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Metromaniacs at STC Extended: Don’t Miss It

February 25, 2015

If you like to laugh and feel really good when you walk out of a show then you need to see Metromaniacs at the Shakespeare Theatre Company (STC). I wrote about attending a rehearsal of the play but was still blown away when I saw it on Tuesday evening. David Ives who adapted it from an obscure 1738 French play La Metromanie is just brilliant. The direction by Michael Kahn brings it to life in a way no other director could. It is not only the words but the physicality of the actors, every movement means something, and each elicits a laugh. Kahn has directed other David Ives plays at the Shakespeare including The Liar and The Heir Apparent and those who saw them will not want to miss this because they know how great the collaboration between Ives and Kahn is. David Ives said, “These three plays have been some of the most fun I have ever had in the theater”. Those who have seen them all will agree audiences feel the same.

Ameilia and Dina Thomas (Photo by: Peter Rosenstein) Ameilia and Dina Thomas

The play is about mistaken identity and everyone being incognito at a party. They are lusting after people they have never seen and deliciously making fools of themselves in the process. The actors that Kahn chose are each perfect in their roles. Amelia Pedlow as Lucille has been at the STC before as Hermia in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and as Jessica in The Merchant of Venice. Her beauty and comedic skills shine in this production. Dina Thomas as Lisette makes her STC debut and we can only hope she will be back. She is glorious. 

Some other cast members have been at the STC before and include Anthony Roach as Dorante. Dorante is the good-looking hunk who isn’t quite bright. Anthony clearly is a good-looking hunk so that part is easy but it takes a good actor to play stupid so well. Anthony leaves this production to star in Guys and Dolls at the Goodspeed Theater Company. Then there is Christian Conn as Damis. He was at the STC as Dorante in The Liar among other productions. Not much to say about Christian other than he is a superb actor and great in this role. When he is onstage you are drawn to him. He is another actor that if we are lucky will continue to grace the STC stage. Michael Goldstrom as Mondor makes his STC debut and is perfectly cast and a wonder to watch. His comedic talents are clearly evident throughout the production. Peter Kybart as Baliveau and Adam LeFEVRE as Francalou both make their STC debuts and are perfectly cast and incredibly talented. Part of the wonder of Metromaniacs is that all the actors just seem like they are having a great time.

Anthony Roach (Photo by: Peter Rosenstein) Anthony Roach

I was fortunate to be part of a theater party that had cocktails with the cast after the show. Each and every one of them is as nice off-stage as they are great on-stage. It’s always fun to hear their thoughts on the audience and what makes a production fun for them. Without exception they all raved about being in a production directed by Kahn. The play has been extended to the middle of March so you can still get tickets at STC. Don’t miss out on this fun evening in the theater.

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'Choir Boy' at the Studio Theatre: Don’t Miss this Play

February 8, 2015

I hadn’t heard much about Choir Boy before friends asked me to join them at the theater. My comment after the show was WOW! This is a powerful and well-acted acted piece of theater.

Jelani Alladin in Choir Boy at Studio Theatre (Photo by: Igor Dmitry.) Jelani Alladin in Choir Boy at Studio Theatre

David Muse, the brilliant Artistic Director of the Studio Theatre writes “The play is written by Tarell McCraney, a celebrated American Playwright who has received a prestigious MacArthur ‘genius’ fellowship. He has had his plays produced at the Studio Theater more than four times and this past August received an honorary doctorate for his body of work from the University of Warwick. The amazing thing about all this is McCraney is only 34 years old.”

Choir Boy takes place in the fictional Charles R. Drew Prep School for Boys; an elite historically Black boarding school preparing young men for greatness. Pharus (acted to perfection by the very talented Jelani Alladin), struggles with his dual goals of becoming the lead in Drew’s legendary gospel choir and his need to belong. His character’s struggle plays out against the other students who are dealing with issues of faith, sexuality, legacy and race. Pharus is trying to reconcile this being gay with wanting to be accepted by the other students in the choir who do what so many young men do and call anyone who appears at all feminine unprintable names. His new roommate Anthony Justin ‘AJ’ James (acted with startling perception and feeling by Jaysen Wright) is openly and proudly heterosexual, has the best physique of all the students and is on the baseball team. But of all the boys in the choir he shares the most empathy with Pharus and is an example to everyone what it means to be a person of grace, decency and understanding.

Then there is David (Jonathan Burke) who wants to be a preacher but has to deal with his being gay as well. His interactions with Pharus are unfortunately so real that many young men trying to deal with their own sexuality in a world that still doesn’t accept being Gay may see themselves.

