Pat Launer, Center Stage on KSDS JAZZ88
July 19, 2013
America, its history and eccentrics, features in four disparate productions that weirdly interconnect. It’s an overstuffed week of theater, but then, our country is kinda bulging, too – with citizens and stories. So is this jam-packed review… so hang on, it’s gonna be a whirlwind ride.
History first: the wacky, raunchy, rock musical tale of our 7th president, provocatively titled “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson.” Chance Theatre in Anaheim has reconfigured its intimate storefront space into a scruffy Wild West tavern. And there, our forebears of the 18th-19th century, led by that pugnacious Tennessean, “Old Hickory,” do battle with the British, the Spanish, the Indians — and each other. The show is a rockin ’, rollicking good time, well sung, satirically sharp, and amusingly acted by 13 versatile performers, directed by Cari Hayter . Worth the trip to Orange County.
Closer to home, there’s “Freedom of Speech,” a one-woman tour de force in which Eliza Jane Schneider chronicles her 20-year, 317,000-mile adventure, criss-crossing the country, collecting the dialects and opinions of everyday Americans. As the voice of eight characters on Comedy Central’s “South Park,” Schneider is an amazing mimic, a singing, fiddling chameleon who brilliantly captures the speech, voice and mannerisms of 34 idiosyncratic individuals, imaginatively linked by a random word or thought.
Along her journey, Schneider tells us, she fell in love with her often-outlandish and ever-surprising homeland. Jennifer Brawn Gittings’ set and Delicia Turner Sonnenberg’s direction are superb. A funny, warm, poignant Moxie Theatre production.
Speaking of falling in love — or being unable to — there’s “Company,” Stephen Sondheim’s cynical view of marriage, seen through the eyes of commitment-phobic, 35 year-old Bobby and the five couples who are his best friends. The men covet his freedom, the women want to mother him. But he’s kinda nebbishy , as played by Andrew Wells Ryder at Cygnet Theatre, though Ryder rallies for his 11-o’clock anthem, “Being Alive.”
This high-spirited but protracted production, directed by Sean Murray, highlights the humor in George Furth’s book more than the dark undertones of Sondheim’s sardonic score. Linda Libby, as the most jaded of these New Yorkers, captures the wry tone best, in “The Ladies Who Lunch.” And Eileen Bowman is a hoot in the antic-frantic “Getting Married Today.” But most of the solos are less satisfying than the excellent choral work. This 1970 concept musical has minimal plot, and a grating musical through-line. But for another tangy taste of Sondheim-à la-Cygnet, it goes down easily.
There’s a different take on marriage at North Coast Repertory Theatre: “Perfect Wedding,” a frothy summer farce, whipped up with precision and hilarity. Robin Hawdon’s confection is a trifle, but the six-member ensemble, under the direction of Matthew Wiener, flaunts impeccably timed verbal and physical comedy.
So, say ‘I Do’ to a road trip, a historical satire and some marital madness.
“BLOODY BLOODY ANDREW JACKSON” runs through August 4 at Chance Theatre in Anaheim.
“PERFECT WEDDING” plays through August 11 at North Coast Repertory Theatre in Solana Beach.
The Moxie Theatre production of ‘FREEDOM OF SPEECH” continues at Diversionary Theatre in University Heights, through August 11.
“COMPANY” has been extended through August 25 at Cygnet Theatre in Old Town.
©2013 PAT LAUNER