Make a point to see Pru Payne — but be prepared for both laughter and tears

By Betsy Labiner

Tristian Turner as Thomas Payne and Mimi Kennedy as Pru Payne. Photo credit to Tim Fuller.

“Kennedy’s stellar performance is supported by strong showings from all her co-stars.”

Pru Payne, written by Steven Drukman and directed by Sean Daniels, is a hard show to categorize. It’s timeless, firmly rooted in the 1980s but inarguably current. It’s funny, but bleak. It’s gentle and caustic in turns. It’s resigned, yet hopeful. Above all, it’s about relationships: complex, loving, frustrating, optimistic, hopeless, and accepting. 

The opening of the show is laugh-out-loud funny; we meet Prudence Payne, played by Mimi Kennedy, in the midst of her being checked in to a medical center for testing and observation. Pru recently accepted a prestigious award with a side-splittingly irreverent and incendiary speech, and the resultant uproar has led her son to seek medical intervention for her behavioral changes and memory loss. Mimi Kennedy is absolutely magnificent as Prudence. Pru is brilliant, impatient, humorous, acerbic, idealistic, and so much more, and Kennedy steals our hearts with her opening monologue, then breaks them with every moment of confusion, as we watch the moments coalesce into an inexorable mental decline. She’s masterful in her depiction of the small slips, and gut-wrenching in her more extreme moments of dementia. The swings are often jarring, as they’re meant to be, made even more so by the flashes of light and changes in color that often indicate lost time, hallucinations, and more. 

Kennedy’s stellar performance is supported by strong showings from all her co-stars, particularly Tristan Turner, who plays her son Thomas. Thomas is achingly vulnerable, and Turner embodies the full range of an adult who simultaneously doubts himself, yet believes in his abilities, who strives to impress his stratospherically successful mother, and resents that mother for casting such a long shadow. His emotional engagement in his interactions with both Kennedy and Greg Maraio heightened the tension and kept me rooting for a character who could have easily come off as elitist and unlikeable, if not for the moments of longing, softness, and love that Turner conveys with utter conviction. Maraio plays Art Cudahy and Gordon Clapp plays his father Gus Cudahy, the brusque, occasionally crass foils to the Paynes. Maraio and Clapp are remarkable in their father-son dynamic, veering between anger, tenderness, and the tension caused by the weight of expectations –both society’s and their own. Veronika Duerr rounds out the cast as Doctor Dolan, a physician trying to manage not only her patients, their symptoms, and the progress of their disease, but also their families’ high emotions. Duerr’s Dolan seems cold and frustrated at times, but we do see her professional detachment morph into something warmer and more personally engaged over the course of the play. 

The actors’ work is buoyed by highly effective scenic and lighting choices from designers James J. Fenton and Philip S. Rosenberg, respectively. The enormous photograph on the backdrop shifts, deconstructs, and reconstructs over the course of the play, adding to the sense of loss, change, and uncertainty. The aforementioned flashing lights do similar work, jolting us from one moment to the next, startling us into empathy for the characters’ own confusion. Tina McCartney’s costume design silently builds out the characterization, including the slide over time from a put-together facade to something less concerned with appearances. The collective effect takes us on a two decades long journey in a swift 90 minutes. 

Through both the comedy and the tragedy, the play focuses our attention on a handful of vital questions: Who upholds social standards, or even gets to decide what those standards are? How do we curate our own memories? What do we owe others in terms of how we remember them? This play asks big questions, connecting them not only to individuals, but whole communities, social movements, and large-scale implications. 

Despite its humor and its hopefulness, this play is a painful one at many points, especially if you have personal experience loving someone with dementia. The pain, though, isn’t without purpose. Pru Payne is a journey of re-membering, of creation from pieces of a life. It spurs introspection and empathy, and is absolutely a play to see and to sit with long after the show has ended. 

Pru Payne runs at Arizona Theatre Company through March 25th. Tickets can be purchased through their website,, or by calling the box office at 1-833-ATC-SEAT. 

One final note — an exhortation, really — unconnected to my thoughts on this show: when the pre-show recording asks the audience to turn off all phones, turn. them. off. No fewer than FOUR phones rang loudly during the performance I attended, and one instance even appeared to cause an actor to fumble a line. It’s disrespectful to all the people who’ve poured their time and effort into crafting the show, and disrespectful to those spending their time and money to experience it. 

Disclaimer by Taming of the Review: We would like it to be known that two of our members are involved in the production. Our co-founder Gabriella de Brequet acts as assistant director and one of our reviewers Richard ‘Chomps’ Thompson understudies the role of Thomas.

Ally Tanzillo serves abundant laughs while taking us on a disconcerting first date.

By Jacqueline Stewart (Guest Reviewer)

Ally Tanzillo in Tell Me About You photo credit to Ryan Fagan.

“You don’t need to be a seasoned theatre-goer to enjoy every second of this show. There is dancing, singing, and my personal favorite: an oddly specific powerpoint presentation.”

Written and performed by Ally Tanzillo, “Tell Me About You” was an exceptionally captivating experience from curtain to bow. 

