Monday, March 2, 2009

Aisle Say - Of Mice and Men

It's the economy, stupid! Some say if it doesn't turn soon, we're headed for a depression. Some are already there: I'm depressed. You're depressed. So why attend "Of Mice and Men," a production set in the Depression (The Great One) with a plot about forlorn folk whose dreams of finding a “stake” are as devalued as our 401k's?

As guest director Adrian Hall explains “theatre is a living, breathing experience that happens now, not as a repository of the past...and that illumination for the audience is primary to the actors' mission.”

Sandy Robbins, Artistic Director of the Resident Ensemble Players (REP), asserts that live theatre is not fundamentally commercial or a product; that it satisfies an essential human need and is as critical to a civilized society as a hospital or a university.

Robbins chose Steinback's classic for it is a metaphor of our present predicament, where humans still have hope, and that despite adversity one can realize his own American Dream.

The two itinerant workers, Lenny (Mark Corkins) and George (Michael Gotch) lead the REP's supremely talented and versatile professional cast. Lenny is the “Rainman” of the 1930s: strong of back and slow of wit. His physical strength unwittingly has resulted in his doing some “bad things” in the past. George is Lenny's life rudder, attempting to keep him out of harm's way. The prospect of a “stake,” an opportunity to realize their dream of land ownership appears, only to be dashed by Lenny's inadvertent “bad thing.”

Stephanie Hansen's set design details the era's hardscrabble existence of ranch life. Clips of FDR and Shirley Temple cast on a scrim evoke relevance to the present financial woes we face as a nation.

Robbins' REP theatre, the professional arm of the University of Delaware's Professional Theatre Training Program, is a sparkling gem of First State theatre. We should be proud of them and support them. For more informaion, visit, or call 831-2204.

One Acts at the Drama League

The Wilmington Drama League's Evening of One Act Plays was a potpourri of three original productions and a classic. The winner of the weekend festivities goes on to state competition.

I found it amusing to hear friends and family (read klacks) applaud and hoot when no one else in the audience is so inclined. That's the preciousness of community theatre. In “The Other Doctor Cramer,” actor Sara Truit's words were garbled when attempting to do two things at one time: eat pizza and recite dialog. The director should have reminded her to fake the former and articulate the latter.

Satre's “No Exit” reminded the audience of the author's cynical dialectic that hell is nothing more than other people: the real torture we suffer resides in the mind, from which there is “no exit.” The four-person cast of Ted Harting, Ron Ozer, Louise Craigen and Heather Ferrel was superb. Director Sean Kelly gets my vote for Best Director. His blocking was terrific and he kept the energy flowing in a production that could very easily have been mired in pedantry.

I think, though, that playwright Matt Casarino's “Larry Gets The Call” won the honors. Original plays often excite the audience more than established classics. Casarino's concept and dialog were clever and entertaining. Veteran theatre maven Tina Sheing played a self-effacing and hip God. She explained away the Adam/Eve apple parable by an off-handed, “Oh, that? I totally made that up!” Chris Turner gave a very convincing performance as well.

For those who missed Casarino, or can't get enough of his work, "Casarino Royale," a night full of his plays, runs through March 14 at City Theatre in the Opera Delaware Studios, 4 S. Poplar St. in Wilmington. All shows start at 8 p.m. General seating tickets are $20. Visit for more information.

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