Dara Seitzman
Broadway Rhapsody

By CLYDE AYLES (The King's Room - kingroom.com)
Published: August 2006

The bright lights of Broadway shine at the Bristol Riverside Theatre. "Broadway Rhapsody" is a brilliant production written, arranged, and directed by Edward Keith Baker. Many great shows are represented here with great songs and a great cast of performers. Carl Anthony-Tramon, Bethe B. Austin (one of my favorites), Veronica Chapman-Smith, Dara Seitzman, and last, but very far from least is Keith Spencer (who blew me away doing a tribute to the late, great Nat King Cole in "For Sentimental Reasons."

There are musical numbers for everyone's taste, from beautiful ballads to rousing hand clapping songs. In between, Mr. Baker tells us a little about the song and the singer. A few standouts are Ms. Seitzman doing two songs from "Funny Girl." She is right up there with Barbra Streisand." Mr. Spencer makes "Old Man River" his own and does justice to one of my favorites, "This Nearly Was Mine" from "South Pacific." The entire cast makes the whole evening well worth while. "Broadway Rhapsody" will be presented til August 13. Call 215 785 0100 for times and tickets and have a great night on Broadway right here in Bucks County.
Hope to see you there --Clyde.

By DAWN HILTY (Out & About)
Published: August 10, 2006

Rounding out the Summer Musical Series at Bristol Riverside Theatre is a revue titled "Broadway Rhapsody." It pulls tunes from different eras into a two act performance with five singers and a live four-piece band. The collective five actors shining on stage are actors and fortunately they all deserve to be there.

While they are all fantastic and each brings something to the show that non of the others could, Spencer is the obvious stand-out. Tears were visible throughout the audience during his soulful rendition of the Ol' Man River (from "Showboat") towards the end of Act II. The mood is lifted for the finale, as the entire company sings You Can't Stop the Beat from "Hairspray."

The show flows through a list of selections that seem too diverse. Following Rhapsody in Blue, performed solely by writer, director and conductor Edward Keith Baker, there is a six song "Porgy and Bess" performance. Baker giddily explains how he has waited years from the combination he has found in Chapman-Smith and Spencer. He introduces each actor and the members of his band with similar zest.

There is an undeniable intimate feeling to the show. Everyone on stage seems to be having a good time and it is contagious. The fun is unusually high whenever Dara Seitzman takes lone control of your attention. It is appropriate that she sings two songs from "Funny Girl" - People and Don't Rain on My Parade - and the hilarious Whatever Happened to My Part? from "Spamalot."

Carl Anthony-Tramon brings a youthful energy to the show, from the moment he steps out in a silk top for Money, Money ("Cabaret") to a solemn Pity the Child ("Chess"). There's a crazed look in his eyes that is terribly hard to look away from.
In the sophistication department, we have Bethe. B. Austin. She performs two numbers that could be utterly ridiculous - My Heart Belongs to Daddy ("Leave it to Me") and The Tale of the Oyster ("Fifty Million Frenchmen") - with grace and style. The collaboration of Austin and Seitzman for Big Spender ("Sweet Charity") is pure entertainment.
Then there is Chapman-Smith. When she first appears on stage and starts singing Summertime ("Porgy and Bess"), attempting to decipher the words she was singing was a concern. Then I gave up and just enjoyed her deep, operatic sound. It became oddly comforting and the words became clearer.

Other productions with selection in "Broadway Rhapsody" are: Seasons of Love ("Rent"); Always a Bridesmaid ("I Love You You're Perfect, Now Change"); and Bali Ha'i ("South Pacific"). "Broadway Rhapsody" has one weekend remaining, go treat yourself to a selection of wonderful tunes sung by a collective who treat them right.


By MARTIN DENTON (NYTheatre.com)
Original Review

Thorough if not extensive research suggests that Macbett has never been produced by a professional theatre company in New York City; this surprising bit of information all by itself makes Revolving Shakespeare's revival of this 1972 play by Eugene Ionesco newsworthy and important. Whether or not the play holds up nearly thirty years after it was written–and as we shall see in a moment, I have some doubts on this point–it is essential that it be given a hearing. Artistic director Ralph Carhart, producing director Daniel Colb Rothman, and director Kip Rosser must be congratulated for providing New York with a belated but very necessary look at this neglected work from one of the 20th century's master playwrights.

What we discover, interestingly, is something of a museum piece: though it follows The Chairs and Rhinoceros chronologically in the Ionesco canon, Macbett feels even more dated than those plays do, so rooted in the antiwar activism of the late sixties/early seventies is this defiantly serious comedy. In the decade of Kent State, Watergate, and Oh! Calcutta!, Macbett would, I imagine, have been provocative if not downright explosive. Today, though, in terms of both substance and style, Macbett can't help but be passé: we've subverted the established forms of government and theatre too much for Ionesco's tweaking and twitting to have much of an effect.

Perhaps conscious of that, Rosser and his Revolving Shakespeare colleagues have elected to mount something akin to a pageant around Macbett. With set/lighting designer Roman Tatarowicz and costume designer Jim Parks, Rosser has filled the stage with gorgeous, resonant images of warfare and statecraft that provide commentary–sometimes ironic, sometimes not–on the dubious virtues of each. I suspect that Ionesco chose to adapt (pervert?) one of Shakespeare's most famous tragedies to remind modern audiences that whenever we unquestioningly receive works that glorify or romanticize the so-called nobility of war, we implicate ourselves in the lie such works perpetuate. Rosser reminds us of this in his Macbett, over and over again.

