The Bird is the Word!

Conrad loves Nina who is smitten with Trigorin who is the boyfriend of Emma.  Mash adores Conrad, but is pursued by Dev and Dr. Sorn just wants a hug.  This is Stupid F@#!ing Bird, a sort of adaptation of Anton Chekhov’s The Seagull written by Aaron Posner and currently playing at the Omaha Community Playhouse.

This is one of the smartest, cleverest, funniest scripts I have ever seen produced.  Posner has a great gift for wordplay and his writing shows a love for and a frustration with the work of Chekhov.  A sort of adaptation is the best way to describe this piece as it is not a complete parody of The Seagull.  It mostly retains its story, but modernizes the language and peppers it with light-hearted comedy and fourth wallbreaking self-awareness.  But it also has its fair share of deep and serious moments as well.

Suzanne Withem deserves high praise for her direction of the play.  Her direction has a decisive energy which emerges in the constant movements of the actors, preventing the show from ever being static.  Her staging is precise and utilizes the full space with the actors even getting up into the stands with the audience.  Ms Withem has also done a sterling job leading her actors through this play as there isn’t a weak link in the lot.

Beau Fisher is quickly becoming one of my favorite performers to watch due to his naturalness and boisterous energy.  He scores another hit with his take on Conrad.  Fisher easily comes off as an innovator seeking to create new forms of artistic expression.  He is also the tortured artist who loves Nina too much and is frustrated by the fact the Nina does not love him back to the same degree.  Fisher skillfully vacillates between the emotional highs and lows of Conrad while deftly handling the character’s difficult wordplay.  While his love for Nina is a bit smothering, it does pull at your heart as it is a genuine love from a man who has never really known love himself.

Raydell Cordell III anchors the show as Conrad’s best friend, Dev.  Dev is the only truly likable character in the show.  He’s also one of two characters who end up truly happy at the show’s end.  Cordell brings a cute awkwardness to Dev with his pursuit of Mash and inability to say the right thing in a group setting.  Yet, in one on one conversations, he proves himself to be an able listener, a wise advisor, and a rock of support.

Sonia Keffer gives an eye opening performance as Emma Arkadina, Conrad’s mother.  Ms Keffer’s Emma is a slightly boozy, extremely cynical and successful actress who, like her son, doesn’t really understand love and happiness and readily admits to it.  She is content to live a life being hated quietly and filling it with money and men.  Emma does have a kind of caring for her son, but it never really germinated into love.  Instead it takes the form of a territoriality as she will fiercely protect what belongs to her when she sees it threatened or hurt.

Alissa Hanish cuts a very pitiable figure as Nina, the seagull of the play.  Hanish gives us a Nina who is a lost child who thinks she knows what she wants out of life, but when she gets what she thinks she wants, she learns that it was just poisoned fruit.  She is easily swayed by the illusion of the surface and cannot see the truth below.  Ms Hanish conveys these ideas not only through her delivery of the dialogue, but through her superior sense of movement.  Through movement, Ms Hanish displays comedy with her moves during the performance event “We.  Are.  Here.”; confusion, love, and a desperate search in a prolonged sequence when she constantly kisses Conrad, but blindly searches for something greater; and a descent into madness when she collapses into hysterics at the play’s climax.

Potent supporting performances are also given by Michael Markey as the lonely Dr. Sorn; Aanya Sagheer as Mash who sings depressing songs inspired by her unrequited love for Conrad; and Kevin Anderson as the pretentious genius writer, Doyle Trigorin.

The sounds of John Gibilisco and the lights of Darrin Golden become supporting characters in the play as they had a crucial extra dimension.   This is especially noticeable with the shadowy lights of Golden when the play veers into experimental performance art and Gibilisco’s mystical sound of the seagull.

The movement direction of Wai Yim adds a beautiful bit of art to the production while Lindsey Pape’s costumes suit the cotemporary feel of the show as the performers really seem as if they’re wearing their own clothes.

A couple of the actors needed to pump up the volume a bit, but all voices carried well and Jim Othuse’s simple set of a curtain and small stage lent itself well to the inherent creativity of the show.

In closing, all I can say is now you’ve heard about the bird and I’m telling you, man, that this bird is the word!

