‘MA RAINEY’-Alana Bridgewater’s breathtaking Blues Reply

Review by Judith Robinson

Countless obstacles contrive to stop Ma Rainey, the real life mother of soul, played by Alana Bridgewater, from recording her music in Soulpepper’s powerful production of August Wilson’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. In a 1927 studio in Chicago, Ma is beset with car accidents, racist cabbies, bullying police officers, equipment failures, unfaithful lovers, ambitious underlings, impatient bosses and unfair pay. (While Ma got $200 for her session, Al Jolson would have gotten $10,000.) Though Ma’s spirit is strong, she is on the edge, due to the endless barriers keeping her from getting what she deserves. Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann

   Stewart,  Griffith & Bridgewater in’ MA RAINEY’

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“PAINTING CHURCHES”, the play – not the job! Reply

Review by Danny Gaisin
About fifteen years ago, I had the opportunity to see Virginia McEwen & Vince Carlin counterpoint each other in D.L. Coburn’s ‘Gin Game’. Their chemistry, professionalism, and acting skills were obvious. These qualities are even more apparent in Tina Howe’s PAINTING CHURCHES. This 1983 Off-Broadway sit-dram, (sic) presented by ‘Act of Faith’ Productions is an intense yet delicately directed effort that made this scribe recall a succinct observation by an insightful relative who observed that ‘Growing old is not for the faint-of-heart‘. Her husband was experiencing what acclaimed poet ‘Gardner Church‘ was experiencing… the onslaught of early dementia.

Saulez making an on-stage point with Carlin & McEwen

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“Bedtime Stories”, giggles interspersed with drama Reply

Review by Terry Gaisin
Prolific (52 & counting) Canadian playwright Norm Foster’s “BEDTIME STORIES” is a challenge not only for a director, but for audiences as well, given that format and plot lines are so contrived and web-like in coherency that concentration is highly mandated.
The six vignettes are totally diverse yet intermingled via a radio broadcast and by familial relationships. Personas that we meet prove to be someone mentioned, referred to or a character seen in a previous sketch. Foster does not telegraph these contrivances; thus the needed engrossment in order for the viewer to stay cognizant.

The BLT cast of “BEDTIME STORIES”

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“Little shop of (Hilarious) Horrors”; by Burloak. Reply

Review by Danny Gaisin

The ridiculous concept behind the 1960 B-movie and subsequent off-Broadway presentations led to a big-budget film 25 years later directed by Frank Oz of Muppet & Sesame Street fame. A voracious Venus Flytrap; an amateur botanist; a failing flower retailer located in the slums; and a terrific trio of back-up singers provide all the ingredients for an evening of mirthfulness and entertainment…but only if done as professionally as possible. BurlOak Theatre group and director Mike Ranieri have staged something faultless. Attending a final dress rehearsal meant that this scribe was accorded the opportunity to observe the stage manager’s (Greg Stanton) last chance for his ‘technical tweaking’.

The cast of BurlOak’s “Little Shop of Horrors”

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“(Girl)-CRAZY FOR YOU”; another Sheridan ace Reply

Review by Danny Gaisin
The Gershwin brothers wrote a rather short-lived musical in 1930 titled GIRL CRAZY. Six decades later it had an overhaul (sort of like any Danielle Steele book) with the names changed, and a plot modification. The new version -”CRAZY FOR YOU” and Sheridan’s theatre faculty has staged a super interpretation directed & choreographed by Julie Tomaino.
Seems every’ Old fart’ reaches a point where he remembers trivia from way-too-far back;  this scribe recalls two anecdotes learned first-hand about the original iteration. At a serendipitous meeting with Ethel Merman, I learned that Girl Crazy was her first major Broadway show. 

The CRAZY for YOU cast deciding the future of ‘Deadrock’

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“The Ghost in the Meadow”, – spooky fun Reply

Review by Danny Gaisin

A creepy old house in upper New York State; a constant storm with power outages; church bells ringing the witching hour; and naturally – doors that open & close by themselves…all the ingredients for a scary couple of onstage hours. The Peninsula Players present this Joe Simonelli ‘dramady’ (sic) with the obvious goal of eliciting fright & comedic moments in equal parts. Directed by Ray Hunt, the four characters represent stereotypes and their responses to the supernatural. There is a cynic, one cast-member is the logician, another is gullible, and for tension relief – one is incredulous.    Note: read my final paragraph .

l-r   Munroe; Ingram; Blain & Pleydon. The apparition is Briana Claus

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