Something Something Theatre Hits the Motherlode

by Natalia Storie

By sheer coincidence, I am writing this review as I listen to my own six-month-old cry through her sleep training–a subject that is lightly touched, harshly criticized, and even yearned for at different points in the show. Cry It Out by Molly Smith Metzler is a heartfelt dramedy put on by Something Something Theater and directed by Whitney Morton Woodcock.

cry it outThe play follows the lives of three mothers who, through coffee dates, navigate the complicated time that is postpartum. Meagan Jones and Robin Carson portray Jessie and Lina– two neighbors who, aside from being new moms, have seemingly very little in common. They meet for daily coffee breaks while their babies nap and talk about everything a new mom struggles with. From worrying about peeing themselves to the hard decision or need to return to work, they quickly grow close. Jones does a lovely job throughout the play of portraying a new mom who is understanding, eager to be a good friend, always filled with advice but also struggling with her own insecurities and doubts about her life choices and motherhood. Carson played Lina with such appropriate sass and a faint Long Island accent that really enhanced her performance. Both actors managed to give heartbreaking and heartwarming performances of these two complex characters.

The audience doesn’t see the third mother, Adrienne, played by Gabriella De Brequet, until much later but she is introduced early through her husband, Mitchell, played by Eddie Diaz.  As a new mom myself, it was Diaz’s portrayal of this worried and bumbling father that really impacted me the most. You don’t often see a new mom through a new father’s eyes, and Diaz was so endearing and believable as a new dad who is worried about his wife. De Brequet gives a powerful performance as Adrienne, a character who may be struggling with postpartum depression. The character is so special and significant in our current climate, and with our need for feminism and female empowerment, De Brequet’s portrayal of this woman was spot on.  Every character was relatable in different ways and I found myself siding with them, disagreeing with them, and overall just sympathizing. It reminded me of the posts from the many mom groups on social media, where everybody knows how to do it the right way and everybody else is wrong, but you really just want to reach out and hug everyone because they’re all just doing the best they can. 

My only complaint was that the fake baby prop used in a few scenes was a little distracting. While the actors did a fine job being frazzled parents, the prop baby had me questioning how old the baby was supposed to be. At one point, Adrienne mentions her baby is only seven weeks, which leads us to believe the other women’s babies are older, however with the prop being so tiny, it made it a little hard to believe.It just got me caught up on timelines. 

Metzler’s script is thoughtful, funny, and real. There were several moments that made me laugh out loud and overall, I felt that it shed light on topics that are very common but not always discussed.  From breastfeeding in public,alcoholism, and to being ok with the mom that isn’t like you, this script nicely handles them in a real way. All in all, please go see this show! If you’re a new mom or dad, know a mom, or have a mom, you will enjoy this show!

“Cry it Out” is on stage from February 13 through March 1st at the Center of Collaborative Learning at 37 Pennington street downtown. Tickets can be purchased at www.somethingsomethingtheatre.com or at (520) 468-6111.

A Simple Recipe with Complex Flavors

by China Young

Photo courtesy of Something Something Theatre.

Roxanne Harley as Miriam. Photo courtesy of Something Something Theatre.

“This is the Story of a mother’s deepest love and most grievous pain” is printed against the striking image of a knife embedded into a bright red apple on the program cover for Something Something Theatre’s co-production with Tucson Labyrinth Project, Apples in Winter by Jennifer Fawcett. There is something sinister and foreboding, yet warmly familiar about the image, giving us a strong sense of the complexity of the material we are about to witness. Though this one-woman show, is just over an hour, it takes us into deep contemplation of a mother who has been brought to an unfamiliar kitchen to cook an apple pie for her son. We soon learn that this this apple pie, made by his mother, is the requested last meal of a man on death row who was convicted of murder. The image was not credited in the program, but I think it is a simple yet powerful summation of the intricacies this production offers.

Echoing the power of simplicity is the stark set design by Scott Berg. With a clinical color palette of greys and whites, we get the cold, industrial essence of a penitentiary kitchen. The most impressive feature is an actual working oven that is imbedded in a basic wooden frame box. The use of this practical requirement by the playwright, and execution by director Barclay Goldsmith, was cleverly orchestrated. While Miriam, played by Roxanne Harley, is constructing the pie, she tells us the history of her pie-making rituals and their relationship to her son.  But it’s not until she finally places the pie in the oven that she unveils the truth of what it has been like to be the mother of a convicted murderer. No longer able to be distracted by the use of her hands, she finds herself a prisoner of time – the time it takes to bake the pie, and the direct link that has to the time left in her son’s life. She talks about regular visits to the prison, hate mail, and so many other dark details of her experience, all as we are surrounded by the delightful aroma of the apple pie baking. It’s an interesting device that toys with our senses, keeping us tuned in sharper than the knife chained to the table.

There are so many beautiful and heart wrenching places this show takes us. Harley handles the material masterfully, though not without imperfection. She tells a story of a human experience, with a vulnerability that evokes empathy and understanding for a person with a different experience than your own…perhaps. It’s not easy to identify with the mother of a murderer, but nearly effortless to identify with a mother, or a lover of pie. I did think there were different choices that could have been made, maybe different beat shifts that could have been explored, and a deeper investigation of the full range of expression from the actor, both vocally and emotionally. Regardless, Harley gives a solid performance.

