Firehouse’s INVALID: Just What The Doctor Ordered

Every once in a while, it’s nice to be reminded that laughter at times can truly be ‘the best medicine.’ Firehouse Theatre’s latest production. ‘INVALID’, an adaptation of Moliere’s THE IMAGINARY INVALID, is perhaps just the prescription we need as we navigate these uncertain and occasionally divisive times.

Written by Josh Chenard (who also directs) and Jane Mattingly, ‘INVALID’ is an uproarious farce delivered in iambic pentameter with a Mel Brooks twist.

We first meet Argan (Andrew Firda), who is certain he’s dying as he pores over a tray of potions designed to make him well, or at least keep him complacent. Frida’s Argan appears all at once sure of himself, nervous, neurotic and put upon by those who also inhabit his daily life.

Playing Argan’s gold digging wife Beline is Kirk Morton, in a show stopping turn that is truly ‘Divine.’ Allison Paige Gilman plays love-struck daughter Angelica with a sultry sweetness that can’t help but have the audience rooting for her. Her father wishes for her to marry his doctor’s son. Thomas (Kenneth W. Putnam) so that his mounting medical costs will be reduced via a family discount, but Angelica wants to marry Cleante (Jamar Jones).

In the midst of this maelstrom is the maid, Toinette, portrayed with unwavering confidence by Donna Marie Miller. She gives as good as she gets when trading insults with a miffed Argan, and shuttles characters in and out of the room, always keeping her wits about her while everyone else goes a bit crazy.

Chernard and Mattingly’s script certainly pays homage to its influences (Brooks and his muse Madeline Khan, Oliver Hardy and the aforementioned Divine), but the stellar cast makes each character their own, so while it may seem nostalgic, it’s never tired or trite. A marvelous set designed by Chris Raintree and costumes by Nia Safari Banks add to the frivolity, helping to ensure everyone in attendance has an enjoyable and memorable evening.

Go get poked and prodded by men in white coats, but most importantly go laugh. While you’re there, remember that laughter is a lot like flatulence: it’s healthier when it is let out.

Check out the promotional video here. (Bonus points if you recognize the soundtrack.)

Production Information

INVALID

Adapted from Moliere’s THE IMAGINARY INVALID by Josh Chenard and Jane Mattingly

directed by Josh Chenard

Cast:

Argan – Andrew Firda*

Beline – Kirk Morton

Angelica – Allison Paige Gilman

Toinette – Donna Marie Miller

Cleante – Jamar Jones

Dr. Diaforus – Christopher Dunn

Thomas Diaforus – Kenneth W. Putnam

*appearing courtesy of Actors’ Equity Association

Production Team:

Josh Chenard – Director

Jane Mattingly – Dramaturg

Chris Raintree – Set Designer

Nia Safarr Banks – Costume Designer

Andrew Boniwell – Lighting Designer

Composer – Brandon J. Johns

Blair Rath – Chair Fabricator

Cailin Lindsay – Stage Manager

Performance Schedule:

Thu, Sep 6 @ 7:30pm

Fri, Sep 7 @ 7:30pm

Sun, Sep 9 @ 4pm

Thu, Sep 13 @ 7:30pm

Fri, Sep 14 @ 7:30pm

Sat, Sep 15 @ 7:30pm

Sun, Sep 16 @ 4pm

Fri, Sep 21 @ 7:30pm

Sat, Sep 22 @ 7:30pm

Sun, Sep 23  @ 4pm

Thu, Sep 27 @ 7:30pm

Fri, Sep 28 @ 7:30pm

Sat, Sep 29 @ 7:30pm

Tickets:

$15-$35

http://www.firehousetheatre.org / 804.355.2001

–Barry

Writing in Analog

I haven’t posted anything here in quite a while, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been writing. In fact, this summer has been probably my most prolific as a writer, even though this page has been dormant. For starters, I am now part of a fantastic podcast, ‘Redemption Song’, with friends Patrick, Dan and Kerry. We listen to records that were maligned or ignored by fans and/or critics when they were released and we attempt to determine if the record’s reputation as ‘bad’ is deserved, or if there might be something worth listening to and appreciating. Without question, the podcast has been the highlight of my summer, and if you know me, you know that I am able to take music seriously while still having fun. Give it a listen at the link above. As of this writing, there are eight episodes available, covering albums by artists ranging from Dylan, U2, KISS and Liz Phair, among others.

