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Photograph 51, by Anna Ziegler, makes its regional debut at The Metropolitan Theatre Ensemble, running through Feb 4th.  This tight 90-minute play guides us through what could be a dense, dry scientific journey detailing the discovery of DNA’s double helix.  Instead, audiences are treated to a tense, fast -paced, entertaining exploration of a forgotten female scientist and the relationships that influenced her and the groundbreaking genetic discoveries of the 1950s.  Rosalind Franklin is given new life and, in an age suddenly endangering female rights, makes her story even more apropos and vital.

On stage Wed-Sat at 7:30, Sunday (Jan 29) at 2pm at the MET in mid-town Kansas City.

Here’s what the reviewers are saying:

Robert W. Butler at the KC Star says:

Talk about fortuitous synchronicity!

On the same weekend that millions of women around the world marched to assert their rights, Kansas City’s Metropolitan Ensemble Theatre debuted “Photograph 51,” a hugely insightful and unexpectedly moving play about a groundbreaking woman scientist who never got her due.

“Photograph 51” is less about the nuts and bolts of scientific discovery than it is about the struggles of the human heart and psyche.

[Amy] Attaway’s Franklin pulls us in not because she’s charming but because she’s so rigorous and scrupulously honest. There’s virtue in her approach, if not much humanity. Only late in the proceedings do we sense Franklin’s regrets about the ascetic, practically monkish life she has chosen.

[Robert Gibby] Brand, on the other hand, is both hugely amusing and borderline heartbreaking as Wilkins, who evolves from privileged pomposity to a genuine appreciation of his colleague that borders on romantic love. It’s a performance overflowing with small gestures and stifled frustrations, alternately comic and near-tragic.

But then all six players are superb.

Read more here.

One lady not remembered enough: British chemist Rosalind Franklin.
KC audiences are fortunate to get a glimpse of this Photograph, staged in London’s West End in 2015 and set to open on Broadway later this year (with Nicole Kidman in the role of Franklin in both productions). The piece is timely, a story not only about science and its protagonists but also about politics — the who’s-in and who’s-out in the struggle for influence, recognition and an individual’s rightful place.
The dynamic performances that Paisley elicits from a strong cast are what keep us engaged in this one-act play’s fact-based story.
Read more of Deborah’s article here.

Or Robert Trussell‘s thoughts on KC Studio in his review (click the below title for full review):

Good Performances Buoy Unique Drama About Science, Love and History

Good performances across the board elevate Metropolitan Ensemble Theatre’s thoughtful production of Ziegler’s 2008 play about sexism and professional competition among a group of British and American scientists who established the molecular structure of DNA in the 1950s. Director Karen Paisley stages the piece with admirable economy and precision.

One could argue that Franklin’s character is less developed than it should be, but Amy Attaway brings the role to life with remarkable precision. Her performance is an impressive succession of smart choices, resulting in a series of indelible physical and emotional snapshots. Even more noteworthy, she holds her own with the formidable Robert Gibby Brand, who plays Watkins as a man possessed of a keen intellect but precious few social graces. Nobody in town plays educated Brits better than Brand and here he delivers one of his finest performances. Indeed, Brand and Attaway together find a beating heart in a play about chilly, eccentric science nerds.

No weak links are to be found among the supporting players: Jordan Fox brings stolidity and muted passion to Don Caspar. R.H. Wilhoit, as Gosling, is a frequently comic presence whose humor never undermines the drama. John Cleary finds honest comedy in his portrayal as the excitable, impassioned Watson. And the reliable Coleman Crenshaw is memorable as Crick. Nice to see quality ensemble work.


As directed by Karen Paisley, “Photograph 51” is a fascinating, edge of your seat rendering of one woman’s fight to establish her value as a scientist and as a colleague.
A strong cast of six in “Photograph 51” at Metropolitan Ensemble Theatre spins an unfamiliar, but excellently told tale of a female scientist in 1950’s Britain. Playwright Anna Ziegler recounts the work of crystallographer Dr. Rosalind Franklin and her difficult struggle for equal treatment in the workplace.
Read Alan’s full review here.

“Photograph 51″ shines light into the 1950s research and ground-breaking discoveries in DNA mapping and understanding with brilliant performances by Amy Attaway and Robert Gibby Brand.
Read full review here.
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The 10th season of Kansas City Fringe is in full swing.  Lots and lots and lots of wonderful theatre happening in KC!  You should check out some of my favorite people and plays if you can.  I’d recommend (besides my three shows at Off-Center Theatre, of course- I’m sure you’ve already seen them): Forrest Attaway’s Dirtlegs at Heartland Forum, and in the same space: Virgin and Sing, Sing, Sing and the Fishtank’s Red/Blue/Green Fish– all promise great things.  The Submarine Show at the MET is also wonderful!  A-Cop-Alypse at Just Off Broadway Theatre is sure to stoke your zombie fix.  And finally, I’ve been hearing great things about St. Nicholas and Bond.  There are many, many others that I haven’t yet had time to see, so splash out and tell me what’s up in the comments!

Here are some of the things people are saying about the shows I’m currently running (Dangerous to Dance With, Red Death, and More 4Play: Mmmmm):

RED DEATH by Daniel Doss and Bryan Colley
Robert Trussell at the KC Star says this about the opera:

[Daniel] Doss’ lush score… is darkly romantic, often returning to a haunting waltz-time motif…. Tenor Nathan Granner… as usual, is mesmerizing.  Soprano Devon Barnes is impressive…. this one shimmers, thanks to a delicate, evocative lighting design by Shane Rowse and elegant costumes designed and created by Varney and her collaborators. A cadre of dancers create dreamlike stage pictures. In essence, this piece is a 19th-century meditation on death, but the combination of music, dance, creative lighting and inventive costumes will linger in the viewer’s memory.