Both Something Something and The Labyrinth Project value theatre that evokes conversation, and Apples in Winter is certainly no exception. There was a post-show discussion that at least half the nearly full house stayed for. The conversation was an excellent encapsulation of the relevance of this production. Many of their responses and comments varied from my own and continue to churn my thoughts. If you have the opportunity to sit in on a post-show discussion, I highly recommend it. 

The most powerful piece of the conversation for me was learning that playwright Jennifer Fawcett drew from the book “A Mother’s Reckoning” by Sue Klebold, as her primary source material. Klebold was the mother of one of the Columbine shooters. In the 20 years since, mass shootings have become a devastatingly daily event, with parents usually being the first to be blamed for their child’s behavior. I do wish this information was included in the program, but even without that knowledge, Apples in Winter provides us the reminder that we are all human and encourages us to consider how many parents have gone through the same cycle of grief and shame that we witness with Miram. It was a rich experience and I encourage everyone to catch this one if they can.

Apples in Winter plays at The Community Players Theatre through December 15. Tickets are $5-$25. You can find more information and purchase tickets at https://www.somethingsomethingtheatre.com/.

Transcendent Education and Entertainment Through Theatre

by China Young

Transgender. Transexual. Cis. AFAB. It is likely that you have come across these and other terms at some point. They are in the news more and more as our nation tries to legislate bathrooms and genitalia, even to the point that the Supreme Court is still deciding whether the prohibition on sex discrimination includes discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. In other words, they’re going to rule on whether employers can fire people because they are trans or gay. The conversation is heated and emotional on all sides. As someone who tries to follow the debate, I have observed a severe lack of listening and an even deeper void of understanding. Fortunately there are people willing to do the work to spread the knowledge, and Martie van der Voort (pronouns they/she) is one of those fearless individuals that has taken the helm of the conversation in their full-length, one-person show, TransFormations. Despite van der Voort only being one person, they/she provides this opportunity to meet and engage with multiple trans people in such a proficient way that I was fully engaged and invested throughout. The discussion of gender identity has become more public due to the attempts by conservative lawmakers to legislate identity, and due to the trans community’s bravery in not only fighting discriminatory legislation but demanding more visibility and awareness. If you have any questions about what being transgender means – whether you are looking for a textbook answer or an experiential perspective – you will be handed an impressive array of learning moments within the course of this roughly two-hour production.

Image may contain: 4 people, people smiling, people standing and text

TransFormations is framed as a trans support group.  Whether they know it or not, the audience is full of new group members with varying levels of knowledge on this subject. The education begins instantly as van der Voort’s first character, Graciela (she/hers), gently invites us into the group, helping us assimilate to the conversation by giving us facts, definitions, and introducing us to some of the group members. Graciela is the leader of the support group, and though she is not trans herself, she is the parent of a transman. She tells her story first – how she learned that her AFAB (Assigned Female at Birth) child identifies as a man, and therefore is a man. She even discusses the fact that, despite loving her son, she had to mourn the loss of her daughter. Van der Voort continues to introduce us to character after character, all of whom are unique and distinctly channeled through their/her skilled performance. Under the guidance of director Tom Slauson (he/him), van der Voort portrays transmen, transwomen, non-binary, non-transitioning, AND their wives and children – they/she runs the gamut.

We are quickly faced with the question of how one knows they are trans. The response can be simplified to “how do you know if you are right-handed or left-handed? You just know.” We are reminded that the modern world was designed for the right-handed. We are reminded that there was a time when being left-handed was considered “wrong,” and left-handed people were forced to use their right hands to write, eat, play sports, and so on. We are reminded that now, nobody questions the validity of being left-handed. So then, why do they question the validity of being trans? Is that clarity around one’s own identity different from recognizing that you are left-handed in a world where it’s “right to be right,” or at least easier? There are many other questions, just as complex, throughout the show; they are explored with humor, dramatic nuance, and honesty. As someone with trans friends and family, I truly felt like I knew many of these characters in real life. From beat poet and transman Mark, to the angry son of a transwoman, through the revelations made by newly-transitioning Phil (ftm – female to male) and his girlfriend Beth, you will leave knowing a lot more people in and connected to the trans community than you knew when you came in.

In juxtaposition to depth of the material, the technical elements are fairly modest. The set consists of some chairs in a semi-circle, most topped with some sort of clothing or accessory to denote a character’s seat. The lighting, by Emil Lamanda (he/him), is predominantly a simple wash of light, with a couple of strategically-placed instances of isolation. Before the show begins, there is a projector that is used to display images setting the tone of the production. This is valuable because the show is void of sound design, a tool often used to set the mood and help guide the audience through the journey. I did question the need for its use in the middle of the second act, though I appreciated the information it revealed and reinforced. I found the minimalist design to further allow space for van der Voort to fully embody everything about each character, making the show truly about them.

I had the opportunity to have a one-on-one with van der Voort after the performance. I learned that they/she has been working on this play for over a decade.There have been several other performances, but this was the first fully-produced run (and hopefully not the last). When I asked about the spectrum of characters and where they came from, they/she said “they just kept coming out of me,” although they/she acknowledged that many of them were inspired by friends or acquaintances. There is even someone that didn’t make it into this iteration of the show because van der Voort and director Slauson felt the character wasn’t ready for the stage.

TransFormations is a show that does everything I yearn for theatre to do: entertain and educate.

Presented by Something Something Theatre at St. Francis in the Foothills, the run continues through November 17th, with performances on Friday and Saturday nights at 7:30pm, and Sunday afternoons at 3:00pm. Purchase tickets online at https://www.somethingsomethingtheatre.com/ or by calling 520-468-6111.

