Death and the Maiden – review by Frank C. Siraguso

January 19,2019

Death and the Maiden at Kansas City Actors Theatre is riveting – this is the play for our times.

paulina, roberto, gerardo
Vanessa Severo, Robert Gibby Brand, Rusty Sneary
Photo: KCAT

The setting is banal. A house by the sea, simple furnishings, not big. Comfortable. It is sometime in the evening. A woman is moving around the living room.

We hear a car drive up, and the woman freezes and listens. Then she quickly turns out the lights, peeks out the window, and rushes to a desk on the other side of the room. She opens a drawer and retrieves what appears to be a .45 automatic. She silently rushes back near the door, and waits. She is terrified of whoever might be out there. (more…)

A Moon for the Misbegotten – review by Frank C. Siraguso

Eugene O’Neill’s A Moon for the Misbegotten, the sequel to his Pulitzer Prize-winning A Long Day’s Journey into Night, is a hard-bitten play about love, dissembling, and destruction, with a side of class warfare.

James and Josie
Brian Paulette (James Tyrone Jr.) Ashley Pankow (Josie Hogan) Photo: KC Actors Theatre

Gary Mosby’s set for A Moon for the Misbegotten never changes from scene to scene, lit without warmth by Shane Rowse. After the curtain goes up, the pre-show banjo music gives way to lonely, almost sinister tracks by Jon Robertson. Gradually, you may feel as trapped in that bleak, decrepit cabin as are Irish tenant pig farmer Phil Hogan and his daughter Josie.

Thanks to Mark Robbins’ directing and exceptional acting, the Kansas City Actors Theater production takes a play that is almost unrelentingly depressing and, in effect, makes a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. (more…)

Blithe Spirit – review by Frank C. Siraguso

KC Actors Theatre season opener, Noel Coward’s Blithe Spirit, laughs in the face of death.

Elvira – Vanessa Severo
Vanessa Severo as Elvira. KC Actors Theatre photo: Brian Paulette

A “farce in three acts,” as Coward describes it, Blithe Spirit centers on the relationships of novelist Charles Condomine (Coleman Crenshaw) with his current wife, Ruth (Cinnamon Schultz), and his former wife, Elvira (Vanessa Severo).

Although Blithe Spirit could easily be set in the present, it has more charm as a period piece. Kelli Harrod’s set is the perfect, well-appointed English drawing room; Sarah M. Oliver’s costumes fit to a T; and it’s all tied together by Jon Robertson’s soundscape, including the theme song, “Always.” (more…)

Skylight – review by Frank C. Siraguso

Tom and Kyra confront their past and present lives in the KC Actors production of David Hare’s Skylight.

Tom and Kyra
John Rensenhouse and Katie Karel in Skylight by David Hare (Photo: KCAT)

May 28, 2018

If you caught any press releases of Skylight, the spring 2018 season closer for Kansas City Actors Theater, you might have read that it features preparation of a meal and, hence, might deduce that “Skylight” is the name of a restaurant.

But no. There is a meal prepared but it only serves to move the action along and show that restaurateur Tom (John Rensenhouse) is a control freak when he insists that Kyra (Katie Karel) add the chili (bell pepper to us) first. She ignores him. The skylight in question is the one Tom put in the bedroom so Alice, his dying wife, could have a grand view of the outside during her final days. Skylight might also be a metaphor for the open view we get of the characters’ lives and, maybe more important, the view each character gets of her/his life and that of the other two characters. (more…)

The Barber of Seville – Review by Frank C. Siraguso

The Lyric Opera’s production of Rossini’s The Barber of Seville is a light, preposterous love story that is the ancestor of 1930s screwball comedies.

Based on Le Barbier de Séville, a French comedy written by Pierre Beaumarchais in 1775, Rossini’s opera premiered in 1816 at Rome’s Teatro Argentina.

