Pirates are again gathering and plotting in Lafitte. The shipborne theater group Caravan Stage Company is docked along the Intracoastal Waterway where crew members are developing a pirate-themed musical/circus arts show it will unveil in spring and take on a tour up the East Coast to Canada, the Great Lakes and downriver into the Ohio Valley.
Caravan Stage last docked in Lafitte in 2002 before embarking on a similar odyssey. For the last eight years, the group has toured Europe, starting in Rotterdam and going as far south as the Greece and Turkey. It presented a trilogy about global climate change and indigenous cultures, and its most recent show was the beginning of a new series about piracy. It concluded with the pirates stealing a treasure of gold from a bank, which they intend to redistribute around the globe Robin Hood-style. In the beginning of the forthcoming show Hacked...The Treasure of the Empire, the pirates and the treasure are captured. But it's also a modern story, with themes about the surveillance state, computer hacking and mammoth global corporations.
Caravan Stage travels with a crew of 18-24 onboard, including boat and technical crew and performers. The company seeks to present its multi-media and musical spectaculars to new audiences. Shows combine video, light projections, puppets, singing, aerialists and acrobats, and they use the boat and its riggings as a stage. The shows are spectacle-driven (think Cirque de Soleil on a ship), but themes are often progressive (ie about the loss of indigenous cultures, preservation of natural resources, pro-democracatization). (The company website has photos and video of past tours.) As choreographers develop the movement for the new show, the tech crew is designing a mini-roller coaster that will be stretch between the masts and be a main feature in Hacked.
When a one-act play is stretched to two acts, things can get shaky. A case in point is Venom, currently on the boards at the Elm Theatre. But let’s start with the good parts: Act 1 and a sterling cast.
The storyline stretches plausibility to the limits. But in a world where absurdity dominates daily headlines, perhaps that makes it relevant.
Everything takes place in two rooms of the Hill Top Motel (a place that would fit in on Airline Highway). Scantily clad Meadow (Becca Chapman) runs into the bathroom, locks the door and melts into hysterics. Waylon (Matthew Thompson) enters the other room, which is devoid of furniture, and tries to persuade Meadow to come out of the bathroom.
Meadow and Waylon are celebrating their honeymoon. Waylon wears jockey shorts and brandishes a huge butcher knife. We soon learn it was hidden under their mattress and that Meadow swiped it from the pancake house where the couple had breakfast. She swiped it after she noticed two unsavory characters watching them from a nearby table. Meadow may be paranoid, and her psychiatrist says she’s mentally unstable. Or it could be her past catching up with her.
Le Petit Theatre du Vieux Carre reopened July 19 with a staged reading of Nora and Delia Ephron’s Love, Loss, and What I Wore, an adaptation of Ilene Beckerman’s book of the same name. The cast included Mary Louise Wilson, Clare Moncrief, Lara Grice, Tracey E. Collins and Janet Shea, who notes in her cast-bio entry that she first appeared on Le Petit’s stage in a 1955 production of The Birds. Carl Walker directed the veteran cast, and a different set of actors was scheduled for the second week of the run.
Love, Loss is a memory play, or actually a nostalgia play. It’s a feel-good, crowdsourced mix of anecdotes and remarks on fashion and various rights of passage, including first times wearing perfume, a bra and a wedding dress. Much of the story revolves around a timeline and narrative from Gingy (Shea), who starts with her first Brownie uniform and progresses through a lifetime of functional and fashionable clothes. For the first third the of the show, the women tell stories in which they fight their mothers as they try to wear the clothes of older women, and there is a litany of interrogations about sexuality and changing social mores. “Your bra strap is showing. … What do you mean it’s supposed to be showing?”
The New Orleans Ballet Association (NOBA) announced its 2013-2014 schedule. It begins with Scottish Ballet's adaptation of A Streetcar Named Desire on Oct. 4. Parsons Dance will premiere a piece commissioned by NOBA. Performances are at the Mahalia Jackson Theater for the Performing Arts, except for India Jazz Suites, which is at NOCCA. The schedule is as follows:
Season tickets are on sale. Individual tickets go on sale Sept. 3.
The Broadway at NOCCA series features singers, actresses and Broadway stars performing and being interviewed by organizer Seth Rudetsky. The fall lineup includes Jane Krakowski (Oct. 7), Patti LuPone (Nov. 16), Charles Busch with Varla Jean Merman (Dec. 2) and Christine Ebersole (Jan. 6).
Krakowski is known for roles on 30 Rock and Ally McBeal and she has appeared on Broadway and released a solo album in 2010. LuPone returns after a Broadway at NOCCA performance in January. Charles Busch created and starred in such farces and parodies as The Divine Sister, Psycho Beach Party and Die! Mommie, Die! Christine Ebersole is a veteran of Saturday Night Live, soap operas and the films Tootsie and Three Men and a Baby.
