BUZZ-O-METER ‌ Opera & Theatre 

Cloud Tectonics
Samurai 7.0
Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny
The Constant Wife
L’ile de Merlin
Denmark Vesey: Insurrection
Closer
Keeping Watch
blessing the boats
Faustus, The Last Night
Amahl and the Night Visitors
P.S. 69
Major Bang, or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love the Dirty Bomb
The Full Monty
Aurélia’s Oratorio
medEia
You, the Jury
Love Letters
Under the Lights

 

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Cloud Tectonics

WHAT IS IT? A down-to-earth man falls for a heavenly woman, with cosmic results. WHY SEE IT? With stripped-down sets and minimal props, most of PURE’s plays require the audience to suspend disbelief. With its hints of magical realism, this show demands more imagination than most. It’s already enjoyed a rave-review run as part of this year’s regular season, so we’ll be treated to a tried and tested version of José Rivera’s romantic fable. WHO SHOULD GO? Fans of Gabriel Garcia Marquez. If you enjoy a little dream with your drama or missed this the first time around, here’s your chance to catch a powerful piece of theatre. Buzz: Cloud Tectonics seems to be a good fit for PURE, the local theatre company that delivers realistic acting in an intimate setting but alludes to universal themes. See preview on pg. 94. (Nick Smith)
PICCOLO SPOLETO • $20 • (1 HOUR 20 MIN.) • May 25, 27, 29, 31, June 3 at 6 p.m.; May 26, 28, 30, June 1, 2 at 9 p.m. • PURE Theatre, The Cigar Factory, 701 East Bay St. • 554-6060

 

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Samurai 7.0

WHAT IS IT?: A stage adaptation of the classic Kurosawa film with an actors’ twist. WHY SEE IT?: It’s the live Magnificent Seven. Director Davis Robinson loved the story, and he and the Beau Jest Moving Theater have put heavy creative juices into bringing it to the stage. Effects like horses on the horizon in the film are accomplished through puppetry, movement, and “their own invented cinematic language.” The classic story of seven Samurais coming together to save a village is still there, but they’ve correlated it to the devotion of an actor to the stage, putting their craft before money and materialism. WHO SHOULD GO? Samurais with swords on the mission of their lives? Bring the whole family. You don’t have to be a film buff to appreciate this new take on an old story. Buzz: Even the Mass-holes up in Boston dig this one. The show was recently nominated for a prestigious New England theater Elliott Norton Award. Catch it while they’re close by. (Stratton Lawrence)
PICCOLO SPOLETO • $20 , $15 seniors/students • (1 hour 10 min.) • May 30, 31 at 3 p.m.; June 2 at 5 p.m.; June 3 at 8 p.m.; June 4, 9 at 6 p.m.; June 5, 6, 7 at 2 p.m.; June 5, 8 at 9 p.m. • Footlight Players Theatre, 20 Queen St. • 554-6060

 

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Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny

WHAT IS IT? Kurt Weill’s and Bertolt Brecht’s 1930 operatic, didactic comment on the evils of society. Spoleto veterans Moshe Leiser and Patrice Caurier direct the story of a society founded by convicts in the Old West. WHY SEE IT? Come on, it’s Brecht and Weill. The masters of alienation! It’s hard to imagine a piece meant to move audiences to change without getting them too emotionally involved in the characters or too attached to their stories. So catch their work while you can and experience one of the most influential theatrical styles in history. Of course, Leiser and Caurier may take liberties with the style, and that will make the production all the more interesting. WHO SHOULD GO? In spite of some critics referring to the piece as too dated to be influential anymore, it’s still a good bet for anyone wanting to see what all the Brecht hubbub is about. It’s good to go and see what y-ou can get out of it for yourself, even if the topic at hand is dated. Don’t go expecting a “typical” melodic opera score; some have called it closer to a musical (The Doors covered the opera’s “Alabama Song”). Buzz: While it’s not the same production that we’ll see, the L.A. Opera just ran Mahagonny with Patty LuPone and received much press coverage. Weill and Brecht have always been a rabble-rousing duo, and their artistic influence helps create high buzz. See preview on pg. 95. (Jennifer Corley)
Spoleto Festival USA • $25-$130 • (2 hours 30 min.) • May 25 at 7 p.m.; May 28, 30, June 1, 3, 9 at 8 p.m. • Sottile Theatre, 44 George St. • 579-3100

