A ‘Modern’ Take on Moliere’s Classic Scandal, “Tartuffe”

by Felíz Torralba

Pima Community College’s Center for the Arts presents Moliere’s Tartuffe, a comedy about Orgon, a wealthy Parisian patriarch who falls under the influence of Tartuffe, a hypocrite and conman.

Scarlett Sky was enchanting as Elmire. This young woman has incredible focus and engagement. She always seemed to have an internal dialogue. Watching her made me feel excited as an audience member. Though, similar to Miller, I feel that she could have been “aged up” a bit. Taylor Hernandez, who played Mariane, reminds me of a lovely Juliet. I really sympathize with her character. She was heartbroken that her father was forcing her to marry Tartuffe and successfully showed the audience her frustration and outrage. My only criticism is that anger was the primary emotion she really showed us. I really would have liked to have seen more sadness, confusion, and maybe even a little sarcasm – this would make Mariane more rounded and relatable. Bianca Regalado, who played Cléante, had very impressive physicality. She took us on a journey and worked hard to clearly get her points across. She really showed me Cléante. Enunciation and vocal energy was a bit weak. Nevertheless, she was engaged and attentive to each scene she was in. Chris Farnsworth as Tartuffe had consistent low energy, low volume, and looked bored when he wasn’t talking. He did not embody Tartuffe. He did not make choices, or play with the audience, or take advantage of this amazing character. He did not tell us a story. In all honesty, Farnsworth was a bit difficult to watch. Gianbari Deebom, who played Madame Loyal, is a force to be reckoned with. She is so powerful and executed her performance perfectly. She was laser focused and balanced acknowledging the audience and being present in the scene seamlessly. She left me wanting more!

tartuffe750x600

Tartuffe, art courtesy of Pima Community College Center for the Arts.

After reading Chris Will’s director’s notes* I was disappointed with his brief and seemingly careless commentary. His text elicited a lack of interest and it just didn’t seem like his heart was in it. This reflected in Pima’s production of Tartuffe. These young performers are oozing with talent and potential. I just don’t think they were given the proper guidance. This is a fantastic show for students to study and perform. Performing a farce is not an easy task, the actors have enough on their plate just by navigating the story and taking the audience with them. As this is educational theatre, each student definitely could have used more help with character analysis, identifying/utilizing iambic pentameter, and other basic skills like projection, cheating out, and breaking the fourth wall for comedic effect. “Don’t expect this to be a historical play,” writes director Chris Will. With all due respect to the director, this is a historical play, and if claiming a ‘modern twist,’ I felt it needed more components. It lacked follow through, and seemed to make a complicated play even more complicated. Even the actors didn’t appear able to bridge the gap between a classical text and a ‘modern twist’.
During the time this play was written (1664) women were seen as inferior objects. This is obviously not a modern way of thinking. This is a play about a man, written by a man, and directed by a man. Perhaps finding a creative way to highlight the women’s struggle and their opinions would have added a more modern vibe. The cast is following what’s in the script, and many of the situations these characters go through is very prominent in today’s politics and society – I definitely made those connections and still would have made them without electronic music awkwardly sprinkled throughout the play.
There were 7 women and 6 men in the cast. I couldn’t help but think, what if the role of Tartuffe was played by a female-identifying individual? Now that would have been a game changer. I think the gender breakdown of this play could have been tastefully tweaked. What if the role of Elmire was played by a male-identifying individual? Switching one of those two roles could have added an LGBTQ acknowledgement to the story. I think if this play was supposed to “relate to the modern audience’s struggle,” this could have been one tactful choice to take that point and run with it. Tartuffe is supposed to be risqué, sexy, and “cause quite a stir.” Perhaps making a creative choice like ‘gender-bending’ would have achieved that with a modern audience.
When the show started, I was pleasantly surprised by a dance with modern, french music. This was very a creative way to catch the audience’s attention and introduce the actors. The sound was high quality and the lighting color choices looked very thoughtful, elegant, and bright. Unfortunately, this same dance strategy and music was used to transition between scenes and didn’t seem to produce the same effect as when first presented. It got old rather quickly. The actors looked confused when dancing – not all of them were committed – and it made me feel confused as well. The dance should have been used only at the beginning and maybe after intermission.
There were moments of internal thought for a few characters. This was done by pre-recorded dialogue and a spotlight while the actors used facial expressions to tell the audience their thoughts. This was very distracting and just didn’t really work.
The costumes and the set were absolutely stunning. Everything looked really expensive and elegant. I wonder if the costumes and set were modern, perhaps this would have made the director’s vision of a ‘modern’ day Tartuffe’ more clear.
I did not leave the theatre feeling moved or inspired. The one thing I truly walked away with was joy because it’s a beautiful thing to see actors of color performing classical theatre. This made me very happy. If anything, come to this show to see passionate young men and women having fun up there! We just don’t see that enough these days. You will definitely be entertained here.
To purchase tickets, go to https://pima.edu/cfa or call 206-6986. You can see the show from now until November 18th at 7:30 pm Thursdays-Saturdays and 2:00pm on Sundays in the Pima Community College (PCC) Center for the Arts Black Box Theater.
* “This sardonic comedy, set in the era of King Louis XVI of France, caused quite a stir when it opened, creating an exposé of the times. Don’t expect this to be a historical play! Be prepared for some surprises as this old story unfolds and relates to the modern audience’s struggle to make sense of today’s politics, society, and family values.” – Chris Will

