REVIEW: Better LATE than Never

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LATE – A Cowboy Song by Sarah Ruhl

Directed by Jonathan Fondell.

The timing of Monstrous Little Theatre Company’s debut is perfect.  Sioux Falls is ready for a theatre company like this.  MLTC chose a very fantastic play to introduce themselves to Sioux Falls.  LATE – A Cowboy Song, written by Sarah Ruhl, tells the story of a young couple, Mary and Crick, whose small world is challenged by the birth of an intersex child.  Mary begins to question her own views of love, commitment, and acceptance when an old acquaintance, Red comes back into her life.  Red’s sexuality is only implied, which increases the tension in the story.  Red and Mary develop a touching friendship which makes Crick uncomfortable.  The play was billed as an edgy choice.  While it may not have been a comfortable fit for other theatre companies, I got the sense downtown Sioux Falls audiences were open to the content.  It could have been that the audience was full of friends and favorable to the new theatre company ‐ regardless, it was a soft touch, a gentle introduction, unapologetic yet polite, sweet hearted without being bawdy.  If MLTC plans to challenge Sioux Falls audiences with the content of their plays, LATE was a very wise start.

MLTC stitched together scenes with well‐played and well‐sung original guitar compositions by Claire Avery, the actress who played Red.  The set was efficient and established every necessary aspect of the story.  Set pieces and props were just right to fit the space and meet production needs.  Some props changed roles from one scene to another, which showed forethought and creativity.  A clever prop choice was the use of a loveseat which deftly tripled as a corral fence, a horse, and part of a living room furniture set.  MLTC knows how to block scenes and choreograph scene changes simply and professionally.  The venue at Monk’s was a technical challenge which, at least after all of the work they put into it, appeared to be well within MLTC’s capabilities to produce a well‐crafted event.

Debbie Jones played Mary, the wife and mother in the storied family.  Any local actress should envy Debbie’s talent.  She is the best-in-town for nailing a facial expression and tone of voice.  Claire Avery played Red, the female cowboy.  Her acting performance and  musical abilities were impressive.  I believed everything she said, and I understood everything she didn’t say.  Both women were natural and believable, bringing a remarkably wide range of emotion, physicality, tone, and stance to each scene.  They are better actors than many people much older than they are.  Matthew Stoffel played Crick, Mary’s husband.  He was able to deliver Crick’s character as sincere and likeable, while showing his insecurity without being a jerk – that’s a big task.  Debbie and Matthew are obviously naturally very articulate individuals, but I think they had the opportunity to enrich their characters if they hadn’t spoken like Debbie and Matthew.  I interpreted their characters as having a lack of education – not stupid, not base – but more limited in their horizons both in worldviews and in relationships, which didn’t always come through in the performance.  Overall, this cast should be very proud of their craft.

The venue was a side room in an active bar on a weekend.  As you might imagine, the bar patrons were loud and distracting.  While that did take the audience’s focus away from the production from time to time, the experience didn’t suffer too terribly for it.  The seats were small and uncomfortably close to each other, so relaxing and viewing the stage was difficult.  I would like to see more MLTC productions there; they overcame so many other logistical and technical obstacles in that room for their first show, and I’d like to see what further improvements they make to their brand and the audience experience in that space.  If anyone can pull it off in the side room of a bar, it’s MLTC.

 

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A Source for Sioux Falls Theatre

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The act of creating is a brave one – especially for the performing artist.  A performer dares to walk on stage in front of people who are demanding to be entertained.  It is no small task and there are no certainties.  On stage one is naked (some literally), vulnerable – anything can happen.  There is no hiding.  When one dares to create and share it, one is taking a risk.

The Falls Theatre Blog (that’s us) is aiming to reward that risk by providing a resource that curates, promotes, and offers a critical eye to performing arts enterprises in Sioux Falls and the region.  While it will take time for FTB (that’s us) to earn the credibility as a source for theatre arts in Sioux Falls, we know that there is a demand for local coverage that isn’t being met by traditional outlets.

Many might not know that within the past 18 months two local theatre companies have debuted with performances in non-traditional venues in Sioux Falls’ downtown.  Those two companies, Fishmongers Actors Theatre (FAT), and Monstrous Little Theatre Company (both can be found on Facebook) have bet that Sioux Falls is willing to support live theatre that caters to more mature audiences in downtown Sioux Falls.  Monstrous believes audiences are ready for lesser-known and edgy theatre that has been performed in Sioux Falls, but mostly isolated to academia.  FAT thinks there’s an audience for original and regional premiere works that champion Sioux Falls playwrights.  Both think you’d like to enjoy drinks before and during (thumbs up).

The mission of this online publication is to increase the awareness of what’s happening in Sioux Falls; to aggregate the efforts of theatrical organizations in Sioux Falls, to promote local performing arts by local artists, and to offer feedback to their performances and aesthetic in the form of reviews submitted by peers with performance backgrounds.*  We are limiting the scope, at first, to downtown Sioux Falls or performances at less traditional venues by local artists.  We hope to expand as we find more boots to put on the ground to comprehensively cover the theatre scene in the region.  If you are or know of anyone that is interested in helping our coverage, email us at fallstheatreblog@gmail.com.

We look forward to guiding readers toward new experiences and providing a resource for keeping up with the growing artistic/entertainment scene in Sioux Falls.  Please follow us on Facebook and Twitter and spread the word if you feel this enterprise is worth supporting.

*The objective of any criticism will always be to offer an educated opinion for the organization to use (if they care to) and to cultivate audience knowledge of performing arts.  It will be our goal that no criticisms are levied to be disparaging for the sake of being disparaging.  This may be a fine line, but we intend to meet it.  At first we will ask our reviewers to use a pseudonym.  The size of the performing arts community is small – we all work with one another – and we want the reviewers to feel free to contribute to the artistic conversation without fearing that the reviewer might burn a bridge with a would-be collaborator.  I will serve as the editor and liaison between the reviewer and the writer.  I take that role seriously, but if anything were to be considered unfair then I would accept the responsibility for that sentiment and correspond using fallstheatreblog@gmail.com