Posts Tagged play

The Toxic Avenger – Play Review


Musical comedy “The Toxic Avenger” based on Lloyd Kaufman’s film of the same name, originally derived from book and lyrics by Joe DiPietro and music and lyrics by David Bryan, is currently playing at The stage (www.thestage.org) in San Jose.  It is a silly show tackling a serious subject and features a talented cast that performs zillion roles.  Addressing the issue of climate change, the show shies away from becoming preachy or depressing. It begins with the lyrics

Global warming’s up ahead
The experts think we’ll all be dead
But they don’t know we’re here to fight

Image result for toxic avenger, san joseIt is a story of heavily polluted New Jersey town where Melvin Ferd III (Will Springhorn Jr.) resolves to get to the bottom of the cause of pollution and is pitted against town’s greedy, power-hungry and seductive mayor Babs (Allison F. Rich) and her gang of thugs. The mayor’s for-profit corporation is the cause of town’s growing pollution but the mayor is entirely focused on growing her bottom line.

Here’s a place between heaven and hell
Don’t need a map, just follow the smell
A place filled with filthy air
A place full of dark despair
A place you have no prayer
A place called New Jersey
New Jersey
Jersey, the Garden State
Ther’s an exit called the thirteen gee
Right off the turnpike where it smells just like pee
An exit no one dares get off:
An exit where the children cough

Image result for toxic avenger, san joseWhen the mayor’s thugs and Melvin engage in a fight, Melvin falls into a vat of toxic waste and emerges as a heroic green monster with superior strength. Melvin’s nagging mother (also played by talented Allison F. Rich) does not the express slightest shock and instead reiterates her disappointment with her son. Her lack of shock at the sight of her son is shocking in itself and at the same time her superb acting makes it feel like a natural response of a nagging mother to a child not rising up to his talents. It is all hilarious.  Melvin also reconnects with his blind love interest, Sarah (Courtney Hatcher). Sarah does not know that it is Melvin and falls hopelessly in love with who she believes is the superhero who saved her from the town’s thugs.

He’s strong and sweet and lives with his mother,
He saved my life so there is no other.
Such a man and man is he macho
Spicy cool like a bowl of gaspacho
Someday he’s ganna be my big, my big french boyfriend!

But Sarah soon gets an opportunity to touch Melvin’s ugly and scarred face and her love abets with the same speed as it had begun to overflow. When scorned by his sweetheart, broken hearted and depressed Melvin goes from being a town hero and a legend to a town pariah. However, Sarah soon changes her mind after she gets a talking-to by Melvin’s mother who explains “If blind people don’t like ugly people, than who will” and she and Sarah’s friends make a practical point that – after all
All men are freaks
It’s a burden every woman shares as she travels down life’s roads

Superbly directed by Jonathan Rhys Williams, the play is hilariously funny and witty. Cirby Hatano’s set is eye catching wasteland with scattered drums of toxic waste. Video design by Vijay M. Rajan occasionally fills the gap in the narrative and adds fantastically funny comic touches. When the fight ensues between the  hero and the thugs, blood is scattered or limbs are severed on the projected screen rather than on the set. The 80s style rock style songs are played by an onstage rock band directed by Brian Allan Hobbs.

The Toxic Avenger is produced at San Jose Stage at a critical time in our history, when depressing developments on the issue of climate change makes us feel both upset and helpless. Toxic Avenger is just the hero we need to transport us for a short while, to a place where we are not entirely helpless, and our righteous commitment enables us to find love and perfect solution for the cause of climate change. The Toxic Avenger will be playing at the Stage in San Jose until July 16, 2017 and tickets are available at www.thestage.org .

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The Memory Stick – Play Review


Set on an army base in Afghanistan in 2016, “The Memory Stick” by Irish playwright Donal O’Kelly, tackles some serious issues of right and wrong and moral obligation of soldiers when they see something unethical. The Memory Stick is a world premiere co-production between The Stage www.sanjosestage.org and the Arts Office of Dublin City Council, Ireland.  

Image result for "The memory stick", san jose stageTwo Native American soldiers Seth Shaw (John R. Lewis) and Jack Black Horse (Joseph Valdez), occasionally joined by Bridget (Lindsy Kail), begin a makeshift lodge while on an army base in Afghanistan.  Each of them relive their earlier memories and share ruminations that are deeply tied to their cultural identity. One of them has recorded some illegal data onto a memory stick about army’s unethical behavior and the discussion soon veers into the realm of morality and whether or not they should publish/leak this information.  The discussion weaves in many threads including systematic oppression of the Native Americans and events surrounding Wounded Knee as well as oppression of the Irish people and uprisings in Ireland. There is also a segment on Bradley/ Chelsea Manning that portrays Manning as a lonely hero.

This is an ambitious and bold play oddly reminiscent of Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment and takes the audience into deep recesses of morality and ethics. Is the true mantra for soldiers, “theirs not to reason why, theirs but to do and die” or as soldiers in the bigger journey of life, do we all bear responsibility to question the wrong when we see it, that every person can, as Bridget quotes from James Connolly, do “his duty according to his lights”? This play is about human soul and whistle blowers and how it puts someone concerned with doing the right thing sometimes in an incredibly lonely spot.  Indeed the play tackles too much and leaves the audience a bit rattled as well as unsettled.  It is heavy on dialog and while that can put you to sleep at times, yet under the chaos of multiple issues are larger questions about life and morality that are guaranteed to keep you awake at night.  Irish and the Welsh dialect is enjoyable and staging by Tony Kelly is sparse but perfect.

For tickets, please go to www.thestage.org .

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