Wednesday, November 12, 2014

a tale of 2productions

weekend gone i spend my hard-earned, unplentiful dollars to take in some theatre. i love theatre, love seeing shows, used to go as much as pocket allow until i realise that what on offer here not really for the i: i want way more experimentation, more challenging work+performers+spaces, more variety; the few shows on local stages i'd want to see usually ting i done wukkin on. plus the arts doh pay enough for me to be flinging my $ behind low-calibre art. but weekend had 2(expensive)shows i wanted to see: proscenium's the wiz (because even if it eh absolutely brilliant, at bare minimum, it'd be fun, and i wanted to see where mervyn's work at after not seeing in years) and calabash foundation's jab molassie because, world premiere, warrenman, roger, salcedo, doyle, dave...
i went, i saw, i cringed, i ran...not all@both, but...well, from the beginning, chronologically...
wait. i forget i was to say someting else about the fact of this happening at all, about the writing. i eh write for the media for nearly 20years now, but when i did i was proud to be pretty much the most qualified person writing theatre reviews even at my young age, because of my (then over a decade) training+performing in the arts. somehow, all this time later we still have very few writing reviews who actually know+understand stagecraft and can write proper critique (which should include what did/not work and why for each production element plus why an audience might/not enjoy the show) and lately more than 1person i respect trying to chain me up to review again to combat this dangerous situation of the underinformed declaring theatrical attempts excellent when they merely novel (and novel only to the underexposed at that) thus convincing those making bad theatre otherwise, that they good and should proceed accordingly...sooo i trying a ting here just to see how i feel about flexing them muscles at all, informal for now. right? right.
so friday night i went the wiz. it was not fun. not even a little. kevin humphrey (thank goodness) was good as the cowardly lion, vocals+acting both, and the youthman who play the scarecrow wasn't bad, but the rest of the cast delivered not a whit of decent acting and not all of them with solo songs to carry were strong enough singers. i'd like to think friday night's show was suffering 2nd night slump because the whole ting felt+looked like it still want another 2weeks rehearsal to be audience-ready: cues were slow throughout the production; neither actors nor musicians picking up cues so dialogue was stilted and both action and transitions slow, but then the band launch ease on down the road at such a gallop the poor singer (sadly, because her voice decent but we couldn' really tell until later when she sang as glinda, the good witch) spend the whole song breathlessly chasing it, no ease and definitely no fun; lighting cues were also late, sometimes nonexistent when desperately necessary, people performed onstage in the dark repeatedly and what light there was when there was wasn't particularly effective, plus the follow-spot ops then further ruin this already-unsuccessful lighting design by failing to fulfill their most basic function of keeping performers they following in the spot (as somebody who's been a follow-spot-op i call that disgraceful; it eh facking hard!) although there was enough poor singing among principals (thank the universe again for kevin-lion, yes, and that the witches could sing, if not act) and bad stage-blocking that maybe it was for the best; costumes+make-up, however, win! mervyn mash up alla them visuals beautifully...oh, and that night a technical failure spoil the reveal of the wizard, not that that even matter by then i done not-enjoying the show for a solid 45minutes; during a scene-change, set pieces being flown in and is to hear the breaking of one getting damaged beyond use, so audience hadda siddown watching the wizard the entire time he shoulda be hidden behind the curtain, sad-looking (but not the way the story intend) on his bleak, weakly-lit platform. sigh. 'twas tough times. i felt bad for making ma go, and pelt out as curtain come down so i wouldn' see anybody and have to respond to, "did you like the show?"
jab molassie sunday evening was better. far from perfect, but far better than the wiz, although i suppose that eh saying much...but jab was well-executed all round. set+costumes mostly worked well, voices did everyting they needed and the music is lovely, although i'd like to hear it played by a less "white" orchestra because they eh quite find the syncopation+swing [i think] it need. but even though it was technically better, i still didn' love it...i was unmoved; the show felt flat to me; i never cared about the characters or their story. i think the libretto, in compressing soldier's tale into this hour-long production, pushing the show, the lyrics, the story through so fast, have you in the audience busy chasing plot, trying to catch up and keep up, you doh have time to invest in the characters; when the players directly ask the audience, "what you think about starboy now?" i didn' know or care because i never had chance to make any connection. the libretto+under-direction also fail to give 3 of the 6characters any personality at all; the 2corporals and carnival queen so underdeveloped, all we know 'bout them is they like starboy enough to want him to succeed, which not enough to make them engaging, even when narrating the story; you watching talent waste onstage. with the population of the piece so 1dimensional, it lacked believability, lacked life, there was nutting for me to invest in...i believe the libretto and lack of direction conspired to make what coulda-shoulda been a great show just pleasant insteada life-changing or even particularly thought-provoking, but i also believe the weak elements of this world premiere eminently improvable; we might see a stronger production of jab yet...
meanwhile, a wholly unconnected 3rd piece i thoroughly enjoyed; brad pitt on between2ferns:

walk good.


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