Posts Tagged ‘ROXANNE PALLETT’

Review – Some Girls – Buckland Theater Company at Park Theater

July 24, 2016

I’ve been watching Neil LaBute plays since 2008, when I first saw one in the form of Fat Pig at the Comedy Theater. His use of naturalistic language and creation of characters that were fully believable – and extremely American – was a joy for me to see. People I recognized on stage, dealing with situations that seemed to be familiar and realistic – now that’s what I like! I’ve had the opportunity now to watch his style evolving, but I didn’t hesitate to take up TheatreBloggers.co.uk on an offer for a visit to see his 2005 show Some Girls and a Q&A with the director and cast afterwards.

The plot seems very thin on the surface: a man (never named, called “Guy” in the script, played by Charlie Dorfman) flies to several cities he lived in in the past to have visits with his exes, for the approximate purpose of setting things right with them. On the way, we meet Sam (Elly Condron), Tyler (Roxanne Pallett), Lindsay (Carolyn Backhouse), and Bobbi (Barley Stenson). The unifying theme in their relationships is that this guy walked out on them and never spoke to them again; for some reason, all of them have decided to take him up on his offer to meet up and hash things out years later.

Elly Condron (Sam) in Buckland Theatre Company's Some Girl(s) at Park Theatre. Credit Claire Bilyard

Elly Condron (Sam) in Buckland Theatre Company’s Some Girl(s) at Park Theatre. Credit Claire Bilyard

While we’re meant to buy into this situation, I, for one, never felt like it added up. The guy seems to want something, yet be incapable of articulating it; the women only get about 20 minutes each in which to develop their characters and aren’t able to get very deep. Still, the actresses use their skill with movement to flesh out their characters and made me believe there is more to them than we get to see; but the same isn’t true of the guy. He is stiff and says little and tends to have a bit of a wheedling, weasley smile on his face; but I couldn’t believe there was much else underneath it. Even if he is ultimately only driven by his ego and his desire to do things for himself, that, as a character trait, is something I am able to believe in; but it’s not in Dorfman’s interpretation of the character and there wasn’t nearly enough else that he did or said to make him be anything more substantial. I ended feeling like everything was a bit of a set up for a sitcom style joke, and that’s really not what I go to the theater for. I want Ibsenesque characters that I walk out of the theater talking about as if I’ve known them for years; I imagine LaBute had the opportunity to create a piece using David Schwimmer as a character and built the role around him, without worrying about three dimensionality. In short, the script needs more to it, and because of this I would not consisider Some Girls a particularly good night out.

However: I’d like to take a brief break to discuss the question of “misogyny in Neil LaBute’s plays.” It keeps coming up that he’s a misogynist: women in his plays are judged by their looks and frequently ill treated by the men in their lives. Is LaBute misogynistic? Are his plays misogynistic? I have to say, as a second wave feminist and hardcore theater goer, this is an extremely specious argument. Essentially, it’s saying that a playwright who writes about Jack the Ripper must be a murderer himself. LaBute creates characters, characters which are wholly based in 21st century (and in America). We live in a world in which, it’s true, women are judged on their appearances. Even if you are a child, you’re treated better if you’re pretty than if you’re not. LaBute does more for us by showing us the reality of the world we live in – in which pretty women are treated better by society than ugly ones, in which “fat” is treated as a moral shortcoming, in which men are not always nice to women and women can be angry and violent – than he would if he wrote plays in which he tried to pretend that things aren’t as they are. 100 years later, Shaw’s plays show a world in which getting divorced was a one way ticket to social exclusion (The Philanderer), but his plays would have been nonsensical if he tried to pretend this wasn’t a reality. We live in a world in which women aren’t treated the same as men. Holding up a mirror to that world is not misogynistic: it’s good writing, even if we don’t like what we see reflected at us.

(This review is for a performance that took place the night of July 21, 2016. It continues through August 6th.)

