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  • gilwilson 6:27 PM on October 28, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , plays, , theatrical   

    You Can’t Take it With You by Moss Hart, George S. Kaufman 

    40528730_10156744852433489_2277719417330597888_oYou Can’t Take it With You
    by Moss Hart, George S. Kaufman
    Paperback, 87 pages
    Published December 1st 1937 by Dramatists Play Service (first published 1936)

    Once again I returned to the stage, this time in a larger role.  I was extremely flattered when I was cast as Martin Vanderhof (Grandpa).  First off, someone else thought I was capable of pulling off the part, which by the way is a pivotal role in this play.  Second I began to wonder whether or not I could pull this off.  I didn’t realize that without the practice that memorizing that many lines for a man over 50 is a lot of work.  But I persevered and worked my arse off and we had a wonderful production.  I learned a lot about the play itself through the process, and I learned a thing or two about myself.  But as you know by now I will not be reviewing our production of the play (which was awesome, by the way) but I will summarize and give my opinion of the written work.

    So we begin this journey with an array of some interesting characters.  Paul and Penny Sycamore are the mom and dad of family.  Paul dabbles in making fireworks.  He doesn’t have a license for such but that doesn’t stop him.  He also likes to work with Meccano / Erector sets and build toys for himself.  Penny writes plays, or at least tries, because 8 years ago a typewriter was accidentally delivered to their house.  This same incident is what ended her painting endeavors.

    Their daughter Essie wants to be a ballet dancer but her hindrance is that she has no talent.  She does have a talent in making candy.  Essie’s husband Ed Carmichael, also has eclectic tastes.  He has a printing press so his hobby is printing anything he hears.  Ed also has a xylophone, so he dabbles in music.

    The other Daughter Alice is the sane one of the bunch (picture Marilyn from “The Munsters).  Alice works in an office where she has fallen in love with the owner’s son and vice president, Anthony Kirby, Jr.  Alice has been putting off letting Tony meet her family, but the time is coming soon.

    Paul Sycamore is assisted in his fireworks making business by Mr. DePinna.  DePinna delivered ice to the house 8 years ago and just stayed.  The Milkman did the same for five years before he died.  As you can tell  this family is accepting of everyone.  So why is Alice nervous for Tony to meet the family?

    To top off this family the patriarch is Grandpa, Martin Vanderhof.  Grandpa stopped working 35 years ago because he no longer was having fun.  Since then he’s practiced darts, collected snakes, attended commencements at nearby Columbia University, collected stamps and just had the time of his life.    He owns property which somehow he earns a living from.  Which leads to the IRS wanting to know why he hasn’t paid taxes for the last 24 years.

    The play builds when the two families meet and chaos ensues.  The Kirbys don’t want their son marrying into this riff-raff but Tony has his mind set.  It’s up to Grandpa to talk sense into the stuffy Kirby Sr.

    This play shows that a family that has fun together can pull together and get by without having to stress over money.  Just getting by is not a bad thing.

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  • gilwilson 8:24 PM on January 4, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , conservation, , galapagos, , , plays,   

    “Tooth and Claw” by Michael Hollinger 

    toothclaw“Tooth and Claw”
    by Michael Hollinger
    Multi-cast performance
    Produced by L.A. Theatre Works
    Approx. 2 hours

    When it comes to audio entertainment I have four sources that I can go to to make sure I can find a good story. Countless times I’ve started an audiobook and just couldn’t stay interested and each time that happens I get frustrated and have to go to one of those sources so that I can be reminded that there are good audiobooks available. L.A. Theatre Works is one of those sources.

    L.A. Theatre Works produces live performances of plays that range from the classic to the modern and every time they feature a cast that is superb. With these live performances LATW also takes the time and effort to produce audio versions of these plays. The recordings are so expertly produced that while listening to the performance, as a reader, you are transported into the middle of the audience. All musical cues, sound effects and every dialogue are produced so that the attention to detail shows in that every single thing is heard clearly.

    This time around I picked out the play “Tooth and Claw,” not because I was interested in the subject matter, but simply because I knew, no matter what, I would get a great story from L.A. Theatre Works and yes I was right. This production was yet another performance where the acting and production kept me interested and entertained.
    “Tooth and Claw” is a contemporary drama based on actual events, biologist Schuyler Baines (portrayed by Cynthia Watros of “Lost”) arrives in the Galapagos Islands to run the Darwin Research Center. When she becomes aware of an exploding black market in sea cucumbers threatening to destroy the islands’ fragile ecosystem, Schuyler shuts the industry down, sparking a deadly, survival-of-the-fittest conflict with native fishermen.

