Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Complete Works of Shakespeare (Abridged) Times Review

'Shakespeare' series finale inventive fun

By Johanna Crosby

August 19, 2008
HYANNIS — Imagine the Three Stooges doing Shakespeare and you get the concept behind "The Complete Works of Shakespeare (Abridged)."

The show was the finale for Barnstable Summer Family Theater's summerlong "Shakespeare by the Sea" series, a part of the Hyannis Harbor Your Arts Festival at Michael K. Aselton Memorial Park. The theater company, which is celebrating its 20th-anniversary season, has been attracting audiences to its free outdoor performances, and Sunday afternoon's show was no exception. About 100 people* in beach chairs clustered in front of the outdoor stage.

The inventive spoof was a perfect choice for fun entertainment in the park. Originally created and performed by the Reduced Shakespeare Company at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 1987, it won the prestigious Olivier Award for best new comedy and became the longest-running comedy in London's West End.

Thirty-seven of the Bard's plays are squeezed into one hour and 20 minutes for a fast-paced, riotous theatrical experience. It helps to have a knowledge of Shakespeare to get the farcical references. But you don't have to be an expert to enjoy this lowbrow show, which is heavy on physical comedy and zany comic bits, including silly sword fights, malfunctioning costumes, funny props and a script spiced with pop culture and local references.

Ed O'Toole's playful direction got the most out of his talented young cast and left plenty of room for improvisation, audience participation and high jinks. The engaging trio (Riley King, Mike O'Toole and Branden Smith) played an array of characters with aplomb. This isn't an easy show to pull off, and they were up to the task. Nimble quick-change artists, they displayed fine comic timing and a flair for physical comedy. O'Toole, who did most of Shakespeare's tragic heroines, is especially amusing.

To make Shakespeare more relevant to a modern audience, they staged the history plays about kings as a sandlot football game, performed "Othello" as a snappy rap song and turned "Titus Andronicus" into a TV cooking show. Shakespeare's 16 comedies got about 45 seconds of stage time in one whirlwind piece, because "his comedies aren't half as funny as his tragedies."

The lanky Riley played a goofy Romeo, who was immediately smitten by Juliet (O'Toole in an ill-fitting jet-black wig and peasant skirt), who rebuffed his amorous advances.

Four entertaining versions of "Hamlet" were presented, including a fast version and one using sock puppets. They even did "Hamlet" backward. But the best part was a scene in which they picked a woman to play a screaming Ophelia and divided the audience into three sections to cheer her on.

Even the Bard used gimmicks in his plays, so he'd probably have gotten a kick out of these wacky interpretations.

*note From John Sullivan "The day this reviewer saw the show there were close to 250 people watching the show - she stated there was almost 100. This part of her observation was an error. She was correct in saying this is a funny, funny show!"

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Stage Directions Magazine votes BHS Drana Club one of five best in the nation!

Magazine: BHS drama club among country's best


August 16, 2008
HYANNIS — Barnstable High School's Drama Club has another reason to celebrate as it marks its 50th anniversary year: It's been chosen one of five top school theater programs in the country by a national theater magazine.

According to club director John Sullivan, he was surprised when he received word Thursday of Stage Directions magazine's 2008 High School Theatre Honors Program and isn't sure who nominated BHS. Award recipients will be announced and featured in stories in the September issue of the magazine, which serves all levels of the theater industry.

Sullivan was told BHS was the New England winner.

In a press release on nominations last month, editor Jacob Coakley said a winner had to be "an over-achiever," not only staging "a dynamic, good-looking and entertaining show" but also laying "a solid foundation of theatre skills" for all students. Factors included number and size of shows, and the performing arts center.

The drama club marked its 50th year with a blockbuster, sell-out "The Wizard of Oz," "The Merry Wives of Windsor" (both repeated this summer with Barnstable Summer Family Theater) and "Fiddler on the Roof." "Oz" was chosen from a nationwide pool to be filmed from auditions to curtain call by Warner Bros. Studio for an Internet-only reality series. Sullivan says Stage Directions was unaware of the Warner Bros. project.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Barnstable Partiot Review of Chicken Little!

Chicken Little full of pun and charm

Written by Mary Richmond

Another ‘eggs-cellent’ BHS production

If you can sit through the Barnstable Summer Family Theater’s production of Chicken Little and walk out without a big smile on your face, perhaps you should be locked up with Foxy Loxy and Merritt the Ferret.
Director Ed O'Toole has once again brought together a hodgepodge of kids of all ages, mixed in some wonderful sets and costuming, sprinkled it with just the right touch of local ad-lib humor (I’m pretty sure the Red Sox were not mentioned in the original) and a corny but funny script to entertain families and the young at heart.
This Chicken Little is based on the Disney movie more than the storybook version many of us grew up with. All the familiar characters are there. There’s Ducky Lucky, Turkey Lurkey, Henny Penny and Booster Rooster. And from the moment the first characters appear on stage in chicken beaks and duck bills, yellow and white bloomers, orange tights and big orange feet you know you are in for a romping good time. O'Toole manages to put many small children on stage doing cute and silly things and in the opening scene, reminiscent of the old Greek chorus, little “peeps” are partially hidden behind sets from which they appear to add their two clucks worth of dialog and puns.
It is difficult when reviewing a play cast with so many young people to mention only a few. The entire cast is filled with positive energy and everyone is obviously having fun on stage. The jokes fly around like chicken feathers and the story moves quickly from the set-up to the infamous “sky is falling” event to the denouement.
The Little Red Hen, played by the capable and funny Breana Cole, is a scene-stealer throughout with her little flock of “peeps” following after her. Ashley Goverman is sweet and earnest as Chicken Little and her sidekick, Maddie Sicard as Ducky Lucky is endearing and engaging. Sicard has all the little duck movements down and makes you smile every time she’s on stage.
Tommy Myers as Booster Rooster is over the top and gets a laugh every time he opens his beak and Shannon Pacella rules the stage every time she appears as the bossy Henny Penny
It’s not all just about the birds. The three little pigs, played by Joey Bearse, Austin Benevides and Hank Rex, know how to steal a scene or two and do it well. The real thieves, however, are Ethan Brown as the sneaky and daring Foxy Loxy and Jason Pacella as the bumbling Merritt the Ferret. Both young men do outstanding jobs in their roles and keep the story rolling along at a good pace. Every time they are on stage they bring humor and action with them.
The play is simple, the story is easy to follow and the puns and jokes never stop coming. The children in the audience absolutely loved it and so did the adults. The costumes and sets are great and as always O'Toole uses the whole auditorium as his theater. There is always action, the performers are “mic-ed” so everyone is heard easily and even the smallest actors are well rehearsed.
Looking for a night out with the kids? You will have an “egg-cellent” time here.