Thursday, October 30, 2014

Why living near the Monterey Peninsula is so awesome...

I can’t begin to explain how unbelievably lucky and unbelievably overwhelmed I am by the Halloween season here in Monterey County. I like to write about all the things I do and I like to promote them as much as possible, but I can’t be everywhere or do everything and I’m stretched thin enough as it is despite my girth. But, really, the Halloween season is just the beginning and as I’m perusing our local “alternative newspaper” for events and things to do I am absolutely astounded by the opportunities present. You’ve all had a chance to read my thoughts regarding Belladonna’s Mysterious House of Mysteries and The Rocky Horror Show, respectively- but now I find myself wishing I were made of money to support all the local performers- as it is, I’m only made of words and I’m sort of going to have to share some info in hopes that my name carries enough weight to lead a few stragglers through a few doors here and there.

1.      Dracula: I want to see this show SO bad! I love Dracula- I love the horror, the not-so-subtle allegories to be found in the story, the dramatic flair of our villain, the assurance of Professor Van Hellsing- I’ve seen faithful and not so faithful adaptations and I’ve been thrilled and amazed with both. So I’m hoping to catch this show before it’s far too late. The show’s only playing for a short time so catch it before it’s too late!

2.      Harvey: And on the opposite side of the spectrum, we have the Western Stage production of Harvey. There are already big tears in my eyes every time I even think of this story- the Jimmy Stewart movie is one of my all-time favorites and is a story I absolutely love and identify with on so many levels.

3.      Castle of the Dead: This isn’t a stage production, but is rather a Haunted Attraction where the proceeds benefit the Sun STREET Center in Salinas. It’s a fun little scare-trip. You walk in, the actors perform in each room with a specific thematic element- vampires, a visit to the barber, some delicacies for sale, and on through a twisting maze of horror.

4.      Remo D.’s Manor of Mayhem’s Halloween Episode: He’s been on the Peninsula for over ten years where he’s shown the best in horror, sci-fi, and creature features. He’s broadcast on channel 24, the local access channel, and he’s sure to have a surprise or two in store for this production!

5.      Puppet Up Company’s Puppet-making and Cos-play class: Fresh on the heels of a successful latex mask class, Ricki Vincent sets up shop at the Paper Wing Fremont location for his next class in theatrical designs. There’s a sign-up and cost for materials, but the skills attained are an invaluable asset to any theatrical company.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Rocky Horror Returns: Is there more to say here? YES!!!!

One year ago I wrote my thoughts regarding the Rocky Horror Show at Paper Wing Theatre- and so here I am a year later and with another performance I was afraid I'd have nothing to write about. My last experience was amazing, fantastic, glorious, and very entertaining. And so there couldn't be anything more to add to that, right?

Leave it to Koly McBride to kick me in the face with a reminder that no two shows are really the same and that there's always something to think about after an experience. Because not only am I blown away by my experience this year, but there's plenty of things to write about, talk about, and just generally GUSH all over regarding this show. (That pun regarding "gush" is a blatant and perverted reference to ejaculation, for those of you who missed it. Did you miss it? It missed you.)

I mention McBride for two reasons- first, she's the director. Her vision guides the project each year that Paper Wing tackles the show and each year she comes up with new ways to make it new, fresh, and interesting. She knows she has to hit all the familiar notes, she knows she has a huge landmark show to produce that will bring in hardcore fans and new faces alike, and she knows she can't afford to just bring out the same set, the same routines, the same look each and every year. She has to make it interesting- and she does. Last year saw the music coming from a "big band" perspective with horns and rhythm and a distinctly "upper class Jazzy" kind of motif- this year she takes us on a ride through Glam-Rock Punk 70's-80's motif with a that same edge through the music. (I've been told musician Christopher Lopez should get a shout out here, so here it is.)

Second: She fucking nails it as Trixie- though this is a role she shares with actress Kate Hill. I rarely get a chance to see Koly shine as a vocalist, but she has an awesome voice and is always a great performer.

