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Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Two Plays about prisons - Armstrong's War and Kiss of the Spiderwoman

Last week I took in Two One Way Tickets to Broadway's Kiss of the Spiderwoman at La Cite.  I was familiar with source material, having seen the movie and the stage play many years ago, but was not familiar with the musical.  There are differences, clearly, as it is a musical but the base of the story is the same.  I liked the music.  It's lush and full, and Greg Caswell, as Molina, gave a layered and subtle performance which is a challenge as I think the tendency might be to go over the top. Caswell and Todd Hauck (Valentin) had a nice chemistry with each other and each did good service to their solos.  It was fascinating to see such a male-heavy show and to cheer inside at how well they all handled it.  I also really liked the set, with it's skateboard-like prison cells.  The movable units gave a great flexibility of blocking and although there were a few moments at the beginning when I wasn't worried about them colliding, they seemed to know exactly what they were doing. 
And then on the weekend, I saw Theatre Network's Armstrong's War in the new Backstage Theatre Space.  It's about a more metaphorical prison, but a prison none-the-less.  I was quite moved by the show about the injured soldier (Jamie Cavanagh) and the wheelchair bound 12-year-old pathfinder (Eva Foote) who has come to read to him.  Both actors were excellent and each in their own way brought me to tears. Having seen Cavanagh onstage a few times over the last year, it was great to see his flexibility in this damaged and guilty character.  Foote is a bit of a miracle onstage, never do you doubt her sincerity of action, she even blushes on cue.  The play itself is an interesting piece that deals with post traumatic stress, injury, and the idea of the value of human life vs. the quality of human life.  There's a lot of reading from books and stories and I think that the actors handled that well - keeping it active - but I worried about all the reading creating a barrier to engagement.  With lesser actors I think that could happen. 

A fine weekend of theatre. 

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