I am an author, actor, and attorney living and loving in the DFW (metroplex) area. I love books, theatre, movies, and legalese. I've been in plays, short-films, feature films and when I am not working on my debut novel "Black Scorpion Trilogy Book 1: The Veil", I enjoy reviewing plays for The Column Online and representing the down-trodden in legal matters. Thanks for stopping by. If I can help you in anyway, just let me know. I'm your paraclete. -E-

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Pot calling the Kettle Black...

It's been a while since I've posted anything...mostly theater reviews.  However, I feel led to give my opinion on a certain matter.  I've been doing a lot of research lately on mortgage backed securities and the current real estate/foreclosure problems America has been dealing with.  If you are unaware of the problem you should probably get educated pretty quick.  Anyway, thanks to people like Neil Garfield, Matthew Weidner and Dave Krieger just to mention a few, I have been sufficiently disturbed on the subject of MBS's....disturbed in a good way.  It's been an eye opening adventure.  Anyway, just today I was reading Dave Krieger's book "Clouded Titles" and it mentioned how bank attorneys and bank executives view quiet title actions against them.  Basically the argument goes that the homeowner is just looking for a house "free and clear".  This is the part that disturbed me.  Isn't this exactly what the pretender lender is looking for?  Essentially if the lender does not have the note or the mortgage or have the right to foreclose the property then are THEY not merely looking to get the house "free and clear"?  So the bank, who does not own the property, attempts to foreclose the property in a bid to return the real property back to the bank...that doesn't own the note?  It seems to me that in this instance the homeowner has a greater interest in the property than a bank with a forged assignment or fraudulent conveyance.  Additionally, the banks were upset that a homeowner would get their house "free and clear" on a technicality.  Didn't the bank create the "technicality" that led to the house being "free and clear" to the homeowner?  And if an error did occur shouldn't the loss be bore by the party capable of bearing that burden?  Wouldn't a bank that has billions of assets AND accepted trillions in bailouts be a better candidate than John Q. Public, owner of one $150,000 house?  I think the fact that the banks consider not having a proper note or proper mortgage as a "technicality" goes a long way to revealing their mindset.  The single most important asset in the life of an american citizen...and a missing note or fraudulent mortgage....is.....a.....TECHNICALITY?  


Friday, November 11, 2011

No S*x Please, We're British Review

John Garcia's THE COLUMN-Wednesday November 9, 2011





Sten-Erik Armitage
Clyde Berry
Richard Blake
Mary Clark
Bonnie K. Daman
David Hanna
Lyle Huchton
Chris Jackson
Grant James
Kristin Jones
Shelley Kaehr
Laurie Lynn Lindemeier
Danny Macchietto
Eric A. Maskell
Ashlea Palladino
Christopher Soden
Mark-Brian Sonna
Laura L. Watson



NO S*X PLEASE, WE'RE BRITISH by Anthony Marriott and Alistair Foot
ICT Mainstage

Director – Scott Nixon
Producers – Evelyn G. Hall, David Smith
Scenic Design – Ellen Mizener
Lighting Design – Lisa Miller
Properties – Fernando Lara
Costume Design – Ashlie Kirkpatrick
Sound Design – Richard Frohlich
Stage Manager – Lois Bair


Peter Hunter – Charles Maxham
Frances Hunter – Angela Horn
Brian Runnicles – Nick Haley
Eleanor Hunter – Fritz Ketchum
Leslie Bromhead – Chuck E. Moore
Superintendent Paul – John Reynolds
B.R.S. Delivery Man – Ray Adams
Delivery Man #2 – Nathan Bredfeldt
Mr. Needham – M. Shane Hurst
Susan – Megan Ruth Nieves
Barbara – Vandi Clark

Reviewed performance on Saturday, November 5, 2011

Reviewed by Eric A. Maskell, Associate Theater Critic
for John Garcia's THE COLUMN

___________________NO S*X PLEASE, WE'RE BRITISH________________

Reviewed by Eric A. Maskell, Associate Theater Critic
for John Garcia's THE COLUMN

Growing up, I was a big fan of British comedies on PBS; I watched them all the time. Fawlty Towers, Monty Python, The Vicar of Dibley, Red Dwarf, the list goes on. New shows came out on a regular basis. The sad part was they would make a joke about some British royalty and I wouldn't get it. The good part was that the majority of the situations and jokes transcended cultures. No S*x Please, We're British, performed by the ICT Mainstage (ICT), did just that - transcended British culture. I could relate to No S*x Please, We're British. In fact, anyone that has ever tried to hide something unpleasant only to have it blow up in their face, could relate to No S*x Please, We're British.

The play starts with newlyweds Peter and Frances Hunter returning from their honeymoon to start their life together. Peter works as an assistant bank manager, and the happy couple is allowed the benefit of an apartment over the bank. The laughs begin when Frances innocently orders a home business kit from the Scandinavian Import Company. In an attempt to make money for the family and save for a home of their own, Frances orders what she believes to be Scandinavian glassware; what arrives is a box full of po*nography.

Peter could lose his job if the bank was to find out, so the small town, conservative couple is hard pressed to "dispose" of the pornography in the most quiet and unobtrusive way possible. As in most comedies, they don't make it. To make matters worse, Peter's mother Eleanor arrives to stay for a few days; the regional bank director Mr. Bromhead comes for a visit; and they have an impending inspection from Mr. Needham, the bank's inspector general within the next few days. As the comedy ensues, the happy couple must deal with other deliveries of even more illicit po*nography, while also trying to retrieve a bank check mistakenly sent to the company.

The original No S*x Please premiered in 1971, and ICT did a superb job of bringing the feel of the `70s to life with the set design. From the paint on the walls to the colors of the throw pillows on the couch the set resembled a 1970's apartment in England. The set even had a kitchen counter with a pull down wall that separated the kitchen from the living room. The wall took on a life of its own as it decapitated flowers for laughs.

The costumes were vintage and well played out. One of the more memorable pieces would be the mink stole worn by Eleanor Hunter on her evening out with Mr. Bromhead. In the 70's, mink coats were more highly prized than in today's market, and the piece added to the overall nature of the character.

The cast did a wonderful job. Charles Maxham and Angela Horn had wonderful chemistry as Peter and Frances Hunter. They were believable as a couple, and their onstage relationship was warm and passionate. Fritz Ketchum and Chuck E. Moore also had good chemistry as Eleanor Hunter and Leslie Bromhead. We could feel the tension and the interest as the characters interacted.

Maxham gave a fine performance as Peter Hunter. Maxham's gradual decline and dishevelment was apparent in both his physical and emotional mannerisms. As the days wore on, and the problems continued to mount despite his best efforts, Hunter became closer to frazzled and farther from a proper English gentleman.

Nick Haley was phenomenal as Brian Runnicles. If there was one person that carried the play's comedic tone it would be Haley in the role of Runnicles -with a name like Runnicles you would have to expect quirkiness. From start to finish Haley gave an outstanding performance. His serious, deadpan reactions to some of the problems he faced were priceless. Not only was his acting well done, but his reaction time to events and situations was above par. Runnicles ran the gamut from faithful employee and family friend to being the most wanted man in Royal Windsor, and Haley took every step in stride with finesse.

Megan Ruth Nieves did an incredible job as Susan, one of the Scandinavian Import Companies prostitutes. The acting was well done but what impressed me most was the Cockney accent with which Nieves worked the character. The voice, inflection and accent seemed perfectly suited for a London prostitute.

I was a bit disappointed with the performance of Fritz Ketchum as Eleanor Hunter. Ketchum seemed unsure what to do with her hands, and acted as though she was channeling Eunice "Lovey" Howell from Gilligan's Island. I was impressed with the way she interacted with Moore but when she was interacting with other characters it seemed a bit strained. Most of the time in a farcical comedy outlandish behavior is the norm but here it felt forced and awkward.

The end could have used a little pep. The beginning of the play started slow but as things fell into place, or out of place as the case may be, the action built towards a crescendo. However when the end came, what should have been panicked slamming of doors and near misses ended up being a slow walk on stage of tired characters.

All in all No S*x Please, We're British was an inspired homage to British comedy. ICT put on a wonderful play and transported the audience back to 1970's England. The laughs were there. The characters were there. You should be there too.

Reviewed by Eric A. Maskell, Associate Theater Critic
for John Garcia's THE COLUMN


ICT Mainstage Productions

Dupree Theater, Irving Arts Center, 3333 N. MacArthur Blvd.
Irving, TX 75062

Plays through November 19th

Thursdays - Saturdays at 8:00 pm, and Sundays at 2:30 pm.

Friday, Saturday, and Sunday: $21 Adults, $19 Seniors/Students
Thursday: $18 Adults, $16 Seniors/Students

For tickets and information please call 972-252-2787
or go to www.irvingtheatre.org.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Where does that leave the HOA?

I was reviewing some information and came acros some interesting issues regarding liens and HOAs.  It seems that when the builder is working the house and before the home is acutally sold the HOA establishes its lien.  So essentially they have a superior lien to the first mortgagor.  However, because of the subordination clause the first lien mortgagor takes a superior lien position to the HOA.  Obviously, a bank wouldn't want to fund a mortgage for thousands of dollars knowing it had a subordinate lien to the HOA.  Now, the homeowner can't pay the bills so the first lien creditor files a foreclosure.  The foreclosure action wipes out all subordinate liens.  (Not taxes because taxes are superior liens to EVERYBODY)  So the first lien creditor wipes out the HOA and the second mortgage creditor (if there is one).  The first lien creditor now decides to sell off the property.  They sell the property and now the property, within the HOA neighborhood, is free of an HOA lien.  Unless the potential homeowner that is buying the foreclosed property is willing to subjugate themselves to the HOA voluntarily (which would be nutty)...where does that leave the HOA?

If I am way off base on this I would love to hear it....please post comments or concerns.


Thursday, September 29, 2011

Theater Review - VIGIL


VIGIL by Morris Panych
Amphibian Stage Productions

Director – Andrew Volkoff
Production Stage Manager – Sondra Speer
Scenic Designer – Sean Urbantke
Costume Designer – Susan Austin
Lighting Designers – Chad R. Jung and Aaron Lentz
Sound Designer – David Lanza
Technical Director – Jennye James
Assistant TD/Special Effects – Eric Briggs
Properties Designers – Jennye James and Judy Norman
Light Board Operator – Natalie Chapa
Sound Board Operator – Dakota Crossin
Production Intern – Kate Kowalski

Grace – Elly Lindsay
Kemp – Jonathan Fielding

Reviewed performance on Friday, September 23rd, 2011

Reviewed by Eric A. Maskell, Associate Theater Critic
for John Garcia's THE COLUMN


Reviewed by Eric A. Maskell, Associate Theater Critic
for John Garcia's THE COLUMN

One wouldn't believe that a play centered on a nephew's death vigil for his aunt would inspire laughter but that is exactly what was served up during Amphibian Stage Production's presentation of this Morris Panych play. "VIGIL" was a darkly comedic satire on loneliness that bordered the absurd.

