‘Take A Bow!’ Part 3: The Staff of DCMetroTheaterArts’ Favorite DC/MD/VA Fall 2016 Performances/Directors/Designers by DCMetroTheaterArts Staff: DC/MD/VA/PHILLY/NYC AREAS

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Here is the staff of DCMetroTheaterArts’ 3rd series of ‘Take A Bow!’ Fall 2016 honorees:

Caroline Clay as Florynce Kennedy in (Re)Acts: Where Do We Go From Here? at Forum Theatre.

Caroline Clay as Florynce Kennedy in ‘(Re)Acts: Where Do We Go From Here?’ Photo courtesy of Forum Theatre.

It was a one-night-only bill of short theater pieces and one of them was an excerpt from Let It Flow!, a one-woman show Caroline Clay has been developing about Florynce Kennedy (1916 – 2000). Kennedy was a legendary radical feminist activist, lawyer, lecturer, and civil rights-advocate, badass and brilliant. “You cannot live a risk-free life,” Clay quoted her, dressed in Kennedy’s trademark leather vest and BULLSHIT-imprinted shirt. Clay’s exuberant performance was a spot-on homage to a woman who broke paths that still need breaking, and it made clear that Let It Flow! needs to be seen in full.-John Stoltenberg.

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The Ensemble of Mother Courage and Her Children at Quintessence Theatre Group: John Basiulis, Carlo Campbell,  Tom Carman, Ashton Carter, Lee Cortopassi, Janis Dardaris, Leah Gabriel, Gregory Isaac, Leigha Kato, Forrest McClendon, Daniel Miller, and Ebony Pullum.

The Ensemble of ‘Mother Courage and Her Children.’ Photo by Shawn May.

The cast of Mother Courage and Her Children excelled as one of the most tightly knit ensembles appearing on Philadelphia stages in the past three months. It included the legendary Janice Dardaris as Mother Courage, and her children, portrayed powerfully by Daniel Miller as the impetuous Ellif, Tom Carman as the retarded Swiss Cheese, and Leigha Kato as Kattrin, the mute daughter. The amazing, Tony-nominated Forrest McClendon as the military cook, and Leah Gabriel as Yvette, a drunk prostitute, heated up some pivotal scenes. The multi-talented Gregory Isaac as The Chaplin in survival mode, and the energetic cast of supporting actors—John Basiulis, Carlo Campbell, Ashton Carter, Lee Cortopassi, and Ebony Pullum—added to a strong Quintessence ensemble under the direction of Alexander Burns that Bertolt Brecht would have loved.-Henrik Eger.

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Melanie Gall, creator and performer of Opera Mouse at SoHo Playhouse.

Melanie Gall in a promotional image for ‘Opera Mouse.’

An engaging storyteller, a gifted soprano, and a natural with children, Melanie Gall brought her warmth, vocal talent, and stage presence to the Fringe Encore Series in Opera Mouse, a delightful solo show that she wrote and performed. Presented with vitality and enthusiasm, Gall employed adorable hand puppets, classic arias, and audience participation to tell her original tale of Tilly, a determined mouse who lives under an opera house and dreams of becoming a singer. A hit in both FringeNYC and the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Gall was a golden-throated, heart-warming, smile-inducing treat for kids and adults alike-Deb Miller.

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Natsu Onoda Power and Charles “Shorty Corleone” Garris as cocreatirs of Wind Me Up, Maria!: A Go-Go Musical at Georgetown University.

Natsu Onoda Power. Photo courtesy of Georgetown University.

Shorty Corleone. Photo courtesy of his Twitter Page.

Wind Me Up, Maria! is a new musical that celebrates Go-Go—a make-you-get-up-and-dance genre of popular music, characterized by can’t-help-but-hollaback call and response, that originated in Washington, DC, in the 1960s and 1970s. The creative prime movers of this exuberant project are the innovative director Natsu Onoda Power, who wrote book and lyrics, and Charles “Shorty Corleone” Garris, the acclaimed R&B, Soul, and Go-Go singer-musician. Their collaboration is not only a sensational homage to a music genre that deserves a resurgence; it’s also an exquisite instance of American musical theater inspired by a unique, authentic, and locally grown musical idiom. And the show needs to go on.-John Stoltenberg.

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Erik Ransom as Edward II and Christopher Marlowe in More Than All the World at Theater for the New City.

Promotional image for ‘More Than All the World,’ with Erik Ransom (second from left). Photo by Michael Blase.

Playwright, composer, lyricist, and lead actor of More Than All the World, Erik Ransom created a truly epic musical reinvention of Christopher Marlowe’s bio-play on King Edward II, starring as both real-life historical characters. With a stellar supporting cast, a stunning design, and the powerhouse team of director/choreographer/costumer Rachel Klein and music director/conductor/orchestrator/keyboardist Andy Peterson, Ransom’s well-researched and passionately performed work brought contemporary relevance to the story and to the old adage, “Those who don’t study history are doomed to repeat it.”-Deb Miller.

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Leah Siegel as Jib in Jib: or, The Child Who Went Forth to Learn What Fear Was at Christ Church Neighborhood House.

Leah Siegel. Photo by Matthew Soltesz.

