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Born to be Wild
Easton Town Center
Columbus, Ohio
* * * * 1/2
by Rick Brown


Isaac, I am
Raconteur Theater at Madlab
Columbus, Ohio
February 26 – March 14, 2009
* * * * 1/2
by Rick Brown

Raconteur Theater’s presentation of Mary Steelsmith’s Isaac, I am was wonderfully contradictory. Staged in a simple setting utilizing three sparse doorways, this bare bones approach certainly amplified the high tech drama that is at times known as the internet. Twenty first century text (including LOL, et al) was randomly illuminated on the central entryway, high tech insinuation done with an old school “overhead projector” feel. And this was brilliant in its simple/complex juxtaposition. For those of us who did not grow up with computers, we are well aware of the ironies. What is real? Who is real? What the hell are you talking about? The interplay of online relationships, chat rooms and the language evolving with them, makes for a riveting storyline from Ms. Steelsmith.

Lorelei Moore portrayed the trusting, and ultimately gullible Angela with a sincerity that made her character believable, likeable, and familiar. Conversely, Stephen Woosley played Isaac, a middle aged man who eventually reveals himself as the manipulative, insensitive bastard who derives pleasure in fooling and misleading through technology. Both Ms. Moore and Mr. Woosley stood out in the performance, as well they should. Woosley’s Isaac in particular impressed since the character ‘s age might be as much as 20 years the senior of this fine actor. Of course Ms. Moore’s gentle, trusting Angela helped convince and the inclusion of ensemble performers, some still in their teens, made the dynamic work. Their exuberance and freshness shone throughout, whether being celebratory or dark.

Excellent as well were Derek McGrath as Ben, Zachary Elgin Lape as Josh (Angela’s love interests) and Isaac’s sympathetic and fellow misleader Roseanne, portrayed skillfully by Suzanne Laird. The entire production flowed beautifully thanks to the direction of Mary-Alleen St. Cyr and some clever choreography. Raconteur Theater’s utilized the total sum of all its’ parts making for what I feel was their finest production to date. I look forward to reviewing performances to come.

Making this evening very special was the Talk-Back after the show with playwright Mary Steelsmith, including discussion led by Ohio State University theater professor Alan Woods. Ms. Steelsmith’s charm and enthusiasm underscored her references to religion (Isaac, I am metaphorically referring to the Old Testament story of Abraham and Isaac), the double edged sword that is meeting people online, and the reality that while technology might very well bring out the worst in human behavior it also offers the opportunity to show our best qualities. She graciously thanked the Raconteur Theater group for so effectively presenting her work.

For more information about Raconteur Theater’s schedule of performances please go to:http://raconteurtheatre.com.

The Non-Fiction Theater of the Truly Mundane
Proudly presents:
Senior Excursion!

Act One
Scene: a small, almost filled mini-bus with 9 senior citizens mostly sitting towards the back of the vehicle. Driving is a young woman with Rick sitting directly behind her, riding along to learn how to be a back up driver. It is a bright, brisk sunny February day, late morning.

Driver – I don’t know who ordered this beautiful day but thank you! The sun is wonderful!

Senior Lady #1 (from the middle of the bus) – It’s gonna RAIN tomorrow!

Senior Lady #2 (from the very back of the bus) – And it’s gonna SNOW Thursday!

A guy named Bob – Where are we goin’ after lunch?

Driver – Shopping at a couple used clothing stores. Won’t that be fun Bob?

A guy named Bob – I don’t need nothin’! Got all I need. Don’t need nothin’!

Rick – You never know Bob.

A guy named Bob – Everything! Got it!

Driver – Don’t forget daylight savings time is coming up real soon…March 8th I think.

Senior Lady #3 – I don’t understand what daylight savings time is for.

Senior Lady #2 – More light at the end of the day they say.

Senior Lady #4 – What does anybody need light at night for? Morning’s when I do stuff! Night is supposed to be dark!

Senior Ladies #1, #3, #5, #6, #7 – Yeah! In the morning!

Senior Lady #4 – And what about the KIDS? Standing around in the dark! I never went to school when it was dark!

A guy named Bob – Me either! Went TO school when it was light…came home from school when it was light!

Senior Lady #7 – And what about the FARMERS?!!

Senior Lady #5 – And what about the ANIMALS?!!

A guy named Bob – Animals don’t care…don’t care about much of anything.


Act II ~ Continued...

Ohio State University Libaries
ReadAloud Program
April 9, 2009

Dr. John Bennett
Elisa Philips
Yvonne Brown
Rick Brown

Notes by a Cynical Bird Watcher
C. Mehrl Bennett

The Young Prince
Morris Jackson

Winter Wetlands
Donna Maria Distel

The Economic Report
by Dennis Toth

The muddled message
          of desert dreams
Crashing about
          like an opiate fit
Thrown by the huddled masses
          Just before
They dropped their chains
          in fervent hope
(lurking deep in their hearts)
          That they too
Could go shopping
          (each day in the market place)
Only to find the shelves
          going bare
While they fidgeted with
          their last two dollars
Buried deeper than their
          parents' graves
In the silky tattered
          folds of moth balled purses
And there, as the chasm opened
          to faith long lost
Did they finally cry
          to some distant
Spot in the sky
          where they heard
The wizard lived
          behind fluted drapes
In a seersucker suit
          selling ice cream
On the side.