    “Tooth and Claw” becomes a compelling exploration of evolution, extinction and the ever-present nature of Darwin’s “struggle for life.” In the 1990s, the indigenous fisherman (pepineros) of the Galapagos Islands were pitted against environmentalists over the issue of harvesting sea cucumbers, both the primary source of income for the pepineros and an essential part of the food chain for sea tortoises. The fisherman subsequently revolted and slaughtered the endangered tortoises in protest. Even now, the conflict continues with the fisherman in search of shark fins and sea cucumbers for Asian markets, unmindful of conservation efforts. “Tooth and Claw” looks not just at the survival of the fittest, whether human, animal or flora, but at the less obvious clash between science and conservation.

    A very intriguing story and an excellent performance both combine to make this a great way to spend two hours.

     
  • gilwilson 9:44 PM on July 2, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , , , Brian Cox, , , Jenny O’Hara, Kirsten Potter, , , plays, Saidah Arrika Ekulona,   

    “The Ride Down Mt. Morgan” by Arthur Miller 

    “The Ride Down Mt. Morgan”
    by Arthur Miller
    from “The Arthur Miller Collection”
    published by L.A. Theatre Works
    Performed by: Brian Cox, Jenny O’Hara, Amy Pietz, Kirsten Potter, Gregory Itzin and Saidah Arrika Ekulona
    Approx 2 hours

    Once again it’s time to listen to another play from “The Arthur Miller” collection from L.A. Theatre Works. I’ve been listening to this collection interspersed with all my other audiobook listening so I can stretch it out. There are ten plays in this collection and this is next to the last, I’m gonna miss having these two hours between books.

    What I like most about these audio recordings is that with the superb production quality, I feel as though I’m right in the middle of the performance, and with the great casting, the actors really bring these plays to life.

    Most of Arthur Miller’s plays are tragedies, but this one is kinda hard to categorize. The tragedy of this play takes place at the beginning and how the main character tries to weasel out of this tragedy almost turns this play into a comedy.

    Lyman Felt is an insurance agent/mogul. He’s made enough money to own two homes one in New York City and one in Elmira, New York. His money has also made it possible for him to support two families. Those two families are his own, you see, Lyman is a bigamist. He has two loving wives one child with each of those wives.

    The tragedy that begins this play is that Lyman, while driving down the icy road down Mt. Morgan goes off the road and ends up in the hospital. As he awakens in the hospital he is stuck in bed as the nurse tells him his wife is waiting to see him. As Lyman comes to full consciousness, he begins to realize it’s his wife of more than thirty years, Theo, is the first to visit. The problem is Mt. Morgan is near his Elmira home where his wife of only nine years, Leah, lives. Sure enough both wives end up meeting and the issue of Lyman’s bigamy is confronted head on.

    When confronted, Lyman states that the two options in life are to be true to others, which includes a hypocritical world, or to himself, and that he has chosen the himself. He justifies his actions by explaining he has given them good lives, has supported them financially and emotionally, and has been a good father. This is all presented in a series of flashbacks that are so well presented in this performance that I always knew a flashback was happening. Lyman goes on to say that the two women have been happier with this arrangement than they would have been if they had been the only wife. As reasons for this he cites domestic boredom, routine, and the angst of being trapped in the same relationship forever. The play uses flashbacks to take us to previous situations both families have lived.

    So this brings up the question; Which wife will take him back? Through the flashbacks and some rather humorous discussions between wives, attorneys, nurses and Lyman this performance will make you chuckle, and, at times, cringe at Lyman’s justifications.

     
  • gilwilson 10:33 PM on June 15, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Amy Irving, , , , , , , Harris Yulin, , , plays, , , Timothy West   

    “The Price” by Arthur Miller from “The Arthur Miller Collection” published by L.A. Theatre Works 

    “The Price”
    by Arthur Miller
    from “The Arthur Miller Collection”
    published by L.A. Theatre Works
    starring: Richard Dreyfuss, Amy Irving, Timothy West and Harris Yulin.
    Approx 2 hours

    Once again I’m continuing my trek through this collection of 10 plays by Arthur Miller published by L.A. Theatre Works, “The Arthur Miller Collection.” This one is number eight in the collection, the plays could be heard in any order, I’m just going through them as they are presented in the collection, with the exception of “Death of a Salesman” which I had to hear first.

