Ooop, we did it again - back at the Kit Kat Klub


Our new favorite Tucson theater group, Winding Road, mounted Cabaret - with 12 performers, 6 in the orchestra, on a 30 by 15 foot stage in a theater that seats 100.  They did a great job.  The only props on the stage were two chairs, a typewriter table and a typewriter.  There wasn't room for anything else, and the chairs had to disappear during most of the musical numbers.  This summer we saw The Chicago Light Opera Works do a bang up job of Cabaret in a medium sized theater with a splendid cast.  But intimate theater is it's own reward - no mikes, no place to hide.  As we felt with the Chicago production, the performers who carried the show were Fraulein Schneider, Susan Arnold and Herr Schultz, David Johnson.  Not only are they superb actors, but their voices blended magically.  The ensemble showed the only weaknesses, as two of the females just weren't slutty enough.  The Kit Kat girls are decadent - that's where most of the fun comes from in the production.  Christopher Johnson as the Master of Ceremonies was strong throughout and gave a seminal role his own interpretation.  Please see this show if you are in Tucson. 


August: Osage County by Tracy Letts

You don’t go to Steppenwolf Theater in Chicago looking for comedy, romance or musicals.  You go to find intense theater, radiating dysfunctional families, friends and strangers in conflict.  DBH and I call it “scream theater” because there was hardly a Steppenwolf production where the cast did not end up screaming, hitting, shooting and shouting.  And we loved them all.

My history with Steppenwolf goes back to 1982 when I moved solo to downtown Chicago and could walk to the ensemble’s home at Hull House on Broadway.  I saw just about every production, climaxed by Laurie Metcalf’s stellar performance in Balm in Gilead in 1982.  In Balm, written by Lanford Wilson, I imagine that the script is a symphonic score.  Twelve denizens of a shabby café (think Broadway and Lawrence in Chicago) all in dialogue at once – some talking to others, others talking to themselves.  Out of this cacophony, a spotlight moves from table to table, and the lighted characters speak crescendo and the rest of the diners speak decrescendo.  Then the spotlight finds Darlene (Laurie Metcalf) and for the next 15 minutes she speaks to the audience, wins and breaks their hearts.  You can see a few minutes of this in a tribute to Lanford Wilson where Laurie Metcalf reads part of this soliloquy. 

Why is this important to August: Osage County?  Because there is so much theatrical history and baggage behind this play, written by Tracy Letts, a Steppenwolf Ensemble Member since 2002, and first performed at Steppenwolf in 2007.  August: Osage County tears the guts out of 13 characters who figure in a family trauma featuring a meanest of mean mommas manipulating her family following the suicide of the husband/father.  We loved it!  Scream theater at its best.  Steppenwolf comes to Tucson.  And under the stewardship of Winding Road Theater Company, who produce plays by living American playwrights.  It’s our first time at a Winding Road production – and we will be returning.  They stage the plays at Beowulf Alley Theater – so intimate with its 65 seats. 

Toni Press-Coffman as Violet

Toni Press-Coffman as Violet

No theater company could attempt August: Osage County without strong actors.  The scenes are dialogue and tension laden.  One even harks back to Balm in Gilead when the actors grouped into four separate areas on the stage, all engaged in simultaneous conversations for a minute and then one scenario erupts bringing the action into its milieu.  The role of Violet the Mother is vicious, funny, awesome in its intensity.  Toni Press-Cauffman, a WRTC founder, lives the role.  Violet’s daughter, Barbara, requires an equally strong actress and Maria Caprille is up for it in both talent and physical presence.  Evidently the Weinstein brothers are making a film, with Letts writing the screenplay.  Meryl Streep will be Violet and Julia Roberts, Barbara. 

August: Osage County won the Pulitzer Prize in 2008 and picked up 5 Tonys for its Broadway production in 2008.  WRTC’s production is the first in Arizona, and a significant coup for such a small ensemble to successfully stage such a big play. 

For a more in-depth review of this production from the Tucson Weekly, click here

© 2013

Sins of the Mother

Originally posted May 5, 2012

Little ol’ Tucson is finally getting big time theater – and it isn’t coming from Broadway in Tucson with their road shows.  For years, DBH (Dearly Beloved Husband) and I have been avid theater goers.  Not the several times a year variety, but several times a month.  We call it “toad kissing”.  We are happy to see the no-name performers and writers to find the prince that sometimes lurks in a theater with no curtain, folding chairs and “Pay what you can Thursdays”. 

Beowulf Alley Theatre has had a rough season.  Play selection has been spotty, acting inconsistent within a production, direction and timing off in plays that require spot-on action.  But we have stayed with it – mostly because we sometimes find princes.

Sins of the Mother by Israel Horovitz is a prince.  The production features four talented performers – one of them wickedly so, Ken Beider.  His role is twin brothers, cast asunder by the sins of their brawling parents.  No, he does not play them simultaneously through the miracle of digital imaging.  One brother, central to the first act, is murdered.  The other brother carries the second and third acts, resolving and dissolving the family feud. 

The situation, pacing and dialogue reminded me of Arthur Miller, though Horovitz says he is strongly influenced by Samuel Beckett (remind me to see more Beckett).  There is a lot of drama, humor, violence, a few strong words, but mostly an engrossing unfolding of tragedy – and mysteries that are not all neatly tied up by the end of the evening.

We also enjoyed returning to a favorite downtown eatery, The Hub.  Great food, excellent service, very reasonable prices and two blocks from the theater.  There were four in our party and we fell upon the “French fries (cooked in lard, of course) topped with blue cheese, served au jus” for our appetizer.  $7.  Magnificent.  I always get their souped-up hot dog, served with home-made sauerkraut and lean pastrami.  DBH chose to dine solely on mac and cheese with bacon.  There are no “cheap and cheerful” beers at The Hub (like a Bud Lite), only brew-pub styles.  I’m not too fond of most of these, as I enjoy lagers.  Our waiter recommended (and brought me a taste of) Scrimshaw, a pilsner on draft from North Coast Brewing in CA.  Delicious.  The Hub also make over 30 flavors of ice cream.  We ended our meal with a taste of Bourbon Brickle. 

© 2013