This one-person powerhouse of a show takes us through a first date in real time. We get to experience the date from the perspective of the lucky soul on the other side of the table. The date begins with awkward, forced chit-chat, as first dates often do, and — without spoiling the fruit of the show before you get to experience it yourself — let’s just say things soon unravel to take a series of side-splitting turns. If you’ve done any amount of dating in this modern era, you have either been a version of this person or been on a date with a version of this person. Or… perhaps even at both at one point or another. The show begins at a cocktail table over a bottle of wine meant to be shared, a chardonnay which is then ultimately consumed sip by sip by only one half of the pair as the date awkwardly unfolds. The dating app frontier presents such a bizarre experience to everyone brave enough to participate in it and the show is a brilliant reflection of that. So much so, in fact, that it is honestly impossible to suss out what might be autobiographical and what might be a fabrication designed to gift us a hearty laugh that is equal parts validation and cringe.

Ally sells this fumbling experience with a captivating and infectious verve as they make expert use of the space. Their varied pace was brilliantly executed to be as harried and frantic or as awkward and lingering as it needed to be in a given moment. Parts of the show at times almost felt like standup as they monologued their character’s nonlinear life experiences, nearly ignoring the poor soul across from them. Carrying an entire show by one’s self is no easy feat, and this show is a testament to incredible skill and refined talent. 

You don’t need to be a seasoned theatre-goer to enjoy every second of this show. There is dancing, singing, and my personal favorite: an oddly specific powerpoint presentation. Although very quirky and unique, the show is hilariously relatable. I highly recommend this show for a date night or night out with friends. It was such non-stop fun that when Ally took their bow I thought it was part of the show, because there was no earthly way an entire show had already gone by. Forty-five very enjoyable minutes had passed by me in a wink! This show is well worth the very modest price of entry and I highly recommend that audiences make it out to Live Theater Workshop to experience the same delight that I did. 

Tell Me About You runs through March 11th at Live Theatre Workshop. Tickets can be purchased online at or by calling (520) 327-4242. 

Audiences will be “Over the Moor” to see Brontë at Scoundrel & Scamp

By Sean Patrick (Guest Reviewer)

Myani Watson as Anne, Allison Akmajian as Emily, and Dawn McMillan as Charlotte. Photo credit to Tim Fuller.

“For the Brontë lover, this is sure to rekindle your love for your old favorites, and for the dilettante it will certainly enrich your connection to these classics.”

To be seen, known, loved and chosen, first by oneself, and only then by others — an at once modern and timeless theme at the heart of Scoundrel & Scamp’s latest period play, Brontë, by Polly Teale.

Nearly 200 years separate our modern sensibilities from the lives and literature of the Brontë women, whose titles Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, and Agnes Grey serve almost as shorthand for “The Classics”. This ubiquity, though, belies the radical shift these works represented. This thoughtful and beautifully-directed production entreats the audience to forget these authors and titles as mere museum pieces, instead to journey along the wild and desolate moors and arrive in the home that would shape the character of both the authors and the fictional heroines with whom they’ve become synonymous. 

As the audience arrives, a delightful bit of  immersive theatre winks at our perhaps stale understanding of the authors– as you clear the curtain to find your seat, a cast member in role as a museum docent cheerfully pipes “Welcome to the museum!”, and you are invited to engage with actors and explore elements of the set and props (within reason!). It is a playful way to connect with the artists before they begin telling their story over the next 2 hours– a longer than usual run-time for the Scoundrel & Scamp. Luckily, the story unfolds visually with a tapestry of tones, styles, colors, engaging the imagination throughout. Two imposing bookshelves flank the set divided by an arch giving way to rolling moors, a lovely visual metaphor for escaping into the Brontës’ prose. Co-designed by director Bryan Falcón and Raulie Martinez, the set affords the actors a variety of useful levels and playing spaces lending to a naturalness of movement. This pays off, and this is one of Falcón’s most deftly staged plays to date. Martinez’s lighting design pools lights to further define moments, moving us between reality and the dreamscapes we’ve come to expect from this theatre.

Beginning in childhood and spanning the course of their lives, the playwright weaves a story of both healthy and unhealthy rivalry between the Brontës. In early moments as children we see glimpses of the adults they would become. The eldest, Charlotte and Branwell, delight in pretending the grand exploits Branwell imagines for himself. Always captain of a ship or commander in battle, he relegates Charlotte to helpful sidekick–a role Charlotte is all too happy to subvert. Younger Emily, of poetic sensibilities is the family observer, content to humble herself in obscurity to nurture her own inner-life, while Anne dotes on her illustrious siblings. Each child is encouraged in imagination and literary pursuits by their father, although none so exuberantly as Branwell, who despite his shortcomings is groomed to be the golden child– a dynamic that sparks a rivalry which shapes the play. Driven by Charlotte, the Brontë sisters must strive to define their own voice in contrast and relief to one another, achieve individual success, and save their brother and family from financial ruin. Surrealist vignettes from Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre occasionally pierce the world of the play to reflect key stages in our protagonists’ journey, the infamous characters of Cathy and Bertha intensely physicalized by actor Elizabeth Falcón.

The mosaic of time shifts and vignettes make for challenging work for the audience. You must very much trust that the playwright is building toward something worthwhile. And indeed she is. By the second act, the story freely flows as the ensemble finds beautiful moments of tension and release, relaxing into a dreamy, if lengthy denouement. Like the character she plays, Dawn Macmillan as Charlotte drives each of her scenes, lifting all boats with her earnest energy. Allison Akmajian smartly portrays Emily’s quieter but no less indomitable spirit, managing simultaneously to lament and accept without judgment her inability to conform. Akmajian’s dialect work is commendable, and greatly assisted the audience in decoding the convention of main characters occasionally shifting into vignette roles. Branwell’s arc from golden boy to an increasingly petulant man prone to self-sabotage is a slow and disturbing transition that Hunter Hnat carefully calibrates. Myani Watson (Anne) and Tony Caprile (father Patrick Brontë and several other characters) round out the ensemble nicely, managing to distinguish themselves on stage even while the script centers on the family’s more dynamic personalities. 