 

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The Constant Wife

WHAT IS IT? Dublin’s hyper-popular Gate Theatre returns to Charleston for a sixth Spoleto appearance, with an adaptation of W. Somerset Maugham’s comedy of manners The Constant Wife. WHY SEE IT? The Gate was last here in 2003, when they brought their sold-out adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. In 2002, it was Chekhov’s The Bear and Brian Friel’s Afterplay (along with actors John Hurt and Penelope Wilton), which left audiences delirious with satisfaction. 1996’s The Woman in Black was a puzzle for some audiences, but drop a few loving words on the Gate’s productions of Oscar Wilde’s Salome (1990) or Lady Windermere’s Fan (1998) in the right company, and you’ll find yourself invited to all the right South of Broad parties this year. Hell, you might find yourself on the Spoleto board. WHO SHOULD GO? Maugham’s easily one of the most adapted English authors in history (The Painted Veil, Being Julia, Up at the Villa). It’s accessible, it’s entertaining (no “little people,” promise), and it’s easy. Plus there are 19 performance in 17 days. They make it hard not to go. Buzz: The Gate is one of the most reliably popular companies associated with Spoleto, and The Constant Wife is the one single guaranteed critical and audience hit of the 2007 festival. To get buzz louder than this you’d need a chainsaw. See preview on pg. 99.
Spoleto Festival USA • $25-$75 • (2 hours 30 min.) • May 24, 25, 29, June 6 at 8 p.m.; May 27, 30, June 1, 3, 5, 8, 10 at 3:30 p.m.; May 27, 28, 30, June 1, 3, 5, 8, 9 at 8:30 p.m. • Dock Street Theatre, 135 Church St. • 579-3100

 

L’ile de Merlin

WHAT IS IT? Christopher Alden’s production of the first-ever American performance of Merlin’s Island, Christoph Willibald Gluck’s lighthearted comic opera. WHY SEE IT? With all six scheduled performances at the Dock Street, you’ll see it just as most of the 18th-century powdered wigs did: in a small and intimate theatre that practically puts the performers in your lap. The comedy potential is high — with lead characters Pierrot and Scapin, a pair of stock buffoons from the French slant on the old “Commedia del Arte” tradition. It seems they get shipwrecked on the home island of Merlin, the mythical wizard of yore. But yikes, everything is bass-ackwards there: wealthy women pick poor husbands, couples never cheat on each other, and all the lawyers are honest. The cast impresses: mostly younger singers of the rising star ilk — and conductor Harry Bicket is a global authority in opera of this vintage. WHO SHOULD GO? Opera buffs, or anybody who’d like to be among the first to catch a real rarity on this side of the pond ... not to mention folks who like to laugh a lot. Buzz: What with gobs of renewed interest in Gluck’s operas these days, ticket orders for this one are pouring in from all over the known universe. Book now, or come prepared to dump your bank balance into a scalper’s palm.
Spoleto Festival USA • $25-$130 • (1 hour 45 min.) • May 26 at 7 p.m.; May 28, JUNE 9 at 3:30 p.m.; May 31, June 2, 7 at 8 p.m. • Dock Street Theatre, 135 Church st. • 579-3100

 