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.

The Cripple of Inishmaan Showcases Biting Critique of Humanity with Dark Humor

by Holly Griffith

Dylan Cotter as Billy, Connor Griffin as Bartley and Rachel Franke as Helen. Photo by Ed Flores, courtesy of Arizona Repertory Theatre.

Dylan Cotter as Billy, Connor Griffin as Bartley and Rachel Franke as Helen. Photo by Ed Flores, courtesy of Arizona Repertory Theatre.

Arizona Repertory Theatre’s most recent production, Martin McDonagh’s The Cripple of Inishmaan, upholds a level of professionalism common at the University of Arizona. The production is seamless and consistent, true to the story, and well-acted. Directed by Hank Stratton, the play follows the orphaned Billy, who lives with his adoptive aunts on the island of Inishmaan off the West coast of Ireland. Walking with a “shuffle” and a disfigured arm, Billy yearns to escape the constant ridicule of his community and formulates a plan to leave the island. The play has all the signature elements of Irish drama–quick wit, mystery, dark humor, and colorful family dynamics.

The company is unshakably gelled. All the actors inhabit the same world, and there is a consistency of rhythm and intensity between scenes. Dylan Cotter’s performance as Billy is nuanced and heart-wrenching. We feel his pain, hope for his triumph, but see a darker side when he manipulates his friends and caretakers. Elana Richardson as Eileen, Billy’s aunt and caretaker, is also outstanding. She plays the role with a strong backbone and a sharp wit. Eileen is a pillar of the play, unshakable in her dedication to Billy but simmering over a flame of maternal worry. This is a difficult balance to strike, and Richardson does it masterfully. Other outstanding performances include Rachel Franke as the delightfully profane Helen and Connor McKinley Griffin as Bartley, her clownish brother. Franke has a particularly tough job. Helen is simultaneously confident in her sexuality and traumatized by it. We learn early that she has been groped and harassed frequently by older men. In typical Irish fashion, she copes with her experiences using humor, but with Franke’s performance, we sense an undercurrent of anger.

The whole cast frames up McDonagh’s sharp humor with surprising skill. The quick-witted sarcasm, the dark comedy, and the incessant needling are all there. I laughed aloud often. Still, I felt there was room in Stratton’s direction to dial up the almost inhuman absurdity of some of the personalities in McDonagh’s play. Part of the irony of The Cripple of Inishmaan is that most of the characters are uglier, more disabled, and more grotesque than Billy. They all have “crutches” of one kind or another, they all have internal disfigurements and moral injuries. The flaws of these characters are larger-than-life and should balance on the edge of difficult-to-watch. Pateen Mike’s jovial cruelty, Babby Bobby’s brutal temper, Doctor McSharry’s misogyny, Helen’s unabashed naughtiness, Aunt Kate and Aunt Eileen’s quaking nervousness should make Billy’s world unbearably claustrophobic. These characters are rough. They are cruel. They are damaged. I’d like to see this cast do the play with a blazing intensity. Each actor already gives their character the proper flavor, but I wish Stratton had encouraged the cast to turn up the volume. I think this approach would pull the connective tissues of the play even tighter, making the funny moments funnier and the dark moments darker.

