Curtains: Hale Centre Theatre's The Princess & the Pea -- You Know, for Kids

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Wade Moran
Princess Minerva (Audrey Sullivan, left) and Prince Valient (Tyler Pounds) find that they're two radically different people in The Princess & the Pea.
Yet another thing you might not know about Hale Centre Theatre in Gilbert is that they present a Children's Theatre series -- shows especially for little squirts, with whom, in case you haven't checked lately, the east Valley is simply overrun. Naturally, because we care, Curtains is thrilled to tip you off to ways you can entertain and wear down the small children in your life.

The plays are for young audiences, but experienced adult actors play adult characters, so you can rely on the solid production values you'll generally find in a Hale show. The current Children's Theatre offering, The Princess & the Pea, has been running for about a month, and it continues into June, because these shows are presented just once a week, at a Saturday morning matinee. It's kind of a nifty system that leaves both the venue and the performers available for more complex, time-consuming projects during the rest of the week.

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Curtains: Desert Stages' Zanna, Don't! Is a Dream Date

Categories: Curtains
Ron Nachtwey
Most of the cast of Zanna, Don't!, making the case for love
I'm dating myself here (at least somebody is -- ba dum bump!) but there used to be this TV show called The Dating Game. I would go on and on about it, but I just accidentally deleted what I'd already written, and it was basically a low-tech precursor of reality television where a "bachelorette" would ask questions of three men she couldn't even see (I know!) and then choose one and go on one date with him, which wasn't even recorded or part of the show at all. It all took less than half an hour, no hot tubs, no mansion sleepovers, no roses getting flung around, no strategy or suspense or drunken pooping. What can I say? Television hadn't been invented all that long ago, and we'd watch anything. Unlike, you know, now.

But I thought of this after I had the best time last weekend at a relatively new, small-but-Flubberesquely-energetic off-Broadway musical called Zanna, Don't! at Scottsdale Desert Stages Theatre. It was so cute and made me feel really special. I couldn't stop smiling -- I'm sure I seemed like a big goof. But mostly all I could think was, "This is so awesome -- I'm so glad I picked it." Because I did. I had a choice.

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Curtains: Rene Foss' Around the World in a Bad Mood! Finally Lays Over in the Valley; Dodging Bullets Is Back for Phoenix Fringe

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Ed Krieger
Flight attendant Rene Foss uses the resources at hand to simultaneously fill in for the in-flight movie and resolve a seating conflict. Bonus puppet points!
First, a blurb of super-good news for you audience types: David Barker's astonishing one-man show, Dodging Bullets, returns as part of the 2010 Phoenix Fringe Festival (where you can catch lots of new stuff during the coming week, by the way) with performances beginning Friday night, April 2, at The Chocolate Factory; more details here.

Okay, on to this week's new review. Just as Dixie Longate still has to hustle the Tupperware, Rene Foss still flies a full schedule for "Northwasted My Life" Airlines, even though she now stars in a popular touring show and has published a book about her decades as a flight attendant. And, rescheduled from earlier in Mesa Arts Center's season, Around the World in a Bad Mood! Confessions of a Flight Attendant is here to raise our tray tables and return our seat backs to the fully upright and locked position.

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Curtains: Arizona Curriculum Theater's Topical, Disturbing Salem: 1692

Categories: Curtains

Living Art Studios
From left: Gail Rae, James David Porter, and Jason Barth reproduce the Salem witch trials in Salem: 1692.
At least three excellent classic 20th-century plays are presented regularly by high schools, which tends to taint them for anyone who was first exposed to them there: Arsenic and Old Lace, Thornton Wilder's Our Town (which I wish I could have squeezed into the "Curtains" schedule when Fountain Hills Community Theater presented it earlier this month), and Arthur Miller's The Crucible. As I've suggested before, such plays can be ever so entertaining and moving when presented by a real theater.

When The Crucible premièred in 1953, McCarthyism was in full flower, and Miller's intent was to use historical events (the 17th-century witch hysteria, ensuing trials, and executions in Salem, Massachusetts Bay Colony) as an allegory for the U.S. Government's paranoia and persecution of Communist Party members and sympathizers. (Three years later, Miller was summoned before the House of Representatives Committee on Un-American Activities and asked to "name names.") Arizona Curriculum Theater's current production, Salem: 1692, features some of the same real-life characters as The Crucible and then departs from it in crucially creepy, evocative, even more historically accurate ways.

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Curtains: Southwest Shakespeare's Blithe Spirit Is Blithe and Spirited, Thank God

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Ash Rhodes, BlackHole Photography
Justine Hartley (left), Ben Tyler, and Serena Vesper are ectoplasmically challenged in Blithe Spirit.
Wanna know a secret about publicity photos? A show's final hair and makeup designs often do not appear in them, since they're taken weeks or months before opening night.