Lindoro and Rosina
Lindoro/Almaviva & Rosina (Swanson, Vlasco)

The sultry young Rosina (the excellent Cassandra Zoe Vlasco) has fallen for Lindoro (Jack Swanson), a poor young student who serenades her on the street under her window. She’s the assistant to closet-kink ophthalmologist Dr. Bartolo. She seems to live in the same house/office with Bartolo, who also seems to be her guardian: he threatens to lock Rosalina in the house to prevent her from seeing Lindoro. (Just go with it.) Only later will she learn that the singer is – Count Almaviva! (more…)

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
– theater review by Frank C. Siraguso

The Rep’s production of Simon Stephens’ adaption of Mark Haddon’s novel, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, is a brilliant gem of many facets

Cast photo: KC Rep/Cory Weaver

Set in today’s England, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is not quite comedy and definitely not tragedy. Marissa Wolf’s direction brings poignant compassion to playwright Stephens’ slightly cockeyed – in the best sense – plot and storyline, while a terrific cast makes it look effortless. (more…)

Sea Marks – Theater Review by Frank C. Siraguso

KC Actors Theatre production of Gardner McKay’s Sea Marks is a sweet, bittersweet tale of love and expectations we have for one another.

Darren Kenney & Cinnamon Schultz. Photo: KCAT/Brian Paulette

Words mean nothing. Words mean everything. Between these two statements lies the tension between Colm Primrose (Darren Kennedy) and Timothea Stiles (Cinnamon Schultz).

Words bring them together when Colm, a fisherman on Cliffhorn Heads Island at the north of Ireland, begins writing letters to Timothea, whom he met at a wedding on the island. She didn’t remember him but loves his letters and writes back. Timothea agrees to meet Colm when she can come to the island. (more…)

King Lear – Theater Review by Frank C. Siraguso

Ted Swetz as King Lear owns the stage in KC Actors Theatre-UMKC Theatre collaboration

Fool and Lear
Peggy Friesen-Fool, Theodore Swetz-Lear

This is the third time I’ve seen Shakespeare’s King Lear on the Spencer Theatre stage. The first, in 1991, featured Richard Bowden as Lear in a straightforward, classic production with elaborate sets and costumes. I remember that version not so much for Lear as for the other characters, notably Ted Swetz as the unfortunate Gloucester whose eyes are plucked out by Mark Robbins as the cruel Cornwall. (more…)

A Lie of the Mind – Theater Review by Frank C. Siraguso

Powerful performances propel Sam Shepard’s A Lie of the Mind at KC Actors Theatre

Brian Paulette as Jake
Brian Paulette as Jake; photo: Mike Tsai/KCAT

Sam Shepard’s 1985 A Lie of the Mind explores relationships and the differences between men and women. He speculates about men being loners spending hours in a freezing deer blind and women who can wait for men’s return and the fact that people persist in love at all. At its heart, Shepard says love can endure the most horrendous abuse, until it breaks.

Director Cinnamon Schultz hardly lets us catch our breath from the explosive opening of Jake (Brian Paulette) banging the receiver on the pay phone to the very end three-and-a-half hours later. Once again, Jake has beaten his wife, Beth (Christina Schafer), but this time thinks he has killed her. He is calling his brother, Frankie (Jake Walker), for help. When they meet up, Frankie thinks maybe Beth is not dead because she lived through it the last time. Jake goes off on him, accusing Frankie of conspiring against him with Beth, with their mother, Lorraine (Merle Moores), and sister, Sally (Hillary Clemens), and even of maybe being in love with Beth himself. (more…)

The Book of Mormon, review by Frank C. Siraguso

You’ve heard about it, you’ve read about it, now here’s your chance to see the smash musical, The Book of Mormon live in living color at The Music Hall.

If nothing else, The Book of Mormon reminded me how lucky I am to live in the Garden of Eden, right here in Jackson County, Missouri! Actually, there’s a whole lot more.

Trigger warning: the language is course and some dance scenes are X-rated. The musical tells the story of two 19-year-old Mormon men, Elder Price (the amazing Gabe Gibbs, from the Broadway company) and Elder Cunningham, played opening night by standby Chad Burris, who managed to steal a good deal of the show. Paired for their two-year mission, the slim, trim Price, ambitious and shallow, and Cunningham, fat and prone to lying, learn their assignment is not to France, Japan or any other cool location. They’re headed for Uganda. Price is crushed: he yearns for Orlando, Florida, with its palm trees and Mouse World. Cunningham is clueless. (more…)