Let me start with LJ Brewer as Frankenfurter- it's always the first place to start and with everything I wrote last year still being in full effect, Brewer's performance takes on a slightly new look along with the whole rest of the show. Yes, he's the rock star. Yes, he's carrying so much of the show across his capable shoulders. Yes, he's glorious. Yes, he gave me and my wife a little shout-out during his opening number with a "Happy Anniversary" (It was our 11th, did I mention? Eleven years of marriage.. wow! Back to the show... ) and the show rocked on with his amazing vocals. Is it any wonder that this is the Paper Wing Theatre's signature show with LJ Brewer in this role?

Jay DeVine also returns in the role of the narrator. Now, many of you faceless readers who are familiar with my earlier thoughts regarding previous performances know damn well that I think Jay is one of the best and most endearing actors on the Central Coast. Firstly, the guy is a work horse- from comedy to horror to serious drama, he can do it all. He plays bigger than life characters and I've never seen any two be the same person. His performance as the Narrator is something very special- not only does he play it well, but he handles audience participation like a pro and often rolls with the punches and comes back up with a few one-two knockouts of his own to throw back at the audience.

 But I wrote about all of this last year- and I said there was more to write about this year, didn't I?

Reprising their roles from last year are Nick Kelly as Brad (asshole), Heather Hahn as Janet (slut!), the very beautiful and capable of cutting, smashing, and slashing with a glance Jourdain Barton as Magenta (She's your sister!) and Taylor Landess as Riff Raff- all of whom are amazing. They always are. But let me take a moment to talk about Landess, who last night took his role to a who'nudda'level last night! GOOD GOD!!! I thought he was going to kill himself during the "Timewarp" with an energy level that just has to be seen to be believed. He was leaping, sliding, jumping, running, and belting out those notes with an absolute FEVER and he didn't need any goddamn cowbell to cure it. Good Fucknuggets, this kid just poured something acidic into his performance and MELTED the goddamn stage down. So what do you do when all of this is going on? What do you pour on top of it?

You bring in a few new cast members to fill out the ranks.

 I've now seen three different ladies play Columbia- each one brings a special something to the role and this occasion is no different. Mindy Whitfield's comedic timing is excellent. I genuinely felt badly for her when she bore the brunt of Frankenfurter's abuse, also. Her tap-dancing routine is definitely something to watch- and watch out when she has her big hissy fit. Hilarious!

And then there was Rocky- I'm speechless. Not a knock any previous Rocky's I've seen before this show but Dan Kutter breaks the goddamn mold up there! Kutter's performance is going to be one to remember for a long time to come- It certainly helps that the guy is cut and defined, has amazing looks, and also looks like he's having a blast up there on the stage. He also knows how to work an audience- he connects with people in the crowd, he offers winks, a flirtatious smile, a flex here and there, and then tops it all of by remaining in the "moment" on stage and continuing to interact with his cast mates. Kudos to Kutter for this performance.

Now, there are two specific roles I haven't mentioned yet: This is because I need to write about the show I see, not the show I don't see an that requires clarification. The roles of Eddy and Dr. Scott are played by multiple people at various points- Ron Moore tackles both roles on some performances while the roles are divided between Michael Alliman as Scott and Andrew Nava as Eddie. So with that said, the performance I saw featured Nava and Alliman in the performance-both are amazing.

Nava's strong vocals have a chance to shine in "Hot Patootie"- the young actor is reprising his performance from last year and he has a whole new comfort level that shows. He's fantastic!  I've enjoyed watching him grow as a performer over the past year and look forward to future stage appearances.

Alliman is hilarious! He tackles Dr. Scott with fervor and chews up the German accent with a love for the show and the theater. He's another one who shows how much fun he's having on the stage with a couple of playful antics with Brewer and some others.

And now I'm going to bring this all around again to talk about the last three performers returning to their roles- all three of whom I've written about plenty in the past but the truth is that something is missing from these thoughts if I don't expound a little on their performances. Nick Kelly is pitch perfect as Brad- he has that cheesy "ham" performance down with a few challenging "poses" to Frank followed by the crumbling realization of his characters nebbishness. Hahn- seriously? The woman come back year after year and fucking kills it over and over again. But let me add something that maybe I haven't mentioned before but bears mentioning... her vocals during "Heroes" have always always always sent chills down my spine from the first time I heard her sing it to last night. So many other songs on the show are considered highlights, but that one moment (at least for me) is a huge moment that shows just how powerful, emotional, and heart-wrenching a performer that Hahn is. She's gifted in so many ways and I love watching that moment.

