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If you’re a Hitchcock fan, “Panic” may be this week’s play for you. UW-Superior University Theatre produces the who-done-it on the Manion Theatre stage in the Holden Fine Arts Center. It runs Friday and Saturday, April 27 and 28, at 7:30pm and Sunday, April 29, at 1:00pm.
Playwright Joseph Goodrich mimes the master, Hitchcock himself, with movie mogul Henry Lockwood. Director Lockwood is in Paris with wife, Emma, and secretary, Miriam, to screen his latest film, “Panic”. A French film critic and a beautiful Parisienne in distress (who eventually turns as blonde as most of Hitchcock’s leading ladies) are the remaining characters.
The story contains Hitchcock’s signature combination of sex and violence and his penchant for picturesque locales. But it could stand a good editing, much as Hitchcock’s movies were edited by his own wife, Alma. We sat for almost 3 hours. A number of scenes could have been pruned. There were way too many puffs on a cigarette; an excruciating perusal of a newspaper; a garroting and stabbing that seemed interminable (or was that camp?)
Jenna Osterlund plays the femme fatale with a fun French accent and a sweetly sly demeanor that is also campy. Unfortunately when she yelled, her voice became an unintelligible screech. Daniel Harte was suavely pleasing as film critic, Alain Duplay, his enjoyable accent stemming from three years of college French.
Tony Abbott, as director Lockwood, emulated Hitchcock in physique, but both he and Sharon Dixon Obst, as Emma, gave uninspired deliveries. I’ve seen Obst onstage before and she usually fits the part. This time, there seemed to be a cage around her.
Megan O’Toole-Gott, as secretary Miriam, pulls the story together and holds our attention. The set, an upscale hotel room, (Hitchcock often kept the action in a single room) is well-designed by Sue Wedan. Black, white and red 1960’s costumes by Stephany Anderson hit the spot. However, I’ve seen lots of great plays with Liz Larson directing, and this one needs some sprucing.
PRIDE AND PREJUDICE
Who would have thought I’d have such fun at the College of St. Scholastica’s production of Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice”? The final week run is from Thursday, April 26 through Saturday, April 28 at 7:30pm, with a Sunday, April 29 matinee at 2pm.
My own prejudice has prevented me from reading Jane Austen. I’ve simply had no truckle with landed 19th Century gentry. After enjoying this 1930’s stage adaptation by Helen Jerome, I can at last appreciate Austen and what a comic she was. Her family must have been rollin’ in the hallways.
Five daughters have come of age and their parents, who address each other as Mr. And Mrs. Bennet, are concerned about marrying them off. Hence the story. Reminds me of placing eight pups in good homes after my dog jumped the fence.
The quick dialogue between the Bennets is hilarious as is daughter Elizabeth’s repartee with most of the characters. Austen was indeed a wit, one who overcame the expectation that a woman’s only future lay in marriage. She, for one, did not wed. Instead she wrote.
The set, designed by Kevin Seime, was great: full of period furniture to accommodate this large family and fireplaces to keep them toasty. Sitting in the bottom row, I almost felt part of the play in this theater in near-round. The scene changes were lively and energetic, entertaining in their own right. Sue Boorsma and Jacy Hicks’ costumes elicited the Romantic era.
At least twelve of a large cast of actors stood out; director Mary Renn Vaughn is to be applauded for finding students in so many cross-campus disciplines to make this play a success.
The Spotlight Theater is truly in the heart of the CSS campus with the monastery entrance currently obstructed. The tiny theater can be accessed 1) by entering the tower at the Mitchell Auditorium entrance and following signs up, around and out or 2) by following the road past the Mitchell parking area to the upper parking lot and descending either outdoor staircase.
THE LAPIN AGILE
Find a shade of comedian Steve Martin at the Play Ground in the Tech Village at Lake and Superior. His 1995 play, “Picasso at the Lapin Agile” continues Thursday, April 26 through Saturday, April 28. Directed by Greg J. Anderson, this story is as absurdist as Godot.
It’s one of two local plays this weekend that happen in Paris with an emphasis on l’amour. It’s 1904 and Picasso shows up at a neighborhood bar, the Lapin Agile (agile rabbit), where Einstein has been nervously waiting for a redhead. The two young chaps eventually vie over how to create: is it by letters or lines? Picasso suggests Einstein to be a fake; Einstein wonders if Picasso is an idiot savant.
Anderson could not have more aptly picked Pat Carrol to play womanizer Picasso, exuding ego and bombast. But could sloe-eyed Einstein be the ultimate womanizer? We will always wonder if his educated wife, Mileva, was really the one who deserved the Nobel Prize for the theory of relativity. He divorced her and left the kids for America, but at least gave her the prize money.
This little bar draws some astute women. Suzanne (Laura Grieme) is looking for the Spaniard, with whom she’s had a liaison, but admits, ‘it was too quick”. Barmaid Germaine, (Amanda Sjodahl) confesses to hooking up with him too. Why? She wanted to find out what it was like with an artist.
Germaine and Suzanne prophecy about the new century: “Cruelty will be perfected”; “smoking in restaurants will be banned”; a yo-yo will be a popular toy; I don’t want to be one.
Martin’s humor jumps all over.. Slapstick: a woman pulling off her white blouse to put on a white blouse. Polish: the world should not become like a Polish village- unpronouncable. Art dealer Sagot (Tony Barrett) explained Picasso’s picture to friends for 2 hours; the friends left after an hour. The bartender (Quentin Roth) tells about asking a baker to bake a pie in the shape of the letter ‘e’; an alphabet pie rant ensues.
You never know when this play will end. It seems to be over and another hi-jink occurs. At last, a ‘country boy’, a singer of love songs (guess who?) time-travels into the bar, instigating new philosophical discussions. We’re brought into outer space. Then a pronouncement. Martin the comedian and Martin the philosopher meet head on in this farce.
Will there be tickets left? Last Sunday’s UMD performance of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Cinderella” was sold out. The show runs from Wednesday, April 25, to Saturday, April 28, 7:30 pm at Marshall Performing Arts Center.
This originally made-for-TV extravaganza was exquisite. I usually opt for more heady fair, but for pure and simple entertainment, this is it. The costumes were gorgeous; the orchestra rich; the singing and acting super; the choreography beguiling; the scenery, by design resident, Ann Gumpper, inventive and fun.
All sorts of kids were at Sunday’s show, many with princess gowns or fairy wings. A mom said her little one especially liked the frog, mouse and rat who change into livery when they transport Cinderella. A little one especially liked the godmother (Megan Potter).
Cinderella (Faith Engen) had a clear and pure voice. Johanna Dittus as the stepmother was flouncy and flamboyant. Her daughters, Portia (Emilie LaBonte) and Joy (yes! Steven Grant Douglas) gave us great slapstick. Whoever invented the part of the water well that moved on its own deserves congrats. It became a character of its own.
I was seated next to Gavin, a freshman football player, who chuckled the whole play through. For a professional quality performance that costs way less than Broadway, for an evening to forget yourself, but not to be forgotten, see UMD’s “Cinderella”. Director Kate Ufema wants us to have some fun.