Money (F)rom NO-THIN'
Jessy Kendall

by Sue Lense

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A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum
Easton Town Center
Columbus, Ohio

* * * * *
by Rick Brown

When Shadowbox began presenting musicals a couple years back I welcomed the Sunday shows with open arms. The regular shows are great, but I think the limitations of comedy sketches sandwiched between rock songs certainly limits the talents of this superb troupe of actors. With the staging of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Shadowbox emerges ... well ... out of its shadowbox to reveal the greatness lying within.

To state this might be the biggest risk taken since moving to Easton 11 years ago would be an understatement. Beginning with the orchestration ... or lack thereof, bandleader/guitarist Matthew Hahn gets the most out of the least. With a solid core of Taylor Grammas on bass, Robert Robuck on keyboards, Brandon Smith on drums and Dante Wehe on guitar, Mr. Hahn skillfully leads a rock band through the daunting task of doing justice to a Stephen Sondheim orchestral score. Augmenting the band with clarinet (Marilyn Boyd), flute (Noelle Grandison), and additional percussion (Jerrod Wigton) certainly helps. But it’s Hahn’s musical leadership and the tasteful guitar nuances he and Wehe coax from their “axes” that makes the music successfully come together. By stuffy Broadway purists’ standards this is a blasphemy of delightful sound.

Shadowbox musical stalwart JT Walker III sings, dances and charms his way through opening number Comedy Tonight, setting the stage for a blissfully celebratory performance of this hilarious play. A finer welcome to the audience there could never be. Playing Rome’s conniving slave Pseudolus, Mr. Walker takes us to a magical place in his quest to be free. Along the way Jimmy Mak’s Hysterium becomes his partner in a scheme to bring a beautiful virgin (Amy Lay as Philia) from the house of Marcus Lycus, who deals in the skin trade, (played wonderfully by Brandon Anderson) to Hero who has fallen madly in love with her. Hero, whose parents own Pseudolus, promises him his freedom in return for the hand of Philia. And the ironic bite of the seller of slave girls being played by a black man is devilishly delicious.

Of course, it gets more complicated as the story unfolds, evolving into what might be called a romping, raucous sex farce in the spirit of Shakespeare himself. Mr. Mak almost ... but not quite ... steals the spotlight with his ... uh ... singing and dancing? Mak is famous for his stage presence, extraordinary comedic timing and facial expressions. But who knew he could carry on so in belting out I’m Calm? Mr. Walker and Mr. Mak make for superb masters of ceremony in this three-ring circus of burlesque, vaudeville and purposely placed anachronistic mayhem. Romp indeed.

Another big delight is David Whitehouse as Miles, the soldier who has purchased the charms of Philia before the scheme was hatched. Mr. Whitehouse also is well known for his fantastic physical comedy. But here he dazzles the crowd with his ... uh ... singing and dancing? Fronting the stage during a grandiose song and dance routine, he sings a confidently macho Bring Me My Bride with the force of an NFL player turned opera star. With Brian Westbrook and Andrew Cioffi amplifying the Roman soldier-esque foot work while surrounded by the sexy sashaying of a group of delectable Courtisans ... well ... it is quite a sight to behold bringing Act One to a hysterical end.

While the unexpected is sincerely surprising and successful, Shadowbox’s expected talent is apparent. Amy Lay’s portrayal of Philia is at the same time virginal, wise, dumb and wink wink charming. Her singing of Lovely is ... well ... lovely. Pam Whitehouse’s playful shrew Domina makes Robbie Nance’s P-whipped Senex all the more whipped. Sami Shaaban’s clumsy but adorable Hero is a refreshing departure from the other characters. And of course the presence of Colin Hanson as Erronius moving in and out of the scenes behind his hideously huge beard, makes the perfect running (almost literally) sight gag.

I cannot fail to include the lively, lusty sensual diversity of The Courtisans. Tintinabula (Edelyn Parker), Panacea (Katy Psenicka), Geminae (Leah Haviland and Anita McFarren), Vibrata (Taryn Bryant), Gymnasia (Noelle Grandisn), Sue (Sue? Lynsey Strouse) who along with the nimble yet nameless Proteans (Andrew Cioffi, Stephen Crawford, Brett McCardle, and Brian Westbrook), dance and sing their way into the audience’s hearts. Under the skillful choreographic direction of Ms. Psenicka, the big production numbers are more than memorable. Comedy Tonight (both the opening and the finale) and especially the incredible 3-section performance of Everybody Ought to have a Maid fronted superbly by Robbie Nance, offer entertainment that brings a rush up the spine.

Lastly ... and I cannot mention everybody here ... I have gushed long enough and I don’t have a list of the wait staff’s names ... the direction from Steve Guyer and assistant director Julie Klein supported by the musical direction of Stacie Board, certainly made this one of the finest performances I have seen from Shadowbox ... hell ... from anybody for that matter. While the video, at first seeming not so much distracting but unnecessary, won me over with the inclusion of Lady and the Tramp inadvertently kissing while eating a plate of spaghetti. That scene from Disney’s famous animated motion picture is a perfect metaphor for the warmth that is permeated by Shadowbox’s people. Ms. Klein and Mr. Guyer sat at a table immediately behind my party’s. I glanced back a few times during A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum and the two of them seemed like proud parents beaming at their children’s first recital. And rightfully so. The seamlessly joyous romp onstage made me glad that I agreed to write a review of the show.

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum runs Sundays at 2:30 and 7 p.m. with the exception of Easter Sunday, April 12th through April 26th. For more information go to: www.shadowboxcabaret.com.

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Issue 1 - January 2002