by Sue Lense
Non-Fiction Theater of the Truly Mundane
Is On My Side
by Rick Brown
The corner of a large Victorian living room in the house where
Rick’s grandmother is a live in housekeeper. It is October 1964.
There is a large television circa 1955 facing the audience. Around
it is slightly worn overstuffed furniture: chairs and a sofa.
Stage left there is a large brick fireplace. A 12-year-old Rick
is sitting on the floor directly in front of the T.V. with his
cousin of a similar age, Geoff. Their younger siblings (Geoff’s
3 sisters and Rick’s 2 brothers and sister) are scattered around
the room sitting on the furniture. The “Ed Sullivan Show” is being
broadcast. The children are mesmerized.
Sullivan (coming from the television) – And now. For the very
firsshhht time on our shhhtage…The ROLLING STONES!!
and Geoff are visibly excited.
song “Time Is On My Side” is heard coming from the T.V.
Dave strolls into the room from stage left.
Dave – Who are those ASSHOLES?
(turning to his father and with utter disdain) – Those assholes
make more money than you’ll ever make.
Jagger (from the T.V.) – Tie Iyee yee IME is on my side…yes
Carol wanders into the room stage left and stands next to her
Carol (putting her hands to her face in dismay) – Oh MY! What
will they do when they get OLD?
– his 12 year old self
– his 12 year old self
and sisters- themselves
Dave – himself
Carol – herself
Stones – their younger “richer than Uncle Dave” selves
August 14, 2010
by Rick Brown
have always enjoyed the performances of Raconteur Theater. This
troupe might be small in numbers but their dedication and commitment
always shines through. Arborophobia is their best show
so far. That’s not to say there is no room for improvement. A
play about a woman being in love with a poplar tree…and a female
poplar tree at that…presented obvious problems. Yet Raconteur
soared when it came to the obvious staging challenges…and on a
few occasions fell a little short on chemistry between characters.
Jacob M. Appel’s script wickedly satirizes social attitudes concerning
cross-cultural personal relationships. Of course the love affair
between Laurel Gage (Alexis Moberger) and the uh…tree…serves both
as central theme and metaphor for her Democratic sister Lily’s
(Mary – Ailee St. Cyr) romantic entanglement with Republican Fairmont
Fythe (Dale DeWood). Their mother Judge Gwendolyn Gage (Krista
Threadgill), apparently a liberal leaning judge, vehemently opposes
Lily and Fairmont’s love…perhaps even more than younger daughter
Laurel’s devotion to the…uh…tree. Dame Lucretia Bankmore Vandervelt
(Anne Grove) is Fairmont’s ruthless boss who is determined to
fell the poplar to make way for…of all things…a quarry. Jimmy
Duckfoot (Rudy Frias), who is head over heels for Laurel, thus
creating a farcical love triangle of boy-girl-tree, owns the plant
store on the property next to Dame Vandervelt. Are you following?
Mr. Appel’s word play is so riveting, and the direction of Danielle
Mari is both freewheeling and succinct, somehow we the audience
bought the premise. Really…we did. And there are so many metaphors
and clever turns of a phrase that the dialogue is entertaining
in and of itself.
onstage chemistry between Mr. DeWood’s Fairmont (whose performance
stole the show until the…uh…tree awakened) and Ms. St. Cyr’s Lily
was wonderful and genuine. The love triangle of Ms. Moberger’s
Laurel, the…uh…tree…and Rudy Frias’ Jimmy was not so much. Yet
in Act 2 Laurel speaks to Jimmy concerning the difference between
a “stalker” and a “lurker”. This scene…and especially Ms. Moberger’s
demonstrative description, was nothing short of brilliant.
Threadgill was good as the Judge-mental mother, although her wardrobe
could have been more judge-like. Anne Grove’s villain was believably
evil but suffered a bit with a subtle shyness that seemingly slipped
into her portrayal.
I’m nitpicking really.
the uh…tree…which looked more like a fancy silk kind of curtain
for most of the show, came to life things onstage jelled. Amazingly,
Jill Ceneskie sat hunched (and I mean hunched) at the base
of this for what seemed almost an hour, silently, without moving
an inch, undercover. Once spawned from the “trunk” of the …uh…tree…Ms.