My notes for a podcast episode

The podcast is tangentially one of the reasons this page has had nothing new since a totally mind blowing concert appearance by Lou Barlow in April. In order to listen to and take notes about each song on each album for the podcast, I bought a five pack of single subject notebooks, and immediately put one on my bedside table. Since about 2000, whenever I have written anything resembling a journal, it’s usually been typed on  a PC, an iPad or a phone and then (sometimes) edited for inclusion in this blog. But this summer, I have been writing almost nightly, and always in longhand. And, as a friend termed it recently, most of what I have written this summer is ‘not fit for public consumption.’

Truthfully though, even if there was something I could post here, I am too lazy to transcribe it from the written page to the website. Perhaps someday I will edit and transcribe it all when the topics covered are well in the past tense, but for now, I will keep writing in the notebook, because I had forgotten how much fun and rewarding it was to scribble words on a page in ink.

As for this blog, I will be posting more frequently. Look for a play review very soon and some concert reviews (namely Sucidal Tendencies at The 9:30 Club on 9/8).

This summer hasn’t been easy, and perhaps I have become a bit too familiar with vodka, but I know I have had many harder seasons and been in many worse situations before. I will get through this one as the calendar turns to autumn, with my sense of humor and my shot glass intact.

Thanks as always, for reading!

–Barry

Lou Barlow Plays Among The Vespas

How do you write down your thoughts on something that you didn’t realize you had been waiting to witness for almost twenty-five years? I’m still not sure, but I will attempt to do just that. First though, a bit of history.

At some point in the mid-90s, I was introduced to the music of Sebadoh by way of a mix tape from my friend Jenne. The song was ‘Rebound’, and while I was not really a fan of ‘lo-fi’ recordings, lead singer and songwriter Lou Barlow’s lyrics hit me like a bullet. I remember soon after hearing that first mix tape, a trip to Sam Goody at our local mall where I went with the express purpose of buying a CD EP that had acoustic versions of ‘Rebound’ and ‘Magnet’s Coil’, although I did not voice this out loud to my friends (at least I don’t think I did). Sam Goody had only one copy (in hindsight it’s remarkable they even had one copy) and one of my friends claimed it before I got there. That friend made sure that all of the acoustic tracks from that EP were included on the next mix I got from them.

In the late 90s and early 2000s, I saw Sebadoh three times in concert. Each time was very memorable (especially a 2004 show at The Khybr in Philadelphia). Each show, while memorable, never included ‘Magnet’s Coil’ in the set. I wasn’t disappointed, because those shows still rocked, but I kept hoping with each successive show that ‘maybe this time’ would be the night when I would hear a live take of ‘Magnet’s Coil.’

Fast-forward to March 2018 when Patrick posted on Facebook that he had just acquired tickets to see a solo acoustic show by Lou Barlow in Philadelphia. I had no idea Lou was touring so, after reading Patrick’s post, I saw that Lou had a Facebook page and there was a list of tour dates. Two nights after the April 9 Philly show, Lou was going to play in Richmond! I had never heard of the listed venue, but even without knowing anything else about the show, I immediately bought a ticket.

About the venue: This show was booked at ‘MOTO RICHMOND’ which is in fact a scooter store, so the backdrop for the performer was a line of Vespas along with many motorcycle/scooter accessories and lights. I can’t say enough about how great the staff were. They made sure I had a chair, although I was more than prepared to stand for the entire show. When I walked into the performance area, it wasn’t very crowded. Thankfully a few minutes before show time when I looked behind me, the room had filled to probably seventy people.

Mic? Check. Guitars? Check. Vespas???

As pre-show music blared from the PA system, Lou nonchalantly walked out dragging a suitcase of merchandise. He stowed that behind a counter at the front of the venue, then he began to set up his three guitars. By ‘set up’ I mean he took them out of their cases and leaned them against a hardback chair in a way that if someone had sneezed, they would have fallen.