Stupid F@#!ing Bird plays at the Omaha Playhouse through Nov 12 at the Omaha Playhouse. Performances are Thurs-Sat at 7:30pm and Sundays at 2pm.  Tickets cost $36 for adults and $22 for students.  For tickets, contact the Playhouse at 402-553-0800 or visit www.omahaplayhouse.com or www.ticketomaha.com.  Due to strong language and some mature themes, this show is not recommended for children.  The Omaha Community Playhouse is located at 6915 Cass St in Omaha, NE.

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A Bird is Coming to the Playhouse

Omaha, Neb.— Stupid F@#%ing Bird at the Omaha Community Playhouse will run October 13 – November 12, 2017 in OCP’s Howard Drew Theatre.
This “sort-of adaptation” of The Seagull by Anton Chekhov tells a story in which an aspiring young director battles against the art created by his mother’s generation. A young actress competes with an aging Hollywood star for the affections of a renowned novelist and everyone discovers just how complicated life, art and success can be. This irreverent, modern and very funny remix of a classic play will incite you to consider how art, love and revolution fuel your own pursuit of happiness.
Conrad, a young, would-be playwright, loves the young, aspiring actress, Nina; but
Nina’s infatuated with the successful playwright, Doyle Trigorn; Trigorin thinks Nina is
fascinating, but he’s already dating Emma, the famous actress who just happens to be
Conrad’s mom. Mash, Emma’s cook, is “in mourning for her life” because she’s head
over heels in love with Conrad, who barely notices that she exists, but Conrad’s best
friend Dev is ridiculously in love with Mash, and she couldn’t care less! Of course, there’s
also Dr. Sorn, Emma’s brother and Conrad’s uncle. He’s a generally agreeable fellow
who just wants everyone to get along and doesn’t understand why they can’t seem to do
so. Contains adult language and sexuality.
The plot and characters of Stupid F@#%ing Bird closely align with Anton Chekhov’s The
Seagull, which follows four main characters’ artistic and romantic conflicts. This script even  contains some lines directly from The Seagull, but set in a modern time period with modern day problems, but with all the flair and drama of a Chekhov original.
Production: Stupid F@#%ing Bird
Show dates: October 13 – November 12, 2017; Thursdays–Saturdays, 7:30 p.m. and
Sundays, 2 p.m
Director:  Suzanne Withem
Cast
Beau Fisher as Conrad
Raydell Cordell III as Dev
Aanya Sagheer as Mash
Alissa Hanish as Nina
Sonia Keffer as Emma Arkadina
Kevin Anderson as Doyle Trigorin
Michael Markey as Dr. Eugene Sorn

 Tickets

At the OCP Box Office, by calling (402) 553-0800 or online at
OmahaPlayhouse.com or www.TicketOmaha.com. Single tickets start at $24 for
adults and $18 for students. Ticket prices are subject to change based on
performance date, seat location and ticket demand. Call the OCP box office for
current prices. For groups of 12 or more, tickets are $20 for adults and $14 for
students
Location: Omaha Community Playhouse, Howard Drew Theatre
6915 Cass Street | Omaha, NE 68132

It is a Brilliant Thing

After his mother attempts suicide, a little boy decides to write a list covering every brilliant thing in life.  This list follows the boy as he grows into a man and experiences the highs and lows of life.  This is Every Brilliant Thing by Duncan MacMillan and it kicks off the Blue Barn Theatre’s 29th season:  Connect.

MacMillan has written a pretty potent script “based on true and untrue stories” and it has a little bit of something for everyone.  It’s funny.  It’s poignant.  It’s thoughtful.  It’s relevant.  The play centers around the theme of suicide and provides a hopeful message:  things will get better.  This message is laid out with facts, stories, and audience participation.  I thought the audience participation element was positively inspired because this is a story that we are all part of as all of us have felt down in life and needed a little picking up.

An interesting thing about casts is that the smaller they are, the stronger they have to be.  When dealing with a one person show, not only does the actor’s talent have to be of phenomenal quality but he or she needs an almost symbiotic relationship with an equally talented director in order to find, develop, and relate the innumerable beats of the story.  Fortunately this show illustrates just such a relationship as the impeccable direction of Susan Clement-Toberer combined with the acting chops of Hughston Walkinshaw result in a night of theatre that is somber, moving, light, funny, and strong.