It makes for a clear, comprehensible vision. What's lost, unfortunately, is the sensational fizz that I presume Ionesco was also hoping for. Some, alas, can't be recreated: Lady Duncan stripping down to a bikini, for example, has no capacity to shock in 2001, though it might have in 1972. But Rosser's pacing, which is stately rather than antic, too often feels like it's at half-speed. To be fair, some of the difficulty comes from using high-concept settings on a low-tech budget: it simply takes a long time to move the scenery around. But some of the scenes, like the one in which Macbett and then Banco have the same exchange with a nearby soldier, would play better if they were twice as fast.

I realize that I need to pause for a moment and tell you that Macbett is similar to yet entirely unlike William Shakespeare's Macbeth. Ionesco has essentially supplied a good deal of the back story–i.e., what happened before the Thane of Glommis betrayed Duncan; and he's also imagined very different identities for the witches and for Lady Macbeth herself. Ambition figures less importantly here than the naked lust for power; the tragedy is finally not Macbeth's alone but society's. Macbett is a portrait of corrupt, self-serving institutions that think nothing of exploiting ordinary people (soldiers, workers) to ensure their own survival. Like I said: very sixties.

It's also very funny, in places, and very smart. Rosser has cast the piece well, with solid work in the leading roles (Theseus Roche as Macbett, Miles Phillips as Banco, James Leach as Duncan, Kim Patton as Lady Duncan) and excellent support from five actors who play what feels like a thousand different roles (Jonathan Green, Lanie MacEwan, Matthew Pendergast, Dara Seitzman, and Andrew Thacher). This is as expert an ensemble as you'll find off-off-Broadway.

My cultural education has been enhanced by this worthy production; I had a pretty good time, too. See Macbett for either reason. (But see it soon: it only runs one more week.)

Man is Man

The Measure of All Things - Original Review
"Man is standing in the center, but only relatively."--Man is Man

Prospect Theater Company (Spring Awakening, The Belle's Strategem) scored another hit with their latest production, Bertolt Brecht's Man is Man. It was a rowdy, raucous reincarnation of Brecht's classic, newly and smartly adapted by Marcella Nowak.

Brecht's best-known play, Mother Courage and Her Children, is a play about war with no battle scenes; this is a play about soldiers, with only one. But Man is Man is more about modern man's anonymity and interchangeability, especially on a battlefield. Galy Gay, a simple worker (and not the sharpest crayon in the box, either), is on his way to market to buy a fish. On the way, he gets waylaid by Widow Begbick -- she needs help carrying her pickle basket -- and gets mixed up in a plot to conceal a soldier's plunder of a local pagoda. One of the four soldiers that raided the pagoda is missing, and the other three need to find a replacement for him, fast. They convince Galy Gay to act as the missing soldier. He acquiesces, as they keep plying him with beer. Gradually he gets so confused as to which identity is real that he becomes convinced he really is the missing soldier. Society makes him doubt his identity, so he adopts another one.

Nowak's translation is fresh and witty. While there are fewer songs, none of the projections that are called for in the original text, and no prolog or epilog, the text is slyly modern. The songs are funny and deceptively simple, with driving rhythms and choreography (Nathaniel Nicco-Annan). Original music and sound design are by Aaron Meicht.

Director Jackson Gay (Spring Awakening) kept to the Brechtian spirit of the original, which was performed in the Brechtian style. All the actors filed in together and remained around the scene of the action, sitting and watching along with the audience. When it was their turn to act, they simply stood up and moved into the acting area (a raised platform in the middle of the stage), becoming their characters as they moved into the light. Gay kept the play moving at a swift pace despite its length (two-and-a-half hours), and showed a deep dramaturgical understanding of the text.

The platform, reminiscent of medieval play wagons, was a simple rectangle outlined with guide wires. The actors provided their own backdrops and scenery, in the form of rolled painted cloths that could be hooked onto the wires and unrolled to reveal mountains, a pagoda, a train. Other props hung on the outer stage walls in a glorious confusion, waiting to be plucked by the appropriate actor. It was an inventive and thoroughly Brechtian set, down to the Widow Begbick's cigar (Brecht was a great cigar smoker, and even advocated the opening of a smoking-only theatre). The costumes were equally inventive in their simplicity.

But the actors were the best part of the show (as Prospect's audience has come to expect). Brad Heberlee, as Galy Gay, and Dara Seitzman, as the Widow Begbick, stole the show. They had an innate sense of comic timing and a magnetic stage presence. The rest of the cast (Jennifer Bruno, Sarah Elliot, Robyn Ganeles, Matthew Humphreys, Austin Jones, Frank Liotti, Lisa Louttit, Mark Mattek, Nathaniel Nicco-Annan, Paul Paglia, Patricia Spahn, Joe Vena, and Marnye Young) were equally versatile (often playing multiple roles), with strong voices and a flair for ensemble acting. They were a joy to watch, especially when they were all onstage together. (Sets: Erik Flatmo; Costumes: Jenny Mannis.)