‘Doesn’t he have ‘people’ to handle the merch? Doesn’t he have stands for his guitars?’ I asked myself in humorous amazement.

Just past 8:00pm Lou sat down on a stool and asked everyone else to sit down. ‘I would stand up, but you’re still not going to be able to see me unless everyone sits down.’ Since this place was a store and not built for live music, the performance area was all on one level so having everyone seated was the only way for anyone not up in the front to see the show.

After tuning his guitar, Lou surprised us by opening with ‘Cold As Ice’ by Foreigner. He followed that with a verse and a chorus of Bryan Adams’ ‘Run To You’ before he messed up, stopped abruptly and announced, ‘Okay, now I’ll play some of my songs.’

Then he started playing the intro to ‘Magnet’s Coil,’ an intro to a song I have listened to thousands of times over the last twenty-plus years.

From that point forward, the rest of the evening is a wonderful, nostalgic blur. I remember snippets of moments, and I remember telling myself ‘Don’t lose it, keep it together!’ As each song washed over me, I was filled with memories of friends that I haven’t seen in too long, hours spent talking and playing cards while these songs played in the background. Memories came fast and sharp: The night I quoted a verse from ‘Rebound’ at a Waffle House during a discussion about dating; the morning where a friend left the lyrics to ‘Magnet’s Coil’ written in ink on four sheets of folded paper in my mailbox, and the time a friend gifted me three mix CDs of Sebadoh music. As I remembered all of this and tried to take in the actual show, it all became the aforementioned wonderful, nostalgic blur as the forty-something year old me melted away to reveal the twenty-something year old me. And I was okay with that.

Here is a partial setlist from the website setlist.fm with a few additions based on my blurry memory:

April 11; MOTO Richmond

Cold As Ice

Run To You

Magnet’s Coil

Imagination Blind

Rebound

Not a Friend

Repeat

Love Intervene

Skull

Too Pure

Wave

Natural One

Ballad of Daykitty

Back to your Heart

Vampire

Brand New Love

This show had everything I could’ve asked for: An attentive audience (minus the intoxicated guy who kept asking Lou to play songs he didn’t write), Lou telling many stories about songs (especially a detailed explanation on how ‘Ballad of Daykitty’ was written) and, as the partial setlist shows, the songs that I wanted to hear, that I didn’t realize I had been waiting to hear, the songs that I needed to hear. The only thing that could’ve improved the evening was to have seen it with those friends who made me a Sebadoh fan in the first place. While that didn’t happen, I did see this show with a friend, Christi, who attended even though she had not heard a note of Sebadoh music until the ride to the show (she did know Dinosaur Jr. though and I had completely forgotten to mention that Lou was the bassist in that band when talking to her about the show). By the time the evening was over and we were walking back to the car, Christi announced that she ‘would definitely see Lou again if he returned.’ So, like my friends made me a fan in the 90s, I’ll take credit for making Christi a fan.

In closing, a quick sincere thank you to Jenne, Jesi, Patrick, Tony and Kurt for exposing me to the music of Lou Barlow and Sebadoh, and for being among those who ‘get’ why this guy is so great. You were thought of fondly on this night. Thanks to Kati for taking a friend’s advice and coming to the show literally minutes before Lou started. And special thanks to Christi for being there to share a show that I think I can safely say neither one of us will ever forget.

Thank you for reading (indulging) my attempt to describe an evening that left some sobbing, and left me truly speechless. But again, perhaps Lou sums it up best:

‘If there’s a right thing to say

I’m sure I missed it by a mile.’

–‘Too Pure

–Barry

For The Most Part

For the most part, I can say that I am happy with my life. But, there’s that qualifier, ‘For the most part…’ I know I have many friends who, if I needed to call on at 3am to help with any sort of situation, those friends would be there to help and/or rescue me. I know that is no small thing, and I am lucky in that respect. Thinking back, I don’t really know if my dad had friends like that whom he could call on in a pinch. He had dozens of coworkers he shared time with, but it wasn’t until he met his second wife that he found a friend, a true confidant and someone he knew he could trust implicitly. As tumultuous as my relationship was with my dad during those last five years of his life, I was happy he found someone.

