Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Barn Players "Blood Brothers" review by watchNwrite

Who's Playing What?
Rating: 2

Blood Brothers
The Barn Players, Inc.

"Blood Brothers," produced by The Barn Players on September 14th, 2012, was little more than disappointing with its uninteresting songs and plot, weak story-telling, questionable acting, and indecipherable performance-style. Most jokes that did land were cheesy while most dramatic moments were over-acted and a confusing addition to the farcical way in which the rest of the story was told. Let's just jump right in.

With some dead spots (or late calls), actors were left in darkness for a little too long at certain moments, so it was hard to tell if the show was being called a hair late by either Stage Manager, Rebekah Grieb or Assistant Stage Manager, Meghan Newman… or if the Lighting Designer, Chuck Cline, fell short in his duties. Sounds (Sean Leistico) and Costumes (Kate O'Neill) were satisfactory, with the exception of the choices for Linda's (played by Katie Meador) undergarments -- several of which, were completely visible on accident. Props (designed by Grieb and Newman) were minimal, just like the set, designed by Doug Schroeder. All moveable pieces, the set changed several times by cast members pretty fluidly, so there is a point of relief. Fight Choreographer, Rachael Redler, developed a couple of ineffective moments for this play, while other moments seemed only to suffice. Choreographer, Julian Rivera, did not really have much to choreograph, but the actors wound up with moves they could do that were fun and cute. The moving song, "Bright New Day," could have used some movement instead of the uncomfortable and boring "move-acting" the cast was forced to make work; but overall, the choreography and staging (some obviously by Director Eric Magnus) was to the point. The cast made it work. The orchestra was lovely and cued very well by Conductor J. Preston Schell.

Magnus as the Director made a few extremely questionable choices with parts of this script, while still not making any choices about other parts. The whole thing had the night-and-day effect where, from one scene to the next, it was like watching two different plays. It's unclear that Magnus even had a clear vision of what he wanted to do with the script and story - and it became increasingly clear that the Barn Players should probably have chosen another script entirely. Between the overly-dramatic acting contradicted by the silly melodramatic acting and the extraneously-serious bits contradicted by the "laugh-it-up" bits of dialogue, it became hard not to ask the question "Why do I care about this story?" The distracting switch between several blatantly-different styles of performance left this reviewer in disbelief that these actors even rehearsed in the same theatre together. The styles were all represented so fully, though, and that suggests that Magnus had his actors' trust - a hard feat to accomplish. So as confusing and irritating as it was to take in the disparate choices of this production, at least no one shied away from their choices. "Go big, or go home" is the popular phrase, apparently. I just wished Magnus had the wherewithal to fit all his choices into the same style.

Dialect Coach, Ann Marie Siegwarth, seemingly, was not present at any of the vocal rehearsals because every accent did the vanishing act as soon as the actors opened their mouths to sing. That being said, though, the songs were still sung beautifully by most singers - - special note will go to Dave Fullerton's awe- inspiring range as a vocalist. Sadly, his voice is the only thing that exhibited range; as far as acting goes, it was hard not to slip into the belief that a Vegas lounge show act was what was being witnessed as Fullerton meandered without intention throughout most, if not all, of the play. Valerie Dykes as Mrs. Johnstone gives a very pleasant performance -- one which is the closest to realism that a musical will ever get. Mrs. Lyons (played by Alecia Stultz) was more on the grotesque Greek style of acting in many parts - so it's no question that the scenes between Dykes and Stultz were awkward, indeed, for Stultz -- who, no doubt, came off unbelievable and over-dramatic comparatively. Mickey (Christian Owen) and Eddie (Steven James) were the most enjoyable part of the play (at the early stages, of course) with their melodramatic feel and physical comedy. It's unclear if the style they were playing was the right one, but it was fun and campy, and it took a load off after suffering through the confusing styles in every other scene. The physical life of Owen's character was pushed too far at points, while James' character was solid throughout (a tad cyborg-creepy, for sure)…but solid. The addition of Katie Meador as Linda to make the trio was another highlight. Meador gives probably the best performance of the play - if not tying Dykes for first place. These two ladies were fun, believable, lovely, and genuine. This play was lucky to have them.

It is hard to wrap this production up into words - it was all over the place stylistically. The actors seemed to be having good time, and it seemed well-rehearsed. Magnus just did not hit the mark here with a vision that was definitely short of cohesive or focused.

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