    This performance features a cast of Richard Dreyfuss, Amy Irving, Timothy West and Harris Yulin. Richard Dreyfuss has always been one of my favorite actors and he does a superb job in the role of Victor Franz, A police sergeant, eligible for retirement and approaching his fiftieth birthday. His ability to sound completely like a New York cop was superb in this performance. All the actors were excellent in this performance, I just think Dreyfuss stood out, most likely because he is the main character, but definitely a stand out performance.

    The character of Victor Franz opens the play with his wife, Esther, as they both prepare to sell off Victor’s father’s house full of furniture. The house is about to be demolished and the lifetime of collected furniture must go. Victor has called in a furniture dealer, Gregory Solomon, to make an offer on all the furniture. As they are waiting on Solomon, Victor begins reminiscing about his life in that home taking care of his father. The father was unable to take care of himself after Victor’s mother died, so Victor quit school, in which he was studying to most likely become a doctor. Victor joined the force to support his father, and his brother, Walter continued in school to become a very successful doctor.

    Victor has some anger built up toward his brother because he would only send five dollars a month to support. During the process of coming up with a price for all the furniture, Walter shows up at the house and all the past comes up and angers flare. The true source or resentment comes out and the brothers go back and forth talking about the price each had to pay when their father broke down.

    The play builds and builds until the emotional end to which not all is solved, but barriers have been brought down. This play is one of your typical Arthur Miller plays depicting the struggles of every man. Miller was a great writer of our everyday life and dreams, of the most American kinds of struggles, disappointments and confusions and was able to portray those in the simplest of settings for his plays.

     
  • gilwilson 9:55 PM on May 22, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: after the fall, Al Ruscio, Amy Aquino, amy brenneman, , Anthony LaPaglia, , Claudette Nevins, , , Kenny Williams., , marilyn monroe, Natalija Nogulich, plays,   

    “After the Fall” by Arthur Miller from “The Arthur Miller Collection” published by L.A. Theatre Works 

    “After the Fall”
    by Arthur Miller
    from “The Arthur Miller Collection”
    published by L.A. Theatre Works
    performed by: Amy Brenneman, Anthony LaPaglia, Amy Pietz, Amy Aquino, Gregory Itzin, Claudette Nevins, Natalija Nogulich, Al Ruscio, Raphael Sbarge and Kenny Williams.
    2 hours and 4 minutes.

    Continuing my listening through “The Arthur Miller Collection” from L.A. Theatre Works with this one being the sixth of ten plays. “After the Fall” is one of Miller’s least famous plays but one that is extremely autobiographical. The play takes place inside the tortured mind of a 40-year-old lawyer. Quentin is haunted by his disastrous affair with a needy sex symbol, a character rumored to be based on Marilyn Monroe, Miller’s second wife.

    The part of Quentin is played by Anthony LaPaglia, and his voicework for this performance is perfect. He portrays the tortured soul of Quentin who struggles with his problems with women which may have started with his mother. When Quentin was a child the family had the nanny take him out for a walk and when he returned the house was empty. When the family returned back from vacation his mother explained he was too young and she needed a break. Seems like this would psychically damage any kid.

    The part of Maggie, the sex symbol, which could be based on Marilyn Monroe, is performed by Amy Brenneman. I remember Amy portraying a tough cop on the TV series “NYPD Blue,” but in this play she plays, well, Marilyn Monroe. Her voicework is superb, in that she sounds exactly like a squeaky voiced blonde. I had a hard time seeing that tough cop in this performance.

    One of the things I really enjoyed about the is performance was the surrealism of the whole story. The play takes place in the head of Quentin, and the scenes all portray various memories of his failed relationships and trying to take care of Maggie as she becomes more and more famous. Through this process the story is told non-linearly, in other words it is told through a series of memories not in their actual order of occurrence. I’ve always loved stories told in this manner and as this performance progressed I was sucked into the story by making me have to tie in all the events.

    The echo effects on the voices of memories as they come into focus is a production aspect that makes this performance work perfectly in an audio format.

    With great production and perfect vocal performances this release from L.A. Theatre Works delivers a superb Arthur Miller play that, while it may not be as famous as “Death of a Salesman,” should be on the list of any theatre fan.

