Results tagged “Christopher Durang” from Drama Queen

Today's assignment is a quick hit: write just the lede for a review of Keuka College's production of Christopher Durang's Miss Witherspoon. Seems simple enough, one opening paragraph, done and done. Well, it's not. Here's the thing: several of the O'Neill Critics Institute students wrote what Michael Phillips--when he taught my NEA critics' class--called an "iris shot" lede. It's the specific moment in a production that illustrates exactly why you loved or hated the production, or maybe highlights the production's goals and shows how the team succeeded or failed. Plus, since it's just a lede, that paragraph needs to be a megawatt beacon that illuminates the path to your eventual (and in this case, imaginary) conclusion.

So go on and tell us: which lede/s makes you want to keep reading, and why.

Shawn Arnold

"Oh no, not again." The room spins. A woman on a chair writhes and contorts. She grips the seat, but it is no use. Falling with a thud, she flops about as a white vortex opens behind her. Snap! All suddenly goes black. The woman opens her eyes in a nursery and discovers she is now A BABY! This is but one of the many reincarnations of Miss Witherspoon. In Christopher Durang's absurdly funny play, Keuka College presents a fable--with a few stumbles--that will keep the audience asking, "WHAT DID SHE JUST SAY?!"

Amy Asendorf

Tip: When searching for a personal sense of fulfillment, it is wise to begin with a healthy dose of suicide. Go right ahead! Run into oncoming traffic, overdose, invite the dog to nibble on your flesh. Any method will suffice! Christopher Durang's Miss Witherspoon, as performed by Keuka College, offers a surprisingly comical take on the perpetual conflict consuming every down-and-out existentialist. Though the journey to happiness may be long, even the hopeless can rest assured events are cosmically ordained to bring meaning to life. However, with this production, the journey is so long and convoluted, hope is nearly impossible to extract.

Nicholas Barilar

Chicken Little, Gandalf (The Lord of the Rings' wizard), an abusive parent, an Indian angel, suicide, and Jesus Christ in a muu muu are now available in one convenient package! All of these characters--and more--reside in Keuka College's production of Christopher Durang's Miss Witherspoon. As an added bonus, they'll throw in brilliantly conveyed messages about the weight of consequence and the redemptive power of self, all delivered in a satiric fashion, all for no extra charge!

Robby Bassler

Keuka College's production of Christopher Durang's Miss Witherspoon tugged my soul between heaven and hell. Maryamma (Meghan Russell) a Hindu goddess wrapped in a divine blue and gold sari, pondered the meaning of reincarnation while alternately adopting the stereotypical Indian accent of The Simpsons' Apu and the Jamaican patois of infomercial queen Miss Cleo. As these contradictions snowballed, Miss Witherspoon left me in limbo.

Michael Cook

The world is in danger because humans can't just get along, the sky is falling, events from decades past traumatize one woman. Only one person can stand up and save humanity. Who is this hero? Why, Miss Witherspoon of course! Chistopher Durang's Miss Witherspoon tracks our reluctant hero's spiritual journey through the afterlife. As with many other Durang plays, no topic is taboo and audiences will find themselves laughing at topics they'd otherwise find uncomfortable. However, Keuka College's recent production was like reluctantly going on a spiritual journey that no one could stop once it started. 

Mark Costello

A young woman of no more than 21 flops around like a beached sea creature. She's writhing in a big way, as though her brown-hued, business-casual outfit is made of peanuts and she's allergic. Her eyes strain upward, her face is almost on the ground, and in a terrified flash, her hand darts back toward her raised hindquarters. Stunned confusion soon trumps horror, as said hand spastically fans an imaginary flame. We soon get it: she's pretending to be a dog. This unfortunate, disturbing mishandling of Christopher Durang's pleasantly dark comedy is the norm in Keuka College's Miss Witherspoon, directed by Mark Wenderlich.

Connor Davis

Is this Heaven? Nope, it's purgatory, and unless you quit killing yourself you're going to stay here for all eternity! Sticking around may be a problem for suicidal Veronica, who rests uneasily at the center of Christopher Durang's Pulitzer Prize-finalist farce Miss Witherspoon. Keuka College's witty tongue-in-cheek production puts audience members in Veronica's shoes. Fueled by rapid comedic timing and absurdist farce, director Mark Wenderlich creates a fun production that's stimulates the mind with ideas about morality and hope.

