Reviews - October 2019
For this show, I'm going to provide two reviews.
The first one is meant for the people who already know Evil Dead, who most likely own a wall of campy horror movies and posters, and love to dress the part. The second review is for the rest of us.
Why are you looking for a review?! You know what to expect, and director Tad Kincade does his very best to provide it - gallons of blood, cheesy dialogue along with foul language and a constant sexual emphasis. WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?!?
Rating: A - Zero family friendliness, wear clothes you can burn later (but you knew that).
As noted for the previous Halloween production this season, I'm not a big horror fan. Splatter movies, in a similar vein (yeah, I went there) hold no interest for me, so I'm not afraid to admit that while Bruce Campbell is a vastly under-rated screen talent, and that the Evil Dead movie - which established Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell in the movie industry - has a fan following, I've never seen it. I know OF it, I know the plot in general, but have never seen it. Frankly, I wish I now had less knowledge of it.
I've never considered myself a prude; I like to think I'm fairly open-minded on things, but have definite opinions on a few things that, to my mind, really matter. However, having sat in this audience tonight, I feel like I've never been more straight-laced, normal, or boring.
The show is crass and rude just because it can be, gory for the sake of being gory, foul mouthed and filthy because it's perceived to be 'fun'. Not to me, but frankly I'm *not* the target audience for the show (which I find comforting at the end of the evening).
Director Ted Kincade opened the show in costume, after purposefully wiping his blood-covered hands across two audience member's chests - he apparently knew them both, since he made of point of saying that after making sure his hands were thoroughly wiped across the woman's chest. As they had paid extra to sit in the 'splatter-zone' seats (the first three rows), the assumption was they wanted the attention and blood anyway.
Kincade advised at show start - and illustrated his point by needlessly inserting a f-bomb into each sentence - that there was foul language in the show, and if any of you didn't like it, you could get the f*** out. Having set the proper tone, the show fulfills Kincade's promise. SuperSoakers of blood are shot across the audience, sex and violence galore (or gal-gore, if you prefer) and puns throughout.
I think we've established: this wasn't my cup of tea. But the intended audience laughed constantly, enjoyed the blood, the casual sex by the main characters, demonic rape, and general mayhem. That's why they were there, and for them this was a fun outing.
The cast was well chosen, the male singers not as strong as the women, but all acted well and seemed to be enjoying themselves tremendously. The set was well done if a bit rough, and the budget for fake blood must have been enormous. For the people this show is targeting, frankly the cheaper the better. The Evil Dead movie budget was a joke, and everything was cut-rate; this production is equally good if not better in same ways.
Evil Dead the Musical has an appeal to certain niche market, and I find myself thankful not to be part of the group.
Rating: B- (if you're not a schlock horror fan, there's nothing here for you; children under the age of 30 shouldn't see this).
This review makes me sad.
Not because there's horrible problems with this production (there aren't) - the set is wonderful, the cast very talented (too talented, actually), the tech integrates well, costumes spot on...
Parts of the cast are Equity, which made my antenna quiver. Theater West End, that I noticed just last night, calls themselves 'The Only Professional Theater in Sanford".
So while the show was great, it's not really in the 'Community' pool I'm carving out for myself here. Theater West End is off my schedule, but should not be for any follower of theater in the area. SEE THEM, along with Mad Cow, Breakthrough Theater, Orlando Shakes, etc, etc. Just don't forget to visit the theater reviewed here - these actors, crew members and theaters don't have hundreds of backers and need our support!
Update: As if to verify, the Orlando Sentinel has posted their review, cementing that 'professional' theater label. https://www.orlandosentinel.com/entertainment/arts-and-theater/os-et-once-on-this-island-review-20191012-xykymycwuvaezhnl652wlfr5se-story.html?fbclid=IwAR1AGpvuTBa4Zatb_umWqI2vMLsvpJNhoMYlsZIQnSJbT5agOfzsDSqGW90
This was an interesting production, for a number of reasons.
