan Moxley and Cam Ezell) seemed so self-involved that you kind of couldn't like any of the characters in that family. Everyone in the musical except maybe Albert and Rose are stereotypes, which shows you that they are trying to make fun of midwestern people and teenagers and lots of stuff that is in lots of people's everyday life. It is okay to make fun of things, but it is more interesting to me if the characters are less completely fake and the stereotypes have more elements that are like real life so it is a little more relatable.

People who would like this show are people who like tap dancing, superfans, and sassy Spanish Roses from Pittsburgh. I loved the dancing and the hilarious musical numbers. I enjoyed it.

Photos: Brett Beiner

Monday, February 1, 2016

Review of About Face Theatre's Le Switch

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Le Switch. It was by Philip Dawkins and it was directed by Stephen Brackett. It was about a guy named David (Stephen Cone) and he goes to Canada for his best friend Zachary's (La Shawn Banks) bachelor party. And there he meets Benoît (Collin Quinn Rice) at a flower shop. Then they started talking and they started to fall in love. David is not very good at relationships, any kind of relationships, so you don't expect that he'll go falling in love any which way. The play is about falling in love in unlikely places, friendship, and different ways of thinking about being gay. I liked it a lot and I found it super intriguing and fun. I was very invested in the characters and I really wanted everyone in the show to have a good life.

Sometimes David feels insecure about how he expresses his sexuality, I think because of how badly his parents reacted to his being gay. I think that must have been very hurtful to him. The important part of his identity was that he was weird, or as he said, queer. Queer means to not just be in love with men as a man but to define yourself as someone who is different from other people. So David feels like you should just have to be in a relationship and that marriage for gays is not something he would ever do because he feels like gay marriage is not queer because it is so normal to get married. He learns a lot from his roommate Frank (Mitchell J. Fain) who had a partner who died: that it can also be good just to decide to stay everyday in a relationship that is not a marriage. Benoit is gay but he doesn't think of it as being queer. He just thinks of himself as being gay and that is the way he is. And Benoit really wants to get married. It shows you that everyone can be gay in a different way.

One of my favorite scenes was the game testing scene. David's sister Sarah (Elizabeth Ledo) basically has my dream job where she gets to read fantasy science fiction and keep track of the characters. The game is about this fantasy world where the entire world is held together by this couple's love. I loved how before Sarah had been saying "This is the worst job you could possibly have" but in this scene she is totally invested in these fictional people's lives. The scene was funny but also kind of sad, because one of the characters made one of the worst decisions of his life. But it was funny up until then because of the way Zachary acted about somebody proposing to somebody. (Sorry to be a little vague here, but there are a lot of spoilers in this scene.) He just kind of screamed and was so excited it was like he was getting proposed to himself. Zachary's entire personality just made it so I wanted him to be my friend.

This play was just so adorable. Benoit and David are like the perfect couple because you know that they love each other so much and they just click. But even perfect couples have fights, disagreements, and trouble in their lives. Just because they love each other, doesn't mean that they don't disagree about really important things. Every single character in the show is adorable and the entire time the people in the show are happy, you are basically happy. I found myself so happy and smiling for the whole first act of the show. I was very worried in the second act. I'm going to let you suffer too until you see the whole play. But it is definitely worth seeing. This is one of my favorite shows I've seen this year!

People who would like this show are people who like adorable stories, flower shops, and insanely enthusiastic best friends. I think that people should definitely definitely go see this show. I thought it was an amazing and absolutely lovely heartwarming story. I absolutely loved it.

Photos: Michael Brosilow

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Review of Griffin Theatre's London Wall

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called London Wall. It was by John Van Druten and it was directed by Robin Witt. It was about life in the workplace in the 1930s in London. They have put women in the workplace and that was a big change because women weren't really considered as office workers before. They face challenges because a lot of the people are still very sexist, so women have to learn how to be comfortable and how to protect themselves in the workplace. This play is about deceit, love, and how from the outside an office can seem normal but inside a lot of drama happens. I thought that this was a really great show. I found it exciting and thrilling and I loved it a lot.

