“Broke-ology” – Black Theatre Troupe

Theater Review – February 20, 2017

DISAPPOINTING STAGING AND WEAK ACTING MAR “BROKE-OLOGY”

“BROKE-OLOGY”
Black Theatre Troupe, Helen K. Mason Performing Arts Center
Phoenix, AZ

After years of mediocre theater, a new home stimulated Black Theatre Troupe to improve some of its productions.  But not everything BTT does is artfully produced as is the case with “Broke-ology,” the current play.

On the surface, “Broke-ology,” defined in the show’s press release as “being broke and staying alive despite your brokenness,” sounds fascinating.  The probing 2009 Nathan Louis Jackson play debuted at Lincoln Center but Anthony Runfola’s meandering local staging never catches fire.  The ploddingly directed production drags … Continue Reading

“La Esquinita, USA” – Arizona Theatre Company

Theater Review – February 13, 2017

ATC’S “LA ESQUINITA, USA” IS TIMELY PLAY ABOUT CONTEMPORARY GHETTO LIFE

“LA ESQUINITA, USA”
Arizona Theatre Company, Herberger Theater Center
Phoenix, AZ

Ruben C. Gonzalez’ “La Esquinita, USA,” produced locally by Arizona Theatre Company, is an amazingly timely play considering the pronouncements we hear daily from our commander-in-chief.  The play deals with ten distinctive ghetto characters as they grapple daily with the often unfair world they live in.  It’s powerful theater.

A single actor portrays everyone in a tour-de-force performance that demands every bit of Ruben C. Gonzalez’ marvelous creative skills as he crafts these people who feel the existence they … Continue Reading

“Matilda” – ASU Gammage

Theater Review – February 9, 2017

IS LONDON MUSICAL “MATILDA” REALLY A SUCCESS?

“MATILDA”
Broadway Across America – Arizona, ASU Gammage
Tempe, AZ

“Matilda,” a London and Broadway family musical, is based on the well-known British children’s story about the brilliant girl ignored and mistreated by her parents.  With her vivid imagination, Matilda creates her own idolized world to live in.  The show premiered at Stratford-upon-Avon in 2010 followed the next year by the still running West End production.  I saw it in London with a theater full of kids.  Most of the audience loved the show while adults without children wondered why “Matilda” was … Continue Reading

“Madama Butterfly” – Arizona Opera

Theater Review – February 6, 2017

ARIZONA OPERA STAGES AN INSPIRED “MADAMA BUTTERFLY”

“MADAMA BUTTERFLY”
Arizona Opera, Symphony Hall
Phoenix, AZ

Years ago in San Francisco, I attended my first professional opera featuring the brilliant soprano Leontyne Price in a beautiful staging of Puccini’s popular masterpiece “Madama Butterfly.”  What a wonderful opera to open a child to the genre.  When I arrived in Phoenix in 1979, my first exposure to Arizona Opera was a dreadful production of the same masterpiece in a shoddy looking and very tired staging that featured a fading opera diva.  I got the giggles early on and couldn’t stop snickering through … Continue Reading

“Baskerville – A Sherlock Holmes Mystery” – Phoenix Theatre

Theater Review – January 30, 2017

PHOENIX THEATRE’S SOLID “BASKERVILLE” STAGING IS A THRILLER GONE AWRY

“BASKERVILLE – SHERLOCK HOLMES MYSTERY”
Phoenix Theatre, Mainstage Theatre
Phoenix, AZ

“Baskerville – A Sherlock Holmes Mystery,” is playwright Ken Ludwig’s 2015 murder mystery adaptation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s “The Hound of the Baskervilles” but Ludwig’s play, acclaimed in earlier productions at Washington’s Arena Stage and New Jersey’s McCarter Theatre Center, is a thriller gone awry.