Go on a Saturday if you can, 30 minutes early. The director, Beau Mahurin, gives a talk with background on the production and influences 'The Haunting" has had on cinema and literature. As part of that talk, he mentions having a degree in paranormal studies. There starts the noticeable efforts to play with your mind a bit.
As a person, things that go bump in the night hold little interest for me. I like a good monster movie now and then, but horror and ghost stories bring out a very cynical side of me, and I need to admit a bias on this: I find these efforts ranging from humorous to boring, and very, VERY infrequently rising to a standard of admiration without fright. I've done my time in Halloween shows, haunted houses, etc., etc., and it really takes something to get past all that experience and familiarity with the processes involved. I can be startled, but it's rare I get fully involved to the point of fear.
I say this because while I believe this show is excellent, my review might not read that way - so let me be clear, it IS a production you should see.
I also won't give out spoilers - that'd be a crime for this sort of show!
Sound and Lights are particularly well done in this show; lights to set the mood and sounds to make you jumpy are part and parcel of the genre, and this production does not disappoint! Daniel Roscoe (Lights) and the director Beau Mahurin (Sound) should be applauded!
EXCEPT - for the ongoing, nerve-wracking Ground Loop buzz coming through the speakers the entire night. I left at the end of the show with a terrific headache caused by this, and if you don't know what to look for it can be a horrible thing to track down. Patchers, here's some help (and reader, if you don't want the technical details, jump to the next paragraph): the problem is caused by parts of the sound system being in the same power circuit as some of your lights. You can tell because the annoying buzz changes with the intensity of the lights in the house. Something is generating a buzz in the ground-connectors that is being picked up by the speakers. The solution is to isolate the sound from the circuit the lights use (which isn't always feasible) OR to use an adapter to go from three-prong to two-prong connectors for the sound system (which keeps the buzz from getting to the speakers. It's a pain to track down, but honestly better the sound techs than the paying customers!
I found the characters, with only one exception, frustrating and annoying - and believe the script calls for them to be this way, so rather than a complaint it's a compliment to the cast on making their characters consciously disagreeable, yet relatable.
The first character you see is Jennifer Mendez' Mrs. Dudley - the maid/caretaker/cook for the Hill House, who starts off creepy and distant, making you instantly suspicious of her. Over time that façade cracks in a private moment or two, but she's always in her creepy character with the rest of the cast, and Mendez wears this creepiness like the apron of her costume on stage.
Mrs. Dudley is followed onstage by Eleanor (Taylor Joan Perry) and Theodora (Katy Polimeno). Eleanor appears fragile from the start, and Theodora's comes across as a loud Paris-Hilton'ish social climber believing her own press. Over the course of the show they bond to a degree, but manage to stick to their base roles as fragile and selfish. Perry and Polimeno work well together, almost band together against the other actors and each are provided excellent moments from the script for their shots in the spotlight. Polimeno's turns stress Theodora's selfish focus to good effect, and Perry, amongst other stage moments, gives a *terrific* scream - Jamie Lee Curtis would have been proud (and concerned at the competition!).
Completing the distaff-side of the cast, Jessa Halterman appears as Mrs. Montague, who could have been pulled directly as Delia Deetz from "Beetlejuice" - the character is abrasive, annoying, superior, and spoiled. (Yes, yes - based on the timing, Delia Deetz was probably based on Mrs. Montague, not the other way around). Mrs. Halterman seem to have a blast in this role, she sinks her teeth into it and rats it all over. You really despise her by the end of the play - great work Jessa!