Pat Milligan (Rochelle Therrien) kind of connected all the stories together. She also was going through very hard times at the moment because she had just moved to the city and she didn't really know what she was doing. She is friends with Hec Hammond (George Booker) but he doesn't feel like they should only be friends, and sometimes she doesn't either but he can't buy her a bunch of fancy stuff, so she feels like she shouldn't be with him. Mr. Brewer (Nick Freed), however, is very rich and can buy her a lot of fancy stuff. But the problem is that he is not exactly a good person. And Miss Janus (Vanessa Greenway) tries to help Hec and Pat get together because she really wants them to be happy. She likes Pat a lot and she is doubting her own choices about love. From beginning to end you are always rooting for Hec and Pat because they seem like they would be a really good couple, but the problem is that they are too worried to actually express their feelings.

This play kind of reminded me of a old-fashioned version of The Office because there is a relationship you are rooting for, a really clueless boss (Ed Dzialo) who is nice person but not very helpful, and it is funny but also has sad moments. My favorite funny scene was the scene where Miss Hooper (Ashley Neal), Miss Buffton (Amanda Powell), and Birkinshaw (Michael Saguto) were reading evidence for a divorce case. They weren't just reading it and being sad. They were reading it and saying, "We shouldn't be reading this," and then immediately going back to reading it. They find the entire thing shocking and interesting. And their reactions are just hilarious. Miss Willesden (Mary Poole) is a rich old lady who doesn't have any family and she comes to the office to keep getting her will redone. She is one of my favorite funny characters because she is so lovable. But then you also feel sorry for her because she doesn't have anybody even though she seems like such a nice person. She was very enthusiastic and her outfits were all so vibrant (costumes by Rachel M. Sypniewski). She is also trying to help out young women who don't really know how to live life very fully yet.

I thought it was really cool that this play was written by a man, because I thought it could have been written by a woman because it faces a lot of difficulties about being a woman, like being harassed and being told you can't do something because you are a girl. I liked how Miss Janus was kind of the main character even though she was a woman, and she wasn't always perfect. She struggles with being sociable and with the ups and downs of her work and her life. He shows that Miss Janus is one of the smarter people that works there, even though she is a woman. Women's work is not valued very much in this office, but they do a good job anyway. I think he is trying to call attention to how people thought that women's ideas weren't worth listening to and that women didn't have any reason to talk about work--that should be for men. The women have a pretty good reason for wanting to get married and get out of the office because it is so bad to work there. I found it sad that that was what everyone thought was the best option because there are better options now, like having actual careers.

People who would like this show are people who like stories about young love, office drama, and rich vibrant old ladies. I think that people should definitely go see this show. It was a great way to spend the night because it was funny but really touched on serious topics too. I loved it!

Photos: Michael Brosilow

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Review of Sparky at Lifeline Theatre

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Sparky. It was written by Jessica Wright Buha based on the book by Jenny Offill and illustrated by Chris Appelhans. Music and lyrics were by Laura McKenzie. It was directed by Amanda Link. It was about a girl named Libby (Eunice Woods) who wanted a pet, but she couldn't get a pet unless it didn't have to be walked, fed, or bathed because her mom (Jhenai Mootz) didn't want to have to deal with that. So what she does is that she looks for a pet in an encyclopedia her mom gives her, and so she decides on a sloth, which is a very unusual pet for a young girl. And she names it Sparky (Andres Enriquez). But then she wants Sparky to be a dog, actually. So she tries to teach him tricks, but to no avail. So she has to learn that Sparky can't be a dog and that you should just let somebody be who they are and not try to change them. I thought it was fun and fabulous and it was a weekend morning well spent. I think it would be great to take your kids to!

There was a lot of sloth humor in this, which happens to be one of my favorite things I love sloth humor. Sloth humor is all about slowness; and if you get the right speed of the movement and match it with the outfit and the content facial expression, then you get the perfect sloth comedy. They did. They got perfect sloth comedy. Somebody who didn't seem to like sloths or comedy very much, even though she did a lot of it, was Mary Potts (Juanita Andersen). She was sometimes a total showoff. She was like an actual friend because she could sometimes be super nice but other times she was a complete showoff. She's funny because she is so exaggerated. And she is so confident in what she is saying and doing even though she was sometimes completely wrong. It was hilarious. There was also many a mom joke in this. You have probably heard of dad jokes, but have you ever heard of mom jokes? They are basically the same: the jokes aren't amazing and they are more like puns than jokes. And she silently laughs along with them because she might be the only one who gets them. But I got a lot of the ones in this show because I spend a lot of time with my mom.