Ms Clement-Toberer’s staging is of superior quality as she breaks down the barriers between actor and audience.  Walkinshaw performs in the round and is centimeters away from the audience. Never is there a static moment as Walkinshaw constantly moves around the room and engages the audience, bringing them deeper into the world of this tale.

So natural and extemporaneous is Walkinshaw that it almost doesn’t seem like he’s acting.  It’s almost as if he’s telling his own life story.  But it is an arduous and triumphant performance as Walkinshaw has to constantly be on his toes and be aware of every moment as he may have to fill in the blanks or gently move things along during the audience participation moments.

Walkinshaw’s interpretations are so spot on and precise.  At one moment, he is an innocent little boy facing death for the first time when his beloved dog is put to sleep.  In a flash, he’s a college student finding love for the first time.  In the blink of an eye, he’s a jaded adult facing his own battle with depression which causes his marriage to crumble while he deals with the hideous reality of suicide in his own family.  Yet, through it all, he maintains his grip on hope with the ever growing list of brilliant things.

Shea Saladee softly lights the performance space with a series of vintage chandeliers.  Craig Marsh’s sounds take the form of music which plays an important emotional role in this show.  And the final number will be the “happiest sad song” you ever heard.  Amy Reiner’s properties of bits of the list truly enhance the spontaneous nature of the unnamed character’s writings.

This is theatre at its purest.  At its most intimate.  At its most beautiful.  At its peak.  It’s a masterful opening for the Blue Barn and you will regret it if you miss this one.

Every Brilliant Thing plays at the Blue Barn Theatre through Oct 15.  Showtimes are Thurs-Sat at 7:30pm and Sundays at 6pm (The Oct 8 show will be at 2pm.).  Tickets cost $35 for adults and $30 for students, seniors (65+), TAG members, and groups of 10 or more.  For reservations, call 402-345-1576 or visit www.bluebarn.org.  The Blue Barn is located at 1106 S 10th St in Omaha, NE.

Circle Theatre Holding Auditions for “Miracle on 34th Street”

Circle Theatre will hold auditions for the second production of its 2017-2018 season, Miracle on 34th Street. The production will run December 8-17, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m and Sundays at 3 p.m. Audtions, rehearsals, and production will be held at Hanscom Park United Methodist Church (4444 Frances St, Omaha, NE). Rehearsals will begin the last week of October. The production will be directed by Circle Theatre Associate Artistic Director, Angela M. Dashner. For more information, please contact Circle Theatre at circle.theatreomaha@gmail.com

Please note that the role of Kris Kringle has been pre-cast.

It’s Alive!!!!!!

Shelterbelt Theatre is pleased to present Resurrection:  The Best of ShelterSkelter at 3225 California Street, October 6-29, 2017.  The show is directed by Kaitlyn McClincy, Jayma Smay, and Elizabeth Thompson.  Performances are Thurs-Sat at 9pm and Sunday at 6pm (except for Oct 29 at 2pm).  Tickets are $12 for Thursday shows and $20 Fri-Sun ($15 for students, seniors (65+), and TAG members).  Tickets are on sale at www.shelterbelt.org (click box office) or boxoffice@shelterbelt.org or 402-341-2757.

Our audience asked for it and Shelterbelt brought ShelterSkelter back to life–the eerie, the funny, the dark and spooky!  We opened the Skelter crypt and dug up some of our favorite blasts from the past, featuring some of your favorite playwrights.  Come in costume!  We’ll post pix on our Facebook page and each week’s winner (most likes) will advance to the finals.  Top finalist wins 2 Shelterbelt season tickets!  Whatever you do, don’t miss this limited edition Skelter in honor of our 25th Anniversary season.  We don’t know when it’ll appear again in this dimension!

ShelterSkelter, Shelterbelt’s celebration of all things Halloween, began in 1996 and continued for 18 seasons before going on hiatus.  Each year, scripts were sent from near and far, and a lengthy process began.  “In 2014, we took a break from Shelterskelter to focus more on our local playwrights and full-length plays,” said Executive Director, Roxanne Wach.  “As a part of our 25th anniversary season, we’ve resurrected ShelterSkelter.”

This incarnation of ShelterSkelter includes some of the best plays from past seasons, featuring work by Rob Baker, Joe Basque, Ben Beck, Molly Campbell, Julia Hinson, Jeremy Johnson, Daena Schweiger, Scott Working, and Aaron Zavitz.