Prospect Theater Company is known for its mischievous, creative productions of classics, and Man is Man did not disappoint -- in any regard. Brecht (even Kurt Weill) would be proud.

Box Score:
Writing: 2, Directing: 2, Acting: 2, Set: 2, Costumes: 2, Lighting: 1/Sound: 2

By JO ANN ROSEN (OffOffOnline.com)
Published: April 23, 2004 - Original Review

How malleable is identity? Can a man shuck his name and history at will? Do social forces have the capacity to grind him down and rebuild him as someone else? And if identity is interchangeable, does that make each individual ultimately dispensable? Those are the questions at the heart of Bertolt Brecht's Man is Man, which has been given an illuminating staging by the Prospect Theater Company.

The setting is 1925 colonial Kilgoa, a funhouse version of Kipling's India. The happy-go-lucky porter Galy Gay (the delightful Brad Heberlee) sets off one afternoon to buy fish for dinner for his wife. Meanwhile, four carousing soldiers ransack a pagoda for beer money, abandoning one of them on the property in a drunken stupor. Using alcohol and cigars as an enticement, the trio convinces the witless porter to impersonate their waylaid comrade. What starts as a lark turns sinister as the porter is compelled to forsake his old identity and then, in a creepy sequence of events, comes to embrace his new, brutal self.

Director Jackson Gay's staging, using a lucid new translation by Marcella Nowak, observes Brechtian conventions. Erik Flatmo's set is no-frills: a makeshift, wooden riser with two clotheslines to hang crudely painted canvases that signal scene changes. Thomas Dunn's assertive lighting, Jenny Mannis's whimsical costumes, and Aaron Meicht's inspired sound combine to create the overheated theatricality of the production. The acting is broad and flamboyant, dissuading the audience from easy empathy with the characters.

The power of this stagecraft reaches a peak in the play's goose-bump-inducing final tableau of the war machine, with the former porter and his fellow soldiers astride a rolling tank, whose fearsomeness is not diminished by the fact that it is fashioned from bicycle wheels, a set of handlebars, and a packing tube.

The acting in this 15-member ensemble is top-notch. Charlie Chaplin's influence on Brecht is palpable in the fine physical comedy of Paul Paglia, Mark Mattek and Austin Jones as the three soldiers, whose varying sizes echo Laurel and Hardy, and in Dara Seitzman's droll turn as the enterprising Widow Begbick, whose seduction of the tyrannical sergeant Bloody Five (Frank Liotti) is one of the play's standout scenes. Matthew Humphrey as the lost soldier, Jeraiah Jip, shines in a scene featuring a T-bone steak that he is conflicted about devouring.

Also excellent are the choreography (by Nathaniel Nicco-Annan) and the original music (by Aaron Meicht), particularly the Widow Begbick's signature song about survival that Seitzman performs in an Edith Bunker warble. Brecht wrote an early version of Man is Man in 1920, at age 22, and then revised it at least ten times between 1924 and 1938, which accounts for some of its discordant threads. Gay wisely does not try to reconcile the tensions, letting the notes of farce and political didacticism both sound. "Life on this earth is perilous play," warns the Widow Begbick in the prologue to Act II. The Prospect Theater Company's Man is Man to its credit, captures both the peril and the play.


2003 International Fringe Festival - Original Review

Growing up, my parents had friends that we would go visit; they lived in Northville and had six kids. I hated going there as their kids were rowdy, never had any toys, and their home was always a bit confusing to me. The father, I remember, was an odd, scary man. He would often talk to his kids in a language that I never understood. I still remember him quipping something in his gibberish to his pack, something funny that made me laugh, although I didn't know what he was saying.

Anyway, my trip down to the Cherry Lane Theater this afternoon to see Seven Chances' Neo/Retro/Woyzeck was kinda the same sort of experience. In sixty minutes (and they set an egg timer in the beginning to prove it), this group of very versatile and very talented actors present twenty plus scenes in the audience's chosen order. Often using audience members (as oblivious to the story as I), they sing, dance, act, mime and even throw cream pies to execute the writings of an ill, hallucinating author (Georg Buchner, Woyzeck's playwright). With a stage set of only twenty numbered balloons and a chair, Robert Franklin Neill's portrayal of Woyzeck and his fellow players, including the very funny Tristan De Boer and Dara Seitzman, are all pinpoint perfect. Perhaps the highlight in this shiny little show is the rap number done by Danielle Quisenberry (BE SURE to yell out "number eighteen" when prompted). She, as well as the rest of the cast, is very good at pulling you onto the stage even if you opt not to get out of your seat to participate. It is an interactive adventure that I will not soon forget!

So after the show I called my Mom and laughed about something I otherwise would have forgotten from my childhood. As with my Northville experience, I may not have walked away enlightened but I sure left entertained!

