Hello, loyal readers!
Helloooooo? Are there any of you left? I guess I haven't written in a while (6 months, but who's counting?), but it's been busy and all sorts of other fun excuses. Nonetheless, I'm sure the Google Reader feeds of the truly faithful will all feel a quick pang of excitement today.
I'm inspired to write because I've recently seen three great shows. Granted, they're all about to close or have already closed, which makes this a pretty useless blog-as-review, but I enjoy exploring what makes good theatre work, and if you're still reading, you probably do, too. So, in order:
60 Miles to Silver Lake (Studio Theatre 2ndStage)
Divorced dad Ky (Chris Mancusi) picks Denny (Andrew Sonntag) up from soccer practice to take him home with him to Silver Lake for the weekend. Essentially the play looks at dozens of these instances over the course of several years as Denny grows up from kid to cynical teen, and Ky keeps trying his damndest to preserve a relationship he knows increasingly little about. It's excrutiating, watching these two try to connect and failing at almost every turn (ironically, the few moments they do connect tend to frustrate them since one or the other will be pissed or trying to make a point or something). It's a tricky play because it's written in a non-linear way, time jumping around from age to age to spotlight themes in conversation and the futile struggle of these two moreso than a straightforward narrative (there isn't one, though I guess "what happened?" could be a driving [no pun intended] question of the show, and there's a little twist in the narrative towards the end that explains that). I saw the show twice and was mostly impressed by two things: the easy chemistry between the two actors (full disclosure: Sonntag is a good friend and my current roommate), and the excellent direction by Serge Seiden, bringing strong clarity to a very complicated play.
Reasons to be Pretty (Studio Theatre)
This one is actually still running, and if you get a chance, run! It's an excellent opportunity to see four incredible actors tearing into some Neil LaBute...not everyone's cup of tea, but if you know what you're getting into you'll probably love it. The premise: an off-hand comment is made by Greg (Ryan Artzberger) about girlfriend Steph (Margot White) to his friend Kent (Thom Miller), and a veritable shit-storm is released, as the dividing line between different styles of communication and thought for men and women gets perfectly illustrated. Funny that this and 60 Miles were running at Studio at the same time, as it was practically a "Miscommunication Theatre Festival". "Intense" is a great word to describe the performances in this one - nothing really over the top, but the circumstances really bring out these amped up emotions from the characters. The final scene is a mater class in subtextual acting, not only between Greg and Steph, but also Greg's final moment with Kent's wife, Carly (Teresa Stephenson), with whom he spends the play slowly building an unlikely friendship. This one just got extended to May 30, so if you're free this week, go check it out!
Little Shop of Horrors (Ford's Theatre)
Finally, something light after all those brain-frying Studio plays! We all know the story on this one, so I'll just get on with it and say this is a truly first-rate production of this musical. Coy Middlebrook's direction is tight, fast-paced, and unique (the extra layer of old-school sci-fi camp helps distinguish it from other Little Shops). Highlighting the whole thing was Jenna Coker-Jones, playing the best Audrey I've ever seen. It says a lot that she managed to since both the saddest and funniest "Somewhere that's Green" I'd heard to date. Essentially cast as the voice of pure optimism in the story, she manages to get us laughing at abusive relationships and death. Y'know, light stuff. Speaking of abuse, the abuser is the Dentist, and the Dentist is Evan Casey, and Evan Casey is also 7 other characters in the show, each one so distinct and so funny you could easily watch that one character the entire show. Somehow, he even manages to save his best one for last. Little Shop closes this weekend on the 22nd, and if you can it's a really fun, polished show filled with exceptional DC talent and a couple great out-of-towners, too.