     
  • gilwilson 10:52 PM on May 4, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , carol kane, , , , mccarthyism, plays, , , salem witch hunt, salem witches, , , ,   

    “The Crucible” by Arthur Miller from the “Arthur Miller Collection” from L.A. Theatre Works 

    “The Crucible”
    by Arthur Miller
    Produced by L.A. Theatre Works
    Included in “The Arthur Miller Collection”
    Starring: Irene Aranga, Rene Auberjonois, Ed Begley Jr, Georgia Brown, Jack Coleman, Bud Cort, Richard Dreyfuss, Judyann Elder, Hector Elizondo, Fionnula Flanagan, Ann Hearne, Carol Kane, Stacy Keach, Anna Sophie Loewenberg, Marian Mercer, Franklyn Seales, Madolyn Smith, Joe Spano and Michael York
    118 minutes

    Continuing on in this collection of 10 plays from L.A. Theatre Works’ “The Arthur Miller Collection,” I’ve just finished with a very cool play that has a bit of a double meaning. “The Crucible” was Arthur Miller’s answer to the Communism accusations from McCarthyism and the blacklisting of accused communists. During the days when Senator McCarthy was finding Communists hiding behind every doorway, Arthur Miller was questioned by the House of Representatives’ Committee on Un-American Activities in 1956 and convicted of “contempt of Congress” for refusing to identify others present at meetings he had attended. So what seemed like a witch hunt Arthur was spurred to write “The Crucible.” While “The Crucible” may not be entirely historically accurate it does represent the scare tactics and deplorable actions during the Salem Witch trials and the Committee on Un-American Activities.

    L. A. Theatre works has produced a great version of this play with some of the greatest actors ever. Each one brings to audio life this play that portrays a dark time in history and serves as an allegory for another dark time centuries later. The cast alone is enough to move the play along in this production, but there is one other “actor” that is not credited that really allowed me as a listener to feel the burdens of the convicted Satanists, that “actor” was the special effects, especially those of the chains used to hold the prisoners. The sound effects of the chains was so real and yet surreal in that their audio level was promoted to the point where I could feel the weight of the chains myself. This really made the experience more life-like.

    When a girl of the village of Salem, Massachusetts is found unconscious, and is suspected because of dabbling in witchcraft accusations begin to fly. What soon happens is that one of the local farmers’ wife is accused by a girl who once had an affair with the farmer and wants the wife out of the way. Soon many of the women and even some men are bound in chains and thrown in jail. With the threat of unChristian activities set to destroy the very fabric of the town and government, the accused are threatened to either confess their dealings with Satan or be hanged. Even if they have nothing to confess if they don’t confess they get hanged.

    In a play that presents the choice of lying to live and destroy your reputation or tell the truth and be killed and thus destroying the reputation of your family, the drama and suspense abounds. The language written in the play pulls from the sound of the language of the Bible and each actor makes the words sound so natural that it adds more depth to the play. Top it off with this excellent cast and production and this is one version of “The Crucible” you won’t want to miss.

     
  • gilwilson 12:51 PM on April 28, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , james farantino, julie harris, , , performance, plays, , ,   

    “All My Sons” by Arthur Miller from the “Arthur Miller Collection” by L.A. Theatre Works 

    “All My Sons”
    by Arthur Miller
    included in the “Arthur Miller Collection” from L.A. Theatre Works
    Performed by: James Farentino, Arye Gross, Julie Harris, Mitchell Hebert, Naomi Jacobson, Barbara Klein, Paul Morella, Michaeleen O’Neil, Nathan Taylor and Jerry Whiddon.
    Produced by L.A. Theatre Works
    Approx. 2 Hours.

    I’m continuing my run through this collection of 10 plays by Arthur Miller that is “The Arthur Miller Collection” from L.A. Theatre works and this next play is “All My Sons.”  I’m going to include this in one of the depressing plays from Arthur Miller, the entire premise is sad, and in fact this one really reminded me of a classic Greek Tragedy, in that a character committed an act that haunts him until his tragic end.  This time around the act is to allow faulty aircraft parts to go out during war and end up killing pilots.

