KEYS WEEKLY REVIEW - STEVE MARTIN’S METEOR SHOWER CRACKS UP THE RED BARN
 

Keys Weekly

By Hays Blinckmann
March 29, 2019

Link to Review


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The Farce of Love and War

All is fair in love and war. Comedian and playwright Steve Martin proves the point with his absurd and hilarious play, “Meteor Shower,” now playing at The Red Barn Theatre. It’s a satire, a comedy and a blatant jab at California narcissism. To paraphrase Shakespeare: there is truth in jest. The plot is simple: two couples get together to watch a meteor shower in Ojai, California, but the catch? Only one will emerge the victor.

Director Joy Hawkins doesn’t shy away from a big project on the small stage. Martin’s sense of humor and writing require great attention to detail, intertwining one-liners, subtle sarcasm, sexual innuendo, and Martin-esque physical comedy. It’s masterful like a rollercoaster, and once the play picks up speed, the twists and turns and unexpectedness are a crazy ride.

Meet Corky and Norm, the self-actualized, liberal elite couple who wear their insecurities like Christmas ugly sweaters — cluelessly. They are humorless, repressed and achingly hard to stand as they demonstrate the starry neediness of West Coasters. Elena Devers delivers Corky, the nuanced housewife, with sheer buoyancy, keeping the play afloat in a stratosphere beyond our delightful comprehension. She serves up “pre-wine” before the guests arrive, claiming it doesn’t count, and has dabbled in “cannibalism,” setting the play’s absurdity level pretty high.

Norm, (a play on the word normal) is a perfect fit for Dave Bootle, whose face alone delivers his subtly and oddly lovable character. He does a lot of “acknowledging and appreciating” of his wife and is about as exciting as milquetoast until … (wait, no spoilers!). After that, he is anything but normal.

In come Gerald and Laura, the manipulative guests from hell, bent on breaking the quaint suburban bubble. They are smooth-talking, aggressive con artists going in for “total collapse” of Corky and Norm’s marriage. Michael Castellano takes on Gerald with all the smarminess of an eel let loose on land, and Susannah Wells oozes Laura’s sexuality with hip thrusting delight, while delivering jabs like a boxer, “Exactly what we need, a little nothing in the country,” she offers when talking about Corky and Norm’s home.

However, the play doesn’t end with the couples set in their roles. Martin flips the timeline and scenes are replayed over with a “what if” mentality. And ultimately the complacent Corky and Norm become an unexpected match for Gerald and Laura. While the play may delve into the subconscious of marriage, it doesn’t go too deep and remains a farce from beginning to end. Like the 50 to 60 meteors during the show, that’s about how many jokes are delivered in the 80 minutes. It’s fast, a little messy and ultimately funny. Don’t miss it.

 
marky pierson
Theater Review / Tenderly Rosemary Clooney’s story will melt your heart
 

KONK Life

By Joanna Brady
February 19, 2019

Link to Review


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Theater Review / Tenderly
Rosemary Clooney’s story will melt your heart

I’m dating myself again, but back in the day, I used to buy Rosemary Clooney’s records on a regular basis as she cheerfully belted out hit after hit. She was the wholesome songbird of the pre-rock’n’roll days of the 1940s and 1950s who made a huge mark on the music scene of that era.

Unfortunately, the superstar’s fame and charm papered over the real story behind the singer, a story only few people knew about.

In Tenderly The Rosemary Clooney Musical, now playing at the Red Barn Theatre, writers Janet Yates Vogt and Mark Friedman have revealed the surprising truth behind this cheerful, effervescent woman, who passed away in 2002. But this is not just a musical where the main character sings one song after another. It’s a compelling story about the true cost of fame, peppered with songs. And therein lies the difference. As Kim Schroeder Long, the star of the show has observed, “The songs just help tell the story.”

Tenderly is astutely directed—as always—by Joy Hawkins. Kim Schroeder Long’s performance is dazzling, with the same velvety, torch sound in her voice when she sings. Yet, when portraying the drama of the play, manages to capture the scrappiness of Clooney’s personality. Long excels as an actress, especially in the second act when she totally draws you into the zeitgeist of the times. She has done her research.

Long is superbly supported by Key West’s versatile performer, David Black, who plays many different characters: the shrink, her priest, her sister, her mother, her uncle George, Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Jose Ferrer (whom Clooney married twice), Dante de Paolo (whom she married later), and a legal agent for Paramount.

The music for the show is provided by the extraordinary local band made up of Jim Rice on piano, Joe Dallas on bass, and Daniel Clark on drums.

The script covers more than 30 years of Clooney’s life. Her unhappy childhood in Maysville, KY when she was abandoned by her ‘CIA family’, (Catholic Irish Alcoholics) and expected to raise her siblings at a young age; her success; and the betrayals that ensued.

