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River Cities' Reader | Theatre
A Hit, a Very Palpable Hit: "Fortinbras," at St. Ambrose University PDF Print E-mail
Written by Mike Schulz   
Wednesday, 21 February 2007 02:24

Jessica Stratton and Andrew Harvey in St. Ambrose University's Fortinbras was the most thoroughly entertaining theatrical production I've yet seen in 2007. And while, if you missed the show during its one-weekend, three-performance run, I have no interest in rubbing your noses in that fact, I feel the need to write about the experience because I hope that soon (a) you see Fortinbras and (b) you see this production's actors.

Capital Execution: "Dead Man Walking" at Augustana College through February 11 PDF Print E-mail
Written by Mike Schulz   
Wednesday, 07 February 2007 02:48

Kyle Roggenbuck and Brian Bengtson in With Tim Robbins' capital-punishment drama Dead Man Walking, Augustana College's theatre department has crafted a moving and impressive play, and I can't fully express how difficult that task must have been, because it really isn't a play; it's a screenplay. Scene for scene, sometimes even word for word, this 2002 piece replicates Robbins' 1995 movie to the letter, and in doing so, points out the deep chasm that exists between theatre and film. As a stage piece, Dead Man Walking shouldn't work, but director Jeff Coussens and his fiercely committed cast do everything in their power to keep you from noticing, and more often than not, succeed beautifully.

Social Transformation: The Dead Man Walking School Theatre Project Comes to Augustana College PDF Print E-mail
Feature Stories
Written by Mike Schulz   
Wednesday, 31 January 2007 03:43

Brian Bengtson & Kyle Roggenbuck rehearse Explaining the decision to turn Tim Robbins' Oscar-winning Dead Man Walking into a work for the stage, Sister Maureen Fenlon begins with six simple words: "A stage play can go anywhere." And she would like the show to be seen everywhere.

"If you want to have a transformation," Fenlon continues, "a social transformation, then minds need to be engaged so they [people] can be open to learning, and hearts have to be opened so that that learning can go further, and seep into your own soul. When people's minds and hearts have been opened through the arts, the quality of your exchange is more than a conversation, it's surely not [merely] a debate ... and here, it's a powerful art form dealing with a very powerful issue."

Teacher Pets: "Oleanna," at ComedySportz through February 4 PDF Print E-mail
Written by Mike Schulz   
Wednesday, 31 January 2007 03:38

(Warning: Specific details of - and potential surprises in - Oleanna may slip through. Proceed with caution.)


Jamie Em Jonson and Chris Browne in It's always heartening to see theatre directors making strong choices, and this is true even when those choices appear to be spectacularly misguided. Such is the case with My Verona Productions' presentation of David Mamet's Oleanna. I didn't necessarily agree with several of Tristan Layne Tapscott's directorial decisions, but I happily recognize that at least decisions were made; in its current incarnation, this 1992 play that has been acclaimed (and, in some circles, reviled) for its refusal to choose sides most definitely does choose a side. Yet what does that decision do for the work as a whole?

Gang Busters: "West Side Story," at the Circa ’21 Dinner Playhouse through March 24 PDF Print E-mail
Written by Mike Schulz   
Wednesday, 24 January 2007 02:26

Mishi Schueller and Kimberly Willes in For West Side Story to really work, the actors portraying Tony and Maria have to be marvelous, and in Circa '21 Dinner Playhouse's new presentation of this beloved musical updating of Romeo & Juliet, Mishi Schueller and Kimberly Willes are even better in these roles than you'd hope they'd be. The duo is so touching, so emotionally expansive, that director/choreographer Ann Nieman's production is an absolute dream whenever they're on stage, so allow me to begin by discussing Schueller's and Willes' contributions, which should underscore how great this West Side Story is, and perhaps help explain why it should've been greater still.

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