Last month, my dear friend Steve Schneider posted this on his Facebook page:

‘Some of the finest, most attractive people I know are not only single, but quite despondent and disillusioned over it. And they have a right to be. I just don’t get this world sometimes.’

After reading it, I wrote the following reply in less than a minute:

I’m not despondent, but I am now resigned and accepting of the fact that coupledom probably won’t happen for me. Do I wish it were in the cards? Yes, but I also would rather be single than be in a relationship that was toxic or unrewarding. Disillusioned? Yeah, that fits most days.

And don’t tell me ‘There’s someone for everyone.’ That’s not true, as much as I would like to believe it.

I thought that was the end of it, but soon after I hit ‘Post’ I kept thinking of other things to say on the topic. I have never been one to wish that my life were different. Times may get tough and there may be some hard days, but more often than not, I am very happy with my life. I work from home, which I like, and I do my best to go out to shows and movies, if for no other reason than to avoid becoming a hermit. So, I really hope this doesn’t read like I am whining or complaining about the current state of things, because I am not. It’s more or less a recent observation that I have come to see very clearly.

I used to be so optimistic when it came to relationships and dating. All through my twenties if a relationship crashed and burned, I would take stock, but I always thought, eventually I would find ‘the person I’m supposed to be with.’ I know now that whole mentality is a myth.

At one point, a long time ago, I thought I had hit the jackpot. She was smart, gorgeous, kind, and upon seeing her for the first time she literally stopped me in my tracks, to the point where my internal dialogue while I made small talk was ‘Don’t be an idiot. Don’t fuck this up….don’t be an idiot.’ We lived in different cities, but my confidence in the belief that she was ‘The One’ had me ready to move to where she was, give up television and red meat. If that’s what it took, I was willing to do that.

That chapter never happened. She decided, when I finally asked her directly, that we were best as ‘never lovers, ever friends’ (although she didn’t quote that lyric directly, that’s how I processed it, because music lyrics are my filter for dealing with real life). The end of that fantasy, and that’s all it ever really was, a fantasy, was when my optimism disappeared. I no longer sought out relationships, telling myself, ‘If it happens, it happens,’ but truthfully having no enthusiasm for opening myself up like that again for fear of getting hurt. The real pain of that relationship not working out shaped every future decision I made.

I crafted that reply to Steve’s post on Facebook almost as a defense. No I am not nor have I ever been despondent about the current state of my social life, but yes, disillusioned fits, and that emotion is tied primarily to not having someone in my life that I can tell anything and everything to, from the big hopes and dreams to the little daily minutia that we deal with every day. I’ve never had that relationship where I see someone every day and know I can trust them to ‘have my back’ when necessary. That’s what I feel like I am missing, and while I like my life, I do get incredibly lonely.

I had a medical scare last fall, and it was while I was processing the myriad of possible outcomes, all the while keeping up a brave public face, that I found myself ready to scream. I was brutally honest about things with my core group of friends that I have known for almost 30 years, but that was all done on the phone or text. It was necessary and appreciated, and I do love my friends, but when I would try to sleep at night, it was during those hours where I literally ached for someone.

I know that if things on this front are going to change, I have to be the one to change them. I say that also knowing that my time is pretty much accounted for between a 40-hour work week and being a caretaker for my mom. That’s the priority now. I understand and accept that. I am used to the routine and, more often that not I don’t mind it.

The likelihood of me being single for the remainder of my life is probably very high, and, as I have said before in other posts on this blog, most of the time, that’s a proposition that I am perfectly content with. But on those rare nights when I feel alone, the emptiness of singledom hits hard, and it hurts.

Why am I writing this? I’m not sure. I just know that my visceral reaction and immediate response to what I read on Steve’s page broke a dam that led to me writing out nine pages in hurried longhand as I tried to process why exactly I feel the way I do.

One Christmas, when that core group of high school friends would gather every year to exchange gifts, drink and play board games until dawn, the then new girlfriend of one of my best friends opened the gift I bought her. She opened it and was astonished that I had gotten ‘the right gift’ after only having her as the newest member of our ‘group’ for a few months.

‘You are going to be someone’s perfect boyfriend one day,’ she said as she hugged me.