From the git-go, Tenderly reveals the agony of addiction, opening as it does in a rehab in 1968, with flashbacks to the back story. While wildly successful professionally, Clooney’s personal life behind the smiles and song was in shambles. The dangerous combination of alcohol and pills, depression, affairs, and the wrong choice of husband brought about a nervous breakdown. She was washed up. The second act, which takes place after the star’s meltdown on stage, is riveting.

Clooney’s signature songs are woven in and out of the story as audiences learn about her professional successes as well as her struggles – and cheer for her triumphant comeback. With over 20 of her most beloved hits, the score is itself a salute to the golden age of music, and features all the songs that made Rosemary famous, like “Hey There,” “Sisters,” “Sway,” “Botch-a-Me,” “Mambo Italiano,” and of course, “Tenderly.”

While the play deals with problems that are relevant to us today, it is far from a downer. She is helped out of it by her shrink, and by crooner Bing Crosby, who offers her a new lease on life. That was in 1977, and the entertainer never looked back. Her comeback was a big success.

Clooney came to prominence in the early 1950s with the song “Come On-a My House“, a metaphor for her life, which she happily sings at the end of the show. The play Tenderly shows us what a strong woman she was. A story of courage and resilience that audiences will love, no matter what age they are. And—spoiler alert—it ends happily. See it. “Tenderly” is a very entertaining play!

Tenderly” opens Tuesday, Feb. 19 at the Red Barn and runs through March 16. All curtains at 8:00 pm. For tickets, visit redbarntheatre.com/tickets or call 305 296-9911. Catered reception following the Opening Night performance on Feb, 19, and ticket holders for that evening are invited to join the cast and crew. A Talkback Session with cast and director will take place after the performance on Friday, Feb. 22.

(Joanna Brady is a local writer, author of the historical Key West novel, The Woman at the Light, published by St. Martin’s Press)

 
marky pierson
WITH BELLS ON AT THE RED BARN / THEATER REVIEW
 

KONK Life

By Joanna Brady
December 14, 2018

Link to Review


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With Bells On at the Red Barn / Theater Review

A side-splitting play to ring in the holiday season

By Joanna Brady

 I’m still laughing after seeing With Bells On last night at the Red Barn Theater, truly one of the funniest plays I’ve seen in a long time.It was written by Darren Hagen, the talented stage writer who penned Bitch Slap, and numerous other plays in his native Canada.

 This is the firsttime With Bells On will be performed in the U.S. It stars Don Bearden as Ted, a dorky, depressed accountant, and Trey Gerrald as the stunning drag queen, Natasha.

The premise appears simple enough. The ‘showgirl’, 6’7” tall in stilettos and thediminutive straight accountant get on the same elevator. She’s in a rush to get to her club, the Magical Crystal Palace, a kind of Cageaux Folles, where she performs. This night she’s hoping to win the grand prize, ‘Mary Christmas’ queen, dressed in her flamboyant Christmas tree costume with its amazing headdress—yes, it even lights up. Imagine, if you will, the downtrodden loser, newly divorced, getting stuck with this lovely over-the-top creature between floors in an elevator.

 That people don’t usually talk to each other in elevators is a given. We usually look straight ahead, trying not to brush body parts with our own, swive lour heads to avoid breathing halitosis, and generally mind our own business.

But what happens if the elevator gets stuck? Surely, it would have to produce a thaw in our reserve? After all, we’re trapped in an elevator with strangers, isolated from the rest of the world. When it happens in the play, the two actors perform brilliantly, playing off each other until a rapport develops, underlining the mutual tolerance in heren’t in the well touted Key West motto, ‘one human family.’ At first Natasha is dismissive of nerdy Ted. He on the other hand is curious about her, never having met a drag queen before. She’s exuberant;he’s claustrophobic. This pairing is a celebration of opposites.

 Yes, they do eventually get off the elevator. And by the end of this highly entertaining play he has learned to move with her dance steps. But you’ll have to see the play to find out how it ends. Suffice it to say, the final scene is wild and hilarious.

 Darren Hagen, the playwright, says of his script: “It’s ultimately about creating a common ground among seemingly opposite strangers—not just between the two characters on stage, but across cultural and age barriers in the audience as well.”

Directing With Bells On is the multi talented Christopher Peterson who also created the costumes. Peterson is one of the premiere drag queen performers in Key West, well known for his fantastic impersonations.As designer, he has created costumes for other Key West plays. Many of you may remember his amazing outfits—and his outstanding role—in‘The Legend of Georgia McBride’ earlier this year.

Stage Manager is Annie Miners. Set is by Gary McDonald and Jack McDonald, Lighting Design, Jack McDonald.

