by Harvey Pekar
& Tara Seibel
to be Wild
Easton Town Center
* * * * 1/2
Raconteur Theater at Madlab
February 26 – March 14, 2009
* * * * 1/2
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.
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.
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.
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
information about Raconteur Theater’s schedule of performances
please go to:http://raconteurtheatre.com.
Non-Fiction Theater of the Truly Mundane
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!
#1 (from the middle of the bus) – It’s gonna RAIN
#2 (from the very back of the bus) – And it’s gonna
A guy named
Bob – Where are we goin’ after lunch?
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’!
You never know Bob.
A guy named
Bob – Everything! Got it!
Don’t forget daylight savings time is coming up real soon…March
8th I think.
Lady #3 – I don’t understand what daylight savings
time is for.
#2 – More light at the end of the day they say.
#4 – What does anybody need light at night for?
Morning’s when I do stuff! Night is supposed to be dark!
Ladies #1, #3, #5, #6, #7 – Yeah! In the morning!
#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!
#7 – And what about the FARMERS?!!
#5 – And what about the ANIMALS?!!
A guy named
Bob – Animals don’t care…don’t care
about much of anything.
II ~ Continued...
Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum
Easton Town Center
* * * * *
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
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
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.
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.