By EUNICE MARQUET (CurtainUp.com)
2003 International Fringe Festival - Original Review

Take German Expressionism and mix with Whose Line Is It Anyway, Chicago's Neo-Futurists and MTV and you will have Neo/Retro/Woyzeck. Let me explain; a cast of six young actors (all of whom look like they just walked out of a Calvin Klein ad) have taken Georg Buchner's unfinished play Woyzeck and assigned numbers and theatrical styles to 20 scenes of said play. The audience is given a list of these scenes along with their corresponding numbers. They are then encouraged to yell out numbers to the players who will act out that scene. This means that the scenes are performed randomly with no discernable order to the play. The actors have one hour to complete all 20 scenes. When the buzzer goes off -- no matter where they are or how many of the scenes they have completed -- they must stop and perform the final scene. Sounds crazy doesn't it? It is crazy. But it works. Based on pop cultural references, the scene styles include everything from "Tony Soprano's Cappuccino" to "The Expressionist Mime." Admittedly, some styles work better than others; however, the high energy cast makes them all entertaining. Director Robert Knopf has put together a charismatic and versatile ensemble consisting of: Robert Franklin Neill, Dara Setzman, Luke Rosen, Daniel Leary, Tristan De Boer and Danielle Quisenberry. Together they have created a fun and novel approach to this theatrical classic. At the Cherry Lane Studio. 1 hour, 20 minutes.

By ERIC GRODE (Backstage)
2003 International Fringe Festival - Original Review

Georg Buchner's "Woyzeck" is a famously malleable work. Buchner died before he could structure, complete,or even name the play, and directors have traditionally reordered and conceptualized it however they want.

But pies in the face and Eminem parodies? "Sopranos" and "Dr. Strangelove" references? In terms of audacity, "Neo/Retro/Woyzeck" represents a quantum leap in the staging of "Woyzeck." If only audacity were enough.

Adapter-director Robert Knopf has broken the play down into 20 scenes, imposed a specific presentational style on each one, and empowered the audience to sequence the bits in whatever order they choose. A strict 60-minute time limit is enforced, at which point the cast leaps to the finale. (The night I attended, the company got through 18.5 of the 20 sequences.) By the end of the show, the stage is strewn with popped balloons, whipped cream, and the clipped hair of one extremely easygoing audience member.

As clever as some of the scenes are, though, the best one are either totally extraneous to the play or straightforward bits of Buchner, virutally free of any conceptual stamp. "Woyzeck" fights the conceits throughout, and the result is a fairly uncomfortable hybrid of baggy-pants Buchner. Robert Franklin Neill and Dara Seitzman are especially versatile as the title character and his doomer lover, and all six cast members have their moments. But the suspicion lingers that Knopf's and the actors' abundant energies would be better served by 20 totally random scenes. The "retro" part of the title makes sense (the Neo-Futurists are clearly an influence on the company), and there is something undeniably "neo" about seeing such young talent. It's just the "Woyzeck" part that's problematic.

Not the Same Old $@!%# Cabaret

By MICHAEL DALE (BroadwayWorld.com)
Jason Wynn's Not the Same Old @#$%: The Seinfeld of Cabaret - Original Review
Published: August 20, 2006.

In case you're wondering, no, we haven't censored the title of Jason Wynn's new cabaret show. It really is called Not The Same Old @#$%, because, as the talented and charismatic star tells us, the evening will not be a tribute to some great composer, an overview of his acting career or a recap of the men who have screwed him over.

After a number that mocks certain cabaret conventions ("What's doing at Don't Tell Mama? / I'll tell you what's doing at Don't Tell Mama…") Wynn explains that his show is really about nothing ("Just think of it as the Seinfeld of cabaret.") and that it's especially not about him!

Having worked eight years in New York, bouncing between gigs as actor and music director, Wynn, at piano, leads a terrific ensemble including Greg Gibaldi (guitar), Orlando Torres (bass), Jim Mansfield (percussion) and singers Miles Phillips (who also directs), Rob Langeder, Kristopher Monroe and Dara Seitzman. And although he sings a few token theatre songs (including a stirring rendition of the Kurt Weill/Langston Hughes "Lonely House"), most of the evening is spent with Wynn loaning smooth, unaffected and well-phrased vocals to the work of popular singer/songwriters like Justin Timberlake ("Pop"), Kelly Clarkson ("Because of You"), Phil Collins ("Trashin' The Camp") and Charlotte Church ("Confessional Song").

But by far the best written songs in the show are Wynn's own compositions, featuring jaunty melodies and crisp character-driven lyrics. As entertaining a performer as he certainly is, it's his music and lyrics that shine especially bright.

In the spirit of Irving Berlin's great countermelody songs, "I Finally Got My Due" is a duet for a newly successful writer and the wife who puts up with living his shadow. The funny and smoky-voiced Seitzman joins him in this cleverly staged number that's a real charmer. In a more serious vein, they're joined by the richly voiced baritone Langeder in "Back To Then," where a woman considers life with an ex-lover who couldn't appreciate her, a corporate cog contemplates giving up financial security for the life he really wants, and a fellow longs to end his parade of one-nighters for real commitment. In the sweetly moving "I Want Fine," Wynn sings, "I don't want fortune / I don't want to be famous / I just don't want to fall."

In a collaboration of sorts, he provides new gay-themed lyrics to Billy Joel's "Captain Jack." It's a mix of fine lyric storytelling and outstanding vocals, mixing quirky sexuality and stark, emotional drama.

