Susan K Asher, Atlanta PR and Art Reviews
Skip to content

‘If/Then’ at the Fox Theatre

2016 August 10


The musical “If/Then” takes a look at what life might have looked like had Elizabeth (Jackie Burns) chosen one boyfriend over the other. If she had gone with one, then this would have happened. If she had chosen the other, then this would have happened.

Recently divorced and in her late twenties, Elizabeth has moved from Arkansas to Manhattan where she meets in the park her new girlfriend, Kate (Tamyra Gray), and old college sweetheart, Lucas (Anthony Rapp). Kate tries to fix Elizabeth up with the guy nearby playing guitar, but Lucas beckons his old love interest to leave with him. She ponders her choices. Just after she chooses Lucas, Josh (Matthew Hydzik), a handsome man dressed in  military fatigues, says he just got back from deployment, feels like he knows her and asks for her phone number.

We then see Elizabeth’s life unfold in two ways: one, had she chosen Lucas and two, had she chosen Josh. Her romantic partners step in and out of scenes so quickly that it’s hard to keep up with the story. When she’s with Josh, she’s called Liz. With Lucas, she’s called Beth. One moment she’s Lucas’s girlfriend; the next moment she’s Josh’s. In the first act, the scenes with Elizabeth and Josh  have passion and excitement, but most of the scenes with other characters leave much to be desired. Lucas forms a romance with David (Marc DeLacruz) and Kate hooks up with Anne (Janine DiVita), but I have no feeling for any of them. No excitement. No dislike. I sit in my seat waiting for something to happen. I wait. I wait some more.

Hydzik and Burns pick me up with their beautiful voices. She is a booming powerhouse, and he melted my heart on more than one song.

In the second act, the intensity and excitement between Josh and Liz fades. In each scene there is something new that happens, but almost none of it makes me sit forward in my chair. I want to care about the play’s characters, especially when they’re in danger, but I don’t. The script falls flat. As someone else so aptly put it, the stakes aren’t high enough. In most scenes it appears that if this happens, then so what.

Book and lyrics by Brian Yorkey, music by Tom Kitt, directed by Michael Greif, “If/Then” runs through Aug. 14 at the Fox Theatre.

Cast:

Jacques C. Smith, English Bernhardt, Charissa Bertels, Xavier Cano,  Kyra Faith, Corey Greenhan, Cliffton Hall, Alicia Taylor Tomasko, Tyler McGee, DeeDee Magno Hall

‘Dispossessed’ at Essential Theatre

2016 August 8
Scott Rousseau, Amelia Fischer, Jake Krakovsky, Kathleen McManus

Scott Rousseau, Amelia Fischer, Jake Krakovsky, Kathleen McManus. Photo: Stungun Photography

“Dispossessed,”  now playing at Essential Theatre, is an example of some of the smartest, most original playwriting now being shown on the Atlanta stage. Influenced by but totally different from Russian playwright S. Ansky’s play “The Dybbuk,” “Dispossessed” should be on the top of your list of shows to see.

A play within in a play, “Dispossessed” takes place in 1928 and revolves around a Yiddish Theatre on the Lower East Side of Manhattan in rehearsal for a show about a Dybbuk, the soul of a dead man who has entered the woman he loved. The theater company’s new leading handsome actor, Natan (Jake Krakovsky), is a philanderer who charms the leading actress, Rivka (Amelia Fischer), her father and owner of the theater company, Chaim (Scott Rousseau), and her mother, Chavelle (Kathleen McManus). Meanwhile, Natan schemes to marry Rivka so her parents can retire and he can become the theater’s new owner and operator.

In a small tightly knit community, Rivka is a nonconformist determined to make her own path in the world. With this fresh, inventive well-written play, Karen Wurl appears to be doing the same. She is currently working on another play, which is about a woman who shoots her rock star husband and is narrated by one of the woman’s cats.

Written by Karen Wurl, co-winner of the 2016 Essential Theatre Playwriting Award, directed by Peter Hardy, “Dispossessed” runs through August 28 at the 2016 Essential Theatre Play Festival at the West End Performing Arts Center.