 

Vive la Sisterhood

by Leticia Gonzalez

I’m sitting in my chair humming along to “Fight Song” and I have never been more ready to watch some badass women take names and kick ass. The Revolutionists by Lauren Gunderson, produced by Something Something Theatre, is a compelling story about the French revolution and sisterhood. They had me all up in my feelings. 

Dawn McMillan as Marianne Angelle, Samantha Severson as Olympe de Gouges, Whitney Woodcock as  Marie Antoinette, and Grace Otto as Charlotte Corday.

Dawn McMillan as Marianne Angelle, Samantha Severson as Olympe de Gouges, Whitney Woodcock as Marie Antoinette, and Grace Otto as Charlotte Corday. Photo Courtesy of The Something Something Theatre.

The scene starts with heads rolling. Almost quite literally until playwright Olympe De Gouges, portrayed by Samantha Severson, immediately decides that that is no way to start a play! Thank goodness for that! While the opening moments are nothing but dramatic, the play is, in fact, a comedy. I am in awe of Gunderson’s ability to write about the Reign of Terror and Madame Guillotine with a comical twist. However, this is not a one note play. Beneath the jokes and jabs, there are notes and moments to remind us that their lives are at stake. There is a striking moment when we get to see Madame Guillotine do her part. The combination of the lights, movement, and sounds are impactful. The moment is more abstract than explicit, but nonetheless I cringed. 

At first, I was baffled, because even though the play takes place during the French Revolution, the dialogue is modern. The sassy and playful banter among the four women is fun and refreshing. The wordplay and unexpected twists and turns kept me on my toes. Also, there were moments when they broke the fourth wall and engaged with the audience. As a result I felt even more connected to the women on stage due to the moment of mutual acknowledgment. 

Joan O’ Dwyer did a marvelous job selecting a cohesive ensemble. Each actress brought their character to life. Whitney Woodcock, who portrayed a credulous Marie Antoinette is hilarious. Her line delivery was on point. Samantha captures the formidable journey of Olympe as she decides her role in the revolution. Dawn MacMillan captured the badass passionate essence of Marianne Angelle. I particularly enjoyed the way she described her husband. She painted a picture of him that left me wondering, “Does he have a brother?” My favorite character was Charlotte Corday, portrayed by Grace Otto. There’s a moment where Charlotte reveals to Marianne that she is afraid. It’s a tender and awe-striking moment when one sees a strong person at their most vulnerable. It’s a gift to share one’s vulnerability as it is a gift to care for it. The intimacy between them is palpable as Marianne comforts Charlotte. They demonstrate what they want: sisterhood. 

This story is one for the books. It’s bold because it’s herstory. How often have we accepted history as truth without really recognizing that history itself is not only biased but has misconceptualized women? In this play, women reclaim their stories- their own person. We see the goddesses in them as well as their humanity. These four women inspire, empower, challenge, and hold each other accountable. Well-behaved women rarely make history, however, how many women that make history are overlooked or villainized? While these things did not occur in real life, the play acquaints us with four unapologetic women who have impacted and shaped history.

Remember when Wonder Woman came out? I don’t know about you, but when I left the cinema, I could have kicked anyone’s ass. When I left the theater last night, I felt empowered. I am grateful that Something Something Theatre exists in our community and appreciate their intention to produce plays by women for everyone. All of their plays this season are written by women and more than half are directed by women. My only qualm is that I wish that several of the playwrights had been women of color. Following the words of Sojourner Truth “And ain’t I a woman?”.

Don’t forget the cookies because The Revolutionists are bringing the tea. The show runs from September 12th – 29th at City High School’s Center for Collaborative Learning on 37 E. Pennington. All shows are at 7:30 PM with the exception of Sunday whose shows are at 2 PM. General admission is $25, however there are discounts available for seniors/students/military/teachers. They can be bought online at somethingsomethingtheatre.com. Have ten or more friends who need a proper herstory lesson? Gather them all up to see the show the same night for only $15 per ticket!

Parity or Better, but Usually Better

Editor’s Note: This is the second in a series of interviews with creative decision makers and artistic directors at all of Tucson’s theatres as we look forward to the 2019-2020 season. 

Coffee, representation on the stage, and really good plays with Something Something Theatre Company’s founding artistic director Joan O’Dwyer and founding director Whitney Morton Woodcock.

by Leigh Moyer

Something Something LogoSomething Something Theatre brands itself as theatre by women for everyone. Their mission is “Parity or better,” founding Director Whitney Morton Woodcock explained over coffee. “So fifty percent or better, but we usually have more than fifty percent of our season written by female playwrights.”

This mindset started with their first season – not as a fluke, but also not exactly on purpose – driven instead by feminism and the realization that there was a lot of good work that was too often overlooked. It started when three fierce women, Joan O’Dwyer, Whitney Morton Woodcock, and Esther Almazán, saw a gap in the Tucson theatre community that became their niche. “There are just so many plays written by women, and women are really finding their voice right now. And they’re young women and they’re brilliant,” Joan O’Dwyer gushed, “And they’re not just writing about homely things, they’re writing about war and injustices to women and women in different countries and their experiences which nobody has ever heard before and I just love that.”

