à la Mode
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Theatre Reviews


THE PAVILION      A Dance with Time
by Craig Wright, directed by Michael Simmons
Feb. 22-March 17, Carolina Actors Studio Theatre

Craig Wright is the author/inventor of the hit HBO series, Six Feet Under, about emotional relationships around a funeral home. But his play, The Pavilion, is a more poetic meditation on the meaning of time, loss, and romantic choices, set at the 20-year reunion of a small-town Minnesota high school class--taking place on a wooden, lakeside pavilion that will soon be demolished to make way for a new building. Glenn Hutchinson plays the Narrator and numerous other, male and female roles with entertaining energy and distinctive character choices, giving the audience a mythic sense of how the "universe" began and how it begins again in every moment. Although he presents various odd personalities at the reunion, the play focuses on two others, Peter and Kari, who were high school sweethearts but then went separate ways. Peter, a psychologist, brings flowers and a song for Kari, yet she avoids his affectionate advances. She's unhappily married and her husband, Hans, is not at the party. So Peter persists in tempting her to remember and rekindle their lost love. But Kari hangs onto a grave anger at Peter, for leaving her pregnant 20 years before, when he went off to college, and for her subsequent choice of an abortion. Like a combination of Thornton Wilder and Tennessee Williams, Wright's play (through Simmons's staging) spins a charming yarn that is both metatheatrical and passionate, involving the audience in imagining many colorful characters, as well as the "shadow of a baby" that haunts two of them, who cannot turn back the clock.    Review by Mark Pizzato

BLACK LIGHT MAGIC         A Captivating Trip Into A World Of Wonder.

Childrenís Theatre of Charlotte did it to me again. The Omimeo Black Light Magic show started off with a clever mime sketch about a man hanging his laundry on a clothes line. He spiced it up with some old magician-show stuff I saw back in college by removing some heart-decorated boxer shorts from a man in the audience and a bra from a woman--- all G-rated shticks and semi-funny stuff. I was, as usual, under-whelmed. For mime shows usually produce yawns from me as predictably as ragweed provokes sneezes. One time I even fell asleep during a Marcel Marceau performance with big-buck ticket prices. Itís not that I donít get it; I just donít like it.

So my 6-year old grandson and I sat politely through the opening as the man finished with the clothes and became entangled with a folding lawn chair. And then - shazaam! - we both sat up and started giggling and laughing and applauding as the lawn chair re-folded itself and flew gracefully above the stage. The chair was soon joined in flight as each piece of clothing left the line and started dancing magically in the air. Then the clothesline itself broke free of its moorings and twisted and turned rhythmically overhead as if possessed by the spirit of Ginger Rogers.

The kid leaned over and said, ďI love it, Poppa!Ē Whatís not to love? It was his first encounter with hippie-era black lights and psychedelic colors and free-flowing shapes that are as hard to define as the forms that bubble up in a lava lamp. It was new adventure for my grandson; it was good oleí days for me. Groovy, man!

The rest of the 45-minute show was one clever, captivating sketch after another as Hardin Minor, Eddie Williams and their invisible Omimeo ensemble delivered an indescribable adventure of shapes and colors and sounds that dazzled the eyes and ears in what seemed like a world where Bob Fosse and the Blue Men take on Mummenschanz. In one sketch, the socks from the clothesline became music notes that took their places on a flowing music staff which twisted and turned in the air with elegant grace. In our favorite bit, the mime, dressed in beach gear, literally dives into black ocean waves which magically swallow him up. He then finds himself in an underwater world where exotic sea creatures swim, cavort, and chase each other.

There were also some other clever sequences where clothing seems to dance gracefully with no visible body to fill them out and where props like umbrellas, brooms and a chorus line of striped, swizzle straws ( I think thatís what they were) seem to dance and soar all on their own.

Itís no wonder that, even the extra performances, this show was sold out, for Black Light Magic is great entertainment for all ages. The kids loved it almost as much as their parents and this old-timer did. In fact if seats had been available, you can bet Iíd have talked my wife into going back with me and seeing it again without any kids in tow. Like that old saying goes -- some things are wasted on the young.     Review by Don Cook

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