OTHER NOTABLE OPENINGS:
Tintypes, Peace College; Dames at Sea, Raleigh Little Theatre; Ballet Festival, Carolina Ballet; Nritya Daskaha, Cary Academy
**** Minstrel Show, Manbites Dog--Based on a true story, two itinerant black minstrel circuit entertainers document the atrocities they witnessed firsthand in Omaha on the night of Sept. 29, 1919. They speak directly to an audience cast as a citizen's tribunal, seducing us with little sections of their stage act, before confronting us with the darker, starker truths about race in America. A work of conscience and drama.
**** Funny Girl, N.C. Theater--A strong straight shot down the middle, with N.C. Theater doing what it does best: reviving a classic American musical with the right kind of hired help. Jacquelyn Piro hits the high notes as Fanny Brice, but melts--along with the audience--into the buttery baritone of Merwin Foard as the almost criminally suave Nick Arnstein.
**** The Dream and the Lie, Paperhand Puppet Intervention, Forest Theater--Design and craft innovations (and newfound subtleties in narrative) make this the strongest work we've seen from the politically activist puppet group. Colorful, imaginative multi-story puppets spin out potent metaphors in "The Moth and the Moon" and "Man at Home" for adults and children, and a mid-show tableau vivant of Picasso's Guernica.
*** 1/2 Killer Diller, Ride Again Productions, Swain Hall--Down-home man-child Wesley works toward an unconventionally charitable Christianity--which displeases his ultrafundamentalist wardens at a small-town southern Bible college. An enchanting John McGrew and Sarah Kocz endear as novice lovers from different worlds, but this adaptation of Clyde Edgerton's novel remains a rough-cut about 20 minutes too long, with songs that don't always advance the plot. Still, when it cooks--as on "Jesus Dropped the Charges"--it cooks. The work's still in development: We hope this run helps get it out of beta.
*** Polish Joke , Deep Dish Theater-- Satirist David Ives tries too hard to Solve a Problem in this work about the effects of cultural stereotyping on the stereotyped. Jack Prather's fine in the lead, and we see career-topping work early on from supporting actors Rod Rich and David Berberian, but the main thing we learn is that jokes told from a soapbox lose their punch. Plus Ives' extended Irish-bashing is just bizarre.
** 1/2 Crossing Delancy, 2nd Avenue South, NRACT--Modernity clashes with Jewish tradition in this sentimental comedy about a matchmaker pairing an independent New York bookseller with a pickle-maker. Though other actors were still assembling characters the night we saw it, Sylvia Dante's authoritative scenes as a Jewish grandmother with a kind heart, a titanium spine, and a killer recipe for kugel lifted this inaugural show by a regional Jewish theater troupe out of the realm of community theater.