The cast features Craig Bond, Katy Boone, Kevin Goshorn, Eric Grant-Leanna, Whitney Hansen, Meganne Horrocks Storm, Matt Karasek, Debbie Krambeck, and Sarah Smeltzer.  Stage Manager is Taylor Vann.  Assistant Stage Manager/Board Operator is Lisa Marie Hathaway.  Lighting design is by Joshua Mullady, with sound design by Shannon Smay, and costumes by Bridget Mueting.

Jeffrey Ballard, collage prints, and Jonathan Wilhoft, skeletal photography, are the featured artists in the gallery.

Shelterbelt Theatre is Omaha’s home for new plays.  This frightful evening opens Shelterbelt’s 25th Season, Original Lives Here, featuring scripts celebrating our local playwrights past and present.  Shelterbelt Theatre is a 2015 and 2016 recipient of the international 50/50 Applause Award by the International Centre for Women Playwrights, which honors theatres that produce a season with an equal or greater number of plays written by female playwrights. (www.womenplaywrights.org)

The Night Can be Deadly

BLUEBARN THEATRE’s IMMERSIVE THEATRE SERIES returns with 

Walk the Night: Death Marked Love (based on Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet)

BLUEBARN‘s Immersive series returns with the ghosts of Shakespeare’s star-crossed lovers, doomed to walk the night until the foul crimes done against them in their days of nature are purged away.

It begins with an invitation.  After buying your ticket, you are emailed a link with driving instructions and a downloadable audio invitation–a radio play to accompany you on your drive to Fontenelle’s Neale Woods, 1/2 north of Omaha.  The mysterious on the other end tells you: You will be attending an event at the summer home of his former enemy, a manor turned into a memorial after tragic events some 100 years ago.  When there, you will make a choice–or perhaps the choice will make you.  It will be the first among many; a choice as instinctive as one between Red and Blue, that will serve as your guide to witness grieving parents retrace the mournful last steps of their children.

Walk the Night founder Spencer Williams adapts & directs with assistance from Walk the Night company members Caulene Hudson and Aaron Ellis; choreography by Stephanie Huettner (TBD Dance Collective), costumes by Jenny Pool, lights by Josh Mullady, site design by Jesse Groff, production management by Homero Vela; original soundtrack by Andrew Heringer, Philip Kolbo, and Joe Mendick (performed live by Kolbo, Mendick and ensemble members); location partner Fontenelle Forest.

Performance dates:

October 5 – 28, 2017 

Shows run Thursday-Sunday at 7 pm; Double shows on Fridays & Saturdays

$25 for adults/$45 for unlimited access (Discounts for students, TRUBLU members & groups of 5 or more)

Location: Neale Woods Nature Center, 14323 Edith Marie Avenue in Omaha, ½ mile north of Hummel Park.

About the BLUEBARN Theatre

The BLUEBARN Theatre has been bringing professionally-produced plays to area audiences since 1989. Since its inception, BLUEBARN has produced over 100 plays and has established itself as Omaha’s professional contemporary theatre company.  Striving to bring artistically significant scripts and professional production values to Omaha and the surrounding region, BLUEBARN is known for high-quality entertainment and the fearless pursuit of stories that challenge both theatre artists and patrons

To provoke thought, emotion, action, and change through daring and innovative theatre

Take A Chance on It . . .

Sophie is getting married and she’s inviting her dad.  The trouble is that she doesn’t know who he is.  Using her mother’s diary, she has discovered three possible candidates, but will she be able to discover which one, if any, is her pop before her big day?  This is the story of Mamma Mia! written by Catherine Johnson with music and lyrics by Benny Andersson, Bjorn Ulvaeus, and Stig Anderson.  It is currently playing at the Omaha Community Playhouse.

Mamma Mia! is one of those shows that’s short on story, but long on fun.  It’s a crowd pleasing, raucous romp where the tale is meant to take a back seat to the music.  But I promise you that you’ll be singing along and bopping to the ABBA tunes interpreted by Jim Boggess and his superior orchestra long before the night is through.  The show is strengthened remarkably by the direction of Jeff Horger who kept the energy and joy flowing through his cast and maximized a few serious moments along the way.  It also doesn’t hurt that Horger’s cast includes a slew of some of the finest talent in local musical theatre.

