A WITHER’S TALE – Troubadour Theater Company – The Falcon Theatre – Los Angeles (Burbank) Theater Review

by Tony Frankel on September 1, 2010

in Theater-Los Angeles

Post image for A WITHER’S TALE – Troubadour Theater Company – The Falcon Theatre – Los Angeles (Burbank) Theater Review

NOW IS THE WITHERS OF OUR DISCONTENT

For 15 years, the Troubadour Theater Company (AKA, The Troubies) have amalgamated freely altered classics with music of a particular artist – creating riotous sketch/improv/entertainments that are liberally seasoned with an air of Commedia dell’Arte; this gives the immensely talented players the opportunity to act, sing, dance, improvise, and perform feats of acrobatic skill. They have a justly tremendous and loyal following, including this reviewer, which makes it all the more difficult to criticize this remarkable ensemble when a show falters – one is inclined to be more forgiving because the company has such a satisfying body of work.

The Troubies’ current production of A Wither’s Tale – the fusion of Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale with the music of Bill Withers – stumbles because the Bard’s material (what little there is of it at ninety minutes) is handled with an air of classicism that seems incongruous to the songs on display; in fact, numbers would end while actors stood in the spotlight and the audience sat quietly: it felt inappropriate to applaud while watching such a somber story (historians may classify this as a Romance, but it’s a tragedy in reverse: the bodies start piling up BEFORE the end). The actors, for the most part, clearly have the chops to handle such material; as a result, one may leave the theatre longing for a straight-on rendition.

The always creative director Matt Walker has taken on a lead role; this may be the reason that a guiding hand feels missing. Even within the show’s awkward melding, it’s impossible for these thespians to not create wonderful moments: we have Katherine Malak as Perdita, who positively thrills with her lithe gymnastics, and sings “Use Me” with aplomb; the most enchanting, becoming, and lovely Monica Schneider as Hermione; and Joseph Keane’s Green-Eyed Monster dance was stunning, even though I thought he was a frog until I read the program.

Some characterizations, however, never take off – styles range from Once Upon A Mattress to Monty Python – and entrances and exits could be clunky and unfocused. Even with narrators assigned to summarize events we had already witnessed, the story was confusing.

A nod to Jeremy Pivnick’s breathtaking lighting design and Eric Heinly’s tight band. My favorite part of the show was John Krovoza’s achingly sad cello music; perhaps it matched my longing for A Wither’s Tale to decide if it wanted to be a tragedy or a comedy.

tonyfrankel @ stageandcinema.com

photos by Chelsea Sutton

scheduled to close September 26 at time of publication
for tickets, visit http://www.falcontheatre.com/withers_tale.html

Comments on this entry are closed.