Frontier Pop Stage Play Review: Women Want Everything!
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Theatre Review

Women want Everything!

A stage play written and directed by Rod Grant. Produced by RL Productions and Venue Actors Studio.

Theatre review by C. A. Passinault, Frontier Pop

Women want Everything!
Cast

Rory Lawrence: Marcus
Nick Naylor: Stuart
Yamir Bhatt: Anoop
Rod Grant: Dan
Lila Genese: Shenequa
Nikki Staples: Alexandra
Chi-Chi Schickel: Tina
Christy Cook: Loretta

Women Want Everything!
Four clueless friends set out on a journey to discover just what it is women want. What ensues is a rocket ride of laughter! - From the playbill

My heart has always been with theatre. Ever since I took Dr. Sylvano’s theatre course in college, back in 1993, and wrote my first two stage plays, The Outcast, and Purple Passion, theatre has been the foundation of my entertainment career. It preceded my indie film and television work, and it’s always been so much more intimate than those other art forms. It’s always been important to me, and continues to be.
Throughout the 1990's, I attended Tampa plays whenever I could. I met an actress by the name of Autumn Bange in 1997 (and, yes, Autumn, before I had as much as an email address), and started to check out her plays. I saw her in a play at a converted barn near Plant City, and play the lead in Miss Firecracker at a dinner theatre off of I-4. My love of theatre continued, too, as I went to a variety of plays and musicals with friends, such as Ann Poonkasem, at the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center, or TBPAC (Sorry, I’m not comfortable referring to it as its new name, yet).
Throughout the years as a stage fan, however, one thing has always annoyed me about Tampa stage productions. What annoyed me, to no end, was simply the lack of original stage performances, as most stage plays in Tampa were adaptations of work produced elsewhere. Where was the originality in Tampa theatre? Didn’t any of the theatre groups write, and produce, their own plays?
Which, of course, is the reason that I was very much looking forward to seeing, and reviewing, Women want Everything! Women want Everything was an original stage play written, and produced, right here in Tampa Bay, and that alone was exciting. What made it even more so, though, was that it was written by Rod Grant, a published author and, in my opinion, a good writer, as well as an outstanding actor.
On March 20th, 2010, Women want Everything! had its second showing at the University of South Florida, after a successful debut at the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center. I arrived at USF close to 7:00, wondering if I had to pay for parking on campus on a weekend. I parked near the theatre department and the Marshal Center, and began looking for Theater 2. Along the way, I talked to an attractive girl, and asked about the parking situation. After she gave me her number, she told me that you didn’t have to pay for parking on the weekends, which was fine by me.
I walked between the Marshal Center and the theatre department, and quickly found Theater 2. At the front, I saw my friend David Best milling around, and I was certain that our mutual friend, Ann Poonkasem, informed him that I would be attending. David greeted me, and informed me that the show would be starting at 7:30 PM, which gave us time to return to my car to get my consumer camera (I did not bring any professional camera gear to this event, because I was not sure about the etiquette, and the rules, about photography for this performance.... something that would come to mind later when I found myself distracted, and annoyed, as I tried to watch the play). David and I walked back to my car, grabbed my camera, which I put in my pocket, and returned to the Theater. Along the way, we ran into several people who David knew, which was cool.
The doors to the Theater opened at 7:30, and David and I obtained seats around the center of the front row, which was flush with the stage. I looked around, and mused that sitting in the front row had the potential to be much like a dinner theatre performance, as we were literally sitting at the front of the stage, almost close enough to reach out and touch the actors as they performed.. The stage was set up with three sets, all of them backed with a backdrop dressed up like an apartment wall, with a door at the rear of center stage. Stage left had a poker table and some chairs. Center stage had a living room set, with the mentioned apartment door behind it. Stage right had a bar set, and all three sets seemed as if they were also a part of one large set. It was a very good stage set-up (When I wrote Purple Passion back in 1993, my stage sets were not nearly as effective, or that easy to work with, the way that they were defined by the script. It would have been a logistical nightmare, had it been performed).
The play had not yet started, and people were still filing in to obtain their seats. Each seat had a playbill and business cards. Right in front of where I sat was a DVD player on a table, and it was playing a video on a screen set up in the middle of the living room set. The video had a series of interviews with the sponsors, and I told David that whomever thought of that had a good idea.
The video soon ended, and the screen was taken down. A man appeared at the area just left of stage left, and announced a raffle, and other news. We were told that the play was minutes away, and that they had a special musical performance in store for us. A singer, who’s name eludes me, as he wasn’t on the playbill, or in any program, sang a song near the stage left set. The singing was excellent.
If this was a sign of what was ahead, it was going to be a great theatre experience.
The play opened with a poker scene on stage left, and introduced us to the main characters. At first, I didn’t know what to think, as the characters all seemed to play to racial stereotypes. Rory Lawrence played Marcus, a regular African American man. Nick Taylor played Stuart, a guy who had long hair, and who was a typical white-trash redneck. Yamir Bhatt played an Indian man by the name of Anoop. The fourth character was Dan, who was played by Rod Grant, who also wrote and directed the play. Dan was a trip. The character was a typical confused white man who thought that he was black. When Dan sauntered onto the stage, sporting low riding pants, an Obama shirt, and flashing a gold grill, the audience about lost it. It was funny. Dan, you see, came off like a hyperactive, vanilla version of Roger (or is it Duane?) from What’s Happening. The character was really good stuff.
