Edmond Chibeau looks at performance and theatre from the avant-garde communication perspective

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Location: Mansfield, Connecticut, United States

Sunday, August 03, 2014

Mastodon Tracks In New Britain

The Impracticality of Modern-Day Mastodons

by Rachel Teagle
directed by Jake Williams
produced by Johnny Peifer
Hole in the Wall Theatre, New Britain
Aug 2, 2014  (closes Aug. 23)

The Impracticality of Modern Day Mastodons is one of the best pieces of theatre available in Connect this Summer, catch it if you can.
Two keys to making a puppet work with actors in a live production are the small movements of the puppet and how well the human actors respond to and react with the puppet.  The current play at the Hole In The Wall Theatre, directed by Jake Williams, manages to fulfill both of those requirements.  Lisa DelCegno as the voice of the beast is wonderfully sympathetic and brings the giant puppet to life

The Mastodon was made by master puppet maker and Kinetic Sculpture Artist, Ann Cubberly.  The shimmering “skin” of the mastodon, and the many small movements made by the three puppeteers imbued the beast with both personality and emotional responsiveness.  I found myself comparing the piece to War Horse, that I was lucky enough to see during its run at Lincoln Center.

The premise of Mastodon: “what if our childhood dreams came true?” opens up endless possibilities for development.  Director, Jake Williams and his cast explore the possibilities of Teagle’s script with insight and ingenuity. 
Williams has DelCegno, the mastodon, who is the most fantastic character, play it most closely to realism.  While the other actors’ performances are more wild and surrealist.  
The individual performances run a spectrum of acting styles.  Vickie Blake, as the headhunter, Delores, turns in an-over-the top performance reminiscent of Phyllis Diller at her most manic.  Abby Auden, has a great sense of character and is unflappable on stage.  At 11 years old, she is a star in the making.  Brett Aiello, as the boyfriend, has a prosecutorial glare in his portrayal of the James Bond dreamer.  Jill Ann Dvorsky doubles as a news reporter and a temptress; she is a laugh a minute.  Joshua Ives also doubles as Pat St. John and Paleontologist 1.  He makes a strong contribution to the cast.  Reading from front to back, puppeteers Rob Ecker and Nicki LaPorte are sensitive and understated in their manipulation of the giant Mastodon.
The Jack Williams production of the Rachel Teagle play is a mad mix of acting styles and some how it works, as a matter of fact, it flies.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Joan Seliger Sidney: Bereft and Blessed

Joan Seliger Sidney
Bereft and Blessed:
Joan Seliger Sidney
Antrim Press,
Simsbury, Connecticut
Spring 2014

Sidney's new book published by Antrim House with a cover painting by Gray Jacobik reflects a continuation and deepening of her style and her soul.  Joan Seliger Sidney's poetry often deals with unspeakable hurt and almost unbearable compassion.  But she speaks it, and she bears it.   We know this because we hear it in her writing.  She shares the stories that were handed down to her, the stories she creates, and the stories she has lived, and she asks us to share, not the pain, but the misericordia.
She prefers 3-speed bikes, roller skates that clatter on pavement, granddaughters to the grandsons that she doesn’t have.  She prefers telling the truth, though the truth doesn’t always need to be told. 
She sometimes relives moments in pre-World War II Poland, a country where she never lived but where she can take us with her writing. A place where we can join her to recapture, a time that is gone, a place that is gone, and a community that she, with our help, will keep alive forever.
Ask her some day why her mother couldn’t speak Yiddish.  Or read about it in her book.  It is a book that will both break your heart, and lift up your spirit.  Joan Seliger Sidney is a poet who is both “Bereft and Blessed.” 

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Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Spirit of Broadway: Benedict Arnold

Squandered Opportunity or Beginning of Change

In the In the Norwich Bulletin on Tuesday 10 July 2014 Ray Hackett chided the town of Norwich bigwigs for not supporting a play with roots in their town.  He spoke about how the arts, especially the performing arts, can be the vanguard of a town’s revitalization.The key to transformation of a community is often in the arts.  Ray Hackett’s critique of the absence of city government at the opening of “Benedict Arnold: The Musical” at the Spirit of Broadway theatre is a point well taken. To develop its profile Norwich must make a concerted effort by producing more plays, musicals, and more exhibits about Norwich. The theatre should experiment with different lengths of shows and different kinds of shows. It should repeat successful works again the following year. There must be continued support from the town.  
“Spirit of Broadway” must produce more Norwich related material and members of city government must offer ongoing support.  One-and-done is not the answer, but developing a community that supports its arts and knows its history can make all the difference. 

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

EUGENE O'NEILL: Artists Interpret His Life and WorkEUGENE O'NEILL: Artists Interpret His Life and Work
May 31 to June 21, 20146pm
Hygienic Art Galleries
New London, CT
review: Edmond Chibeau

The exhibit honoring the New London, Nobel Prize laureate is a small and compelling show that evokes the spirit of O’Neill through visual means.  Some of the best pieces are on loan from the Eugene O’Neill Center.