The play begins as Kemp; a quirky, brooding misanthrope arrives at his aunt's house after receiving a letter that she is gravely ill. Kemp, having only the desire for his aunt's belongings post mortem, decides to impatiently wait for the passing of his aunt. The audience is treated to a one-sided diatribe about the ills of society, the problems with humanity, in addition to morbid jokes being directed at his aunt regarding her funeral.

As the months roll on, Kemp regales the audience with memories of his past as an effeminate child growing up with an abusive mother, and a manic depressive, failed magician of a father while angrily demanding an explanation from his aunt as to why she never rescued him. His aunt quietly and demurely smiles at him from her bed, safely tucked behind clenched bed sheets and blankets. Kemp's sole desire is for his aunt to pass with as little effort on his part as possible. Much to his chagrin, the aunt appears to be getting better. At one point Kemp relays his feelings. "I'm concerned about your health these past few days", he says. "It seems to be improving". As time wears on, Kemp unburdens his soul and makes a lasting connection.

The entirety of the play took place in Grace's bedroom. The set design by Sean Urbantke was awe inspiring. It looked as if the he ripped a dilapidated bedroom out of an old house and placed it in the theater. The walls had drywall missing that revealed the underlying boards. The windows had glass with curtains drawn across it. The look and feel was phenomenal. The props in the bedroom added to the overall feel of the set. Antique fans, old vinyl records, and worn out furniture invoked the feeling of an unkempt household. The bedroom had working doors and windows, and the set designers spared no detail. There were even props behind the hallway door to make it looked lived in.

Additionally, there were special effects behind the window to portray the passage of time. Leaves fell. Snow fell. The sounds of children playing outside could be heard from outside the window. It was as if the set was alive.

The lighting design by Chad R. Jung and Aaron Lentz was also impressive. During Act I the lights blacked out intentionally after every morbid barb Kemp launched at Grace. The jarring way in which the lights blacked out set the mood perfectly. However, as the play progressed the lighting became more and more specific and detailed, finally culminating in Act II on Grace's bed. The design and flawless execution added to the play's appeal.

The costuming was a little weak. I could understand Grace's minimal attire as she spent the entire play in bed, but Kemp's lack of wardrobe was a little distracting. Kemp, aside from the brief time he wore his aunt's robe, basically spent the entire year in the same clothes.

This play is essentially the interaction between two people - Kemp, played by Jonathan Fielding, and Grace, played by Elly Lindsay.

Fielding did a superb job portraying the effeminate, asexual Kemp. The morbid jokes were delivered with expert timing, and the ranting monologues were very emotionally driven. There were a few times Kemp even broke down in tears, which Fielding did a remarkable job conveying. Fielding masterfully portrayed a far away stare as he looked wistfully out the window, recounting Kemp's childhood. At times, I could feel the torment and raw emotion that Kemp must have lived through.

I think Elly Lindsay, as Grace, had by far the more difficult role in this performance. With any character, a lot can be discovered in the text of the dialogue. The devil is in the details so to speak. Often times we can surmise someone's mood by what they say or how they say it. In this instance though, Grace had very few lines. The majority of the play was dominated by the monologues and rantings of Kemp. Lindsay's performance was a direct reaction to Fielding's. Lindsay portrayed Grace with alarming clarity and expression. I found myself trying to watch Lindsay's face as Fielding delivered his lines. The expressions were priceless - shock, disbelief, and sometimes even compassion during the more emotionally charged rants of Kemp. Lindsay performed them well.

Through laughter and tears, VIGIL by Amphibian Stage Productions gives you a peak into the complex world of loneliness and acceptance. It's a roller-coaster of emotion from start to finish with a surprising yet extremely satisfying end.

Reviewed by Eric A. Maskell, Associate Theater Critic
for John Garcia's THE COLUMN


Amphibian Stage Productions
The Hardy and Betty Sanders Theater
Fort Worth Community Arts Center, 1300 Gendy Street
Fort Worth, TX 76107
Through October 2nd, 2011

Wednesdays at 7:30pm, Thursdays, Fridays & Saturdays at 8:00pm
Sundays at 2:00pm

Ticket prices are $25 for adults, $20 for students and $15
for seniors. Group Discounts are $5 off per ticket for groups
of 6+. For tickets and information please call 817-923-3012
or go to www.amphibianproductions.org.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Review - Over the River and Through the Woods


Artisan Center Theater

Producer – Dee Ann Blair
Director – Jason Leyva
Stage Manager – Branson White
Assistant Stage Manager – Zachary Leyva
Costumes – Nita & Jennifer Cadenhead
Props – Tammie Phillips
Set Design – Dennis Canright, Jason Leyva


Frank - Phil Nixon
Nick - Michael Speck
Aida - Susan Spangler
Caitlin - Tiffany Long
Nunzio - Burl Proctor
Emma - Barrie Alguire

Reviewed performance on Friday, September 9th, 2011

Reviewed by Eric A. Maskell, Associate Theater Critic
for John Garcia's THE COLUMN

_____________OVER THE RIVER AND THROUGH THE WOODS_____________

Reviewed by Eric A. Maskell, Associate Theater Critic
for John Garcia's THE COLUMN

Family. Or more importantly, TENGO FAMILIA (Keep the family), is what Artisan Center Theater offers up with OVER THE RIVER AND THROUGH THE WOODS. A large helping of family with a heaping side of laughter. The warmth with which the Artisan Center Theater entertains is always inspiring. The genuine way they care about their patrons and their performances tends to shine through all their shows. This show in particular has a family warmth that you can feel as you walk into the theater.

The play, written by Joe DiPietro, follows the life of Nick as he interacts with his four grandparents, Frank, Aida, Nunzio and Emma. The majority of the action takes place in Frank and Aida's house. The story opens with Nick arriving for Sunday dinner. After his parents move to Florida and his sister marries and moves to California, Nick takes on the responsibility of caring for his grandparents, or so he thought. His grandparents, headstrong and outspoken, are hard working Italian immigrants with their own ideas of how the world, and more specifically the family should run. Over the years Nick has made it a point to attend weekly dinner with his grandparents, sometimes begrudgingly. On this particular evening Nick has some very important news.

He has received a promotion and intends to move to Seattle, Washington. "Not the close Washington" as Nunzio points out. The grandparents, not willing to let Nick leave without a fight, immediately hatch a plan to give Nick "something" to stick around for. That something is in the form of Caitlin O'Hare, a tall, attractive blonde nurse that Emma met in the produce aisle at the local grocery store. The laughs ensue as Nick tries to shield his new "friend" from his grandparents matchmaking attempts. The play is charged with emotional monologues and quick comical banter that results in a roller coaster ride of laughs and cries.

The setting was that of the Gianelli home in Hoboken, New Jersey. The program boasted an Italian flag on the cover. If Artisan was attempting to portray an Italian family then I was greatly disappointed. The accents were not Italian, the mannerisms were not Italian, and the feeling I got was not Italian. However, what Artisan did accomplish was broadening the aspect of the play to encompass ALL families. This wasn't a play about Tengo Familia. This was a play about all families.

Aside from the Italian flag on the program cover and the notes about the play being about Italian immigrants, I never once got the impression that it was limited in scope. Yes, Aida force fed the family at every given turn but what grandmother doesn't? What I saw was a play about family. Parents who loved their children enough to send them to a foreign country at the age of fourteen for a better life. Grandparents who were willing to sacrifice their lives and their dreams so their children and grandchildren could reach further and higher than they thought possible. Well done.

The set design was minimalist in nature but added greatly to the ambiance. The set was essentially the living room/dining room of Frank and Aida Gianelli. The couch and chairs were covered in doilies and blankets while the table was covered in dishes, poised and ready for the next meal to grace its plane. The southwest exit went into where I imagine was a fully functioning and very active kitchen, since the food seemed to always come out steaming. The southeast exit deposited the actors onto what was essentially the front porch. The set elicited a come hither warmth from the moment we walked into the theater. The detail extended all the way down to the faux wood floors.

I also applauded the Artisan's use of real food, even though I left the theater hungrier than I arrived. Sometimes theaters fore go certain props due to difficulty in preparation or just a simple lack of feasibility in creation. Actors often times have to pantomime the most basic functions such as eating and drinking which can lead to odd exaggerated gestures. In this instance, the Artisan used real steaming food. The actors were free to eat, talk, laugh and perform as if at a real dinner table. It was charming and genuine.

The costumes were adorable and appropriate for the time. The play took place in the 1980's so current attire was generally acceptable. What I enjoyed most from the costumes was the use of sweaters. Every time Nick complained that the house was too hot, the grandparents were wearing sweaters. The nuance was not lost on the audience. Nick talked about it being hot in their house; not just hot, but sauna hot. Who hasn't been the pleasant recipient of an elderly relative's sauna? As grandchildren we could relate.

The actors did a wonderful job conveying the warmth of family. The most distracting thing about the performance was the constant pivoting of the actors. At times, during dialogue, the actors would end up with their back to the other actors. I assume, because of the theater in the round aspect, the pivoting was meant to allow the audience to see the actor's face, but it quickly became a bit of a nuisance resulting in awkward moments whereby the actors looked as if on a music box.

Michael Speck did a superb job as Nick. His facial expressions and mannerisms conveyed his laughter and angst. Speck had great comedic timing delivering his lines and showed genuine warmth towards his grandparents.

In this play Nick had two sets of very different grandparents. Frank and Aida were the concrete and mortar of the family foundation while Nunzio and Emma were the paint on the walls. I imagine the reason the Sunday dinners were held at Frank's house was due to his stability more so than location. Frank built the house with his own two hands while Aida prepared every meal. Nunzio and Emma would whirl in, kick up the dust, and ride out towards the sunset. All four actors gave a remarkable performance.

Phil Nixon portrayed Frank Gianelli with a quiet reserved confidence.
During most of the play Frank seemed like the strong silent type. A man of few words who built the Gianelli house as Aida so graciously told us, "for her". However, when Frank gave his monologue about his father and how he came to America, there wasn't a dry eye in the theater. Nixon delivered the monologue with passion.

Susan Spangler played Aida Gianelli and gave an admirable performance.
However, she seemed preoccupied with the table settings and blankets.
It may have been due to her characters constant need to rush to the kitchen or being responsible for ALL the food but in Act I, though lines were delivered well and with sincerity, it was as if she were a few seconds behind the rest of the cast.