Under Phillip's direction, the show is a smooth mix of styles that left me wanting more. Jason Wynn's laid-back sense of humor and casual sexiness (he performed the entire opening performance in a sleeveless black t-shirt because several audience members moaned with disappointment when he tried putting on a jacket) seem natural and effortless. Not The Same Old @#$% really kicks ass. Jason Wynn's Not The Same Old @#$% plays The Hideaway Room at Helen's at 7PM, August 30th and September 2nd

The Pirates of Penzance

By MARTIN DENTON (NYTheatre.com)
Published: May 10, 2003 - Original Review

Theater Ten Ten revives its 1995 production of Gilbert & Sullivan's The Pirates of Penzance. Directed by David Fuller, the operetta is reset at the Penzance College of Women in Nova Scotia, Canada, where the Head Mistress is a Major General.

I always forget how funny and delightful The Pirates of Penzance is until I see it in the theatre again. There's a reason that an operetta remains popular for 120-plus years: because it's really, really good. Sir Arthur Sullivan's melodies are pleasing and lilting and, when appropriate, bouncy and/or stirring. W.S. Gilbert's lyrics—here, as is not always the case, just about entirely preserved in their original form—are clever and engaging, sometimes tongue-twistingly complicated and other times roguishly silly. As staged here with requisite brio and charm by David Fuller, Pirates elicits smiles and sighs of pleasure and guilty, giddy giggles. There may be, at the moment, a more entertaining place to spend $19 at the theatre, but I don't know where it is.

The basic story remains, as ever, about Frederic, a flawless young man who, through a sorry mix-up perpetrated by his devoted nurse Ruth, was apprenticed to a pirate while still a boy. Now, on the day he turns twenty-one, Frederic has completed his indenture. The Pirate King wants him to stay on, but Frederic explains that he is a Slave of Duty, and now that he is his own man, he must devote himself to the extermination of the piratical menace of his former compadres.

A group of young ladies happens along, and Frederic instantly falls in love with one of them, Mabel. The pirates arrive and threaten to carry off the women, but they are stopped by the appearance of Major General Stanley, who dazzles them with her pyrotechnic diction and then, aware of the pirates' one great weakness, tells them she is an orphan. Well, they can't fight an orphan!—and so they retreat, until Act Two, when additional silliness ensues. It should not surprise you that by the end of the show, not only are Frederic and Mabel back together, but everyone in the cast has paired off, including the two bumbling policemen whom Frederic has enlisted to help defeat his former associates.

Fuller and his colleagues at Theater Ten Ten have set Pirates in Penzance, Nova Scotia, near the site of the Penzance College for Women (I don't think these are real places). Major General Stanley has the first name Constance and is a lady rather than, as usual, a man (she earned her rank in the Salvation Army, in case you're wondering); this substitution works beautifully, with Jillian Hemann delivering the goods in the show's most famous number, "I am the Very Model of a Modern Major General," even at warp speed in an encore, at the Pirate King's behest. The policemen are Mounties, of course, but just as silly as ever, thanks to the delicious comic playing of Jason Wynn (who looks a bit like Stan Laurel) and Michael Bertolini (who looks a bit like Dudley DoRight's boss).

The pirates are, well, pirates, and they are performed with relish by Abe Goldfarb, Kevin Vortmann, and Christopher Guilmet. Goldfarb and Vortmann are costumed by Lynn Marie Macy to look like crosses between the McKenzies from SCTV's "Great White North" and the two Darryls from Newhart—and they behave with just the ingratiating dopiness you'd expect. Guilmet, meanwhile, is spectacularly good as the Pirate King: lean and handsome, he has a gorgeous, lush baritone and a dancer's grace; on top of that, he's a fine comic actor, and possesses a commanding stage presence. He's virtuosic and hugely watchable; agents and producers in search of a Broadway musical leading man need look no further.

The ladies are just as wonderful. Jill Johnson is a winningly comical Ruth. Dara Seitzman, Tamara Spiewak, and Kirstie Bingham create lovely harmonies as the three students. Leah Horowitz sings sweetly as Mabel, and is a fine foil for Dan Callaway, the production's excellent juvenile as Frederic. Note that the singers are not miked, which is hard enough to come by these days, and that their voices are grand. We're hearing Sullivan's music as it was meant to be heard.

Oh, and I haven't told you about Charles Berigan yet. He appears, in outlandish garb, again thanks to the ever-resourceful Macy, at the beginning of each act, with a cleverly invented reason to sit down at the on-stage piano and start playing the show's music. He is, as always, a splendid accompanist.

Don Bill's choreography is lively and exciting; it even ventures out into the auditorium for the second act favorite "With Catlike Tread, Upon Our Prey We Steal." Wynn and Bertolini kick up their heels in the policeman's song as well, and Johnson, Guilmet, and Callaway share some fancy footwork in their Act Two opener about a particularly curious paradox regarding Frederic's birthday.

Wit, good taste, and good fun rule the day. It is indeed a glorious thing to see Theater Ten Ten's Pirates of Penzance.

