Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike: Misery Meets Company Meets Absurd Comedy at Phoenix's Herberger Theater

Categories: Review, Theater

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Joan Marcus
Charles Janasz and Ali Rose Dachis in Arizona Theatre Company's production of Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike.

Two women are weeping. A man dressed as a Disney dwarf arrives with a tea tray. References to Chekhov are made. It's plain: We are watching a Christopher Durang play.

Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike won the 2013 Tony Award for Best Play. It is, in many ways, archetypal Durang: an absurdist comedy dense with literary and theater-world references, a happy story about deeply unhappy people.

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Cherrie Moraga's The Hungry Woman Comes to ASU: Tragedy That Hits Close to Home

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Tim Trumble, courtesy of ASU Herberger Institute for Design and Arts
The Hungry Woman weaves together Greek and Aztec mythology, along with a little Mexican folklore.

ASU's fall theatre lineup will feature The Hungry Woman by Cherrie Moraga, which promises to be a new -- and local -- take on an old classic.


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13 Must-See Plays This Fall in Metro Phoenix

Categories: Theater, Top Lists

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John Groseclose
See DeJean Brown and Damon J. Bolling in Stray Cat Theatre's The Brothers Size.
With the 2014-15 theater season already started and the busy holiday season here before you know it, it's time to mark your calendars with fall's most anticipated productions. Get ready to laugh, cry, and renew your appreciation for the stage, because these shows look promising.


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Nicole Belit Dazzles in By the Way, Meet Vera Stark at Phoenix's Herberger Theater

Categories: Review, Theater

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Courtesy of iTheatre Collaborative
Nicole Belit shines in By The Way, Meet Vera Stark.

Vera Stark is, like so many actresses who start out hungry and wind up legendary, alone on her own stage. She works alongside other actors only because she needs someone to talk to, but none -- in her estimation, and in ours -- are her equals.

Vera is a fictional character, drawn from life by playwright Lynn Nottage. Nicole Belit, the woman who plays her in the iTheatre Collaborative production of By the Way, Meet Vera Stark that opened on Friday night at the Herberger, is very real. The two women share this: They are -- thanks to Belit's enchanting performance -- alone onstage.

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Biloxi Blues Exceeds Expectations at Scottsdale Desert Stages Theatre

Categories: Review, Theater

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Wade Moran
Rick Davis as Toomey and Ryan Toro as Eugene in Biloxi Blues.

One attends a community theater production of Neil Simon's Biloxi Blues hoping to see pleasant performances and, if you're a Simon fan, expecting to have a few laughs. One does not go expecting a powerhouse performance by a principal player -- a performance so thrilling that it completely overshadows the production itself and its other leads, both of whom also make their mark in this tidy little presentation.

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Orange Theatre's Blood Wedding Gallops Through Completed Version at ASU Tempe's Lyceum

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Courtesy of Orange Theatre
Katrina Donaldson is the Bride in Orange Theatre's Blood Wedding.
The setup: Orange Theatre's industrially flavored, iconoclastic mounting of Lorca's Blood Wedding is similar in many ways to the roughly two-thirds complete work-in-progress version we got to see last winter. The company develops a play in several periods spanning about a year, and viewing multiple iterations reveals some of the decision-making that goes into the creation of art.

If that alone doesn't sound like fun (and if so, understandably -- a lot of people prefer not to witness the making of sausage, either), you're in luck, because the show is still densely packed with complex characters who strut and romp through a Home Depot-y wonderland, managing to symbolize concepts like lust and vengeance while also representing real people.

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Kristiana Colón Wins Arizona Theatre Company Latino Playwriting Award

Categories: News, Theater

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Courtesy of ATC
Kristiana Colón's Octagon is about eight young poets competing in a slam.
Arizona Theatre Company announced on Monday, July 7, that Kristiana Colón is the winner of its 2014 Latino Playwriting Award for her original work Octagon.

Based in Chicago, Colón is a playwright, poet, education, and member of Teatro Luna. She appeared on the fifth season of HBO's Def Poetry Jam and has published a collection of poems.


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Downtown Phoenix's Space 55 Presents a Different 7 Minutes in Heaven Each Saturday in June

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courtesy of Space 55
Patrick Hershey and Amy Ouzoonian are Expat, and they wail.
The setup: Space 55's Late Night Series is a thing we've visited and written about before. It's alternative performance for (eventually) every taste, something we both enjoy and pine for more of.

This month, Saturday nights at 9 p.m. bring us 7 Minutes in Heaven, a thing that link kind of describes the content of, but not the concept. (Disclosure: I have performed in 7 Minutes Under the Mistletoe. Space 55 does not select or vet artists or material for its 7 Minutes . . . series -- and that is the concept.)

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"Storyline: Bad Buddhist" Showcases Top Downtown Phoenix Storytellers

Categories: Theater

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Image courtesy of Gabriel Radley
Storyteller Dan Hull rehearses for the upcoming "Bad Buddhist" show at Space 55
"Really, to me, the whole thing is about building a storytelling scene."

These are the words of Dan Hull, architect of the downtown Phoenix storytelling scene. After two seasons of the weekly Yarnball storytelling open mic night at Lawn Gnome Publishing, and one season of the monthly Storyline feature at Space 55, Hull has truly laid the groundwork for an entire community of up-and-coming storytellers in the Valley. This season's final Storyline show, "Bad Buddhist," represents a bridging point for the scene up into the future.


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The Full Monty from Mesa Encore Drops More Than Trou

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Wade Moran
Foreground, Michael Leeth, and left to right, Chad Campbell, Andrew Lipman, Jonathan Holdsworth, and Julian Peña discuss "The Goods" in The Full Monty.
The setup: There really isn't anything wrong with the lemons God gave you, even before you pluckily make lemonade from them. But in 1997, when director Peter Cattaneo showed us the work of screenwriter Simon Beaufoy (Slumdog Millionaire, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire) in The Full Monty, the desperate, laid-off male inhabitants of economically ravaged steel town Sheffield, Yorkshire, England, became brave, brilliant, sexy heroes. (Oh, yeah -- by stripping for money in front of friends, family, and neighbors, despite zero qualifications to do so, in case you didn't know.) Mesa Encore Theatre's mounting of the fine stage musical that resulted (set in Buffalo, New York) runs one more weekend in the Nesbitt/Elliott Playhouse at Mesa Arts Center.

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