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Once again we have the Preston/Ronda dynamic duo with dual reviews for Steel Magnolias, and Will Godwin with Conspirare’s Christmas at the Carillon with Patrice Pike!
Enduring popularity, emotional highs and lows, some of the most memorable lines in southern playwrighting . . . one would think Robt. Harling’s most memorable play guarantees success. One would be wrong. I’ve seen five different versions of this show. Some delighted and some chafed, and not just because I’m a male theatregoer. This production succeeds, however, despite its “minimalist” set, despite the unsettling, between-scenes onstage costume changes and despite some too thick Louisiana dialects and a few comical wardrobe pieces. It succeeds because Barry Pineo (a talented director and actor) has lovingly blended Virginia Pratt (Truvy), Jessica Loyd (Annelle), Clairee (Ellen Massey), Akasha Villalobos (Shelby), Annie Dragoo, (M’Lynn)and Melita McAtee (Ouiser)into a true ensemble. Thus, the focus in CTC’s intimate 85-seat theatre is squarely on six fine actors and the wonderful dialogue that binds together the hands, hearts and aspirations of their characters. Go. See. Enjoy!
Only Two More Weekends
It is difficult to modify this popular classic, but director Barry Pineo found a few ways to change it up. The audience becomes a giant mirror with the beauty shop clients and stylists looking directly into them as they view and do their hair dos or “check the back” (and perhaps the audience) with a hand-held mirror. Another innovation, some of the costume changes are made at the sides of the stage between scenes, adding interest and speeding action along. The acting is good, particularly Akasha Banks Villalobos as “Shelby,” the diabetic wanting to have her own baby. There’s a reason this play has been so popular for so long: It’s well written, funny and poignant. A downside for this production is the set. Limitations on this stage did not allow for a working sink . . . or a sink at all. There were no stylist chairs and the manicure area used simple stools and a table. So much more could have been done to make the setting more realistic.
-Ronda Dale Kirk
Real Christmas Spirit Voice at Long Center
Weaving themes of Christmas (love, hope, forgiveness, oneness) through program, Craig Hella Johnson directs Conspirare’s Company of Voices through a well-gathered “collage” of song and lyrics that makes this concert at the Long Center very special. I’ve never experienced thousands of people together be so quiet and together with the artists. Breathing and coughing seemed to be suspended in orchestration with the voices. Conspirare expands what is the spirit of “Christmas” beyond the bounds and constraints that religious doctrine can put on the human soul. They literally give Voice (word and song) to the Soul, the Voice of God perhaps. The ALL GOD’S CHILDREN was particularly moving to a “Boomer” who has particular connection to lyrics in Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Goin’ On?” and Joni Mitchell’s “Woodstock”. Patrice Pike did her “The Calling” during this segment. Her link-up with Conspirare brings an energy and spontaneity that is a wonderful mix with this great “Company of Voices”.
As Ronda Dale-Kirk’s review says, there are only two weeks left to catch Steel Magnolias, so make sure you go check it out!
And up next for Conspirare is their Youth Choirs’ “Awaiting” this Friday and Saturday!