Another strong performance was that of Burl Proctor as Nunzio. Proctor
portrayed Nunzio as more Italian than the rest of the actors. Nunzio had an accent and mannerisms, such as hand gestures, that had the outward appearance of Italian. The accent at times wavered but Proctor put in by far the most realistic Italian performance. In this play Nunzio was one of the more emotionally charged characters due to his illness. Proctor did an amazing job at conveying that emotion.

Emma, the wife of Nunzio, was played by Barrie Alguire. Alguire did a great job. She was grandmotherly yet outspoken enough to be Nunzio's wife. Emma was another of the emotionally charged characters. She not only had to deal with her grandson leaving but also her husband's illness. Alguirre conveyed her joy, disappointment
and sorrow with equal passion.

Tiffany Long played Caitlin O'Hare, the "something" for Nick to stay in New Jersey. Long was charming and passionate in her dialogue however she seemed too focused on stage position. She seemed more concerned where the director had blocked her on stage, or more importantly where she was SUPPOSED to be on stage than the actual dialogue itself. When Caitlin explained to Nick about her grandmother and her feelings about how he treated his grandparents it was lacking. The words were there but the emotion was empty. Prior to that though, I was impressed with Long's performance at the dinner table. She demonstrated a genuine purity of spirit and easy going attitude as the grandparents tried to set her and Nick up on a blind date.

Should you see OVER THE RIVER AND THROUGH THE WOODS by Artisan Center Theater? Definitely. Should you see it alone? No. Half the fun of this play is talking with your family about which of your grandparents it is based on. So grab your parents and your grandparents and head OVER THE RIVER AND THROUGH THE WOODS...

Reviewed by Eric A. Maskell, Associate Theater Critic
for John Garcia's THE COLUMN


Artisan Center Theater

418 E. Pipeline Road, Hurst, Texas 76053
Through October 1st, 2011

Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday evenings at 7:30pm
and Saturday matinees at 3:00 pm

Ticket prices are: Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays: Adults $12
Seniors (60+) / Students $12, Children (12 & under) $7

Fridays, Saturdays:
Adults $16, Seniors (60+) / Students $14
Children (12 & under) $9

For tickets and information please call 817-284-1200 or go
to www.artisanct.com

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Theatre Review - TUNA DOES VEGAS


TUNA DOES VEGAS By Jason Sears and Ed Howard
Greater Lewisville Community Theatre

Director/Sound Design – Kyle Macy
Stage Manager – Sam Arias
Lighting Designer/Operator – John Damian, Sr.
Costume Designer – Lyle Huchton
Dressers – Alexys Stone, Frank Rygiewicz, Daniel Curl,
Adrienne Vigil
Set Artist – Daniel Curl


Tom DeWester - Thurston Wheelis, Bertha Bumiller, Aunt Pearl
Burras, Leonard Childers, Inita Goodwin, Joe Bob Lipsey, Shot,
Elvis 11

Jerry Downey- Arles Struvie, Didi Snavely, Petey Fisk, Charlene Bumiller Pugh, Vera Carp, Helen Bedd, Anna Conda, Maurice, Wo Hu, Elvis 42

Reviewed performance on August 27, 2011

Reviewed by Eric A. Maskell, Associate Theater Critic
for John Garcia's THE COLUMN

________________________TUNA DOES VEGAS_______________________

Reviewed by Eric A. Maskell, Associate Theater Critic
for John Garcia's THE COLUMN

TUNA DOES VEGAS...and the Greater Lewisville Community Theater (GLCT) DOES TUNA. Not only does GLCT do TUNA, they do TUNA well.

TUNA DOES VEGAS is the 4th play in the GREATER TUNA series created by Jaston Williams, Joe Sears and Ed Howard. It originally debuted in 2008 and has fast become a new classic in the already popular line of plays. It follows the antics of the citizens of the "third smallest town in Texas" as they head off to Las Vegas. This year GLCT is offering TUNA DOES VEGAS as their annual fundraiser show. It's a shame that this production is only a fundraiser with a limited run. This play is phenomenal and is sure to charm all those that are lucky enough to get seats.

The play follows Arles Struvie and Bertha Bumiller as they plan a vacation to Las Vegas in order to renew their wedding vows. The citizenry of Tuna, one by one, decide, much to the chagrin of Bertha, to join the couple. Once in Vegas the citizens of TUNA meet a few new characters and have to overcome several obstacles in order to get back home.

Since I had never been to "TUNA", I wasn't sure what to expect. I had heard that the GREATER TUNA plays were very funny and in this GLCT did not disappoint. The play was hilarious. The characters were raw and open. I would like to say there was a hidden meaning or message, but there isn't. The point was simply a satirical look at small town life. Only, in this context, the small town life invaded the big city - with humorous results.

The set design was very simplistic. GLCT chose a theater-in-the-round model with several large black boxes in the middle. The black boxes represented everything from a kitchen table to a plane with smaller boxes for seats. The only real painted set pieces were large dice placed on the gambling table to signify their arrival in Vegas. The theater-in-the-round model seemed to work perfectly for the play. Three dressing rooms were placed at each corner of the theater with a hidden walk-way behind the last row of chairs on each side. This allowed the actors to run between dressing rooms and appear at other sides of the theater.

While this was probably exhausting for the actors, it added quite a bit to the fast pace and overall appeal of the play. In this instance the director, Kyle Macy, should be commended. He utilized the space well. One character would exit and the actor would reappear as another character on the opposite side of the theater. There never seemed to be any slip ups, missteps or downtime as the actors transitioned. In fact, the actors did a wonderful job playing to all sides of the theater. At the beginning of the play the director stated that there were 42 costume changes in 90 minutes. Which in my opinion would have become tedious had the actors entered and exited from the same side of the stage every time. A simplistic set design, or lack thereof, placed the majority of the focus on the actors and costumes.

In the area of costume design GLCT scored another high mark. Each character that entered the stage wore a signature outfit and hair style. The outfits were well thought out and appropriate for each character. They didn't look hastily pieced together or like mismatched articles from plays gone by. One of the highlight costumes was that of Charlene Bumiller Pugh. The audience roared with laughter as she entered holding a baby and a child leash that led off stage. The laughter only grew as she pivoted left and right with a child clinging to her dress.

Lyle Huchton did a superb job on costume design. I imagine that in a play with 42 costume changes in 90 minutes we wouldn't have faulted Huchton had he chose to use a piece twice - maybe a hat with only a minor alteration. That wasn't the case here. Each character was separately and completely clothed. The characters even had different changes for their Vegas romp. It was truly an impressive feat.

Another impressive feat was that of the acting. Both Tom DeWester and Jerry Downey did a phenomenal job. DeWester, having performed in A TUNA CHRISTMAS at GLCT prior to this, was more at ease with the transitions between characters. He also had a broader range of vocal characterizations. The voices of each character he portrayed had more distinction than that given by Downey. I was particularly impressed with his portrayal of Shot. Shot was the undercover hotel detective in Vegas. The accent and mannerisms felt genuine.

Downey, on the other hand, had greater physical presence with each character. Each one Downey portrayed had a personalized physical manner that was very unique and impressive. One particular instance stood out when Inita Goodwin and Helen Bedd dressed in holiday outfits to work as Vegas showgirls. At the beginning of the scene, when Inita Goodwin was standing on the table in her holiday outfit, I was unsure as to who she was supposed to be. As soon as Bedd entered excited, it became obvious. Both DeWester and Downey did a great job of ad-libing in awkward situations.

At one point Aunt Pearl's glasses fell off the 'plane'. Aunt Pearl merely stated that her glasses fell off the plane and that she would pick them up on the way back. The audience rolled with laughter. The actors were well versed in their lines however the pantomime could have been a little more choreographed. Several times it seemed like the cups that the actors were filling should have overflowed and spilled onto the ground. And the flask that Arles had must have been a magic refillable bottle because it never ran out.

While both actors were very talented and put in stellar performances, the play wouldn't be complete without the help of the dressers. The dressers - Alexys Stone, Frank Rygiewicz, Daniel Curl and Adrienne Vigil - did a wonderful job. The actors never came on stage without costume pieces or appropriate attire. The actors never seemed rushed. They were never finishing getting dressed as they entered the stage. It was just smooth.

Greater Lewisville Community Theatre's production of TUNA DOES VEGAS rivals that of the original production by Jaston Williams and Joe Sears. The characters are lively and outlandish. The costumes are bold yet polyester; you know who you are...Bertha. The atmosphere is definitely TUNA. The only real drawback to this production is the fact that it only has 2 more shows.

Reviewed by Eric A. Maskell, Associate Critic
for John Garcia's THE COLUMN


Greater Lewisville Community Theatre
Medical Center of Lewisville Grand Theater
100 N. Charles Street, Lewisville, TX 75057
Through September 4th, 2011

Saturdays at 8:00 pm and Sundays at 3:00 pm

For tickets and information please call 972-221-SHOW(7469)
or go to www.glct.org.


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Theatre Review - ANYTHING GOES


Music and Lyrics by Cole Porter
Original book by Guy Bolton, P.G. Wodehouse,
Revised book by Howard Lindsay and Russell Crouse
Stolen Shakespeare Guild

Directed by Jason and Lauren Morgan
Stage Manager – Nicole Bowen
Set Design – Jason Morgan
Choreography – Amy Atkins
Costume Design – Lauren Morgan
Music Direction – Mary Helen Atkins


Reno Sweeney – Jenny Tucker
Billy Crocker – Ryan Page
Hope Harcourt – Shannon Walsh
Moonface Martin – Bill Sizemore
Bonnie – Becca Brown
Sir Evelyn Oakleigh – Steve Lindsay
Mrs. Wadsworth T. Harcourt – Robin Attaway
Mr. Whitney – Bennet Frasier
The Captain – David Plybon

Reno's Angels – Jaye Jenny Smith, Nikki Cloer, Monica Glenn,
Stefanie Glenn

Ensemble – Kimberly Mickle, Kierstin Curtis, Walter Betts,
Kirk Corley, Amanda Merrill, Colton Hess, Colton Kingston,
Ted Ung

Reviewed performance on August 19, 2011

Reviewed by Eric A. Maskell, AssociateTheater Critic
for John Garcia's THE COLUMN

_________________________ANYTHING GOES___________________________

Reviewed by Eric A. Maskell, Associate Theater Critic
for John Garcia's THE COLUMN

Anything Goes by the Stolen Shakespeare Guild was truly "Delovely".