‘I know,’ I said matter of factly.

One day.

–Barry

John Cleese Taunts Richmond a Second Time [11.10.17]

I’ll be honest; when tickets went on sale in June for an appearance by John Cleese that included a screening of the film ‘Monty Python and the Holy Grail’ I was on the fence. I had seen Cleese along with fellow Python member Eric Idle in 2015, performing together and answering questions in what became a ‘once in a lifetime’ experience. And tickets for The Holy Grail evening were close to $100 face value (over $100 with fees), so I was not certain that the evening would be worth it.

But the more I thought about it I told myself, ‘Remember back in 2004 when you were stunned that Eric Idle stopped in RVA on his solo tour? And you were floored that any member of Python would bother to stop in Richmond for any length of time?’ So the fact that a) John Cleese would be coming to the city where I live for the second time in two years, and b) He’ll be dead soon (as he admitted on stage) led me to buy a ticket for a film that I already own and have seen over one hundred times.

I thought I bought my ticket to see John, and trust me, he was great, but the true star and biggest surprise of the evening was the 4K Ultra-HD Digital Transfer of the film. I seriously doubt that the film looked that clean and vibrant when it premiered in 1975. I sat there in my fourth-row center seat completely in awe of how truly beautiful this film now is as a piece of ‘cinema.’ Yes, it’s silly, yes it’s absurd and yes the ending is horrible, but it is now truly majestic in its depiction of the times of King Arthur and his ‘English Kni-iiiiiiiiigh-its’

Soon after the film concluded, the house lights rose and Cleese’s daughter Camila walked onstage and announced that the interviewers on the previous leg of the tour were far too nice, so she was brought along to ‘get the dirt.’ She welcomed her dad and Cleese promptly announced that the movie we had all just seen wasn’t nearly as good as its followup, ‘Life of Brian.’ He’s right, ‘Brian’ is a better film, it was just a surprise to hear the star attraction admitting as much.

Over the next hour, Cleese lovingly berated all other members of Python. At one point he cracked himself up almost to the point of choking while telling the audience ‘You [Americans] elected someone [to the presidency] who has never read a book!!’ After collecting himself, he finished the thought, adding, ‘Now, if we’d written that ten years ago, Hollywood would’ve said ‘Yeah it’s funny, but it’s not believable.’

The kindest most sincere words of the evening were, not surprisingly said about his former writing partner in Python, Graham Chapman, whom Cleese said ‘became totally divorced from reality around 1968 and never returned.’ But, he said, Chapman’s greatest asset was as a sounding board and that ‘if Graham laughed, I knew I had something that would make the audience laugh.’ After that comment, the two Cleese’s left the stage while a film clip from Chapman’s 1989 memorial service was shown, where Cleese delivered a truly uproarious and fitting eulogy.

The 2014 Monty Python Reunion was momentous, and I’m very glad it stayed in England and didn’t have a US leg. That brief run of shows was a lovely way for them to make up and say ‘Thank you’ and ‘Goodbye’ at the same time. Michael Palin prefers to make travel programs, Terry Gilliam is a director, Terry Jones is ill and silenced by dementia, it’s possible though unlikely that Eric Idle would tour the US again, so this tour by Cleese, even though most of the evening was spent watching a film, was a way for Richmond’s Monty Python fans to say ‘Thank you’ to John and his comrades for for almost fifty years of laughs, which made for a truly wonderful evening.

-Barry

Foo Fighters Rock RVA

For the last ten years at least, perhaps longer, I have heard many very smart people who work in the music business proclaim with certainty that ‘Rock Music Is Dead!’ It had been replaced by ultra-slick, auto-tuned productions that strived for perfection, but in that pursuit had lost its soul.

‘Rock is dead. The passion is gone. It will never be the same.’

Dave Grohl and his band Foo Fighters obviously never got the message because, on Saturday night they offered a three-hour set of blistering hard rock as testament that Rock and Roll is Alive and Well!

It was something quite wonderful to behold.

Photo by author

Supporting their latest effort, ‘Concrete and Gold’, which was represented well in the evening’s set list, the band took the nearly sold out Richmond Coliseum crowd on a trip through the band’s 20+ year career, playing some songs that had not been played live in a very long time, along with the ones you expect to hear, and even a few that even surprised Dave and the band.