I have to say, I agree with her. But that doesn’t make doing theatre by women easy. While it was a woman who was the most-produced playwright in the United States in the 2017-2018 season and second most-produced in 2018-2019, this is a distinctly modern phenomenon. (That playwright is Lauren Gunderson, playwright of Something Something’s first production of the season, The Revolutionists.) Historical restrictions limited women’s opportunities to write and kept women’s work from the stage for a long time, which means staging women’s plays now is often a choice to focus on contemporary work rather than well-known classics. It doesn’t faze the women of Something Something, but producing a significant amount of new or unknown writers is a risk. Women may be finding their voice now and using it to tell amazing stories, but we have ground to make up.

But boy, are we. O’Dwyer and Morton Woodcock are faced with the best kind of problem when selecting plays: there are almost too many great plays by women. Selecting the next (and next, and next) season is a process of narrowing down the choices, and then amending that list as new plays are written and produced. And if they do a play by someone of the male persuasion? “Well,” Joan quipped, “if the play is written by a man, it has to be a really good play. They have to work five times as hard if they want to get in– for half as much pay!”

Oh, how the tables have turned. And while it is important to the Something Something artistic team to have representation, like all theatres, the point isn’t that the play was written by a woman, but rather that the play is meaningful, inspiring, challenging, or simply entertaining. (The point, I would add, is that women playwrights are writing great theatre prolifically, not in isolated cases of genius.)

Morton Woodcock explains, “It is more about the story and how we think the audience will feel. What it comes down to is that it is a good story and there are good roles. And liking the characters. Like in The Aliens, those guys are so… they’re so incompetent sometimes, but they’re also so funny. They are likable.”

“They’re sexist,” O’Dwyer interrupted.

This didn’t slow Morton Woodcock down for a beat, “But likable.” And so goes theatre. So goes storytelling. You don’t always want to be friends with the characters in a good show. She continued, “We pick plays about humans, humans who should be represented on the stage, but also humans who are flawed. We choose scripts that address those flaws, call out the bad behavior, but sometimes you just have to let the characters be the characters. I wouldn’t do a play that portrayed someone who was really horrible in a positive light and of course we aren’t going to do plays that endorse problematic people.”

“You have to feel empathy for these people,” O’Dwyer added. “But it is going to have to be handled delicately.” That is, after all, what good theatre is: showing people new perspectives and challenging them to reflect and take new perspectives out of the theater and into the real world. A lot of characters are morally gray.

While some plays this season present characters that force the audience to consider a new view point, others take on issues that are often overlooked or downplayed in a male dominated culture, like the decision to become a mother, go back to work, breastfeed in public, or seek help for postpartum depression. Cry It Out focuses on women connected by the experience of new motherhood and the challenges that come with it, something that struck close to home for Morton Woodcock as a new mother. She is also the director of Cry It Out and can relate to the women. “It isn’t sexy or fun to discuss,” she admitted, “Like, maternity leave, ohhh. But it has to be discussed. They talk in the play about how people judge the choices you make, about deciding to have a baby at all. Everyone, other moms included, has an opinion and everyone feels like they are right and if you do it differently, you are a monster. I cried when I read the script.”

I asked both if they had a show they were most excited about. Without hesitation O’Dwyer answered, “I’m really excited about Cry It Out. It has something we don’t often see on stage: new mothers and they are all different.” Cry It Out goes beyond the stereotypes of never getting enough sleep or complaining about changing diapers.

Woodcock Morton also has a favorite: “The one I think is important for people to see it Martie’s play Transformations. This topic, the concept of transgender and gender fluidity, is something that has been growing in the public eye in terms of celebrities and media and people talking about it more but a lot of people still don’t understand. Martie is not giving a lecture or sharing what can be googled; she is sharing people. She is funny and it is well written and she gives each character she plays their own persona that you can relate to. I’m not sure that people realize that representation matters. The types of stories you see, the types of characters you see, impacts your world view. We consume stories to explain our lives, or who we are, but it also normalizes new or different perspectives.”

The 2019-2020 season, Something Something’s fifth, brings five plays, all written by women, to the stage. And Joan has a point, they aren’t just writing about homely things, they are writing about revolution, being human, pride and pain, motherhood, and even boys being boys.

This season is a lot about people you think you know, but are presented in a different way that makes you question yourself and those notions. Confront what you think you know at Something Something Theatre. The season is listed online and below. You can become a season ticket holder now and catch all five performances for $75.00 or purchase single tickets for $25.00 each by calling their box office at (520) 468-6111.

Something Something 2019-2020

Something Something Theatre’s 2019 – 2020 Season:

The Revolutionists by Lauren Gunderson
September 12 – 29, 2019
Set during the height of the French Revolution, four women – a playwright, an assassin, a spy and an empress – bond to tell the story of their turbulent times for future generations. It’s a comedy. Guillotines may be involved. 

TransFormations by Martie van der Voort
October 31 – November 17, 2019
Local actor and playwright van der Voort performs all twelve transgender characters, their close relatives and significant others at a group therapy session. TransFormations’ has been performed to acclaim in Tucson and in cities around the nation, but this will be its first full run!

Apples in Winter by Jennifer Fawcett
November 27 – December 15, 2019
We are with a woman baking a small pie in a kitchen not her own. The room is bare, institutional. There are no chairs, and a knife is attached to the work table with a wire.  This is the story of a mother’s deepest love and most grievous pain.

Cry It Out by Molly Smith Metzler
February 13 – March 1, 2020
Metzler’s sympathetic yet brutally honest play brings characters to the stage not normally seen. Three women, diverse in all ways… except hat they have all recently given birth and are coping with everything that comes with being the main caretaker. Funny and uniquely insightful, written by a young mother.

