Sunday, February 1, 2015

Thr3e Zisters, Salvage Vangard Theatre

Thr3e Zisters is Lola Pierson's zombie adaptation of Chekov's Three Sisters. This show is more than a re-imagining of a theatre classic, but also investigates how actors and directors approach Chekov, what it means to play these roles, and how women are represented.

Olga, Irina, and Masha are dug up again from their graves to do yet another show. The zombie women are caressed, inspected, and told how to behave by the "show's" producers/artistic team. They are unenthusiastic, but do not resist and seem resigned to playing along. However, through the new lens of the show, we see that the sisters, instead of being psychologically tortured and abandoned, physically torture the men. Masha pours hot wax in Vershinin's back, Irina inspires Tusenbach to whip himself, and then rides him around the stage, and Olga calmly entices but does not yield to Soleny. These women, and the women who play them, are powerful and dynamic and in complete control. Heather Hanna is especially exceptional, delivering her lines deliberately and precisely. Robert Matney, who plays Andrei and is a part of the male ensemble, welcomes the audience with a concise and humorous synopsis of the original Three Sisters.

Robert Fisher's sound design is truly phenomenal, and is best highlighted when the zombie sisters are "acting" and move disjointedly across the stage to the sound of a disrupted record. Ia Enstera's sets are always breathtaking, and this one is no exception; the facade of the house sweeps back and forth across the stage.

For theatre-patrons, theatre-makers, and theatre-performers, this show is a breath of fresh air, questioning why do we always revert to the same "classic" texts when trying to scrape together a new season. I do have to wonder how accessible this show is to someone who may not have seen much theatre and may not be familiar with Chekov's works. Regardless, everyone will love and scream in delight at the delightfully gory zombie rampage. Pierson's written a beautiful conceptually dense show that keeps its message concise, and director Yury Urnov has done a graceful and eloquent job getting this show on its feet and into the space. This is one that will definitely keep you thinking after you see it.

Runs until February 14th, Thursday nights are Pay-What-You-Can

Location: Salvage Vangard Theatre, off of Manor Rd.

Parking: Lot parking, some street parking off of Manor

Dining: Take your pick from all of the fantastic places off of Manor, you won't have to go far to find what you're looking for.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Changelings, at the Vortex

Changelings is a story about the Powers family, who have been cursed with having their children stolen by a fairy known as the Wicked Child. Megan Powers is determined to marry, but her brother Luther is worried that any children she has will be snatched away. Fortunately, Megan's fiance is a magician, and the trio set off to lift the curse, with the usual miscommunication and hidden agendas that can make adventure stories so delightful.

The entire cast gives earnest and dynamic performances. Their conviction while portraying otherworldly experiences really sells the show. The trio of fairy minions deserves a shout-out, for making strange, shape-changing creatures endearing and ultimately human.

The most breathtaking element of the show is the movement. Composed of Melissa Trevino, Winnie Hsia, Jonathan Itchon, and Joanna Wright, these ensemble performers perform mind-boggling balance tricks that really create the atmosphere and space of the fairly land.

The show makes the most out of a minimal set, and is able to ingeniously transform the space from the familiar Austin, TX, to the magical fairy land. The costuming for the fairies is particularly delightful and well-constructed, thanks to the talents of Jennifer Rose Davis.

To be warned, this show does not have a traditionally happy ending. In the vein of "Into the Woods," some of the characters end happily and some don't, showing that sometimes what you think you want isn't really all that great and that you should always be careful what you wish for. But if you're yearning for a little magic, humor, virtue, heroes, redemption, dragons, and some really tight fights, definitely come see this show.

Venue: The Vortex, off of Manor Rd.

Parking: Lot parking and some street parking

Food: The Vortex is the ideal show-seeing space, because they share their yard with the Butterfly Bar and Patrizi's, a pretty tasty little Italian food truck. Also check out the Changelings-inspired cocktail.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Deus Ex Machina, by Whirligig

I apologize for posting this review so late -- Deus Ex Machina closes tonight. It is possible to live stream the final show, available here:

Deus Ex Machina is an adaptation of the Oresteia, which tells the story of how Agamemnon, the leader of the Greeks, returns home after the Trojan war to his wife Clytemnestra, who kills him and his war booty Cassandra with the assistance of her lover Aegistheus. They in turn are eventually killed by Agamemnon's son, Orestes, who is assisted by his sister Electra. For a more in-depth description on how the play should go down, check out Whirligig's Drunk Oresteia videos on YouTube.

The reason the play doesn't proceed as planned is because Liz Fisher (the director and playwright) and Robert Matney have created the show so that is proceeds as a choose-your-own-adventure. The audience can vote on what will happen next and what the characters' will decide to do, resulting in twelve potential endings and 12000+ ways for you to see the show.

Digital media and technology are used extensively throughout the show; the multi-talented Lowell Bartholomee (who also plays Zeus, as only he can) has created multiple media projections, which serve as the mouth-piece for the frequently-consulted oracle. A lot has been said about the use of technology in this show (check out Robert Faires' review for the Austin Chronicle), and it's true; Whirligig has created something brand-new, that looks to the future of theatre and how it may evolve.

But what has truly made Deus such a knock-out performance is that the show does not get overwhelmed by all of the shiny innovative new technology. Fisher has assembled a cast of Austin theatre's finest, but this show does not coast along on mere talent. The hard work, effort, and dedication required from the cast, crew, and production team really shine; this show is raw, it has a pulse, and it is excellently executed. Katherine Catmull is a fierce Clytemnestra, who's rage and frustration is almost tangible. Another shining star from the cast is Robin Grace Thompson, who plays Cassandra as a smart, personable, quick-talking young woman. A humane addition to the story telling is the almost constant presence of the Chorus, composed of a pack of old wise-cracking fools, suffering from various disabilities. They provide a touch of humor to a situation that is ultimately dark, and provide a fresh perspective on the events. The ensemble has also put a lot of work into the movement of the piece, which contributes to the drama in the opening sequence and builds tension while the votes are being counted.

Whirligig is a theatre company to watch. Follow them on Facebook to find out about their upcoming productions, I'll definitely have my ear to the ground.

Location: Long Center, off of Riverside

Parking: You can pay to park at the garage, or you can scout along Riverside to see if there is an elusive free parking space available. Just be sure to pay attention to signs, some spaces are reserved for special events.

Bus: The 5 will drop you off directly across the street from the Center if you're coming from the South, if you're coming from the North it will drop you off near the parking garage. Alternatively, you can take the rapid bus, which is only a block east of the Center.

Food: There are several fast food options on Riverside and Lamar, but the Long Center is not far from South Congress, which offers many dining options.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Coming Soon!

The first review will be coming soon -- in addition to reviewing the production, I'll include parking information for the show, a list of potential dining options in the area, and the company's website so that you can follow them and learn about upcoming productions. Austin, TX, is full of new theatre, whether artists are experimenting with a new concept or revisiting an old favorite.