Cast:

Leah . . . . . . . . . . Alyssa Caputo
Dov . . . . . . . . . . Mark Gowan
Zalman . . . . . . . . . .Tyler Hayes
Izzy . . . . . . . . . . Chris Schulz
Tsilah . . . . . . . . . . Christie Vozniak

‘Company’ at Actor’s Express

2016 August 6


If you’re a fan of musicals and have never seen Steven Sondheim’s “Company,” you need to get to Actor’s Express now. The 1970’s show ran on Broadway for more than two years and won six Tony Awards, including for Best Musical, Best Book of a Musical (George Furth), Best Original Score and Best Lyrics. This show, however, will only be around for a couple of more weeks, so get the to the theater now.

“Company” revolves around Bobby (Lowrey Brown), a philanderer whose friends try to convince him to grow up and get married now that he is turning 35 years old. Notable songs include “Side by Side by Side,” “The Ladies Who Lunch,” sung by Elaine Stritch in the original cast recording and by Libby Whittemore in the Actor’s Express cast, “Barcelona,” and “Getting Married Today,” whose lyrics rip near speeds of a hundred words per stanza and are sung beautifully by Amy (Jessica Miesel) just minutes before marrying Paul (Dan Ford) as she realizes she can’t go through with it.

Directed by Freddie Ashely, “Company” runs through Sept. 11 at Actor’s Express.

Cast:

Peter . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Daniel Burns
Marta . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Jimmica Collins
Jenny . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Laura Floyd
Susan . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Jill Hames
Larry . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Steve Hudson
David . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Phillip Lynch
April . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Kelly Chapin Martin
Sara . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Rhyn Saver
Kathy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Emily Stembridge
Harry . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Craig Waldrip
Joanne . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Libby Whittemore

 

‘Smart People’ at True Colors Theatre

2016 August 3
by Susan Asher

“Smart People” may not be as smart as all that, but it’s an amusing play about the differences between cultures and races. Without being preachy, it focuses on the ways we are all affected by race, our own prejudices and that of others. Relationships and conflict swirls around an Asian-American, Harvard psychology professor Ginny (Julee Cerda), a highly educated black actress, Valerie (Danielle Deadwyler), a white neuroscience professor, Brian (Joe Knezevich) set on proving that all whites are racists, and an obstinate black doctor, Jackson (Neal Ghant).

It’s an enjoyable show with good actors and an outstanding performance by Deadwyler, who had the audience howling when her character is called upon by a director to play a stereotypical, urban, street-style angry, loud woman.

Written by Lydia Diamond, directed by David de Vries, “Smart People” runs through August 7 at True Colors Theatre at the Southwest Arts Center.

‘da Kink in My Hair’ at Horizon Theatre

2016 July 24
by Susan Asher


The cover of the plalybill for  “‘da kink in my hair” says it’s “A Sold-Out Musical Sensation and TV Show, Now Onstage,” so who am I to argue with this big hit. I won’t.

If you like Tyler Perry’s work, you’ll probably love this play. If you haven’t seen a few plays from the 1970s in which different female characters tell their different stories, you might think this is original and smart playwriting. If you liked the musical “Menopause” and thought that was funny, you’ll love the old lady’s tune about her and her boyfriend with its sexual innuendos. If you’ve seen a lot of theater, you, like I, might have known exactly what trouble was brewing from the moment the little girl came on stage and the gist of the story she was going to tell. Originality is not something this show gets high marks for.

Plenty of people loved Horizon Theatre’s rendition of this play. The actors were all good, and people all around me were laughing. I wasn’t one of them.

Written by Trey Anthony, directed by Thomas W. Jones Jr., “‘da Kink in My Hair” runs through Aug. 28 at Horizon Theatre.

Cast:
Terry Burrell
Maiesha McQueen
Minka Wiltz
Marliss Amiea
Jennifer Alice Acker
Jeanette Illidge
Onya Russell
Janeva Sibdhannie
LeAnn Dunn
Laurie Williamson

Author Emily Griffin
Speaks at the MJCCA Thursday

2016 June 26

New York Times Bestselling Author Emily Giffin, dubbed a “modern day Jane Austen” by Vanity Fair, will speak about her new book to be released Tuesday, “First Comes Love.”

