Tag Archives: st. petersburg

Miscellaneous Theatre and Dance Reviews of 2017

I just realized, looking through my very small selection of local theatre and dance production reviews, that I missed quite a few that I’ve been to in the past couple of years. In fact, I didn’t write up any of the performances that I saw in 2017. The only reason that I write the reviews here, incidentally, is because I usually spend quite a lot to attend them, but if I don’t write my thoughts on them, I barely remember going. Here are a few capsule reviews for local dance, music, and theatre productions that I didn’t review in 2017, but meant to. They are presented in reverse chronological order.

Cirque Dreams Holidaze at the Van Wezel, December 2017

The performance of Cirque Dreams Holidaze that we attended in December 2017 was a holiday present from us to us for my partner and myself. It was their 10th anniversary tour, and they made their way around Florida during December, stopping here the week before Christmas. They were not in town long, and we were very excited to go to the performance, since my partner and I are both Cirque du Soleil fans. The tickets, which all Cirque fans will know, were extremely expensive, so I got us seats in the nosebleed section. I’ve never been to the Van Wezel before, but it was massive, and the seats went up to the ceiling in the back (not exaggerating). The audience we were with (like the Momix audience below) was horrid. Committing such audience crimes as taking flash photos, recording long videos, leaving in the middle of acts, and coming in late.

We missed the first scene because the people in our row, and the row in front of us, were late, but they were allowed them in anyway (about ten people in total). The show itself was amazing, and I would absolutely see it again. It wasn’t the typical holiday show at all, with very few religious overtones, which I really appreciated. Some of the performances left me wondering how a human being was able to perform them at all, which is a really cool feeling.

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Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun by American Stage

Lorraine Hansberry's A Raisin in the Sun by American Stage
This weekend I went to see the American Stage production of Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun with my family. The play wasn’t one that interested me, but it was the birthday gift of half the party, and so I went. As an English teacher it has long been on my list of plays to read because of its importance, but much like other iconic American plays (cough, A Streetcar Named Desire, cough) it largely fell flat.

Now, this production was my only experience with the play aside from reading a very short synopsis online, and I was told that the messages of the play were not conveyed the way they should have been. Because of this, take my review here as a critique of maybe the play, maybe the production, or probably a little of both.

Raisin in the Sun takes place in the home of the Younger family. The father, Walter Sr., has recently (?) died, and the family is anxiously awaiting a check for his $10K life insurance policy. The family is portrayed as very poor, with all of the family members living under one roof, and all of them working. Lena/Mama is the matriarch of the family, and tries to foster the dreams of her adult children, Walter Jr. aka Walter Lee (35), and Beneatha (20). Aside: is she named Beneath-a because she’s ‘beneath’ (wink) so many men? She’s dating two throughout the play, but this is a fairly old play (1959), so is this a trait naming thing or just awkward? Beneatha is going to school with the hopes of becoming a doctor, while Walter Lee is a chauffeur who tries to guilt the money away from his mother so that he can open a liquor store. Walter Lee is married to Ruth, who works in kitchens, and who is pregnant with their second child, much to everyone’s chagrin.

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August Wilson’s Jitney by American Stage

August Wilson's Jitney by American Stage The American Stage production of August Wilson’s Jitney is my first August Wilson experience and tickets to the production were my birthday gift to my partner this year. Both he and my father are huge August Wilson fans, however, so I heard a lot of praise before I went to the play itself, and I’m happy to say it stood up to the hype fairly well. Note: spoilers to follow.

As for the play itself: Jitney takes place in an illegal taxi cab office in 1977 Pittsburgh run by Becker, whose son Booster is about to be released from jail for murder. The drama surrounding and between the men in the office comes bubbling to the surface, including conflicts between Youngblood and Rena (the only woman on stage), Youngblood and Turnbo, Turnbo and everyone, Becker and Fielding, Becker and Booster, and everyone with women basically. It’s not a feminist play, I’m warning you. This includes arguments, a stand off with a gun, fisticuffs, and a lot of door slamming. In the end Becker’s sudden death (obvious from foreshadowing) gives Booster the chance to redeem himself, and Youngblood reconciles with Rena, bringing hope of a life outside their declining neighborhood.

There is some discussion of racial tensions in the play including the juxtaposition of two speeches: one by Becker about how the white man doesn’t care enough about you to oppress you as an individual, which is thrown into sharp relief against the fact that Booster’s white girlfriend accused him of rape when her father caught them together, so he shot her. Becker refuses to forgive Booster for throwing his life away, and Booster realizes his father is right too late to make a difference. As the play comes to a close no reconciliation has taken place between the two men, but Booster takes up the mantle of business owner, and it is implied he will try to be the same pillar of the community that his father was.

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