Ceneskie swooped and swayed…acrobatically dangling and climbing
and dancing in mid air. Having feelings for a…uh…poplar tree…no
longer seemed absurd. Her performance was both exhilarating in
its visual execution and drew Aborophilia to a satisfying
close as a spectacular sum of all its parts.
also have to comment on the Columbus Civic Theater. The venue
is perfect for a troupe like Raconteur. The place is unpretentious,
cozy and comfortable. It is a delightful addition to the Clintonville
community. And there was a nice sized crowd there. All the place
needs is beer and wine to make it the live theater version of
Studio 35, the charming, historic, craft beer serving movie house
just down the street.
Shadowbox Sketch Comedy Festival
by Rick Brown
2nd annual sketch comedy festival certainly smoothed
out some of last year’s virgin…uh…version’s wrinkles. The setup
was a little different with audience members voting on their
favorite skits on night one. The following evening troupes performed
the winning sketches after having them “tweaked” under the guidance
of veteran Shadowbox personnel. So on night two we were instructed
to vote for the “best troupe” while portions of the current
“Best of…” show was featured. This made things a lot less herky
jerky than last year’s festival and made for a more entertaining
as judges for 2010 was Saturday Night Live alumnus Garrett Morris
as well as in-house diva/comedienne extraordinaire Julie Klein.
But unlike the previous contest featuring DJ Jerry Elliot there
was the odd inclusion of NBC4’s Mindy Drayer. The fact that
the judges did not decide the winner made Ms. Drayer’s presence
less “fish out of water”. And to her credit, she did soldier
on through the contest. Yet witnessing her try to jokingly comment
on “Stuff-It”, a video produced by Dependable Felons promoting
a product to combat spousal snoring that involved stuffing a
big dildo in their mouth, was…at best…more than a tad awkward.
Morris and Ms. Klein stood out as confident, fair, and helpful
judges. Stev Guyer (or is it Stev Guye?) proved a more than
adequate emcee. But with his comments at times eclipsing those
of the other judges I wondered if perhaps he should be at the
judges’ table and leave the emceeing in the capable hands of
troupes also returned from last year’s contest: Cleveland’s
Laughter League, The Indicators from Brooklyn, N.Y. and Ashville,
North Carolina’s Feral Chihuahuas. Rounding out the competition
was Columbus’ troupes Sketch by Number and Wild Goose Comedy
Cabaret, as well as New Jersey’s Fantastic Genius. All of these
groups displayed a wide range of talent. I was especially impressed
with Fantastic Genius. The troupe consists of one couple. Their
command of the stage was super. All the 2nd evening’s
“winning” skits were enjoyable and funny…nicely streamlined
from the night before. And realistically the audience, especially
those who had been there both nights, is not going to vote for
the “best troupe”. In the age of American Idol (and people being
people) the vote is going to favor the night’s best sketch…at
least in the eyes of the crowd. I am not going to mention the
winner here because I do not believe any of these comedy groups
are losers in Shadowbox’s Festival. It’s a win-win for everyone
last year there were some dark moments. While the 1st festival
wallowed in endless pussy fart jokes and sexual vulgarity, this
year’s faux pas were more distressing. A video making fun of
old people suffering from Parkinson’s disease was more than
distasteful. I am always disheartened by our culture’s acceptance
of mocking the elderly. The winning sketch portrayed seniors
engaged in an Olympic arguing contest. Fair enough. The characters
had some depth and a genuine fire in their bellies. Old folks
can be like that. But to laugh at the expense of someone’s disease…c’mon…it’s
just because they are old. No one (hopefully) would make jokes
about children dying of a disease. Why is it okay with the elderly?
Tom Cardinal’s superb portrayal of Superman in the Rest Home…well
this video was not even in that ballpark…not even the parking
lot. Listen to Garrett Morris. He knows comedy…and he is in
his 70’s…and he brought the house down singing “Hoochie Coochie
Man” did he not?
the sketch about sex offenders? Sigh. And the brilliant…best
of the festival I thought…skit about lampooning Where’s Waldo?
Is it necessary that out of all the types of criminal activity
in this world you guys made him a rapist? Sure…perhaps it’s
too absurd to take seriously. Most of the troupes were exclusively
men and could benefit having a woman member.
not talking censorship. I’m merely stating that the talent in
these comedy troupes is too deep to bank on cheap shots. And
for the most part the final night proved that across the board.
Obviously this annual sketch comedy festival is going to have
some growing pains. It is incredibly interesting to watch the
process involved. The obvious guidance Shadowbox, along with
Mr. Morris, provides for these young troupes will only make
future festivals even funnier and more satisfying. A good foundation
has been laid by Shadowbox.
by Rick Brown