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hardlybrantley [ALL REVIEWERS]
Companies Reviewed#
Horizon Theatre Company1
North Fulton Drama Club1
Georgia Shakespeare1
Average Rating Given : 4.33333
Reviews in Last 6 months :

The Santaland Diaries (2009), by David Sedaris
Come for the Wit, Stay for the Ensemble (and the Wit)
Sunday, December 13, 2009
I'll admit my bias--I had already seen this show once before, a few years ago, so I walked into it this year already knowing that I liked it. 'Santaland Diaries' has become known all over the country as an edgy 'anti-Christmas Carol' and despite some dated contemporary references in the script (to 1990s characters on 'One Life to Live' whom probably few people remember at this point, for instance) it still carries plenty of satirical clout.

Mr. Leaver makes a fantastic David Sedaris. He prances, flirts mercilessly with audience members, insults without hesitation, and for most of the show wears the bemused grin that I imagine Sedaris probably wore while writing the original short story. After a decade of playing this role his witty audience interactions have become skilled and effortless--after discovering Thursday night that an audience member was a Florida State alum, he asked if their mascots were the 'Semen-holes'...

Apparently most productions of the play treat it as a one-man show. While I'm sure Mr. Leaver would be more than up for the task, I just can't imagine it would be half as entertaining without the antics of the two 'sidekicks' his version gives him, played this year by Amanda Cucher and the returning Enoch King. I have to tell you, I loved Mr. Leaver's performance, but for me it was Mr. King who stole the show. His sense of comedic timing and ability to play a remarkable range of characters--male and female--make him an absolute joy to watch. No matter how ridiculous the character, Mr. King is one hundred percent committed. His turn as a mother with some very particular demands when choosing a Santa for her son left the audience (and Leaver) laughing long after he left the stage. And though there were parts of Marcie Millard's performance a few years ago that I missed this time around, Amanda Cucher had some nice touches. My favorites include her turn as a horrified mother whose son becomes traumatized by Crumpet, and of course as the Macy's manager, who delivers what has to be one of the best closing lines ever to appear in a play.

The night I was there the pacing seemed a little off for the first half of the play, particularly after Ms. Cucher missed an entrance. But these things happen, and I'm sure that was probably a one-time deal.

Once you find yourself left haggard by Christmas shopping and commercials, treat yourself to this show. And yes, be sure it's a treat night without the kids.

Macbeth, by William Shakespeare
Neat Adaptation, Beautiful Setting
Monday, September 28, 2009
The North Fulton Drama Club website tells you that "you've never seen Shakespeare quite like this." And at least as far as this production of 'Macbeth' is concerned, chances are that's true.

The unusual cut of the script that they're using, originally put together by Orson Welles, emphasizes the supernatural elements of the play. The Witches' opening scene is repeated at the play's close, suggesting that they plan to set up another horrific set of events like the one we've just witnessed, and their boss, Hecate, takes on a much larger role by slipping into the parts of other characters at critical moments (Hecate becomes the third murderer in Banquo's death scene, for example, and it is she who tells Lady Macduff of the hit men approaching her castle.)

Add to this version of the script NFDC's own decision to set the play in 1930's Louisiana, and you have yourself a neat production in which Macbeth becomes Huey Long and the Witches practice voodoo.

'Macbeth' is performed outdoors on the side lawn and porch of Barrington Hall in Roswell. Two platforms have been built to extend the porch, and much of the action takes place up on this higher level, although some scenes are played on the lawn below.

The large plantation house setting is both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, you couldn't ask for a more perfect or beautiful backdrop for a production set in the 1930's deep south. On the other, the Hall's lawn is not very sheltered, so that even after the help of some strategically placed microphones and a sound system the actors were always at risk of being drowned out by the two major roads on either side of the house.

The cast featured many strong performances--Lady Macbeth as a Southern high society hostess and the blues-singing Witches come to mind, but those are only two of quite a few examples. But one of the best things about this streamlined version of the script is that 'Macbeth' becomes an ensemble piece, rather than a showcase for one or two stars.

A fun part of the show was watching the different ways that the 1930's update worked with the script. The Southern obsession with manners adds a lot to the banquet scene, here turned into a plantation house party (complete with Banquo's zombie, rather than his ghost). Turning the murderers into backwoods men puts a new spin on their poverty and their resentment of the 'nobility.' And Voodoo priestess Hecate and her three Witches worked beautifully for me--the Witches, far from 'midnight hags' in their gorgeous lacy party wear, were both creepy and seductive at the same time. In a neat twist, the Witches often sang parts of old blues songs interspersed with their text, which only added to the creepiness. The only part that doesn't quite match up is the script's demand for an army to attack Macbeth's castle, which results in an army of knife-bearing landed gentry storming Macbeth's plantation house (rather than one or two men with guns,) but I imagine that's probably a common issue any time Shakespeare is set in the 20th century.

This production is definitely worth seeing. You probably won't get another chance to see Welles' adaption of the script, the setting and costume design are gorgeous, it's performed by a good ensemble cast, and they have tents for the audience in case it rains. The fact that performances are free just makes it even better!

Titus Androniucs, by William Shakespeare
See it while you still can!
Friday, July 31, 2009
It's hard to believe that this is the same cast and theatre company that produced this summer's "Midsummer Night's Dream" which, for me at least, really only came to life during the last fifteen minutes or so. In contrast, this production of "Titus" grabs hold of your throat from the beginning and never lets go.

Yes, the play is violent. But the violence is beautifully handled. The scene in which Titus captures and kills the two sons of Tamora, queen of the Goths, is suspenseful and gruesome but never feels hokey. And often the production finds the real pain and the suffering behind the killings: Tamora's cries during the first scene as Titus and his sons discuss the brutal ritual sacrifice that will be practiced on her eldest son brings home her justification for the revenge that drives the play's plot in ways that simply reading the play never could.

The grand, Olivier-style voices of a few of the leads--particularly Tess Kincaid as a regal Tamora and Tim McDonough as Marcus--are well suited to a play in which all characters are larger than life. And yet in a surprising contrast, with his conversational delivery to the audience Neal Ghant turned Aaron the Moor, who just might be Shakespeare's most unnaturally evil villain, into the most human and engaging character in the production.

Throughout the first act Chris Kayser as Titus felt a little too stiff and passive for me, but once the character's feigned(?) madness kicked in, his performance was riveting. The scene I mentioned before, when he reveals to Chiron and Demetrius his plan to transform them into their mother's dinner, had me on the edge of my balcony seat.

The details that made this less than a five star review are minor ones. The eclectic costume design often seemed random simply for the sake of being random. The bowls of ritual blood which played a part in many of the killings, while a neat idea, at times seemed used simply for the sake of being used. And some of the actors (particularly Sarah Johnson as Lavinia and Michael Cohen as Chiron) delivered Shakespeare in a painfully clunky way when compared with actors like Kincaid and Kayser.

Overall, though, this is a must-see production. There's one more chance to see it: if you can, take it.

by Sybille Pearson (book), David Shire (music), Richard Maltby, Jr. (lyrics)
Act 3 Productions
Swell Party
by Topher Payne
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Almost, Maine
by John Cariani
Centerstage North Theatre
by Sybille Pearson (book), David Shire (music), Richard Maltby, Jr. (lyrics)
Act 3 Productions
Daddy Long Legs
by John Caird (book) and Paul Gordon (songs)
The Legacy Theatre
by Theresa Rebeck
Actor's Express
Midnight at the Masquerade
by The Murder Mystery Company
The Murder Mystery Company in Atlanta
Swell Party
by Topher Payne
The Process Theatre Company

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