As a viewer, there were certainly seams apparent in some of the musical support and ranging dialects. The many tonal shifts through the first few minutes mean the actors are working double to find one another on stage. However I quickly forgave this, and found myself immersed and invested in Polly Teale’s artful interplay between fact and fiction. It is beautifully directed, and the ensemble will continue to find strength in each other with each performance. For the Brontë lover, this is sure to rekindle your love for your old favorites, and for the dilettante it will certainly enrich your connection to these classics. 

The Scoundrel & Scamp is adept in staging period pieces that bridge to modern themes, and if you, as I, have loved watching that emerging style of this theatre, you will absolutely love this play. 

Brontë runs at The Scoundrel and Scamp Theatre through March 11th. For more information or to purchase tickets, please visit or call the S&S box office at 520-448-3300. 

They’re singing Happy Birthday! Tick, Tick… Boom at Winding Road!

By Zachary Austin (Guest Reviewer)

Allie Rowe as Susan, Tyler Gastelum as Jon, Zach Wetzel as Michael photo credit to Alex J. Alegria.

“The most exciting part of the entire production was the live band…The band executed the music with a beautiful finesse, and furthermore, they were living, breathing characters in their own right.”

Everyone has experienced, at least once in their life, a time when their brain is running a hundred miles an hour, leaving the rest of them behind in a sea of uncertainty, on a life raft with no oars. This feeling is a driving factor for many artists. It drives them into the next audition, to their next canvas, or it signals a season of change when it might be time to move into a new chapter in which they forge a new path away from the arts. This is what the Winding Road Theater Ensemble explores with their production of Tick, Tick… Boom!

This semi-autobiographical musical by Jonathan Larson, the man who brought us Rent, explores what it is like to be a starving artist searching for the validation we all crave. The show starts not with a musical number but with Jon (played by Tyler Gastelum) himself stepping into the audience and letting us know what to expect for the evening. It is at that moment the audience is invited to look intimately into the life of a 29-year-old trying to find any amount of success before he turns 30, which is in one week. We see him experience love, loss, and anxiety, and explore what it means to be an artist trying to navigate the industry he so desperately wants to break into.

Gastelum guides us from one moment of Jon’s life to another giving the audience an insight into Jon’s deep-seeded uncertainty of his situation. Jon is a difficult role to execute and Gastelum gave it his all. There were a few moments where the part may have extended beyond his vocal range but that didn’t stop him from giving every moment the energy the show deserves. Gastelum may have been a near perfect casting choice as every time he turned to the audience for any of his plentiful asides, he makes the audience feel included in all of Jon’s trials and tribulations. Castmates Allie Rowe and Zach Wetzel, who play Susan and Michael respectively, provide the crucial support needed to fully experience the story. Rowe is given the enormous task of not only acting as a foil to Jon in the role of Susan, but also playing Jon’s ever-elusive representation. Rowe makes the changes clear at the drop of a hat and it is not to be missed. Wetzel’s portrayal of Michael, Jon’s best friend since childhood, had a rigidity in his acting that left the audience craving more connection and emotion. Wetzel’s vocal talent, however, is not to be understated. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to him in “Real Life.”  

The lighting by Alex J. Alegria had moments that dazzled the audience and left them in awe, however, I found most of the lights to be a little one-note. The stage was covered in a wash of one color which allowed the audience to see every little movement on stage to the point that it was distracting from the main action of the moment. This production would not have happened without the artistic vision of co-directors Maria A. Caprile and Zach Wetzel, who clearly understood the emotional journey on which the script and libretto take the audience. The stage did not offer much space once the live band was set up, but Caprile ensured that would not stop the audience from enjoying the hard work everyone put into the production. In addition to Wetzel playing Michael and co-directing, he was also the music director. While all the music was pleasant to the ear, there were a few moments that the sheer number of responsibilities for Wetzel may have come at a cost of the audience’s attention being split from the main focus on the show. There were moments while his other castmates were singing and furthering the plot in which I found myself distracted by Wetzel, not so subtly, conducting the band in full view of the audience while also playing Michael.

The most exciting part of the entire production was the live band. The band (consisting of David Craig on piano, Carlos Soloranzo on drums, Sam Hay on bass, and Brian McElroy on guitar) really gave the production dimension and depth. The band executed the music with a beautiful finesse, and furthermore, they were living, breathing characters in their own right. Each individual member of the band had their own personality they brought to the production and I couldn’t help but be engrossed by Hay and McElroy’s visible pleasure they got from doing what they love.

If you or a loved one have ever had any interest in seeing the stage production, this is as good a time as any to run, not walk, to the Cabaret space at the Temple of Music and Art and experience the magic that they are giving to the community. Tick, Tick… Boom! runs through March 5th. Tickets can be purchased at

How Theatre Should Be Remembered

Richard ‘Chomps’ Thompson

Aaron Cammack as Tom, Michelle Chin as Laura, and Lillie Richardson as Amanda photo credit to Tim Fuller.

