Come to the Theater by Brenda Repland
Adnan Khalil
Publish Date: 19 Apr 2017

Alhawadeth Media


 

C.S. Lewis on Stage

 

 Review by Brenda Repland

 

In this one-man show, Max McLean portrays C.S. Lewis as he relates to the audience the history of his “giving in” (conversion) to theism.  (The Christianity part came later.)

 

From an excellent stage setting (Kelly James Tighe, Scenic Design) of Lewis’s study at Magdalen College, Oxford, and broadcast on a changing background, we see the people and places which were pertinent to his conversion.

 

He explains the sometimes tortuous route that gradually led him to turn from atheism.  His extensive reading had its effect, “a young man who wants to remain an atheist cannot be too careful with hyis reading.”  However, he also confesses that even before that, he had always believed “we were made for a more wonderful place.” 

 

Mr. McLean is very plausible Lewis.  His observations make for excellent food for thought which will no doubt lead the audience to seek out more of Lewis’s works.

 

 

Echoes and Angel

               Review by Brenda Repland                     

 

Appearing now as part of the Brits Off Broadway Festival are two one-act plays – Echoes and Angel.  Written by Henry Naylor and Directed by Emma Butler (Echoes) and Michael Cabot (Angel).  Presented on a bare stage, these very timely pieces tell the stories of women devastated by war who triumph on their own terms. 

 

Angel, starring Avital Lvova, is a solo performance based on the modern legend of a female sniper “the Angel of Kobani,” who held ISIS off for over a year in war-torn Syria.  She had abandoned her law studies to fight for her country.

 

Even more powerful in its depiction of the plight of women in extreme situations is Echoes.  Rachel Smyth portrays a Victorian woman determined to pursue her career in a time of English occupation of India.  Serena Manteghi portrays a current-day Islamist schoolgirl.  Both women are committed to imposing their values on the people of their adopted countries (India, Syria.)

 

As they take turns relating their stories, they also give voice to the men who controlled them.  The counterbalance of cool, restrained Tillie and fiery, dramatic Samira is particularly effective in conveying their histories.   Their message of subjugation is horrifying and their performances tremendously moving.   

 

 

    Angry Young Man

   Review by Brenda Repland

 

Opening this week at Urban Stages, “Angry Young Man,” ostensibly addresses the plight of (mostly educated) refugees in London.  Four actors, dressed identically in brown suits, switch characters – both male and female – continuously with varying accents. 

 

The slapstick humor and incessant noise-making (amplified to an excruciating degree) would seem to be geared toward the toddler set.  Because of this switching, it is effectively impossible to keep track of which character is speaking at any given time.  The noise making conveys an atmosphere akin to a cartoon.  At one point when one of the actors knocked the main noise-maker off his stool, it took great strength to refrain from cheering. 

 

Given our current political trends, it is a shame that this flippant portrayal of critical issues chooses to revert to stereotype and exacerbate rather than heal.  Ultimately, I am at a loss to explain the point of the play.  The plot is completely obliterated in the muddle of uncomfortable skits. 

  

       

I’ve Got Your Number

     Review by Brenda Repland

 

In this Women’s History Month, the Lyrics & Lyricists series of The American Songbook, presented an all-female cast to celebrate the music of Dorothy Fields and many other women who composed music and lyrics.

 

The evening was hosted by Deborah Grace Winer, artistic director and writer.  Her introductions placed the songs in the context of their time with history about their creators.

 

John Oddo, music director, arranger & piano, and his orchestra provided the accompaniment.

The piano, bass and sax were outstanding in “On the Sunny Side of the Street,” sung by Emily Skiller.

 

Bassist Jay Leonhart joined Nancy Opel, Margo Seibert and Emily for a jazzy rendition of “Who’s Afraid of the Big, Bad Wolf?”  Ms. Winer pointed out that – though “God Bless the Child” was Billie Holiday’s theme song, few knew that she had written it.  Kenita Miller gave a stirring presentation.

 

With a nod to the often humorous lyrics of Betty Comden, Nancy Opel sang “If You Hadn’t – But You Did.”  Margo Seibert, in a poignant duet with the saxophone, sang “The Party’s Over.”

 

Marilyn Maye, an audience favorite, sang “Fever,” the Peggy Lee hit.

 

The highlight of the evening was just about anything Kenita Miller sang.  In “I’ve Got Your Number,” she slid into some marvelous scat.  What a treat!

 

 

Next in the series will be May 6-8 with Songbook Classics by Unsung Lyricists. 

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