Wednesday, December 17, 2014

On the Twelfth Night of Christmas my true love gave to me... (Twelfth Night at Paperwing Theatre thoughts)

 Twelfth Night  (or, "What you Will") at the Paper Wing Theatre Company. 
This show is funny!

That’s it, the beginning, middle, and end of the “review” of this show. It’s funny. I’m done.

Not enough? Did you not notice the exclamation point at the end of the sentence that encapsulated my sum total thoughts regarding the show? You, dear faceless reader, are a demanding little snot-muffin. I tell you the show is funny and you want more. You expect more. You demand more. Very well-

This show is VERY funny!

There. Are you happy now?

Oh, you’re not. I’m sorry, I thought that would settle the matter. But I suppose you want to read a little more, something a bit more in depth, and that’s where I’m going to have to grind through the muddled thoughts in my holiday soaked skull to find a way to express the pure comedy that is 12th Night at the Paper Wing Theatre. I suppose it starts with the direction from Jody Gilmore, one of the most gifted comedians here on the Central Coast. This is a dream project for the man and I expected nothing short of comedic brilliance and yet he still managed to exceed my high pedestal expectations.  As a fan and student of classic comedy, Gilmore pulled out all the stops to bring Shakespeare to a contemporary audience who may not have all the patience in the world for “thee” and “thou”- Gilmore succeeds in making the show accessible to any age. He incorporates tried and true physical comedy and characters to tell a story that is hundreds of years old.

Acting? I’m not really sure I saw a lot of that Shakespeare-type prancing on the stage this past weekend- I saw characters.  I almost immediately started to love these characters and these personas and that’s so much better than simple “acting”. I became a fly on the wall for some of the funniest performances I’ve ever seen- Penelope Morgan is our “every-man” central character to the plot; Viola. Her brother’s died in a recent boat wreck and the woman is alone in the world, left to make her own way. She dons a man’s guise and finds employment with the pining Duke of Illiria, Orsino. Our Duke is head over heels in LOVE with- well, he’s definitely in love. He’s so absolutely devastated by the impact of that LOVE, he’s left to wander in a robe and lament the lack of reciprocation for his great and heedless LOVE. Christopher Sullenger is hilarious as the pining Orsino as he laments the need to share the full boundless passion of his love. And the object of his passion? Mindy Whitfield’s “Olivia” isn’t in love- she’s in mourning. Oh, yes- her dearest brother has passed to the next world and Olivia will see no light in her misery. Others seek her hand in marriage- but she has no time for any of that nonsense, nothing should interfere with her mourning. At least until the Duke’s latest envoy seems a little too dismissive of her renowned beauty- and then Olivia’s own interest is piqued. Whitfield is both beautiful and charmingly spoiled as she desperately seeks to gain the attention of the one man in all the island who isn’t totally enamored with her- and the love triangle is further complicated when Viola’s twin brother; Sebastian (Eric James Morton) is revealed to have not drowned in that shipwreck.

And then there’s the “other” story- Olivia’s Uncle is a mooching drunken lecher named Toby Belch (Patrick Golden). His best friend and drinking partner is one of Olivia’s many suitors; a bumbling fool with a thick purse by the name of Sir Andrew Aguecheek (Nicholas Kelley). The two are joined in their jolly romps by one of Olivia’s other servants, Fabian (Allison Smith). And the three rapscallions are opposed by the oppressively proper Steward, Malvolio (Jay Devine). When the group are confronted after a particularly rowdy night, Belch declares vengeance on Malvolio and it’s the Lady’s own Maid, Maria (Beverly Van Pelt) who concocts the device by which the others will have their revenge. And let me be as clear as I can- this whole story could stand on its own as a play in and of itself! This is Shakespeare as played by the Marx Brothers with a little Burns and Allen on the side.  

Round out the cast with the Dukes’ men, (Adam Kinkade and (on this night) Jody Gilmore) who are left with the responsibility of apprehending known pirate and fugitive, Antonio (Played by Ralph Cordoza). Antonio has his own stake in events because he’s the man responsible for saving Sebastian- and in bestowing great affection on the man, the pirate puts himself at risk.

And twining her way between both stories is the ever present tramp of a jester, Feste. I mean “tramp” in the comical sense with a nod of respect to Charlie Chaplin and other great comedic performances through the years. Jourdain Barton struts around the stage with quips, one-liners, scathing criticism of the people around her, a hand out for coin, a nose up to arrogance, and she is constantly speaking truth to power. She challenges with a jest- the mourning, the LOVE, the stodginess, the drunkenness, the cowardice, and the rest of the world surrounding her straight up to the closing moments of the production. As an admitted fan of Barton’s previous work as an actress and a director, I’m not going to make any secret of saying that this may be my favorite onstage performance from the young woman and I absolutely wish I had a second set of legs upon which I could stand and applaud.

But the thing is- I was already standing. I was already applauding. Because the moment the first person came out for their bow, I was up on my feet. This cast deserved an eruption from the audience in attendance I did my best to give it to them for the joy they gave to me. I was enthralled from beginning to end, I was laughing, I was filled with joy, and this show made me feel some genuine happiness in a season filled with great highs and great lows.

I can’t tell you any more without heading into big time spoiler material- these are performances that should be seen, appreciated, and encouraged. This is a great show and a great holiday closer for the Paper Wing Theatre.
This show is funny!

5 out of 5.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The Little Matchstick Girl thoughts-

The Little Matchstick Girl

The cold night falls on Manhattan's Five Points and the immigrant Irish community struggles to make ends meet at the turn of the century- fighters, promoters, barmaids, businessmen, and street urchins ply their trades and a lone girl tries to sell her matchsticks to any one that wanders by. The original story is a Christmas classic, a heart wrenching story about closing our hearts and the terrible price others may pay. Adapted for the stage by local playwright; Marjorie Lowry and directed by Kelsey Posey, The Matchstick Girl is currently playing at the 425 Carmel Avenue in Marina. And although the story itself is fairly bare bones, Lowry takes advantage of the streamlined nature of the tale and uses it to frame a story about intersecting lives during the early days of the last Century. Urchins struggle with their position in life, a fight promoter mixes his hand in several shady deals, a business man tries to get some last minute shopping done for his children, immigrants work to make a new life for themselves, and so on, so forth- the cast is fairly large and incorporates a number of meaningful vignettes into the full narrative.

And, okay, let me be honest- I misplaced my program. And this is the part where I would be talking about the cast, but I don’t have any names to put to the characters- save for the few people I’ve previously seen or worked with on other projects. And every performance deserves praise, not just the few people I’m familiar with. So what would you like me to do here, Faceless Reader? The villains were dastardly villainous, the children were appropriately adorable, the downtrodden were trodden, and so on so forth. It was a fantastic cast that seemed to be having fun on that stage, as if they were having the time of their lives, which is always fantastic to watch and feel from the audience. I honestly loved this cast, though I can't resist mentioning the heart melting antics of the little Pick Pocket as she nibbles a stolen cookie. She'd make Grumpy Cat smile.

Did I mention the music, too?

Nearly every scene featured a Holiday Standard sung by the performers, some in chorus and others with strong and heart-felt solo performances to piano accompaniment. This gave the show another strong backbone to fall upon as the cast doubled as a carol troupe and the only thing missing was a warm cup of cocoa with marshmallow. In particular, the duet between grandmother and child brought a few tears to my eyes.

4.5 out of 5.