Dan Potter’s Plasma cut steel sculpture of the author’s head, HIT (His Inner Turmoil) is one of the most interesting and emotional pieces in the show.  It is difficult to execute, technically excellent, and emotionally moving.  Dan Potter’s other work is a sumi ink portrait of the playwright, Brooding Quartet has a sinuous line that sumi ink captures so well.

Monte Cristo Cottage is a witty and ironic print by Lynda Wesley McLaughlin.  It offers us a view of a table with threatening claw feet.  Sitting around the table are Oona O’Neill as a little girl, Charlie Chaplin and O’Neill, who is holding a sheet of paper.  This evokes the scandal of Chaplin’s marriage to Oona.  They were married a month after she turned 18.  He was 36 years her senior.  They had eight children and stayed married until his death in 1977.  Wow!

A portrait of O’Neill by Michael Peery offers us a trompe l’oeil mouth as if it were a cut out pasted on to the painting.  The piece is well conceived and well executed.

Sheila Prieto offers two views of the same subject.  Last Desire is an acrylic of two elm tress without leaves, while her ink drawing,
When the Elms Took Away With Desire is a humorous comment on a tragic play.  She shows us two trees that are sneaking away, carrying a farmhouse.  One cannot help but think about the Elms as both characters and inciting elements in O’Neill’s play. 
Desire Under The Elms O’Neill Conference Tree, a photograph by Vinnie Scrrano shows us a view of the grounds of the Center with a beautiful Elm in full leaf.  Elms are not famous for their flowering or budding but they have exquisite trunks and branches.
This writer offers a WordWork (visual performance script) linking Desire Under The Elms to some of the various other playwrights who also took on the Phaedra and Hippolytus myth, Euripides, Seneca, Racine, Rexroth among them.  

There are two display cases with books and Playbills, and a postcard in O’Neill’s handwriting that have been contributed by Bill Hanrahan.  The card is addressed to Miss. Shoomaker at the Hudson Theatre on W. 44th Street.  The post card was mailed in 1926 with a 2 cent stamp.  Hanrahan also has a photograph of a group of early books with O’Neill’s plays in them. 

Robert M. Dowling has an odd triptych consisting of an Associated Press article suggesting that the Unabomber Ted Kaczynski chose Eugene O’Neill 44 cent stamps for letter bombs that were intended to kill rather than to maim.   And the 3rd piece is a letter from Kaczynski, mailed from a penitentiary in Colorado denying that there was any forethought to the choice of the stamps.

The show was conceived and put together by
Rob Richter, Robert M. Dowling, Bill Hanrahan, Michael Peery, Vincent Scarano, Rich Martin, with help form the Eugene O’Neill Center

Saturday, April 19, 2014


A Cup Of Joe At The Iffy Fish
Written by Scott Stephen Kegler
Directed by Scott J. Hoffman
Hole In the Wall Theatre
19 April - 10 May 2014

The Iffy Fish is a greasy spoon café out on the great highway.  It is populated by a strange group of characters: vampires, ghosts, zombies, federal agents and creatures from outer space.  “On my planet I’m considered the female of the species.”

The play takes place in a run down greasy spoon that brings to mind the 1912 David Belasco production, The Governor’s Lady, where he reproduced a Childes Restaurant kitchen in which actors actually cooked and prepared food during the play.
Theatre repeats itself; the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.
The detail in the set is amazing and yet there are sections where there are black curtains the way one might find them on a multi-set TV production of the 1950s and 1960s.
I suspect this has to do with the Rod Serling like character who addresses the audience from time to time to introduce the play and other dramatic developments.

Director Scott J. Hoffman does an excellent job of blocking the actors, evoking the emotional moments, and redirecting the focus among a large group of performers.  He moves the audience and the actors from scene to scene in parallel worlds that seem to pierce each other at moments when characters can interact across time and space.
Between the excellent writing and directing we feel that there is an explanation for these bazaar goings on but we are not quite sure of what it is.

Kelley Mountzoures plays a touching and lovely Gretchen.  James, DeMarco lurches about as Maurice with a mix of danger and absurdity.  Michael Vernon Davis makes Rod an interlocutor who brings us back to the Golden Age of Television.  Elizabeth Bernard, who plays Darla, doesn’t have a lot of lines but we can’t take our eyes off her when she is on stage. Samantha Baker as Agent Scott has eyes that can cut through steel.  Heather Auden, Aunt Tee, plays a line, pauses, and then casts a glance that speaks volumes. Nathan St. Martin, Mike, can play it straight or make it funny, sometime both simultaneously.  Ryan Wantroba is a terrific physical actor.  Shane Kegler is threatening and powerful as Murphy.  Johnny Peifer, Agent Franklin, is a cross between a “man in black” and a monster from outer space. 

Near the end of the play the character Claude is mentioned by name by Murphy (Shane Kegler).  Claude is thrilled to be remembered and he says, “I knew he would remember me.  I’m part of the story, not just a gimmick.”
The kissing scenes at the finalé are spectacular and disturbing.
The whole production has a Grand Guignol quality that is over the top but still under control.
Scot Stephen Kegler has written a script that moves quickly, keeps us on the edge of our seats, and is often bazaar but never dull. 

This is a world premiere of a play that has legs and will, no doubt be seen again.

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