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Denmark Vesey: Insurrection

WHAT IS IT? The dark story of Charleston’s most infamous rebel brought to the stage. WHY SEE IT? In Charleston Stage’s 30th year, founder Julian Wiles, our city’s most established homegrown playwright, has adapted one of our most significant historical events into theatre. Black freedman Vesey was accused of plotting a massive slave rebellion in 1822, but was found out and hanged with co-conspirators in what is arguably the largest mass execution in U.S. government history. Wiles sees the same issues regarding the rule of law being dealt with in today’s age of terror. His play is likely a powerful take on a two centuries gone event that still casts a shadow in Charleston. WHO SHOULD GO? All good Charlestonians should know the Vesey story. If you’re rusty, this might be a good primer. Historians and theatergoers in general won’t be disappointed, but the kids might be a little shaken by all the nooses. Buzz: It’s year 30 for Charleston Stage. Their budget is big, and Wiles is pulling out all the stops for a potentially epic play.
PICCOLO SPOLETO • $25, $20 seniors, $15 students • (2 hours.) • May 26, 27, June 2, 9 at 6 p.m.; May 26, June 2, 9 at 9 p.m.; May 29, 30, 31, June 1, 5, 6, 7, 8 at 7 p.m. • American Theater, 446 King St. • 554-6060

 

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Closer

WHAT IS IT? Playwright Patrick Marber’s emotion-packed drama about sex, love, and lies follows the romances of four Londoners desperate to make connections and find happiness. WHY SEE IT? The four lonesome Londoners in this Tony Award-winning play slip into and out of each other’s lives — and, variously, each other — like the action of an origami fortune teller, each time offering up a different variation of flawed relationships anesthetized by fear, self-loathing, and deception. Lying, as one character wryly observes, is “the currency of the day,” and the characters in Closer indulge in it with at least as much gusto as they do the more horizontal aspects of coupledom. WHO SHOULD GO? Don’t bring the kids to this one, unless you want to explain to them what bukkake is. Whether you saw the Mike Nichols film adaptation starring Natalie Portman, Jude Law, Julia Roberts, and Clive Owen or not, you owe it to yourself. Buzz: Director Kathy Lounge and her cast made big waves with this College of Charleston Center Stage production last year. Lounge was able to pull the original cast back together for a Piccolo run.
Piccolo Spoleto • $15, $12 seniors/students • (2 hours) • May 25, 26, 27, 29, 30, 31, June 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 9 at 7:30 p.m. • Theatre 220, Simons Center, 54 St. Philip St. • 554-6060

 

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Keeping Watch

WHAT IS IT? A chance meeting in a graveyard and an impromptu reunion on a cliff are the spurs for this tale of grace and spiritual searching in a small Southern town. The settings are sparse, the cast is small, but the emotional range promises to run far and wide. WHY SEE IT? Keeping Watch debuted to rave reviews last summer at Theatrical Outfit in Atlanta, Ga. And hey, after coming up in places like Florence, Alabama, and Nashville, Tenn,. playwright Thomas Ward knows his American South like the back of a hymnal. WHO SHOULD GO? Those who live in, have lived in, or are visiting a Southern town and want a closer look at what makes it tick. Buzz: The cast is slated to be College of Charleston alumni made good in the Big Apple back in town for Piccolo Spoleto and a trunkload of Cheerwine. An award-winning story and top-notch homegrown talent make Keeping Watch one to watch.
PICCOLO SPOLETO • $20, $15 seniors/students • (1 hour 30 min.) • May 26, 27, 30, 31, June 1, 2 at 8 p.m.; May 27 & June 2 at 3 p.m.; May 28 at 6:30 p.m. • Chapel Theatre, 172 Calhoun St. • 554-6060

 

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blessing the boats

WHAT IS IT? First off, it’s not a commemoration of the beginning of shrimp season. Although poet Sekou Sundiata does have extensive family ties to the Charleston area, the title of his one-man show about recovering from kidney disease comes from a poem by Lucille Clifton. It’s something of a reference to “getting one’s sea legs back.” WHY SEE IT? This revolution will not be televised. A native New Yorker, Sundiata’s roots go back to the Black Arts Movement days of Gil Scott-Heron. His work has been released by Ani DiFranco’s Righteous Babe Records and he’s been featured on Bill Moyers’ “Language of Life.” WHO SHOULD GO? Thick-skinned fans of spoken word. Although he’s been known to drop poems about South Africa over a James Brown beat, Sundiata refuses to be categorized as a spitter. Buzz: The poet’s own experiences with dialysis and a kidney transplant are the substance of the show, which has multimedia elements.
SPOLETO FESTIVAL USA • $25 • (1 hour 15 min.) • May 26 at 2 p.m. and 9 p.m.; May 28 at 8 p.m.; May 29 at 6 p.m. • Emmett Robinson Theater, Simons Center, 54 St. Philip St. • 579-3100

