Archive for November, 2015

Love, Loss And Loneliness Explored In “Animals Out Of Paper” At R-S Theatrics

November 23, 2015
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Teresa Doggett as Ilana and Andrew Kuhlman as Andy share an awkward Valentine’s dinner together in “Animals Out Of Paper” at R-S Theatrics.

A story about Origami does not leap to mind when thinking of great subject matters for a play. But “Animals Out Of Paper,” by Rajiv Joseph,       makes it the basis of a sad love triangle that unfolds on the stage at the Chapel as presented by R-S Theatrics. Seems to be the season for such stories as WEPG recently opened their homage to love triangles with “Rapture, Blister, Burn.” Actually, origami fits well into the mold of humans who are trying to bend and mold their lives to avoid loss and loneliness and attempting to find something lasting.

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Teresa Doggett as Ilana and Ethan Isaac as Suresh in the R-S Theatrics production of “Animals Out Of Paper.”

Ilana is a well known author and lecturer on the art of origami. Her creations are outstanding and give her worldwide attention but her life has recently taken a hit via a divorce. As she holes up in her small apartment, she eats Chinese, discards the cardboard containers hither and yon and seems to have given up her art. Local theatrician, Teresa Doggett, handles the role with heart-breaking dignity. You can see her pain as she begins a new relationship and then quickly turns her head for yet another man (or boy) in her life. She, like her origami, is continually folding and unfolding as she rearranges her life. I refer to Ms. Doggett as a theatrician because of her extensive work in so many phases of theatre in our town. She’s a dynamite costume designer and seamstress, her name pops up under other behind the scenes chores but mainly we know her from her extensive work on stage. This is just one in her long line of brilliant performances.

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Andrew Kuhlman as Andy and Teresa Doggett as Ilana in “Animals Out Of Paper” at R-S Theatrics.

Andy upsets her descent into loneliness when, as treasurer of the national origami association, calls on her to see if she is going to pay her dues (a bit overdue, it seems) and if she is going to be attending this year’s big origami bash. He heaps praise upon her, compliments her work- even to the point of accepting her gift of a huge paper hawk hanging from her ceiling. You can tell from the get-go that he is smitten with her. He is also a high school math teacher and tells her of a student he has who is a whiz kid in the world of origami. Andrew Kuhlman is perfect as the bumbling, inept Andy who is not too subtle in his show of affection for her. He then convinces her to see his student.

Enter Suresh who has not had an easy life himself and seems a bit disgruntled that he must see this lady when he has no desire for a mentor. Ethan Isaac is a real natural on stage. His lanky, easy-going style is perfect for the somewhat rebellious teen-ager. A series of events throws him together with Ilana, much to the chagrin of Andy and our love triangle takes a turn or two before things are resolved much differently than the audience may suspect.

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Ethan Isaac as Suresh in the R-S Theatrics production of “Animals Out Of Paper.”

Todd Schaefer has directed with a deft hand on the small Chapel stage. He brings the emotions to the forefront and the mixture of fireworks and melancholy add up to a very satisfying play. Keller Ryan’s scene design is smart and effective while the Nathan Schroeder lights fit in perfectly. A shout out as well to managing director and properties master, Heather Tucker, who is an origamist herself and taught the cast- in particular Mr. Isaac- to fold animals in a timely manner.

This is a great companion piece to what we just saw at WEPG. Two totally different stories with very different takes on the subject but love triangles at the heart of both. Which way they bend depends on who’s folding or unfolding, changing or not changing their lives. Catch “Animals Out Of Paper” at the Chapel as presented by R-S Theatrics through December 6th. Give them a call at 314-252-8812 for tickets or more information.

 

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WEPG Gives Us A Humorous Dose Of Feminism In “Rapture, Blister, Burn”

November 17, 2015
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Nicole Angeli, Elizabeth Van Pelt and Mara Bollini during a class session in “Rapture, Blister, Burn” at West End Players Guild. Photo: John Lamb

Never thought I’d have to hear the name Phyllis Schlafly again but up she pops in the latest West End Players Guild production of “Rapture, Blister, Burn” by Gina Gionfriddo. I like Schlafly Brewery and their beer (especially Zwickel) but Phyllis Schlafly brings up a host of memories for her warped view of feminism back in the 70’s. Between her and Doris Bass, who tried to close down the first professional company of “Hair” in St. Louis, our town was almost set back a hundred years.