The Aliens by Annie Baker
March 26 – April 12, 2020
Something Something Theatre produced Body Awareness, another of Baker’s ‘Shirley, Vermont plays’ in our second season. Dramatists Play Service describes The Aliens so darn well that we’re simply forced to run their synopsis here: “Two angry young men sit behind a Vermont coffee shop and discuss music and Bukowski. When a lonely high-school student arrives on the scene, they decide to teach him everything they know. A play with music.” – Dramatists Play Service

There’s Nothing Neutral in This Switzerland

by Betsy Labiner

Sarah Macmillan as Patricia Highsmith. Photo by Whitney Morton Woodcock, courtesy of Something Something Theatre.

Sarah Macmillan as Patricia Highsmith. Photo by Whitney Morton Woodcock, courtesy of Something Something Theatre.

Switzerland, by Joanna Murray-Smith, is a dark comedy with razor sharp commentary on literature, creativity, and society – and it isn’t shy about pressing that razor to the audience’s throat. With this play, Something Something Theatre and director Whitney Morton Woodcock delve into the complicated life and legacy of author Patricia Highsmith, who penned psychological thrillers such as The Talented Mr. Ripley (and its four sequels) and Strangers on a Train. The play goes beyond one woman’s work, though; it questions authorial power and literary impact, as well as the institutions producing, publishing, and reviewing books. What’s more, it questions the basic nature of the self and of humanity, challenging notions of reflection and knowledge, good and evil, and growth and change.

The play is a taut, close look at Highsmith (played by Sarah Macmillan) as she struggles to write one more Ripley novel: one final, triumphant success. Edward Ridgeway (played by Damian Garcia) arrives, sent by Highsmith’s publisher with instructions to ensure that the cash cow produces to their satisfaction. Highsmith and Ridgeway engage in a battle of wits and wills, flinging venomous verbal volleys at one another as they prod each other for weaknesses to exploit. They fluctuate between conspiratorial camaraderie and threats both subtle and overt as the future of Tom Ripley hangs in the balance.

Macmillan and Garcia have a strong rapport, building ever-increasing tension as the play progresses. The play ruminates on reading and writing, repeatedly casting the author as a god whose words create worlds and people. The audience is presented with the long-vaunted notion of authorial immortality through their works, but simultaneously reminded of the misogyny of the American literary fraternity. Highsmith sneers at the praise given to other authors and rails at the dismissive or damning critiques of her work. Avid readers and literary buffs in particular will appreciate the metaliterary conversation, as names and allusions are tossed out alongside comments ranging from the scathing – “publishing is well-dressed pimping” – to the nearly worshipful – “The writer starts with nothing, nothing but the word.” Writing is the primary focus, as Highsmith struggles to match her earlier successes, but the banter also questions the connections forged through books, emphasizing the inherent human engagement in sharing stories, even as the audience is reminded that, while a reader might feel an overwhelming connection to an author or character, that connection runs only in one direction.

As the play dissects the act of creative production, from an author’s idea all the way through a publisher’s printing, it also investigates the makeup of people and their society. Highsmith is a cynical, racist, bigot who eagerly looks for the worst in people, dreaming up death and violence and taking delight in guns, knives, and poison. At one point, she asserts, “If you put two people in a room together and their true selves emerge, only one of them is going to make it.” Ridgeway calls out Highsmith on her ugliness and meanness, briefly championing social progress and change, even as he himself moves along the spectrum of (a)morality. The characters’ slipperiness is challenging, as the audience is forced to ponder whether we like or loathe these people, as we find ourselves alternately laughing and cringing at their banter. We’re also forced to reckon with the question of whether we have, in fact, moved beyond the ignorance derided by Ridgeway, as well as the thorny issue of how we, as contemporary consumers, interact with literature or art produced by people with problematic or even abhorrent views.

Damian Garcia as Edward Ridgeway and Sarah Macmillan as Patricia Highsmith. Photo by Whitney Morton Woodcock, courtesy of Something Something Theatre.

Damian Garcia as Edward Ridgeway and Sarah Macmillan as Patricia Highsmith. Photo by Whitney Morton Woodcock, courtesy of Something Something Theatre.

Macmillan and Garcia are strong actors and play off each other well, pairing the often-rapid conversation with intense physical presence; it’s remarkable how much they convey in their postures and invasions of each other’s space. Their shifting dynamic is utterly engaging, and the simmering pressure keeps the audience wondering not only if and when the knife will slash out, but whose blood will be drawn when it does.

The set, designed by Marchus Lewis, is a shrine to literature and death. Books and weapons line the shelves, while swords, masks, and skulls adorn the walls. Every item speaks to the action and themes of the play and feels provocatively deliberate. So too are the costumes, particularly Garcia’s, which speak volumes over the progress of the action. The costuming was designed by the actors themselves, with minimal input from the director.

The tightly-paced plot unfolds like one of Highsmith’s own thrillers, with clues and red herrings leading up to the climactic finale. In the final moments of the play, an audience member nearby breathed out a heartfelt “What the f*ck” as the scene closed out.

Whether you see the twists coming or not, going to Switzerland is one darkly fun trip you’ll want to take.

Switzerland runs April 25th through May 12th at St. Francis in the Foothills (4625 E. River Road). Tickets may be purchased online at somethingsomethingtheatre.com or by phone at 520-468-6111.