It is from distant regret that healing becomes an impossibility. Those hazy fragments of time where we confuse ourselves that what we remember is what had always been, and become trapped in its fixation with desperate resolve. This pain from memory and regret is at center stage as we watch a closing chapter to the lives of the Wingfield clan in the Arizona Theatre Company production of The Glass Menagerie

Considered one of his seminal pieces, Tenessee Williams’s Menagerie still resonates today as it did in 1944, presenting bitter traumas and fractured relationships as a sort of ghost story that many people live with. This is a commanding directorial debut for Chanel Bragg, ATC’s Associate Artistic Director, and her skills in drawing out sophisticated and emotional nuance while also bringing new contemporary elements within a classic tale is noteworthy.

Tom Wingfield (played passionately by Aaron Cammack), with the slow molasses-like drawl of bitter contemplation, recounts the final days with the two women he loved most — his sister Laura and his mother Amanda — showing us just how much he didn’t know how to love them. It’s a true and disturbing choreography of flawed remembrance. Like many memories of regret, they are rife with longing and beauty, until they turn cracked, just like they have always been. 

From the outset, the set and light design was crafted to best emphasize this element of flawed narration, pouring a drab and dusted over veneer onto the stage in the form of rustic earthy hues. These lighting moments were interspersed with chromatic urban highlights into a scene of colorful industrial decline. 

Josafath Reynoso, set designer, dotted the stage with antiques and heirlooms that were once vibrant, but now aged and worn away from neglect. Translucent backdrops of steel-girded window panes allowed us to see not only inside the Wingfield home, but outside as well. Space is filled impressively not just horizontally, but vertically as well, utilizing the fire escape that rests just outside as an almost invisible feature of shadow and aluminum until it is ever-present.  

In contrast to how subtle the fire escape is, there stands an opulent, vivacious, whimsically-lit, neon sign of Paradise Hall, glowing from a range of whites and blues to all sorts of rainbow hues therein. When not spotlighting these memorial cues, Marsha Tsmiring, lighting designer, effectively conveyed the ambiance of romanticized memory with a soft and careful hand. Lighting becomes a sunset-like red when characters riff fondly of a past they lovingly remember, as if seeing through rose-colored glasses.

Similarly to the light design, Matthew DeVore, sound designer, fit the world with appropriate period pieces that are both familiar and hard to place, creating an occasionally-distorted comfort. This is made even more poignant by the fiddle which frames up a memory about to be visited and tethered to a deliberate striking luminosity of the Paradise Hall sign.

The use of light, coupled with the music, was a thoughtful mechanism to transition into new scenes, as well as mimicking how one is moved to a memory they cannot escape when a word or song elicits sentimental trauma from parts of the mind typically kept locked. All of these illuminated, emotional constructs foregrounded memory as a theme, allowing for convincing character interpretation. 

This evocative element is embraced at the very opening of the show. The lights don’t dim and the stage is not set. Cammack, in his role of Tom Wingfield, has to do that. And by the time he talks, he is already far off, miles away from those he shows us, even when he is on stage. He walks among his family and peers in the distance, unable to truly connect with those around him. Cammack moves and speaks sharply, demanding sympathy for his turmoil even when his actions are selfish. There are times when he speaks to the audience that his movements match those of whom he speaks, creating an eerie effect of show and tell of his state of mind, and the fragility of his memories, as if he himself is another piece of furniture that breathes in life before dying away from neglect.

In complete contrast is Lillie Richardson, playing Amanda Wingfield with such an overbearingly delightful performance that she steals the stage every time she speaks. Richardson is passionately exuberant, giving Amanda an enraging tenacity to drive any son or daughter into a frenzy. The audience can relate to her with an empathetic humanity into her misguided, yet sincere motives.

Laura, played by Michelle Chin, is performed with a beautifully sad whimsy. With each clubbed step and soft cry, she harnesses a perfect peculiarity that is fragile and longing. Debilitated by lifelong anxiety along with being pitilessly resigned a ‘cripple’, her sweet depth is presented without mockery and is compassionately tragic. 

Jim O’Conner, played by Paul Deo Jr., takes stage with a booming voice and prominent gait that is nothing short of bombast. He is both charming and awkward, astute and clueless. He walks with an eloquence so poised it suffers from stilted upward mobility.  

The entire cast is notable with wonderful deliberateness in each of their performances. If there was a minor critique to be found, it would be that despite the proficient use of accents, they all seemed from different regions of the south, struggling to find uniformity. It was not distracting in the least, and may not even be noticed for the most part.

Beyond the performances themselves is the recognition that some contemporary audiences may find issue with the historical elements of the subject matter itself. This is a story told of 1930s America with concepts much more overt in their social statements of roles and expectations. Yes, the patriarchy is definitely alive and well in this tale. This is a story that defines a woman as only worth the man who will have her. Problematic? Of course. Still relevant in a contemporary audience? Yes. Not because it’s true, but because now it is seen with a modern sense that highlights its absurdity. A point that could be argued is how the importance of the women in this play are truly to be recognized when their importance is defined by the man who is remembering them to begin with. It is a quintessential example of the value structure placed upon women based on the worth in which a man has bestowed upon them, despite it being rooted in virtuism. 