With Bells On runs Dec. 11 through Jan. 5. Curtains at 8:00 p.m. Lasts 1 hour 10min. No intermission. Bar opens 7:30 pm, doors open at 7:45. Reduced price Preview on Monday, Dec. 10. Opening night ticket holders on Dec. 11 invited to the Opening Night Party. Special performance Christmas evening, Dec. 25. (Reserve early!) For tickets, see redbarntheatre.com/tickets. Facebook page: Red Barn Theatre KW. Box office number, 305 296-9911.

(Joanna Brady is a local writer, author of the historical novel of Key West, The Woman at the Light, published by St. Martin’s Press)

 
marky pierson
TEARS OF LAUGHTER – ‘CRY IT OUT’ FULL OF NEW-PARENT INSIGHT
 

Keys Weekly

By Hays Blinckmann
April 19, 2018

Link to Review


Amber McDonald Good, Zoe Hawkins Wells, and Erin McKenna (along with Michael Castellano, not shown) star in ‘Cry It Out,’ playing at the Red Barn Theatre in Key West through May 7.” LARRY BLACKBURN/Contributed

Amber McDonald Good, Zoe Hawkins Wells, and Erin McKenna (along with Michael Castellano, not shown) star in ‘Cry It Out,’ playing at the Red Barn Theatre in Key West through May 7.” LARRY BLACKBURN/Contributed

The ladies bring down the house in “Cry It Out,” now playing at the Red Barn Theatre. With an immensely talented cast and director, and a well-written, insightful script, “Cry it Out” hits the entertainment mark. Written by Molly Smith Metzler, known for TV’s “Shameless” and “Orange is the New Black,” the play weaves three stories about new mothers and the emotional obstacles that inevitably get in the way. For any person who remembers the first stages of parenthood, the play mirrors the wickedly funny and heart-wrenching time with dead-on clarity.

From the get-go, Erin McKenna light ups the stage as Lina, the Long Island-accented, lower-class new mom, a mother bear in gold hoops and acrylic nails. Lina feels “held hostage in her dirty yoga pants” and laughs, “You’d think I was going to prom getting ready for Stop N’ Shop.” It’s the one outing a day to the store when Lina befriends Jessie, played by a delightful Zoe Hawkins Wells, her neighbor, the sweet, pearl-laden upper-class mom on furlough from a high-power lawyer job. The two hit it off and bond over nap time, babies, relationships and coffee, regardless of their class differences. They help each other through the loneliness, boredom and insecurities of having new babies. They both agree their old lives are gone. “I used to collect lip gloss,” said Jessie. “Now I don’t care any more.”

Mitchell, played by talented Michael Castellano, shakes up their routine when he tries to get his wife to join the group, with an ironic introduction, “Don’t take her personally.” Worried that his wife, Adrienne, played by an outstanding Amber McDonald Good, isn’t connecting with their child, he places his hopes on Lina and Jessie to fix his marriage and their situation.

What comes about is an honest look at women and their roles as mothers, wives and career women. Adrienne delivers such a gut-wrenching, superb speech about the irony of motherhood at the end that it is the ultimate portrait of the 21st century mother.

Director Joy Hawkins deserves a standing ovation for outstanding direction as well. For more information, go to www.redbarntheatre.com.

“Cry It Out”
April 18 – May 7
www.redbarntheatre.com
305-296-9911

 
marky pierson
LETTER TO THE EDITOR - DANCING LESSONS
 

KONK Life

By George Fontana
December 25, 2017

Link to Review


Letter to the Editor

The Red Barn Theatre’s current production of “Dancing Lessons” starring Carolyn Cooper and Dave Bootle is a must see event. Under Joy Hawkins flawless direction, two oddball characters, Senga (Cooper) a dancer sidelined by a leg injury and Ever (Bootle) a high functioning autistic academic, perform a mesmerizing onstage dance both painful and amusing to behold.

Dave Bootle washed ashore just a few years back as an already accomplished cabaret entertainer. Since then he has honed his acting chops. His solid performance in “Dancing Lessons” is nuanced and gripping. Cooper’s cover of Senga – cynical, defensive and ultimately vulnerable – is equally riveting. Thoughtful, provocative and entertaining theater, Red Barn has a winner with “Dancing Lessons”.

 
marky pierson
KEYS WEEKLY REVIEW - A CHARMING ODD COUPLE
 

Keys Weekly

By Hays Blinckmann
December 22, 2017

Link to Review


Carolyn Cooper plays an injured dancer and Dave Bootle plays a man with Asperger's syndrome in Mark St. Germain's very funny new play, "Dancing Lessons," now playing at the Red Barn Theatre in Key West. LARRY BLACKBURN/Contributed

Carolyn Cooper plays an injured dancer and Dave Bootle plays a man with Asperger's syndrome in Mark St. Germain's very funny new play, "Dancing Lessons," now playing at the Red Barn Theatre in Key West. LARRY BLACKBURN/Contributed

“Dancing Lessons” is so heartwarmingly funny and sweet, it’s the perfect entertainment for this holiday. The newest play written by Mark St. Germain hits all the heartstrings, and The Red Barn Theatre has reached a high note tackling this production directed by Joy Hawkins and delightfully acted by Carolyn Cooper and Dave Bootle.