A Good Death and a Good Time in Hall of Final Ruin

by Betsy Labiner

Here’s what you’re in for with Something Something Theatre’s The Hall of Final Ruin: death. But a good death. A death that makes you laugh. A death that forces you to face your own mortality and confront the terror of the unknown. Death that is relentless and unyielding. Death that allows for hope and possibility. Death that acknowledges no limits on time or space, and certainly not the limits of the fourth wall.

Guillermo Francisco Raphael Jones as Doña Sebastiana and Rosanne Couston as La Tules. Photo by Whitney Morton Woodcock, courtesy of Something Something Theatre.

Guillermo Francisco Raphael Jones as Doña Sebastiana and Rosanne Couston as La Tules. Photo by Whitney Morton Woodcock, courtesy of Something Something Theatre.

The Hall of Final Ruin, written by Kelly McBurnette-Andronicos and directed by Alida Holguín Gunn, initially presents the audience with death in the form of Doña Sebastiana, a “death car driver” played with delightful panache and boundless sass by an absolutely superb Guillermo Francisco Raphael Jones. Doña Sebastiana doesn’t mince words when reminding the audience that every one of us is going to die, and demands self-reflection even while slinging profanity and cheeky barbs. Sebastiana segues into the main action of the play by inviting, “Let’s watch Doña Tules die, ¿bueno?”

And so we meet La Tules, played by Rosanne Couston, the matriarch who presides over her granddaughters, the gambling hall, and indeed, over all of Santa Fe. Couston imbues La Tules with sharp pragmatism as a woman in a position of power who is concerned with the legacy she’ll leave behind, but also interweaves moments of vulnerability and fear as she contemplates death and her eternal fate.

La Tules is particularly concerned with what will happen to her granddaughters, Carmelita and Rallitos, as well as her servant Pilar, played by Amália Clarice Mora, Nathalie Rodriguez, and Cisiany Olivar, respectively. The four women, though not biologically related, are a convincing little family, by turns supportive and squabbling, loving and lashing out. The arrival of Sister Jane, played by Angie Garcia, adds an interesting wrinkle to their dynamic as the girls fawn over the white woman even as the older women are suspicious of and even disgusted by her sanctimonious attitudes. Couston certainly has the most to work with, as this really is La Tules’s story, but the women all bring strengths to the play — particularly the physical comedy of Rodriguez and the quick banter between Rodriguez and Mora.

It’s worth noting that this play is woman-centric in all senses, both within the world of the play and from the metatheatrical perspective. Men are named and discussed in the dialogue, but never appear onstage. Instead, we see life and death without the direct presence of the overbearing male hegemony we might expect within the world of a play set in the 19th century.

In forcing us to face death, this play encourages us to face our own failings. Pride and greed are the sins on which the play focuses most heavily, but the blunt discussions of scoring rubrics for the soul and the impact of our actions will have audiences reflecting on the grade they might make – and whether they, like La Tules, need to work to improve it.

Cisiany Olivar as Pilar, Rosanne Couston as La Tules, Guillermo Francisco Raphael Jones as Doña Sebastiana, Amàlia Mora as Carmelita, and Nathalie Rodriguez as Rallitos. Photo by Whitney Morton Woodcock, courtesy of Something Something Theatre.

Cisiany Olivar as Pilar, Rosanne Couston as La Tules, Guillermo Francisco Raphael Jones as Doña Sebastiana, Amàlia Mora as Carmelita, and Nathalie Rodriguez as Rallitos. Photo by Whitney Morton Woodcock, courtesy of Something Something Theatre.

While The Hall of Final Ruin is about deeply personal themes such as fear, redemption, love, and family dynamics (or dysfunction), it also takes on macro socio-political issues. The setting of mid-1800s Santa Fe allows for overt discussion of patriarchy, imperialism, and capitalism, and even when these issues aren’t being actively talked about, they remain present in the way they shape ideologies and events. Power dynamics, particularly as manifested through control of land and money, are a major concern. Even as Doña Tules insists that the Norteamericanos — as she calls the white Euro-American settlers — will not wrest control from Spaniards who’ve held the land for three hundred years, Pilar reminds her that Native Americans held it for over a thousand years prior to the arrival of the conquistadors. The play invites the audience to consider the legacy not just of individuals, but of the mass movements and historical moments in which religions, cultures, and peoples supplanted one another. This, for me, was one of the strongest features of the play; death may be able to cure one individual of her greed, but when insatiable greed is part of the very foundation of a society or culture, it’s much harder to address.

Despite the heavy topics on which the play focuses, it is a comedy. The audience laughed throughout, particularly in Doña Sebastiana’s scenes. I’d recommend this play most to those who enjoy dark humor, and who have an appreciation for American Gothic and a willingness to critically assess both history and oneself.  

The Hall of Final Ruin runs February 22 through March 10 at the Temple of Music and Art’s Cabaret Theater at 330 S. Scott Avenue. Tickets can be purchased online at www.somethingsomethingtheatre.com or by phone at 520-468-6111.

Get your imaginary spoons out and have some Cloud Soup!

by Felíz Torralba

The Scoundrel & Scamp Theater’s production of Cloud Soup (written, directed, and performed by Wolfe Bowart) tells the story of a tailor who discovers that the adventure he longs for lies at his feet – in his pile of laundry. The tailor’s humble shop becomes an undiscovered world as fabrics magically morph, found objects transform into curious beings and puffs of steam remind us of a time when we saw faces in the clouds.