    Before we talk about the story I have to talk about the production itself.  L.A. Theatre Works produces plays in audio format and every one I have heard, so far, has been a joy to hear.  Not necessarily due to the subject matter, as this play proves, but in the production itself.   Each performance is recorded with a live cast and with all the elements combined the listener feels as though they are placed smack-dab in the middle of the audience.  Being a student of theatre I was leery at the idea of theatrical performances in audio format.  The reason being, theatre is a visual art.  But the excellent production in all of LATW’s releases have taken the visual part out of the equation and mad these fully enjoyable in audio only format.  In all my previous listenings, LATW has pulled this off perfectly.

    With that said there was one minor scene in this story that just didn’t work right for me.  I’m not sure if it was because I was missing something visually or what but it just didn’t feel right.  It’s the scene where Kate’s brother, George comes back to confront Joe about the criminal act that put George & Kate’s father in prison while Joe went free.  When he arrives he was very angry, then suddenly in the scene he was congenial and ready to go out to dinner, only to immediately go back to being angry and storming off.  The mood changes in this scene seemed forced and just didn’t make sense at the moment.  However the scene is needed and later on in the performance all goes back to being perfectly performed and produced that that scene is forgiven.   By no means let that keep you from listening to this otherwise stellar performance of “All My Sons.”

    Another aspect of all the productions of LATW is the casting.  Each time I hear one of these performances I love knowing the actors names.  In this performance Arye Gross portrays Chris the son who is the center of the play, and he owns the part.  His portrayal is spot on and superb.  Sure, he’s got the support of James Farantino and Julie Harris, but Gross just makes the character come to life in his performance.

    In August 1946 Joe Keller, a self-made businesmann,  who once manufactured parts for the war effort, is contemplating a tree that has been taken down by a recent storm.  The tree was planted in memory of his son, Larry, who died in the war.   His son, Chris, is visiting and has invited Larry’s girlfriend to the homestead to ask her to marry him.   The problem with all of this is that Kate, Joe’s wife and Chris’s mother, believes Larry is still alive and will coming back.

    Ann’s father is in prison for selling faulty engine blocks for p-40 aircraft that ended up killing the pilots that flew with them.  He claims that he alerted Joe to the problem but Joe had the parts sent out anyway so he wouldn’t lose the government contract.  Joe says he was sick the day that Steve, Ann’s father, called and did not know.  A neighbor reveals that everyone on the block thinks Joe is guilty.

    Kate says Joe cannot be guilty because that would mean he killed their son and all those other boys.   In a play where family secrets are kept tight and the final outcome could destroy everyone, Arthur Miller has written a depressing yet eye-opening play.  The idea of business matters over safety is a lesson that is apropos even today.

     
    • Tanya/ dog eared copy 1:37 PM on April 28, 2012 Permalink | Reply

      I just posted my own review of this same production on my own blog a couple of days ago and I find interesting that we both mentioned the scene with George as being problematic and; that we both referred to Greek Tragedy! However, whereas you saw that scene as an anomaly in an otherwise excellent production, I was less impressed with the overall performance. I found the unrelenting fervor a bit wearing.

      Like

      • gilwilson 2:40 PM on April 28, 2012 Permalink | Reply

        Just went over to your blog and read…yeah you weren’t too happy overall.
        I thought the play was very strong otherwise, Arye Gross seemed to carry this performance for me. And yes that scene….ugh…It just didn’t quite make sense as it happened, but later in the play I understood what happened, but (and this is coming from an audio professional) i think the problem with this may have been an editing problem. I think there should have been longer silences or bigger gaps between the emotional changes. I would love to see this performed live and try to figure out what is missing in that scene.

        While I don’t full agree, i do like your “ham-fisted” description of the scene…just the term ham-fisted, i guess.

        When I read this play in college my comparison back then was to a Greek Tragedy as are most of Arthur Miller’s plays. He definitely wrote some tragic plays…death of a salesman was also a good Greek Tragedy type play. (btw, since you have the same collection I have, you’ll be listening to that one soon, I’m guessing, Stacy Keach rules that performance.)

        I also see you are listening to “We’re Alive” I loved that series…how’s that one going for you?

