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, 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.