Tag Archives: Allison Stockman

Information Overload: Forum’s Love and Information & Constellation’s The Wild Party, reviewed.

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A surfeit of arts coverage in last week’s Washington City Paper means it took my reviews of Forum’s Caryl Churchill experiment Love and Information and Constellation’s Jazz Age musical The Wild Party ’til now to appear. They’re in the paper this week.

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Bad Times, Good Times: Studio’s Cloud 9 and Constellation’s Urinetown, reviewed.

Studio Theatre's "Cloud 9" (Teresa Wood)Constellation Theatre Company's "Urinetown."

For various critic-related, theater company-related, and publication-related reasons, my reviews of Studio Theatre’s production of Caryl Churchill’s anticolonial sex romp Cloud 9 and Constellation Theatre Company’s new production of the Y2K-era Greg Kotis-Mark Hollman musical Urinetown have taken a long time to see print. But they’re in this week’s Washington City Paper, and online, too.

Notes on Champ: Fetch Clay, Make Man and ABSOLUTELY! {perhaps}, reviewed.

Roscoe Orman and Eddie Ray Jackson as Stehin Fetchit and Muhammad Ali in "Fetch Clay, Make Man."

Roscoe Orman and Eddie Ray Jackson as Stephin Fetchit and Muhammad Ali in Fetch Clay, Make Man. (Round House Theatre)

My review of Round House Theatre‘s strong production of Will Power‘s Fetch Clay, Make Man, a play about the unlikely friendship of Muhammad Ali and Stephin Fetchit, is in today’s Washington City Paper. I also review Constellation Theatre‘s update of a century-old Luigi Pirandello play, ABSOLUTELY! {perhaps}. Continue reading

An Athenian, a Broad: The Love of the Nightingale, reviewed.

Matthew Schleigh, Megan Dominy, and Rena Cherry Brown in The Love of the Nightingale. Photograph by Stan Barouh.

“It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World,” is how James Brown and Betty Jean Newsome said it in 1966. (And Brown denied Newsome’s contributions to the song in court decades later, as if to prove the title correct.)

“Woman Is the Nigger of the World,” is how John Lennon and Yoko Ono said it in 1972.

“Every man has a choice to make: Commitment, or new pussy?” is how Chris Rock said it in 1996.

And The Love of the Nightingale is how Sophocles said it two-and-a-half millennia earlier, give or take, which got filtered through Ovid’s brain four centuries later, and then British playwright Timberlake Wertenbaker’s just eight years ago. In her astute update of the sad story of Philomele and Procne, Wertenbaker dares to have one of her characters, an innocent, ask what a myth is.

“The oblique image of an unwanted truth, reverberating through time,” comes the answer.

And the unwanted truth reverberating, hard, through The Love of the Nightingale is this: Men. Are. Dogs.

Woof.

Continue reading

Constellation’s Succesful Marriage

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Katy Carkuff and Joe Brack rehearse a scene from The Marriage of Figaro.

“Apollo’s warrant” and “Wag-errant” do not rhyme — not really — but Allison Stockman doesn’t want to hear it. By which we mean she does want to hear it: “Embrace the rhyme,” she instructs her charges. “Make it rhyme!”

Words to live by, or at least to perform by.

It’s a Sunday afternoon half a week into the new year, and Stockman is dismissing the cast of Constellation Theatre Company’s The Marriage of Figaro from the Source building’s second floor rehearsal room overlooking fashionable 14th Street NW. Their homework? To parse the rhythm of the play’s spoken prologue. But “Embrace the rhyme” could just as well be a glib reduction of the company’s mission statement, which promises “visionary, expressive design with heightened physical movement and elevated language.”

That probably reads well on a grant application, but Stockman’s self-descibed “epic ensemble” has built a reputation for delivering the goods, establishing itself less in barely more than a year and a half as a destination for actors and audiences alike. Constellation made its splashy debut with a June 2007 production of August Strindberg’s obscure A Dream Play, as reworked by Caryl Churchill. (“Brisk, accessible, and surprisingly humorous,” praised This Very Newspaper at the time.) An imaginative, highly popular The Arabian Nights followed the same year.

Since then, Constellation has taken on — with varying degrees of success — critiques of socioeconomics and ethics (Brecht’s The Good Woman of Szechwan), Greek tragedy (The Oriestia) and Faust-as-political allegory (Vaclav Havel’s Temptation).

The texts, which Stockman selects with the company’s seven “associate artists,” outwardly have little in common except that they call for large ensembles (a trait Stockman looks for) were all written, or derived from source material, in languages other than English (which she says she hadn’t even noticed). But the 34-year-old Baltimore native and former teacher has nonethless made her productions reflect a unified artistic vision. The link is Constellation’s house style; one that incorporates original music, dance and unabashedly outsized performances.

But — this is important — they’re still plays. Not musicals.

Not even Figaro, best known as a Mozart opera.

No, this “Figaro” comes more or less from the source: Pierre Beaumarchais’s long-censored 1778 sex comedy (or “comedy of manners,” if we must) wherein, as in the movie Braveheart, a nefarious regal type stirs up trouble by invoking his right of primae noctis — basically, dibs on a local virgin before she’s married off to some other dude. (And you complain about your taxes!) Stockman needs a little prodding to admit she stitched the script together herself from a half-dozen translations, though she’s quick to share credit with dramaturg Christie Denny, and to point out that on-the-fly revisions have come from the entire cast.

For this “period-Lite” production, Stockman is emphasizing the play’s roots in commedia dell’arte, treating her actors to a workshop conducted by mimes Mark Jaster and Sabrina Mandell.

Visually, Stockman and resident designer A.J. Guban are using the oblong shapes of Gaudi’s buildings and Goya’s “light, pastoral” paintings as their touchstones. Costumer Yvette M. Ryan has dressed the title character and his bride — both servants — more modestly than is historically accurate, to help the audience grasp the hierarchy of the characters, given that class is one of Beaumarchais’s major themes. It’s a liberty Stockman was happy to take.

“We’ve got this French play, set in Spain, that’s best known for being an Italian opera written by an Austrian, and we’re doing it in the U.S.” she laughs. “So we felt like we had some freedom.”

Constellation Theatre Company’s The Marriage of Figaro is at the Source, 1835 14th St. NW. (800) 494-8497. Thursday-Feb. 22. $20. Tickets are here.

A slightly shorter version of this story appears in today’s Paper of Record.