Theatre Mirror Reviews - "The Donkey Show"

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Reviews of Current Productions

note: entire contents copyright 2009 by Larry Stark


"The Donkey Show"

Conceived by Randy Weiner
Directed by Diane Paulus & Randy Weiner

Scenic Design by Scott Pask
Costume Design by Donald C. Woolard
Lighting Design by Evan Morris
Sound Design by David Renedios
Properties Artisan Tricia Green
Line Producer Ariane Barbanell
Resident Director Allegra Libonati
OBERON Production Manager Skip Curtiss
Sound Board Operator Garrett Herzig
Spot Operators Matthew Breton, Dan Martinez
Wardrobe Emily Damron, Nicole Wilson
Assistant Draper Theadora Fisher
Stitcher Jennifer Guadagno
Wigmaster Rachel Padula Shufelt
Properties Intern Katie Fleming
Stage Management Interns Graydon Gund, Emma Johnson
Stage Manager Taylor Adamik
Trainers
Lucille Duncan, Scott Morgan, Rachel Murdy, Derek Mitchell, Gaetano Pugliese, Anna Wilson

Club Owner (Mr. Oberon).............Heather Gordon
Oberon's Girlfriend (Titania)...Rebecca Whitehurst
Dr. Wheelgood(Puck).................Jason Beaubien
Helen.................................Erin McShane
Dimitri..............................Cheryl Turski
Mia.................................Heather Gordon
Sander..........................Rebecca Whitehurst
Rude Mechanical [Vinnie (1)].........Cheryl Turski
Rude Mechanical [Vinnie (2)]..........Erin McShane
Mustard Seed...........................Mike Heslin
Cob Web................................Cameron Oro
Moth......................................Tom Fish
Peaseblossom..........................Eric Johnson
Bouncer (Steve-O).............Steven James DeMarco
Disco Girl (Misty)................Susannah Hoffman
DJ (Orlando Chachenski)............Samson Kohanski

When I came up out of the subway in the heart of Harvard Square, there were two guys --- a drummer with a shaved head and shades and a maybe younger sax man --- over by the kiosk, and they were good. The sax had a hint of Paul Desmond in it, but after a while I recognized that they were well along into variations on Gerschwin's "Summertime". I dropped a buck into a yawning bass-drum-cover, apologising for my penury, and mentioned that it seemed to me that they'd reversed roles with the sax doing melodic rhythm and the drum-set almost carrying the melody itself. The drummer complimented my ear and admitted, with only two of them, there were a lot of holes to fill.

I had nearly an hour, so I retreated up against a pole, my back to the traffic, when they launched into the next tune where they shared the work more equally, and I noticed that a series of at least half a dozen passing toddlers each in turn stopped and stared in hypnotized fascination at the source of live music, some with appreciative murmurs from their parents. I don't dance, but my body swayed in rhythm to the chord-changes and the beat liking what it heard, so before I pushed on I fished out another buck and as I dropped it in admitted "Hell, it's only money man" and as they played we three smiled.

It was still early so I stopped off at The Harvard Book Store's underground second-hand shop hoping some new book would nip me in the pinkie, but it didn't happen, and neither of the books I hoped might turn up --- Russell Hoban's "PILGERMAN" nor Thornton Wilder's "THE CABALA" --- were there nor upstairs in the new-books Fiction section. (The Harvard Bookstore was my first real job, after coming to Cambridge from New Jersey. Once, on a dare from fellow book-pushers, I answered the phone "Harvard Boo Store, may I scare you?"; the patron merely replied "Yes, I'm looking for..." responding to my politely professional tone rather than my words.)

The foyer of Zero Arrow was repainted and hung in blacks as an entrance corridor; at the entry was a box-office table, above it an enormous glass-beads chandelier. I was four minutes early so I retreated to a neutral corner and read to the end of a tale in "AUCASSIN & NICOLETTE AND OTHER MEDIEVAL ROMANCES AND LEGENDS" until ten-of curtain-time, then inquired whether my partner in crime had picked up our tickets. I left his, took my own ("We'll be letting people in at eight") and joined a line stretching nearly a block toward Central Square. A bouncer-ish guy came along affixing paper ribbons around everyone's left wrist ("And when will the doctor see me?" I quipped), and eventually the line edged by dribs and drabs into the black tunnel from which boringly regular ear-blasting base-notes erupted. Apparently Disco is, unfortunately, not yet dead.

Back on the street after the show --- while enthusiastic hangers-on apparently danced to the after-music and trickled slowly out in twos and threes --- we actually "hung out" with either crew-people from the show or friends from other theater companies, until a consensus developed to buy frozen-yogurts half a stones-throw away. "It's not fake ice-cream nor softee-stuff; it's yogurt, frozen" I was told, and it was heavenly. I asked for a small cup of banana-flavor with huge amounts of fresh blueberries, and got change from a five ("It's only money, man"). You don't have to see the show to do the yogurt thing: what you do is walk down Mass Ave to the entry to the A.R.T.'s big black box, then turn around and go back along Arrow Street, towards Bow Street, to where a line of eager customers will probably be waiting at any hour of day or night to duck down and get their treats.

On the way home I got into a heated argument. The guy who had for months coldly insisted he hated everything about "The Donkey Show" and "Shakespeare exploded" pronounced the show "fun" and himself convinced that new Artistic Director Diane Paulus would indeed inveigle a young crowd into the theatre and they'd be impressed enough to come back for other productions. I insisted "Shakespeare Demolished" was nothing but a noisy rock-concert that could entice no one to sit and listen to a real play. If after three Paulus-poweredexperiences these young ticket-buyers do indeed pay for PLAYS, replacing the dwindling old moldy-fig A.R.T. subscribers in any significant numbers, I'll owe him a quarter. ("The Donkey Show" is open-ended and may try to chase the record of "Blue Man Group"; contact their VIP party-planner to "have your party at The Donkey Show!")

What kind of day was it? A day like all days: one that alters and illuminates our times.
What do I really remember fondly (in addition to the yogurt)?

Two guys, in the words of Joni Mitchell:

"Playin' real good, fer free."

Love,
===Anon.

"The Donkey Show" (21 August - Open-Ended)
AMERICAN REPERTORY THEATRE
Zero Arrow Street, CAMBRIDGE MA
1(617)547-8300

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