About the Book
Sister stories have always been a favorite of Giffin. In “First Comes Love” Giffin introduces readers to a pair of 30-something sisters who find themselves at a crossroads, their fractious relationship colored by a family tragedy 15 years ago. As the anniversary of their tragedy looms, painful secrets from the past begin to surface, and Josie and Meredith must not only confront the long-dormant issues that divide them, but also come to terms with their own life choices. Emotionally honest and brimming with Giffin’s singular insight and humor, “First Comes Love” is a richly crafted story about family, forgiveness, and finding the courage to follow your own heart—wherever that may lead.

Giffin has penned seven New York Times bestsellers: “Something Borrowed” (2004), “Something Blue” (2005), “Baby Proof” (2006), “Love the One You’re With” (2008), “Heart of the Matter” (2010), “Where We Belong” (2012) and “The One & Only” (2014). Her seven novels, all filled with endearingly flawed characters and emotional complexity, have resonated deeply with both critics and readers around the world, achieving bestseller status in a number of countries. Giffin resides with her husband and three young children in Atlanta.

Mara Davis will host the author talk. Giffin resides with her husband and three young children in Atlanta.

Event highlights: Wine • Door prizes • Gift bags • Photo booth • Treats

Ticket Prices & Contact Information
Tickets: MJCCA Member: $28 / Community: $33 (ticket price includes first edition copy of book).
Purchase Tickets: MJCCA Box Office at 678.812.4002 or visit atlantajcc.org/bookfestival.

‘The City of Conversation’ at Horizon Theatre

2016 May 24

“The City of Conversation,” a must-see at Horizon Theatre, takes an understated but intense look at family drama that plays out in the guise of high-brow Washington politics. The production features three of Atlanta’s top actors–Chris Kayser, Carolyn Cook and Tess Malis Kincaid–as well as great talent by Rachel Garner and Joshua D. Mitchell.

Engaging from the beginning to the end, “The City of Conversation” takes place over 30 years in the upscale Georgetown home of influential and glamorous wealthy dowager Hester Ferris (Tess Malis Kincaid), most known for throwing dinner parties and rubbing elbows with senators and presidents. When her son Colin (Justin Walker) returns home with his girlfriend, Anna, (Rachel Garner) after completing their studies at the London School of Economics, the women spar with dainty stings. Assisting to Hester’s every whim is her older widowed sister, Jean Swift (Carolyn Cook). While they don’t have a lot of time on stage, Hester’s boyfriend, Chandler Harris (Chris Kayser), a married Virginia senator, and Donald Logan (Joshua Mitchell) the boyfriend of Hester’s grandson, are wonderful in their roles. As Anna matures into a grown woman working in the conservative political scene, she becomes more fierce, and Garner plays it to the hilt, all without ever overdoing it.

Under the guise of liberal versus conservative politics, a family slowly becomes undone.

Moriah Curley-Clay and Isabel Curley-Clay have created a marvelous set with a staircase and a  stately chandelier in Ferris’s townhome.

Written by novelist and playwright Anthony Giardina, directed by Justin Anderson, “The City of Conversation” runs through June 26 at Horizon Theatre.

Cast:
George Mallonee . . . . . . . . . . .. . .. . . . . . . . . . . Allan Edwards
Carolyn Mallonee . . . . . . . . . . .. . .. . . . . . . . . . . Deborah Bowman
Ethan Ferris . . . . . . . . . . .. . .. . . . . . . . . . . Vinny Montague

One-Minute Play Festival June 12-13

2016 May 21

The One-Minute Play Festival and Actor’s Express present the 5th Atlanta One-Minute Play Festival featuring works of some of Atlanta’s well-known and not-so-well-known playwrights. Each play lasts one minute of less!

Margaret Baldwin has written and directed plays and performance works throughout the US. Her play Night Blooms received its world premiere at Horizon Theatre Company in Atlanta (2010), and later at Virginia Repertory Theatre in Richmond. Baldwin has an MFA from the Iowa Playwrights Workshop. She is a member of the Dramatists Guild, the Playwrights’ Center, and Theatre Communications Group.