Queen Margaret

By MARTIN DENTON (NYTheatre.com)
Published: May 2001 - Original Review

Revolving Shakespeare makes a propitious debut with Queen Margaret, a riveting and highly theatrical condensation of one of Shakespeare's history tetralogies. Director Ralph Carhart is responsible for the excellent adaptation, culling and occasionally rearranging material from Henry VI, Parts 1, 2, and 3 and Richard III to tell the story of Margaret, mercurial warrior queen to England's King Henry VI. Solidly played by an ensemble of a dozen actors, and filled with exciting duels and battles staged with brio by fight choreographer Dave Mason, Queen Margaret makes for engrossing drama indeed. This is theatre story-telling at its very best.

Carhart has distilled something like twelve hours of Shakespeare into about 160 taut, action-packed minutes. His emphasis is, necessarily, on narrative; what he achieves in Queen Margaret is a fast-paced roller coaster ride through the reigns of Henry VI and Edward IV, with a brief nod to the end of the Hundred Years' War with France (in a pair of neat scenes involving no less a personage than Joan of Arc), and with major emphasis on the War of the Roses, the bloody, divisive Civil War during which the houses of Lancaster and York battled for the throne. We observe warily as Henry's favorites are toppled, one by one (reminding us of events in both Richard II and Richard III); we witness the the Duke of York's audacious confrontation with the weakling sovereign; and then we watch, breathlessly, as Henry's vengeful queen takes arms against York and his thuggish sons (who will eventually become Edward IV and Richard III).

We're talking action, action, action here, all of it vividly played by Carhart and his company. It helps, of course, that the words they're speaking are Shakespeare's--even lesser works like these are filled with unfailingly beautiful language, spoken with authority and clarity by Carhart's actors. That latter point is extremely important, by the way: events and, especially, interrelationships among characters, are nothing if not complicated in Queen Margaret. Yet despite the innate complexity of the subject and the significant abridgments and deletions in the text, the convoluted and intricate tale of intrigue, betrayal, and plunder remains firmly in focus and entirely comprehensible.

That tale also includes Queen Margaret's own adulterous affair with the king's advisor Suffolk, discretely and succinctly depicted in a single, wordless scene behind a scrim. Inventive touches like this distinguish Carhart as a masterful story teller whose primary concern is keeping things interesting and understandable for the audience.

The piece is sharply cast, with particularly outstanding work turned in by Jon L. Egging as the pious but ineffectual King Henry; Lou Tally as the voracious Duke of York; Paul Coffey as the sensual, conniving Duke of Suffolk (and, briefly, as Margaret's young son Prince Edward); and Miles Phillips as both the preening, fatuous Cardinal Beaufort and the skulking, youthful Edward IV. Jamie Askew (as an array of messengers) and Juliet King (in several small roles, including Joan of Arc and a rebellious manservant called Peter) do fine work as well. Matthew Pendergast is somewhat unconvincing as the (relatively) aged Duke of Gloucester, uncle to Henry VI; but he's downright brilliant as the next Gloucester, better known as Richard III--I'd like to see him take on that role in the full-length play.

In the title role, Marci Adilman nicely manages Margaret's spectacular transformation from the naive princess of Henry VI, Part 1 to the duplicitous adulteress (Part 2); and from the admirable warrior queen of Part 3 to the shrewish old witch of Richard III. But it's probably inherently impossible for her to build a real character here: Margaret serves very different functions in each of the four plays, functions that are sometimes at odds with one another. She's a memorable supporting player in each of these works, and she remains somehow shadowy here despite lots of concentrated stage time: Carhart hasn't really succeeded in turning his heroine into a leading lady.

But he's succeeded, wonderfully, in capturing the spirit and intoxicating adventure of four of Shakespeare's earliest and least well-understood histories. Queen Margaret is a remarkable show, especially for a freshman theatre troupe. I can't wait to see what Carhart and company come up with next.

Sex... Because it Sells

By ROB LESTER (Cabaret Exchange)
Published: February 2008 - Original Review

A Musical Revue

OK, having a sense of humor about sex seems like a good idea. And there are some laughs in the revue Sex... Because It Sells, made up of new material, but sometimes feeling like old jokes.

Is it good clean fun? More or less, though it's not always good AND clean AND fun all at the same time. It's a series of songs and blackouts. This is mostly winking comedy, some of the good-natured but smirking variety that might have been a hoot in seventh grade. I got tired of counting the tired double entendres with the verb "to come." Dialogue sections are really minimal except for an early monologue about using the "F" word and a scene where one guy reveals the secret to his bulging success. On the same topic, a song called "Size Doesn’t Matter" is kind of cutely presented as a perky Andrews Sisters style number where the harmonizing (or is it hormonize-ing?) female trio longs for something long. Like other pieces here, it is funny at first until it goes on, um, at length. (See? I can certainly understand the temptation to indulge in the word play when even writing a review of a revue on this subject matter without doing so intentionally or otherwise is hard.)

Some rhymes are predictable—in a contemporary song lyric referring to male sexual dysfunction, you know what's gonna rhyme with "Niagara," right? Is it tough to find new yuks about sex? A song rattling off the many slang synonyms for body parts recalls a similar spoken litany in The Vagina Monologues and the song "Members Only" from Naked Boys Singing. There are no naked people here and the closest they get to suggesting simulated sex is stylized suggestive choreography, but that's meant as a visual joke rather than anything else.