This concept of identity is actually made present for a contemporary audience by Bragg’s leadership. A point that will be noticed immediately is Bragg’s choice of casting, along with Casting Director Victor Vazquez, choosing to cast black performers along with white ones. More to the point, she cast a black actress in a traditionally-white role.

Issues of diversity and inclusion are not a secret anymore, but there is a degree of systemic success imparted by its execution. Despite well-meaning intentions, how race and character are perceived (and in many ways expected) can cause unintentional analysis that takes away from seeing a character for who they are. Even harder, is asking and answering when is race a crucial element of a character? Bragg answers this through her casting in the way diversification should be authentically instituted.

Race in this instance is held perfectly, completely unimportant as it has no bearing on character motivations or desires. Those crucial elements are not affected. They are people; flawed and real, held together by their own convictions, triumphs and desires that remain authentic to their hearts, their pains, and their fears; and they were cast magnificently. While it could be considered a simple statement on inclusivity on the stage, it is more than that. It is an example of the effect in which audience expectations can reach new points of character understanding when seen in a new light. 

This deliberate casting of black actors in non-color roles creates an inverse reflection to Amanda Wingfield’s typical southern debutante in an entirely opposite way that minstrels did to African Americans with their exaggerated caricatures created from blackface. Amanda Wingfield didn’t change, but her humanity was further illuminated through Richardson’s performance. Real humans from conditioned systems that unmade them from an expected – albeit classic – novelty into people again.

Despite being one of Williams’s most notably recognized plays, Bragg breathes new ways to contemplate the family dynamics and histrionics with her directorial decisions, allowing a contemporary perspective to explore the characters and setting of this piece in ways that are resonant in the 21st century.

Even though the era in which the play is set is both racist and sexist, it shouldn’t be confused with whether the play itself is. It is not. It is a play of a memory where a broken American, living across the alleyway from Paradise and who escapes to the movies each night, does so because there is nothing left for them except for realizing they will never fulfill their own potential. This is a play of stories within stories and how we remember them. The story itself is a reminder of our nation’s historical realities, priorities, and measures of achievement and how in many respects, they still hold firm to the contemporary setting of today even when not as overt. The central questions that are asked remain unchanged and timeless: Who will care for us when we can’t care for ourselves? How does one feel guiltless when they leave the ones they care for? When these questions cannot be answered, the ghosts of regret and unfulfillment remain, haunting those afraid to live as they do with the Wingfield family. The tale of those fractured interrelations will never not resonate and the same holds true in this case. It’s the kind of thoughtful theater that sticks in the minds of audiences to which they remember fondly. 
The Glass Menagerie continues its run in Tucson until February 11th and will continue its run in Phoenix until March 5th. Tickets can be purchased at Arizona Theater Company.

Tomorrow belongs to Pima Theatre in their perfectly marvelous rendition of Cabaret!

By Mara Capati

The company of Cabaret

“The entirety of this cast deserves many praises in their dedication to their characters, from historically and culturally appropriate depictions, to their German and English accents – you name it. This cast clearly put in a lot of work into their delivery and consistency.”

Cabaret is an American musical theatre classic that takes place between 1929-1930 in Berlin, Germany, during a post-World War I economic depression, at the beginnings of Hitler’s totalitarian regime and the rise of the Nazi Party. Struggling American author Cliff Bradshaw comes to Berlin to write a new novel. On his first night, he wanders into the Kit Kat Klub, managed by the enigmatic “Emcee,” and is introduced to a talented Cabaret performer and lost soul, Sally Bowles. As their romance blossoms, they are met with the harsh reality of an escalating antisemetic political state. At odds with whether they should leave or stay amidst rising tensions, Ernst, Cliff’s German friend, reveals himself to be a supporting member of the Nazi Party, and Herr Schultz, a fellow boarder at Fraulein Schneider’s guest house where Cliff and Sally reside, falls victim to a hate crime. This musical boldly explores themes of sexual liberation, discrimination, and poverty within the backdrop of looming political tragedy.

Director Mickey Nugent provides the audience a full immersion into the world and essence of true “cabaret theatre.” The success of this experience is in part due to the seamless cohesion of all the little details. From the simple and intimate staging to the historical world building, the audience is captivated by the beguiling plot that unfolds. Nugent elegantly transports audiences to a historic time that seems all too familiar and cruelly nostalgic for some, in its similarity to rising political and human rights concerns in the world today. 

On the technical end, Pima’s sound system and balancing has significantly improved from the last production I had attended there this year. Actors were crystal clear, and wow – the balancing and vocal power of that ensemble! Transitions were smooth, with minimalistic, only-necessary set pieces, and interchangeable projection-panel images – the perfect simple setting for some not-so-simple narratives and storytelling.  

The entirety of this cast deserves many praises in their dedication to their characters, from historically and culturally appropriate depictions, to their German and English accents – you name it. This cast clearly put in a lot of work into their delivery and consistency. You could distinguish any single role on stage, ensemble members included, and see the complex growth of the individual and the group, reacting to and processing the impacts of the trauma of a rising regime inciting fear, violence, discrimination, and murder against their loved ones, within their home country. While there were many honorable mentions of performers, I would like to start by highlighting the display of massive talent across the board. I’m not sure that I’ve seen this quality of talent as a whole at Pima Theatre in a few years. The choreography delivery of the Cabaret dancers, the unabashed movement and sensuality – all invaluable contributions to the world-building and undertone of this production. Nickole Custodio, who portrays the vivacious Sally Bowles, has a bright and long career ahead of her in the world of professional theater. She was an absolute delight to watch on stage, captivating the audience with her voice and range in character. My personal favorite vocal performance of the evening, though, hands-down goes to Julia Water’s vocal solo in “Married” as Fraulein Kost with the palettable yearning she depicts through skillful vocal control.

