Bellevue Little Theatre Holding Auditions for ‘Temporary Insanity’

Bellevue Little Theatre presents
Temporary Insanity Auditions

Sunday, March 15 @ 7:00 pm
Monday, March 16 @ 7:00 pm

Bellevue Little Theatre will hold auditions for Temporary Insanity at the theatre, 203 W. Mission in Bellevue, at 7 pm on Sunday March 15 and Monday March 16.  This world premiere farce was written by Des Moines Playwright Karen Scheaffer, and the BLT is proud to present it as a close to our 51st season.

Jon Flower will direct the production which will run the week-ends of May 1, 8, and 15. An adult cast of ten, ranging in age from 17–65, is needed for this farce. For additional information please contact the director at jon.david.flower@gmail.com

More information can be found on the BLT web site at www.bellevuelittletheatre.weebly.com.

Character breakdown:
* COLLYN (pronounced Colin) 45ish. Female. Married to Mike, Emerson’s business partner and best friend.
* EMERSON 45ish. Female. Married to Ted, Collyn’s business partner and best friend.
* MARIE FORRESTER 65ish. Female. Emerson’s mother.
* ROSE Appears to be about 17. Female. Emerson’s daughter.
* WILL BRANCH 35 – 40. Male. Actor.
* TED 45ish. Male. Married to Emerson. Real Estate Agent. Accidentally hypnotized to experience an entire gestation every 24 hours.
* SAMUEL BRIARWOOD 65ish. Male. Owner of Briarwood Hotels and Collyn and Emerson’s potential client.
* PHILOMENA (PHIL) BRIARWOOD 33ish. Female. Sam’s niece. Sam is training her to take over Briarwood Hotels.
* HEGLUND Appears to be about 17. Male. He is a pizza delivery person and goes to high school with Rose.
* MIKE 45ish. Male. Married to Collyn. CPA.

Synopsis: In this fast-paced farce, Collyn and Emerson run a marketing firm but haven’t landed a major account. A dinner invitation is extended to a potentially lucrative client who’s in town for one night. However, Emerson’s husband, Ted, has been mistakenly hypnotized and now goes through an entire gestation period every 24 hours. To ensure a smooth evening, Collyn’s husband, Mike, takes Ted out for drinks. Emerson sequesters her daughter, Rose, in her room and enlists her mother, Marie, to serve dinner. She hires an actor, Will Branch, to play her husband. Everything goes according to plan until Ted shows up with an intoxicated Mike just before the clients arrive. Will Branch discovers he’s now Collyn’s fake husband, while Rose’s admirer desperately tries to ask her out with a message pizza and the client turns out to be Marie’s old flame. Then Ted goes into labor. Will they still get the account?

PLEASE NOTE:  ‘Bellevue Little Theatre does not discriminate, and auditions are open to all.

Something More Than Love

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Girl (Melissa King) encourages Guy (Jay Hanson) to sing in “Once” at Omaha Community Playhouse.

Girl finds Guy singing on the street and is impressed with his talent.  An instant friendship blossoms between them and Girl decides to help Guy record a demo and go to New York to fulfill his potential and possibly to avoid the love that is beginning to bloom between them.  This is Once with book by Enda Walsh and music and lyrics by Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova.  It is based off the film of the same name and is playing at the Omaha Community Playhouse.

This is definitely an original musical.  It’s a shockingly simple tale that does have a bit of a twist on the usual love story.  There’s no sense of history to the two unnamed characters.  It’s as if the play knows it’s a play and the existence of these 2 people is limited solely to the duration of the show.  The music is the real centerpiece of the show as the songs often tell the story and reveal the emotions of the characters in lieu of dialogue which is surprisingly scant.  The music also has a power of its own as it brings the characters in this show closer together and breaks down barriers between them.  I thought not naming the two leads was a clever touch as it can either transmit a universal message or simply allow the audience to place himself or herself in the roles.

Kimberly Faith Hickman’s directing is quite lovely.  There’s a purity to the staging as it takes place in a bare bones stage designed by Jim Othuse.  It’s literally bare, dilapidated walls with a window looking out at a building.  Hickman makes good use of the performance space, well placing the actors so all can be seen even when the focus is on particular characters.  I also liked how she used placement to further the story.  For example, at one point when a wedge is driven between the two leads, they are literally separated as they take positions on opposite sides of the stage with the rest of the cast standing between them.  I also thought she charmed some sweet performances out of her leads and strong supporting performances from the ensemble.