Mini-review – Rocky Horror Show – New Wimbledon Theater (UK Tour – also Liverpool Empire, Edinburgh Playhouse, Leeds Grand and more)

January 23, 2013

While I’ve gone many times to see a movie version of a musical, I’ve rarely gone and seen the live version of a movie. This is not, of course, the order of genesis of The Rocky Horror Picture Show and The Rocky Horror Show … but back when I was going to see the midnight movies in Phoenix, Arizona in 1983, I had no idea that this clunky, disjointed film had anything to do with a stage musical – it was just a fun, late night party with all of my freaky friends. Dress up, sing along, throw toast … in a land without pantos, this was as much fun as you could have in a theater (especially if you were under the drinking age, not that people didn’t sneak booze in). I was never so advanced as to make it to the group of people who stood in front of the screen performing along with the show, but that required more dedication than I had, plus your own car.

Ah well. Fast forward (well, slow forward) thirty years to 2013 … and the Rocky Horror Show was coming to Wimbledon (well, it’s still there as of the time I am writing this). I couldn’t be convinced to go see the movie again, but I’d come to wonder: what was it like as a musical? How did it fit together? Were there songs I hadn’t heard, as happened with Chicago? Did the extraordinarily bad dialogue of the movie have its origins in the play or was it just the most god awful adaptation ever? Were there cut scenes? What might the dance bits look like with actual talent performing them (not that Little Nell wasn’t amazing in the movie, but on stage she must have been a sight!)?

However, what I NEVER thought to question was that this was going to be a STAGE SHOW and NOT a recreation of the movie going experience! So there I wound up, underdressed (with neither fishnets nor a feather boa to lighten up my winter attire), surrounded by WILD AND CRAZY YOUNGSTERS who were in gold top hats, corsets, the occasional “good girl” sweater set, and many clutching sacks full of props. I had a real laugh early on with the five kids in front of me all pulled out their newspapers to cover their heads during the rain scene. And the talking back to the performers! My God, the atmosphere it created was QUITE different with a real live actor there who was able to either pretend to ignore you OR talk back, either using it as a chance to mock you (“That’s my mother”) or to just go on a comedic riff (“Yes, down like my career … sad that it’s all come to this”). I was amazed at the tension it created, and actually a bit bothered that it was happening at all … I actually wanted to see the show as it was written, not as it evolved. But this was not to be, and clearly the Narrator (Philip Franks, who had the worst of it) had had a chance to warm up to it, as he appeared to not be thrown off stride at any point by the heckling and had even worked up some clever barbs to toss back out into the audience.

As it turns out, while the Rocky Horror Show is quirky (kind of a cross between Little Shop of Horrors and Saucy Jack and the Space Vixens), it did actually work pretty well as a stage show. The whole thing comes off much more clearly (than the movie did for me) as an homage to the bad science fiction movies of the 50s, with a bit of a 70s, post-women’s/gay/sexual liberation twist. Maybe I should have been insulted that a transvestite was set up to be a villain … or that, at the end, everyone has to show that they’re liberated because they’re willing to let themselves cross dress. Were minds really so little when this show was written? But it was really fun, not in the least because, well, phoar, Frank N Furter (Oliver Thornton) was just as yummy as the character in the movie – and possibly a little bit more naughty and decidedly better muscled. Meanwhile, without the horrible camera angles making everything swoopy and dizzy, I was able to focus on what I wanted to … so Frank chasing Rocky (Rhydian) around the lab was really very comic, Eddie (Joel Montague)’s big number could be really appreciated as a 50s number, and giant green lasers shooting around the auditorium made the whole thing very energizingly rock and roll. Plus Janet (Roxanne Pallett) had some pipes. “Sing it!”

If you want to be picky, you might point out that the stage dressings were very thin (what, two set versions, fleshed out with a cardboard car, a castle/church, and some mylar curtains?) and that the “big ensemble” feeling wasn’t really happening with only four supernumeraries. But hey, when it was time to do the Time Warp, did not the whole audience (in the half of the auditorium where people were sitting when I went) jump to our feet? Yes we did, and a good time was had by all. It wasn’t meant to be deep and it was very, very entertaining, and sexier than I expected – in short, a good cure for the January blues, ideally priced at £10, and perfect with four shots of vodka mixed with J2O.

(This review is for a performance that took place on Tuesday, January 22nd, 2013. It continues at the New Wimbledon theater through January 26th, then tours through October 2013.)