The message of the play was that no matter who you are you should always be yourself and let other people be themselves. I think that adults need to know this too. Libby wants Sparky to be like an amazing trained dog. But of course a sloth isn't a trained dog. He is barely even trainable. You should just feel lucky you have it. If adults have a spouse or a kid who is not the way they want them to be, they just need to accept them for who they are instead of trying to change them. People can only change themselves. Libby learns that Sparky is a good friend and that he is really good at playing dead and walking in slow motion. And then she appreciates those things about him.

The music was super fun and energetic and I really liked it. One of my favorite songs was when Mary Potts was singing about her pets, and she was saying my pets can do all this and they are so amazing. Her cat can bake cookies and meow songs! But Sparky can just play tag very...very...slowly.... And the backup singers were her cat (Mootz) and parrot (Rachel Page) and I thought that was also hilarious. I also liked the song where Libby and Sparky were playing hide and seek for the second time. And Sparky had caught on, but Libby was feeling bad, so he decided "I'll hide." And he sang, "Count ten.... Very...very...slowly." It just made me laugh so hard. I loved it! Another song that I liked was the song about the encyclopedia which was all about animals Libby might be able to have as a pet. And they spelled encyclopedia a lot, so you could learn from it!

People who would like this show are people who like mom jokes, talented cats, and playing tag with sloths. I think people should definitely go see this show. I had lots of fun and I really enjoyed watching it.

Photos: Suzanne Plunkett

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Review of Stage Left Theatre and Red Tape Theatre's Mutt

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Mutt. It was by Christopher Chen and it was directed by Vanessa Stalling. It was about a woman named Hannah (Aurora Adachi-Winer) who was a race advisor for the Republican party. And she recommends this man named Len (Daniel Smith) who was running for president. A lot of people thought he was the perfect Republican candidate because his ancestors were from everywhere around the world. The Republicans (Ian Daniel McLaren and Mary Williamson) hope he will change everything so they won't have to have any more meetings about race, which they think are stupid. There is also another candidate named Nick (Michael Reyes) who really wants to talk about race in an actual way. But he isn't very good at it. Hannah chooses Len but then she gets fired for dumb reasons. So she decides to become Nick's campaign manager. There are a lot of unexpected twists. This show was all about how politics can go wrong all the time. It is about how politics can't solve all our problems. The play shows you that you can't just think about race, you have to think about personality because if you get somebody to be president who will be a bad president, it doesn't matter what race they are. I liked how the acting was over the top in a great way and how each bit of comedy was connected in some way to earlier scenes.

The Democrats and Republicans are very similar in this show. They were played by the same actors (McLaren and Williamson) which of course made them very similar, but both of them were equally dumb. They both didn't know how handle the government, so they had to say they knew what to do when they didn't. I thought that it was a really interesting choice; it made me think, do they have a lot of similarities in real life? I don't think they have as many similarities in real life as in the show, but they do still have some. I thought that was cool and it made me think about politics. I thought it was a very smart decision to make the Democrats and Republicans equal for once, which usually doesn't happen in a play about politics. I think the writer probably is a Democrat, but he has problems with Democrats as well as Republicans. In the show, Nick wants to be a Democrat instead of a Republican because he wants to feel good about himself. It is kind of true that Democrats are usually depicted as happy with their choices, which can mean they get nothing done.

Comedy emphasizes the way the writer feels about a certain topic. He will make a joke about a certain type of person or thing and that, to me, showed his opinion. Like when the Democrat guy could only say middle class, I thought that was funny. But it also showed you the way that Christopher Chen felt about the way Democrats only think about the middle class and that he didn't like that. Also, everybody was always falling in love with Len and that was very funny because they always went insane when he would walk by like he was Justin Bieber and not a politician who could barely talk. The point is that people will follow someone even if he or she has no idea what they are doing if they think he or she is cute. We don't always choose our politicians in the best way, which would be to see who the politicians are and find who you agree with more and vote for them.

I really liked the therapy scene where Nick is going to therapy and his therapist (Alejandra Vivanco) is like the worse therapist in the world. She was super terrible because she said, "Im not here to listen to you or help you with any of your problems." That is exactly what a therapist should do, and that just shows how Nick would not be a good president since she can fool him. I found the scene hilarious and I couldn't stop laughing. I also loved the witness scenes where this detective (McLaren) is investigating about this serial killer and the witnesses are all played by the same person (Nicole Michelle Haskins). And she would put on all these big characters. My favorite was when she played a choir lady and she sang every single note like Mariah Carey. It was amazing and I loved it.