Wolfe Bowart is “devoted to creating and presenting theatre productions that engage cross-generational audiences in theatrical experiences that evoke thought, wonder, and laughter.” This proves to be undoubtedly true in the Scoundrel and Scamp’s production of Cloud Soup. Bowart’s use of physical theatre, commedia dell’arte/clowning, multimedia, and magical stage illusion evokes thought, wonder, and loads of laughter throughout the performance. There are so many jaw dropping moments, I found myself in awe of the magic occurring right before my eyes. I felt like a child again! Bowart demonstrates skill, talent, and mastery of his craft. It was a true delight to watch him tear up the stage! The raw talent oozing from this man made me feel lucky to be in the room. This adorable story with bubbles, silly sounds, and incomprehensible magic blew me away.

Wolfe Bowart. Photo by Tim Fuller

Wolfe Bowart in Cloud Soup. Photo by Tim Fuller, photo courtesy of The Scoundrel & Scamp Theatre.

No doubt this story is worth telling. However, is it being told in a thoughtful, socially responsible manner? Putting special effects aside, you will ultimately experience a show about a man, written by a man; performed by a man. I was entertained. I laughed harder than I have laughed in a year. I did not leave feeling significantly moved or inspired. After some reflection and a long conversation with my partner (and theatre professional), we came to an agreement that we found no real message or “take-away” after our experience. Having witnessed Bowart’s incredible artistry and a great performance, I want more. Cloud Soup lacks objective. It entertained me… but theatre is about so much more than just entertainment.

Cloud Soup is a perfect representation of classic physical theatre and how it has evolved to entertain the modern audience. “Wear mismatched socks, put your shoes on the wrong feet, turn your shirt inside out and you’ll be perfectly dressed for Cloud Soup.” Wolfe Bowart’s Cloud Soup is an incredible opportunity for people of all ages to have a blast and be amazed! Get your tickets online at https://scoundrelandscamp.org/cloud-soup or call 448-3300. Performances are Thursday & Friday, January 10-11 at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday & Sunday, January 12-13 @ 2:00 p.m.

Editor’s Note: Felíz Torralba has performed with The Scoundrel & Scamp Theatre in past production. While she had no input or involvement within this production, we feel it is important to disclose any potential biases.

A Love Story Told in (Multi)verse

by Leigh Moyer

Billed as “a dreamlike story of love and quantum physics,” Something Something Theatre’s production of Constellations did not disappoint. We’re reminded, through the short lives of honey bees, the impossible incongruities of macro physics and quantum mechanics, and our own life experiences, that every experience, if nothing else, has potential.

Constellations, photo by James Pack.

Damian Garcia as Roland and Bailey Renee as Marianne. Photo by James Pack, courtesy of Something Something Theatre.

Constellations, by playwright Nick Payne, follows the story of Roland (Damian Garcia) and Marianne (Bailey Renee) as they fall in love. It also follows the story where they don’t fall in love. And the one where they fall in love, fall out of love, and fall back in love. Inspired by the physicist Brian Greene’s 1999 book and subsequent documentary detailing the conflicts between the physics of the massive and quantum mechanics though string theory and the theory of multiverses, Constellations plays with the idea that every love story could also be a story of a missed connection. In an interview included in the program, Payne explains, “By chance I watched a documentary called The Elegant Universe by Brian Greene and it was amazing. It was a history of contemporary theoretical physics and right at the end he touched on this idea of the multiverse.”
The idea of the multiverse is that for every decision we make or don’t make, there is another universe that is exactly the same except the opposite decision is made, or not. This idea is used to full effect in this play, which in its ninety minutes details maybe six scenes, told again and again with slight differences and with slight changes that have big consequences for Roland and Marianne.
Payne uses this device to tell a bigger story. As each new version of a scene played out I found myself rooting for the happily-ever-after that some variations offered, while simultaneously dreading the repeated and unforgiving failure we all experience so often in love and life. But more than showing how an interaction could play out, Payne is putting the audience in the sometimes murky, often frustrating position of not being able to find the right words, something that becomes a key part (and the only unchanging piece) of the story.
Both Garcia and Renee are impressive as they say and resay lines without losing the core of the characters you have come to care about. They had a strong ability to hold onto who their character clearly is, even while playing back-to-back scenes with very different emotions. I can’t imagine what this script looks like, but Garcia and Renee take it and instead of making a joke of the characters’ lives, especially in the versions that can’t seem to help but make the wrong decisions, both actors live their characters. Every variation feels believable and extremely, even at times painfully, relatable.
The stage is simply dressed and this serves the show well. The point isn’t where the characters are, but rather what they say and how they say it. Director Joan O’Dwyer uses the actors’ positions on the stage to give the audience clues about how a scene will play out even before they start, giving us just enough insight to feel like we’re a part of the choices Roland and Marianne make.

Constellations, photo by Whitney Morton Woodcock

Photo by Whitney Morton Woodcock, courtesy of Something Something Theatre.

While the two characters portray heteronormative relationships, I was thrilled that Marianne is not only the scientist of the pair, but holds her own in situations that all too frequently paint female characters as damsels in distress. I expect nothing less from Something Something Theatre. This is the only play written by a man in their lineup this season and I would be shocked to see anything but strong women on their stage.
Like the way a constellation in the night sky is familiar and almost not worth noticing, a straightforward love story on the stage loses its grasp on attention; but looking at that same constellation in a darker sky, lost among countless other stars, becomes interesting, a love story told a hundred times, slightly different each time, is greater than its component parts.
Constellations runs through December 23rd. Shows are at 7:30pm on Friday and Saturday, and 2:00pm on Sunday at Community Playhouse (1881 N. Oracle Road). Tickets are available at somethingsomethingtheatre.com or by phone at 468-6111.