        Like

  • gilwilson 10:33 PM on April 19, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , contemporary theatre, , everyman, , , , , midwest, , plays,   

    “The Man Who Had All the Luck” by Arthur Miller (produced by L.A. Theatre Works “The Arthur Miller Collection”) 


    “The Man Who Had All The Luck”
    by Arthur Miller
    Full Cast Performance Starring:
    Emily Bergl, Kevin Chamberlin, Tim DeKay, James Gammon, Lee Garlington, Graham Hamilton, Tom McGowan, Kurtwood Smith, Russell Soder and Tegan West
    Produced by L.A. Theatre Works
    Approx. 2 hours

    I have recently discovered the magic of theatrical productions from L.A. Theatre Works, and they are now among my list of top 3 audiobook producers.   L.A. Theatre Works records live theatre performances and releases them as audiobooks, making a huge selection of plays,  from classic to contemporary, available for consumption.  The nice thing about these is that the audio production quality put into these releases not only places you in the middle of the audience but the high caliber of acting makes it so the plays will keep you intrigued and wanting for more.  At least that is what has happened to me.

    This time around I listened to another Arthur Miller play (previously I had listened to the Arthur Miller play “Death of a Salesman” starring Stacy Keach).  Arthur Miller wrote many plays about the everyman and created plays that explored the struggles of man.  L.A. Theatre works has put together a collection of his plays called “The Arthur Miller Collection” which includes 10 plays which includes this one.  It also includes, “Death of a Salesman,” “The Crucible,” and more.  I recently got my hands on this collection after listening to “Death of a Salesman” so I could explore more about this American Classic that is Arthur Miller.

    What makes the productions from L.A. Theatre works so good is that through attention to detail recording and production, take a live performance and turn it into an audio medium.  Listening to these performances (and this one is no exception) I felt as if I were in the middle of the audience, with applause and sound effects from the performance pushing that feeling.  The one thing that totally surprised me is that I did not miss any of the visual aspect of the performances and was able to enjoy the full effect of the play(s).  I can’t wait to get on with the rest of this collection, with 2 down and 8 to go, I’m going to spread them out a bit, besides, they are only around two hours each so they are perfect to get in between other audiobooks and while doing all my daily functions.

    “The Man Who Had All the Luck,” is about a young Midwestern boy, David Beeves, who seems to have all his life handed to him, or rather lucks into whatever he gets.  He’s set up in a barn as a mechanic and everyone takes their cars in for repairs, yet he’s never had any training and admits he doesn’t know anything about fixing cars, but he seems to get the job done.  When he is having a problem with a particular car a stranger out of nowhere walks in and is able to fix the car.  When he can’t get married to his girlfriend until her father is out of the way, the father dies in an automobile accident.  When he builds a gas station, the state decides to put a highway right in front of it.  When Beeves gets older he begins to wonder what is going to happen when his luck runs out, is he due for a disaster to pay back for all the luck?

    This play fully explores the question whether fate or hard work decides a man’s future.  David’s brother, Amos, is trained by his father day in and day out to be an expert baseball pitcher, but how does all that hard work pay off?  Not in the way that it would for David and his “Midas Touch.”

    On a side-note here; Kurtwood Smith plays the part of David’s father and is constantly training Amos.  Kurtwood is the one who played Red Foreman in “That 70s Show,” and deep down inside (because I was a fan of the character he played on that show) I wanted him to say a line from the show (I won’t say the line here, but you probably know which one, if you ever watched the show).  But just knowing how great of an actor he was I was happy enough just to hear his voice.

    One of the 10 great plays by Arthur Miller, produced by L.A. Theatre Works and cram packed into this “Arthur Miller Collection.”

     
  • gilwilson 7:23 PM on January 16, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: amy madigan, , , , , , , , , , , , plays, steven weber, susan glaspell, , trifles   

    “Trifles” by Susan Glaspell 

    “Trifles”
    by Susan Glaspell
    a full cast audio performance
    starring Jeanie Hackett, Amy Madigan, Sam McMurray, Stephen Vinovich and Steven Weber
    Produced by L.A. Theatre Works
    29 minutes

    Cast:
    Jeanie Hackett as Mrs. Peters
    Amy Madigan as Mrs. Hale
    Sam McMurray as the Sheriff
    Steven Vinovich as Mr. Hale
    Steven Weber as the County Attorney
    Directed by Rosalind Ayres.
    Recorded at The Invisible Studios, Los Angeles in April, 2011.

    Once again I get the pleasure of attending a theatrical performance without leaving my home, okay, actually I left my home because I listened to this production from L.A. Theatre Works in my car on my commute to work.  Being just under 30 minutes of performance time I heard the entire play from beginning to end without interruption.  This one act play is loosely based on the murder of John Hossack, which the author, Susan Glaspell, reported on while working as a news journalist for the ‘Des Moines Daily News. Hossack’s wife, Margaret, was accused of killing her husband. However, Margaret argued that an intruder had killed John with an axe. She was convicted but it was overturned on appeal.  The play was written and first performed in 1916.

