Thursday, October 18, 2007

Review-(from an incredibly biased source)

-Back in regular business...and to blogging.

Barb and I spent the last several days in sunny (well most of the time) southern California...enjoying the sights...doing a little ad agency business...battling the traffic...and experiencing the first, post-collegiate, professional acting performances of son Stewart. (Professional name Stewart W. Calhoun) Our youngest son played Nick (the central character) in the West Coast premiere of playwright Carlos Murillo's dark play or stories for boys. (Intentionally lower-case due to the internet chat subject matter)

I've written about the play before because Stewart has had previous opportunities to engage himself as Nick in productions staged in Chicago. His first go-round was in a classroom production when the piece was still "coming up to speed", and Mr. Murillo was still formulating portions of the dialogue. Later, as part of the Chicago Latino Theatre Festival, d.p.o.s.f.b. was performed in a reading at the famed Goodman Theatre. For that, the Theatre School at DePaul cast, of which Stewart was a member, was re-assembled. So, when the rather new, but already prestigious, Theatre at Boston Court in Pasadena picked up the play for a run this season, Carlos was thrilled, and Stewart was incredibly excited to help debut the piece in the West. The young fellow's parents, of course, were bubbling over with excitement to be on hand for the unveiling this past Saturday evening.

As I write, the published reviews of the show are mostly in. All but one, have been overwhelmingly appreciative of the Boston Court production and critically positive of the actors and the play. That one, in Variety, has gotten the dander up of this old guy as the reviewer seems to go way out of bounds to be negative. Links to all of the reviews I've been able to find are at the bottom of this post.

First, you have to understand that this show is about the consequences, and inherent problems, that arise when a kid invents other personalities while interacting with others on the internet. That, in itself, is enormously difficult to translate into a stage production. But, Murillo does so brilliantly, and Michael Michetti, the Boston Court director, engages some incredibly talented behind-the-scenes artists to bring a "stage life" to the mostly isolated and stationary practice of internet chatting. (Mr. Michetti, by the way, is also one of the nicest and most interesting people that I have encountered in a long time.)

At first, Stewart's character Nick is entertained and amused by his ability to manipulate others on line. But, as the story devolops he choses to interact directly with an internet pawn which brings suspense and danger to Carlos' tale. And, what's even more, this is all based on a REAL LIFE STORY that required law enforcement involvement in England. The Variety reviewer must have either not known, or missed this fact, because he seems to have problems with the plausibility of some of the occurences on stage. In actuality, the real-life news story is much more bizarre and fantastic than this fictional presentation. I'm sure the outlandish details of the true adventure can be secured through a Google search.

As for the other reviews, you can read them for yourself by clicking below, but they are incredibly gratifying and seem to reflect the opinions of most everyone we spoke to. (I know, I'm a parent of the lead actor...but still.)

We think, of course, that Stewart's performance was sensational. Adam Haas Hunter, who plays the character of Adam, a gullible teen that Nick enjoys "screwing with" in the play, was extraordinary. Danielle K. Jones, who plays two female characters, was splendid as both. Bethany Pagliolo and Jonathan McClain, who portray numerous characters, bring amazing versatility and believability to each. This appeared to me to be a cast full of young people from whom we will be hearing much more down the road.

When Barb and I first saw this show in Chicago, we came out of the performance saying to one another that this story is ripe for the movies. Well, while enjoying the pleasure of Carlos Murillo's company at dinner Sunday, he shared with us that the ball is rolling toward that end. A screenplay is next for dark play, and it's obvious that Carlos is quickly becoming a hot commodity in Hollywood circles. We, of course, hope that as this story develops into a film, that a certain young fellow from Millstadt, Illinois will get the chance to maintain his connection to the piece.

All in all, having a son who's trying to establish himself in show business made for a fantastic and memorable extended weekend for his grateful parents. It seems like yesterday that this kid was playing with his smoke machine and making up stories for family entertainment in our makeshift basement theater. Keep breaking those legs Stew! review
LA Weekly review (scroll down) review
Variety review
LA Times reader reviews

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