Much Ado About
May 24th 2010 by Daniel Hurst
myself so much that I didn’t even take
notes. So I gotta wing it. Improv
really want to say is that the Park
Players version of Shakespeare’s Much
Ado About Nothing was pretty darned
terrific. It’s way cool to go to
Homewood Park and watch good theatre
under an open sky. It’s even better
with a full house – and that’s what they
had. The townsfolk are discovering that
our Park Players are inexpensive and
especially cool to see the finished
performance after I got to watch the
audition process. It’s a bit like
meeting a magician’s normal, unassuming
rabbit and then – four months later –
getting to watch how he twained that
wascal. I assume Director Hannah
Wilkerson had everything to do with
that. Also, whoever is responsible for
making it look like the cast is having
fun and keeping an eye on spreading that
fun to the audience: Keep it up. The
Park Players share a contagious kind of
joy with the women of Sanspointe.
exception, the entire cast did very
well, but there were a couple of
standouts. Kenny Morris was completely
fearless as Benedick – over-the-top
slapstick and silly while still
maintaining a sweet disposition. His
scenes involving ever-likeable Clay
Boyce (as Don Pedro) and the expressive
Cris Morriss (as Claudio) were
especially memorable. In concentrated
roles, Beth Ashton (as Cinder) radiated
mordacity – a good word, right? – and
Martha Crotty (as Antonia) provided an
unexpected and excellent thump of fiery
intensity. Kudos to everyone for making
the dancing scenes look fun, rather than
show on Saturday, I came a little late
and it was so full that I had to sit
aaaaall the way down front. There were
also at least a couple of “enthusiastic”
audience members somewhere behind me
less-than-quietly making running
commentary. Surprisingly, instead of
being annoyed, I kept laughing about
it. Back in Shakespeare’s day, I assume
the crowds were raucous. And the
groundlings (stinkards?) would have been
much louder and more involved.
down front made me want to hiss and boo
every time Don John, Cinder, and
Borachio came on stage. Or throw
tomatoes. Or hold my hands up in with
an enthusiastic thumbs down. Or to
WOOOoooo out loud every time Claudio and
Hero or Benedick and Beatrice got all
lovey-dovey. Or to shout out in
agreement what an ass Dogberry is.
would you have to get an otherwise very
well-behaved Birmingham crowd to do this
sort of thing? They’ll do it at the
Rocky Horror Picture Show with
Janet – but I guess that’s a
different thing entirely. But does it
have to be? Maybe plant three or four
or more groundlings in the audience as
an unexpected part of next year’s Park
Players show? Set ‘em up with rude and
boorish cues for entrances or exits for
certain characters. Let ‘em boo. Heck,
let ‘em throw stuff. How fun would THAT
be, once the audience realizes what’s
going on and they’re only adding to the
fun of the show? Why not sprinkle in a
little more “enthusiasm”? The audience
always is at least half the reason for
going to a show, anyway, whether it’s
quiet or noisy.
thanks to Hannah Wilkerson and the Park
Players for dodging Alabama rainstorms
and putting together a great theatre
experience. I’m looking forward to the
upcoming performance of Noises Off.
Taming of the
August 21st, 2009
by Daniel Hurst
guerilla troupe is at it again. I last
Birmingham Park Players do their
The Complete Works of William
Shakespeare (Abridged). This time
around, they’re doing
The Taming of the Shrew. Ah yes,
kiss me, Kate!
Homewood Park contains a dedicated
area for performances. Stone steps and
a grassy hillside built into the park in
front of a stage. Like it was meant to
be. But it must be criminally
underused. What else could we do with
most fun of seeing shows here is
watching the park users walk, bike,
skate, skip, and play behind the stage,
craning their necks, staring, and
curiously peeking around at what’s going
on. I’m sure many of them come to the
park every day or every other day and
there sure-as-heck isn’t usually
Shakespeare. It feels like you’re in
the “in crowd” – at least a little –
when you show up for this kind of
transformative happening. And
there was a big ol’ beautiful crescent
moon behind the stage for the first
half-hour of my performance.
is worth seeing. Director Clay Boyce
ensures that his version of the Bard
stays entertaining for all ages. As
with his earlier work, highbrow goes out
the window. Slapstick, silliness,
audience participation, crotch humor,
mimickry, wordplay, romance, accents
a-plenty, and mostly excellent pacing
keep this play moving along for younger
viewers (or adults with an
internet-coddled attention span).