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Mara Bollini, Jeff Kargus and Nicole Angeli try to resolve their dilemma in WEPG’s “Rapture, Blister, Burn.” Photo: John Lamb

Fortunately, this wonderful script brings a lighter touch to the history of feminism by bringing out the principles of the movement as it related to our culture during various stages over the years. Catherine is a well-known and respected academic who returns to her New England roots to take care of her mother, Alice, who recently suffered a heart attack and to work at the local university. Her ex-boyfriend still lives there with his wife and two children. The wife, Gwen, just happens to be Catherine’s former roommate who took Don away from her all those years ago when Catherine decided to pursue the life of lecturer and author and travel the world. Gwen then left college to settle down and have children. Don continued his education and is now one of the Deans at the university.

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Mama joins the discussion as Donna Weinsting ® brings martinis to Nicole Angeli, Elizabeth Van Pelt and Mara Bollini in “Rapture, Blister, Burn at West End Players Guild. Photo: John Lamb

It is the summer and, before Catherine enters the Fall schedule, she decides to set up a seminar to get her feet wet. Of course, Gwen decides to take the course and, since only one other student, Avery, is in the class, Catherine sets up the seminar in her mother’s house. As you can tell, this scenario is just asking for fireworks to happen. The roles of women in society come into play throughout the spirited debates in class and it all gets very personal. Drastic events occur until a final resolution is arrived at and the participants and instructor are all changed- hopefully for the better.

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Nicole Angeli and Jeff Kargus renew their relationship during “Rapture, Blister, Burn” at WEPG. Photo: John Lamb

One of our town’s most versatile actresses, Nicole Angeli, gives a great mix of sophistication and vulnerability to the role of Catherine. She commands the stage with her brains and beauty while innuendoes fly between her and Gwen. As Gwen, Mara Bollini matches her as if playing opposing counsel in a trial. She uses the various movie references throughout the seminar to bring the Phyllis Schlafly point of view to the forefront to combat the words and mind set of the feminist outlook.

As the catalyst stirring the pot in the discussions is Elizabeth Van Pelt as the fiery Avery. Younger than the other two, she jumps in the middle of the obvious battle of career versus motherhood that evolves. Her spirited nature is a delight and she soon becomes a foil battling both sides of the argument. As Don, Jeff Kargus has taken the low road of mediocrity in his career path- a point Gwen never lets him forget- and becomes the very anti-feminism “prize” during this give-and-take.

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Elizabeth Van Pelt, Donna Weinsting and Nicole Angeli reach a comfortable conclusion at West End Players Guild production of “Rapture, Blister, Burn.” Photo: John Lamb

Rounding out the cast is the clever and often snarky Alice- given a brilliant performance by Donna Weinsting. She has obviously taken the unexpected role of encouraging her daughter to break up the marriage and go after the not-so-coveted “prize.” Rarely have we seen four stronger women carry a play like this one. They bring an over-the-top quality to four very different women and give feminism a real boot in the butt. Does the outcome bode well for Gloria Steinem or Phyllis Schlafly? Or are they both passé at this point? You make the call in this very complex and highly entertaining script.

Director Stephen Peirick keeps the action flowing in what could become a very wordy play and he really hits the point time and again with his astute look at the subject. “Rapture, Blister, Burn” is so much fun and this superb cast makes it sizzle and pop. Don’t miss it as it plays through November 22nd at West End Players Guild. Give them a call at 314-667-5686 for tickets or more information.

“I And You” Becomes Another Memorable Experience In The Rep Studio

November 6, 2015
Danielle Carlacci and Reynaldo Piniella trrade insults in the Rep Studio production of "I And You." Photo by Jerry Naunheim, Jr. ©Photo by Jerry Naunheim Jr.