And Jourdain Barton? Magenta haunts the whole of the production with her withering glares, a few rolling eyes, and a slightly sadistic chuckle regarding the plight of our "would-be heroes" and her employer. I mentioned Landess earlier performance during the "Time Warp", all of which is possible because Barton matches his vocal strength perfectly an shows terrific restraint in sadistically watching her brother go fucking bonkers-

In other words: All three fucking deliver year after year.

5 out of 5.

Photos Courtesy: Robbie Ann Cunningham 

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Belladonna's Room of Mysterious Mysteries @ Paperwing Fremont: Thoughts.

I like puppets.

I actually think it's a pretty cool way to express theater and art.

My friend is Cody Moore, an amazing artist and theatrical personality that I've had the pleasure of working with at various points in my own theater career. I own one of his paintings, which is hanging on the wall beside me at the moment that I'm typing. It was a birthday present from my wife. He's awesome- and in everything he does he puts his heart and soul into it and it always shows. He's fantastic!

Belladonna's Rom of Mysterious Mysteries is presented by Cody and Ricki Vincent at Paper Wing Fremont- it's an interesting spectacle of storytelling and variety show shenanigans anchored by Moore's full body puppetry that he carries on his shoulders- figuratively and literally. And he absolutely shines.

Cody Moore is Belladonna, a witch or fortune teller with a shop of mystery and amazement- she hosts the audience with comedic shenanigans and introduces the various acts taking place. The full body suit reminds me a little of the Hags from Labrynth and the facial construction of the witch is full on outstanding- one eye bulges while another squints through a lid forced half shut by wrinkles.

The Mirror Ghost was fantastic- I cracked up with her false finishes and facial expressions, even if the mirror's twist made it a little difficult to follow from certain angles. The performance was well done.

The strip teasing puppetry was fluid and very fun to watch work.

And then there was Jody Gilmore with a nice nod to the original Frankenstein when he introduced the show and its' performers.

And then there was Ricki Vincent- who started the show with a very passionate nod to his own art that I appreciated very deeply right up until he decided to talk about people who dropped out of the project for whatever reason they felt necessary. Calling out a specific show by name, citing specific incidents and insulting these people who were unable to DONATE their fucking time to his project was classless and immediately set my hackles up since I do know precisely how valuable a commodity time can be in an art form. Any art form.

And the fact is that I wish I could've let it go at that- but he continues his form of "art" by attacking people during his own performance (The only dialogue not previously recorded) by going after Republicans. I already criticized the last show I saw for doing such a thing- obviously I'm going to be consistent here.

As these were the only real drawbacks to the performance I do still recommend it. I think puppetry is awesome and Cody Moore really carries on with an amazing performance- Other shout outs to the stripper marionette and the fluid control with which the handlers brought life to the figure. The set was well done and I loved the little Subspecies in the jar near the mirror- love Full Moon Video.

3 out of 5.

*EDIT NOTE: The portion featuring the demon Dante was an "ad lib" part of the show where the demon takes questions from the audience. The issue regarding the attack on Republicans may not be indicative of additional shows throughout the run, but as I'm only able to write about the shows I actually see I can't comment regarding shows I haven't seen. I apologize if my thoughts were in any way misleading. Additionally, I don't want anyone to take my views too seriously... I'm a guy on a computer with an opinion. Nothing more, nothing less.

I am adding this note because I've been battering myself for the past 24 hours regarding whether I should share my thoughts or not. I've talked about it with colleagues and friends, none of whom are saying I should take down my thoughts- I'm adding this note because while I may have had a difference of opinion that in no way diminishes my respect for ANY of the performers as artists. That includes Ricki Vincent, who I do admire for his innovations in the realm of puppetry and performance art. And this show has so much going for it that my few issues should not be seen as anything close to a condemnation or slam- they're just the ranting opinions of a guy who occasionally can't keep his opinions in his head.