Michael Schulz as BabbyBobby, Peter James Albert Martineau as JohnnyPateenMike and Dylan Cotter as Billy. Photo by Ed Flores, courtesy of Arizona Repertory Theatre.

Michael Schulz as BabbyBobby, Peter James Albert Martineau as JohnnyPateenMike and Dylan Cotter as Billy. Photo by Ed Flores, courtesy of Arizona Repertory Theatre.

Still, this cast does a solid job with a difficult play, and the production elements all communicate with each other to paint a believable picture of humble, mid-century life in rural Ireland. Kevin Black’s dialect coaching is excellent. Actors sound consistent yet still individual, and the cadence of the dialect is rough enough to give us the flavor of the remote Aran Islands without sacrificing our ability to understand every word. Joe C. Clug’s scenic design effectively shows the drab interior of the Aunties’ store, designed to be quite literally rough around the edges. Gaby Nava’s costumes were perfectly Irish with hearty fabrics and muted colors, plus a bright magenta dress that popped on the promiscuous Helen.

Fans of dark comedy, poetry, and Irish storytelling won’t want to miss it!

The Cripple of Inishmaan runs at Arizona Repertory Theatre through December 2nd. Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights at 7:30; Saturday and Sunday afternoons at 1:30. You can buy tickets online at theatre.arizona.edu or by calling 621-1162.

 

Editor’s Note: Holly Griffith an adjunct instructor in the Department of Theatre, Film and Television at the U of A. While she had no input or involvement with the creative process for this production nor is a professor to any of the students involved in this production, we feel it is important to disclose any potential biases.

Ensemble Storytelling Bring Emotion and Experience to Life in Curious Incident

by China Young

Ryan Parker Knox as Ed and Hunter Hnat as Christopher. Photo by Tim Fuller, courtesy of The Rogue Theatre.

Ryan Parker Knox as Ed and Hunter Hnat as Christopher. Photo by Tim Fuller, courtesy of The Rogue Theatre.

All actors remain on stage unless prescribed otherwise. This is one of very few scripted stage directions in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. Cynthia Meier, the director of The Rogue’s novel-inspired production, noted that she took that one to heart. In doing so, Meier and her ensemble of 10 performers sculpt a simple and genuine theatrical experience layered with complexity. This is a production that emphasizes the powerful storytelling potential of a well-trained ensemble in lieu of elaborate spectacle.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is the story of a young man, Christopher, who takes on a detective role in effort to uncover the mystery behind who killed his neighbor’s dog. As can happen when sleuthing, he discovers much more than he could have imagined.
This detective story is unique from others: Christopher is autistic. While autism expresses differently for different people, in this production it is his ability to interact with others that is most evidently affected. Put simply, Christopher’s social communication skills are not in alignment with societal standards. Told from his perspective, the audience can experience Christopher’s world as he does. The ensemble introduces this quality at the top of the show by disrupting the audience’s sense of normal. Christopher’s teacher and mentor, Sioban, played by Patty Gallagher, delivers dialogue that doesn’t seem to belong to her while the rest of the ensemble re-enacts memories and thoughts from Christopher’s mind. All this occurs while performer Hunter Hnat, who plays Christopher, masterfully embodies every word and action taking place around him, occasionally stepping into the scene of a memory, but only speaking when he’s commenting on his version of what’s happening. This disembodied introduction also establishes that this is a story Christopher wrote and is sharing with the audience.
Throughout the production, the ensemble enhances the experience of what it’s like to be Christopher, whether that means amplifying his emotional state, creating his environment, or portraying the people he interacts with. They disrupt other theatrical norms as they become the set, the props, and ingeniously facilitate the sound design and scene shifts. It’s a work of true collaboration that I appreciated immeasurably.

Holly Griffith as Judy and Hunter Hnat as Christopher. Photo by Tim Fuller, courtesy of The Rogue Theatre.