Valerie Gibbs

"Who said life has to move forward? Can't it move backwards, too?" Keuka College's production of Christopher Durang's Miss Witherspoon, directed by Mark Wenderlich, provides a unique response to this question.  In the place between life on earth and eternal afterlife, we find Miss Witherspoon - a woman forced into perpetual reincarnation until she rids herself of bad karma and achieves divine enlightenment. Unfortunately, this production struggles to accomplish a similar goal.

Peter Starr Northrop

So the lights came up for Keuka College's production of Christopher Durang's Miss Witherspoon and immediately this insufferable woman started yammering into a telephone. Her tone was flat, her voice irritating. I groaned at the thought of listening to her prattle on for a whole production, and held that thought for all of two seconds when, suddenly, the sky fell down and she died--much to the audience's delight. This is how a legendary show begins. 

Nathan Taylor

Ever wanted to see a two-week-old baby incite an invisible dog named Fido into mauling her to death? Never fear, Keuka College is here with Christopher Durang's Miss Witherspoon. With the edge of a baseball bat, this script remains a gift from heaven while the production clings to tearing pages as flames lick at its feet.

Jensen Toperzer

Keuka College's production of Christopher Durang's Miss Witherspoon is a manic dive through contemporary American culture, filled with rapid-fire commentary on everything from the post-9/11 culture of fear to modern New Age 'crystal and candle' religions. Sara Munio's Veronica bemoans her fate (a series of unhappy reincarnations), inviting a playful sense of cathartic schadenfreude. But the true show-stealer is Meghan Russell as quirky, overly cheerful guru Maryamma.

Kelly Wetherald

Is life like a box of chocolates? No. Life is a dream-cycle filled with suffering, sacrifice, and perpetual annoyance; at least according to Miss Witherspoon, Christopher Durang's suicidal cynic starving for peace in the afterlife. Keuka College's production of Miss Witherspoon came to the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival stage to express dual ideas: the importance of reincarnation and society's future survival. Did it achieve those goals? Or was the hour and a half simply a one man show with an abusive mother, Hindu spiritual guide and invisible dog named Fido thrown in for spice?

January 15, 2010 7:40 AM | | Comments (8)
In this year's presidential election, "political theater" is getting a literal spin. And why not? Elections--and their behind-the-scenes machinations--are always events of high drama. But with this race's epic, historic themes it appears the temptation toward artistic license was too much for editors and pundits to resist. 

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Way back in April, Newsday columnist Ellis Henican interviewed me for his radio show about the Clinton-Obama debate, asking for a theater critic's interpretation of the proceedings (I was a Clinton supporter, and thought the Obama camp was hoping to portray her as Lady Macbeth. It seems ultimately, she managed that feat on her own.) 

Now the thespian angle seems to really be catching on. The Wall St. Journal's Andy Jordan posted a bit of video reportage (see below) from the DNC with this title: "Democratic Convention: Nomination as Theater." And though Jordan is more conversant in the language of film than of stage, he puts in a valiant effort to describe the event's mise en scene. 

Today, a piece by playwright Christopher Durang appeared on the New Republic's site, parsing speech by speech, the DNC's dramatic appeal. The best part, to me, of Mr. Durang's endeavor is that it really serves as a reminder to readers and editors everywhere that neither arts journalism nor theater criticism are as easy as they look. Though Durang is a fine playwright (and something of a Philly local, too; he has a home in Bucks County), Walter Kerr, he ain't.

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On Monday, my friend Dominic Papatola, theater critic for the St. Paul Pioneer Press, will cover the Rebublican National Convention for his paper--a pretty exciting turn of events for a guy more accustomed to the sedate halls of the Guthrie than the Xcel Energy Center's hockey- or RNC-fueled mayhem. I'm hoping his coverage will include more than a few dramatic references, as the Republicans, with their Deus ex Machina--otherwise known as Sarah Palin--and Shavian cast of characters lend themselves particularly well to cynical interpretations of their performance. Not that I'm, you know, biased or anything.

And hey, maybe this shifting of duties will turn out to be a good thing for all those arts critics clinging desperately to their jobs. I turns out our perspective just might be useful after all.

Seen any other examples of political coverage as arts coverage? Send me a link.

Update: Brendan Kiley, an arts writer for Seattle weekly The Stranger, is taking his campaign coverage to a new level--by getting pepper sprayed at protests.

August 30, 2008 10:59 AM | | Comments (2)
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