The fun began the moment the lights dimmed for the beginning of the musical. The cast paraded out to the spot light, one at a time, introducing themselves with their name embroidered on a life preserver ring. Each character shouted out their signature line as if sounding off for roll call. It was definitely a unique and inspired method of introducing the characters. After the characters were introduced, the musical mayhem aboard the S.S. American was set to sail.

The story is one of love lost and found. Hopeless romantic Bill Crocker, while brokering a cruise for his boss Mr. Whitney, discovers that his lost love Hope Harcourt is aboard the vessel with her fiancé, stodgy Sir Evelyn Oakleigh. Determined to win back the heart of Hope, Billy stows away aboard the ship. With the aid of a few unlikely friends - a lovable thug named Moonface Martin and Reno Sweeny, a nightclub temptress - Billy attempts to avoid capture by the pursers, ruin the engagement of Sir Evelyn and win the hand of his true love Hope. The laughs abound and the tap dancing feet fly furiously during the high seas hi-jinks.

The set was a minimalist design consisting of a two tier deck with an image of the ship's smoke stacks cut out in the background. The design functioned well considering the majority of the action took place on the open decks. When the musical required an indoor cabin atmosphere, a bed or desk with chairs was moved on stage. For the most part the minimalist design worked well allowing the dancers to tap or spin their way on the stage. However, the set could have used a few more doors. The actors were able to pantomime the opening and closing of the cabin doors with some degree of ease but the lack of consistency in the method and the openness of the stage made it difficult to get the feel of being inside the ship. The openness though did allow smooth transitions onto and off of the stage.

The costumes were colorful and appropriate for the time period depicted. I was particularly impressed with Reno and her angels' outfits. Reno's wardrobe with its sequins and bright colors was a standout befitting a nightclub singer. I thoroughly enjoyed the angels' outfits as well. The fact that all four of Reno's backup singers wore similar outfits 24/7 gave the impression that Reno, the nightclub act, was never far from song.

The music was acceptable but lacking. Whether by choice or spatial insufficiency, Stolen Shakespeare Guild's production proceeded with only piano accompaniment. Don't get me wrong; the pianist that accompanied the songs was phenomenal, but during every song I kept expecting additional instruments to fire up in order to give the song that certain something extra. That UMPH! I'd never seen this particular play before and if it was a movie, I'd never seen that either. The songs just seemed to be lacking 'something - like a rock concert without a drum.

The acting was superb. The entire cast came together to deliver a fun-filled, heartwarming adventure on the seas. Ryan Page as Billy Crocker was a delight to watch. His facial expressions combined with his energetic performance were a joy to experience. The songs he sang were projected well and the choreography during his dance routines was impressive. There were a few times during a spin here and there that he missed his dance partners hand but overall the dancing was seamless. Page never let the missteps alter his performance.

Jenny Tucker gave a wonderful performance as Reno Sweeny. Tucker was warm and charming during the "friendship" phase of her performance but also sultry when it came to being a nightclub temptress. Her songs were fresh and well done.

A dynamic duo in the cast was that of Bonnie and Moonface Martin. Both characters were well cast and the New York accents were well articulated. Becca Brown was superb as Bonnie the bubbly, energetic sidekick to Bill Sizemore's Moonface Martin. Brown's songs and tap dancing had the audience bouncing in their seats while Sizemore had the audience rolling with laughter in the aisles. When Moonface went trap shooting with his Tommy gun the audience roared with laughter.

Shannon Walsh as Hope Harcourt put in a solid performance as the love interest of Billy Crocker and Sir Evelyn. Walsh did an excellent job portraying the many emotional facets of her character's love interests. From her despair at marrying an unemotional Englishman, to her love song duet "All Through The Night" with Billy, Walsh kept the energy and emotions high.

While understated in the musical, Robin Attaway's performance as Mrs. Wadsworth T. Harcourt was anything but understated. Attaway's portrayal of the demanding and snotty, rich mother to Hope was classic; the classic overbearing mother who was forcing the daughter to wed out of her own desire to maintain a certain status. Attaway performed it well.

Steve Lindsay did a masterful job of portraying Sir Evelyn Oakleigh. The English accent felt genuine. His bumbling, naïve, English gentleman performance was both endearing and heartwarming. When Sir Evelyn was sitting in his stateroom in his boxers and sock suspenders being "seduced" by Reno, it was priceless. The performance was inspired and the laughter was uncontrollable.

A couple of the characters, while understated in the musical, were nonetheless well played. Bennet Frasier played Mr. Whitney, Billy Crocker's boss and David Plybon played The Captain. Frasier did a good job playing the loud and demanding boss. Plybon did well as The Captain. Both actors carried their scenes well and added to the ensemble cast during the chorus.

In most musicals the ensemble cast adds an extra element to the scenes or songs by portraying additional background characters. In Anything Goes the ensemble cast did a wonderful job as additional cruise ship crew and passengers on the boat. The transitions were seamless and at times it seemed like there were more people on the boat than were actually in the cast. It was well done.

Finally, the choreography was magnificent. I heard another patron speak to the choreographer, Amy Atkins, and offer words of praise for a job well done. I would have to agree in that the choreography was well executed and well performed. The tap dancing sequences were especially impressive because of their detail and design.

It appears, much to my delight, that not all musicals from the Stolen Shakespeare Guild (SSG) are Shakespearean. The SSG proves without a doubt that its ability to entertain reaches past The Bard and straight into Broadway. The songs were upbeat and lively. The cast was talented and the performances were well executed. For a top notch, entertaining experience - Anything Goes.

Reviewed by Eric A. Maskell, Associate Critic
for John Garcia's THE COLUMN


Anything Goes
Stolen Shakespeare Guild
Fort Worth Community Arts Center
Hardy and Betty Sanders Theatre, 1300 Gendy Street, Ft Worth,76107
Runs through September 4th

Fridays/Saturdays at 8:00pm, Saturday matinees at 2:00pm
Sunday, September 4th at 2:00 pm

Evening Ticket Prices:
$ 17.00 for adults , $ 16.00 for seniors 65 and older
$ 16.00 for students, $ 10.00 for children 7 and under

Matinee Ticket Price:
$ 15.00 for adults,$ 10.00 for children 7 and under

For tickets and information, please call 214-789-8032 or go
to www.stolenshakespeareguild.org


Tuesday, August 9, 2011

You get what you pay for...

I was doing some work in the office and I found an old intake sheet from a potential client for a bankruptcy.  I decided to look up to see if that client had found another attorney.  A little background on this PC (potential cleint).  I met with them several days in a row and everytime they met me they said that they left their money at home.  They knew my fees and said they were ok with them everytime we met.  Well, finally, we were supposed to sign the contract in order to stop a foreclosure and repossession.  The PC said that they left their money at home but had $350 of it and wanted me to file it for that.  I said no and they said that they would go home and get the remainder.  They left and agreed to meet me to sign the contract.  Well, they never called.  It wasn't until later that after they missed the appointment that I checked my email and found an email stating that they didn't feel like we were on the same page and that they would find another attorney for less.  Well, as I said previously, I looked up the PC and they indeed found an attorney that would do it for less.  That attorney filed the case and missed filing the motion to extend automatic stay within 30 days.  Essentially on a subsequent filing within 1 year the debtor is required to file AND have a hearing within 30 days that extends the automatic stay.  The attorney that this PC hired filed the motion 35 days AFTER the bankruptcy was filed.  This means that the automatic stay expired.  No bankruptcy protection.  The mortgage company and the car creditor both confirmed, by motion, that there was no automatic stay.  At this point I assume this debtor is walking AND looking for a new place to live.  You get what you pay for...


Monday, August 8, 2011

Reality Fix

I recently read an article in Money magazine's August issue called The Financial Fix.  The premise "These late-in-life parents want to retire at the same time they'll be paying three college tuition bills. Can they do it?"  I was a little put off.  First of all I'm not sure what list I ended up on to "deserve" Money magazine monthly but some how it arrives like clock work.  Anyway, the problem I have with the article is that the family of 5 has a load of money and assets.  Their combined income is $165,000 yearly, a $770,000 retirement 401k and three rental properties.  The article stated they put away about $21,500 into their retirement annually with a $12,000 match.  Oh wait...it did say they were hobbled by $25,000 in credit card debt.  Seriously?  I had a hard time caring.  This couple with 3/4 of a million dollars in retirement was concerned on how they would pay for college and still retire?  What about the single mother who works three jobs to put food on the table?  The teacher that works a summer job so that she can pay bills?  How about an article that reflects the current 9% unemployment rate rather than someone who has more money in retirement than some people make their ENTIRE lives?  I'm tired of seeing articles about this government bail out and that stock plunge.  Where are the stories of real people?  Those that are suffering the unemployment? debt? loss?  The stories of hope? faith?  Back when Madoff ripped off a bunch of investors I saw a lot of articles about rich and famous people who lost money.  What about the little guy?  Maybe I will need to go read 'No Money' magazine in order to get real advice. 


Thursday, July 28, 2011

Been there....Done that

Hollywood has missed the mark.  I hate remakes.  To me, remaking a movie, screams "lack of originality".  I know I know.  Maybe you can make it better or place your 'stamp' on it.  Bottom line is, it is still a remake.  A copy.  A been there...done that kind of deal.  Today I read an article about Kate Beckinsale in a remake of 'Total Recall'.  It was actually an article about how her stunt double looks just like her.  Go figure.  Anyway, it mentioned it was for a remake of 'Total Recall'.  I like Kate Beckinsale as much as the next guy.  She is fairly hot.  But enough is enough.  Please, Hollywood, for the love of the '80s stop remaking movies.  So far I have heard that there is a remake of War Games in the works.  Shall we play a game?  Yea, it was cool the first time because we were in that, new age of computers thing where we could be duped into thinking that could happen with computers.  What young computer enthusiast, didn't run out and try to find a war-dialer so they could randomly call computers?  Or Red Dawn?  Wow.  Everytime we went camping after that someone would run through the woods yelling 'Wolverines!'  Now they aim to remake that as well.  Sigh.  Maybe it's about nostalgia.  Maybe they think that those of us that grew up in the 80's will rush with our kids in tow to watch a remake of a movie we were enthralled by.  I doubt it.  I for one see that it is a remake and I check the 'will wait for DVD box'.  Has the well of originality finally gone dry in Hollywood?  I saw a statistic that said that every year 300,000 scripts are submitted to movie companies.  And we get remakes of War Games, Total Recall, and Red Dawn to name a few? Sigh. (did I say that already?)  There are great movies out there to be seen...to be made...  Let's get to it.


