homepage logo

Center Stage: Here and There Doing the Theater

By Staff | Feb 9, 2012

Wow what a week of theater happened in and around Sanibel and Ft Myers. It all started last Sunday, when we were treated to Big Arts’ launching its recently formed Community Theater at the Herb Strauss Theater. Newly appointed Community Theater Chairperson, Shirley Jewell introduced the two leading actors Robert Runck and Annette Trossbach, performing a staged reading of “Scenes and Monologues from the Plays of William Shakespeare”.

The wonderful, whirling words of the Bard of Avon opened the reading, with the Prologue from “Midsummer Might’s Dream”, followed by another Monologue from “As You Like It”, then dramatic highlights from the Scottish play, (dare we say it) “Macbeth”. After Intermission, we heard Oberon, Titania, and Puck’s delightful dialogues from “Midsummer Night’s Dream”, then onto the commanding seduction scene from, “Richard lll”, and the Epilogue from “The Tempest”, after a pause we were treated to an informative Audience conversation with the two actors. We found out that Robert Runck not only Directed the play, but wrote the introductions and chose the scenes to be performed.

It was a truly auspicious beginning, this weaving together the magic of Shakespeare’s wonderful whirling words for our pleasure and diversion. Keep your eyes peeled for the next production of Big Arts’ Community Theater in late Spring. To which I can only add well done, one and all, keep up the good work, and all the best in this new and exciting Community Theater endeavor.

This past Saturday Big Arts’ Dance Program brought another acclaimed dance company celebrating its 20th year performing and teaching both nationally and internationally, “Thodos Dance Chicago”. Critics everywhere have showered the company with accolades: “Breathtakingly athletic”, “powerfully beautiful”, and performing “vibrant choreography”. To which I can only add: exquisitely well trained, technically proficient in all manner of movement, especially when dancing the challenging, precise, sensual, witty choreography of Bob Fosse. Thodos Dance Chicago is nevertheless equally at home dancing the sometimes fluid, sometimes earthy dance moves of modern contemporary dance, with its variety of different dance structures, created especially for this company by new choreographers.

Thodos Dance Chicago has a rather unique mission statement: “to inspire expression through dance education, dance creation and dance performance” which has established “Thodos Dance Chicago as an innovative presence in American contemporary dance”.

The highlights of Saturday’s performance started after Ann Reinking made a video introduction with some of the Thodos dancers about the “Fosse Trilogy”. This segment is an adaptation of works originally created by Fosse, in the early 1960s expressly for television (a Bob Hope Special, and The Ed Sullivan Show). Reinking restaged this piece for live performances by the Thodos Company; Trilogy was motivated by romantic, sassy, humorous, Latin based music.

The Thodos Company of thirteen includes three dancer apprentices: Annie Deutz, Alissa Gigler, Allyson Yates, and one performing trainee Jon Sloven. The full company as listed in the program: Jeremy Blair, Cara Carper, Ray Dones, Brian Hare, Joshua Manculich, Michael McDonald, Jessica Miller Tomilnson, Mollie Mock, Danielle Scanlon.

The Company could not have been better punctuating every subtle nuance of Trilogy, with wit and precision, just the way Fosse wanted his choreography to be presented. “Trilogy”, commenced the evening in high style for which the Company got a well deserved rousing ovation from the delighted audience. The rest of the First Act showed off the Company’s virility, versatility, vitality and vigor.

“Cascade” which opened the second half of the program was aptly named, the music cascaded down around and over us; the choreography (Melissa Thodos the Company’s Founder and Artistic Director), as well as the dancers followed the music to the letter, or in this instance note for note, gliding, ascending, descending and flowing. The next “Solo One”, Choreography Wade Schaaf, brought forth a statuesque, elegant dancer in a striking diaphanous, exceedingly long Grecian tunic, interpreting and perfectly matching the beautiful J.S. Bach’s music, “Prelude” from “Cello Suite #1 in G Major”.

This was truly an exciting evening of contemporary dance, luminously performed by “Thodos”, which ended with a standing ovation after viewing the final offering ,”Exurgence”; Choreography by Jeremy Blair and Mollie Mock (two dancers from the Company.) Bravo! “Thodos Dance Chicago”.

“Bedrooms tell you a lot about people” somebody says pensively at the beginning of Alan Ayckbourn’s wild and wacky comedy “Bedroom Farce” currently tickling the Arcade Theatre audience’s funny bone, at the Florida Rep. This prolific English playwright has rightfully been called the British Neil Simon or a better parallel would be to call him this generation’s Noel Coward. Ayckboun has an acute observation of people and their multiple vulnerable points, and an uncanny ear for the subtleties of conversation. Yet even when pointing out their foolishness, he is humorously aware of most everyone’s insufficiencies in dealing with many of life’s problems both large and small, but above and beyond all that, he makes his characters warm, loveable, fragile human beings.

“Bedroom Farce” is a funny, truthful little play set entirely in three bedrooms, the people are folks we meet or know who take themselves too seriously. We meet eight characters Ernest (Chris Clavelli) and Delia (Carrie Lund) the mummy and daddy sort of the king and queen of this bedroom farce, who can do no wrong. These two supply the link and calming steadiness for the other couples in the play and in the bedrooms. Their son Trevor (Eric Mendenhall) is the pivotal figure, he is inarticulate, and to say the least, a klutz; he attends a party given by friends, then visits the home of a former girl friend Jan (Michelle Damato). His neurotic wife Susannah (Brandy Zarle) more voluble and almost as disruptive takes her problems to her parents-in-law. Meanwhile the occupants of each house are descended upon by one or another of this troubled and troublesome couple. Their doomed marriage stands in the way of everybody’s peace and quiet. They break up a party at Malcolm (Jason Parrish) and Kate’s(Amy Hutchens) house; Trevor manages to divide the peace and quiet most effectively of couple number two Jan (Michelle Damato) and Nick (Brad DePlanche) by keeping them up all night, before finally returning back to couple number one’s bedroom, (which was the scene of the party) for a reconciliation.

Trevor and Susannah wreak havoc everywhere. Only the elderly parents, Ernest and Delia recover quickly, they are indestructible to anything much out of the ordinary, (except maybe crumbs in the bed or a leaky roof), these two are the source of much humor, as they somehow manage to survive all the kafuffle in tact, even if a little bent out of shape and a wee bit battered.

This is a play about incompatibility, non-comprehension, intolerance and misunderstanding as the nerves of each pair rub jaggedly against each other and their awkwardness in attempting to put their errors right or at least sweep them under the bed. The laughs come fast and furious mainly thanks to the fine acting from the cast and the absolutely hysterical physical comedy by that master craftsman of physical humor Director Robert Caccioppo. There are so many priceless bits of physical humor which keep building laughs, one atop another, that we the audience, are finally reduced to puddles of helpless jiggly, wiggly Jello.

The ensemble cast is faultless, every laugh line gets the full treatment and for that we have to thank Chris Clavelli, Carrie Lund, Brad DePlanche, Michelle Damato, Jason Parrish, Amy Hutchins, Eric Mendenhall and Brandy Zarle. Special kudos to two talented actors making their Florida Rep. debuts Amy Hutchins (Kate) and Eric Mendenhall as the hapless klutz Trevor.

If British farce is your cup of tea, better sprint on over to the phone now,

Dial the Box Office- 332-4488, and get ready for, a bit of a witty Brit hit; “Bedroom Farce” only plays till Feb 25th. When you phone remind ’em Marsha sent you.