The cast for this show is unique as they are also the orchestra.  This leads to an interesting casting challenge as one needs to find performers who can act, sing and play musical instruments.  That challenge is met fairly well in this production.  Under Jim Boggess’ direction, the orchestra provides a very moving score which is absolutely critical for this show as nearly every song carries a somber, emotional tone that needs to grab the viewer by the throat.  Boggess also has a very fine cameo performance as Eamo who runs the local recording studio.  Other strong supporting performances come from Joey Hartshorn, who has the most drawn out wishing of good luck imaginable in “Baruska’s Story”, and Thomas Gjere as an overly serious bank manager who secretly wishes to be a singer and gets his chance in the terrifically awful “Abandoned in Bandon”.

Melissa King is truly a triple threat in this show.  Her piano playing is heavenly.  Her alto is superb.  Her acting is spot on.  Heck, she even throws in a little impressive hoofing in “Ej Pada Pada”.  King’s performance as the serious Czech (because Czechs are always serious) Girl is simply a triumph and will assuredly make her a contender for some awards.  She’s got a vital spark of humor and playfulness about her as well as a very nurturing nature as she encourages Guy’s music.  This is a character who understands the meaning of sacrifice as she’s willing to give up a blossoming love with Guy to repair her own fractured family unit.  King will also melt the coldest of hearts with her singing, especially with her rendering of “Falling Slowly” and “The Hill”.

Jay Hanson acquits himself rather admirably in the role of Guy.  For a performer with no prior stage credits, Hanson has some excellent instincts.  He reacts very well and knows how to be in the moment.  Musically, he’s unbeatable.  Hanson is a top flight guitar player and singer who effortlessly picks apart the emotional beats of a song.  Whether he’s singing about a failed relationship in “Leave”, providing a bit of humor in “Broken Hearted Hoover Fixer Sucker Guy” or just dazzling you with “Gold” and “Sleeping”, Hanson provides an Epicurean delight for the ears.

Hanson did need to tighten his cues up and rushed his dialogue on some occasions.  You also felt his grip on the role tightening over the course of the play and he was finding some real gems in the words by the end.

Jim Othuse’s lights were simple, but effective as he used a spotlight to highlight the featured characters of a scene.  Amanda Fehlner’s costumes suited the characters from the inexpensive clothing of most of the poorer characters to the snazzy suit of the well to do bank manager.  Tim Burkhart and John Gibilisco provide some nice ambient sounds.  My personal favorite was a moment when Guy and Girl are at the docks and you hear the rolling waves and the call of seagulls.

Ultimately this is a story about pure love.  The love that is principle over passion.  The love that is unbreakable and forever.  The love that can say, “I let you go.”

Once plays at Omaha Community Playhouse through March 22.  Showtimes are Wed-Sat at 7:30pm and Sundays at 2pm.  Tickets start at $24 and can be purchased at the OCP Box Office, by phone at 402-553-0800 or online at www.omahaplayhouse.com.  Due to the use of strong language, parental discretion is advised.  The Omaha Community Playhouse is located at 6915 Cass Street in Omaha, NE.

Photo provided by Robertson Photography

‘Once’ Set to Open at Omaha Community Playhouse

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Melissa King and Jay Hanson star as Girl and Guy in “Once”

Omaha, Neb.–Once will open Friday, Feb. 28, 2020 at the Omaha Community Playhouse (OCP). The show will run in the Hawks Mainstage Theatre from Feb. 28 through March 22. Performances will be held Wednesdays through Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m.

Tickets are on sale now starting at $24 for adults and $18 for students, with ticket prices varying by performance. Tickets may be purchased at the OCP Box Office, located at 6915 Cass Street, by phone at (402) 553-0800 or online at OmahaPlayhouse.com.

SHOW SYNOPSIS

Winner of eight Tony Awards® and based on the Oscar®-winning film, Once is the achingly beautiful tale of unexpected love between Guy, an Irish musician, and Girl, a Czech immigrant. The uplifting score—featuring the Academy Award®-winning single, “Falling Slowly,”—is performed entirely on stage, with the actors doubling as orchestra musicians. Equal parts touching and inspiring, Once reminds us of music’s unique ability to forge deep, unspoken connections in our lives.

Directed by:  Kimberly Faith Hickman

Cast

Nathaniel Belshan as Emcee

Jonathan Berger as Andrej

Jim Boggess as Eamon

Thomas Gjere as Bank Manager

Jay Hanson as Guy

Joey Hartshorn as Baruska

Ejanae Hume as Reza

Sean Johnson as Billy

Don Keelan-White as D.A.