Faustus, The Last Night

WHAT IS IT? The American premiere of this contemporary opera is inspired by Christopher Marlowe’s The Tragical History of Dr. Faustus. It’s the story of Dr. Faust, who, obsessed with the powers of magic, summons up the devil Mephistopheles and sells his soul to the devil. WHY SEE IT? French composer/librettist Pascal Dusapin, award-winning composer of nine works, enjoyed an eight-minute ovation at the opera’s premiere in Berlin last year. Spoleto’s Music In Time coordinator John Kennedy conducts. WHO SHOULD GO? It’s important to remember the words “inspired by,” which means if you’re looking for a faithful staging of Marlowe’s work, forget it. Dusapin is influenced by writers and works of several generations, from the Bible to Beckett. Buzz: A popular story, a resounding theme, and a praised score and staging make for eager ticketbuyers. Plus, people always get excited about Spoleto operas and this one’s performed in English.
SPOLETO FESTIVAL USA • $25-$100 • (1 hour 30 min. ) • May 27, 29, june 2 at 8 p.m. • Sottile Theatre, 44 George St. • 579-3100

Amahl and the Night Visitors

WHAT IS IT? A special concert version of Gian Carlo Menotti’s classic Christmas tale. WHY SEE IT? Before Charlie Brown and Rudolph ever graced the small screen at Christmas time, there was Amahl. Commissioned by NBC and broadcast each year from 1951 to 1966, this modern production opened the ears and hearts of countless viewers to the world of opera. How will it translate to the stage? The composer founded Spoleto Festival USA as a counterpart to his Festival dei Due Mondi in Spoleto, Italy. Scheduled prior to Menotti’s passing, this production now carries a poignant torch as a tribute to its composer, the founder of Spoleto. WHO SHOULD GO? Opera lovers should not miss this experience. If you’re unsure about opera or would like to introduce youngsters to this seemingly erudite subject, Amahl hits the precarious bull’s-eye of having depth and weight while remaining quite accessible. Two additional outreach shows will be performed for free on May 31 and June 1. Buzz: Great music transcends the fickle nature of what television can now broadcast. Will we find it here? (Robert Bondurant)
PICCOLO SPOLETO • $12 • (1 hour 15 min.) • May 30 at 7 p.m. • Burke High School Auditorium, 244 President St. • 554-6060

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P.S. 69

WHAT IS IT? A one-woman show about life as a substitute teacher in a New York City public school, wherein cocreator Susan Jeremy convincingly plays 24 different characters in a one-hour time span. That’s nearly one character for every two minutes! WHY SEE IT? P.S. 69 was a sold-out hit when it originally played at the 2002 Piccolo Spoleto festival, and Jeremy’s only been honing her show since then. She’s received kudos for her convincing portrayals of a wide range of characters, as noted in a review by Off Broadway’s Matthew Murray: “With a waggle of her finger, a crane of her neck, or a slight turn of the head, Jeremy instantly changes her age, sex, and even skin color.” WHO SHOULD GO? Anyone who’s curious about what it would be like to be a young white woman teaching in an “overcrowded, understaffed, and underfunded inner-city school” — but wants to hear the complete opposite of a sob story. Buzz: There’s enough people still around who caught P.S. 69 the first time to generate a significant amount of chatter about Jeremy’s return. We suggest buying tickets early. (Sara Miller)
PICCOLO SPOLETO • $15 • (1 hour) • May 31 at 8 p.m.; June 2, 3 at 2 p.m. • Theatre 99, 280 Meeting St. • 554-6060

 

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Major Bang, or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love the Dirty Bomb