It isn’t Phoenix Theatre’s production that’s at fault.  It seems to be the bland, boring, and totally uninteresting plot that plods along tediously.  Primarily the fault of the playwright’s amazingly dull-witted adaptation, “Baskerville” … Continue Reading

“The Cat in the Hat” – Childsplay

Theater Review – January 23, 2017

MAGIC AND VIVID “THE CAT IN THE HAT” IS REVIVED BY CHILDSPLAY

“THE CAT IN THE HAT”
Childsplay, Tempe Center for the Arts
Tempe, AZ

Unlike many Childsplay productions, the company’s third revival of Dr. Seuss’ “The Cat in the Hat” is aimed almost exclusively for the youngest theatergoers as it traces the familiar story in a vivid production.  At Saturday afternoon’s press opening, kids were focused rapturously on the stage as the 45 minute show unfolded with a touch of magic and vivid imagination in the staging and in stimulating the young audience’s minds.

Sitting next to me was … Continue Reading

“3 No Trump” – Theater Works

Theater Review – January 16, 2017

WORLD PREMIERE LOCAL PLAY IS AN INNOCUOUS COMEDY ABOUT BRIDGE PLAYERS

“3 NO TRUMP”
Theater Works, Peoria Center for the Performing Arts
Peoria, AZ

Cathy Dresbach’s world premiere comedy at Theater Works, “3 No Trump,” is not about our President-elect.  The show has a few disguised and indirect political remarks but actually relieves audiences of the constantly discussed subject for a few amusing hours.

Set in Phoenix, “3 No Trump” is an innocuous comedy about five women who play bridge every two weeks from 1984 to 2003.  It is based on a group that included the playwright’s mother.  It isn’t … Continue Reading

“Fiddler on the Roof” – Arizona Theatre Company

Theater Review – January 9, 2017

SUPERB “FIDDLER ON THE ROOF ” AT ARIZONA THEATRE COMPANY

“FIDDLER ON THE ROOF”

Arizona Theatre Company, Herberger Theater Center

Phoenix, AZ

As the curtain rises on Arizona Theatre Company’s superb “Fiddler on the Roof,” the residents of Anatevka, a small 1905 Russian community, chant “Tradition,” proclaiming something critical to these people as the Jewish settlement is stripped of familiar things that make this their home.  Displacing religious mainstays, the imposed choices aren’t things the town believes.  So the staid community, never full of adventurers, decides to move around the world hoping to retain the things they cherish.

The 1964 … Continue Reading

“Black Nativity” – Black Theatre Troupe

ENTERTAINING AND EDUCATIONAL “BLACK NATIVITY” OPENS AT BTT

“BLACK NATIVITY”
Black Theatre Troupe, Helen K. Mason Performing Arts Center
Phoenix, AZ

A holiday surprise comes from the Black Theatre Troupe’s entertaining but richly enlightening “Black Nativity.”  “Black Nativity” looks at the way American Blacks interpret Christ’s birth.  They developed their unique observations that utilize traditional themes and music but also provide distinctive soulful tunes that tweaks in their story.

“Black Nativity’s” first act looks at the conventional Christmas story interpreted with straightforward earnestness as many traditional carols are presented with different sounds coming from dynamic re-orchestrations.

“Black Nativity’s” second act is a more culturally exclusive telling … Continue Reading

“Twist Your Dickens” – Phoenix Theatre

PHOENIX THEATRE’S “TWIST YOUR DICKENS” SLAMS “CHRISTMAS CAROL”

“TWIST YOUR DICKENS”
Hormel Theatre, Phoenix Theatre
Phoenix, AZ

For years, I reviewed Actors Theatre’s annual staging of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.”  While always well acted, beautifully designed, and creatively staged by the company’s producing artistic director Matthew Wiener, seeing the same show year-after-year became a bit of a bore.  Now that Actors Theatre has sadly closed, their holiday show has disappeared until Phoenix Theatre decided to turn a sly eye to the immortal tale and produce Chicago’s Second City developed humorous slam, “Twist Your Dickens.”

The hysterical jab at the story includes the familiar characters … Continue Reading