A risqué whodunit, a misfire production of a great American play and an uneven but strong beginning for a company in its 10th season were among the productions that opened on stages across New Orleans over the past two weeks. One is a monthly affair, another is just beginning its run, and the last is in its final week.
“Clue: A Burlesqe Mystery”
The Allways Lounge, 2240 St. Claude Ave.
Staged monthly. Call (504) 758-5590.
Mr. Body has been murdered. The manor’s maid is a charming, stripping ditz, and the suspects are more interested in displaying their unique talents than hiding their motives.
It’s “Clue: A Burlesque Mystery,” and it just had its season debut at The Allways Lounge. It’s staged monthly.
The brainchild of MC/Musician Dr. Sick and burlesque comedienne Gogo McGregor, the send-up/drinking/guessing game moves at a thriller’s pace, keeps the facts simple and serves as a nice magnifying glass for some of the city’s better burlesque talent.
The set-up is pretty basic. Patrons are given a ticket upon admission and can purchase more of the same for a dollar. Just as in the classic board game, audiences attempt to guess the who, what and where by filling out their ticket.
It’s a line-up of unusual suspects that along with four purely dance routines includes a comedian, a sideshow performer, and an aerialist.
While I particularly enjoyed Ginger Licious’ spinning her way out of her Ms. White costume and McGregor seamlessly interweaving sexy tease with klutzy surprise, all the performers, who included Cherry Brown and Charlotte Treuse, acquitted themselves well.
Playing the crucial role as the deceased, Sick maintained the evening’s focus on the acts, which in this town is rarer than you’d think.
Moving forward, I hope the two creators take the time to build prop weapons that bear a consistent look. Actual wrenches or toy store guns don’t have the impact that something build specifically for the act would.
“A Lie of the Mind”
Mid-City Theater, 3540 Toiulous St.
Thursdays-Saturdays through Oct. 4
Sam Shepard’s dark, sprawling domestic-epic is one of my favorite plays of the last 50 years. A raging journey across the heart of Middle America, the 1985 drama chronicles the struggle of two families to come to terms with the savage beating of Beth from one clan by her husband Jake from another.
It’s a tough play: tough in subject matter and tough to execute.
Unfortunately, The Elm Theatre simply isn’t up to the task. Its production at Mid City Theatre makes it damn near impossible to see the greatness that resides at the heart of the work.
Under Joe Funari’s simultaneously sluggish and hysterical direction, this “A Lie of the Mind” is an interminable, unending collage of whining, screeching and disappointments. Good actors like Kate Kuen and Joel Derby are reduced to ‘Dawson’s Creek’ performances, transitions buck and lurch and the technical elements lack coherence.
Continuous emotional explosions deaden the senses. The lack of physical control is infuriating. Garrett Prejean, as the troubled Jake, flails his arms at every occasion. As Beth, Becca Chapman has a certain technical assurance in portraying the wounded woman’s physical trauma, but she never lets off the throttle.
Finally, the traveller staging, which attempts to create a gulch of separation between the two warring families, hinders the flow as Funari simply stops the action and tries to hurriedly set the next sequence while ill-considered music plays underneath.
And it goes on and on, missing the entire point of the magisterial play.
Three hours plus and two intermissions later, the show finishes the way it came in, a whimpering, petulant child demanding attention it lost almost instantly.
“One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”
Nims Blackbox Theatre, NOCCA, 2800 Chartres St. (504) 940-2875
Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., Sunday at 2 p.m., ends Sept. 21.
Tracking the journey of insurrectionary malcontent R.P. McMurphy through Nurse Ratched’s sterile psych ward of broken souls, director Mark Routhier’s “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” is a solid, muscular and intermittently inspired season opener from The NOLA Project.
Featuring a chiller of performance from Amy Alvarez as the diminutive but intimidating Ratched, it boasts generous ensemble work from its cast despite the fact they are mostly five years away from being right for their roles.
But if the show has any real star, it’s Routhier’s production team.
Lighting designer Dan Zimmer, scenic artist Bill Walker and costumer Christopher Arthur all place Dale Wasserman’s adaptation of Ken Kesey’s seminal novel of counter-culture squarely at the unhinged end of The Sixties.
There’s the occasional misstep. A bad wig undercuts Michael Santos’ soulful performance as the iconic Native American Chief, and the high-octane Alex Wallace as McMurphy bounces the production too high at its outset before he finds his footing.
But ultimately, it’s a compelling evening.