Frankly, I thought the work of the ensemble was worth the price of admission on its own.  If you took away the rest of the cast and just had to watch the shenanigans, antics, and singing of the chorus, it would still be a great time.  They are that good.  It’s some of the best harmonizing I’ve heard in a show and be on the lookout for Marcus Benzel as Dionysus.  Without uttering a single word, he tells a fantastic story through facial expressions and body language.

There are so many strong performances in the supporting cast that it’s hard to know where to begin.  For starters, there’s the work of Brendan Brown and Justin Eller who show some impressive comedic chops with their roles of Eddie and Pepper, the “help” at the Villa Donna.  Angela Jenson-Frey and Emily Peklo sparkle as Tanya and Rosie, the best friends of Sophie’s mother, Donna, and her former singing partners.  Ms Jenson-Frey is tremendous as the shallow and snobby, but good-hearted, Tanya and Ms Peklo is a hoot as the tomboyish Rosie.  Both ladies also have fabulous altos which they put to good use in “Dancing Queen” as well as in solo moments, specifically “Does Your Mother Know?” for Ms Jenson-Frey and “Take A Chance on Me” for Ms Peklo.

Jacob Roman and Mike Palmreuter entertain as 2 potential candidates for Sophie’s father.  Palmreuter plays Bill, a travel writer with a major phobia for commitment while Roman plays Harry, a successful British banker whose headbanging leaves something to be desired.  Roman has a particularly lovely tenor which soars in “One Last Summer”.

Victoria Luther gives a winning performance with her take on Sophie.  Ms Luther brings a real sweetness and honesty to the role.  There’s really nothing terribly sneaky about her plan to invite her possible fathers to her wedding.  Once she meets them, she’s actually mostly up front about why she invited them.  Ms Luther can also belt a tune as her soprano kept batting musical pitches in numbers such as “Honey, Honey”, “The Name of the Game”, and “Slipping Through My Fingers”.

Sarah Ebke is a force as Donna, Sophie’s mother.  Ms Ebke’s Donna is an independent woman used to standing on her own two feet as she raised a daughter plus single-handedly ran a hotel.  But she’s also a very dedicated mother and a very sensitive soul.  Ms Ebke’s magnificent alto got many of the night’s best numbers including “Mamma Mia”, “The Winner Takes it All”, and “One of Us”.

Adam Hogston has, arguably, the most well developed character in the form of Sam.  Hogston’s Sam is clearly still in love with Donna and Hogston displays a mighty emotional range and haunting emotional vulnerability as he wrestles with the multifaceted feelings wrought by his love from his nervousness about seeing Donna again to talking about the dissolution of his marriage with Sophie.  Hogston’s tenor will really touch hearts especially with his melancholic rendition of “S.O.S.”.

Jim Othuse opts for a simpler set with a hotel that evokes images of a Spanish villa and a dock with a view of the sea.  His lighting was also right on the mark with their changes with the emotional beats of the play.  Darin Kuehler’s properties added just the right touch, especially the pictures and items in Donna’s room.  Amanda Fehlner’s costumes are varied and strong from the beachwear, to the ABBAesque costumes seen at the curtain call and Sophie’s bachelorette party, to the hideous leisure suits worn by the potential papas at the start of Act II.  Melanie Walter’s choreography is a wonder.  Her dancers are satin smooth and I was especially impressed with the comedic swimwear number that kicked off Act II plus the curtain call number.

Mamma Mia! delivers exactly what it promises and that’s a rip roaring good time.  The songs are memorable and the dancing is entrancing.  A nearly full house seemed to agree with my assessment and another Playhouse hit seems to be on the horizon.  Oh, and I can already see the T.A.G. nomination for Best Ensemble for that curtain call.

Mamma Mia! plays at the Omaha Community Playhouse through Oct 15.  Showtimes are Wed-Sat at 7:30pm and Sundays at 2pm.  Tickets cost $42 for adults and $25 for students.  Wednesday night shows are $32 for adults and $20 for students.  For tickets call 402-553-0800 or visit www.omahaplayhouse.com or www.ticketomaha.com.  The Omaha Community Playhouse is located at 6915 Cass St in Omaha, NE.