WHAT IS IT? A bracing shot of experimental theatre that riffs on post-9/11 insecurities and suggests the only thing we can do under such ridiculous circumstances is laugh. WHY SEE IT? New York’s Foundry Theatre has been dedicated since 1994 to “fostering new, envelope-pushing work that takes on the thorniest issues of the world we inhabit.” That’s a mouthful of a mission that translates to: “We make crazily entertaining theatre unlike anything you’ve ever seen before, and afterwards you might even catch yourself thinking.” If the Dr. Strangelove-checking subtitle doesn’t give you some idea what’s in store, then chances are you’re not going to “get” it anyway. Best to make room for someone who will. WHO SHOULD GO? Tough call. At just 75 minutes, it’s not going to eat anyone’s evening, even if it’s not to their tastes. And it involves magic, a wild array of presentational techniques, exploding backpacks, Boy Scouts, radiation checks in the theatre, and multimedia snippets of Dr. Strangelove and The Bodyguard. If you’re a Kubrick fan, good for you, but that’s probably irrelevant. If Cold War satire doesn’t float your boat, on the other hand, you might consider a bye. Buzz: Reviewing Major Bang at St. Anne’s Warehouse in January 2006, New York Times chief theatre critic Ben Brantley wrote, “Laughing ... can be an excellent means of defusing anxiety. Which is the point being demonstrated with remarkable good cheer and insight by Major Bang, a disarming exercise in political cabaret.” Brantley, it goes without saying, is a hardass. If he likes it, chances are you will, too. (Patrick Sharbaugh)
Spoleto Festival USA • $30 • (1 hour 15 min.) • May 31, June 3 at 8 p.m. ; June 2 at 9 p.m.; June 3 at 2 p.m.• Emmett Robinson Theatre, Simons Center for the Arts, 54 St. Philip St. • 579-3100

 

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The Full Monty

WHAT: The Workshop Theatre of Columbia presents their hit production of the British comedy about six working class guys desperate for work who decide to produce their own male strip revue, with a story by Broadway favorite Terrence McNally and music from David Yazbek. WHY: Like the movie, the story follows the guys as they take their awkward steps toward the big night. The show includes fun songs like “Big Ass Rock” and “Michael Jordan’s Ball” along with heartfelt numbers like “You Walk With Me.” But the big finale “Let It Go,” along with the “big finish,” will have you humming all the way home. WHO: Your typical male revue might be ladies-only, but guys will get a kick out of this show, too. There is a warning that the show has brief nudity and some adult language (hence the ass in “Big Ass Rock”). Buzz: The production by the Workshop Theatre of Columbia performed to sold-out crowds and was voted Best Local Theatre Production by the readers of Columbia’s Free Times. (Greg Hambrick)
PICCOLO SPOLETO • $26, $24 seniors/students • (2 hours) • June 2 at 2 p.m.; June 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 at 7 p.m. • Charleston Ballet Theatre, 477 King St. • 554-6060

 

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Aurélia’s Oratorio

WHAT: A play combining magic, mime, music, puppetry, and physical theatre. Containing not a strong narrative, but rather scenes linked by a theme of a topsy-turvy world, this production is usually considered equally delightful for adults and kids. WHY: Any piece of mime theatre directed by Charlie Chaplin’s daughter (Victoria Thierrée Chaplin) and starring his granddaughter (Aurélia Thierrée) is likely to have some genealogically creative blood in its veins, no? (Plus, Eugene O’Neill was Aurélia Thierrée’s great-grandfather.) Reviews of Oratorio have been consistently good, citing the production’s balance of whimsy and darkness without crossing into “too cute” territory. WHO: Fans of mixed theatre, mime, circus, and those who want to be out of the theatre in less than the time it takes to watch a movie. And it’s probably safe to say that if you have an appreciation for the work of Charlie Chaplin, you’re likely to find some of that magically wrapped profundity here. Buzz: Everybody loves a good dose of enchanting, charming, delightful theatre (Is it this year’s Circus Flora, or even better?). And this looks to be our dose of it. How can you not smile when you look at her photos? (Jennifer Corley)
SPOLETO FESTIVAL USA • $30 • (1 hour 10 min.) • June 7, 8, 9 at 8 p.m., June 9, 10 at 2 p.m. • Emmett Robinson Theatre, Simons Center for the Arts, 54 St. Philip St. • 579-3100

 

