Posts Tagged ‘Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company’

Famous Puppet Death Scenes: Death Does Not Become Them—Theatre

December 28, 2014

“We are all dying each moment; we’re dying as I speak,” says puppet Nathan Tweak in his opening monologue for “Famous Puppet Death Scenes.” He is correct…part of me died a little watching this recent offering from the Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company.

Famous Puppet Death Scenes

Created and conceived by Canada’s Old Trout Puppet Workshop, “Famous Puppet Death Scenes” is extremely imaginative and humorous in spots, but when it’s not funny, it just sits there and I do mean sit. The “play” consists of 22 little scenes enacted by puppets. Some scenes have humans taking center stage as well. Most of the scenes have a brutal tone to them as suggested by the title. Some of the scenes are shockingly funny in their violent end…the first time. But too often the same act is committed several times in the same scene and, hence, loses its surprise and its fun. Other times, the same violence is enacted in a different scene.

The male actors who do come out on stage to either perform with the puppets or do scenes on their own are immensely talented in their expressions and in their physicality. But no amount of talent can make waiting for a huge eye to blink either amusing or entertaining.

“Famous Puppet Death Scenes” is directed by Tim Sutherland, Peter Balkwill, Pityu Kenderes and Judd Palmer and stars Nicholas Di Gaetano, Pityu Kenderes and Viktor Lukawski.

Once again, “Famous Puppet Death Scenes” is extremely original and the puppets are made to do some very unusual creative acts. But is it entertaining? For this reviewer, the answer is, “sadly, not very.”

“Famous Puppet Death Scenes runs through January 4.

Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company
641 D Street, NW, Washington, DC 20004

1 ½ nuggets out of 4

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Arguendo: Chair Movement Does Not a Performance Make—Theatre

April 22, 2014

Arguendo,” the latest offering by DC’s Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, is an interesting attempt to make an entertaining mountain out of a mountain, but this attempt falls short…very short.

Directed by John Collins and performed by the Elevator Repair Service, “Arguendo” revolves around the 1991 Supreme Court Case, Barnes v. Glen Theatre Inc. This case, in a nutshell, was about whether or not one had the right to dance nude as a freedom of expression under the First Amendment. The case made its way through the various state courts before ending up on the Supreme Court docket.Arguendo

Prior to “Arguendo’s” beginning, the stage is set with three leather chairs in the background. Then the play opens on the Supreme Courthouse steps with TV reporters (Mike Iveson, Vin Knight, Susie Sokol, Benn Williams) grilling a woman (Maggie Hoffman) who dances in the nude for a living. She’s come to observe the proceedings. The repartee is very well done as she gives as good as she gets.

The heart of the performance finally starts…the hearing itself. It’s not nearly as entertaining as was the action on the steps. We have the lawyers arguing before the judges…three actors are on stage taking the parts of the nine judges. There is a lot of changing of wigs and much movement of chairs. The chair interplay is funny at first as are the expressions of the actors, but then you are left thinking, “is that all there is?” Sadly, the answer is “yes.” Oh, they try to jazz things up with the actual case transcripts scrolling up/down/across a screen, but that just serves to give one a headache. There is shuffling and throwing of paper…hilarious…not. Then the performance jumps ahead in time for a speech from Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (Susie Sokol), portrayed as a doddering old woman, explaining the rationale behind the collars the female justices wear. In her defense, Justice Ginsburg may be many things, but doddering is not one of them.

Over the years I’ve had a variety of experiences at the Woolly Mammoth Theatre…most of them very positive or at least thought provoking. This is the first time I’ve ever been bored.

1 ½ nugget out of 4

Appropriate: Family Battle is a Must—Theatre

November 19, 2013

Appropriate1Appropriate,” the Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company‘s latest offering, written by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins and directed by Liesl Tommy, is a gripping drama sprinkled with very dark, pointed humor throughout. One thing is certain—after watching the play’s Lafayette family rip one another apart, “Appropriate” certainly made me feel better about my parents, siblings and our relationships.

Often family secrets, slights and hurts come out into the open at funerals or readings of a loved one’s will. Such is the case of the Lafayette family. They’ve come from New York, DC and Oregon to Arkansas to clean up their late father’s home so it can be auctioned off. A chance retrieval of a never-before-seen photo album full of horrific photos is the spark that lights the fuse, as the Lafayette family explodes before our very eyes.

“Appropriate” will make you feel uncomfortable at times because the battles between siblings and significant others are so intense. Sometimes you’ll feel like a child caught between two unhappily married parents. Other times viewing the play is like being a fly on the wall, but unlike the insect, you can’t just fly from the uncomfortable situation.

But in truth, you won’t want to flee, because, as usual, the Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company has brought together a terrific cast of actors. Deborah Hazlett, as Toni, the oldest sibling, is a force of nature. Toni spent many years taking care of their father along with her own family, and has a huge chip on her shoulder for so doing. Hazlett is the embodiment of years of simmering frustration, resentment and anger which finally boil over.  David Bishins is very good as the middle sibling, Bo, who has kept his distance and as a result, at first blush, seems to have raised a normal family. Beth Hylton as Bo’s wife, Rachael, gives a powerful performance as woman with her own deep-seated family resentments. Finally, Tim Getman is terrific as the youngest Lafayette sibling, Frank, who went off to Oregon to get away from his troubled youth. The supporting cast is also exceptional—Caitlin McColl as River Rayner, Frank’s much younger girlfriend; Josh Adams as Rhys, Toni’s son who’ll soon be going off to live with his father; and most especially, Maya Brettell as Cassie, Bo and Rachael’s 13-year-old daughter.  She is fabulous as the teenager with the heart of an old soul.

Once again, Woolly’s sets are amazing and for “Appropriate” are designed by Clint Ramos, a newcomer to the Company. What he’s done to create chaos in the home is phenomenal.

Branden Jacobs-Jenkins has written a powerful play with many memorable lines of dialogue that will stay with you, long after you’ve left  the Woolly. If you love theatre, you owe it to yourself to pay the Lafayettes a visit. Just stay out of the line of fire.

Runs through December 1.

Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, 641 D Street, NW, Washington, DC 20004

3 ½ nuggets out of 4


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