Eric Brooks as RDC Carter and Lydia Gaston as Angelina Carter.

Perfectly Sensible: Precious Nonsense at the Kitchen Theatre

The aptly-named musical Precious Nonsense is advertised as a simple diversion from the stress of everyday life, and it delivers. Playwright and artistic director Rachel Lampert’s production is fun and lighthearted, serving as pure entertainment. The show is not new to the Kitchen Theatre; Lampert’s sister, Sara Lampert Hoover, directs as she did in the original production in 2004 and Eric Brooks reprises his role as RDC Carter. Lampert spoke to the audience before the show began on opening night and explained that the production was chosen to run at this time to distract theatre-goers from the stress of world events like the upcoming election, and it certainly does its job. The musical is set in the 1930s and follows the lives of members of a touring theatre company, the Carter Family Savoyards, dedicated to sharing songs from the comedic operas of Gilbert and Sullivan.

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The Candid Man’s Guide to Humor, Evil and Theatre

“Il avait le jugement assez droit, avec l’esprit le plus simple ; c’est, je crois, pour cette raison qu’on le nommait Candide.”

Theodicy is the central problem for any incarnation or lyricized reworking of Voltaire’s novella Candide. The eponymous character runs the Weltanschauung-gamut in his pained, hopelessly naïve globe-trekking, alternatively stumbling into phenomenal luck and misfortune, being swindled out of everything he owns or plucking golden pebbles off the streets of Eldorado. It is equal parts absurd travelogue and philosophical disenchantment, what the tale of the Buddha would have been if written by a splenetic Frenchman. It is an irreverent parable with a moral, a Bildungsroman and, on a 21st century stage, a pastiche suprême. It lends itself, if one may be so bold, to musical theatre.

Karl Gregory as Jason/Tyrone

Puppet Masters: Hand to God at the Kitchen Theatre

The Kitchen Theatre’s production of Hand to God would seem to be a very pure, if a little preachy, production if one were to just look at the set. Stuffed animals and toys are placed in bins next to a bookcase full of picture books, the theatre’s walls are covered in posters with messages about Jesus, and a colorful banner hangs above. But as soon as a skinny gray puppet pops up from behind a pulpit-like stage and starts cursing at the audience and ranting about the devil, it becomes clear that this is a very different kind of play. After this introduction, the play opens to a church in Cypress, Texas where Margery (Erica Steinhagen), recently widowed, leads three teenagers in sewing puppets for a church puppet show. The teens, rebellious Timothy (Michael Patrick Trimm), snarky yet compassionate Jessica (Montana Lampert Hoover) and Margery’s bashful son Jason (Karl Gregory) constantly bicker.

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Risley Theatre’s Julius Caesar: A Unique and Compelling Adaptation

Like Hemingway’s profound narrative on the destructive perplexity of war, or like Kubrick’s cinematic interpretations of subconscious struggle, Shakespeare’s tragedies possess an infinite relevance that will always characterize some portion of the human condition. Indeed, so long as individuals experience the dismay of death or the anguish of stifled romance, Shakespeare’s verse will continue to find a presence among stages and English curricula around the world. Many contemporary performances of his plays, while retaining the same lines and structure, adapt the work to a more modern setting; one notable example of this practice is Baz Luhrmann’s 1996 Romeo + Juliet, a splendid cross between sixteenth century and twentieth century 90’s culture. This is precisely the route that director Christian Brickhouse ’17 followed in Risley Theatre’s production of Julius Caesar. Rather than being left to unfold in the ancient and grand obscurity of the Roman Empire, this iteration of Julius Caesar is set in the United States during the year 1919.

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Ithaca Talent Shines in Deathtrap

A staged reading is always a dangerous route to take for actor and directors. In this format the performers’ physicality and intentions are focused towards the script in their hands, which can make them feel immobilized and their characters seem flat. It is especially courageous to put up a staged reading of a play with the notoriety of Deathtrap, which won the 1978 Tony Award for Best Play for playwright Ira Levin. A significant portion of the room has most likely already seen this Broadway classic produced by a full production team with seasoned actors who’ve had at least a few more weeks to memorize, stage, and color their performances. Luckily, local Ithaca theatre troupe The Homecoming Players casts a group of extraordinary actors, who successfully turn what could have been a long night at the Kitchen Theatre into a romp of suspense and hilarity.