The four men began playing their game of cards, and talked about their aspirations, and women in general. You see, all four of them, despite their idiosyncrasies, were dating (I’m thinking that all of the characters had situations which were too similar, even taking into account their polarizing personalities. A thought: wouldn’t it have been interesting if they all had different situations going on? Take Dan and Stuart, for example. What if they were painfully single, and not by choice? What if Dan’s black-man-in-a-white-man’s body routine is a result of his insecurities, because he found if difficult to get a girl, let alone keep one? Sorry... it’s the writer in me. I shall continue.....). The men, of course, are clueless about what women really want, and they show their ignorance about the opposite sex by telling each other things which couldn’t possibly work. This, of course, is true to the characters, but hints to us what to expect next with the women. The men, in essence, are the blind leading the blind, dispensing misguided advice to each other.
Now, I started out saying that the characters seemed to play to racial stereotypes, which is a slippery slope to the pitfall of predictability and mediocrity. This said, I must note that the writing was witty, and helped to develop the characters well. It was good writing, in my opinion. You start out thinking that you’ve seen this before, and that you know the characters, and then things come along which challenge your established preconceptions. You could almost feel the frustration and the angst that the four principle characters are going through as they relate their anecdotes to each other. This exposition, of course, set us up for the meat and potatoes of the play, a series of scenes which flirted with repetition, and which were saved, again, by good writing, and some elements of comedy, to mix them up; each of these dating scenes were separated by scenes of the guys playing cards, with one character telling the others how his date night went. Each character, who I believe were all roommates, and who put some “do not disturb” signal on the outer apartment door, went through a date with their girlfriends. Black and white Dan was dating Shenequa, played expertly by actress Lila Genese. Dan and Shenequa, of course, get into a fight after Dan gives her shoes. Shenequa, who is African American, wearily reminds Dan that he is white, which seems to be the running gag between Dan and rest of the cast (as well as with the audience, as Dan is the only one who can’t seem to accept which race he is). In another dating scene, Indian playboy Anoop had his date with sassy redhead Alexandra, who was played by actress Nikki Staples (an actress who also reminded me of Autumn, in some ways, which is a compliment). They go through their dating routine, and get into a fight about her gifts (I’m guessing that each of the men think that their women are materialistic? I’m sorry, but I wouldn’t last long dating women under those conditions. I simply don’t buy the women who I date much, and they just have to deal with it). They get into a fight, and Alexandra leaves. Marcus, too, has a date with his girlfriend, the materialistic, gold-digging Tina, played by actress and model Chi-Chi Schickel. It would have been nice if Tina had a bit more depth and complexity to her, but hey, her character could have been a reflection on the tastes and the dating judgement of Marcus, as no character should be perfectly defined. The final date, going along, was with party man Stuart and his girl Loretta, played by actress Christy Cook, who delivered an outstanding performance. The Stuart / Loretta date, in my opinion, was a highlight, and it left me wondering what in the hell Loretta saw in Stuart to begin with. Guys, if you can get an attractive girl to overlook those shortcomings, the shortcomings which Stuart had, I say that you need to keep her (either she’s a keeper, or she’s insane; in the case of the latter, getting rid of her might be the better option, on second thought). Loretta was obviously into Stuart, and they seemed to have the most down-to-earth relationship out of all the couples (I also will not spoil anything here. You just have to see what Stuart gives Loretta to believe it).
There were some comedic elements which broke up the repetitive nature of the dating scenes, too, with the other principle characters wandering around, often half asleep (how late were these dates, anyway?!?!). In one such interruption, Stuart wandered around wearing an interesting item, prompting the woman in the scene to exclaim “What in the hell was that?!?!”. I suppose that when your friends are roommates, and they are already tucked in for the night in their rooms, that a “do not disturb” signal on the outer door does not work. Dating must be rough for the guys when they are not really living on their own, and it’s probably safe to say that the living room couch probably didn’t see that much action, despite the treasures hidden within it.
The play ended with a night of drinking moonshine (it would have been even more interesting if they had been drinking absinthe, in my opinion, and I even told David that. I’m being serious, too. I knew a model once who was a fan of that, and she was really interesting..... follow the green fairy) and the guys getting down with a party. The next day, they all come up with an interesting resolution, and that’s all that I will reveal here. The ending was interesting, for sure.
I really did enjoy the play, though. I liked it a lot, and it was well worth seeing. Regardless, there were a few issues with it that I will go into now.
On a technical level, the lighting and audio were well done. One issue to note, however, was that that actors are not mic’ed. I could hear them fine, as I was sitting practically at the front of the living room set with them, but I’m wondering how well the audience at the rear of the theater could hear them. In a larger venue, this would be an issue. I also took pause with a woman who was doing flash photography near stage left, which was distracting and took the audience away from the performance (and, yes, I could also tell that the composition of those pictures had issues which did not justify the distraction. I’m a photographer, and I could see exactly what kind of shots that the woman was getting; I’d be surprised if any of the pictures came out well).
There were issues with the support material, too, specifically the playbill. The playbill was printed at low resolution, on low quality, color paper. The playbill was difficult to read, and should have been at least as high quality as the play was. Yes, it served its purpose, but it did not compare well to other playbills, that I’ve collected, from other plays.
A little formulaic, a little repetitive, but pure comedy gold, Women want Everything! is a good play because of good writing, good acting, and a story that leaves you wanting more. The play is really funny, and the audience, for the most part can relate to the characters and their situations. This play is a superb debut effort by Rod Grant and the cast, and I highly recommend it for a lot of laughs. You can bring a date, too, as the story would work for a date.