Melissa King as Girl

Hannah McQuay-Ramsgard as Ex-Girlfriend

Jesse White as Svec

Anina Frey, Holly Hirsch and Brinlee Roeder as Ivonka

Photo provided by Colin Conces Photography

 

 

Rebel’s Heart

Rebel Randle P. McMurphy accepts a commitment to a mental ward to avoid a sentence to a work farm.  The charming ne’er-do-well quickly comes into conflict with Nurse Ratched, the dominating ruler of the ward.  His victories over the cold-hearted nurse begin to breathe new life into the ward, but when he learns his stay in the institution can be extended indefinitely, his personal war with Ratched takes on dire stakes where it becomes clear only one of them will be left standing.  This is One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Dale Wasserman and based off Ken Kesey’s novel of the same name.  It is currently playing at Florence Community Theater.

I’ve always been a big admirer of this show, not only for the strong story and compelling characters, but for its themes of societal views on mental illness, what it means to really live life, the triumph of the underdog and the corruption of power, just to name a few.  The themes and characters of this show are brought to vibrant life by a colorful, energetic and mighty cast that came out with all guns a blazing with some storytelling that does extreme justice to this tale.

Neal Herring provides some superlative direction for this piece.  Doing double duty with set design, Herring stages the story in the unfriendly, starched white walls of the mental institution where the patients live a monotonous and controlled existence under the thumb of Nurse Ratched.  Herring utilizes the space quite well as each patient carves out his own little nook in the ward.  He’s also led his thespians to well-developed performances as all characters have their quirks and tics which wonderfully create this little slice of purgatory.

I applaud the ensemble for giving its all to the show.  Each and every one remained involved in the story and had mannerisms and/or reactions that told me something about them which helped to build this little world.  Some notable performances in the ensemble came from JJ Davis who seems to have had one shock treatment too many with his take on the hallucinating Martini and Jim Watson who gives a very empathetic performance as Dale Harding, the patient ward’s president who is wrestling with his own sexual identity.

Brian Henning gives quite a moving performance as Chief Bromden, the show’s narrator.  Henning has a wonderful gift for pantomime and some of the most expressive eyes I’ve ever seen on a performer.  His eyes often let me read his thoughts as Chief has buried his sense of identity so deeply that he rarely speaks (the narration is done via voiceover) and pretends to be deaf and dumb so he won’t have to react to anything around him.  It’s a joy to watch Henning’s Chief slowly blossom to life under the encouragement of McMurphy and his antics and his emotional breakdown during the play’s resolution is one of the finest heartbreaking moments I’ve seen in Omaha theatre.

I can’t say enough good things about David Frolio’s performance as Randle P. McMurphy.  It is a truly a nuanced, spellbinding interpretation and I foresee Frolio being in the running for some Best Actor prizes come awards season.  Frolio is just a force of nature.  He comes blowing into the asylum like a storm and is so animated and fun to watch.  His McMurphy is truly a rebel.  He cares little for rules and authority and loves to fight and f—k.  But he also has a heart of gold as he truly befriends the patients and fights for them even when he’s causing trouble for his own amusement.  Frolio carefully walks the line with McMurphy’s battles with Ratched as he expertly acts as the burr under her saddle while tempering his behavior so she is unable to counterattack with the resources at her disposal.  Frolio steadily builds and builds the tension until his McMurphy is finally forced to take drastic action when a beloved comrade falls victim in the war between he and Ratched.

Shelly Gushard gets an awful lot right with her take on Nurse Ratched.  Gushard’s Ratched is the god of this little world and woe betide any who thwart her commandments.  She’s also clearly the yang to McMurphy’s yin, not just in personality, but physicality as she is clearly the stronger of the two which added to her aura of power.

I liked how controlled she was and never allowed Ratched to get overly emotional.  With a look and a glare, Ratched is even able to cow and bend the asylum’s doctor to her steely will.  I also enjoyed how she would take little moments to exert control over her emotions when McMurphy pushed her buttons.  But I think she’s got the room to be even colder, downright frigid I dare say, which would well suit the machinelike Ratched who genuinely believes her routines and rules and morality will help cure the patients.

Tim Mantil gives an extremely moving performance as Billy Bibbit.  Mantil nails Billy’s shy nature with his soft-spokenness and believable, naturalistic stuttering.  He also brilliantly communicates Billy’s constant thoughts of suicide with his twitchy movements, distressed expressions and persistent touching of his bandaged wrists.  He just needs to be a little careful with his voice as it sometimes went into too high a register which made Billy seem more childish instead of childlike.

