review

Arts and Humanities
6:17 pm
Sat March 8, 2014

REVIEW | Theological Bombshells Land in Lucas Hnath's Humana Festival Play 'The Christians'

Emily Donahoe, Andrew Garman and Linda Powell in Lucas Hnath's "The Christians," Humana Festival of New American Plays at Actors Theatre of Louisville, 2014.
Credit Michael Brosilow / Actors Theatre of Louisville

One of playwright Lucas Hnath's many strengths is his ability to write ambiguous conflicts that elicit reactions that are anything but ambivalent. His new play "The Christians" is set squarely in the culture of the American evangelical Protestant church, but the questions it raises (and refuses to answer patly) resonate beyond — how do we know what we believe and why we believe it? And who are we, and what can we expect from others, if we change our minds? 

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Arts and Humanities
10:43 am
Sat February 22, 2014

REVIEW | Louisville Ballet Tells a Strong Story with 'La Sylphide'

Erica de la O dancing the title role in the Louisville Ballet's "La Sylphide."
Credit Wade Bell / Louisville Ballet

This weekend brings Louisville balletomanes the opportunity to see the Louisville Ballet's production of Danish choreographer Auguste Bournonville's 1836 Romantic ballet “La Sylphide.” This is only the second time that the full ballet has been produced under artistic director Bruce Simpson's tenure, although the fall 2012 Studio Connections program included a cutting from Act Two, programming that suggested that the company was ready once more to essay this epitome of Romantic ballet in full.

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Arts and Humanities
12:59 pm
Tue February 11, 2014

REVIEW | Something's Lost in Shephard's Gentle 'Ages of the Moon'

Matt Orme as Byron and Patrick Tovatt as Ames in The Bunbury Theatre's production of Sam Shepard's "Ages of the Moon."
Credit Bunbury Theatre

Two men nearing the twilight of their lives reunite on a Kentucky cabin porch for one evening of drinking, reminiscing and eclipse-watching in Sam Shepard's 2009 play "Ages of the Moon," a dramatic two-hander that probes at the mysteries of aging memory and the fragility of relationships without disturbing too much beneath the surface. 

Directed by Steve Woodring, The Bunbury Theatre's production of "Ages of the Moon" opened Friday and runs through February 23 at the Henry Clay Theatre (604 S. St.). 

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Arts and Humanities
3:14 pm
Fri January 24, 2014

REVIEW | Actors Theatre's 'Our Town' Reinvigorates a Classic

Bruce McKenzie as Stage Manager, with the cast of "Our Town" at Actors Theatre of Louisville.
Credit Bill Brymer

It’s not easy producing a classic play. You carry the weight of the aggregate of all previous productions with you into the theatre, where you then ask the audience to set aside their individual ideas about how this play should look, sound and feel on stage based on what they’ve seen before and accept your vision with an open mind and heart. If the production is faithful to tradition, you’re rewarded by those seeking comfort in the familiar, but the other side of the coin can be brutal – dismissed by those prizing innovation over all. And the opposite is also true – a daring production can break all of the rules and garner critical acclaim while alienating a large swath of ticket buyers.

All of this is to say that Thornton Wilder’s “Our Town” was not necessarily a “safety” pick for Actors Theatre of Louisville’s 50th anniversary season. There is as much danger in producing such a well-known and frequently produced (especially on school and community stages) play as there is in putting up an untested world premiere in the Humana Festival.

But director (and artistic director) Les Waters, who came to “Our Town” with an Englishman’s fresh eyes, has pulled it off. His “Our Town” is a sensitive, beautiful and unsentimental production that honors Wilder’s groundbreaking script while offering innovative gestures that are wholly his own.

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Arts and Humanities
1:20 pm
Fri January 24, 2014

REVIEW | Louisville Ballet Dancers Flex Choreography Muscles

Natalia Ashikhmina in Rob Morrow's “Paranoia Prima” in the Louisville Ballet's 2014 Choreographers' Showcase.
Credit David Toczko / Louisville Ballet

  The 2014 Louisville Ballet Choreographers' Showcase is this week at the ballet's headquarters on Main Street. This year's Showcase brought together a smorgasbord of seventeen short pieces choreographed by company members and trainees, with almost half of the complete company represented as choreographers. Some pieces were choreographed by familiar names, while others contributed an original piece to the Showcase for the first time. 

