Monday, December 19, 2022

Weekly Margin 2022, W52: the bandaged place, Little Women

What: Roundabout presents a new play by Harrison David Rivers (and directed by my former classmate David Mendizábal), about Jonah, a dancer balancing raising his daughter with the help of his grandmother, struggling with a knee injury, and recovering from surviving an abusive relationship with his ex, who is trying to worm his way back into his life.
And? Anyone who reads my reviews knows how particular I am about alley, thrust, or arena staging. I love that they open up possibilities of more dynamic staging, if the director knows what they're doing. Friends, David Mendizábal knows what they're doing. The Black Box Theatre at Roundabout has a low ceiling, and yet the production is not only well-lit by Nic Vincent, it also doesn't feel at all claustrophobic on Wilson Chin's set design. The walls are mirrors to reflect the dance studio in both Jonah's mind and Ella's reality, and give the audience new angles as well: some staging which might have originally just presented an actor's back now gives us a deep personal insight to the expressions they think they're hiding (Nic Vincent's lighting also cleverly reflects off the mirrors to facilitate this). The play itself, beautifully sketched by Harrison David Rivers, is a nuanced examination of how hard it is to reconcile the knowledge that someone you love deeply can also be a deep emotional and physical danger to those around them. The cast is all uniformly excellent, especially Jhardon Dishon Milton as the beleaguered Jonah. I'm so grateful I got a ticket before the rest of the run sold out.

Jhardon Dishon Milton as Jonah Irby (with Stephanie Berry as Geraldine
Irby visible in the reflection on the left). Photo by Joan Marcus.

12/18/22: Little Women
What: Chance Theater in Orange County, California presents the Howland-Dikstein-Knee musical adaptation of Louisa May Alcott's beloved novel, about four sisters and their mother in Concord, Massachusetts during the American Civil War.
And? I wish this were a stronger script. I think my somewhat muted response to this story and its adaptations in general all stem from this musical being my first exposure to the story, and though some songs do soar, a lot of it doesn't feel as special as I think those who love the novel deserve it to be. Still, The Chance is always good at making a strong production out of the scripts they choose, and director Casey Long (also doing great work on sound and projection design, for the record) keeps the story running swiftly enough that we don't linger on the weaker elements of the script. Sarah Pierce is a fantastic Jo, feisty and loving, her heart worn proudly on her sleeve (and what a voice!). Camie Del Rosario also does great work as Amy, not letting her turn into the cartoon she could very easily be in less nuanced hands.

Camie Del Rosario, Emily Abeles, Maggie Randolph, Katherine Chatman,
and Sarah Pierce as Amy, Beth, Marmee, Meg, and Jo. Photo by Doug Catiller,
True Image Studio.

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