Jaysen Wright, Jonathan Burke, Eric Lockley, and Jelani Alladin in Choir Boy at Studio Theatre (Photo by: Igor Dmitry.) Jaysen Wright, Jonathan Burke, Eric Lockley, and Jelani Alladin in Choir Boy at Studio Theatre

All in all, this is a play that needs a wide audience because it talks of the human condition. It is the story of too many boys trying to grow up in a world in which they don’t quite fit and wanting desperately to be accepted by their peers and their parents. The rest of the cast especially Keith Antone as Bobby and Eric Lockley as his sidekick Junior are wonderful.  Alan Wade as Mr. Pendleton and Marty Austin Lamar as Headmaster Marrow pull the production together and share with the audience how some adults try to deal with, and not always successfully, young men trying to find themselves and reach maturity.

This is a play that makes you think and makes you want to do something to help all young people find an easier route to adulthood. That may not be possible but it leaves you wanting to try. The production has been extended through March 1. Tickets are available at Studio Theatre.


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Hillary Rodham Clinton Will Be a President Who Believes in Science

February 4, 2015

With the outbreak of measles in the United States, we once again see a divide on how basic science and research are viewed by the leading members of the Republican and Democratic Parties. President Obama spoke out quickly and decisively. "There is every reason to get vaccinated, but there aren't reasons to not," he said in an interview with NBC News. "I just want people to know the facts and science and the information. And the fact is that a major success of our civilization is our ability to prevent diseases that in the past have devastated folks. And measles is preventable."

It was both fascinating and scary to listen to some contenders for the Republican nomination for president fall over themselves trying to explain why they don't believe in vaccinating their children against measles or why other parents should have the choice not to do so. As reported in The Washington Post, Chris Christie believes parents should have a choice; Rand Paul, an ophthalmologist who isn't certified by the American Board of Ophthalmology, the only recognized body that certifies doctors in his specialty, said, "I have heard of many tragic cases of walking, talking, normal children who wound up with profound mental disorders after vaccines. I'm not arguing vaccines are a bad idea; I think they're a good thing, but I think the parents should have some input. The state doesn't own your children."

Hillary Rodham Clinton tweeted a simple response to those who questioned the use of vaccines: "The science is clear: The earth is round, the sky is blue, and #vaccineswork. Let's protect all our kids. #GrandmothersKnowBest." Other Democrats such as Howard Dean, a doctor and presidential candidate in 2004 and a former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, said there are three groups of people who object to required vaccines:

One is people who are very much scared about their kids getting autism, which is an idea that has been completely discredited. Two, is entitled people who don't want to put any poison in their kids and view this as poison, which is ignorance more than anything else. And three, people who are antigovernment in any way.

These responses to a public health emergency make it more crucial than ever that the American people think long and hard about who they will choose as their next president. It is becoming increasingly clear that the pandering of Republican candidates to the far right of their party will bring forth a candidate who either doesn't understand or won't base their decisions on scientific research.

Hillary Rodham Clinton has always spoken out for making decisions based on the best scientific knowledge, and for funding basic scientific research so that we have the information we need to keep the American people safe and healthy. In 2008 Clinton said she was willing to see additional research on the safety of vaccines. Now that research is conclusive; vaccines are safe.

One of the most uplifting speeches I have heard Hillary deliver was to an audience at the Carnegie Institute of Science in 2008, on the anniversary of Sputnik. In that speech she said:

When science is politicized, when the truth is subjugated by ideology, it's worse than wrong -- it's dangerous. Ending the war on science and once again valuing the ever-skeptical but always hopeful scientific enterprise is about more than our economy. It's about more than our security. It is about our democracy.

She went on to quote Daniel Patrick Moynihan, the late senator from New York, who said, "Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but no one is entitled to his own facts."

The Republican candidates who question the use of vaccines are basing their opinions on their own facts. They ignore the research and, in doing so, put the public's health in danger. It now appears even worse. They are forming their opinions for purposes of political pandering. We need to elect a president who will base her decisions on scientific research, not on perceived popular opinion for political gains.

We know we can trust Hillary Rodham Clinton when it comes to funding basic science and then making decisions on the best evidence available. We know it from listening to her talk about her faith in, and support of, basic science, and her response to the vaccine debate. We can also judge her by listening to her words when, as Secretary of State, she said before a gathering of scientists and researchers at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to mark the 30th year of the fight against HIV/AIDS, "We need to let science guide our efforts [to achieve an AIDS-free generation]. Success depends on deploying our tools based on the best available evidence." Hillary Clinton will be a president whose decisions we can trust.



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