You’re guaranteed to laugh, whether
you’re six or you’re a tax accountant.
It’s also fun to pay attention to the
entrances and exits of the actors around
the long, winding paths to each side of
the stage – many laughs come just from
anticipating what’s coming next.
standouts, for me, were Wesley Glass as
Tranio and Kate Jenkins as Biondella.
Once you start to notice him, Glass is
hard not to eyeball whenever he’s on
stage. And Jenkins does a fantastic job
of frantically running back and forth
from front to back and back again with
big-eyed enthusiasm. Both might could
stand there stone straight and still
probably make me laugh.
If I had
any complaint, it’s just that the
dynamics could get an adjustment. No
one in the cast was too loud, but
several cast members were too quiet.
The whole thing could go up one
notch and be just fine. I recognize
that performing outdoors is acoustically
the park is probably underutilized for
performances, I’d like to highlight that
the play is FREE for
anyone under sixteen. One adult +
one child = $15. One grandmother + five
grandkids = $15. One teacher + ten
students = $15. Someone should
advertise this at local schools and
after-school type organizations. It’s a
fantastic way to reward kids
participating in non-profits or for
academic performance. Also, a fine
treat for those who might never have
an adult, I wonder if you can remember
the first few times you saw
Shakespeare’s plays? Even a little
exposure might have saved you from a
lifetime of only craving what’s on TV.
Plays are better ’cause they’re in
person. And you can look at whatever
you want. In my humble opinion, an
“Under 16″ crowd could benefit from a
little more exposure to this kind of
that other arts organizations in
Birmingham would adopt this policy. One
thing I’ve noticed is that I’m always
going to shows that are half (or more)
empty. Performances are simply
better when it’s a fuller house.
It feels like something cool.
It’s fun to hear other people laughing
and getting into it. The actors,
dancers, and performers have more fun.
Heck, it’s fun just to people-watch.
Scrooge out about your tickets?
Give them away to kids. This might have
all kinds of good effects. It might
encourage (paying) parents or adults to
come to more shows. It may encourage
those kids to become actors, singers, or
whatever. And most importantly, it
might create demand in those
kids for a whole lifetime.
it’s just funner to attend if the
audience is more than just ten old
“patrons” and me. Y’all should think
about it. In fact, I wonder whether a
policy of free or cheap “day of” tickets
would encourage bigger audiences. My
guess is that you often know in advance
whether there are going to be a mess of
extra tickets to stuff. Find a way to
give ‘em away.
Don’t let your trees fall in the forest
with no one there to hear.
in charge should do some thinkin’ on
July 10 -19 at Deerfoot Community Bible
Reviewed July 10 by Paul McCracken
First of all, a disclaimer: My son is in
the cast. As his father, I thought he
was wonderful. As a director and fellow
actor, I thought he was pretty damn
Shadowlands, based on the true story of
the unlikely romance of crusty English
professor C. S. Lewis and American
expatriate Joy Gresham, is a powerful
play. Jessie Bates carries off the
difficult role of Lewis with magnificent
aplomb. He is imminently believable as
the confirmed elderly bachelor who is
set in his ways and happy to be so.
Bates delivers Lewis' theology with
sincere passion and delivers his
emotional awakening in a way that
reveals astounding depth. Sheila
Snoddy's performance as Joy is equally
remarkable. Her portrayal has just the
right balance showing the whirlwind that
struck Lewis' life when he met Joy yet
at the same time Snoddy does not
overplay the part. She has the
remarkable ability to play an
over-the-top character in a manner that
accurately depicts the person while at
the same time she does not go so far as
to turn the role into a farce.
Also worthy of high praise is David
Gregson's performance as Warnie, C. S.
Lewis' brother with whom he lived. Here
a role that could be a minor comic
relief or a filler to deliver plot
points. Instead, Gregson plays with a
subtle touch that enhances the entire
show. He maintains a proper British
deportment and at the same time gives a
performance with important nuances.
