Saturday, August 6, 2011

Local Theatre Review: EMU's Splitting Hares / And A Few Kanrocksas Photos

We all know that Larryville has a thriving music scene and a growing comedy scene, but what about the theater? It seems to us that this a bumpy time. Larryville's best bet for experimental theater (English Alternative Theatre), which did full productions of student work and staged readings of important contemporary playwrights, folded with the retirement of its founder. And while Lawrence Community Theater (now called TheatreLawrence) is getting multimillion dollar new digs way the hell out on 6th Street, they'll still be performing Nunsense for old folks, so far outside the local arts "community" they might as well move to Johnson County or Top City.

But still plugging away is Larryville's troupe known as EMU, who have treated us over the years to evenings that range from well-nigh unbearable to surprisingly professional (Rosencrantz and Guildenstern in South Park). They're back on the scene this weekend and the next with their 13th annual collection of 10 minute plays by local writers, and we were drawn there last night by the promise of nudity and assorted shenanigans. "The Naked People Play" was indeed the evening's highlight, a very meta commentary on symbolism and stage nudity in which a couple having a fight become distracted by a silent naked couple who symbolize their fragile emotional states. Breaking the fourth wall, the fighting couple criticizes the audience as well for focusing on the nudity and not on the action at center stage.

Chip: "It's true. I was totally focused on the nudity."

Kudos to Kris Beckland and Kristin Colahan-Sederstrom for their boldness and willingness to sit and stand around naked for ten minutes for their art! We wish they'd also done the curtain call naked (that would have been a nice, unexpected touch), but they were wearing robes at that point (also amusing). However, we suspect no one will ever push the local boundaries of onstage nudity (and simulated sex) in the way that Adam Burnett did a few years back on the main stage at the Arts Center. What was the name of that play? We've forgotten now. But we remember the nudity (which was exactly the point that EMU's "Naked People Play" was making).

The evening's other highlight was the admirably subtle final play of the evening, "Finding Stars," which involves an awkward "first date" that's not quite what it seems at first glance (very good performance by Feloniz Lovato-Winston in this play).

But many shorts were far less successful. "Oh, Hell," involving a lawyer selling his soul to the Devil, builds to a punchline you can see coming for a mile away (you can probably guess it right now). And "Bad Credit," the story of the world's worst customer-service rep, gets a few laughs but seems entirely indebted to stuff like Office Space (and maybe also to Catch-22 , whether or not the author is aware of it). The opening sketch, "Sparkling Champagne," is the worst of the evening, but stick around: things get better.

Anyway, one could find a worse way to spend a hot summer evening. Plus, nudity! The plays run tonight at 8:00 and also Aug. 12 and 13 in the basement of the Arts Center.


Since we don't like heat and we don't like crowds and we don't like paying a lot of money for bands we're only marginally interested in, we are not at Kanrocksas. But that doesn't mean we aren't closely monitoring the situation. We've gleaned from the KC-Star that tickets sales are falling far short of the hoped-for 100,000 (they've sold only about 30,000 for each day). And we've learned from the intrepid folks over at I Heart Local Music (check out their photo gallery ) that the crowd looks sort of like this (click to enlarge: yes, one of them has written the word "ironic" on his chest):

Elsewhere on the interweb, we also came across this photo of one of the stages. Somehow we thought they'd look a little more professional.



Jerry Salisbury said...

As the director of The Naked People Play I would like to personally thank you for your words regarding my play. My cast worked very hard and I will pass the kudos along. Thank you as well for the shout out to EMU. Word of mouth always helps and yours are greatly appreciated.

mygrandadsname said...

I guess I'm going to have to read Catch 22, now. I always meant to, but I am embarrassed to admit that I never have. I agree I'm not the first to try to laugh to keep from crying about bureaucracy. You say "Office Space." I say "Ikiru." But, I get your point. The play does need to fine tune its scope to find a better purpose in this moment. It needs to be more than a sketch.

I did, however think that the cast and director did a fantastic job with it. I rarely enjoy watching my own shows, and tonight was a welcome exception.

Thanks for the kind words about "Finding Stars." Thanks for coming out, and thanks for writing a thoughtful and enjoyable review.

-Larry Mitchell

theatergoers said...

Thanks for reading, gents! Hope you had a good turnout for the second weekend. Is Waiting for Godot in the park going to happen? Keep us posted.