I'm in the process of redesigning my blog.  I figured "Difficult Times" was a little oft-putting so I went with Legal E.  Let me know what you think.  Basically going to try and cover whatever suits my fancy. 

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Theatre Review - Dirty Rotten Scoundrels


Book by Jeffrey Lane, Music and Lyrics by David Yazbek
Runway Theatre

Director/Music Director – Byron Holder
Choreographer – Mallory Brophy
Stage Manager – Abel Casillas
Set Designer – Byron Holder
Set Artist – Jody Phifer
Set Dressing – Abel Casillas
Prop Design – Abel Casillas and Byron Holder
Lighting Designer – Chris Wyatt and Billy Sczcurek
Costume Designer – Christy Griser
Sound Designer – Abel Casillas


Keyboard – Byron Holder
Drums – Randy Lindberg
Bass players – Steve Cullen and Enrique Olachea


Lawrence – Malcolm Beaty
Freddy – Jack Agnew
Andre – Greg Kozakis
Christine – Laura Alley
Muriel – Liz Woodcock
Jolene – Mallory Brophy
Ensemble – Jack Bristol, Mallory Brophy, Andrew Burns,
Melissa Couture, Andrew Derasough, Ashley Fourcand,
Abby Hardy, Claire Stewart, and Wyatt Tackel

Reviewed performance on July 10, 2011

Reviewed by Eric A. Maskell, Associate Theater Critic
for John Garcia's THE COLUMN

______________________DIRTY ROTTEN SCOUNDRELS____________________

Reviewed by Eric A. Maskell, Associate Theatre Critic
for John Garcia's THE COLUMN

Oh what joy the audience will see, when these characters practice to deceive!

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels by Runway Theatre is ALL about the CON. Lawrence is a suave, smooth talking con man with a pretty sweet set up in Beaumont Sur Mer in the French Riviera. With his sidekick Chief of Police Andre, Lawrence, with subtlety and charm, relieves various rich debutantes of their precious valuables. The year is going well for Lawrence until the vulgar American shyster Freddy steps off the boat. From the first meeting in the cafe between Lawrence and Freddy to the final reckoning, the two get along like oil and water.

Lawrence detests Freddy's crude attempts at conning women and would like nothing more than to see Freddy move on down the coast. Freddy, after discovering that Lawrence is much more of a successful con man than himself, desires to have all the "Great Big Stuff" that Lawrence has. Freddy blackmails Lawrence into teaching him the big cons. After a con goes awry Lawrence and Freddy decide that the town is not big enough for two con artists and wage a bet for the fate of Beaumont. The bet? Be the first to swindle $50,000 from Christine the "Soap Queen". Winner takes all.

From the opening act with Lawrence's (Malcolm Beaty) sly smile and finger snapping spotlight to the dirty rotten finale, Runway Theatre exploded with energy and taste. The red curtain split, slid back and the stage was set for some hilarious hi-jinks. The set design was artfully crafted – a two story stage with stairs descending in the back. At times during the musical the left wall was rotated perpendicular to the main set in order to block off a hotel room. Both the main set and the rotating wall were beautifully painted and masterfully designed. This was an elegant, tasteful resort.

The costumes added to the overall atmosphere of the musical. The costumes for the main characters were predictable yet remarkably done. Lawrence wore several suits that fit nicely. Freddy was clothed in shorts, sports coat and some tennis shoes. Appropriate for a shyster. Jolene was clad in a cowgirl type outfit, Muriel was adorned in fancy evening gowns and Christine was wrapped in a dress. Some of the ensemble cast played background extras and milled around during some scenes wearing appropriate attire such as suits or evening gowns, depending on the scene.

However, when the music started, the ensemble cast would burst forth in choreographed dance and swirl and sway across the stage. It was riveting. Sometimes the ensemble cast would be upstairs on the balcony or down front twirling and spinning. In some musicals the choreography and ensemble cast generally took a back seat to the main action but Runway Theatre co-mingled the two well. One of the more hilarious moments was when the door to the hotel room opened and the ensemble cast was standing there singing. It was priceless.

Malcolm Beaty gave a wonderful performance as Lawrence. His sly smile lit up the set. At first I wasn't sure if Beaty was going to be able to pull it off. I admit I was biased by Michael Caine's performance in the film version on which this musical is based on. All concern fell away the moment Beaty began "What They Want". His inflections and mannerisms set the tone for his character throughout the musical. His singing was artful and full of energy. There were a few times the music seemed too loud and the lyrics were lost but for the vast majority of the musical Beaty projected well and made the character his own.

Jack Agnew must have taken Beaty's performance as a personal challenge and gave a stunning portrayal as Freddy. Agnew played the comedic role well. Even when he was passed out on the floor as Ruprecht (Freddy in disguise) or sitting idly by watching Lawrence at work Agnew was fully engaged with the audience. It was remarkable watching Beaty and Agnew as they played off each other during the more comedic scenes.

Mallory Brophy was amazing as Jolene. Brophy put in a lot of work on this musical. She played Jolene, the rich debutante from Oklahoma, choreographed the dance routines, and she was also in the ensemble cast. Her rendition of "Oklahoma" was a blast. The energy was contagious and the moment the ensemble cast joined her on stage in their cowboy/cowgirl outfits it was a boot stomping, heel kicking good time. It was like watching Elly Mae Clampett dance across the French Riviera. Yee Haw!

On the other hand, Muriel, played by Liz Woodcock, was the epitome of opulence. Her songs were more subdued and emotional. Woodcock did an outstanding job. She brought a sense of charm and sophistication to the character.

Laura Alley played Christine, the "Soap Queen" and mark for Lawrence and Freddy's con game. Alley's singing was top rate and her acting was wonderful. She showed an incredible range and depth, from her comedic "Here I Am" where she knocked people over at every turn, to the more sincere "Nothing Is Too Wonderful To Be True".

Andre, the French Chief of Police played by Greg Kozakis, was both charming and humorous. Kozakis's French accent never seemed to falter. His songs were fluid and graceful. One of his most memorable songs was "Chimp In A Suit". However, Kozakis seemed unable to decide where to place his hands during dialogue. When he wasn't speaking or when someone was speaking to him his hands displayed a life of their own. They gripped the side of his sport coat and then down to his sides and back again.

Runway Theater put on an excellent performance of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. All the elements of a great musical came together for the enjoyment of the audience. The light hearted songs, quirky characters and a sound story pushed it all forward. The cast did an amazing job of singing, dancing and having fun. The joy with which they performed this particular musical showed on all their faces. If you are looking for a fun, fresh, lively and entertaining evening of music, don't get conned by other musicals. Go see Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.

Reviewed by Eric A. Maskell, Associate Theatre Critic
for John Garcia's THE COLUMN


Dirty Rotten Scoundrels
Runway Theatre, 215 North Dooley Street, Grapevine, TX 76051
Runs through July 31, 2011

Friday & Saturday at 8 pm; Sunday at 3 pm

For tickets and information, please call 817-488-4842 or go
to www.runwaytheatre.com


Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Theatre Review - RENT


Book, Music & Lyrics by Jonathan Larson
Greater Lewisville Community Theatre

Directors – Wendy Barrett & Wendi Brozek
Music Director – Margaret Miller
Choreographer – Brandon Harvey
Stage Manager – Cody Williams
Technical Director/Lights – John Damian, Sr.
Sound/Projection – Shawn Lundy
Costumes – Nancy Birkett
Costume Assistants – Katie Birkett & Bryan Carroll
Video Production – Kelvin Baugh & Kris Henderson
Set Artists – Ron Givens & Brian Scott Hampton
Set Crew – Adam Honore', Grant Williams
Spotlight – Chris Buras


Keyboard – Margo Dillard
Drums – Paul Jaso
Guitar – Jason Smith
Bass – John Macintyre


Mark Cohen – Brandon Ford
Roger Davis – Lance Morse
Tom Collins – Ecko Wilson
Angel Dumott Schunard – Michael McCray
Benjamin Coffin III, "Benny" – Rob Findlay
Mimi Marquez – Caroline Dubberly
Maureen Johnson – Kelsey Macke
Joanne Jefferson – Octavia Y. Thomas

Ensemble – Josh Bradford, Tony Capps, Lindsey Hall, Rhiannon
Houston, Danielle Martin, Matthew Purvis, Justin Reed,
Fatima Rodriguez, Dustin Simington, Maryann Williams

Reviewed performance on July 8, 2011

Reviewed by Eric A. Maskell, Associate Theater Critic
for John Garcia's THE COLUMN


Reviewed by Eric A. Maskell, Associate Theaer Critic
for John Garcia's THE COLUMN

"Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes
Five hundred twenty-five thousand moments so dear
Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes
How do you measure, measure a year?" (Seasons of Love)

How do you measure a year? That's the question that Greater Lewisville Community Theatre (GLCT) answers with their production of RENT.

RENT is the story of a year in the life of a group of friends and artists living in New York City. A story of hopes and dreams. A story of friendship and of loss amid the chaos of AIDS in their community.

The story follows long time friends Mark Cohen and Roger Davis who share a slum apartment. They live in New York City and spend their days following their dreams. Roger Davis dreams of writing the one great song while Mark Cohen lives his life through the lens of a camera. The rent hasn't been paid in over a year and their one time friend Benjamin "Benny" Coffin III, after marrying into a rich family, buys both the building and the lot next door with hopes of tearing it down and building a recording studio. Meanwhile another long time friend Maureen Johnson, an eccentric performer, determines to save both the building and the make-shift tent city of homeless that are squatting in the lot next door.

RENT is a big production and challenge for any theatre. GLCT accepted the challenge. The set design was well crafted given the size of the venue. At times the stage seemed cramped with all actors and ensemble cast present. However GLCT made good use of the rows in between seats for actors to enter and exit the stage. The set represented the apartment, the lot and other locations with minimal alterations. A few pieces of furniture were moved on and off to give the impression of different locations. The set artists and crew did a wonderful job with painting graffiti. I especially enjoyed the giant creature painted on the back wall.

The costumes were great. The homeless had appropriately tattered clothing while the main characters were decked out in their traditional garb. Mark had a striped shirt, flannel jacket, scarf and a vintage camera. Roger had a long sleeve shirt, jeans, leather jacket and a guitar. A stand out was the clothing of Angel Dumott Schunard. It was outrageous and over the top, befitting that of an eccentric cross dresser.

RENT is traditionally a difficult musical to perform. The characters run a gambit of emotions through the year and need to show both the highs and lows with equal energy.

