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New this week: At the Statue of Venus

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At the Statue of Venus
Closed July 1
Acts of Love
Closed June 24
Long Leaf Opera Summer Festival

Long Leaf Opera's summer festival concluded last Sunday in UNC-Chapel Hill's Memorial Hall with a standing ovation for Elizabeth Grayson's performance in the Southern premiere of At the Statue of Venus. On stage accompanying Grayson was pianist and composer Jake Heggie, who guided the piece from moments of hilarity to profound self-reflection as Grayson's character, Rose, waits for a blind date by the statue of the goddess of love.

Rose's monologue, delivered with clear, vibrant vocals, begins with an amusing lament for her choice in wearing black slacks and a momentary assertion that her friends' choice for her "Mr. Right" will be gay, setting the light-hearted tone that pervades the work. Yet the piece moves fluidly toward an underlying seriousness in stream-of-consciousness fashion as the minutes tick past the determined "5-ish" meeting time, and she begins to reflect on her childhood and speculate about her future. Nonetheless, the work remains hopeful throughout, and Rose's endearing character not only garners laughs but reveals a gentle honesty to which any audience can relate.

The theme of love prevailed the previous weekend as well, with the double-bill performance entitled Acts of Love that included William Walton's The Bear and the world premiere of 23-year-old Zachary Wadsworth's Venus and Adonis. The latter, which featured Andrea Edith Moore and Timothy Sparks in the title roles, was the winner of the Long Leaf Opera One Act Competition and is based on Shakespeare's 1594 lyric poem of the same name. The young composer tended toward the traditional style, including a four-part chorus and two dancers to enliven the stage, which they did quite successfully with passionate and racy choreography.

Following the tragedy of Venus and Adonis, Marcia Ragonetti and Jason Sarten shifted the mood in The Bear, a comedy about a widow who finds unexpected love in her late husband's debt collector. Ragonetti's prissy character paired with Sarten's temperamental one, supplemented by the minor role of the widow's quirky servant, made for a perfectly silly plotline that prompted the audience to go home in high spirits. —Sarah Lupton


A Streetcar Named Desire
Little Green Pig Theatrical Concern

Common Ground Theatre
Through July 7

Which is more absurd, I wonder: Reframing Tennessee Williams' classic as a cross between an inverse Pleasantville and the lurid zombie movie oeuvre (think a little George Romero, a little Wes Craven, with some Ed Wood to season)? Or placing the mottled concoction square in the middle of Little Green Pig's "German Season"?

One thing's for certain: When Blanche DuBois (Nicole Farmer) shows up in a smart pale blue and white number—one Edith Head might have fashioned for Vera Miles in the 1950s—to meet a sister Stella (Gigi DeLizza) dressed in a torn Misfits T-shirt, two-inch black heels, pink fishnets and little else besides, someone's done some serious drugs. Or time travel. Or both.

To be honest, one of the reasons we stay plugged in to such a deliberately schismatic production concept is to see how long director Jay O'Berski can possibly keep the wheels on. So cut to the chase: Purists should pass this by—or preferably take it as a walk on the wild side. It's safe to say we'll never see Tennessee Williams staged quite this way again. Expect full frontal nudity—if that drives you nearer or farther away. And give my due respects, a bottle of Barbancourt rum and a Cohiba Siglo VI to Baron Samedi. We will meet again. —Byron Woods

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