At midweek, I’m just catching my breath long enough to sit down with my program book (my second program book, after the first had an unfortunate beer accident) and start coming to terms with not being able to see everything I want to see.
What I’ve seen so far:
Don’t Frown at the Gown – I loved this new Guys in Disguise play set in a suburban bridal salon in 1962. The characters are charming, the conflicts between mother (Darrin Hagen) and bride (Trevor Schmidt) and between mother and best friend (Jason Hardwick), are timeless although the details are a horrifying reminder of the unexamined sexism of the world I was born into, and the salon owner Lady Laura Lee (Jake Tkaczyk) provides a cryptic example of serenity, empowerment, and hope for better things “in the very near future”.
Cult Cycle – A new musical set in a spin-bicycle exercise studio of course needs a soundtrack of original dance-beat music with catchy tunes (Composer Daniel Belland, check.) It needs a bitingly-clever book and lyrics touching on all the catchphrases and attitudes encountered in boutique fitness as well as a plot with enough stakes to create interest, and a little bit of cheese (writers Stephen Allred, Bethany Hughes, and Seth Gilfillan, check) . It needs a cast who can tell stories in song, sometimes while cycling at spin cadence, doing arm choreography with weights and towels, and even doing parallel-bars type gymnastics moves on a bicycle (Jaimi Reese, Mark Sinongco, Geoff Ryzuk, Nadine Veroba, Kendra Humphrey, Stephen Allred, check check check.) It is very very funny.
Red Bastard: Lie With Me – Eric Davis’s performance is a wonderful example of what can be done with bouffon, alternately alluring and appalling the audience, compelling us to confess embarrassing things, and challenging us to re-examine conventional assumptions of morality.
Bountiful – Rebecca Ann Merkley’s script about sister-wives in a contemporary polygamist settlement has a great balance of interpersonal frictions and cultural issues, with little touches that kept jolting me into realizing the characters were in some ways ordinary women of 2018 (Jameela McNeil’s sassy asides, Emma Wilmott’s “Cool”.) Laura Raboud played the senior-wife leader of the group and Kayla Gorman played an awkward naive woman who reminded me a little bit of her child character in Best Little Newfoundland Christmas Pageant. There was something especially disturbing about seeing this in sequence with Don’t Frown, with the scenes of married women trying to reassure young brides about wedding-night “responsibilities” in ways that show the audience their own unhappy memories of encounters with honeymoon sex.
Merk de Soleil – This vaudeville-esque amateur-circus revue is a very different creation from Rebecca Merkley. It has all the variety-show tropes – a big buildup, some repeated gags, a cast of odd characters, and some underappreciated helpers (Kristina Hunszinger, Josh Travnik, Andrew Brostrom). Lots of fun.
The Wilds – Classic Wonderheads production telling a tender story in an amusing way without any spoken words.
For Science! – Christine Lesiak’s new show doesn’t need spoken words either, although it makes good use of text in a slide-show and benefited from audience members who rushed to contribute when asked.
The Alien Baby Project – Impossible Mongoose always has something cool and weird. This year it’s a script from Nicholas Walker Herbert performed by Jessy Ardern and directed and designed by Corben Kushneryk. Cool and weird.
2 Queens and a Joker – Cheryl Jameson, Madelaine Knight, and Vance Avery play Mary Queen of Scots, Queen Elizabeth I, and a messenger/spy go-between. Dangerous-feeling design by Trevor Schmidt and script by Schmidt, Darrin Hagen, and Nick Green.
What I’m working on:
All Proceeds Go To: Jake Tkaczyk, Alex Dawkins, Sarah Karpyshin, and I bring you a much-needed updating of the concept of seven deadly sins, and explore them using various performance genres including neo-bouffon, original music by Alex Dawkins, movement, dance, and audience contributions. OSPAC on Gateway, three more shows.
A Golden Girls Tribute: Sofie’s Wild Ride is just what the title promises – a funny and nostalgic tribute to the characters of the TV show in some new adventures and to sitcom tropes in general (script by Amanda Leblanc, cast Brian Ault, Althea Cunningham, Nicole English, Ana Fassman, Rhonda Kosuska, and Amanda Leblanc). Every afternoon at the Billiard Club, some shows selling out.