This Girl Makes You Laugh, Cry, and Feel

by Bryn Booth

Fairytales, though often universally beloved, can be challenging to bring to life on stage. Finegan Kruckemeyer’s modern fairytale This Girl Laughs, This Girl Cries, This Girl Does Nothing is no exception. This challenge was met with undeniable gusto in its latest rendition produced by The Scoundrel & Scamp Theatre. The energy brought to this performance by the entire ensemble electrified the audience, both children and adults.
Unlike the fantastical journey we’re about to take with three sisters, the audience is greeted by a minimalistic set, dressed only with a few leafless trees and bathed in moonlight. The silence of the scene is only broken by Immanuel Abraham’s (Music Director and Composer) violin and sweet, soft music.

Feliz Torralba as Albienne, Nicole DelPrete as Carmen, and  Gabriella De Brequet as Beatrix. Photo by Tim Fuller, courtesy of The Scoundrel & Scamp Theatre.

Feliz Torralba as Albienne, Nicole DelPrete as Carmen, and Gabriella De Brequet as Beatrix. Photo by Tim Fuller, courtesy of The Scoundrel & Scamp Theatre.

Then we meet our three heroines—Albienne, Beatrix, and Carmen. They are surrounded by joy, comfort, and love. But after the death of their affectionate mother, their woodcutter father leaves them in the woods. They each decide to venture down different paths of life, and separate with the intention of returning to each other. Albienne traverses the globe in one direction, and Beatrix, the other. Carmen stays right where she is.
Albienne, portrayed by Felíz Torralba, has an unassailable passion for pastries and an irrefutable talent for baking and a surprising strength in battle. Torralba, with a glowing smile, brings a gentle warmth and a strong presence to her character. Her smile makes you smile. Her joy brings you joy. Torralba makes you care for this wondrous girl who is a feared warrior, and a renowned baker. The second sister, Beatrix, follows the direction of her father with the hope of bringing her own bright energy to the dark places of the world. Gabriella De Brequet is no stranger to playing characters deserving of bountiful energy. With a silly, and often, hyper disposition, De Brequet generously gives to this ensemble. She charges into the production, ready to take you with her. Finally, Carmen—played by Nicole DelPrete—who stays within the woods to care for those who cannot care for themselves. DelPrete is readily received by the audience as her portrayal of this sardonic character brought countless laughs and even affectionate tears to everyone. Her various ensemble roles also carried a similar tune of whimsical sarcasm. The audience quickly let their affections for her be known. Claire Hancock and Leora Sapon-Shevin who round out the ensemble, were clear stand-outs. Both fluidly moved between countless characters with impressive polarity. They are sure to make you laugh!

The cast of This Girl Laughs, This Girl Cries, This Girl Does Nothing. Photo by Tim Fuller, courtesy of The Scoundrel & Scamp Theatre.

The cast of This Girl Laughs, This Girl Cries, This Girl Does Nothing. Photo by Tim Fuller, courtesy of The Scoundrel & Scamp Theatre.

The strength of this ensemble is anchored by director, Holly Griffith. It was C.S. Lewis who said “A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest.” Griffith made this production accessible not only to the laughing children in the audience, but to their parents and other adults who laughed with them. She shrewdly employs the use of old-fashioned children’s toys as stage props to nourish the theme of children playing make-believe. Incidentally, the aesthetic of the play was reminiscent of the make-believe games I played when I was a child. The nostalgia is palpable.
What makes this fairytale so special is not just the entertainment it brings to its audience, but the strength it encourages in its viewers, particularly its female viewers. It takes on the fundamental challenge of producing a fairytale which is the difficulty of taking two-dimensional concepts and placing them in a three-dimensional world. Old children’s stories often require even more suspension of disbelief which can generate unrelatable themes and characters. This does not, however, hold true for Kruckemeyer’s fairytale nor for this production. With an almost all female cast and crew, this play defies the stereotype of the damsel-in-distress. Instead, our heroines exhibit strong wills coupled with compassionate spirits. These three sisters had one thing in common, a need to help others—which is admirable, though one extremely valuable lesson is learned: you don’t have to burn yourself to keep others warm. This moral is wrapped up in hijinks and clever comedy.
The Scoundrel & Scamp’s production of This Girl Laughs, This Girl Cries, This Girl Does Nothing is a hilarious fairytale with a heartwarming story that can be enjoyed by all ages. You’ll want to bring the whole family! The show runs through Sunday, November 25th (complete schedule below) at The Scoundrel & Scamp Theatre at The Historic Y (738 N 5th Avenue, Tucson, AZ, 85705). Tickets are available at scoundrelandscamp.org/this-girl-laughs or by calling the box office at 448-3300.
Showtimes:
Sunday, November 18 @ 2:00 p.m.
Saturday, November 24 @ 2:00 pm
Saturday, November 24 @ 7:30 pm
Sunday, November 25 @ 2:00 pm

Editor’s Note: Bryn Booth has performed with The Scoundrel & Scamp Theatre in past production and does have personal relationships with a few of the cast members and the director. While she had no input or involvement within this production, we feel it is important to disclose any potential biases.