 

‘I say tonight we play songs from every album…so there ain’t much time for talkin’,’ Dave announced to the crowd three songs in. In fact, the songs didn’t stop and Dave didn’t say ‘Hi’ to the audience until they were done playing ten straight songs, almost nonstop. This was my first Foo Fighters show, so while I had seen Dave interviewed and seen some performances on television, I did not know that he basically turns into Animal from the Muppets on stage; a frantic head banging, hair flying maniac.

The featured songs from the new record translate to the stage well, especially ‘Run’ and ‘The Sky Is a Neighborhood’, the latter of which heavily features a trio of female lead singers, brought along on tour to add harmony vocals. I am happy to see on subsequent shows that most of the new material is still being played, although the title track, which was part of an epic 45 minute encore, as of this writing, has not been played since making its live debut Saturday.

Photo courtesy of Brian Hall

Another moment that appears to be a ‘Richmond Exclusive’, since we were the first arena stop on the tour, is drummer Taylor Hawkins’ lead vocal spotlight on a cover of Queen’s ‘I’m In Love With My Car.’ Dave asked the crowd if they liked the song being part of the show, saying they added it since the song inspired Hawkins to be a drummer and a singer. It was a neat moment, but with such a large catalog, I am sure most fans would have rather heard another deep cut from the Foos as opposed to a cover.

After the band left the stage the first time, we all knew they were coming back for an encore. There was a camera backstage that showed Dave urging the crowd to get louder and putting up one finger as if to ask ‘You wanna hear one more?’ Then he put up two, then three and eventually five fingers before finally taking the stage again to play what would indeed be an unforgettable encore.

When the Foo Fighters first hit the scene in the mid-nineties, I liked them, but I wasn’t a huge fan. I liked their songs when I heard them on the radio or when I saw a video on MTV (Although I did get sick of ‘Big Me’ when it seemed to be coming out of every radio speaker), but I didn’t own any records by them. Then I saw the documentary ‘Sound City’ in which Dave chronicles the history of the infamous LA recording studio, and soon after I saw that, I watched the HBO series ‘Sonic Highways’, which featured the band visiting eight US cities and writing and recording a song in each city. It was after that series concluded that I immediately bought the ‘Sonic Highways’ record and made it a point that, the next time Foo Fighters were anywhere close, I would check them out.

I mention all of this because, even though I have delved into the back catalog of the band, ‘Sonic Highways’ remains my favorite and, while I did not expect to hear a majority of that record on Saturday, I was ecstatic to hear two songs specifically. ‘Something From Nothing’, which kicks off the ‘Sonic Highways’ record was featured early in the set (and that song was when I took my glasses off, stowed them away in my pocket and decided to headbang like I was eighteen again, at least for a few songs).

 

As headbanging almost always is for me, it was a very cathartic moment.

 

Later, in the midst of that long encore, after already playing four songs and blowing past the 11:30pm noise ordinance curfew, there was a pause on stage and then Dave said, ‘Watch this! I’m gonna surprise the band!’ He then tore into the opening riff to ‘Congregation’ which is, without question my favorite song from the ‘Sonic Highways’ project, and it may be my favorite song by the band, period. The band quickly joined in, and we were off on one of my favorite concert moments in a very long time. 

The Congregation (Courtesy of Brian Hall)

To me, the song crystalizes how music can be at times as moving and as important as one’s religion or faith. I’ve always had a problem with ‘organized religion’, and some may find it offensive to compare such a secular activity to a religion, or use the word ‘faith’ when talking of music, but in my life, in some of my darkest hours, music has been the one thing that has kept me afloat and helped me see that, even when I was in seemingly insurmountable pain, I could get through it. 
Some lyrics:

Send in the congregation

Open your eyes, step in the light

A jukebox generation

Just as you were

And you need blind faith

No false hope

Do you have blind faith?

No false hope

Where is your blind faith?

