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O-o-o-oh, Romeo-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o… December 3, 2012

Posted by The Typist in New Orleans, Odd Words, Theater, Toulouse Street.
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If you were thinking of going to see the well acted and thoughtfully staged The NOLA Project production of Romeo and Juliet and NOMA: don’t. The acoustics and sight lines are horrible in the foyer of NOMA and render a great part of the dialogue, including the balcony scene, unintelligible to the audience on stage right. Only a handful of the actors–A.J. Allegro as Mercutio, Natalie Boyd as the Nurse, James Yeargain as Friar John and experienced Shakespeareans Martin Covert and Jim Wright as Montague and Capulet, managed to modulate their voices to minimize the echoes and so be intelligible and demonstrate their talent. Even the best of the actors sometimes were placed in the space so that one despairs of understanding them. Good use was made of the four entrances and stairway to generate an energetic tension in the scenes of conflict between the young men of the two families, but the scenes of Juliet on the staircase and balcony, while dramatically staged, placed her dead in the center of the echo chamber. Kristin Witterschein was a fresh and charming Juliet What can be seen from an obstructed view and what could be understood was well done, but I’m judging much of her performance from tone of voice and a few brief glimpses, as if I were watching a foreign film behind a tall man in a tall hat. I would love to see this company perform this in another place.

If you already have your tickets, be sure to arrive by 6:00 for the 7:30 curtain and run don’t walk to a seat in front stage left, where I think you would at least be able to understand the balcony scene and have unobstructed sight lines. Or else be sure to read the play before you come so you can at least play it in part in your own head. If you insist on going, buy an obstructed sight line ticket and save some money because there was no effort made to actually segregate the seating, and our full price tickets placed us squarely between two pillars and we arrived at 6:30.


Odd Words: An Indian Summer Night’s Dream Edition October 15, 2011

Posted by The Typist in New Orleans, Odd Words, Toulouse Street.
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The setting as well as the best of the players give us the dream when A Midsummer Night’s Dream unfolds in the Bestoff Sculpture Garden at the New Orleans Museum of Art. This is a belated review but better than none, as I don’t want anyone who reads this to miss the opportunity of this show. There are still two days left, and it’s not sold out so do not be Demetrius and wait until the last moment to discover your true love but try and get your tickets.

The entry plaza and steps make an excellent stage for the first act (and the small concrete platform in the lagoon another for the last, but don’t go left if the usher suggests it, go right even if its crowded) but the true magic is in the heart of the play and the garden, the woodland action set against a backdrop of trees and shrubbery in the middle of the space. To see the star-crossed lovers and the fairy band from a torch-lit meadow against this backdrop is truly magical.

I just had a conversation with a theater direction on another blog, where he lamented the technical ability of young actors and we discussed the ability to project to fill a space without lavaliers or other contrivances (actors or performers of their own poetry for that matter, who are just another set of player) to project themselves. Not everyone in the cast could carry that large open space, especially if you found yourself consigned to the back when the action and the audience move deeper into the park in Act II.

Francesca McKensie would have been a marvelous Puck beneath a proscenium. Her dark eyes seemed to sparkle in the night with her physical energy, but I often struggled to understand her. Perhaps its difficult to cast someone with the spritely look and manic energy who also has a set of lungs sufficient to the open air. Others players: stately Andrew Vaught as Theseus and Oberon; Emilie Whelan’s masterful Bottom (she might have taught the author’s own players a thing or two about casting across genders); the delightfully ditzy Veronica Hunsinger-Lee, who charmed her way into the audience’s affections as a slapstick, teen-aged, all arms-and-legs Helena; all had no trouble being heard by the cheap seat squirrels. The experienced Martin Covert (just seen in Tulane’s Twelfth Night as Antonio) carried himself well as Egeus the width and breadth of the meadow and over the distraction of the whistling park train. I wish the director had spent some time standing in the back of the space. As simple a thing as a slight adjustment of a mark or a slight turn of the head toward the audience might have made all the difference for the actors unused to such a space.

It is all in all a marvelous setting for the middle action of the play, with characters dashing in and out of the shrubbery as Titania’s bower descends from the park’s old oaks. If the listener cannot quite hear the songs of the fairie band except as beautiful distant voices perhaps it is not a failing but another perfect part of an magically inspired staging.

You still have two nights. I am disappointed this morning that I missed the offered sneak preview staging in early summer and did not quickly get tickets before the first run promptly sold out. I wish this were my second or third trip out to see it, the combination of the magical and comic story, strong players and a brilliant setting is just too perfect. I suggest you reconsider your plans for this weekend and hustle over to Eventbrite to see if you cannot still get a ticket.

Bill vs. Bill May 14, 2010

Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.
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“That villainous salt-petre should be digg’d
Out of the bowels of the harmless earth
Which may a tall fellow had destroyed
So cowardly; and, but for these vile guns
He would himself have been a soldier.”
— King Henry IV, Part I.

William Burroughs having fun with guns.