Holly Griffith as Judy and Hunter Hnat as Christopher. Photo by Tim Fuller, courtesy of The Rogue Theatre.

Because it was such an ensemble-based show (With an equal gender distribution I might add!), it’s hard to single anyone out. Even so, Hnat as Christopher was inarguably outstanding in the role. His journey of emotional shifts within the autistic lens were raw, instinctive, and credible. Gallagher as Sioban brought warmth and gentleness that counteracted Christopher’s occasionally harsh bluntness. Ryan Parker Knox and Holly Griffith, who portrayed Christopher’s parents Ed and Judy, both brought depth to their characters as they balance the trials of parenting a child with autism and fulfilling their individual needs as human beings. I was equally as impressed with their ability to slip back into the ensemble without fixating on the named characters they played.
The remainder of the cast shifted in and out of secondary characters with similar ease and finesse. Kathryn Kellner Brown rises slightly above the rest with her presentation of Mrs. Alexander, an elderly neighbor that Christopher becomes better acquainted with through his detective work. For me, one of the most memorable moments of her performance was watching Mrs. Alexander walk in front of the stage and the moment she took the first step to rejoin the ensemble onstage, Mrs. Alexander completely disappeared, leaving just Ensemble Voice 6. Samantha Cormier also deserves honorable mention with the deft comedic timing executed during her brief moments as Julie, another one of Christopher’s teachers. These performers are incredibly skilled in their abilities to jump in and out of character and doing so all without leaving the stage further elevates their professional dexterity.
Honestly, I cannot praise the cast enough for the trust they have for one another that inevitably translates into the vulnerability they have with the audience. It’s incredibly refreshing to see this kind of work being done in Tucson and I hope more companies and performers embrace its power in the future.
Meier and her creative team definitely deserve applause for the level of artistry applied to this production. Some of that ensemble work wouldn’t be as impressive without the complimentary lighting effects and the 9 boxes that are utilized throughout as seating, storage, and more tangible amplifications of Christopher. If my descriptions seem vague, it’s because curiosity should get ahold of you and you should make every effort to see this production.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time runs at The Rogue Theatre Theatre November 1st through 18th. Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights at 7:30; Saturday and Sunday afternoons at 2:00. You can buy tickets online at theroguetheatre.org or by calling 551-2053.

Love, Family, and Faith in Invisible Theatre’s The Busy World is Hushed.

by Gretchen Wirges

Cynthia Jeffery as Hannah and Steve Wood as Brandt. Photo by Tim Fuller, courtesy of The Invisible Theatre.

Cynthia Jeffery as Hannah and Steve Wood as Brandt. Photo by Tim Fuller, courtesy of The Invisible Theatre.

The Busy World is Hushed, a play about the dynamics of family and faith, is a new production at Tucson’s Invisible Theatre. Hush, written by Keith Bunin, is the story of mother and Episcopal minister, Hannah, her newly appointed assistant Brandt, and Hannah’s son Thomas. Thomas returns home after years of chasing adventure to seek answers in his deceased father’s writing and Bible annotations in the hopes that he can unlock the secrets to his father’s death. The divide between Hannah and her son is palpable and strained from Thomas’ first, energetic entrance.

The story that follows is rife with conflict, passion, pain, and theological debate. We quickly learn about the desperate need for connection that each character seems lacking.  

The production was enjoyable, thanks to the talent of the amazing actors carrying the show.  But the direction, by guest director Nancy Davis Booth, lacked glaringly in the areas of staging and pacing. The actors’ movement was often very static, cold, and inorganic, which lead to moments of fear, anger, love, or lust that weren’t as believable as I believe they could have been. This was only further stunted by the pacing. The dialogue is fast. Too fast. The spaces between the lines, the words, and the actors are just as important to the storytelling as the lines themselves. And there weren’t many quiet moments of reflection and care that the script begged for.

Before lauding the talented cast, it must be acknowledged that the set and lighting design of the production were on point. The set was perfectly dressed and added a warmth that truly gave you the sense of being in someone’s cherished office and living space. And the lighting added a depth of ambiance and welcomed realism.