No false hope

Open your eyes, open your eyes

Step into the light

Open your eyes, step into the light

I’m grateful they played ‘Congregation’, and I’m now aware that Richmond really did get a very special show. The following night, the encore was much shorter, and ‘Congregation’ has not been played. If this show ends up being the only show where it’s performed (along with probably Nashville, the city that inspired it), then I count myself lucky to have been there. 

Seeing the hordes of sweaty fans on the floor, sharing the experience of this show, it reminded me again that Rock is not dead, and, if you catch the right moment, you can even see Rock thrive in 2017.

The Foo Fighters rocked, and they rocked hard for three hours, and in doing so, they singlehandedly restored my faith in the power of Rock, and the power of music.

So, if they play anywhere close to where you live…GO! You won’t be sorry!

 

Setlist from setlist.fm

 

Run

I’ll Stick Around

Learn to Fly

The Pretender

The Sky Is a Neighborhood

Something From Nothing

Walk

Rope

(Extended outro; with drum solo at the end)

Sunday Rain

My Hero

These Days

Let It Die

(First time live since 4/ 3/12)

All My Life

Enough Space

White Limo

Arlandria

Times Like These

(Solo into full band)

Breakout

Make It Right

I’m in Love With My Car

(Queen cover) (Taylor Hawkins on lead vocals)

Skin and Bones

Jump / Fat Bottomed Girls

(Played during band intros)

Monkey Wrench

Best of You

[Encore]:

Dirty Water

This Is a Call

La Dee Da

Wheels

(First time in the US since 5/ 7/14)

Congregation

Concrete and Gold

(Live debut)

Everlong

 Thank you for reading

-Barry

‘The Last Five Years’ at TheatreLab is Mesmerizing; Not To Be Missed

This weekend I had the pleasure of witnessing a bit of magic right here in town at Richmond’s TheatreLab Basement.

Production Photography by Tom Topinka

Christie Jackson and Alexander Sapp as Cathy and Jamie [Production Photography by Tom Topinka courtesy of TheatreLab’s Facebook page]

Jason Robert Brown’s musical ‘The Last Five Years’ is one of the most unique pieces of theatre to be produced in the last twenty years. Instead of lavish sets and a ‘cast of thousands,’ the play is simply a series of monologues-in-song, alternately performed by the play’s only two characters, Jamie and Cathy. In this production, which is a partnership between TheatreLab and Yes, And! Entertainment, ambitious young writer Jamie is portrayed by Alexander Sapp, while Christie Jackson is struggling actress Cathy.

 

What sets this work apart from your usual ‘boy meets girl’ musical is that the characters tell the story of their relationship from meeting to marriage to divorce, but they tell it from opposite ends. The very first number, ‘Still Hurting’ shows Cathy at the end of the relationship, in pain and in pieces. That Jackson is able to immediately grab the audience and hold them in her hand as she crumbles in front of them is awe inspiring. Lest you think it’s a complete downer, the very next song ‘Shiksa Goddess’ brings us Jamie just as he’s met Cathy. Sapp bounces along the minimal stage, smiling ear to ear, possessed with the youthful exuberance that the potential of a new relationship brings. Throughout the show, each person tells their story from their point of view with almost no interaction with the other performer.

The Basement performance space is very intimate: about 40 seats, a barren wood plank stage with two benches. Even though the space is sparse, the audience is captivated by a fantastic piano and string ensemble (directed by John-Stuart Faquet), a masterful score, nuanced stage direction from Chelsea Burke, expert lighting, and most importantly, two stupendous actors who move from joy and humor to heartbreak and sadness with a smooth effortlessness that is a wonder to witness.

I urge you to go see this show. You’ll be supporting great local theatre, you’ll see a truly mesmerizing performance, and, as you watch Jamie and Cathy on the carousel that is their relationship, you’ll undoubtedly see a bit of yourself in those two characters.

This engagement will sell out, so I advise you to purchase your seats before they’re all gone. The run resumes Thursday September 28 and plays every Thursday, Friday and Saturday night through October 14, Now EXTENDED thru Saturday October 28! All shows start at 8pm, seats are general admission and are $30.

 

Don’t miss it, because I assure you, this production will be talked about long after the final bows have been taken. It is that good, and it is that memorable, so go…be ‘a part of that.’