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THE CONUNDRUM OF CONCEPT:

Reviewing ‘Titus’ and ‘C Major’

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A USEFUL LIFE IN C MAJOR

David Wheatley has four degrees in music and composition.

He has an impressive background in stage musicals, has scored film and television.

He is an amazingly, talented individual.

Unfortunately he has one great failing.

He’s Canadian.

And when I say, “He’s Canadian,” what I actually mean is he’s “Canadian.”

He’s very congenial.

He’s soft spoken.

His one man show is A Useful Life in C Major. My suspicions are that the “C” in C Major stands for “Canadian Major.”

I’m not sure what Mr. Wheatley was going for here. He must have some great stories from his years as a professional musician. But if he does, he didn’t share them.

He tells no jokes, offers no insights, and, after telling us his name is David Wheatley and that he’s Canadian, engages the audience very little.

Now he is an amazing musician that much is certain.

He plays with superb technique. How he played was not the problem; what he played was.

Not a lot of thought or effort seems to have gone into this show, and even less into the music selection.

c-major.jpgHere is the run of the show:

The show opens with a composition of his own, “Gate 44.” And the opening was the high point.

“Autumn Leaves” followed. Nice.

A Lennon and McCartney tune came next. Okay, sure. Why not.

A sing-along? Really? “Take Me Out to the Ballgame?”!?

Wait, now he’s going to play three short Jazz improvisations! Great, that’s – they’re over??

Bach, Beethoven, Debussy? They’re all dead guys, right?

What’s he playing now? Is that –? Crap! It’s “O Canada.”

Why’s he playing it again?

Why’s he playing it again? Again or at all??

He’s playing it…? No, no, not again?

Take the Great Lakes. They’re yours. Just no more “O Canada!”

He’s stopped. Thank you, God. The worst is over. Nothing could –

No! No, not a medley of TV show themes, I beg of you!

Noooooo! Noooooo! Not Petticoat Junction!

I came to this show imagining Mr. Wheatley would be like Victor Borgia, and take away Borgias’ witty repartee, brilliant storytelling and music selection…he was.

I don’t want to be mean to David. I met him. He seems nice.

It’s not his fault he’s so Canadian. But I don’t understand what he thought he was doing here.

He promised a one man show.

There was a man. Canadian.

There was only one of him.

Two out of three.

But what we really needed here was a show.

NO AWARD

Find out more HERE.


titus1.jpg

TITUS ANDRONICUS, JR.

I don’t know which is the greater disappointment, a show with no noticeable concept or a show with a solid concept that it is unable to sustain?

Titus Andronicus, Jr., unfortunately is of the latter classification.

Written and directed by Troy Heard, with the contributions of William Shakespeare, the premise is rift with possibilities.

A teacher at Dawson Middle School, Mr. Benjamin (Thomas Chrastka) is suffering the slings and arrows of an outrageous, pending divorce and mid-life crisis.

One indication of the deeper problems in his life is that when assigned the task of staging the spring play he bypasses the old standard favorites Music Man, You Can’t Take it With You, and the rest. Instead he opts to put on Titus Andronicus, Shakespeare’s all round nastiest and most rotten play. (I blame all that stuff on George Peele).

The show starts off fine.

Watching a Titus (Ken Haley) whose voice hasn’t cracked yet and a pint-sized Tamora (Noa Agatstein) glare venom at each other and plot bloody vengeance accompanied by guitar riffs, performed by Mr. Benjamin, is all great fun.

But somewhere here the concept fizzles.

A man wearing a silly hat is not a comedian if all he is doing is standing there wearing a silly hat. A successful concept cannot simply be worn, but must be justified through the entire piece.

“Hey wouldn’t it be great to do All The President’s Men with dogs?”

It could. But you first need to answer one question: Why would it be great?

It would be great because we could use those qualities associated with dogs – loyalty, trust, devotion, the pack mentality, the urge to hunt, obedience, the instinct to protect, doggedness – and demonstrate how those qualities natural in a dog are exhibited by people only when it’s in their self-interest.

Titus Andronicus, Jr. had many different pathways open to it:

To show how violence and destruction are brought out in youth by the repression of their elders (as in the British filmIf….);

How without social restraints humankind reverts to savagery (a la the novel Lord of the Flies);

Or how our obsession with violence breeds violence (ala the film Natural Born Killers);

There’s any number of pathways Heard could have taken.

But no, he simple wears a hat.Fringe-2016.jpg

A silly hat.

The call: NO AWARD

Find out more about it HERE.

Find All Things Fringe HERE!

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Written by

An award-winning L.A. playwright and rabble-rouser of note who has hoisted glasses with Orson Welles, been arrested on three continents and once beat up Charlie Manson. His first play, Among the Vipers was a semi-finalist in the Julie Harris Playwriting Competition and was featured in the Carnegie-Mellon Showcase of New Plays. It was produced at the NPT Theater in Ashland, Oregon and Los Angeles’ celebrated Odyssey Ensemble Theatre. His following play, “The Little Boy Who Loved Monsters” was produced at The Hollywood Actors Theater, where he earned praise from the Los Angeles Times for his “…inordinately creative writing.” The play went on to numerous other productions including Berlin’s The Black Theatre under the direction of Rainer Fassbinder who wrote in his program notes of Kearney, “He is a skilled playwright, but more importantly he is a dangerous one.” Ernest Kearney has worked as literary manager or as dramaturge for among others The Hudson Theater Guild, Nova Diem and the Odyssey Ensemble Theatre, where he still serves on the play selection committee. He has been the recipient of two Dramalogue Awards and a finalist or semi-finalist three times in the Julie Harris Playwriting Competition. His work has been performed by Michael Dunn, Sandra Tsing Loh, Jack Colvin and Billy Bob Thornton, and to date, either as playwright or director, he has upwards of a hundred and thirty productions under his belt, including a few at the Bob Baker Marionette Theater as puppeteer. After a wild and misspent youth, which lasted well into middle age, Kearney has settled down and is focusing on his writing, as well as living happily ever after with his lovely wife Marlene. Ernest's stage reviews and social essays can be found at TheTVolution.com and workingauthor.com. Follow him on Facebook.

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