Brothers Nathan and Caleb Denard give
excellent performances as Joy's son
Douglas at four years apart. An ensemble
of other actors: Tanner McCracken,
George Maronge, William Brisky, and
Susan Joy Denard do an excellent job of
filling in a number of additional
roles. Their performances significantly
enhance the story. A special word of
praise goes to John McGinnis'
performance as Christopher Riley, Lewis'
atheist friend. It is his role to
present the viewpoint opposite of Lewis'
optimistic theology and McGinnis is able
to portray a potentially unlikeable
character as a charming rogue instead of
a caricature. Director Clay Boyce
deserves great credit for assembling an
talented cast and molding them so as to
present a powerful script in a powerful
A couple of technical notes of
commendation. Shadowlands is presented
in a church worship center but the set
is well-designed and makes good use of
the available space. Also, the lighting
design is especially effective, using
subtle changes to depict a shift of
location or of time.
While Deerfoot Community Church is not
centrally located in the Birmingham
area, it is easily accessible off of the
Deerfoot Parkway exit of I-59 near
Trussville. Believe me, this show is
worth the drive.
Blackpool and Parrish at Alabama
School of Fine Arts,
Letter to the editor on July 20th,, 2007 by
I attended the opening-night performance
of "Blackpool and Parrish" presented by the
Park Players at the Alabama School of Fine
Arts. Since then, I looked daily for a
review in The News. On Wednesday, I read
what I believe to be one of the most
astounding reviews I have seen in recent
I found the play to be entertaining, even
lighthearted in places, with
thought-provoking lines about good vs. evil
sprinkled throughout just to mix it up a
little. The actors appeared comfortable on
stage and performed the lines to, in my
belief, near perfection.
I would urge people to take the time to
attend a performance and judge for
themselves. I feel the review was extremely
harsh and did not give a true critique of "Blackpool
That Darn Plot at Alabama School of Fine Arts,
by the Park Players Reviewed on July 16th, 2006 by Frank Thompson
After seeing the opening night performance of That Darn Plot, the latest offering from Park Players, I can honestly say that this is a show worth attending. The script is clever and fast-paced, the acting is superb, and the production quality is quite high. Although the opening night crowd was somewhat small, those audience members who made the trip down to ASFA were treated to a hysterical (and sometimes genuinely touching) show.
Director Lindsay Antos has assembled a fine cast, including Clay Boyce as Mark, a tortured and self-destructive writer. Boyce's comedic timing is, as always, spot-on, and his frazzled demeanor gives Mark a wonderfully frantic quality. Countering Mark's histrionics is his director and one-time romantic interest, Jo Harber. Played by Kim Dometrovich, Jo is the sole voice of reason in Mark's world. Dometrovich manages to bring sparkle and fun to what could have been a somewhat dry role in the hands of a less accomplished actress. Together, she and Boyce provide a great deal of the show's comic bickering, and they handle their scenework together beautifully. Completing the triangle is the hilarious Jeffrey Marrs as Lloyd, Mark's son. I won't give away any plot points here, but let it suffice to say that there is much more to Lloyd than the audience sees at first glance. Marrs does a wonderful job of slowly revealing the intricacies of Lloyd's character, and manages to bring a tear to the eye in addition to his comic stylings.
The rest of the small cast performs well, and there truly
isn't a weak link in this ensemble cast. Jody Rivera is
delightfully insufferable as a by-the-book stage manager, Jay
Smith damn near steals the show as a pompous English stage star,
and Tony Sanders brings an endearing warmth to the otherwise absurd just-out-of-acting-school nincompoop
Russell Croft. Each of these actors is adept at giving and taking focus, creating a true spirit of teamwork and a seamless performance.
This is the point in most of my reviews where I usually insert a criticism, but to be honest, I just don't have one. I enjoyed the show, I felt like I got more than my money's worth of entertainment, and I had a fun night at the theatre. That Darn Plot is solid, well-performed, and enjoyable. I would recommend it strongly.