Amber Bradshaw was a co-developer with an ensemble of actors, puppeteers, and video artists in the development of Time to Eat the Dogs (2013) and co-created Learning to Fly (2014). Both pieces were selected to premiere at Atlanta’s Center for Puppetry Arts’s annual Xperimental Puppetry Theater. Learning to Fly was also selected from a field of over seventy international candidates to perform in a Festival of New Works in Quebec, Canada.

Steve Brown is a local comic, and a guy named Steve Brown is listed as one of the playwrights. I have emailed the theater to see whether he is one and the same.

Nick Boretz is a member of Working Title Playwrights, a play development organization in Atlanta.  His plays have been done in Los Angeles, Seattle, Off Off Broadway, and Atlanta. He is a recipient of a Schubert Foundation Fellowship and a winner of the Samuel Goldwyn Award for Playwriting at UCLA. Nick also taught Philosophy of Theatre History at UCLA.

Paris Crayton III wrote “Brothers of Affliction,” which led him to start Rising Sage Theatre, which staged his own works its first season.

Paul Donnelly  won first and third Prize in the Source Theatre Company National Ten-Minute Playwriting Contest, and was twice nominated for the Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding New Play.

Phillip DePoy’s fiction and non-fiction books have been published and 42 of his plays have been produced. Last year his play Edward Foote ran at the Alliance Theatre.

Topher Payne has been named “Best Local Playwright” by readers of both The GA Voice and Creative Loafing for the last four years. His plays Swell Party and Angry Fags were both nominated for Outstanding World Premiere and The Gene-Gabriel Moore Playwriting Award at the 2013 Suzi Awards- Angry Fags won The Gene-Gabriel Moore Award. His play Perfect Arrangement was selected for the 2013 Source Festival in Washington DC, His play The Medicine Showdown (co-authored with Adam Koplan) was produced in October 2013 at The East 4th Street Theatre in Manhattan, and Georgia Ensemble Theatre premiered his comedy The Only Light in Reno in January 2014.

Peter Hardy has had over thirty productions of his plays produced around the country, and he has won writing awards from At Rise Magazine, the Festival of Southern Theatre and the New Southern Theatre Festival.  His play MYSTERIOUS CONNECTIONS was one of 10 plays chosen (out of more than a thousand applicants) to be developed at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center’s National Playwrights Conference in 1993.  In 2010 he was named Creative Loafing’s Critic’s Choice for Best Atlanta Playwright.  He is the Founding Artistic Director of the Essential Theatre, the leading producer of new plays by Georgia writers, and has overseen their annual Festival for every year since 1999.

Hank Kimmel is the President (and co-founder) of Working Title Playwrights. His plays have been produced or received stage readings around the country. He’s also an attorney and a tennis coach, and one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet.

Jill Patrick is the former managing artistic director at Working Title Playwrights and is a playwright and poet.

Pamela Turner is a playwright and director with credits in the United States, Europe, and the Pacific Islands. Her original plays have appeared at theaters throughout Atlanta, and in New York, California, South Carolina, Germany, Guam, and Ireland.

Ricardo Aponte is a local actor and choreographer, and Hannah Church and Grant McGowen are actors.

I was not given a bio of everyone, and it was not made clear whether different plays will be performed Sunday and Monday. I assume so, but I don’t know. Once I have more info, I will clarify.

The festival will also feature works by Nicole Adkins, Greg Carraway, Daryl Fazio, Neeley Gossett, Daniel Guyton, Megan Hayes,  Annie Harrison, Michael Henry Harris, Sarah Hodges, Sandra Hodge-Hampton, Jake Krakovsky, Emily Kleypas, Nicole Kemper, Lee Lyons, Matt Myers,  Penny Mickelbury, Laura Meyers, Joshua Mikel, Morgan McGowen, Amina S. McIntyre, Addae Moon, Patrick Morgan, Lee Nowell, Theroun Patterson, Sherry Paulsen, Jordan Pulliam, Sherri Sutton, Rebecca Suellau, Mia Kristin Smith, Mike Schatz, Marki Shalloe, Kathryn Walat, Jacob York, Steve Yockey, Pat Young and more.

They plays will be directed by by Keith Arthus Bolden, James Donadio, Michael Harrison, Hillary Heath, Christina Hoff, Elin Rose Hill, Pam Joyce, Grant McGowen, Rebekah Suellau, Ryan Oliveti, Topher Payne and A. Julian Verner.

