Review: Unbroken (Kid Brooklyn Productions)

  
  

‘Unbroken’ unleashes new company, fresh, young talent

  
  

A scene from "Unbroken" by Alexandra Wood and directed by Evan F. Caccioppoli; presented by Kid Brooklyn Productions

  
Kid Brooklyn Productions presents
  
Unbroken
  
Written by Alexandra Wood
Directed by Evan F. Caccioppoli
at side project theatre, 1439 W. Jarvis (map)
through April 2  |  tickets: $10  |  more info

Reviewed by Paige Listerud

It was with great sadness that we caught Kid Brooklyn Production’s inaugural show the very last weekend of its extremely short run. Unbroken, a contemporary play by Alexandra Wood inspired by Arthur Schnitzler’s La Ronde, enjoyed a short but exceptional American premiere at side project theatre. We can only hope the producers will seriously consider remounting again for a longer run. Director Evan Caccioppoli displays deft handling of very mature themes with a cast of fresh and promising young actors.

A scene from "Unbroken" by Alexandra Wood and directed by Evan F. Caccioppoli; presented by Kid Brooklyn ProductionsBrian Barber (Johnno), Kate Black (Laura), Sara Jo Buffington (Amy), Julia Daubert (Zoe), Jason Nykiel (Steve) and David Henry Wrigley (David) play a round robin of characters searching for someone to meet their emotional and sexual needs. Their one-on-one sexual encounters with each other reveal secrets, longings and disappointments they keep from other partners. Vulnerability lies side-by-side with game-playing, the expressed needs and desires of each character are always up for second-guessing and Caccioppoli has finely honed his cast to build suspense from what goes unsaid as much as what is.

Every scene, every pairing is finely crafted and brimming with daring, fresh energy. If a few moments go a little rough around the edges from the young cast, those are quickly overridden by vital connections between desperate lovers. Amy finds herself alone with Johnno, who acts very much the cool and brazen rock star with her. But he shrinks to brokenhearted neediness with Laura, his adolescent sweetheart who has moved on to Steve to build a family. Laura discovers from her husband Steve that he is infertile, which cements her anxiety over creating a family, implicitly hinting at regret over not choosing Johnno after all. Steve plays along with the business sharp Zoe on their faux speed date, but she ambitiously lays snares for her boss, David, who seems more distracted by the fact that a male friend is getting married. The show subtly builds to the biggest showdown between Amy and David. Amy has detected all along David’s feelings for Joe and craves more than anything else an honest exchange between her and her husband. “Just confide in me like someone you could trust,” she demands over David’s perpetual need for denial and the catharsis released from that demand is palpably felt.

Kid Brooklyn Productions is off to a surprisingly good start. With a little more time to view their work, they could very well be judged as a theatre production company to watch out for.

  
  
Rating: ★★★
  
  

A scene from "Unbroken" by Alexandra Wood and directed by Evan F. Caccioppoli; presented by Kid Brooklyn Productions

Artists

Cast

Brian Barber, Kate Black, Sara Jo Buffington, Julia Daubert, Jason Nykiel, David Henry Wrigley

Production and Creative

Alexandra Wood (playwright); Evan F. Caccioppoli (director); Dina Marie Klahn (stage manager); Andrew Zamirowski (set/light designer); Katherine Meister (costume designer); Rachel Rizzuto (dialect coach); Brooke Johnson (asst. stage manager).

  
  

REVIEW: Escape from the Haltsburg Boys Choir (Ruckus)

     
     

To get out, you’ll need to use ‘em…or lose ‘em

     
     

Escape from the Haltsburg Boys Choir - Ruckus Theatre. Photo by Lucas Gerald

   
The Ruckus Theater presents
   
Escape from the Haltsburg Boys Choir
   
Book/Lyrics by Aaron Dean
Music/Lyrics by
Jason Rico
Directed by
Daniel Caffrey
at
Side Project Theatre, 1439 W. Jarvis (map)
through Jan 30  |  tickets: $15-$20  |  more info

Reviewed by Katy Walsh

The Emperor requests a performance by the up and coming boys choir. The royal attention spearheads strategies to keep the vocal stylings intact. What wouldn’t a choirmaster do to cash in on his established prepubescent harmonies? (Imagine Michael Jackson’s dad in 18th century Austria.) The Ruckus presents the world-premiere musical Escape from the Haltsburg Boys Choir. Originally conceived as a fable based on the Vienna Boys Choir, The Ruckus moved the setting to the fictional town of Haltsburg after a cease-and-desist letter from the VBC. The story centers around the questionable recruitment and retention practices of a boys choir. Back in the day, star performers would retain their position by being castrated. To maintain the higher cherubic quality, it was off with his balls. Motivated by the threat of castration, four boys skip choir practice to flee captivity. Escape from the Haltsburg Boys Choir promotes the tagline ‘to get out, you’ll need to use ‘em…or lose ‘em.’