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That Darn Plot at Alabama School of Fine Arts,
by the Park Players Reviewed on July 16th, 2006 by L. Jeffery Martorell
This summer marks the fifth season for the PARK PLAYERS, one of the smaller and newer but equally bright venues of theatrical magic to be found here in Birmingham. The first show of their summer season is being presented at the Alabama School of Fine Arts. This plucky theater group shines in its choices of productions. Though young and small, they choose to mount new productions as well as standard ones. How refreshing in a day and age where most choose to always replay the same tired wardrobe of theatrical offerings. This season they opened with the Alabama premier of "That Darn Plot!", a comedy by David Belke.
What a real delight to enter a theater not knowing what you will find. To have no set expectations, but rather to be open and excited waiting for the magic that is theater to energize your mind and mood. The eagerness to be pulled into a new story and to feel like a part of another world, the entertainment value of having your mind broadened by a new set of ideas and actions, is what theater is all about. The talented actors assembled in this Park Players production certainly achieve this end.
Directed by Lindsay Antos and produced by A.Clay Boyce the production of “That Darn Plot” introduces us to the world of Mark W. Transom. Transom is a playwright of questionable life and writing skills. His despair and cynicism lead him through a mental war of thoughts that result in a completed manuscript. We meet a variety of characters he manufactures in order to write his play. Each character is introduced by Mr. Transom as he explains how he creates his works. Each introduction of a character includes his/her reason for existing within the confines of the story. The audience is drawn into Transoms’ thought processes as he presents and brings each character to life. The laughs begin as the characters slowly take on a life of their own and one is no longer quite sure who is writing the play. Is it Transom or are the characters now creating the play? There are other issues because each character represents someone from the author’s life.
Clay Boyce as the lead character, Mark Transom, provides just the right amount of self importance combined with self doubt to create a wonderful character. He combines a grasp of knowledge with just enough hysteria to help the audience achieve a sense of that genius bordering on insanity that is often associated with creative talents. Kim Rollins Dometrovich in the role of Jo Harber, Transom’s boss, is the prefect foil to his madness. She artfully forces him to achieve what he has been avoiding in real life, and his world of characters, while taking care of her own needs. Though at times tempers flare between them Ms. Harber manages to keep her character very real and not a caricature. Jeffrey Marrs takes the stage as Lloyd the son of Mark Transom. His portrayal of a nerdy and insecure son coming into his own is both hysterical and sensitive. One can almost see his maturing process as he becomes confident in his own abilities and finds his answer to his relationship with his father. Jay Smith brings the character of Geoffrey Regeant, an older actor, to life. His self importance and eloquence are guaranteed laughs. Tony Sanders, as Russell Croft, strikes the perfect chord as a self obsessed young actor who is sure he is every gal’s dream. Jody Rivera rounds out the cast in the role of Ivy Schreiver the stage manager with an attitude. She brings a sense of determination and fairness that makes her character very real, though perhaps her anger should be a bit more visible and audible at times to give it the complete finishing touch.
While many people take the attitude that comedies are basically fluff for the brain this particular one is full of insights about individuals and life. You can take it at its’ most basic or you can accept the challenge of involvement and really enjoy the meat of the offering. Either way, you will find it satisfying. So, if you have not yet made it to the show you should definitely incorporate it in your plans for this weekend. So come on out and support your community and the theater.
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Twelfth Night at Homewood Park
by The Park Players Reviewed on August 25th,, 2005 by Kim Dometrovich
What do Gilligan, Ginger, the Skipper, and William Shakespeare have in common?
Find out as Park Players closes out their 2005 season with a treatment of Shakespeare’s great comedy as a 1960s beach party, complete with Beatnik lingo and bikini-clad women. Frank Thompson, the director, has put together a strong cast that’s fun to watch. Most notable in their performances were Terry Hermes and David Gauntt, who played well off each other as the mischievous and bumbling Sir Toby and Sir Andrew respectively. They obviously enjoyed their scenework together, and it was translated well to the audience. Jonathan Goldstein also gave a great performance as the manic Malvolio. The part of Feste was played by Kimberly Piazza, who has a way of stealing every scene she is in. In this production, she even gets a couple of fun songs, which she does with great enthusiasm and a fabulous voice! Gabrielle Metz gave an interesting turn to the lovelorn Olivia, portraying her as egomaniacal and shrewish. The actors all seemed to have a ball with their parts, from the principals to the beach kids.
