“If Aphra Behn were here tonight, I hope she’d forgive our trespasses,” the groovy hippie chick says in the prologue, touching a white marble bust perched nobly next to a hot pink lava lamp with a zebra-striped base.
So opens Liz Duffy Adams’ play “Or,” in which there are many trespasses -- terrific trespasses and glorious liberties, which historical muse Aphra Behn, if she be anything like legend and this character portrayal, would no doubt forgive but downright appreciate. The play is an entertaining exploration of themes including identity and disguise, feminism and sexuality, and societal paradigms, built around a fascinating female figure from the literary canon and packed with witticisms and dashing dialogue. And Southwest Shakespeare Company’s production of “Or,” is a buoyant and brilliant testament to the talent of the company.
#1: Flight of the Conchords at Comerica Theatre, July 3
New Zealand's self-described “fourth most popular guitar-based digi-bongo a cappella-rap-funk-comedy folk duo” sings songs from their titular – and hugely popular – HBO sitcom. $39.50-$55. 8 p.m. July 3 at Comerica Theatre. comericatheatre.com
#1: Circus Xtreme at Talking Stick Resort Arena, June 23-26
Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey goes to new extremes with this high-energy show featuring traditional elements of the circus combined with fast-paced performances and hilarious moments. Tigers, camels, dogs, acrobats, strongmen, bungee skydivers, BMX freestyle riders and clowns are among the stars. (text by Judy Harper) Tickets start at $20. Call for times. June 23-26 at Talking Stick Resort Arena. ringling.com/shows/circus-xtreme
Thomas Jefferson’s skill with a quill is legendary. His skill with a straight razor is underrated. During his presidency, he sliced the logical verses out of the New Testament and glued them into his personal gospel, leaving the miraculous mumbo jumbo behind in his holey Bible. For this he was damned to hell. Sort of.
In this delightfully brain-tickling dramedy, playwright Scott Carter – producer of “Politically Incorrect with Bill Maher” – dooms Jefferson to a purgatorial room that resembles every writer’s hell: a blank page. Trapped with him are two gentlemen geniuses who also rewrote the gospel: Charles Dickens and Leo Tolstoy. To escape, they must reconcile their differences and jointly rewrite the Jesus story.
As anyone who’s spent countless hours perfecting a Match.com profile or braved a blind date that felt more like a job interview can attest, dating sucks. And what if you’re not the perfect blonde size-two? Prepare to receive more left swipes and painful jabs than a MMA rookie.
In a typical play it’s protocol
to safeguard the audience behind a fourth wall.
They’re impervious observers, aloof, apart.
Much like a lass named Prudencia Hart.
She’s old-fashioned, romantic,
Likes her Scots ballads folky.
Won’t sing karaoke.
But this play thrusts everyone into the melee
of a riotous, disorderly devil’s ceilidh –
unbuttoning, beguiling, emboldening Pru,
and along with the heroine... you.
Told largely in rhyming couplet, this touring National Theatre of Scotland production sloshes together soulful ballads, sing-a-longs, and the supernatural. It’s a full-bodied, whole-hearted, unforgettable experience.
John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men needs little introduction to many of us. The heartwarming yet emotionally devastating book was required reading at many schools, including my alma mater, Arcadia High School in Phoenix. Arizona Theatre Company brings the story to life through April 17 in a co-production with Milwaukee Repertory Theater. The play is aptly directed by Mark Clements.
If you’ve read the Diary of a Young Girl, written by Anne Frank while she and her family hid in an Amsterdam warehouse during the Holocaust, you know how profound her words were then and remain to this day. In 2005, British composer James Whitbourn set Frank’s poignant diary to music, and the 14-movement work will make its way to the Valley for two performances in April.
Some characters are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them. So it is with Sir Andrew Aguecheek, a secondary character who’s red of face, dim of wit and lily of liver. But actor David Dickinson thrusts upon him such joyous jackassery he steals the show, and sets the tone for the production: gloriously over-the-top.
“Twelfth Night” – a Shakespearean “Yentl” that blurs the lines between feminine and masculine, friends and lovers, servitude and sex drive – is meant to be fun. It’s also one of the Bard’s most respected plays. And it treats us to some of his most famous lines: “If music be the food of love, play on,” “Some are born great...,” etc.
Even if you aren’t familiar with the tragedies in Billie Holiday’s life, you can hear them. They’re the dusky bass notes that haunt even her happy songs. They’re the sad cymbal beat behind her sassy flirting, her swearing, her minor key cackling. “I do the blues feelin’ with a jazz beat,” she says in Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill. There’s a moment late in the play when, after staggering offstage, she walks back on with her white glove pulled down, revealing a telltale blue bruise down her arm. That’s essentially what this one-woman show does: It peels back the dressing – the upbeat jazz, the celebrity, the showiness – to reveal the blues and the bruises beneath.
Combining Hamlet, Doctor Faustus, and Martin Luther and creating a comedy is the equivalent of mixing lead, nickel and iron and making gold. Playwright David Davalos has indeed achieved theatrical alchemy in this über-literary romp packed with witticisms that fly as fast as Hamlet’s tennis balls (more on that later).
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