    Even if it is a one act play, such as this one, L.A. Theatre Works, puts their all into it.  The recordings of the performances are so clear that every movement made by the actors is clear in its intent.  Such as when the women in the play are checking the canned fruit jars, some of which were cracked due to the excessive cold in the house, when the women are pulling out the jars to find one undamaged, every clink of the glass and the scooting of the jars in the cabinet can be heard.  It is amazing that they can create the complete theatre of the mind aspect without over emphasizing anything, it all has intent and once again the production value from L.A. Theatre Works captures all the ambiance of the performance.

    While the title of the play is taken from one of Mr. Hale’s lines, “Well, women are used to worrying over trifles.” It also can refer to the time period when women were treated as mere trifles themselves.  “Trifles” is seen as an example of early feminist drama, because it is two female characters’, Mrs. Peters and Mrs. Hale’s, ability to sympathize with the victim’s wife, Minnie, and so understand her motives, that leads them to the evidence against her, while the men are blinded by their cold, emotionless investigation of material facts.

    While the men are investigating the murder scene and other aspects of the house it is the women that uncover the whole story from the clues in the quilting, the broken birdcage and more.  The play doesn’t end with the trial, but only after the women discuss their found evidence and decide not top pass the info on to the men, who probably wouldn’t listen anyway.  The sheriff, says of the kitchen “Nothing here but kitchen things.” This dismissal of the importance of the woman’s life and the male reluctance to enter the “woman’s sphere” is key in the men’s failure to discover the crucial evidence for the case. The most important evidence is found hidden in Minnie’s sewing basket.

    A very haunting play and a brilliant performance produced by L.A. Theatre Works makes for a solid performance you won’t forget.

     
  • gilwilson 2:05 PM on January 15, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , becky shaw, , , , marsha mason, plays,   

    “Becky Shaw” by Gina Gionfriddo 

    “Becky Shaw”
    by Gina Gionfriddo
    Multicast performance starring;Emily Bergl, Matt Letscher, Marsha Mason, Mandy Siegfried, and Josh Stamberg
    Produced by L.A. Theatre Works
    1hour 49 minutes

    One thing about relocating to a small town in the middle of nowhere is that there is a very limited choice of theatrical and cultural experiences. Okay maybe just theatrical, there’s plenty of cultural experiences that come to small towns like harvest festivals, wine tasting festivals and various other, but with only a community college nearby the theatrical experiences are severely limited compared to when I lived in the city. I guess really that’s the one thing I miss, sitting in the darkened theater with live performers, that sometimes are friends and sometimes major celebrities that come to town on a touring performance. Getting lost in the story and the full four dimensional experience that is the theatre.

    Luckily I’ve stumbled across the audio releases from L.A. Theatre works. These recorded performances put you right in the middle of the audience and while the visual aspect of the theatre is missing, the quality of production of the audio keeps you in the performance without missing the visual. The sound effects and audience response are perfectly mixed in to not distract but instead enhance the performance.

    This time around I listened to a contemporary play, “Becky Shaw” written by Gina Gionfriddo. The play is a bit of a comedy of errors type play but may even seem as a bit of a love story with some suspense thrown in, so I guess you could say, a suspenseful comedy of romantic errors. The main characters are Max and Suzana who are raised together after Max’s mother dies and Suzana’s parents take him in. Suzana’s mother suffers from MS and has recently taken a young lover, a mere 4 months after the death of Suzana’s father. During the introductory scene we learn that Max and Suzana may have an attraction to each other. The action starts when we jump a few months later after Suzana has run off to Vegas to get married and Suzanna sets up Max, on a blind date with her husband’s co-worker, the mysterious Becky Shaw. During the date Max and Becky are mugged and what follows is a series of cataclysmic events that forever changes all their lives.

    Mixing sharp wit and humor with the suspense of a psychological thriller, this critically acclaimed play will keep you guessing as to what will happen next. I will warn you the play would be R-rated as the main characters seem to love throwing around the F-bomb. But the performance is spot on, as have been all the plays I’ve heard from LATW. Also the play is a lot of fun with the humor, twists and turns, and quick view of human nature.

    Not until the very end do all things get sorted out, and even then I was still left wondering, who is this Becky Shaw?

     
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