The costumes were lots of fun, and easily brought back the desired feeling of the time period. There were lots of changes to the text to incorporate pop cultural references to 60s kitsch that, although very cleverly written, I felt detracted from the grace and rhythm of Shakespeare’s language. I feel that the kitsch would have read well enough with the fun costumes and sets alone. The audience did seem to laugh a good bit at some of the changes however!
Act I seemed to start off at a pretty slow pace, but about halfway through, the show blossomed into an entertaining fast-paced romp. Perhaps part of this was getting used to the setting of the show. The Homewood Park stage is a pleasant place to go to spend a summer evening, so bring your blankets and lawn chairs, and have a picnic if you want, but be sure to check out this very different look at a Shakespeare classic. Groovy, baby!
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A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Caldwell Park
by the Park Players - Reviewed August 23, 2004 by Luis Marterell (New Orleans, LA)
Once again Park Players triumphs with a production of Shakespeare’s "A Midsummer Nights Dream". Having caught another show earlier this summer and being duly impressed, I made the trip from New Orleans to Birmingham for the sole purpose of seeing this production. I am happy to say the trip was worth it. Director Steven Ross has a winner with this cast.
There was a moment of apprehension due to the weather. But this plucky group of actors rode it out and prepared to perform. The clouds passed us by. In the meantime I was thrilled to see more and more people arriving. The Park Players perform outside in Caldwell Park. Such a wonderful venue as the outdoors is also a perilous venue because you are at the mercy of Mother Nature as well as the sounds of city life. The occasional bug can be a nuisance as well. But again this group thinks of everything providing not only citronella torches but also a variety of bug repellants for the skin. Truly thoughtful! Audience members bring their own blankets or chairs and settle in for an evening of entertainment.
This production is not set in any particular time and the costuming is a mixture of current day and faerie styles. The language is Shakespeare’s own.
The roles of Puck, that ever beguiling prankster satyr, and Philostrate were portrayed by Scott Brown. He definitely captured the spirit of the characters and kept the audience excited as he made his many entrances and exits. Jonathan Goldstein played the dual roles of Oberon, the king of the faeries and Theseus. His impressive stature combined with his performance to create a realistic Oberon. His queen was portrayed by the beautiful Gabrielle Metz. Ms. Metz had the dual roles of Titania and Hippolyta. Her strong voice, sensuality, and incredible energy light up the stage. Terry Hermes brought credibility to the somewhat befuddled character of Peter Quince, the author of the play within the play. Raymond Quintero brought a strong quiet humor to the role of Snout, who portrays a wall in the play within the play. A. Clay Boyce played the role of Bottom, who becomes quite literally an ass after being bewitched by Oberon and Puck. The mask for the ass’s head is quite remarkable. Mr. Boyce managed to create individual characters for Bottom and the Ass, as well as a comedic death scene you have to see to believe. Dino Spezzini, playing Flute and Thisbe, stole the stage whenever he appeared as the female Thisbe. His fine sense of humor was evident at all times. Clark Vines brings his own brand of humor to the role of the Lion in the pay within the play. Tanner McCracken as Robin Starveling proves the old adage “there are no small roles only small actors” has truth in it by taking a small role and creating a wonderful series of moments on stage that standout for their comedic nature. John Eccles as Egeus brings a quiet air of dignity to the story of the young lovers. Nadia Perry as Hermia was very believable. Jamie Schor as Demetrius gave a fine portrayal of a man in love and bewitched. Adam Mazer as Lysander, and Jessica Walston rounded out the cast of couples with good performances. The numerous faeries add to the story with their fun presence. The stage though simple and understated is wonderful in that it offers no distractions from the actors and one truly becomes a part of the show. At least for that period one feels that they have been transported to a different time and place.
Once again Park Players brings its audiences a production that is well done and very enjoyable. It has performance this coming weekend Thursday 26th through Saturday 28th at 7:30p.m.
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Much Ado About Nothing at Caldwell Park
(The Park Players) - Reviewed August 13, 2003 by Leonard Jowers
One of William Shakespeare’s delightful comedies, Much Ado About Nothing, is playing its final week in Caldwell Park in front of the Virginia Samford Theater. If you hear thunder, or see a few raindrops, ignore them and come anyway. I did and I was not sorry.