I was happily surprised to see an incredibly diverse cast for this production both in racial representation, genderbending presentation and sexual orientation. The actors portraying the ensemble’s male-presenting characters, Emcee and Cliff, were pinnacle to the successful depiction of sexual liberation in this production. I cannot sing enough praises for the incorporation of LGBT+ musical literature and characters into the Pima Theatre slate this year. It is important to understand the repressed nature of sexuality during those times, especially for those individuals who didn’t believe or practice heteronormativity. Those added stressors have great impacts on people within the LGBTQ+ community, in addition to the added stressors of your country being on the brink of war and persecuting innocent people. It genuinely brought tears to my eyes to see these characters on a Tucson stage, as we do not often see this type of representation in musical theatre productions in town. 

I highly recommend that those who have not yet seen this production, come support the Pima Theatre program and its students. Pima Theatre’s take on Cabaret is evidence that the program is rising in ranks towards competing with the quality of a BFA level production and local professional musical theatre companies. I hope to see this production team keep raising the bar and keep up the great work. Today, Cabaret. Tomorrow.. La Cage Aux Folles? I say that in jest, however Pima Theatre’s line up also seems very promising, with Sunday in the Park with George, a Sondheim classic, coming up in March 2023. 
Get your tickets for Cabaret and future shows at Pima Community College | Ticketing – Ticket Office Home ( The show runs until November 20th, Th-Sat at 7 p.m., Sun at 2 p.m at the Proscenium Theatre on 2202 W Anklam Rd, Tucson, AZ 85709. General tickets are $15 and $10 for Students/Seniors/Military/Pima Employees/Groups.

Open your heart for the holidays at The Wickhams: Christmas at Pemberley

By Felíz Torralba

The Company of ‘The Wickham’s’ photo credit to Tim Fuller

“When an ensemble comes together to bring a piece to life, everyone must be a dedicated team player. When this happens, it becomes less about the actors and how quality and skilled they are and more about the story being told in the most authentic way. This is exactly what is being done here.”

Elaborate schemes, grandeur, and romance both sparked and speared by pride have returned to Arizona Theatre Company! This holiday season, ATC is revisiting Regency romance with Lauren Gunderson and Margot Melcon’s The Wickhams: Christmas at Pemberley — a companion piece to the duo’s delightful Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley — both modern continuations of Jane Austen’s popular novel Pride and Prejudice. As the events of Miss Bennet unfold upstairs at Pemberley, the servants downstairs find themselves in the midst of a different holiday scandal. An unwelcome visitor has stumbled into the hall in the middle of the night: Mr. Darcy’s nemesis and Lydia’s incorrigible husband, Mr. Wickham. The bustling housekeeper Mrs. Reynolds, the resilient new serving girl Cassie, and the helplessly romantic footman, Brian, must each balance their holiday preparations with keeping Mr. Wickham confined. Old grudges and new misunderstandings reach a boiling point, and as the festivities spiral into chaos, Pemberley’s residents struggle to keep peace without taking sides. Warm and sensational, Gunderson and Melcon’s second Austen adaptation delves into class, privilege, family and forgiveness — and what it means to truly open one’s heart in the season of giving.

We are welcomed to Pemberley and thrust into the world of these characters through skillful, delicate beams of light (Brian J. Lilienthal) accompanied by a perfect sound bath (Erdberg & Kwong-Brown) that is everything you could wish for while watching an Austen-esque text unfold before your eyes. As the curtain lifts, we are transported into life downstairs at Pemberley. The set (Apollo Mark Weaver) radiated such care and attention to detail, from the light under the teapot to the snow-frosted windows to the warm candle flame that invites the eyes to wander up the staircase. Not to mention the beauty and intricacy of the gowns and suits (Lauren T. Roark) that allow us to identify class in another way; my favorite costume pieces include Cassie’s dress and Mr. Wickham’s coat. I was hooked within the first 5 minutes (as you can probably tell)!

As this new perspective on the characters we know and love unfolds, the quality and direction (Veronika Duerr) of the players is subtly presented excellence. This is because it is done extremely well. When an ensemble comes together to bring a piece to life, everyone must be a dedicated team player. When this happens, it becomes less about the actors and how quality and skilled they are and more about the story being told in the most authentic way. This is exactly what is being done here – and that makes for some phenomenal theatre (and boy, it is refreshing). This story is delicately balanced with farcical holiday drama we all know well, yet rings with messages of classism and feminism and how it may have been relevant in another time period. One especially noteworthy performance is that of Amelia White (playing Mrs. Reynolds), who quite literally runs the show as the quick-witted head of servants who keeps things moving along. White is the engine in this machine of an ensemble, not to mention she brings a masterful Irish dialect to the character.

