Monday, September 24, 2007

Sopranos, the Opera

Had a breathless audition this weekend for Tulane Shakespeare's Taming of the Shrew. I say breathless because I was quite nervous, despite a great deal of preparation. I flubbed my first monologue, a comedic scene from Merchant of Venice. The director, Ron Gural, was basically dismissing me with a thank you when I asked to do my second monologue, a dramatic scene (THE dramatic scene) from Antony and Cleopatra. At the end of that monologue he clapped, and asked if I was available next weekend for callbacks. SNATCHED from the jaws of death! Not a certain part yet, but I'm in the running. And I do want to do Shakespeare again. Love the poetry. Growing up on the King James version of the Bible, I'm comfortable and enamored with the period language.

I've also got my eyes set on an audition next week, which I hear via the director's blog may not happen. He prefers another script, and seems to have already cast that one in his mind. I'll audition if I have the opportunity, and I'll prepare my little heart out as best I can.

Here are some recent productions I've seen:

The Breach
It's difficult to discuss The Breach without comparison to other hurricane Katrina-themed works, especially Rising Water, the other K-themed play commissioned by Southern Rep Theatre. We in New Orleans just had the 2 year anniversary, and a number of K works are being mounted. I've heard the complaint a few times already, "please, no more Katrina stuff!" But this is the time, I think, for Katrina works to surface. Writers have had this 2 years to develop some perspective, to find an entry point into this multi-layered, emotionally-charged topic. In fact, I had a near argument with a woman beside me during Intermission. She took offense to the depiction of New Orleans race relations, which I thought was dead-on.

The Breach will certainly get folks talking, and I'm sure it will travel as a cultural ambassador for New Orleans. I for one liked it. Three playwrights wrote separate short pieces that are interwoven. One of the pieces, described in the program as the most "human", was too long and ran out of steam. In my favorite piece, comedian Bob Edes truly rose to the occasion (pun intentional) as a paraplegic trapped by rising water, who swam to safety, nearly drowning numerous times while arguing with a female actress, the personification of Katrina. I cried every time Bob was on stage.

I especially liked the set, which was designed by the same person who did the clever roof-top set in Rising Water. Three quarters of the stage surface is under water, with only a tiny roof for actors to huddle on. An ingenious use of metal edges around the lip and black plastic lining made a reservoir for about 3 inches of water, through which the actors splashed, fell, and occasionally drowned.

The Beignet Plays
Produced by cute young, Andrew Larimer of NOLA Project fame, the Beignet Plays are 8 play-lets, all set in the famous Cafe du Monde. Most comical, some dramatic, the play-lets use the cafe as a springboard for their storylines. Most were very good. Even the weak ones were helped by the setting, a much loved local institution.

After the 8 play-lets, we saw 1 of 3 winners of Cabaret Le Chat Noir's one-act play competition. The winner I saw was a one-woman piece called The Shoebox Lounge. Jennifer Louise Pagan won big points with the local audience for the range of local accents she could imitate. The writing was solid, affecting, humorous. Would have been stronger for me if she'd memorized the entire script and worked off book. An actor holding a black binder on stage causes me to lose confidence. But that's a minor complaint compared to the strength of the work and her performance.

A Scandalous Affair
Did you know that American sweethearts Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy were real-life lovers? Hardly scandalous. But according to this musical review, the MacDonald-Eddys were prevented from marriage by MGM Studio mogul, Louis B. Mayer. Ok, I'm willing to go along with this thin excuse for a musical review, except that the man singing the part of fair-haired Nelson Eddy should be singing the part of Sal "Big Pussy" Bonpensiero in an operatic adaptation of The Sopranos. Now that's a musical I'd pay to see.

A Scandalous Affair is really a vehicle for husband-and-wife team Hallie Neil (who "wrote" the storyline) and Theodore Lambrinos, both aging opera singers in the twilights of their careers. She is a voluptuous coloratura, unlike Jeannette MacDonald, "the iron butterfly" of Hollywood.

I was BY FAR the youngest person in the audience. In fact, I was the only person with dark hair, other than "Nelson Eddy", whose hair was dyed so black it sucked light out of the universe. I choked on my butterscotch when Big Pussy came out wearing the red Canadian Mountie uniform for the famous duet, Indian Love Song. "When I'm calling you-hoo-hoo-hoo."

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