The cast did an admirable job. The musical was very energetic and the songs were sung with enthusiasm. Brandon Ford did a great job in his portrayal of Mark Cohen. His gestures and mannerisms worked well for the character. Ford had a talent for acting and did this part well. However, Ford's soft voice was difficult to hear over the orchestra. RENT had some powerful songs, with deep meaning. The words were important. As a main character, Mark was instrumental in bringing out that deep meaning. It was lost. Ford's soft voice was also overshadowed during the duets and ensemble pieces. It was as if during the songs the character just faded to the background.

Lance Morse put in a strong performance as Roger Davis. Roger was one of the more difficult characters in RENT due to his moodiness and his personal story arc of lost and then found love. Morse did it well. He gave a believable performance of angst and sorrow. Mournful yet hopeful, Morse displayed his emotions in both song and verse. There were a few times that his songs were off key but he projected well so it didn't impact the depth of soul.

From the moment that Tom Collins (Ecko Wilson) and Angel Dumott Schunard (Michael McCray) hit the stage it was magic. Wilson and McCray performed as if they were old friends. The characters' love for each other was a main point running through the story and it was felt. Every time Wilson and McCray sang a duet the audience held their breath in anticipation. McCray did a phenomenal job in his portrayal of Angel. He was outrageous when he needed to be and calm, patient and caring during the lows. His performance of "Today 4 U" was a pleasure to watch. The energy with which McCray filled the theatre was astounding. He was jumping up on tables and off the stairs - in heels. Wilson gave a stable performance throughout the musical but really shone in the final "I'll Cover You". With tears streaming down his face Wilson said goodbye to his love. Powerful.

Benjamin "Benny" Coffin III was portrayed by Rob Findlay. Findlay did well in the character. In a cast of deep, highly emotional characters, Benny just seemed like an afterthought. The other characters vilified Benny but I never got to the point where I saw him as the villain.

Caroline Dubberly played Mimi Marquez, the love interest addict of Roger Davis. Dubberly did an outstanding job. She was a sexy, provocative temptress. Dubberly got the point across well. There were a few times, as with Ford's singing, that her songs were lost to the orchestra. It may have been due to her placement on stage or concentration on dancing. The times that I lost her voice she was grinding on the back steps nearest the orchestra. However, the songs she shared with Morse were beautiful. The two shared a wide depth of emotion in their duets.

Kelsey Macke, who played Maureen Johnson, was a breath of fresh air. Her rendition of "Over the Moon" was one of the highlights of the musical. Macke's animated performance left the audience in stitches. She brought a much needed light-heartedness to an emotionally raw story.

An undersold character was Joanne Jefferson (Octavia Y. Thomas), the lesbian love interest for Maureen. Thomas played the character well but I don't believe she reached the peak. Thomas underutilized her range and depth. In the duet with Mark (Ford), "Tango Maureen", she was able to overpower Ford's soft spoken voice but her duet with Maureen, "Take Me or Leave Me", left me wanting more. The exchange between Maureen and Joanne was a one-sided domination by Maureen (Macke).

This musical would not be complete without the awesome energy of the ensemble cast. The ensemble cast added to the overall experience. From homeless people to drug addicts to police officers, the ensemble cast filled in the gaps to form a complete story. Their pace, projection and vocals were impressive.

RENT was a story about heart, passion and living your dreams. GLCT brought this story to life with its own passion. Should you see it? Definitely. The songs were passionate. The story was filled with emotion. You will leave GLCT with tears in your eyes and hope in your heart.

Reviewed by Eric A. Maskell, Associate Theater Critic
for John Garcia's THE COLUMN


Greater Lewisville Community Theatre
160 W. Main Street, Lewisville, TX 75057

Runs through July 31st
Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 pm and Sundays at 3:00 pm

For tickets and information please call 972-221-SHOW (7469) or
go to www.glct.org.


Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Theatre Review - November


NOVEMBER by David Mamet
Stage West

Director – Dana Schultes
Set Design – Jason Domm
Stage Manager – Peggy Kruger-O'Brien
Lighting Design – Michael O'Brien
Costume Design – Jim Covault and Peggy Kruger-O'Brien
Props/Set Decor – Lynn Lovett


Charles Smith – Jerry Russell
Archer Brown – Jim Covault
Turkey Guy – Donald Jordan
Clarice Bernstein – Sherry Jo Ward
Dwight Grackle – Rob Bosquez

Reviewed performance on June 25, 2011

Reviewed by Eric A. Maskell, Associate Theater Critic
for John Garcia's THE COLUMN


Reviewed by Eric A. Maskell, Associate Theater Critic
for John Garcia's THE COLUMN

Who will you vote for?

November by David Mamet, a political comedy about the final days of a President's first term in office, is Stage West's satirical answer. The play opens with the President mere weeks away from the November election and the numbers don't look good for re-election. The President, Charles Smith, blames his failing campaign on lack of financial support and immediately contacts his political committee. The committee advises Smith that not only is there no money for advertising or campaigning but there is no money for a presidential library and that he should just accept defeat and forget the library.

Smith immediately turns to Archer Brown, his most trusted adviser and lawyer, for advice. According to Brown, the President should just accept defeat and bow out gracefully but maybe sell a few pardons on the way out. Accepting the fact that he probably won't be re-elected but not wanting to go home broke, Smith embarks on a scheme to procure funds for his presidential library. Brown, the ever faithful lackey, reminds Smith that any campaign funds not used at the end of the term can be taken by Smith.

Opportunity comes knocking in the form of the Turkey Guy, a representative of the National Association of Turkey By-Products Manufacturers. Every year at Thanksgiving the President pardons a turkey on national television for a campaign contribution of $50,000. This year, however, Smith decides things are going to be different.

The hilarity and hi-jinks ensue when Smith decides that the price of a turkey pardon has just gone up. From changing history to lesbian marriages, President Smith decides nothing is too outrageous in his effort to build his presidential library.

The set design for this play was immaculate. The moment we entered into the theater the lights were on onstage and we could see the entire set. The theater seating was in a stadium like fashion so there were no bad seats. The set was a one piece mock up of the oval office. As soon as we entered the theater we had the sense of presidential majesty. From the flags behind the presidential desk to the presidential seal painted on the floor, the set designer, Jason Domm, spared no details. Additionally, Lynn Lovett, Props/Set décor, did a wonderful job filling in the minutiae of the set. The pictures on the walls, the lamps, tea pots and even a typewriter all added to the ambiance.

The costume design was practical. The basics, suits for the men, were well tailored and fit appropriately. The stand outs in costume design were the American Indian headdress worn by Chief Dwight Grackle and the wedding gown worn by West Wing staffer Clarice Bernstein. Both of these items added a certain shock and outrageous quality to the performance.

In a play of this type the speed and delivery of the dialogue was of utmost importance. In this regard, the actors performed beautifully. The banter between Charles Smith played by Jerry Russell and Archer Brown played by Jim Covault was interesting and believable. It felt as if these two had been friends/political partners for quite some time. A few times the actors jumped the lines a little bit, anticipating the others response but by then end the witty banter was humming like a well oiled machine.

Russell did an excellent job portraying Charles Smith. A great deal of the dialogue consisted of phone conversations. Often times it could be difficult to perform one-sided phone conversations but Russell did a masterful job of it. There were a few times the conversations seemed a bit rushed but on the whole Russell gave an admirable performance. Russell made smooth transitions between despair at losing the election to elation at finding a new angle for campaign contributions. During the course of the play the peaks and valleys of the characters emotions were so numerous that it was difficult to keep up but Russell performed them well.

Covault played Archer Brown, the straight man to Smith's manic depressive Presidential woeful nature. At the beginning, Covault seemed a little shaky but by the end of Act I he was comfortably settled into his role. My wife and I were still not sure if it was opening night nerves or if Covault was merely acting nervous in character. Where Smith was flighty and flaky, Brown was monotone in both speech and personality. Covault performed it well. Almost too well I would think. In Act II Brown began to have issues with Bernstein and got upset to the point of calling her a "traitorous swine". Bernstein was apparently the cause of the end of American civilization as we know it. Unfortunately, the line delivery was flat. Covault never got the feeling across that Brown was truly upset with Bernstein.

Donald Jordan played the Turkey Guy. In the original Broadway production the character was referred to as A Representative of the National Association of Turkey By-Products Manufacturers. I assumed while the names were changed the character remained the same. Jordan masterfully crafted an Alabama turkey lobbyist. The accent and mannerisms were enjoyable. A few times the accent made the dialogue difficult to understand but for the vast majority of the play Jordan came across well.

Sherry Jo Ward played Clarice Bernstein, the lesbian speech writer to President Smith. Ward did an excellent job in her portrayal. Bernstein had recently returned from adopting a child in China and was suffering from a cold. Ward did an amazing job. Sometimes actors portray a sick character as if they were lying at deaths door. The way Ward delivered her lines with a stuffed up nose and intermittent sneezing gave me the impression she was sick but still capable.

Rob Bosquez played Dwight Grackle, the Chief of the MicMac tribe. Towards the end of the play when it seemed like things couldn't get any worse for President Smith, Grackle burst forth on to the scene to exact revenge for an affront perpetrated on his people by the outgoing President. At first, Bosquez did an amazing job as Grackle. His boisterous dialogue and mannerisms lent realism to the slighted Indian chief. However, the scene tended to get a bit choppy as Grackle tried to shoot President Smith with a blowgun dart. It was as if not enough direction was given and the actors were unsure as to the staging of each character. Bosquez and Russell kept awkwardly shifting on stage until each hit their marks. Another odd moment was when Grackle seemed unsure what to do as he sat motionless in an Oval Office chair.

Stage West packed in powerful performances with all the perfect elements. The dialogue was fast paced, lively and entertaining while the set design, props and costumes added to the overall atmosphere. Avoid the long lines at the polls, the hanging chad and the uncertainty of who to vote for and head over to Stage West for the side splitting political comedy "November". Politics has never felt so good.

Reviewed by Eric A. Maskell, Associate Theater Critic
for John Garcia's THE COLUMN


Stage West, 821 W. Vickery Blvd., Fort Worth, TX 76104
Runs through July 24

Thursdays at 7:30 pm, Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00pm
and Sundays at 3:00 pm

For tickets and information, please call 817-784-9378
or go to www.stagewest.org.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Theatre Review - Double Falsehood


Adapted for the stage by Lewis Theobald
from the History of Cardenio
by William Shakespeare and John Fletcher
Stolen Shakespeare Guild

Director – Jason Morgan

Stage Manager – Krystal Love Price
Set Design – Edward Huntingdon
Lighting Design - FWCAC
Costume Design – Lauren Morgan
Head Seamstress – Peggy Jobe


Duke Angelo – Steve Lindsay
Roderick, his elder son – Carter Frost
Hendricks, his younger son – Christopher Reaves
Don Bernard, father to Leonora – Kirk Corley
Camillo, father to Julio – Eddie Zertuche
Julio, in love with Leonora – Thomas Fletcher
Citizen – David Johnson
Leonora – Lauren Morgan
Violante – Jill Ethridge
Master of the Flocks – Tyler Cochran
First Shepherd – Carlos Iruegas
Second Shepherd – Thad Isbell
Maid – Laura Watson
Servant – Shawn Luigs

Reviewed performance on June 11, 2011

Reviewed by Eric A. Maskell, Associate Theater Critic
for John Garcia's THE COLUMN

_________________________DOUBLE FALSEHOOD_______________________

Reviewed by Eric A. Maskell, Associate Theater Critic
for John Garcia's THE COLUMN

To see, or not to see, that is the question.