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medEia

WHAT IS IT? Dutch company Dood Paard (don’t panic; the performance is in English) presents a contemporary version of the myth of Medea, which you may be familiar with from the Euripides play of the same name. The legend revolves around Medea’s use of her children in the cruelest, most violent revenge against Jason, who has abandoned her. Dood Paard’s version consists of a handful of actors portraying several characters, telling the tale from the chorus’s point of view. WHY SEE IT? We all know Greek mythology has laid the foundation of most great entertainment, from books to television to websites. Love, lust, murder, revenge, loneliness, jealousy... the best of the worst is all there. The material is ripe for revitalization, as evidenced by Dood Paard’s lacing their production with pop songs. WHO SHOULD GO? Obviously, fans of mythology. Those looking for new twists on classic tales. Alec Baldwin. Buzz: So Dood Paard may not be a household name, but their play looks interesting. They have a good history of progressive, edgy productions. (Jennifer Corley)
SPOLETO FESTIVAL USA • $30 • (1 hour 15 min.) • June 1, 4, 5 at 8 p.m; June 2 at 2 p.m. • Emmett Robinson Theatre, Simons Center for the Arts, 54 St. Philip St. • 579-3100

 

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You, the Jury

WHAT IS IT? A comedy with audience participation put on by students, faculty, and community members of Burke High School. WHY SEE IT? On the way in the door, 25 audience members will receive an envelope revealing that they are jury members in the trial of a young student accused of stealing money from his employer. The courtroom scene is largely improvised as the judge, attorneys, and defendant converse. The outcome is determined by the jury, and the reactions are a real test of the actors’ hold on their characters. WHO SHOULD GO? Director Whitfield Sims Jr. chose this play for its inclusion of the community. Burke lies smack in the middle of downtown and deserves accolades for this production. Bring friends and family. Buzz: Two shows in January generated enough attention that Piccolo invited them to participate. Expect casual hilariousness. (Stratton Lawrence)
PICCOLO SPOLETO • $15 adults; $10 seniors/students •June 3, 9 at 4 p.m.; June 7, 8 at 7 p.m. • Burke High School Auditorium, 244 President St. • 554-6060

 

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Love Letters

WHAT IS IT? A.R. Gurney’s 1989 play features a man and a woman reading the letters they’ve sent to each other over their 50-year relationship, which began with second-grade Valentine. WHY SEE IT? This one’s tricky: if done well, it could be powerful, if the nuances of the characters are brought to life. If done poorly, the production will read like stale, dated monologues from unsympathetic characters. WHO SHOULD GO? While this isn’t necessarily just for the older Broadway crowd who prefer their plays more on the reflective side, it’s probably safest. Which is not to say it won’t be enjoyable; but if you’re looking for cutting edge, it’s not for you. Buzz: Directed by and starring Robert Ivey, an accomplished prominent figure in Charleston’s theatre scene, there are likely many people looking forward to this production. (Jennifer Corley)
PICCOLO SPOLETO • $15, $12 seniors/students • (1 hour 30 min.) • June 6, 7, 8, 9 at 8 p.m. • Chapel Theatre, 172 Calhoun St. • 554-6060

 

Under the Lights

WHAT IS IT? As part of College of Charleston’s theatre series, playwriting students from the college showcase some of the best of their recent 10-minute works on the stage. WHY SEE IT? Franklin Ashley’s students have consistently won top accolades at regional and national competitions since Ashley developed his playwriting course there in 1993. WHO SHOULD GO? Go if you want to see some new work and be able to gloat to your friends in the coming years, “Yeah, I saw that piece back in 2007 when it was first performed, long before it went to MTC.” Buzz: Playwrights at CofC seem to be getting sharper by the year, so it’s a good bet there’s something worth seeing here. Student Michael Smallwood’s play Talk just ran at Footlight Players, which has probably generated some appetite for more new student works. (Jennifer Corley)
PICCOLO SPOLETO • $15, $12 seniors/students • (1 hour 45 min.) • June 4, 5 at 8 p.m. • Chapel Theatre, 172 Calhoun St. • 554-6060


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