Jeffrey Fauver as choir director in 'Escape from the Haltsburg Boys Choir' - Ruckus Theater. Photo by Lucas GeraldThe Ruckus is staging its world-premiere musical at Side Project Theatre.  It’s a 35 seat theatre with a 13 member cast plus a 4-piece band off-stage. The ambitious undertaking is ballsy! Playwright Aaron Dean has written a fable that chronicles the fugitives’ interactions with a witch, a dragon, a talking rock and a dancing penis. In a small venue, it’s a lot to take in. The Medieval choir torture is an intriguing horrific tale in itself. The puppet pageantry and ancillary characters could be snipped to focus on the real action, though the superfluous pieces do add fantasy elements. But instead of an orgy for the senses, it’s gets clunky, confusing and ultimately unsatisfying – a pleasurable experience is all about one solid thing probed deeper (pun intended?).

Under the direction of Daniel Caffrey, the cast works energetically to escape disaster. The quartet of runaways crawl, croon and create an exit plan. Kate Black (Johanne) leads the singers with an enthusiastic chipper. Alyse Kittner (Nils) brings the sass as a rambunctious sidekick. Liz Goodson (Arthur) anchors the foursome as the stalwart quiet one. Heather Moats (Sebastian) endears as the timid lost boy. Megan Gotz (Victors) connives as the jealous wannabe soloist. These gals don’t need balls to hit the right melody. With the talented he-shes and a tighter script, Escape from the Haltsburg Boys Choir will take flight. Snip-snip! “It’s easy as A-B-C, 1-2-3…”

  
   
Rating:
   
   

Running Time: Two hours and thirty minutes with a fifteen minute intermission

One of the choirboys in 'Escape from the Haltsburg Boys Choir' at Ruckus Theater. Timo Aker as choir director in 'Escape from the Haltsburg Boys Choir' - Ruckus Theater. Photo by Lucas Gerald

Production photography by Lucas Gerald.

 

 

  
 

Continue reading

REVIEW: Here Where It’s Safe (Stage Left Theatre)

Exposes disturbing trend of foreign surrogate mothers

 safe3

Stage Left Theatre presents:

Here Where It’s Safe

 

Written by M.E.H. Lewis
Directed by
Scott Bishop
through April 3rd
(more info)

Review by Barry Eitel

Stage Left’s most recent offering, Here Where It’s Safe, definitely fits in with their declared purpose of exploring socio-political subjects. The new play sifts through an ethical quagmire that has international implications: the rising issue of barren couples paying foreign women to have children for them. M.E.H. Lewis focuses on Indian surrogates in Here Where it’s Safe, telling a very contemporary story about an American woman’s relationship with the young Indian girl that’s carrying her baby. It’s a massively relevant tale full of current statistics, figures, and headlines, but the social topics of the play overshadow the dramatic gravitas.

safe2 This is the last show Stage Left is doing in their long time space on Sheffield; they will be moving into the Theatre Wit complex for next season. They make a grand exit with scenic designer William Anderson’s gorgeous set. His design envelopes the space, placing us in a traditional Indian world with intricate motifs in metal and wood. Scenes travel thousands of miles and take us from America to India, and the set is open enough to allow all of the scenes to happen with short transitions. Complemented by Jessica Harpenau’s lights and Elizabeth Flauto’s colorful costumes, the production forms a fascinating world.

On the whole, the performances are pretty convincing, although sometimes there seems to be a disconnect among the ensemble. Cat Dean is Abigail, a woman ravaged by her failed attempts to have a child. Dean carries the show, but can also be a bit too stoic at times, which teeters on boring an audience. Her best work is when she is in the scenes with Mouzam Makkar, who plays Beena, the 19-year old girl Abigail is paying to have her baby. Makkar has the best performance in the production, capturing the youthful brattiness of a teenager combined with the emotional maturity of a wife and mother forced to make tough choices. She is a blank slate with the ability to project and withhold intentions and motivations from her scene partners and the audience. Occasionally, though, what drives her forward is hard to read even in the intimate space. Cory Krebsbach is goofy yet lovable as Abigail’s husband and Anita Chandwaney is excellent as Dr. Uma, Beena’s “boss” at the surrogate agency. safe1 The weak link in the cast is Kate Black as Abigail super-liberal friend Jem, who doesn’t seem to have much of a point besides providing a progressive worldview on the matter and saying “breeder” a lot. Supposedly Jem helps flesh out the ethical issues, but Black comes across as detached and uncaring.

I think the cutting of a couple of scenes would strengthen the play. As it is, Lewis’ script extends itself too far, having a lot of shorter scenes. They begin to feel extraneous after awhile. The plot and themes could be consolidated; the play could kick harder. It feels like Lewis was really excited to confront her audience with an issue that gets very little facetime in the media. However, the play that wraps it could be more coherent. The text evolves around themes, instead of a script giving birth to social, political, and economic questions. The characters all have their reasons, personalities, and the plot is logical, but the work as a whole seems more concerned with putting out a message than telling a compelling story.

I was never bored by the show, nor turned off by any of the more overt political discussions, and it does shed light on a little-known yet somewhat disturbing trend. Here Where it’s Safe could just be made a lot more powerful if it didn’t tangle itself in some vague opinions.

 

Rating: ★★½

 

Continue reading