In my opinion, the only answer is - TO SEE.

The back story for this particular play is as intriguing and enchanting as the play itself. According to the "cheat sheet" there is some debate on whether or not this play is actually a work of William Shakespeare. The director is kind enough to include a fairly lengthy synopsis of the play, background on the authorship and notes of his additions or changes. It is well worth the read. I suggest arriving early so that you can peruse it because both my wife and I felt it was easier to follow the play having read the "cheat sheet".

The play is about the youngest son of a duke, Hendricks (Christopher Reaves), who becomes infatuated with Violante (Jill Ethridge), a virtuous local girl of humble birth. After she rejects his advances Hendricks forces himself upon her. After the rape Violante disappears and Hendricks tries to convince himself that it wasn't rape because Violante did not cry out. Meanwhile Julio (Thomas Fletcher), who is in love with Leonora (Lauren Morgan), is called away to court on behalf of Hendricks. Julio wants to arrange a marriage between himself and Leonora but only after he returns from court. Hendricks, however, purposely sends Julio to court so that he can pursue Leonora.

Don Bernard then pledges his daughter Leonora to marry Hendricks. Leonora, still in love with Julio, sends a secret letter to court to warn Julio of the impending marriage. Julio returns to stop the wedding and a confrontation between Julio, Camillo, Don Bernard, Hendricks and Leonora ensues. The confrontation ends with Julio being ejected from the town and Leonora disappearing into the night. Don Bernard and Camillo are left to deal with their distress at the loss of their children. Roderick (Carter Frost), the eldest and virtuous son of the duke, arrives to comfort the two and sort out the mess.

In Act IV we find Violante posing as a shepherd boy in the wilds in order to work through her feelings for Hendricks and the rape. Julio is also in the wilds but he is wandering aimlessly, assaulting shepherds for food and lamenting his bad fortune. During one such attack on shepherds, Julio meets Violante and is immediately suspicious that she is not actually a shepherd boy. The Master of the Flocks (Tyler Cochran) overhears the conversation Julio and the Citizen (David Johnson) have concerning Violante. Discovering that she is not in fact a shepherd boy, the Master attempts to assault Violante. The assault is thwarted by Roderick.

Hendricks discovers that Leonora has taken refuge in a nunnery and enlists the aid of Roderick to get her back. Roderick, having spoken with Violante and Julio, hatches his own plan for a grand reconciliation and confrontation.

These actors deserved a better venue for their performance. The play was performed in the Hardy and Betty Sanders Theatre. Unfortunately for the Guild a wedding reception was being held at the same time. The thin walls of the theatre allowed the booming music from the reception to sully the first Act. It is difficult to perform Shakespeare. It was more difficult to perform Shakespeare with "Whoop! There it is" pounding through the walls.

The lighting was what I would refer to as traditional. The scene would end, the lights would go black and the actors would enter or exit the stage. The lighting transitions were flawless. The problem was in the play. I'm not sure if it was by design or by necessity but the lighting during the play detracted from the overall feel. The lights shone from the back and over top of the actors. The closer the actors got to the audience the more shadows covered their faces. A few times the actors' faces would be completely darkened by shadows and the emotion being conveyed was lost.

The set design was minimal. A balcony with faux marble columns served as the backdrop for the entire play. The only additions were a bench, some chairs and a coffin. It would have been nice to have at least a tree on stage during the scene in the wilds. I imagine given a longer run the set designers would be more than capable of wowing the audience. I believe the theatre was being shared with the Guild's Henry V production and that may be one reason why a more detailed set was not utilized.

The costumes were marvelous. The dresses were ornate and flowing. My wife did comment that she thought Leonora's first dress was ill fitted. The men's costumes were equally impressive with bold, colorful vests and coattails. The costumes added a certain ambiance to the period piece and gave the feeling of Old Victorian times.

The first half of the play was a little stiff. The actors seemed uncomfortable with their costumes and a few had trouble with their lines. Most notably, Don Bernard (Corley) stammered quite often in his confrontation with Leonora (Morgan). One notable performance in the first half was that of Eddie Zertuche who played Camillo, father to Julio. Zertuche's performance throughout the play was both passionate and well played. His lines were delivered poignantly and without delay even in his most desperate of times.

The second half of the play was for me both bitter and sweet. It was far more passionate and better performed than the beginning. It was like waking up from a sleepy dream.

In the first half of the play Thomas Fletcher who played Julio acted as if he was trapped in his costume and delivered his lines with rote accuracy. In the second half, stripped and languished in 'the wilds' with only a shirt and pants, he shone. His thrashing about on the ground in tormented agony over his lost love was both believable and, from a performance perspective, enjoyable. During the final confrontation though, when he returned to his nobleman clothes, the passion drained.

Another strange metamorphosis from the first half to the second was in Jill Ethridge's portrayal of Violante. Her assault and aftermath was devoid of any heart. I didn't feel the torment she must have been dealing with. Then in the second half Violante came alive. The shame that drove her to hide herself as a shepherd boy was felt, finally culminating in her confrontation with Hendricks (Reaves). Roderick, played by Carter Frost, while not having a large part in the first half, was another steadfast character in the play. Frost's second half performance was beautifully performed and a highlight of the play. He played Roderick both virtuously and humorously.

The odd part of the second half was The Master of the Flocks played by Tyler Cochran. From the moment he stepped onto the balcony to survey the stage his demeanor seemed at odds with his character. The other shepherds, being under his employ would, merely by his title of Master, have had some respect for him. I didn't get that impression. In fact, the whole scene involving the shepherds and Julio was odd. Cochran seemed more worried about losing his hat during the fight with Julio than actually fighting with Julio. Later, the inappropriate sexual advance by The Master of the Flocks towards Violante in the guise of the shepherd boy seemed strained and unbelievable.

The actors on the whole performed this play admirably and it was very enjoyable. I would recommend it to anyone. It is a shame that the limited run will not allow a greater viewing audience. I agree with the Director's notes - while the play is not a masterwork it is an "incredibly interesting and entertaining piece of theater".

Reviewed by Eric A. Maskell, Associate Theater Critic
for John Garcia's THE COLUMN


Double Falsehood
Stolen Shakespeare Guild
Fort Worth Community Arts Center
the Sanders Theatre, 1300 Gendy Street, Fort Worth, TX 76107
Runs through June 25th

Very limited run Friday and Saturday June 17th & 18th at 8:00pm
and Saturday, June 25th at 2:00 pm.

Playing in repertory with Henry V. Stolen Shakespeare Festival
Pass is $20.00. Individual tickets are $17 for adults, $15
for seniors and students and $10 for children 7 and under.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

ALICE WONDER - Theater Review


Music and Lyrics by Joe Rogers, Book by Rudy Eastman
Jubilee Theatre

Director - Joe Brown
Music Director - Joe Rogers
Choreographer - Sheran Goodspeed Keyton

Set Design - George Miller
Lighting Design - Michael Pettigrew
Costume Design - Barbara O'Donoghue


The Notorious Hump D - Bob Allen
Sister Dukes/Mrs. DuKane - Melinda Allen
Queen of Hearts - Major Attaway/Keron Jackson
Clarence the Clown/Tuddle - Abel Baldazo, Jr.
She Day Day - Darby Branch
Griff/Don King/Bro. Dukes - Demetrius Ethely
Alice - Sheran Goodspeed Keyton
Postman - Ashley Oliver
Rosco Rabbit/Pissy Pete - Aaron Petite
Harriet - Michele Rene
Cat Daddy - Robert Rouse
Rasta Blue - Durant Searcy
She Dee Dee - Crystal Williams
Les Pussee Chandes - Michele Rene, Genine Ware, Shela Williams

Reviewed performance on June 3rd, 2011

Reviewed by Eric A. Maskell, Associate Theater Critic
for John Garcia's THE COLUMN

___________________________ALICE WONDER___________________________

Reviewed by Eric A. Maskell, Associate Theater Critic
for John Garcia's THE COLUMN

Alice Wonder was exactly that: a Wonder. The musical was performed beautifully and energetically. I believe the audience left as exhausted as the performers but well satisfied.

It would be cliché to say that Alice Wonder was doing for Alice in Wonderland what The Wiz did for The Wizard of Oz. This musical deserved more than tired clichés. From the beginning of the musical to the end the tone was like an energetic romp through, according to the program, "the mind of a stressed out, overworked 37-year-old, modern day black woman".

The musical opened with Alice (Sheran Goodspeed Keyton) standing on her front porch/stoop complaining about the problems of her day. While Alice was going through her list of issues a few characters like Mrs. Dukane (Melinda Allen) popped up to add to the already mounting problems. One of the things Alice (Keyton) was complaining about was the fact that her dog left dead animals on her porch. I assumed this related directly to the white rabbit. During the complaints, Alice was talking/staring into a trash can.

Most animals don't place their master's trophy directly into the trash so it seemed odd that Alice would be looking in there. The music started, the white rabbit was racing around and the cast came out to transition Alice to Wonderland. The musical then followed Alice on her journey through Wonderland as she tried to make it home in time for her daughter's event. It was in Wonderland that this musical truly shone. The cast was at ease performing the songs and dance routines at each stage of Alice's journey.

My companion and I were a little concerned at the outset of the musical, with the first song and opening performances of some of the characters. Alice sang the first song well and the rest of the cast performed their choreography with precision but the beginning, and this may be a script critique, almost seemed like an afterthought. The lighting was a sickly bluish hue that cast Alice in a ghastly light.

If the intention was to show a marked contrast between the drab, dull world and the bright Wonderland, then job well done. The set design for the opening was a few sheets hanging from the ceiling and a tiny porch front. The minimalist design blocked a good portion of the actual set that was behind for the Wonderland world. Rosco Rabbit (Aaron Petite), while racing in and out of scenes on a scooter, nearly tore down a sheet on both sides of the stage. Additionally Rosco Rabbit referred to Cat Daddy (Robert Rouse) as Rosco on several initial lines.