Steve Wood’s portrayal of the thoughtful, serious, emotionally shut-off Brandt is charming and yet heart-wrenching. Wood brings a subtle undertone of pain, fear, and longing to this difficult role. The character is struggling with issues surrounding being the caregiver for a gravely-ill father. The audience roots for him. I know I did. Having lost my own father, I was touched by Woods’ deft ability to tap into the love, loss, and even moments of laughter this role required. Watching Woods is always a joy. This is no exception.

The questioning son is played by John Noble. Noble’s ability to find moments of levity with physical humor and responses to the dialogue. The character’s lack of depth on the page likely lead to the lack of depth in the performance. While there were a few weighty moments that allowed Noble to experience more range in emotion, there weren’t enough of these to showcase the obvious talent of this young actor. The moments I didn’t believe him were the fault of the speed of the delivery and the misdirection, not the ability of the actor.

And Cynthia Jeffery. Cynthia. Jeffery. She is a revelation. She is a beam of light. She plays a grounded, gorgeously flesh and bone character. I believed her. I listened to her. I wanted to know more of what she had to say about pain and loss and love. Her acting is sublime. She does something that I swoon for as a director myself, she listens. She leans in to her cast-mates. She leans in to the dialogue. She leans in to the emotions. The only thing that limits her performance is a script that stifles what she, and Hannah, have to say.

Cynthia Jeffery as Hannah, John Noble as Thomas, and Steve Wood as Brandt. Photo by Tim Fuller, courtesy of The Invisible Theatre.

Cynthia Jeffery as Hannah, John Noble as Thomas, and Steve Wood as Brandt. Photo by Tim Fuller, courtesy of The Invisible Theatre.

Hannah is set up as a scholar, counselor, and mother. Her initial dialogue is strong and confident. But by the end of the play, we hear less and less from her and more and more from her spoiled, angry son. The ending moments where we have an opportunity for reconciliation and for the punctuation of her final thoughts on pain and loss are swallowed up by her male counterpart’s summation. She says nothing of true value on this topic. She defers her pain. She defers her own discoveries about her past and about her future.

The Episcopal church began allowing women to be ordained as ministers in 1974. That’s only 44 years ago. And still women in the church encounter roadblocks to advancement, including bold-faced discrimination. This discrimination is felt by the dismissal of Hannah’s character’s thoughts and theories. It’s felt deeply. When pushed to renounce her faith, deny her studies, and reject everything she believes in to win the love of her insistent son, she shuts down and goes to bed. In my opinion, the playwright was working out his frustration with the church and, likely, his own mother. The vitriol cast on both were not confronted. Bunin intentionally stifled the primary, informed, sole female voice in this piece. And while I left The Busy World is Hushed feeling frustrated by the directing and annoyed with the story, I was excited and thrilled at the way the actors managed to shine through.

The Busy World is Hushed is playing Wednesday to Friday at 7:30 and Saturday and Sunday at 3pm through November 11th. There is an additional evening performance on Saturday Nov 10th, 7:30pm.  Tickets are $35, and can be purchased at invisibletheatre.com or by calling 822-9721.

Good People is Great Theatre

by China Young

Winding Road Theatre Ensemble’s production of Good People by David Lindsay Abaire is a beautifully crafted snapshot of the modern American class struggle with its focus on those living on the “economic knife-edge,” as described by director Glen Coffman. That makes it sound like a heavy drama, but Abaire and Winding Road apply plenty of humor and heart to this production.

2018-creatista-jeffrey-snyder-social-media-winding-road-theater-good-people-20181017-8210_orig

Tony Caprile as Mike, Maria Caprile as Margie, and Carley Preston as Kate. Photo by Jeffrey Snyder, courtesy of Winding Road Theatre.

