Play Review: The Book of Mormon

Book of Mormon 1

A musical not for the faint of heart, or anyone subscribing to any religion at all. If you are religious, you are likely to be offended by The Book of Mormon.

The story follows two Mormon missionaries to Uganda where they are assigned to share their scriptures with the inhabitants of a village. The locals in Africa, of course, have their own problems, including AIDS, oppression and hunger. Stories in a book about an American farmer two hundred years ago in upstate New York who received the word of God on golden plates do not interest them much, or appear relevant at all.

The Book of Mormon is a religious satire, brutal to Mormonism, but surely offensive to any religion. If you thought that the image of the “missionary position” is compromising, you don’t know what is expecting you. While some of the songs are mild and funny, others are bursting with severe verbal obscenity and extreme graphic imagery of sexuality, wrapped into catchy music and colorful stage play.

Book, lyrics and music are by Trey Parker, Robert Lopez and Matt Stone, the creators of the animated comedy South Park. Lopez was a co-composer and co-lyricist for Avenue Q, another musical I enjoyed very much.

The Book of Mormon does not pull any punches. As an atheist, I thought it was hilarious and brutal at the same time. It was good, funny entertainment. For my religious friends, I would recommend skipping it. I can’t see how they are going to enjoy the musical, with the continuous barrage of off-color, crass humor and ridicule of the God concept, delivered by exposing the peculiarities of Mormonism.

Rating - Three Stars

Thanks for the tickets, Devin!


Play Review: The Miss Firecracker Contest

FirecrackerThe New Village Arts theater in Carlsbad put on the play The Miss Firecracker Contest.

It is a Southern literature play written by Beth Henley. It was originally produced in Los Angeles in 1980 at the Victory Theater directed by Maria Gobetti.

The play takes on our concepts of female beauty, the need to be accepted, and the struggles we all have in our lives to get beyond our past, and the need to be loved.

“He has a checkered past” is one of the phrases used a number of times. Yet, the story us mostly about the spunk and spirit of the orphan Carnelle, a 24-year-old girl who wants to overcome the dubious reputation she acquired when she fooled around with one too many boys in her youth ending up with the name Miss Hot Tamale.

Carnelle was raised by her Aunt together with her cousins Elain and Delmount. Elain herself had won the Miss Firecracker Contest at age 17 and therefore weighs in with encouragement – and criticism when giving advice to Carnelle.

Here is the cast the New Village Arts:

  • Samantha Ginn
  • Melissa Coleman-Reed
  • Kristin Woodburn
  • Lauren King
  • Justin Lang
  • Eddie Yaroch

They do a marvelous job in their respective roles and I enjoyed the 2 hour and 15 minute play very much. It was a nice evening out supporting local entertainment.

Play Review: Circle Mirror Transformation

CMTFive good actors do not make a lukewarm story very interesting.

Last Saturday night we went to the San Diego Premiere (pre-opening) of the play Circle Mirror Transformation at the New Village Arts Theatre in Carlsbad. The play is presented in San Diego by special arrangement with Dramatists Play Service, Inc., New York.

Four students participate in a weekly acting class at a community center in Vermont. The teacher is a new-age hippie named Marty (Dana Case). One of the students is her husband James (Tom Stephenson). The three participants are Theresa (Rhianna Basore), Lauren (Sophia Richards) and Schultz (Eddie Yaroch).

There is no acting going on, just “games” reminiscent of the games played by improv troupes, like sitting in a circle, with every person in the group speaking one word, constructing sentences. The class lasts six weeks. Short vignettes, interrupted by complete darkness, comprise each week, each week being roughly one act.

As the actors play their games, the audience learns more about them and their lives.

During the first half, the first three weeks, things moved very slowly and I found myself bored at times. The other spectators around us were also fidgety. After the intermission, a number of them had not come back. The first half lost some of the audience.

The second half was more engaging. I found myself chuckling from time to time, but I never was really absorbed in the story. Since I felt the acting was actually quite good, I blame the play itself.

The producers advertise that through an incredible simplicity, the story of Circle Mirror Transformation captures the subtle changes in each of our lives that lead to complete metamorphosis.

I didn’t make that connection. I enjoyed the play, but not enough that I would state here that this is a must-see production. It was interesting, different, but also very forgettable.

Rating: ** (out of 4)