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Arts and Humanities
2:44 pm
Fri January 10, 2014

REVIEW | The Hypocrites Stage Hilarious, Wild 'Pirates of Penzance'

Dana Omar, Becky Poole, Matt Kahler, Emily Casey, and Christine Stulik in "The Pirates of Penzance" at Actors Theatre of Louisville, 2014
Credit Bill Brymer / Actors Theatre of Louisville

January can get a little dreary – it’s cold, dark and wet, and the occasional sub-zero day has us eyeballing island vacations even as our bank accounts are still recovering from the holidays. Fortune smiles upon us  inside Actors Theatre of Louisville’s Bingham Theatre, where Chicago-based theatre troupe The Hypocrites have brought the beach party to us with a delightfully eccentric production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s “The Pirates of Penzance.” The show’s sunny disposition and high-energy staging are as effective a mid-winter mood-lifter as an hour with a light box and a shot of Vitamin D.

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Arts and Humanities
8:15 am
Sat December 14, 2013

REVIEW | Savage Rose's 'Twelfth Night' Unleashes the Lord of Misrule

Julane Havens as Viola/Cesario in Savage Rose Classical Theatre's "Twelfth Night."
Credit Savage Rose Classical Theatre

One of the beautiful things about Shakespeare's plays is how infinitely adjustable they are. You can go broke building realistic castle sets and kitting everyone out in sumptuous period costumes, or you can take a bare set and add in just enough detail to suggest setting and character. Savage Rose Classical Theatre opts for the latter treatment in their new production of "Twelfth Night," the cross-dressing rom/com about the misadventures of a shipwrecked set of fatherless twins. 

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Arts and Humanities
11:41 am
Sun December 8, 2013

REVIEW | Louisville Ballet's 'Nutcracker' a Pleasing Holiday Confection

Credit Louisville Ballet

There have been many adaptations and re-creations of “The Nutcracker” since it gained currency in the West in the middle of the twentieth century. The Louisville Ballet's  first unveiled their current version, "The Brown-Forman Nutcracker," in 2009, though the company has been offering various versions of the seasonal favorite since 1963. In his curtain speech, artistic director Bruce Simpson suggested that this lavish production will be good for fifteen or sixteen years, and certainly in year four of this iteration the costumes, sets and magic are holding up well, and the choreography still delights the multi-generational audience that braved Saturday's wintry conditions to make it to Whitney Hall. 

With thanks to an additional gift from Brown-Forman, another treat for this year's ballet-goers is live music, with the Louisville Orchestra in the pit conducted by Tara Somoncic.

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Arts and Humanities
11:07 am
Sun December 8, 2013

REVIEW | Actors Theatre's 'A Christmas Carol' Still Easy to Love

David Ryan Smith as the Ghost of Christmas Present and William McNulty as Ebenezer Scrooge in Actors Theatre of Louisville's "A Christmas Carol."
Credit Alan Simons / Actors Theatre of Louisville

A funny thing happened to me last night. Even though my tree is decorated and my holiday plans are made, it didn't really feel like Christmas had started. And then the lights went up on Actors Theatre of Louisville's "A Christmas Carol," and it did. 

Maybe it's the stirring addition this year of a solemn opening carol, accompanied by a lone fiddler (Tom Cunningham). Maybe it's the knowledge that next year's production, which director Drew Fracher will revamp, will look, sound and feel different, even as Charles Dickens' story of Ebenezer Scrooge's transformation from miserable loner to man of the people remains fundamentally unchanged since 1843. 

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Arts and Humanities
11:54 am
Fri November 15, 2013

REVIEW | Like Its Hero, Actors Theatre's 'Tom Jones' Is Charming, Flawed

Drigan Lee and Maren Bush as Tom and Sophia in Jon Jory's new adaptation of Henry Fielding's "Tom Jones" at Actors Theatre of Louisville.
Credit Bill Brymer / Actors Theatre of Louisville

Actors Theatre of Louisville welcomed legendary former producing director Jon Jory home for the company's fiftieth anniversary season with his new adaptation of Henry Fielding's classic picaresque novel "Tom Jones." Directed by Jory, "Tom Jones" opened last night in the Bingham Theatre and runs through December 8. 

It's fitting that Jory, under whose leadership Actors Theatre became the Tony Award-winning institution that it is, returns for the golden anniversary with a new play. Jory's been on a tear through the Jane Austen catalog for the last several years, staging his adaptations of "Pride and Prejudice" and "Sense and Sensibility" at Actors Theatre ("Emma" and "Persuasion" have gone up elsewhere, too), but this time he went further back in Brit-lit history to the book commonly recognized as the first English novel.

On stage, "Tom Jones" is a frothy, funny romp through the backyards and bedchambers of the English countryside and London's snobby salons. And like the eponymous hero, the play packs plenty of charm, but not always enough to overcome its weaknesses. 

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