To me, the humor was hit and miss, or hit and misguided, but I want to stress that many people in the audience were laughing far more often and more heartily than I did. Some of the laughs seemed to be paired with delighted naughty surprise, howls mixed with gasps that some things were being said (and sung) out loud. There is a sense of liberation here and certainly a sense that preoccupations with sex and vanity and insecurities are just human nature and shouldn’t be causes for alarm, embarrassment or dishonesty. Thus, permission is given to smile and/or indulge with songs mocking self-absorption of a mirror-glancing dancer who admires his body but praising self-gratification via vibrators (one is held tenderly and sung to).

In a new revue about sex playing in a New York City cabaret today, it seems surprising that it's so heterosexual-centric. A couple of visual pairings within opening choreography suggest they may be going there, but they don't. Why not? The performers play different people in each song or quick skit. The only other acknowledgment of gays I noticed was when a guy is alone and says, "I miss Eduardo"- but we don’t see two men or two women as sexual or romantic mates, let alone any passing reference to a threesome or group sex. I wondered if the male couple holding hands at the table next to me felt left out.

The cast of three women and two men had good moments and generally worked gamely and briskly. The standout is Dara Seitzman. She can be a wonderfully rubber-faced, bug-eyed comedienne and has a strong singing voice and loopy but savvy way about her. Her broad-accented, broad-humored "German Drinking Song" is near perfection. Her facial expressions as a disapproving, uptight mother from another generation are a howl - it's instant and lasting hilarity when the lights come up on that bit and we see her imposing scowl (above her modern-day daughter, she's a portrait hung on a wall and the actress holds the frame and holds the pose). Miles above most everything else, is a brilliantly conceived and performed high-energy routine called "Make-Up Sex" where Paige Hutchison and Jesse Sullivan fight alternately and lust after each other in a series of impressively athletic and sharply timed, fearless and fabulously funny choruses. Dana Mierlak gets her best moment when, with the other women, they are a hoot with Long Island accents kvetching about their oversexed husbands. Admirably, Jeremey Chase manages to find the heart and vulnerability that lurks beyond the smirks and the jerks of all the shenanigans when he voices a man's insecurities.

Sex... Because It Sells was cooked up by John Cook, also its musical director/pianist and Bethany Smith Staelens, who also directed and is an offstage, on-mic voice announcing the quick dialogue scenes. She introduces the show by good-naturedly and proudly saying it's politically incorrect and an equal opportunity offender but those who'd be most generically offended would probably steer clear of a show with this title.

Stage Blood

By MARTIN DENTON (NYTheatre.com)
Published: November 12, 2000 - Original Review

Michael Goldfried's revival of Charles Ludlam's Stage Blood is an orgy of silliness: a sublimely ridiculous feast of bad jokes and hoary shtick delivered with grandly over-the-top theatrical style. This smorgasbord of artifice and vulgarity and camp is as merry as a roomful of Santa Clauses and at least twice as much fun. Ludlam, I think, would be proud.

The play itself, which hasn't been produced professionally in New York since its premiere at Ludlam's Ridiculous Theatre in 1975, is an honest-to-goodness lost treasure. It tells the story of the Caucasian Theatrical Company, a bedraggledly gallant troupe of four actors and a stage manager, who have brought their production of Hamlet to our theatre, with all manner of improbable consequences. The company's manager Carlton Stone, Sr., having seen better days, is now playing the role of the Ghost, while his son Carl Jr. is essaying Hamlet; Carlton's wife Helga Vain plays Gertrude and her lover Edmund Dundreary portrays, naturally enough, Claudius. Parallels with Hamlet abound as Carlton Sr. is suddenly found murdered in the dressing room and Carl begins to suspect his mother and her lover of the crime.

Additional complications are supplied by Elfie Fey, the young actress who literally jumps out of her seat in the audience to take on the role of Ophelia; and by stage manager Jenkins, who has written an 1800-page avant-garde play called "Fossil Fuel" that he wants the company to produce. There's also a mysterious man who pops up suddenly with a surprising proposition for Carl Jr. And just exactly how many actors are playing the Ghost, anyway?

The convoluted plot never flags, even as it provides Ludlam opportunities to make hay of Hamlet, Chekhov's The Seagull, backstage melodramas, method acting, and any number of other theatrical targets. Goldfried's staging, at requisite breakneck speed (and, shrewdly, without an intermission), wrings just about every possible drop of humor out of the hilarious script. And his (very occasional) updates, including a terrific cell phone joke that's been just waiting to happen, enhance the show winningly.

Six exceptional actors bring Stage Blood to screamingly funny life. Marshall Correro plays the leering, lascivious elder Stone as a sort of cross between Groucho Marx and John Barrymore. Bob Yarnall, clad in several skintight leather creations, is gleefully evil--and ambiguous--as treacherous Edmund Dundreary. Michael Nathanson is appealingly puppyish and klutzy as Carl, Jr.; in his on-stage scenes as a bizarrely blond Hamlet, he's a hoot, adopting, apparently, Katharine Hepburn (in her On Golden Pond years) as his acting model. "To be or not to be" will never be the same again.