Cecelia Sass and Syrian Black did a pretty good job with the costumes from the classic nurse’s outfits to the T-shirts and dark sweats of the patients to McMurphy’s leather jacket and trademark hat.  I did think the costumes for McMurphy’s female friends could be a bit trashier as they seemed a little too elegantly garbed for the crowd he’d likely run with.  Derek Kowal and Stuart Anderson provided some lovely sounds for the show with ducks quacking during a morning sunrise to the ominous sounds of electro shock therapy when McMurphy and Chief are dragged away for treatment after a brawl with the orderlies.

It is a story of a battle of wills and this cast takes you on the emotional roller coaster ride of this slugfest with a strong, measured hand.  You’ll laugh.  You’ll cry.  You may even be in stunned silence at some moments.  But you’ll definitely be hooked from beginning to end.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest runs at Florence Community Theater through Feb 23.  Showtimes will be Fri-Sat at 7pm and Sunday at 2pm.  Tickets cost $12 ($10 for TAG members/60+/groups of 8 or more).  For reservations, call 531-600-8634 or visit www.florencetheater.org.  Due to some strong language and sensitive subject matter, this show is not recommended for children.  Florence Community Theatre is located inside of Florence City Hall at 2864 State St in Omaha, NE.

Turf War

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From left to right: Giovanni Quezada, Alyssa Gonzalez, Dennis Collins and Mary Kelly

A property line dispute between an older white couple and a young Hispanic couple gets blown grossly out of proportion.  The feud between the neighbors unleashes a barrage of pent up frustrations, perceptions, and biases in Native Gardens by Karen Zacarias which is currently playing at the Omaha Community Playhouse.

Zacarias has written what I shall dub an intellectual comedy.  It’s not only funny, but it gives the viewer quite a bit of food for thought.  It’s certainly a play for the current political climate and makes reference to walls and illegal immigration.  But it also focuses on negative isms like racism and ageism as well as white privilege, perception and entitlement.  However, it often does this by turning a lot of these negative themes on their heads as it is the Hispanic couple operating from a position of power in this show.

I was especially impressed as to how the two couples are presented as mirror images of each other.  Given the similarities in terms of personality, desires and even who wears the pants in the two units, the couples should get along famously.  However, their world views are what ultimately bring them into conflict.  This makes for a very interesting story as both sides have valid viewpoints for their skirmish.

Ablan Roblin supplies a commendable piece of direction for this comedy.  The staging is admirable and reflects the mirror image of the couples with the rather luxurious home of the Butleys and the somewhat ramshackle house (it was derelict for years) of the Del Valles.  He keeps the pace brisk and animated with his actors constantly moving about which was actually a bit of a feat due to the actors having to be confined to their yards.  He’s coached his thespians to effective and potent performances and knows how to hit the funny even when it touches upon sensitive subject matter.

It was truly a treat to watch the performance of Giovanni Quezada who makes quite the splash with his Playhouse debut.  Quezada is one of the most naturalistic actors I’ve ever seen.  So credible and believable.  And his gestures are fluid and effortless.  He brings a real intelligence to his portrayal of Pablo Del Valle.  He’s young and hungry and determined to be the best lawyer possible.  But his confidence can sometimes border on arrogance and he shows a bit of immaturity by focusing on what’s legal instead of what’s fair.

Mary Kelly’s take on Virginia Butley can best be described as a rock-hard center covered in a sweet candy shell.  She’s kind and neighborly, but not someone you’d want to cross as she’s tough as nails, having been a success as a defense contractor during a time when women in that position were few.  She’s considerably more level headed than her husband and certainly the dominant spouse as she leads the charge against the Del Valles when their garden is threatened.

Dennis Collins is a scream as Frank Butley.  Frank is definitely the most childish of the four adults.  All he cares about is his yard and garden and obsesses about winning a gardening competition and finally besting a perpetual rival.  Collins’ phrasing is so strong and allows him to maximize his punchlines.  His whining and tantrums are truly a joy to watch and his meek delivery of “Why are you yelling at me?” managed to get a loud, hearty guffaw out of a chuckler like me.

Alyssa Isabel Gonzalez is very solid in the role of Tania Del Valle.  Tania is the most mature of the adults as she initially wants to handle the property line dispute diplomatically, but even she has her foibles with her snooty views on native gardens and can be quite immature when she allows her emotions to get the better of her.  Gonzalez’s Tania is also the rock in her relationship as she comes from a poor family which helped her to be strong as she is a step away from earning her PhD and has taught her husband not to run away from a fight. I did think Gonzalez could play with her words a bit more as her delivery seemed a touch too controlled and cadenced at some points.

