Posts Tagged Tony Kelly

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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The Night Alive: Play Review


The Night Alive, written by Conor McPherson and directed by Tony Kelly, is a kind of nativity story focusing on compassion and kindness although the beginning seems like it’s anything but that. The play starts by providing a glimpse into the slice of anguished lives of a few lost souls and faint but clear glimmers of hope appear by the end.

Image result for night alive, san joseTommy (Randall King) rents a room in his uncle Maurice’s (Julian Lopez-Morillas) old Edwardian house in Dublin. Uncle Maurice lives upstairs and though critical of Tommy, he also loves him.  Tommy’s friend, Doc (Lawrence Radecker) is Tommy’s little sidekick who also frequently sleeps in the room and helps Tommy with odd jobs.  They scrape by from day to day work and live amidst junk-filled squalor of the room. As the play begins, one night Tommy rescues a young prostitute, Aimee (Allison F. Rich) and bring her home to get her cleaned up. Aimee has no place to go and she ends up staying, for that night and another and another.

Tommy has been estranged from his wife and kids and does not have anything significant to look forward to in life. But a sort of friendship develops between Tommy and Aimee and it brings a little sunshine into his otherwise dark life.  Friendship also sprouts between Aimee and other men. Doc is a little slow and at first he is not quite approving of the loss of his sleeping place and of his friend’s attention. Uncle Maurice is also somewhat disapproving at first. Deadpan humor while all these lost souls are trying to find their bearings in a situation of change and chaos is often heart-breaking but things start to get resolved and just as there is emergence of hope for a kinder gentler life, the story takes a turn.

Image result for night alive, san joseAimee’s ex-boyfriend Kenneth (Jonathan Rhys Williams) comes looking for her and completely disrupts their lives. Is that not how life often unfolds for people with lower means and resources, and keeps them imprisoned in a vicious circle where while they continue to live, life in a true sense seems to emerge every now and then but continues to stay out of their reach?  For this group, as life unfolds in the moment, as they live without dreams, goals and a future, their little attempts at humor seem like attempts to grab fleeting happiness, whenever they can. Doc once brings a book titled “How to survive life-threatening situations”, and reads from it. As the audience laughs at totally non-helpful suggestions outlined in the book, a question lingers, how does one survive life that has nothing to offer?

If however, the ending is good, rest does not matter. Play ends ambiguously, albeit at a place where a little hint of hope, a faint flash of faith emerges.  Sometimes love and kindness may just be enough to open a future of possibilities.

The Night Alive is playing at www.thestage.org in San Jose till December 11, 2016.

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The Addams Family – Play Review


You are in for a fabulously spooky treat, in “The Addams Family”, a musical comedy based on a book by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, based on a group of hilariously zany characters created by Charles Addams.  This gloomy musical will keep you smiling till the very end.  Tony Kelly has masterfully directed the show, with Musical Direction by our highly talented Allison F. Rich and Assistant Musical Direction by Ryan Stohs.  Andrew Lippa has provided music and lyrics.

“Intoxicating scent of graveyard”, err, intoxicating sight of graveyard, pervades on the stage, as each of the characters is introduced; after all, “living or dead, family is family”.  Grandma’s (Donna Federico) claim to fame – when she breaks wind, “it can start the windmills on an old Dutch painting”.  And in case you wonder about Uncle Fester (D. Scott Mcquiston), “what could a fat bald person of no specific sexuality know about love”, he is in love with the moon, and is preparing for a voyage, to meet his beloved.

The wacky and the macabre gets interestingly bizarre when you meet the “fabulous mother, She of skin so pale, eyes so deep, and dress cut down to Venezuela”.  Gomez Addams (Johnny Moreno) is deeply dedicated to his family and most of all, to his unpretentious gloomy wife, and mother of Wednesday (Courtney Hatcher) and Pugsley (Zac Schuman), the edgy and evocative, Morticia Addams (Allison F. Rich).

Wednesday has fallen in love with Lucas Beineke (Jeffrey Brian Adams) and has invited him and his family dine over at the Gomez’s and the stage is set for an extraordinary encounter between the conservative Midwesterners, living far out in the country and the highly sophisticated New Yorkers.  Wednesday pleads to her family,
  They’re normal people
  Not like you
  Not like me
  Please can’t we be a normal family!
  One normal night
  That’s all I want
  That’s all I need from you

Grandma says, “define normal” and it soon becomes clear that each family has its own unique quirks and its own unique brand of mid life crisis.  Wednesday’s concerned mother tells her husband, Wednesday is growing up. Gomez: She’ll be Thursday before you know it!”  Meanwhile Lucas’s mother Alice Beineke (Elise Youssef) sings,
   When I’m depressed
   Or feeling blessed
   A poem will get it off my chest
   They come to me
   They take no time
    They just pop out
     and always rhyme

This show is an absolutely stupendous undertaking by San Jose Stage, with a big cast, long list of creative team members, as well as the band for music.  Michael Cook has done a marvellous job with scenic design and Abra Berman’s work on costume design is equally fantastic.  Stage Manager and Assistant Stage Manager, Margaret Kayes and Nicole S. Langley deserve special kudos.  My best compliments are for Prop Master, T J Toribio, for absolutely fantastic work with props.  For any student of props, this is a must-watch performance.

Easily, I designate The Addams Family playing at San Jose Stage (www.thestage.org) as not-to-miss show of this theater season.

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