“Are we capable of change?” asks character Ever Montgomery, summarizing the journey of this mismatched, afflicted couple facing their insurmountable odds.

The story is an unusual one, about an injured dancer, Senga Quinn, played by Cooper, and an autistic professor, Ever Montgomery, played by Bootle. The two are neighbors in New York City. Ever suffers from Asperger’s, a form of autism, and must attend a banquet to receive an award. All social interaction is downright painful for him, so he is willing to pay an absurd sum for a one-hour dance lesson with his famed neighbor Senga, the beautiful but bitter dancer. Crippled and in a cast due to an accident, Senga may never dance again and is holed up in her apartment, living on pills, booze and junk food. The unlikely duo clumsily strike up a relationship that is awkward, charming and inspirational.

Bootle has all the best comedic moments, as Ever’s autism allows him to say whatever he is thinking with deadpan wit – when he meets Senga, looking around her apartment, he asks, “Did I interrupt a suicide attempt?” Bootle’s characterization of an autistic is sophisticated and respectfully adds physical comedy to the mix. So suspenseful was the moment Ever allows Senga to touch and even kiss him, not a sound could be heard from the audience.

The play also becomes a lesson in the sincere challenges facing people with autism compared with what Ever funnily refers to as “neurotypicals.” Cooper’s acting portrays a delicate ease and gentleness that is an engaging match.

“Couldn’t be happier with these two people on stage,” said director Hawkins. It’s refreshing how the characters have so little pity for each other and somehow become the odd couple of romance. Filled with honest moments and well-timed one liners, the play is a delight.

Dancing Lessons
Thru Jan. 13, 2018
Red Barn Theatre
Tickets on sale 
redbarntheatre.com

 
marky pierson
THEATER REVIEW - CAMPING WITH HENRY AND TOM IS BOTH HILARIOUS AND THOUGHT-PROVOKING
 

KonkLife

By Joanna Brady
MARCH 28, 2017

Link to Review


Theater Review / Camping with Henry and Tom Is both hilarious and thought-provoking

By Joanna Brady

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No matter whom you voted for last November, you’ll find laughs and food for thought in Camping with Henry and Tom, a satirical comedy on at the Red Barn Tuesdays through Saturdays until April 15th.

Written by playwright Mark St. Germain in 1993 about a jaunt that took place in 1921, some of the dialogue in this play is probably more suited to the political situation of today than when the lines were penned 24 years ago.

Apparently, Henry Ford and Thomas Edison did take an unplanned camping trip together. In the play, their motor car—a Ford, of course—hit a deer. The accident disabled their vehicle, and subsequently they got lost in the woods. It was St. Germain’s idea to invite President Warren Harding along on the trip.

Contributing to the realism of the situation is the woodsy ambiance of the beautiful set Gary McDonald and Jack McDonald designed and constructed.

Henry Ford, played with convincing feistiness by Barry Tarallo, represents all that is good and bad about America. An unapologetic anti-Semitic racist, Ford is portrayed as a deal-maker, an ambitious corporate genius with a zest for manufacturing and business, but little regard for ecology. Having revolutionized the American way of life, which led to the nation taking to the road, he would have loved the power that went with the U.S. presidency, but as Thomas Edison points out in the play, he lacked the necessary popularity and support.

Edison represents American know-how and creative invention. Played brilliantly by Richard Drusin, he tells it like it is, and most of his amusing lines, delivered with dry, charming folksiness, are pithy zingers. Drusin manages to capture a curmudgeonly, Asperger’s-like detachment from the other two, reading and letting them argue it out as Ford tries to talk Harding into resigning to make way for his own pitch for the job.

Harding, nicely played by Michael McCabe as the consummate glad-handing politician, is portrayed as a president who regards the position as more ceremonial than a real job. He spends much of his energy covering up scandals surrounding his office and his personal life.

I’ll leave you to infer how much of his monologues can be applied to today’s political climate in Washington. Judging from the reaction of the audience the evening I attended, they would seem to come pretty close to the bone.

The play won Lucille Lortel and Outer Critics Circle Awards in its New York premiere.

While essentially an entertaining comedy, it’s an important play for our times. Don’t miss it. No matter which side of the political fence you sit on, you’ll find lots to talk—and laugh—about afterwards.

For more information, go to redbarntheatre.com. The Red Barn is located at 401 Duval St. (Rear). Tickets available online or call (305) 296-9911.

(Joanna Brady is a Key West writer, author of The Woman at the Light, a historical novel of Key West, published by St. Martin’s Press.)

 
marky pierson