INTERVIEW: Sweet Bird of Youth – now extended to Jan 16!

        
        

Sex and Power in Artistic Home’s ‘Sweet Bird of Youth’

 

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Just how shocking was Tennessee William’s Sweet Bird of Youth to the average American in 1959? It certainly titillated New York audiences, as well as secured 3 Tony awards and an adaptation to the screen in 1962, with leads Paul Newman and Geraldine Page from the original production. The movie itself offers only expurgated Williams—no explicit mention of racism, syphilis, or castration. Thank goodness, The Artistic Home’s production recalls us to the play’s lusty roots and its lyrical interrogation of the psychology of desperation that leads to corruption (see our review here ★★★½.)

Sweet Bird of Youth may be William’s most political drama, slamming Southern racism and the South’s campaigns against desegregation during this era. Plus, he shows no end of contempt toward the moralizing hypocrisy that keeps corruption in place and blights all kinds of youthful promise. But we wanted to look at the sexual politics inherent in the text and the chanceprincessdiagonal_thumbunderlying constructions of youth, beauty, age, money and fame that mold the relationship between gigolo Chance Wayne (Josh Odor) and his aging actress sugar-momma, Alexandra del Lago (Kathy Scambiatterra). Who’s using whom, who really has the upper hand, and is their any hope for human interaction between these two demoralized sexual partners?

One warning: I commit a little faux pas at the end of the video. Going into the interview, I believed that Director Dale Calandra and actor Frank Nall, who plays Boss Finley, would be joining us for a second 15-minute segment. But Dale was knocked out by a fierce fever and Frank couldn’t get away from his construction job. Something about being stuck on a scaffold three stories up—and in some nasty, windy weather. We hope both are okay. Get well, Dale!

In the interview I talk with the Sweet Bird leads – Kathy Scambiattera (sugar-momma Alexandra de Lago) and Josh Odor (gigolo Chance Wayne).  Enjoy!!

 

        
        

REVIEW: The Dining Room (Appetite Theatre)

     
     

Shared setting not enough to unify disconnected scenes

      
     

The Dining Room 3

   
 Appetite Theatre Company presents
   
The Dining Room
   
Written by A. R. Gurney
Directed by
Basia Kapolka
at
Charnel House, 3421 W. Fullerton (map)
through Nov. 20  |  tickets: $15  |  more info

Reviewed by Oliver Sava

Their dining room’s a place where children celebrate birthdays, wives work on dissertations, and matrons fuss over fingerbowls. Through a series of short vignettes, A. R. Gurney’s The Dining Room chronicles generations of WASP history through social interactions in the dining room, creating a portrait of privileged America over the course of the 20th-century. Six actors play a large cast of characters, and are required to change age, status, and dialect depending on the scene – yet bizarre creative choices detract from the actual events on stage.

From the very start of the show it’s unclear what tone director Basia Kapolka is trying to capture. A creepy whispering voice asks patrons to turn off their cellular phones before the show, and the whispering continues throughout the production, repeating choice lines from the preceding scenes. When it becomes evident that there is no  horror aspect to the show, this becomes extremely distracting, and diminishes the energy at the end of scenes. The Dining Room 4Because of the disconnected nature of the play, the emotional flow from scene to scene is essential to keeping the show interesting, and the whispering breaks that momentum.

Another strange choice is to have the entire cast costumed in early 1900’s period wear, which causes confusion when the scenes are set in more contemporary times. When there are no visual clues as to when a scene is set, it would be extremely helpful if the clothes could reflect the shifts in some way. Instead, the actors have to deal with restrictive layers of clothing and hairstyles that oftentimes trump the comedy of the actual play. Why wig an actress when you don’t have to? And the turn of the century Snooki poof should be a no-no anytime, anyplace.

Appetite Theatre’s The Dining Room is a production in need of serious polish. The actors still need to get more comfortable in their environment if they are going to convincingly portray people that have used that dining room for years. In general, the energy of the production could be much higher, which would help bring out the chemistry between the romantic pairs while heightening the dramatic moments. If more time was spent on building actual relationships instead of odd creative decisions, The Dining Room could be a much different place.

  
  
Rating: ★★
   
   

Ensemble

The Dining Room-logoFEATURING: Jesse Aukeman, Mark Dodge, Kelly Helgeson, Betty Lorkowski, Eric Prahl & Kelly Yacono.

Design Team

LIGHTING: Kyle Anderson; SOUND: Mark Penzien; COSTUMES: Darcy Elora Hofer; STAGE MANAGEMENT: Amber Dettmers.