KGOU

Staged In The City: Mountaintop, 4Play And Tartuffe

Feb 6, 2015

Theater is booming in the Oklahoma City metro. There are many shows to choose from, opening this month and next.

Dallas-based artistic director, choreographer, dancer and performer Junene K and the Pollard Theater’s artistic director Jerome Stevenson star in this month's staging of "Mountaintop."
Credit Oklahoma City Repertory Theatre

Our featured show of the week is a collaborative effort between three regional mainstays. The Pollard and CityRep theatre companies join forces with St. Luke's United Methodist Church’s Poteet Theatre to bring us Mountaintop, winner of the 2010 Olivier Award for Best New Play, by young playwright Katori Hall. Dallas-based artistic director, choreographer, dancer and performer JuNene K and the Pollard Theatre’s artistic director Jerome Stevenson play the two principal characters: a maid at Memphis’ Lorraine Motel and the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

“This is not your typical historical drama, stuffed and dead upon arrival,” says CityRep’s artistic director Donald Jordan.

Though the stage is a replica of the hotel room where King spent his last night, the script is not based on fact. Instead, Hall envisions a conversation that could have been - a final night in Room 306 in a cigarette and coffee-fueled surreal discussion with an unabashedly southern, unassuming, yet prophetic hotel maid named Camae. Their dialogue brings to light the doubts, self-reflection and responsibility expressed during King’s final year.

Mountaintop contemplates King’s full humanity by placing the revered civil rights leader as one great player in a long and brutal game, encouraging him to “pass on the baton” to the next generation. Projections of contemporary footage, by lighting designer Adam Chamberlin, evoke various figures that continue to make history in the present, such as Spike Lee and Assata Shakur. The subtle effects, the superb acting and the contemplative dialogue will mesmerize.

Mountaintop opens Friday in the Freede Little Theatre at the Civic Center Music Hall, and runs thru the following weekend. The show moves up to Guthrie’s Pollard Theatre for another two weekend run February 20 – 28.

CityRep’s René Moreno directs the production, with company dramaturg Anna Holloway, set designer Ben Hall, Pollard costume designer Michael James, prop manager Timothy Stewart, lighting designer Adam Chamberlin, sound engineer and stage manager Steve Emerson.

If you have not yet discovered the Actors Warehouse Studio, you have at least 8 chances this year. The Red Dirt Theatre Company now shares the 50-seat theater with Robert JM Productions. The space provides the intimacy and excitement of a black box theater, but with grey walls and yellow seats, the name doesn’t quite fit.

Robert JM opened their season with 4Play last weekend, the first of four shows slated for this year. It’s old hat to group sexual minorities together (think LGBTQIF), so it’s no surprise identity is the common factor among these four one-act comedies. Each presents a challenging scenario from day-to-day queer life.

The opening act Wish Returned introduces Penelope Posh, a burlesque performer with a magical power to grant wishes. However, a wish goes awry when she brings the wrong Hugh Jackman into Nicky’s life. This Hugh is from Arkansas, not Australia, and sports a beautiful mullet, a stunning belt buckle and a convincing southern drawl. Can Nicky learn to love his new beau?

Kate’s Bush presents Kate, a lesbian woman excited about preparing her home for her first real live-in girlfriend.  Her old friend, the front yard forsythia bush, puts up a real fight against the idea of a new housemate.  

In When I Grow Up, third grader Chrysanthemum gives a speech about her desire to become a boy, while her repressed teacher Mr. Hipper interrupts her speech to prevent her from using inappropriate words to describe her anatomy. Chrys responds with, “I hate censorship. It’s only there because people don’t want to hear the truth.” When Chrysanthemum’s father asks what he is supposed to do, now that he is the father of a young boy in a young girl’s body, she responds, “Nothing. Just be my dad.” This child, like most, wants stability and sameness, to be told to do the same old chores, and to not have to suddenly play baseball and pose as a jock in order to be a boy.

RJM Productions presents "Bi-Bi", one of four mini-plays in the "4Play" showcase.
Credit rjmproductions.com

Bi-Bi plays off of the traditional stereotype that bisexual folks can’t make up their minds. Dick is dating more than one person at a time. He accidentally makes a date with both of them. At the same bar on the same night. As Dick runs back and forth between the bar and the restaurant to drink with both dates, in the style of Mrs. Doubtfire, a go-hard hostess named Cupcake does her best to keep his dates from discovering the secret. She helps him get in and out of his suit jacket between dates—an apt metaphor for the constant adaptation required to suit both a straight woman and a gay man. 

4Play is a warm-up for the heart and mind— a practice in laughing at ourselves, as playwright and director Robert Matson introduces empathy and believable contemporary characters into the world of farce. The script highlights the versatility of actors Todd Clark, Erin Honious and Holly McNatt, alongside Matson. This is the final weekend to catch 4Play. Matson’s award winning drama Mr. and Mister returns to the stage in April, along with two new comedies  in March and May. Red Dirt will present four shows this year at the theater, beginning with David Ives’ Venus in Furs April 24 – May 9.

Publicity image for the Oklahoma City Theatre Company's staging of "Tartuffe."
Credit okctheatrecompany.org

The third theatrical pick in this week's OneSix8 is Fabrice Conte’s interpretation of Moliere’s Tartuffe, presented by the Oklahoma City Theatre Company. Conte explained, in a recent interview,

“People often misunderstand Tartuffe as anti-religious, but in fact, it is pro-real faith, but against the manipulation of others with faith. The comedy is a great philosophy on life and relationships, in a world with others who may not share your ideas.”

Many characters and plot twists of modern tragicomedy are based on this 17th century classic, dealing with deceit, intuition and trust when Tartuffe, a pious con-artist, nearly ruins a family. Conte shared that his production is ambitious in its attempt to play with all that comes to mind when we think of previous stagings of Tartuffe. The Richard Wilbur translation preserves the rhyming couplet of the original text, but you can expect from this director (Roberto Zucco, Medea, Frankenstein) an atmosphere soaked in well-ordered style.

You will be whisked away by charm, humor and flare. Dazzling performances by J. Christine Lanning, Jessica Carabajal and company, remarkable costuming by Andy Wallach and a colorfully pleasing parlor room set designed by Ward Kays. The props and costumes combine modern and vintage to create a sort of everywhere- not quite the past, not quite the present. This choice contributes to the universality and timelessness of Tartuffe's themes.

Tartuffe opens Thursday, February 5 in the CitySpace Theatre at the Civic Center Music Hall, and runs through Sunday, February 15.

Our calendar of community events features many more choices for arts and entertainment, along with information about educational, outdoors and personal development activities in your community. You may submit your own event for listing on the calendar, for a chance to be announced on air at KGOU.  There is so much to do, see and experience in central Oklahoma, but only 168 hours each week. Let’s make the most of it.

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