The seating was auditorium style so there were no bad views but the seats themselves seemed too close together and cramped. All in all the first 10 minutes were not looking too grand but, thankfully, the first act is an hour and fifteen minutes.

Once Alice hit Wonderland it was a whole different story. For me it was at this point that the musical began. The lights were brighter, the music was louder and the tone was much more energetic. Some of the characters were familiar in name but had a completely different spin. Cat Daddy came onstage to applause while the Queen of Hearts' (Major Attaway) entrance was met with riotous laughter. Each character added a layer to the complexity that was Alice.

We are, after-all, in Alice's overworked mind. One of the standout characters was Sister Dukes played by Melinda Allen. While the scripture line delivery by Sister Dukes seemed wooden and rehearsed the actual song "He Gave to Me" felt like a wave trying to drive everyone to their feet. The intensity with which the song was performed left the audience and Allen breathless. If the aisles had been wider I imagine there would have been several people standing with hands in the air clapping and singing along with the revival.

In contrast, "So Big" by Notorious Hump D (Bob Allen) was yelled rather than sung. Granted the rap song was not going to have the same feel as the other songs but in my opinion it could have done with a bit more polish. The biggest laugh of the night was when the Queen of Hearts rode out atop a pink toilet holding a plunger covered in hearts and gold thread as a scepter. Unexpected to say the least. (According to the program Keron Jackson will be playing the Queen of Hearts for all shows June 9 – 26.)

The set design was interesting but I'm not altogether sure was appropriate. The design was an amalgamation of hubcaps, trash can lids and road signs, including a two-story scaffolding that rotated on wheels. It was more akin to a junk yard than the world of that stressed out, overworked modern day woman.

The costumes were wonderfully simple. The white rabbit had jeans and a fluffy white tale. Cat Daddy's suit was exceptional in its orange tabby hues. During several of the songs the cast would dance their way onstage in different attire that matched the main character's song. While Rasta Blue (Durant Searcy) sang "Come Fly" the rest of the cast danced around in a drug induced stupor with dreadlocks. The white rabbit adorned with dreadlocks; priceless. As Sister Dukes sang about righteousness, the rest of the cast danced about in choir gowns. A Rastafarian wearing a choir gown; superb. The ruby slippers that Alice wore were a nice touch as well.

The choreography was intense. If there were dance errors or stumbling,
the audience was not aware. As each main character belted out their song in Alice's adventure the chorus was alive with singing and dancing. Some of the funniest moments happened in the background.

The house band was finely tuned. The music was performed offstage and enhanced the overall experience.

One side note about the theatre and not the performance - the theatre gave me the warm feeling of being at a friend's house. During the co-founder and director's speech they honored a couple that had been married for over 60 years (64 if I remember correctly). A caveat was delivered by Nettie Vinson at the outset of the musical that due to the configuration of the theatre anyone attending late would have to be seated at an appropriate time as to not disturb the performance. Unfortunately this guideline was not followed.

Several late arrivals were seated during the performance and several seating changes were discussed and made during the performance, detracting from the overall appeal. Those late arrivals may have been friends, family or donors but according to my companion there are some things that are just not done in theatre. Discussing and making seating changes surrounded by other patrons during the performance was perhaps one of them.

This was the first time this musical had been performed by Jubilee Theatre since 2002. The theatre, now in its 30th anniversary season, had revived at least one gem from their original works. Alice Wonder was a treat in every sense of the word. The songs, dances and characters were dynamic and passionate. It was a delight to watch and will be enjoyed by all.

Reviewed by Eric A. Maskell, Associate Theater Critic
for John Garcia's THE COLUMN


Alice Wonder
Jubilee Theatre, 506 Main Street, Fort Worth, TX 76102
Runs through June 26th

Shows are Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00pm with
Saturday and Sunday matinees at 3:00 pm.

For tickets and information, please call 817-338-4411 or
go to www.jubileetheatre.org

Monday, May 30, 2011

The Murder at the Orient Burlesque

I am also an associate theater critic for John Garcia's The Column.  Below is my first review:

John Garcia's THE COLUMN-Friday May 27, 2011





Sten-Erik Armitage
Clyde Berry
Mary Clark
Cheryl Cory
Bonnie K. Daman
Kristopher A. Harrison
Lyle Huchton
Chris Jackson
Jason Kane
Shelley Kaehr
Laurie Lynn Lindemeier
Eric A. Maskell
Ashlea Palladino
Christopher Soden
Mark-Brian Sonna
Kelley Vest
Laura Watson



MURDER AT THE ORIENT BURLESQUE (World Premiere) By Carol R. Rice
Rover Dramawerks

Directed, Choreography, & Sound Design by Mikey Abrams
Produced by Jennifer Grace

Set Design - Kimberly "Kacy" Corbett
Lighting Design - David Gibson
Costume Design - Suzi Cranford
Properties Design - Laura Sosnowski


Tallulah Lazarre - Sue Goodner
Vera Goodman - Dusty Reasons
Melody Seville - Sahara Glasener-Boles
Blondie Starling - Nikki Cloer
Jane Katz - Allegra Denes
Abe Manganelli - Jonathan Winsor
Buddy Hexler - Jon Christie
Walt Michaels - Rich Hancock
Czarina Katherina Anastasia Faberge Antoinette - Alexis Nabors
Detective Ira "Red" Flannegan - Bill Otstott

Reviewed performance on May 21st, 2011

Reviewed by Eric A. Maskell, Associate Critic
for John Garcia's THE COLUMN

________________The Murder at the Orient Burlesque______________

Reviewed by Eric A. Maskell, Associate Critic
for John Garcia's THE COLUMN

At first glance of the title I assumed this play would be a spoof on the murder mystery "Murder on the Orient Express". Fortunately, or unfortunately depending on your perspective, it wasn't and the only thing the two had in common was murder.

In this particular play, unlike most murder mysteries where the sole question was "Who Dunnit?" the question was "Who Didn't?" Director Mikey Abrams took the outlandish premise, sprinkled it with garish costumes and topped it with character much to the delight of the audience.

A new stripper had been hired at the Orient Burlesque who, either by deed or sheer presence, offended all or almost all of the current staff. Czarina Katherina Anastasia Faberge Antoinette, played wonderfully by Alexis Nabors, was brought in to turn the run down Orient Burlesque back to a hotspot for entertainment, or so it would seem. From friction to foul play the antics of the Czarina stirred up more than just profits resulting in a multiple attempted single homicide. At the end of Act I its curtains for the poor Czarina.

And the fun didn't stop there as the remaining staff tried to avoid suspicion and arrest while a determined detective attempted to solve the mystery of her death. Or, more importantly: WHO delivered the killing blow?

The set design was fitting. The theater was set up with a thrust stage and several small tables flanked the stage for patrons to sit. This gave the impression that one was entering an actual burlesque club. The majority of seats was in stadium fashion facing the main stage and curtain and allowed easy viewing for everyone. Additional seating ran along the walls but gave me the impression that they were just attempting to cram in as many seats as possible and, at least for me, took away from the overall affect. Patrons sitting at the tables were treated to a seat within the performance. Several of the cast engaged directly with audience members seated at those tables. The seats were first come/first serve so if you wanted to be an active viewer then you had to arrive early. The actual set was divided into the burlesque stage and the women's changing room by a large curtain that split in the middle. The curtain itself added to the affect with its tears and hand-prints and overall shoddy looking appearance giving the impression of a truly run down, unkempt theater.

The costumes, music and lighting all came together in perfect harmony of a bad burlesque show. The costumes were displayed during the transition burlesque sequences and made the viewer feel as if they were watching an actual burlesque show. During the 'backstage' action the costumes were robes and various under garments as one would expect in a dressing room as the entertainers changed. The music was old school camp and fit perfectly. The director did a wonderful job of having Abe Manganelli (Jonathan Winsor) accompany the comedic acts/transitions with a drum rimshot.

It's difficult to put on a great show. However, I imagine it's very difficult to put on a good show in a bad way. For actors to stumble through lines, perform awful dance routines and generally give the impression of a show that should have been put out of others' misery was a testament to the acting abilities of the cast. In this instance, the cast did wonderfully.

The characters were outlandish and over the top. The actors did a great job. I was impressed with the accent of Walt Michaels (Rich Hancock). The manner in which he carried the character made me feel like he was the owner of this run down establishment. I was also impressed with the way Czarina (Nabors) transitioned from an accent to no accent. The character Jane Katz (Allegra Denes) should have been older because of her ties to Tallulah Lazarre (Sue Goodner) and the many references to the `old days'. Denes played the character well but just didn't have the age to carry some of the lines. Additionally, it may be due to first weekend/world premiere jitters but a few of the accents seemed to come and go throughout the play. One of the highlights of the play was in the second act when Lazarre (Goodner) is explaining her hatred of Czarina (Nabors) to the detective. The monologue was heartfelt, sincere and beautifully performed.

The play started boldly, using vaudeville comedic acts and burlesque numbers to transition the scenes. However, the second act seemed to slow a bit as the detective interviewed the suspects regarding the murder. The transitions were still smoothly choreographed. Instead of using a blackout, when the burlesque show was halted due to the murder, the director dimmed the lights and had the characters dance into their new positions within the next scene. Since the set was of a minimalist design, this allowed the pace to keep going without constant curtain openings. The majority of the problems I felt were in the second act. The second act seemed to slow, which was more or less due to the interrogations of each character. The scene where Katz (Denes) "freaks out" was overplayed and way too long. It detracted from the overall speed and flow. The Detective Ira "Red" Flannegan (Otstott) was a bit underplayed and the accent, even though peppered with `faith and begora', didn't seem to stick. In a play of over the top, outlandish characters, the soft voiced detective seemed to disappear.

According to the program notes, this particular world premiere was a long time coming. Apparently the first act received a staged reading in 2003 and through many rewrites and perseverance the finished product was premiered this month. As a theater patron, I'm glad it was. The overall play and performance was wonderful with its light-hearted and comedic tones. There were some risqué moments - it is burlesque after all - but for the most part all those who attend should leave feeling entertained.

Reviewed by Eric A. Maskell, Associate Critic for
John Garcia's THE COLUMN


Murder at The Orient Burlesque
Rover Dramawerks, Cox Building Playhouse, 1517 H Avenue
Plano, TX 75074
Runs through June 11th

Thursdays–Saturdays at 8:00 pm with a Saturday, May 28th
matinee at 2:00 pm.

Tickets are $16-$20 with $2 discount for students and
seniors. Payment online is through PayPal.

For tickets and information, please call 972-849-0358 or go
to www.roverdramawerks.com.