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-

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