For the full review head here.

Lee Hartman of KC Metropolis added this:

The production values of Red Death put many other Fringe shows to shame…. Granner, at full volume for most of his singing, is convincing with his laissez-faire attitude and Barnes… is an equal match. … Red Death should be on your “to see” list for this year’s Fringe. It tries something new, albeit conservatively, but the performances and production are worthy of attention.

Full review here.

What about the people?  KC Stage reviews abound:

It seems every year at Fringe there comes along a show that I find myself wishing could be brought out to full length. This year, one such show is Bryan Colley’s “Red Death” –KellyLuck: 5 out of 5

At one point their frantic, almost jerky, movements gave the impression of many more dancers than there were. This was an effective contrast to the fluidly slow movements, particularly when Coleman Crenshaw as the Uninvited Guest drew attention merely by his intense stage presence. – Detailer: 5 out of 5

DANGEROUS TO DANCE WITH by Bill Rogers
Mr. Trussell also had this to say about Dangerous to Dance With:

…a talented cast, anchored by Victor Raider-Wexler as Harris. Raider-Wexler is one of the city’s best character actors, and he inhabits the role with gruff authority and a shrewd sense of comic timing….  Coleman Crenshaw is smooth and relaxed as Nick…. the writing is often witty. Overall this is an interesting, edgy example of comic playwriting.

For the full review head here.
KC Stage Reviews chime in with:

 [T]his play is so thought provoking, in order to understand and appreciate all of the philosophical points, you need to see the play twice. -AlanSKoalas: 5 out of 5

Nick has a very dry sense of British humor, which is perfect for Coleman, and a great foil to the broader humor in the play.  – Jewell: 5 out of 5

Victor Raider-Wexler stands out among the cast. He created a fascinating character, always consistent, truthful, and spot-on. Victor was adept at both comic timing and intense seriousness…. [Coleman Crenshaw] was interesting to watch and listen to. … his active listening and facial reactions were consistently good.  -Detailer: 3 out of 5

MORE 4PLAY: MMMMM by Various 
Finally: More 4Play: Mmmm.  Mr. Trussell, nor anyone at KC Metropolis has had a chance yet to see this one.  But KC Stage offers us a glimpse:

The “4Play” series of short plays on and about relationships (mostly) has quickly established itself as a KC Fringe staple. It is good to see that this is continuing, as this year’s crop brings us 4 plays inhabiting the same universe and even a little more besides.

First is “Desire” by Frank Higgins… A short but interesting listen, and worth a few chuckles.

Third is “Fishers of Men” by Schaeffer Nelson, in which an idealistic young missionary finds himself talking to a cynical gay man on religion, love, sex, and regret. An interesting one, this, more serious than its predecessors. I almost would have liked to see this one go further, but such is the nature of short plays. – KellyLuck: 4 out of 5

Check out KC Stage’s Fringe section for full reviews and details here.

I’ll post again with more reviews as they come.

Enjoy the Fringe!!  As always head to the KC Fringe website for schedules, details, and tickets!

As we enter the final weekend of Arika Larson’s emotional corkscrew of a play, White Sangria, I thought I’d gather some of the reviews here for you to check out.  Hopefully they give you that final nudge you need to come support great local theatre this weekend.

Robert Trussell, of the KC Star had this to say: Harvey Williams, the play’s director “should be commended for exposing the work of talented playwrights to a receptive audience.  On one level Larson’s play is all about raw, if repressed, emotion. But it also examines these relationships from a somewhat distant, cerebral perspective. Integrating those two strands is a challenge.”

Read more of Trussell’s review “Dark Humor and Head Games Dwell” here.

Steve Wilson of BroadwayWorld.com got caught up in the maze as well:

Larson offers up a story of a highly dysfunctional couple that is into mind games, between themselves and the couple that have invited over.  The extremely complicated relationships make it difficult to keep up with the twists from lies to truth to lies. Ben and Marla, make the evening uncomfortable and unbearable for Susan and John, setting upon them with shocking and horrifying revelations.

Read more of Steve’s thoughts here.

The Examiner weighs in with Bob Evans writing that:

The Truth and Lie Game begins as the curtain goes up and the characters reveal the different layers of their personalities. As their “new friends,” Susan and John enter the picture midway through Act I, the games get more intense in the questions between truth or fantasy really muddies the water.

Full review here.

 

Or if you are just interested in what they had to say about your favorite KC actor check this out:

“Crenshaw provides the most even performance of the night. He becomes his character from the beginning to the final curtain call.” – Steve Wilson

“Things pick up considerably after the arrival of Butler and Crenshaw, both of whom bring a welcome sense of timing and purpose to the stage. As superficial niceties give way to appalled awareness that something very weird is happening, the actors remain focused.” – Robert Trussell

“The nerdy and awkward librarian, John Martin, comes to life via Coleman Crenshaw. Crenshaw takes this opportunity to display his wonderful comedic timing and his mastery of facial reaction. The expressions he produces as Marla teases him sexually are hilarious. He walks the line between shy and excited and makes the audience feel the awkwardness of the situation that surrounds him.” – Bob Evans

Come out and see us Thursday at 7:30pm for only $15 Artist Rates!  We also run Fri-Sat at 7:30pm and Sunday at 2pm for $25.  For info here.