Dara Seitzman's Helga is glorious. Dressed in get-ups that Norma Desmond rejected as too over-the-top, she mugs mercilessly for an unseen camera and chews relentlessly on scenery and anything else in her path. Jessica Chandlee Smith's ingenuous Elfie is a blissful comic contrast. And Tim Cusack, meanwhile, threatens to steal the show as geeky Jenkins. Watch him as he carefully hangs up a pair of bathing trunks on a plastic hanger; or, subbing in the play-within-a-play for the deceased Carlton Sr., he morphs Hamlet's Ghost into a lounge-act Phantom of the Opera.

The design team--Michael Steinberg (lighting), Heidi Meisenhelder (sets), T. Michaell Hall (costumes), Adam Brown (sound), and Adrienne Gusoff (props)--must also be congratulated for their seamlessly tacky (and wonderful) contributions. Every drop of this Stage Blood is rich royal blue: its as perfect a rendering of the play as one can hope for, I think. I haven't laughed this much in a very long time.

Swingtime Canteen

By JOANNE GRECHO ROCHMAN (The Vally Gazette - Curtain Call)
Published: October 2, 2003

SEVEN ANGELS THEATRE, Waterbury: "Swingtime Canteen," by Bond, Repicci, and Busch, is a patriotic musical revue filled with five great female voices and fine talent. The voices, all of which are in great form, are the best part of the show. There's a thin strand of a storyline in this great excuse for a revue. There also are some goofy comedy routines that detract from the otherwise classy show.

As the story goes, the girls are on their first show of a tour for the armed forces. They came together when bandleader Guy Lombardo and his orchestra failed to show up. Marian and her standby, Jo, round up their talented friends to do the show so as not to disappoint the troops.

Veronica Mittenzwei is ultra-sophisticated Marian Ames, leader of the group. Bethany Smith as Jo Sterling is the most versatile of the group. She not only sings well, but also is terrific on the drums. Throughout the production, Jo and Lilly McBain frequently quibble and quarrel, but the bickering never comes off well.

Mia Matthews (the sexpot in the Seven Angels production of "Beacon Hill Book Club") steps into a role that shows off her greatest assets in "Swingtime Canteen." As Lilly McBain, the stunning Matthews is a natural. It's beyond me why she took to awkward cartwheels and splits when she has a voice that's smooth as silk and lovely long legs perfect for standing tall and dancing.

Katie Gammersflugel, Mar­ian's niece, is a bit of a hick and an emotional basket case who is secretly married. Dana Mierlak steps into the role looking like a young schoolgirl - far too young to be married, even secretly. Then, all choked up, she sings "How High the Moon" and there's no doubt that Katie knows what it's all about.

Dara Seitzman rounds off the quintet of talented women in the Equity professional cast. As Topeka Abotelli, Seitzman presents the dedicated working mom who kept industry thriving while the boys were away. Though she portrays a rough-around-the-edges performer, Seitzman delivers a powerful wallop with her rendition of "His Rocking Horse Ran Away."

Don't let the World War II theme fool you. Considering how many Americans are fighting in Iraq, this show is more timely than ever. The production, directed and choreographed by Warren Kelley, features a top-notch band.

This musical revue will appeal to all those who enjoy patriotic music and classic tunes. "Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition," "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy," "Sing Sing Sing," and "I'll Be With You in Apple Blossom Time" are a few numbers that thoroughly entertained the audience.

"Swingtime Canteen" plays through Oct. 19. Tickets range from $24 to $38.50. Box office: (203) 757-4676.

Joanne Greco Rochman is a member of The American Theatre Critics Association and a founding member of The Connecticut Critics Circle. She welcomes comments at Jrochman@earthlink.net.

Words Words Words & Music

By MICHAEL NELSON (cabaretsingers@egroups.com)

The high point for me, may possibly have been David McMullin (who was also one of the sweetest Romeos I've ever encountered) and Stephanie Bonte singing WEST SIDE STORY's "Somewhere" in counterpoint to Miles Phillips, Dara Seitzman and Parker Scott amazing beautiful ROMEO & JULIET's "A Time For Us".

By MICHELLE PHILLIPS (cabaretsingers@egroups.com)
Published: August 26, 2001

I have to second this. It was amazing... and a group of us commented on this later... that it was amazingly difficult and done to perfection.

This cast is just marvelous... but the minds behind it: Miles Philips, Jason Wynn and Dara Seitzman even more so. IF you don't go Monday, you just can't imagine what you're missing!

Stephane Bonte - young, beautiful and singing like an angel. Liz Donathan playing Gildernstern and suddenly in the second half singing a song so touchingly - as a woman at last - that we are moved to tears, Rob Langeder, handsome (well, they really all are handsome) one moment a character and one moment knocking you over in song, David McMullin - a glorious voice and one of the funniest people I've seen on stage... and young for all his great ability!; Miles Phillips, the mind behind all this... sings Twelfth Night (was that your solo?) to perfection....; Parker Scott - you may know, but you'll see him as never before! Dara Seitzman, a beautiful, sexy, wonderful character with amazing low notes and Jason Wynn the brilliant musical director, with I believe a song of his own in this production!

Good luck, Miles. I wish you many, many more performances of this!

Again ... for the list... you would have to pay mucho dollars for a show like this and sit in the boonies to see it... here you are in a small room, experiencing up close!