The festival runs Sunday and Monday at 8 p.m. at Actor’s Express. The Festival is produced and curated by Dominic D’Andrea. Tickets are $20 and available for purchase online at actors-express.com or by calling 404-607-7469.

 

‘Born for this: The Bebe Winans Story’ at the Alliance Theatre

2016 May 3
cast

Chaz Pofahl, Kirsten Wyatt, Juan Winans, Nick Morrett, Alison Whitehurst, Gracie Jones, Kurt Boehm, Deborah Joy Winans    Photo: Greg Mooney

“Born for this: The Bebe Winans Story” is the story of the sibling Grammy Award-winning duo Bebe and Cece Winans and their start at Jim and Tammy Bakker’s Christian television program PTL Club.

The only two black singers in the band, Bebe (Juan Winans) and Cece (Deborah Joy Winans) become Jim (Chaz Pofahl) and Tammy’s (Kirsten Wyatt) favorite pets, their “golden eggs” as the two shepherd in more buzz and star power in the show.

Sometimes nepotism works, but this is one of those times it doesn’t. The real-life brother and sister playing their uncle and aunt miss the heart and soul of the real characters. Wyatt is the star of this show, as she embodies Tammy as if she were her, lighting up the stage with her excitement and crying.

There are 29 songs in the show, and the real singing sensation is Pop Winans (Milton Craig Nealy), the father of the siblings who sings a dynamic a capella version of “I Got A New Home.”

Opening night was grand in that the real BeBe Winans came on stage along with other members of his family who also sing, and Jim Bakker was there as BeBe told stories about how Jim and Tammy were always there for them and gave them so much love. Charles Randolph-Wright talked about the Bakkers and said that back when he was growing up and other celebrities came to his town they would hug the white children but not the black ones, but the Bakkers always hugged them. These types of personal stories were so touching and gave me a whole new outlook on the Bakkers.

Written by Charles Randolph-Wright and BeBe Winans, directed Randolph-Wright, “Born for This: The BeBe Winans Story” runs through May 15 at the Alliance Theatre.

‘Kinky Boots’ at the Fox Theatre
March 29-April 3

2016 March 27


“Kinky Boots,” which won six Tony Awards including Best Musical, Best Score and Best Choreography, arrives at the Fox Theatre Tuesday. Four-time Tony Award-winner Harvey Fierstein wrote the book and Cyndi Lauper wrote the score.

Based on an independent film inspired by true events, the story revolves around Charlie, the owner of a failing English shoe factory, and Lola, a drag artist, who team up to serve a niche market making sturdy boots for cross-dressers.

Director and choreographer Jerry Mitchell said he knew the musical would speak to a lot of people the moment he watched the film. “I got very emotionally caught up in the story of the fathers and the sons,” he said. “And I thought, ‘well that to me is the nucleus of something really strong,’ because it’s a universal idea for us: how do we measure up in our fathers’ eyes?”

Producer Daryl Roth felt the same way when she first saw the film at Sundance in 2006. She optioned the musical rights and brought producer Hal Luftig on board. The two enlisted Mitchell and playwright Fierstein, who said he was attracted to the “bromance” between Charlie and Lola, a.k.a. Simon. “The real love story here is these two gentlemen who become friends,” said Fierstein. He said he also was attracted to the theme of self-acceptance, which translates not just to the two lead characters, but all the workers in the factory.

Fierstein called Lauper, whom he had known socially, to write the score. The two-time Grammy Award-winner, who grew up listening to Rodgers and Hammerstein cast albums, said, “Everybody asks the question about pop songs and theater songs. I just think that, in some ways, they’re very similar; and in other ways, they’re not. You need to be economical; you have to say something simply. And you have to have your story – a beginning, middle and end – because if the song goes nowhere, well, what are you talking about?”

Fierstein, a veteran of several musicals, including “La Cage aux Folles,” educated Lauper in writing for the theater. He showed her how to weave music and dialogue effectively, something she resisted at first. Fierstein told her, “When it’s done right, you will never notice, but the show must move on.”

The national touring company of “Kinky Boots” moves to the Fox Theatre March 29 and runs through April 3.