Three men make up the rest of the cast - Charlie Halterman as Dr. Montague (yes, the married couple plays the married couple), Luke played by Ridge Patterson, and Arthur portrayed by Mark Lehnowsky. Dr. Montague asked these people to come to Hill House to look into paranormal activities, and channels every frustrating academic you've met without dropping into the absent-minded-professor trope. Halterman leans into this, and provides my only real acting complaint - some of his lines come so slowly I questioned whether it was character or not *quite* having the lines down. The fact that I'm not sure is testament to Charlie's efforts. Luke seems to be a rich, entitled, playboy type, and over time - that doesn't change. One heroic moment aside, he's all but useless, and Patterson succeeds in bringing Luke along with a constant twinkle in his eye. Unlike Luke, Arthur IS useless, a hypocritical private school headmaster who's a sycophantic yes-man to Mrs. Montague - which sounds harsh until the end of the play, when you realize it's spot on. Lehnowsky (per his bio) hasn't acted in more than 10 years, but I'd not know if he didn't say so - his Arthur was a horrible person disguised as a leader of children - comprising the biggest parental horror story available.
The performances of the cast are uniformly nuanced and entirely...annoying. I've looked for synonyms, and that one still works best.
The set is VERY good, extremely detailed in a way that reminded me of a Dave Clevenger set from Icehouse Theater in Mt Dora - and what do you see in the program? a credit to Clevenger for Properties assistance.
While the horror/ghost story/paranormal angles left me a bit cold, there were a lot of fans in the audience, and fan or not this show should be seen. Get your tickets ASAP.
Rating: B+ (higher if not for that buzz!). Not friendly to children under 13 or so due to the horror aspects.
"A Good Old Fashioned Redneck Country Happy Halloween" (AGOFRCHH) is the third in a series of Redneck Country plays written by local playwright Kris Bauske, and was performed for the first time on stage tonight at Mimi's Community Theater.
AGOFRCHH appears to be placed in a small town somewhere in the Appalachians, and follows a few of the townsfolk through both Halloween preparations and some spooky goings-on, along with some out-of-town college students just passing through. I found the story a bit rough, simplistic in spots and abrupt at the end. It also showed heart and warmth, and with polish could be a community theater standard.
The Antagonist for much of the show is Moldavia (Tess Nater), a self-styled backwoods 'Nature crafter'. Nater makes every effort to actually be Margaret Hamilton from the original Wizard of Oz. and it works about half the time; dialing back on the scene-chewing would make for a more organic ride for the character.
Lou (Amy Barnickel), Barbi Jo (Allison Whitcomb) and Darlene (Hanna Brewer) all interact with the local 'witch" in varying scales of belief and concern. I found their Southern accents to be fairly consistent (if perhaps based on Reba McEntire/Dolly Parton variety show reruns) and were better than average for community theater. However, line pickups were VERY slow, and these made their scenes drag quite a bit. I thought Brewer was the most natural in style, Barnickel the most believably Southern, and Whitcomb somewhere in-between. However, with the accent comes a slight lack of clarity - on two occasions, I simply had no idea what the character had just said because of that accent.
The men in the story are the husbands of those three women: Lou's husband is Bill (Joe Nunes), Barbi Jo's mate is Dave Fox (Steve Roosevelt), and Jim/Jimmy (Alex Randhan) has Darlene as his wife. Of the entire cast, Nunes can best be heard and understood, his lines ringing and projected. Roosevelt comes across as slightly mumbly and softer, and Randhan does his best but he's not able to convincing be early-to-mid-20s; he barely looks like he shaves, and minor innuendo or discussing getting to 'first base' is jarringly ineffectual. His acting is good, but he can't pull this off; it's a casting issue more than an acting problem. The men's accents are much more scattered, but I had no issues understanding their lines at all, so perhaps that's better.
The cast does a decent job with the material, but the more/better direction would be the greatest help. Line pickups were very slow; 2-3 seconds feels like forever between lines, and it's not hard to imagine the word balloons on the cast "And my next line is....". Scene changes were simply much too long; you *cannot* have 2 minutes or more of a closed curtain with background music and clunking sounds from the stage! It completely breaks the flow of the show. These sorts of issues when resolved would considerably raise the quality of the production.
Tech was well handled, lights and music appropriate to the production and the candles in the windows were a nice touch.
AGOFRCHH, the show and the cast have moments of charm and warmth and laughter, and I hope the audience shows up in greater numbers to see the production.
Rating: C-, family friendly with light horror elements that shouldn't frighten even small children.