Marriott Directs McDonagh at Chapel Hill’s Deep Dish Theater

More theater than we can attend! It is what we’ve all wished for…and now we have it, so get out and see it. Here’s a snip of my review of THE CRIPPLE OF INISHMAAN, currently playing at Deep Dish Theater in Chapel Hill. Directed by Tom Marriott, it has the comic timing and gentle appreciation of human longing and human foible that we’ve come to expect from him in his busy decades of theater work in the Triangle. This is his first time directing at Deep Dish; surely there will be more. Show runs through May 18, and has been selling out. Tickets on the website.

Julie Oliver, left, and Marcia Edmundson in Deep Dish's THE CRIPPLE OF INISHMAAN. Photo: Jonathan Young.

Julie Oliver, left, and Marcia Edmundson in Deep Dish’s THE CRIPPLE OF INISHMAAN. Photo: Jonathan Young.

Irish playwright Martin McDonagh has a sharp tongue and a kind heart, and both characteristics inform his play The Cripple of Inishmaan. Set in 1934, on one of the cluster of islands off western Ireland at the mouth of Galway Bay, the play examines various kinds of acting and authenticity. It looks at secrets and stories, news and gossip, and where they intersect. It considers choice, fate, and what makes a community or a family. All this is reeled out in cunningly crafted conversations among the idiosyncratic characters of the rocky, sea-bound village.

Read the rest on CVNC here.

Samantha Rahn and Ishai Buchbinder in THE CRIPPLE OF INISHMAAN. Photo: DDT.

Samantha Rahn and Ishai Buchbinder in THE CRIPPLE OF INISHMAAN. Photo: Jonathan Young.

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Love Life More with Ghost & Spice’s HAROLD AND MAUDE

Ghost & Spice Productions’ Harold and Maude at Common Ground Theatre. Photo courtesty of Ghost & Spice.

I’ve been putting off writing this review, because it is the last review I’ll have the opportunity to write about a Ghost & Spice production, and I can hardly stand it. Last call, folks. The “small but mighty” company that has brought out two choice plays a year for 11 years will cease production at the end of this run. With their typical flair, the members chose Harold and Maude to go out on. Like Maude, they’ve chosen their time. Like Harold—I’m counting on this—the actors/directors/musicians who have formed Ghost & Spice’s tight creative cell will reappear in all their zesty talent in other local productions. In the meantime, there’s this hilarious, heart-full, play directed by Rachel Klem going on out at Common Ground Theatre through October 13.

Harold and Maude was written by Colin Higgins first as a screenplay, then it became a novel to go along with the 1971 film; in 1980 he published a stage play version. The movie did not do well at first, nor did the play. The unusual love story of faux-suicidal young Harold, living with his rich L.A. mother and despairing of life, and almost-80 Maude, who lives every day with all her senses, has over the years developed an audience, and really, it is a jewel.

Ishai Buchbinder and Joan Darling in Harold and Maude. Photo courtesy of Ghost & Spice.

With Joan Darling in the Maude role, doing acting that never for a second seems like acting, and everyone rising to meet her standard, Klem must have had a wonderful time staging this endearing script. On opening night (9/28), all were word-perfect, and Ishai Buchbinder as Harold was remarkable (I particularly loved the tree-liberating scene). As usual, Klem’s pacing was excellent, allowing enough space for emotions to be felt, while moving the action briskly along. All the comic timing was great—and there are many comic moments along with the tender ones. If this production doesn’t inspire you to get more out of life, you may be already dead yourself.

Quite a bit of the comedy was supplied by Melissa Lozoff as Harold’s mother, Mrs. Chasen. The character is an over-heated piece of work, and Lozoff nearly goes over the top with her—but not quite. Desperate to get Harold out of the house and going in life, rather than cooking up schemes to make himself appear mutilated or dead, she sets him up with three dates from a computer dating service. The dates are all played by Raven Whisnant (wigs!), who between times croons the songs studding the show, along with music meister Rus Hames. (They play in a little room behind a large window, separated from the action, but visible to the actors, and us. It is a clever touch, making the musicians into overwatching spirits.) Whisnant was very good as the three wildly different dates, but when she was singing, I had a hard time taking my eyes off her face to watch the action.

The cast is rounded out by the redoubtable John Murphy as the uncle/the priest, wide-ranging Jeff Alguire as the baffled cop/the sexually available psychiatrist, and Amanda Hahn as Mrs. Chasen’s maid. Hahn marches around taking care of the Chasens—her only speech consists of multiple screams and a stuttered “but…” Each time she comes and goes without a word, she seems to get bigger and more powerful.

Rachel Klem, who is also the managing director of G & S and of Common Ground Theatre, says tickets for the remaining shows are going fast. If you want to say your goodbyes to Ghost & Spice in person, don’t dally.

Joan Darling and Ishai Buchbinder as Maude and Harold. Photo courtesy Ghost & Spice.

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