Jim Othuse’s set was one of my favorites with the elegant home and lovingly maintained yard of the Butleys juxtaposed with the grassless lawn and worn-down house of the Del Valles though they do have a mighty oak tree.  I liked Aja Jackson’s use of shadows and the glow of rear porch lights to emphasize the nighttime scenes.  Jenn Sheshko’s costumes well suit the characters especially with the elegant suits for Pablo and the frumpy polos and shorts for Frank.  John Gibilisco’s sounds enhance the neighborhood whether it be the song of birds or the roar of chainsaws.  Timothy Vallier has composed a nice score for the show and I very much enjoyed the opening theme with its driving bass and backbeat of bongos.

There were some minor blips in the preview night performance with some line bobbles, stepping on cues and lack of projection at some moments.  That being said, with the combination of a well-thought out script and humorous, skilled storytelling from the actors, Native Gardens can teach us all a lesson that a lot of difficulties can be solved when people talk to each other instead of at each other.

Native Gardens plays at the Omaha Community Playhouse through March 15.  Showtimes are Thurs-Sat at 7:30pm and Sundays at 2pm.  Tickets start at $36 ($18 for students) and vary by performance. Tickets can be obtained at www.omahaplayhouse.com, calling 402-553-0800, or visiting the box office. The Omaha Community Playhouse is located at 6915 Cass Street in Omaha, NE.

Photo provided by Colin Conces Photography

‘Playboy of the Western World’ On Tap for Brigit St Brigit Theatre Company

Brigit St Brigit Theatre Company Presents:

Playboy of the Western World by J M Synge

Synopsis

In the dead of night in a rural Irish town, a young man turns up claiming to have killed his own father. The locals, more interested in vicariously enjoying his story than in condemning the immorality of his deed transform him into a living legend—something larger than life… until life shows up to settle the score.

Performance Dates

Feb 14-Mar 1.  Showtimes are Fri-Sat at 7:30pm and Sundays at 2pm.

Location

First Central Congregational Church (421 S 36th St in Omaha, NE)

Ticket Prices:  $30 ($25 for Student/Military/65+)

Brigit Saint Brigit’s 27-season long tradition of featuring Irish culture spotlights playwright and director at Dublin’s Abbey Theatre, John Millington Synge’s (1871–1909) most celebrated work, Playboy of the Western World. Synge remains one of the most important figures in Irish drama and Playboy of the Western World one of the most important works in the Abbey’s long and storied existence. When first performed in 1907, Playboy caused riots due to the boldness of its storytelling and remains a vibrant, hilarious and poignant tale to this day as is evidenced by its myriad of revivals that have persisted around the world. View this Arts & Culture Link for background on Synge, ‘Playboy’ and much more…

Director:  Cathy Kurz

Cast:  Josh Ryan, Anna Jordan, Matt Cummins, Eric Griffith, David Landis, Eric Grant-Leanna, Eric Salonis, Hannah Clark, Emma Johnson and Daisy Friedman

‘Native Gardens’ Set to Open at OCP on Valentine’s Day

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From left to right: Giovanni Quezada, Alyssa Gonzalez, Dennis Collins and Mary Kelly

Omaha, Neb.–Native Gardens will open Friday, Feb. 14, 2020 at the Omaha Community Playhouse (OCP). The show will run in the Howard Drew Theatre from Feb. 14 through March 15. Performances will be held Thursdays through Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m.

Tickets are on sale now starting at $36 for adults and $18 for students, with ticket prices varying by performance. Tickets may be purchased at the OCP Box Office, located at 6915 Cass Street, by phone at (402) 553-0800 or online at OmahaPlayhouse.com.

SHOW SYNOPSIS

When Pablo and Tania purchase a new home in a well-to-do white neighborhood, the couple next door initially offer a friendly welcome. But when a laughable property line disagreement dissolves into an all-out turf war, the dirt begins to fly. Packed with witty quips—and plenty of back-and-forth mudslinging—Native Gardens is a side-splitting reminder that, despite our differences, we all share a much larger common ground.

Director:  Ablan Roblin

Cast

Alyssa Gonzalez as Tania Del Valle

Giovanni Quezada as Pablo Del Valle

Mary Kelly as Virginia Butley

Dennis Collins as Frank Butley

Photo provided by Colin Conces Photography