Good People is the story of Margie, played by Maria Caprile, a working-class woman from the projects of Boston. Margie, like many single mothers, can barely support herself and her daughter, who is grown but suffers from disabilities brought on by being born premature. After getting fired from her low-paying job by her generations-younger manager Stevie (Joshua Parra), Margie is desperate to find something that is sustainable before she gets evicted by her landlady, Dottie (Peg Peterson). Encouraged by her good friend Jean (Toni Press-Coffman), Margie decides to reconnect with an old flame, Mike (Tony Caprile), who has found his way out of the “uncomfortable” slum life into that of “comfortable” stability, complete with an equally successful wife, Kate (Carley Elizabeth Preston).
Margie’s hope is that Mike can find her a job, or at least introduce her to someone else that can, and help her escape the pattern of underpaid labor she knows far too well. While there is much more to the story, I don’t know that I can adequately summarize any more without giving away moments of discovery by both the characters and the audience that truly make this experience worth having, and there are more than a few.
While Abaire has written his female characters well, I am almost convinced that it is Winding Road’s powerful female performers that put those characters in the driver’s seat without letting off the gas. Maria Caprile expertly commands Margie’s “good” but borderline manipulative qualities, filling every beat with truth and vulnerability.
If you aren’t completely drawn in by the first scene between her and Joshua Parra, hold on because Peg Peterson and Toni Press-Coffman join forces with Caprile in the next scene to finish the job. Both of their characters are commanding, believable, and drive the plot forward with such force it is impossible to not be swept away in the action. I couldn’t help but admire the strength and resilience of the blue-collar women that they represented. Not to mention the ease with which Press-Coffman can turn a phrase, and Peterson’s brutal hilarity that punches you, and Margie, in the gut. The truly impressive part is that they do all that from their seats.

2018-creatista-jeffrey-snyder-social-media-winding-road-theater-good-people-20181017-8158_orig

Peg Peterson as Dottie and Maria Caprile as Margie. Photo by Jeffrey Snyder, courtesy of Winding Road Theatre.

Even though we do not meet her until the second act, Carley Elizabeth Preston’s portrayal of Mike’s wife, Kate, is honest, compassionate, and fierce, making the character vital and worth the wait. Though Kate comes from money and education, she states that she is passionately protective of her and Mike’s daughter, drawing a parallel between her and Margie that fuels any nuance of tension that may exist considering Margie and Mike’s past.
All of that said, the men certainly hold their own. Joshua Parra portrays Stevie as someone who has gained success through hard-work and genuine kindness, but still doesn’t back down from a battle. Tony Caprile’s Mike is likeable, smarmy, fun, and incredibly naïve about his privilege, despite having grown up as working class and in the projects like the other characters. Mike and Margie have some of the most palpable exchanges in the whole show, with scenes that swell with subtle texture by both performers. In fact, the evening I was present, one scene in particular seemed to affect the audience tremendously (again, you’ve got to see it to experience it).
Not only does every performer do their job in creating the world of the play, but the production’s use of every inch available to them in The Scoundrel & Scamp’s small black box theatre space is equally impressive. The lighting, however, had a few issues. Most noticeably, there was one dark spot that actors found themselves in over and over. And though I appreciate how lighting can affect the mood of the scene, some transitions were just a little too obvious and left me momentarily distracted.
The only other troublesome aspect of this performance was the accent work. At the beginning of the play there were some incredibly thick Boston accents and it was clear that some performers had a stronger command of it than others. As the show progressed, the accents dissipated and settled into simpler subtleties that I found much more palatable and less distracting. Perhaps it was a choice to go strong at first so that the audience knows exactly where and who our characters are, but it felt as though the show was initially more about the accent than the characters. Fortunately, the characters ultimately took over and I didn’t care whether they had an accent or not.
Good People was a truly rewarding theatrical experience. I often forgot I was watching a play, allowing myself to be swept away by the characters and action, which can be a hard thing to do when you’ve been submerged in theatre since you were six like I was. I was genuinely thrilled to have experienced this production, and I think you will be too.
Good People runs through November 18 with evening performances at 7:30 on November 8th – 10th, 15th – 17th, and 18th (yes, that’s a Sunday evening), and matinee performances at 2:00 on November 11th and 17th (that’s a Sunday and a Saturday, respectively) at The Scoundrel & Scamp Theatre at the Historic Y. Tickets are available online at windingroadtheater.org or by calling 401-3626.

An Energizing Triumph!

by Lety Gonzalez

Michelle (Camryn Elias), Deloris Van Cartier (Adia Bell) and Tina (Page Mills)

Camryn Elias as Michelle, Adia Bell as Deloris Van Cartier, and Page Mills as Tina. Photo by Ed Flores, photo courtesy of Arizona Repertory Theatre.