Danielle Carlacci and Reynaldo Piniella trrade insults in the Rep Studio production of “I And You.” Photo by Jerry Naunheim, Jr.

Many productions have offered unexpected and memorable moments in the history of the Studio Theatre at the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis but “I And You” is very special indeed. It touches our hearts, draws us into two endearing characters and then gives us an ending that blows us away and leaves us sobbing like babies- once we realize what a bombshell has just hit us in the gut.

Reynaldo Piniella as Anthony shows his pathetic poster to Danielle Carlacci as Caroline in "I And You" at the Rep Studio. Photo by Jerry Naunheim, Jr.TUESDAY, OCT. 27, 2015 - This is the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis' production of "I and You" at the Loretto-Hilton Center. ©Photo by Jerry Naunheim Jr.

Reynaldo Piniella as Anthony shows his pathetic poster to Danielle Carlacci as Caroline in “I And You” at the Rep Studio. Photo by Jerry Naunheim, Jr.

The Lauren Gunderson script grabs us by the heartstrings immediately as we meet Caroline in her outrageously, teenage chic bedroom in the renovated attic space of her home. Danielle Carlaccci is a petite and feisty young girl who we soon learn has been schooled at home while enrolled at a local high school. Suffering from a liver ailment that requires a transplant, she has grown cynical and lacks certain social skills from being on her own for some time. She texts her mother instead of actually going to the lower part of the house- even to eat meals. Carlacci draws us immediately into her spunky, jaded character buoyed by her life-long frustration.

Caroline takes ill as Anthony tries to talk her down during "I And You" at the Rep Studio. Photo- Jerry Naunheim, Jr.OCT. 27, 2015 - This is the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis' production of "I and You" at the Loretto-Hilton Center. ©Photo by Jerry Naunheim Jr.

Caroline takes ill as Anthony tries to talk her down during “I And You” at the Rep Studio. Photo- Jerry Naunheim, Jr.

Unexpectedly, a young man enters her sacred space, claiming her mother sent him up with the school project he volunteered to work on with her. It’s a piece on Walt Whitman’s “Leaves of Grass,” in particular the powerful “Song Of Myself.” Reynaldo Piniella’s Anthony is a long and lanky foil to the suspicious Caroline. His love of poetry, jazz and basketball become the basis for him breaking down her barriers. Showing her his pitiful poster to be used as a visual aid in their presentation soon piques her interest and she gets involved in her favorite hobby, crafting. The two soon begin to communicate and reach an understanding that eventually leads to something resembling a friendship bordering on love.

Caroline gets into the poster while Anthony reads the poem in the Rep Studio production of "I And You." Photo- Jerry Naunheim, Jr.TUESDAY, OCT. 27, 2015 - This is the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis' production of "I and You" at the Loretto-Hilton Center. ©Photo by Jerry Naunheim Jr.

Caroline gets into the poster while Anthony reads the poem in the Rep Studio production of “I And You.” Photo- Jerry Naunheim, Jr.

Then Gunderson’s script takes us into that final moment that makes this delightful one act transcend into something quite remarkable. It explores issues that turn us inside out and leaves us looking for the number of the bus that just hit us.

Director Jane Page has guided her talented cast into this story with all the plausibility of the teenage story of angst and blossoming relationships. She is assisted by the wonderful set design of Eric Barker that allows us into this special world of a teenage girl and the beautifully lit design of John Wylie. Marci Franklin’s costumes and the sound design of Rusty Wandall complete the magic.

A magical moment during "I And You" at the Rep Studio. Photo- Jerry Naunheim, Jr. TUESDAY, OCT. 27, 2015 - This is the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis' production of "I and You" at the Loretto-Hilton Center. ©Photo by Jerry Naunheim Jr.

A magical moment during “I And You” at the Rep Studio. Photo- Jerry Naunheim, Jr. 

The real story, of course, is the script that takes us on a very special journey that makes you realize how powerful life can be and, in doing so, how powerful theatre can be. Be sure to see “I And You” at the Rep Studio through November 15th. Call them at 314-968-4925 for tickets or more information.