Seth Tucker (playing Brian) was like a trampoline for energy – bouncing back anything thrown his way. This was a perfect complement to the light of this play, Emily Mahoney (playing Cassie) who brought strength, beauty, and youthfulness. Maya Encila and Alex J. Gould, playing Lydia and George Wickham respectively, were a necessary contrast: where our beloved Lydia Wickham was hilarious and boisterous, Mr. George Wickham was snarky, squalid, and played a perfect villain. Andrea Syglowski (playing Mrs. Darcy) and Cecil Washington (playing Mr. Darcy) kept the nostalgic love alive and portrayed our favorite Austen characters oh-so-well.

My one critique is that the set felt lived-in, but the characters did not. This was particularly noticeable during elaborate scene transitions where I couldn’t help but notice a lack of engagement and physicality. I see this as a missed opportunity to tell us (the audience) more about these characters. I also acknowledge this could very well be due to the fact that it was opening night, and it is the only element I wish I could change about this experience. I look forward to bringing my own family back to see this play before closing. It truly got me in the holiday spirit and left me in a great mood!

If you love the holidays, laughing until your stomach hurts, and Jane Austen, you are bound to have a merry Christmas at Pemberley.

ATC is located in Downtown Tucson at 330 S Scott Avenue. The Wickhams: Christmas at Pemberley runs until December 2nd, 2022.
Tickets start at $25 and are available for purchase at

Scooch on over to LTW for Killed a Man (Joking)

By Betsy Labiner

Gianbari Deebom as Amanda, Czarina Nafarrate as Megan, Zac Austin as Trevor, Andy Johnson as Liv, and Allison Akmajian as Katie photo credit to Ryan Fagan

“Gianbari Deebom positively shines as Amanda, the leader of the plot to protect Megan. Deebom carries the bulk of the emotional storytelling, and is utterly compelling in everything from ineffectual attempts at distraction, desperate determination, and righteous fury.”

Killed a Man (Joking) is a raucous rollercoaster of a play that’s not going to be for everyone, but if you’re into dark comedy and can stomach themes of domestic violence, coercion, psychological abuse, and manipulation, I encourage you to treat yourself to the current Etcetera show at Live Theatre Workshop. 

This production of Beth Hyland’s Killed a Man (Joking) is directed by Gabriella de Brequet, who brings years of theatrical experience to her staging. De Brequet’s set, props, and costumes were all smartly simple, creating a shuttered restaurant and its panicky staff with no unnecessary ado. Everything onstage was incorporated into the action, and the use of the wings for additional unseen spaces worked well in the theatre of the mind. The story follows three coworkers who become entangled in a murder committed by a fourth coworker — but that murder might have been an accident or self-defense, so they’re going to have to get their story straight if they want to keep their friend out of prison. 

Gianbari Deebom positively shines as Amanda, the leader of the plot to protect Megan. Deebom carries the bulk of the emotional storytelling, and is utterly compelling in everything from ineffectual attempts at distraction, desperate determination, and righteous fury. Her comedic moments are more wry and deadpan than Katie’s (played by Allison Akmajian), but plenty of her lines, such as her grudging admission that she may have “scooched” the body — her word for having moved a corpse all the way from the dining area to the walk-in freezer — had myself and the rest of the audience positively cracking up. Akmajian’s comedic work was delightful as well; she is unafraid to lean into her character’s ridiculousness, but manages to do so without reducing her to a caricature. Liv (played by Andy Johnson) is comparatively less engaging than Amanda and Katie, but Johnson holds their own with the others. They bring a frazzled energy to the play, capturing the tension between wanting absolutely no part of the cover-up and feeling obligated to help. 

Czarina Nafarrate and Zac Austin (as the Megan, the murderer, and Trevor, the victim, respectively) have significantly less stage time than their castmates, but give searing performances in the last portion of the play. The audience knows all along that how Trevor ended up dead is hardly the simple story being concocted by the coworkers, but Nafarrate and Austin’s scene reveals all in its ugly, cruel, and complicated truth. Nafarrate navigates tough emotional spaces here, giving us a nuanced depiction of a terrified victim of abuse and blackmail. Austin’s Trevor is smarmy and self-assured, absolutely convinced of his own power and willing to stoop to any level to get his way. Austin’s lightning-fast shift from lolling and laughing to shouting and grabbing Nafarrate was genuinely frightening, and I heard more than one sharp gasp around me when he did so. 

There is a deeply odd juxtaposition of moods in the final moments, which for me felt like a jolting expulsion from the intensity Austin and Nafarrate had built, but it certainly left me pondering notions of guilt and justice. 

This play begins as dark workplace comedy and ends as an exploration of domestic abuse, and incorporates commentary on policing and racism, drug use, and more along the way. Parts of this play are difficult to watch, particularly if you have experienced abuse, manipulation, or gaslighting, but I recommend it, with the caveat of first assessing whether those themes will be triggering for you.

Killed a Man (Joking) runs for one more weekend at Live Theatre Workshop. Showtimes are November 18-19 at 10:00pm, and November 20 at 7:00pm. To make your reservation call 520-327-4242 or buy tickets online at 

Dia de Los Muertos: The Worlds of the Living and the Dead Collide

By Annie Sadovsky Koepf

The Cast of Dia de Los Muertos the Musical photo credit to Ryan Fagan

“If you have children, they will love it. If you don’t, you will love it.”

Having awkward and difficult conversations about many topics are understandably hard for parents and caretakers of small children.  After the last two years, many adults have had to navigate these discussions with young kids, especially regarding the loss of their loved ones. Dia de Los Muertos:The Musical by Michael Martinez now playing at Live Theatre Workshop in the Children’s Theater addresses this topic. ” I wanted to bring death up as a conversation for kids and families because I know how important it was for my family.” writes Martinez as he describes why he wrote the show. His goal is well achieved with a mixture of joy, laughter, excitement, and poignancy. 