The following are video excerpts from the stageplay (which were not taped at the performance that we attended), added 09/19/10, which are followed by the stageplay review scores:

WWE scene 1 from Rod Grant on Vimeo.

WWE Scene 2 from Rod Grant on Vimeo.

WWE Scene 3 from Rod Grant on Vimeo.

 

WWE Scene 4 from Rod Grant on Vimeo.

 

Women want Everything!
Stage Play Review Scores

Scored from 1 (lowest) to 10 (best). 5 is average.

Story: 7
The story was interesting, as well as funny, although some scenarios tended to repeat themselves.

Writing: 8
The dialogue was natural, and in-character for each character. Some of the dialogue was hilarious, although a few lines edged toward stereotypes.

Characters: 6
The character were will developed, although they all approached common stereotypes. Good writing, performances from the actors, and dialogue prevented the characters from descending into predictable stereotypes. Most importantly, the audience could relate to the characters, which was another redeeming characteristic.

Acting: 7

The cast of actors did a great job portraying their characters. Rod Grant, in particular, as Dan, the racially confused white man who thinks that he is black, was extremely funny.

Sets: 8
Good use of the stage with a three set layout; a poker table at stage left, a living room set center stage, and a (underused) bar stage right. The living room set, and, to an extent, the other sets were backdropped with a wall and a door. The stage set up and layout was effective in the execution of the play.

Wardrobe: 7
Wardrobe which fit the characters well. Some gags with the wardrobe include the items worn by the “white trash” character Stuart, and the Brainjacked and Obama shirts worn by the character Dan.

Props: 6
The usual props, which include cards, a bottle of “moonshine”, and the gifts that the men give to their women.

Lighting: 6
Decent stage lighting from the USF theatre did the job.

Sound: 5
The intimate venue and small audience made the lack of mic’ed actors acceptable. The actors had to project their voices without audio support, and the theatre audio supported some foley work, as well as an assortment of music, which was used to pace the performance, as well as support the storyline.

Creativity: 7
A very creative effort, with an original story and memorable characters. The deja vu scenarios between the men and their girlfriends detracted from overall creativity, however.

Stunts / SFX: N/A

Execution: 6
The play was executed well, and the performance was absorbing, funny, and well-paced. Set change outs were minimal due to the well-thought out, and planned, set design.

Support Material: 4
The mixed media sponsorship presentation on a screen before the play was a good idea, and did the job. The playbill, however, was low quality, and hard to read. Additionally, there are little more than cast bios and sponsors on the playbill, which sold its potential short.

Overall: 7
A highly recommended play, Women want Everything! Is really funny. Don’t miss it.

 

PUBLISHED 05/02/10

UPDATED 04/20/11

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