(Culver City, CA - October 17, 2010) Kudos to
Venice, a world premiere musical at the Kirk Douglas Theatre. It is great theater, great music, with hip presentation, contemporary themes. All the performers are outstanding. It is an ambitious work, tackling a modern terrorist backdrop. At its core,
Venice is the display of raw human jealousy and greed and how it can wreak havoc on a whole community.
Co-creators of the piece Max Sax, (music, lyrics and clown MC) and Eric Rosen (book, lyrics and direction) invited one of) Center Theatre Group’s associate producers, Kelley Kirkpatrick, to Chicago to see Clay, a one-man hip-hop musical collaboration. Kirkpatrick was impressed with “dazzling combination of hip-hop poetry and singing, and impossibly eloquent, intense acting, all laid over the superstructure of a brilliantly fluid dramatic structure.”
Kirkpatrick came back to Los Angeles, pitched it to CTG Artistic Director Michael Ritchie as an excellent candidate for production at the Kirk Douglas Theatre. Ritchie got onboard. Clay was performed at the Douglas in 2007. This was also the beginning of a workshop collaboration and in-house development of a new piece, with the working title Othello Project. This, developed with the aid of multi-talented performers later became Venice.
I did not know all this history when I sat down to view the show last night, but I was swept away by its magic: the intensity of the writing and the actors along with the energetic and perfectly choreographed music, most of it very catchy. The audience joined in with clapping in parts. There were many whoops and hollers after the various numbers. And this combined with a taste of modern guerrilla politics and violence and the horrors that inflames. In the second act, the deeper meanings emerge as the intense jealousy of Cain for Abel, of Iago for Othello, come into full force. The show goes from an engaging contemporary story to a Shakespearean tragedy, all realized to its potential by the extremely talented cast.
Broadway performer Uzo Aduba is the guardian angel in the piece. She plays Anna Munroe, a former peace activist and leader of the community. She is the mother of two sons, Venice and Markos, and she was both raped and slain for her convictions. Son Venice, who adopts his mother’s idealism and is set to rule the land (also named Venice) peacefully after a long military siege. He is portrayed by the very charismatic Javier Munoz. His voice is sweet and befitting of a peacemaker.
Brother Markos is played masterfully by the energetic Rodrick Covington. He plots and prances about the stage, and is very Shakespearean in his monologues about destruction. He enjoys turning the screws. His wife, Emilia Monroe, played to the hilt by Victoria Platt, has one of the most interesting arcs in the piece. She goes from scorned woman to hero and her voice and emotions are there to back up every note. Angela Wildflower Polk is a favorite as the wild card destructive siren who is used, as are all the women in this story, by the prevailing male power structure. Andrea Goss is an engaging Willow Turner, Venice’s fiancé. J.D. Goldblatt portrays the wealthy but unlucky in love Theodore Westbrook. Erich Bergen is winning as the young gullible Lt. Governor Michael Victor.
The ensemble did not miss a beat in singing or dancing. Choreographers John Carrafa and Tanisha Scott put that together. Additional music, music directions, and arrangements by Curtis Moore. The band, led by Associate Music Director and Keyboard David Manning was vital and held it all together.
I suggest that theatre and music lovers go see Venice. Los Angelenos have an opportunity to see a great premiere before it is whisked away to New York and/or other venues --which it surely will be.
Georja Umano is an actress/comedienne and animal advocate.
Photos by Craig Schwartz
KIRK DOUGLAS THEATRE
9820 Washington Blvd., Culver City, CA 90232
Tickets may be purchased by calling
CTG Audience Services at (213) 628-2772, in person at the Center Theatre Group box office (at the Ahmanson Theatre at the Music Center in downtown Los Angeles), on-line at www.CenterTheatreGroup.org or at the Kirk Douglas Theatre box office two hours prior to performances.
Performances continue: Oct. 19 - Nov. 14, 2010, Tues - Fri and Sat 8pm, Sat 2pm, Sun 1pm and 6:30pm