Sister Act at the Arizona Repertory Theater is a feel-good show. Deloris Van Cartier takes refuge in a convent after witnessing her boyfriend Curtis murder one of his cronies. During her time there, she wins over the sisters with her boldness and confidence and they in turn show her love and friendship. Together they get down and boogie and sing to the man above.

All of the technical aspects of the show complemented each other and produced a great show. This was evident in the standing ovation that the audience offered to the actors at the end of the show. The lights did a brilliant job in setting the mood for each scene. Gobos that displayed a colorful stained glass pattern on the floor were used to indicate that the scene was taking place in a church. The transitions were timed well and the cast didn’t seem to run into any complications. The costume design was loud and glamourous. The beautiful sparkly gown that Deloris wore near the end is breathtaking. All of her costumes were fierce and sensual. I must note that it was entertaining to see the vestments of the nuns and the priest transform from their traditional black and white to glitter and bedazzled habits/cassocks. The orchestra was impeccable and the singers were confident.

When Deloris, portrayed by Adia Bell,  started to sing, I was taken aback. My mouth was gaping anytime anyone sang. I stared intently at each singer’s mouth. All of them were singing live, but they sounded so clear and pristine that there were times when I seriously thought that the music might be pre-recorded. That was not the case. Not only

Sister Mary Robert (Courtney Blanc) and Deloris Van Cartier (Adia Bell).

Courtney Blanc as Sister Mary Robert and Adia Bell as Deloris Van Cartier. Photo by Ed Flores, photo courtesy of Arizona Repertory Theatre.

were they singing, they were also dancing. The dance moves didn’t inhibit their singing ability. Sometimes the choreography can get in the way of the singer’s performance, but not in this show. Their groovy moves added to the live soulful music and their sound was full and balanced.

There were a couple of outstanding moments in the show. One of them was Eddie’s groovy solo. His deep crooning voice was like butter. Eddie’s quick and unexpected costume change during his silky number had some of the audience members behind me gasping. Another was the number in which Vince’s cronies are detailing how they would seduce the nuns. All of the songs sounded like they came right out of Motown. They were oozing with passion and desire. I’m surprised I was able to keep myself in my seat because I sure wanted to get up, find a partner, and dance to the music of love.

The lead character around whom the story revolves is portrayed by a young black woman.  Both the cast and crew are equally composed of women and men. The play was written by Cheri Steinkellner and Bill Steinkellner and directed by a woman, Christie Kerr. The rest of the season looks pretty solid. They are producing the play Top Girls which consists of an all- female cast. The other plays have a mix of gender-specific parts, but it appears there will be slightly more roles for the men than women. Overall it’s pretty even.

It’s always wonderful to witness a person of color in a lead role in any type of production. However, I left wishing I could have seen more people of color in the cast as a whole. Looking at the cast list, the members seem diverse, but looking out on stage, there weren’t many people of color. Looking at the cast list I found online I wonder if it was necessary for all of the nuns to be white presenting. There’s no indication in the story itself that all of the nuns should be white, other than following the precedent set by the film on which this musical is based, so that could have been an area with more diversity.

Musicals are difficult to execute. Transitions have got to be spot on, everyone needs to be on board and let me tell you, this whole cast was on board. The set transitions were

Pablo (Tony Moreno), Curtis (Zach Zupke) and Joey (Tristan Caldwell)

Tony Moreno as Pablo, Zach Zupke as Curtis, and Tristan Caldwell as Joey. Photo by Ed Flores, photo courtesy of Arizona Repertory Theatre.

quick and appeared effortless. The lighting design was brilliant and the dance numbers were simple, but effective. They moved together as one. The cast and crew were a finely tuned machine that cranked out the boogie and energized the audience.

If you need an energizing distraction from the current political atmosphere, check out Sister Act! The show runs from October 14th to November 4th. Friday and Saturday shows are at 7:30 pm and Sunday shows start at 1:30 pm. On November 2nd there will be a post show discussion. General admission is $31.00, however they do have senior, military, UA Employee, and student discounts. If you wish to purchase tickets, please click on the link provided.

https://oss.ticketmaster.com/aps/uacfa/EN/buy/browse?i%5B0%5D=172

Raise your voice! VOTE.