Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Coterie "Bud, Not Buddy" review by BobEvans

Bud, Not Buddy shows grit of Depression Era Rating: 4

Bud, Not Buddy
The Coterie Theatre

Kansas City's famous children's theater venue, The Coterie opened a new production April 13 based on the Newberry Award Winner, Bud, Not Buddy with a wealth of local, talented actors, and led by a 17-year old veteran actor, Aaron Branch

The Depression Era story centers on the life of a young orphan man, struggling against life in an group home and several foster homes prior to his escape and quest to find his real father. Even though he has never seen nor heard from his father, he has some clues that he thinks will lead him in his search. All he possesses is a photo of his deceased mother, a few handbills of a performer who once played in town, and a handful of rocks with dates and city abbreviations written on them.

Even before actors take to the stage, audiences see a beautifully crafted set that sets the tone for the down-to-earth, Depression era story. With limited space, The Coterie depends on mostly small set shows or sets that provide double and triple duty with only a turn. In this case, one set and changes in lighting set the tone and mood for the story to follow. Set designer, Courtney O'Niell's work creates anticipation from the onset. Costumes, sound, and props equaled the set design.

Moving on to direction, director Scot Copeland took great care in selection of a cast ranging in age from 17 to middle age and matched characters well to balance the themes of the show. The entire cast blended well and portrayed as many as four small parts to create this theater outing aimed at young audiences. Even though based on a children's award-winning book, the play appeals to all audiences. Good acting, blocking, interaction, balance, and good casting create a good theater outing for all ages.

Let by the youngest actor, Aaron Branch, the characters in the play interact with him throughout the play, and if he is off stage at all, it's only briefly. He and another young actor, Tosin Morohunfola draw the attention of the audience with each scene. They demonstrate that they are young actors with a bright future ahead of them. And, probably the most noticeable actor, next to them, Martin Buchanan undertakes four smaller parts that deliver a lot of the comedic relief to the piece.

The balance of the cast all work well together and demonstrate the quality of the ensemble. With the actors playing different parts, it's difficult to discuss their portrayals without giving away the story line of the play. Still, audiences will enjoy their performances and understand they have been treated to some of Kansas City's finest acting.

The show runs for almost six weeks at The Coterie and those fortunate enough to attend of Friday nights receive a special added bonus after the performance. Morohunfola and Branch each one does a small original stand up routine that leaves the viewers laughing and in a great post-production mood. Both perform locally in comedy clubs and demonstrate stage presence so mature for their ages. Morohunfola, the older of the pair (in his mid 20s) opens the after-show and prepares the audience for Branch. Both deliver funny stand up routines and prove they are actors to watch, mostly locally now, but nationally later as they continue to develop.

Bud, Not Buddy deserves a full house throughout it's run at The Coterie. Opening night was a near sell-out and there is no reason subsequent performances should not sell out. Those interested should purchase tickets soon and not miss the opportunity to see a wonderful show. While the show is a children's theater piece, it is most appropriate third grade and above. The show runs a little over an hour with no intermission.

The show runs through Sunday, May 19.

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