Old Leonato (Jesse Bates) welcomes home his good friend Don Pedro (Jack Heidt) and Pedro’s entourage after a successful warring campaign. In the entourage are the handsome Claudio (Grey Tilden), Benedick (Jack Cannon), and Pedro’s villainous brother Don John (Norman Ferguson). [Jack Cannon’s Benedick was superb.] To welcome them are the daughter of Leonato, the beautiful Hero (Lauren Kraselsky) and her cousin the sharp-tongued Beatrice (Ellise Mayor).
There are several storylines in Much Ado. If it is your first time, it is unlikely you will see them all or catch most of the Shakespearean humor. Benedick, true to his name, is the confirmed bachelor about Messina. Beatrice, who apparently once admired him, is too good for any man. Claudio and Hero immediately fall in love and with the help of Don Pedro, Claudio wins Leonato’s consent. That “settled,” Don Pedro, Claudio, Leonato, and Hero convince Benedick and Beatrice, against their wills, that they love each other.
Don John however sees the upcoming nuptials of Claudio and Hero as an opportunity to his calling. Normal Ferguson was wonderful in the way he presented the evil character of Don John. With the help of his lackey Borachio (Tanner McCracken), Don John frames poor Hero and convinces Claudio that she is a slut. At the wedding, Claudio scorns Hero and Hero appears to die. Benedick, now in love with Beatrice, to win Beatrice’s favor, swears to avenge Hero’s public humiliation. Luckily, before they battle, the truth is accidentally exposed by a group of buffoons let by a constable Dogberry (Cindy Barr). Leonato exacts his revenge in an interesting completion of the marriage.
You will enjoy many of the performances in the cast. The four principals delivered the plot well. The many supporting roles were well played. Sacrificing some kinds comments on several of the supporting roles, let me say this. This is really good amateur Shakespeare. The setting is right and the presentation is true. You may attend some productions that you will marvel at how well or elaborately they were done. However, if you attend this show, with a blanket, a chair, and a picnic, you will have a memory that you will never get otherwise. New audiences are good indicators of the quality of a performance. As I was leaving, I overheard one man telling how he never had an appreciation for Shakespeare before, but his wife talked him into coming, and now he'll be back.
If you have access to your local high school English teacher, please forward him/her a link to this.
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The Taming of the Shrew at Caldwell Park
(Park Players) - Reviewed July 20, 2002 by Frank Thompson
Park Players have done a marvelous job of maintaining the standards of quality set by the now-disbanded Garden Variety Shakespeare company in their production of The Taming of the Shrew. The production is lively and fun, and the actors seem to genuinely enjoy their roles. Director Ted O'Brien has assembled a fine troupe of performers who make this classic and oft-produced play seem fresh and alive. Much credit must be given to O'Brien, who has inserted a great deal of physical and verbal humor into an already humorous script.
In the cast, there are several standout performances, including Elise Mayer as Kate and Clay Boyce as Petruchio. These two leading players clearly have a comfort with each other which allows for a great deal of physical comedy as well as a genuine chemistry together. As Kate, Mayer is perfectly cast. Her tantrums and shreiking fits are hilarious, and are balanced well by Boyce's blustery self-confidence.
Leonard Jowers makes a grand Baptista, the father of not only Kate, but also her sister Bianca. Jowers brings a befuddled charm to what could easily have been a bland role, and makes it most enjoyable. As Bianca, Cyndie Barr is outstanding. Blessed with both the beauty and the talent for this particular role, she plays the "innocent" sister to the hilt, and her scenes are among the most enjoyable in the show.
In smaller roles, John Wright, Lewis Armstrong, and Gabrielle Metz each have wonderful moments, and the rest of the cast performs admirably as well.
The only drawback to this production is the obvious challenge facing any outdoor performance, particularly one near a busy street. The actors are sometimes difficult to hear, and the noise from passing cars, car alarms, etc. can be distracting. Also, bring a can of insect repellent along with your cooler and picnic basket. Apparently the mosquitoes like Shakespeare, too.
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