People who would like this show are people who like comedy, thinking about politics, and singing witnesses. I had a lot of fun at this show and I liked all the over-the-top comedy!

Photos: Tom McGrath

Friday, January 15, 2016

Review of Promethean Theatre Ensemble's Brontë

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Brontë. It was written by Polly Teale and directed by Jaclynn Jutting. It was about the three Brontë sisters who became writers (Anne [Janeane Bowlware], Charlotte [Eleanor Katz], and Emily [Anne Korajczyk]) and about how their writing changed their lives. The had very hard lives because their mother and two of their sisters had died so they basically had to take care of themselves. A lot of people didn't think women should be writers but thought they should just be wives and mothers and housekeepers. But of course the Brontë sisters didn't believe that, so they rebelled by showing that women can write and can make amazing stories and poems. They were not the only women writers but they were really good at portraying the real lives of women and how it is not as easy as people think it is. They don't make women objects; they make them subjects and you get to learn a lot about their feelings. This play tells their story with a lot of flashbacks so that you can see what their life before was like and they do talk to the audience, but not in character. This play teaches you a lot about the Brontë sisters and about their home life as well as their work. I thought this was a bittersweet and interesting show. It made me think a lot about the Brontë sisters and what it must have been like to live in the Victorian era.

I thought that the relationship between Charlotte and her brother Branwell (Ken Miller) was very touching. When they were kids it seemed like they had a lot of the same dreams. You got to see what they were like as kids and how they spent time together pretending to be captains looking for a new land. It ends up that he is not as great an adult as he was a kid because he isn't very kind and he doesn't have any ambitions anymore. So he has an affair with his employer's wife and he feels happy when he is around her, but then the husband catches him and he has to go home to his sisters because he is unemployed. And then he starts to drink. The sisters still love him, but he is doing terrible things to himself and he won't listen to them. Because you love him so much at first because he is so ambitious and the little boy version of him is kind of adorable, it makes it even sadder to see him get so messed up. It makes Charlotte sad, but she acts more angry because she feels he should have done something more.

You don't only see the sisters as themselves, you also see them turning into the characters that they wrote. The sisters play the characters in their own books that speak to them the most. Emily plays Nelly but sometimes speaks along with Cathy (Ashley Fox) from Wuthering Heights. It shows you that she kind of connects with two different characters. Nelly is very protective and tries to help people at every turn. But Cathy is more disturbed. And Emily feels disturbed sometimes and feels hurt and betrayed, like Cathy. But to the outside world she is more like Nelly. Anne turns into Helen from The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. (I have never read that book, but my mom is a Brontë enthusiast, so she told me about it.) I think she really sees things from Helen's view because her brother is always drunk just like Helen's husband. Charlotte has two characters that you see her become, Jane Eyre and Bertha (Fox). Bertha is not a main character, but you can see Charlotte put a lot of thought into her because you see that she has all these mental connections with the character like how she says some of the same things Bertha says in Jane Eyre when she is trying to write to her teacher Heger (John Arthur Lewis). Also the actor who plays Rochester (Jared Dennis) also plays the person who will become Charlotte's husband, Bell Nicholls. I thought that was very cool that you saw the seeds of her real life in her story.

The sisters do love each other very much, but the play is very realistic as to how siblings are. Siblings are not always super friendly to each other, like Charlotte lashes out at her sisters when she is disappointed about not getting published. But then they are still ready to comfort her after she storms out and comes back. The sister have different ideas about want they want their lives to be like. Charlotte wants fame for herself and her books. She wants to be a part of the community of famous writers. Emily wants everyone to just leave her alone and let her deal with herself. She writes to keep herself from hurting herself and she doesn't want anyone to talk to her about it. Anne wants people to read her work but she doesn't want everyone to recognize her on the street. But they all have one thing in common: they all want to write.

People who would like this show are people who like Victorian novels, stories about talented women, and discovering new lands. I think that people should go see this show. It was fun and it really teaches you a lot about the Brontë sisters and the era they lived in. I enjoyed it.

Photos: Tom McGrath