Leah Siegel starred as the eponymous and sadly archetypal rocker in Jib: or, The Child Who Went Forth to Learn What Fear Was. Haunted by the loss of her loved ones as her fame, popularity, and wealth grew and then declined, she skillfully conveyed Jib’s transformation from a talented young girl to a cocaine-snorting diva, unable to cope with life, aging, death, or the “huge responsibility” of “making up songs.” Her stirring vocals of original music by Amanda Palmer, Jason Webley, The Few Moments, and Firehorse–which ranged from profoundly poignant to searingly powerful–drove and anchored the show, and offered heartrending insights into her tormented character.-Deb Miller.

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Anna Deaver Smith as a witness to Freddie Gray’s arrest in Notes From The Field at Second Stage Theatre. 

Anna Deavere Smith at Second Stage Theatre in ‘Notes From the Field.’ Photo by Christopher Gregory for The New York Times.

Anne Deaver Smith has been honored for capturing the essence of the person she is playing on stage or on camera, everything from a Brooklyn Rabbi onstage to a White House advisor on TV. Still nothing compare to her latest role as a young, down-and-out Baltimore woman who knew Freddie Gray and saw the tragedy that unfolded in her neighborhood. In her latest work that explores what she calls the “schools-to-prison pipeline,” the award-winning Smith brings moral transparency to our struggles with race relations and inner-city survival. Let’s hope Smith returns to her hometown to share her extraordinary Notes From The Field back to Baltimore’s Center Stage where she began the process in 2015.-Carolyn Kelemen.

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Robert Bowen Smith as He in Rameau’s Nephew at Spooky Action Theater.

Robert Bowen Smith in ‘Rameau’s Nephew.’ Photo by Tony Hitchcock.

Robert Bowen Smith’s antic tour-de-force performance as He (the titular role) turns the character’s appallingly selfish ethos into endlessly entertaining sketch comedy. There comes a scene when Smith coughs an aria. Literally. Just like an opera singer except without music or lyrics. He goes on and on wordlessly, hackingly, raspingly, inflecting cough after ridiculous cough with a sincere and silly musicality that had me howling with laughter. The stunt stopped the show. I cannot recall a more enjoyable character on stage whose value system is so utterly bereft of a care for anyone but himself. -John Stoltenberg.

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Ryan Swain as Paul in Six Degrees of Separation at The Keegan Theatre.

Kevin Adams and Ryan Swain in ‘Six Degrees of Separation.’ Photo by Cameron Whitman.

From the instant Ryan Swain steps on stage, his every nuanced inflection, every glance, every gesture is calculated—but calculated to seem uncalculated. And so we watch him portraying a character who is constantly impersonating the person whom white folks will fall for—sensing and feeding their needs, helping them feel the way they want to feel, to think about themselves how they want to be thought of, to be who they can be only in that special dynamic between a performer’s virtuoso deceiving and an audience’s volitional believing. The character of Paul has layers of ulterior motives and a sixth sense for dissimulation, but the script never has him whisper asides to the audience that would help us read him, or read into him, or know what’s going on within. To infer anything about this character’s inner life while he is conniving, we have only this performer’s genius acting to go on.-John Stoltenberg.

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Tom Teasley, Composer and Percussionist for Metropolis, at Constellation Theatre Company.

Tom Teasley performing Metropolis at Constellation Theatre Company. Photo by Daniel Schwartz.

Tom Teasley’s music – and his performance – were spellbinding from the get-go. In creating a soundtrack for the 1927 Sci-Fi film Metropolis that uses both contemporary and traditional sounds, Teasley performed his composition surrounded by a myriad of percussion instruments ranging from the traditional (acoustic rig, bamboo flute, melodica and aquasonic) to the contemporary (electric keyboard, Kaoss pad, Handsonic synthesizer and a looping pedal). He masterfully blended the sounds of old and new instruments in a performance that clearly consumed his entire being and transported the black-box theater space to a higher aural plane.-Nicole Hertvik.

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Evan Zes as himself in Rent Control in the Fringe Encore Series at SoHo Playhouse.

Evan Zes in’ Rent Control.’ Photo by Morgan Burch.

In his autobiographical one-man show Rent Control, which won the 2016 FringeNYC Award for Overall Excellence in Solo Performance, Evan Zes turned his comic eye and adult humor on two of the greatest challenges he’s faced in New York: being a struggling actor; and trying to support himself in a sky-high real-estate market. And he recounted it all with unfailing charisma, rapid-fire timing, spot-on socio-economic observations, colorful language, and sidesplitting impersonations of the more than two dozen real-life characters he encountered along the way-Deb Miller.

LINKS:
‘Take A Bow!’ Part 1: The Staff of DCMetroTheaterArts’ DC/MD/VA Fall 2016 Favorite Performances/Directors/Designers.

‘Take A Bow’ Part 1 in Philadelphia: The Staff of DCMetroTheaterArts’ Favorite Fall 2016 Performances/Directors/Designers.

‘Take A Bow!’ Part 2: The Staff of DCMetroTheaterArts’ Favorite DC/MD/VA Fall Performaces/Directors/Designers.

‘Take A Bow!’ Part 3: The Staff of DCMetroTheaterArts’ Favorite DC/MD/VA Fall 2016 Performances/Directors/Designers by DCMetroTheaterArts Staff: DC/MD/VA/PHILLY/NYC AREAS.

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