Live Theatre Workshop opened the show this past weekend with a one-time fiesta which included face painting, sweets, art activities, and music before the show. It set the tone or the performance. The performers came out and sang one song before we entered the theatre and after the performance, the actors greeted the audience once again. I always love when theatres do this. I for one don’t think it breaks any of the mystery of the theater, but brings the audience into the world of the magic of storytelling.

Magic is what was created by the costumes. I must commend Sophia Nagore for her work as the costume designer. Each character was beautifully complemented and enhanced by her creations. Since the set was simple, the costumes worked to convey the idea of the other worldliness of the setting.

The story takes place on the other side, as Marigold, a young girl, wants to meet her dearly departed turtle. She gets her wish, and with a lovely script, beautiful music, lyrics and dancing, the enchanting story is told. Martinez has developed a play that enraptured every theatre goer in the audience that night. The four-year old in the seat in front of me squealed in delight, and laughed in the most endearing way.

Each role was totally embodied by the actor’s portrayals. Zuleyl Castro as Mictecachuatl commands the stage with her presence at all times. Cecy Abarca is believable and charming as Juana, a young girl. Savanah Martinez as The Ancestors masterfully handled two puppets the entire time, and Eduardo Rodriguez as Grito was charming as a beloved character who was not entirely put together correctly in the after life. Franki Corey-Gelb was present as the non speaking Maigold, but conveyed much by her movement. Kudos to the entire cast.

If you have children, they will love it. If you don’t, you will love it.

Dia de Los Muertos the Musical plays at live Theatre Workshop until November 13th. For more information visit their website at

Scoundrel and Scamp’s newest deal with the devil is a total catch.

By Elena Terry

Zachary Austin and Callie Hutchison photo credit to Tim Fuller

“I found myself relating with Johanna to an uncomfortable degree and this had me leaving the theater in deep thought about the opportunities that have recently closed in my face, or life events I wish I could change possibly by making a deal with that devilishly charming demon myself.”

Faustus: That Damned Woman, written by Chris Bush and passionately directed by Raulie Martinez, tackles the classic German story of Faust and turns it on its head. Martinez took this to heart in his MainStage debut as a director and even made it feel like a brand new story. Instead of a male protagonist, we meet Johanna Faustus, who — with her frustrated ambition due to doors constantly being closed in her face — makes a deal with the devil to change her life and open those doors that have remained closed most of her life. Was it the right decision to make a deal with the devil? I’ll leave that for you to discover, dear reader. 

Faustus was played by Callie Hutchinson; she was ambitious, strong, independent, and even at times slightly abrasive, and I could see Hutchinson really playing with the complex and emotional layers of such a uniquely flawed character. It is a feat for any actor to achieve that complexity. Zachary Austin as Mephistopheles was also detailed, witty and devilishly charming. Austin’s expressive acting constantly drew my eyes to whatever the character was reacting to and often got a chuckle or smile out of me… which is, I admit, hard to achieve! One performance that also caught my attention was Shannon Elias as Elizabeth Garrett / Marie Curie. Elias brought just the right amount of seriousness and light-hearted humor that the play needed. Her roles were expertly executed, and I imagine most audience members wouldn’t believe her if she said that this was her S&S MainStage debut. She had my date (my theater-obsessed daughter) in giggles all night. The rest of the cast consisted of equally talented actors with stand-out moments for each of them. My sincere congratulations to Michael Levin, Julia Balestracci, Allison Akmajian, Gianbari Deebom, and David Gunther on marvelous performances across the board. 

When it comes to the technical elements of the show, I found that the show as a whole was very technically over-ambitious (just like our dear Johanna Faustus) and some of the technical elements were not exactly needed to enhance the story and were somewhat distracting. For example: a projected clock and other various small lighting elements. I wouldn’t say that for all the elements though. This occult obsessed reviewer enjoyed some of the extra-spooky lighting used in the play’s most important scenes. The transitions were another weakness in the play, because they seemed stiff and often distracted me away from what was happening in the scene. I would have loved to see more finesse and choreography for some of those transitions, or maybe even possibly make them separate from the scene they were in. However, some other technical elements like intimacy direction, costume design, and the musical elements were of a notably high caliber and were beautifully detailed elements of the show. 

At its epicenter, this play is just as complex as the characters, actors, and audience members that were present. Every person has their flaws, everyone has desires, and every person could be faced to make a deal with a devil. I found myself relating with Johanna to an uncomfortable degree and this had me leaving the theater in deep thought about the opportunities that have recently closed in my face, or life events I wish I could change possibly by making a deal with that devilishly charming demon myself. I hope that if you are looking for something to do during this wonderfully spooky season you would strongly consider attending a performance and possibly waltz with the devil! You can catch performances through the end of the month, and there is a special pre-show talk on the history of Faust and famous stage adaptations of the story at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday, October 23. 

Scoundrel & Scamp recommends this show for ages 15+. 

Faustus: That Damned Woman runs through October 30 at Scoundrel & Scamp Theater. For more information, show dates and times, and to purchase tickets, please visit

The Scoundrel & Scamp Theatre requires patrons to wear masks.