Killer Joe wastes no time introducing us to the grisly, tawdry mess of a crass, barely working-class Texas family that’s imploding under the duress of debt and desperation. Chris arrives at his father’s house in the middle of the night, and his stepmother Sharla answers the door partially naked. He’s in dire straits because his mother stole cocaine he needed to sell in order to pay off his drug debts. He wants to hire a hit man to kill her so the rest of the family can collect and share an insurance settlement, which works as a perverse financial planning/revenge scheme in this darkly humorous work at AllWays Lounge and Theatre.
The entire play takes place in a joint kitchen/living room, a bleak space framed by cheap wood paneling in John Grimsley’s effective set. It’s Ansel’s (Dane Rhodes) house, where he lives with Sharla (Andrea Watson) and his daughter from his first marriage, Dottie (Lucy Faust), who seems naive and reclusive or perhaps mentally challenged. Rhodes is brilliant and very comfortable in the skin of a working class stiff who is very aware of his limitations and just smart enough to get by. Faust is excellent as the extremely childlike ingenue who somehow has managed to avoid the brunt of the malice surrounding her.
The Civic Theatre, the city's oldest, wraps its nine-month renovation with a full slate of concerts kicking off this September. The O'Keefe Street theater was built in 1906 and has been idle for 30 years. It previewed its re-opening when it hosted Comedy Central tapings earlier this year.
First up is comedian Russell Brand on Sept. 27, followed by a two-night run by The Black Crowes on Oct. 1-2. Tickets for all events go on sale this Friday, July 19 on the theater's website. Here's the full lineup:
Friday, September 27: Russell Brand
Tuesday, October 1: The Black Crowes
Wednesday, October 2: The Black Crowes
Friday, October 11: Passion Pit
Monday, October 14: Black Rebel Motorcycle Club
Wednesday, October 16: JJ Grey & Mofro
Wednesday, October 23: Steve Earle
Tuesday, October 29: The Waterboys
Wednesday, October 30: 2 Cellos
Thursday, October 31: Galactic
Tuesday, November 12: Bonobo (Live)
Thursday, November 14: Jamey Johnson
Tuesday, December 10: John Waters
The New Orleans Shakespeare Festival at Tulane University mounted a very entertaining production of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged), a romp through all of the Bard's work that distills his best-known and beloved characters, scenes and speeches into absurdly brief vignettes. The show is reviewed in Gambit here. The run has been extended through July 24. Remaining shows are Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Sunday, July 21. Romeo and Juliet runs through July 27.
No one picks up Cliffs Notes for the pleasure of reading, but The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged), currently running at the New Orleans Shakespeare Festival at Tulane University, shows that encapsulation can be wildly amusing. The premise of the play is to gloss all of Shakespeare’s plays in two hours, and while it names all of them, it only dwells on plays, scenes and characters ripe for parody or a raunchy bit.
The comedy is as clever as it is bawdy, and it’s entertaining whether one appreciates all the erudite references and jokes about theatrical conventions, or whether one comes to it tabula rasa. The play was created by the Reduced Shakespeare Company and originally presented at the 1987 Edinburgh Fringe Festival. It calls for the actors to bulldoze the fourth wall and talk to the audience constantly and at times enlist members to play parts. At Tulane, Andrew Vaught, Brendan Bowen and Clint Johnson give the show a fast and furious whirl.
Wayne Self’s musical Upstairs, which recently premiered locally at Cafe Istanbul, takes on the difficult task of telling stories about the 1973 fire at the Up Stairs Lounge in the French Quarter. An arson fire killed 32 people trapped at the second-floor gay bar that was destroyed in the city’s single deadliest fire. The play sticks close to the facts, but it’s a work of fiction that creates an arsonist (albeit one similar to a suspect in the case, although no one was arrested or charged with a crime). Upstairs also imagines the lives of some of the victims, whose real names are used in some cases. Telling those stories without letting the deaths of 32 people overshadow the action is not easy. Starting from before the tragedy and following a trajectory through the violence of the arson, the grief and the possiblity of redemption is a lot of ground to cover. Self is ambitious in the breadth of issues he raises. He succeeds in some places and falls short in others.
The musical has two settings: the Up Stairs Lounge in the hours before the fire, and a year after the fire in the apartment of the arsonist. Edward Cox’s set and Alison Parker and Kate Adair’s costumes convincingly evoke the time and place. The central characters are Buddy (Garrett Marshall), the bartender who saves many patrons by leading them to a back exit when the fire erupts, Agneau (Alxander Jon), who sets the fire after he is kicked out of the bar and Adam (Nicholas Losorelli), who dates Buddy and has an awkward encounter with Agneau. The Buddy and Agneau share a haunting duet before Buddy realizes Agneau set the fire.
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