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Theater

February 28, 2008

Southern satire

by Martin Brady .

Dane Dakota’s Who Loves Judas? is, for a good while, one of the finest pieces of original stage writing produced in this town in recent history. The author’s setup and action appear to be inspired by the satire of Jules Feiffer (Little Murders), but his portrayal of the clash of staid, older mind-sets vs. younger subversives is fresh and wholly his own, filled with contemporary social ideas and often wildly funny. A Nashville bank executive (Caroline Davis) invites her boss (Dave Thoreson) and his wife (Linda Speir) to dinner in order to push along a coming promotion. Her offbeat photographer/artist husband (Michael Roark) challenges the conventional ways of the guests in outrageous fashion, while drop-in friend Katrina (Cynthia Williams) adds to the shock value with her tales of life as a hooker and drug addict. Chris Basso appears as the biblical Judas, shadowing all the players with a video camera. It’s kooky stuff, but also very smart and resonant. Director Melissa Bedinger Hade prods her ensemble into some specific performances in which everyone shines. Act 2, alas, only partially extends the core story, then heads into some frustrating character explorations. It’s definitely worth a look, though. Who Loves Judas? runs through March 1 at Darkhorse Theater.

 

 

 

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"Who Loves Judas? Director Bedinger-Hade's work reviewed in The Tennessean:

Review: 'The Dresser' spins captivating, beautiful tale

 

By EVANS DONNELL • For The Tennessean • November 14, 2007

 

Ronald Harwood's The Dresser is not an easy play to pull off. Among elements contributing to this are a setting in World War II England, highly literate dialogue and intimate, bittersweet character studies of theater folk.

Happily, ACT 1's revival under the loving direction of Melissa Bedinger Hade superbly connects us with the play's world. It reminds us, as a pop song once said, "That people are the same wherever you go" — no matter in what time or place they happen to reside.

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As the story opens, the leader of a provincial acting troupe known only as Sir (Dan McGeachy) has been hospitalized after a nervous collapse. Bombs are falling during the German blitz, but there's still a performance of King Lear scheduled for that evening.

Sir's longtime dresser (Michael Roark) is determined to get his boss into makeup and costume for the show. Through a mixture of cajoling and shaming, he ultimately gets the highly neurotic thespian onstage, but not before the intricacies of their co-dependent relationship are revealed.

Without handling the humor in this piece well, The Dresser could easily become ponderous and maudlin. Hade's actors have the skill and talent to make us laugh at their characters' traits and foibles, which not only makes this more-than-two-hour play seem much shorter, but also helps us to care about the characters as their story darkens.

Casting is everything

McGeachy and Roark are perfectly cast in the lead roles. Both are talented veterans who look, sound and feel the parts. One never has the sense they are anything other than the two flawed and fascinating men they portray.

Fine support is offered by Jessica Sparks as Sir's long-suffering partner always referred to as "Her Ladyship" and by Debi Shinners as the tough but loving stage manager Madge. Leanne Kolnick also stands out well as Irene, an ambitious apprentice to the company. The rest of the cast acquits themselves well too.

Hade and her husband, Kirby Hade, have fashioned a marvelously detailed set in the black box of Darkhorse Theatre. The stage is split between Sir's dressing room and the "wings" area of the backstage where wind and rain sound effects machines have been set up for Lear's storm scene. Hade and Shinners have engineered costumes and props that combine perfectly with the set and the story.

Hade and her fellow collaborators — including stage manager Daryl Pike and assistant director Bob Fish — have put great effort into every aspect of this show, from selecting Dame Vera Lynn's recording of "They'll Always Be an England" that starts the show through to the precise lighting operated by Pike. This is one of the few productions I've seen recently where I never felt any elements had been overlooked or underdone.

At the heart of The Dresser lies the characters that are brought so beautifully to life. Don't focus on the period or place of this tale as much as the people who inhabit it. This is live theater that fully lives.