While everyone in the above photo looks lovely, and it's a very good photograph, these actors look even better on stage in Southwest Shakespeare Company's current production of Noël Coward's charming, witty 1940s classic, Blithe Spirit. That's especially Justine Hartley as the late Elvira Condomine. Hubba hubba! Death becomes her.

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Curtains: New Carpa and AZ Women's Theatre Co-Produce A Mother's Will

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courtesy of New Carpa Theater Company
Mary (Linda Waymire, center) and her family prepare for their final goodbye in A Mother's Will.
Each year since 2007, Arizona Women's Theatre Company has sponsored the Pandora Festival, an open competition for unpublished scripts by Arizona's female playwrights. (Full disclosure: I served as a reading judge for the 2010 competition and will be paid a small stipend for my services.) Julie Amparano's A Mother's Will was selected as a finalist to be performed as a staged reading during last year's Pandora Festival, and it also received an ariZoni Theatre Award of Excellence in 2007 for best overall production of an original script by a non-contracted theater (South Mountain Community College).

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Curtains: Teatro Bravo! Presents Lloronas at PCA, Third and Moreland Streets

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courtesy of Teatro Bravo!
Erica Mathlin and Dulce Juarez play grieving mothers who cross the veil between worlds in search of peace and power in Lloronas.
La Llorona is the Mexican bogeywoman, the ghost of a mother who killed her children and cries and wails in the night, especially near bodies of water. She's a mean, crazy bitch who might just come for you if you don't behave yourself -- or is she? That's just part of the thought-provoking, moody mystery in Carlos Manuel's Lloronas, a new play directed by Fernando Tesón for Teatro Bravo! at Phoenix Center for the Arts.

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Curtains: Algonquin Presents New Play Kennedy in Peoria

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Kennedy 8.jpg
courtesy of Theater Works
Ron Hunting as President John F. Kennedy. There really are scenes with other people in them, I promise.
Have you ever been shopping and seen a cunningly-styled, uniquely flattering, bargain-priced evening coat and been a little bummed because it's such a lovely, accessible object of obvious quality, but who really needs an evening coat, like, ever? This is the predicament of Kennedy, a rather enjoyable and beautifully presented new play that just doesn't really fit anywhere.

Ron Hunting (who also directed and stars in the current Algonquin Theater Company production) has been working on this script for some time, and except for the first act being about one or two scenes too long (which makes it difficult to work up interest about the Cuban Missile Crisis cliffhanger at the end of Act I) it's a well-structured, nicely paced look at the tragically short life and career of the 35th U.S. president.More »

Curtains: An Extra Week of Nudity in Stray Cat's The Play About the Naked Guy in Tempe

Categories: Curtains
curtains naked.jpg
John Groseclose
The fabulous ensemble of The Play About the Naked Guy: standing (left to right), Louis Farber, Matthew R. Harris, Doug Loynd, Marc Rambeau, Johanna Carlisle, and Emily Rubin; seated (left to right), Michael Thompson and Samuel E. Wilke

News flash: The Play About the Naked Guy has been, ahem, extended. The production now runs through Saturday, March 6.

Oh, democracy, democracy, is there anything you can't do? In the plot of David Bell's The Play About the Naked Guy, only two of the three remaining diehard members of The Integrity Players (an off-off-Broadway financial sinkhole of a Serious Theater Company) choose to merge with the producers of a series of live softcore gay-friendly musical pastiche-taculars (okay, longest genre name ever -- somebody help me out) to keep their heads above water, but two out of three is a majority that enables curiously plausible high jinks to ensue.

In a little case of life imitating art imitating life, this play was called The Gay Naked Play in its original 2004 incarnation -- the current title is, go figure, more commercial. Oh, it's still plenty gay. I left NYC in 1989, but apparently the place just stayed nice and sparkly without me, which I find a huge relief.More »

Curtains: Getting One's Brunch and Groove On at Patsy's Bridal Shower

Categories: Curtains

Patsy's Bridal Shower at Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre.jpg
Kathi Osborne and Kandyce Hughes are the mothers of the spouses-to-be in Patsy's Bridal Shower.
I haven't decided what the deal is with interactive murder mystery dinner theater, or whether I like it in general. It's possible you'll get to see me work that whole issue out, right in this virtual space, one of these days. But in the meantime, I had a swell time at Patsy's Bridal Shower, an optionally interactive bridal-shower dinner (or brunch!) theater that ran for five years in Chicagoland and has now invaded Broadway Palm West Dinner Theatre in Mesa.

The basic premise is that friends and relatives of the groom, who comes from a moneyed, snooty Paradise Valley family, arrive at the double-wide Buckeye mobile home of the bride (Patsy), her mother (Edie), and their casino-co-worker friend and housemate, Bobbit, for a nice wedding shower to which we've all been invited, too. You're welcome to just sit there, pound back a few cocktails, enjoy Chef Michael Schook's buffet, and watch the show. Or you can participate a bit, or a bit more, as the mood strikes you. The cast members are sweet and non-threatening, so it's all good. And good fun.

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