South City Theatre Reviews Archive


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Driving Miss Daisy
South City Theatre
March 21, 2010 by Billy Ray Brewton

What do you say about a show that is executed so flawlessly?  I honestly don't have a single valid critique of the show.  As an audience member, I was captivated from beginning to end.  As a director, I thought the pacing and staging were spot-on and thought some choices were simply inspired.  As an actor, I thought all three performers were beyond solid and really told the story in an emotional and engaging manner.  Long story short -- it was one of the best executed plays I've ever seen.

Everyone is familiar with the story of Driving Miss Daisy -- an elderly Southern widow (Carole Armistead) is coaxed, by her son (Todd Ponder), into hiring a black chauffeur (Robert Hill) since it's become apparent she can no longer drive safely herself.  What starts out as a somewhat contentious relationship between Daisy and Hoke turns into a deep and lasting friendship that carries the both of them through many years together.  The play was turned into an Oscar winning film that received countless accolades.  The play and film are closely matched and the play is more effective because you really get to see the relationship develop in a stronger, more authentic way.

The performances are top-notch.  As Daisy, Carole Armistead is feisty, stubborn, sympathetic, compassionate -- everything the character needs to be.  Armistead barrels through the show like a freight train and brings the audience to tears on more than one occasion.  As Hoke, Robert Hill takes a character that everyone associates with Morgan Freeman and actually makes it BETTER -- that's right -- BETTER.  He is warm, giving, wise and always seems to be grounded and rock solid.  Todd Ponder, as Daisy's son Boolie, is also at the top of his game, taking what could have been a disposable role and making it both memorable, emotional and engaging.  I cannot fault a single aspect of any performance.

Directing wise, Clay Boyce has done a remarkable job.  The staging is simple and clean and it really works.  The decision to have the actors mime a lot of their actions works like I've never seen it work before and Armistead and Hill do a fantastic job with it.  The final scene, in which Hoke and Boolie come to visit Daisy in the nursing home, is staged in such a way that you're drowning in tears before the scene even officially begins.  I sobbed like a  baby the final 20-minutes of the show and I am not someone who typically cries during a stage production. 

Kudos to South City Theatre for putting this show on their season, to Clay Boyce for molding it into such a memorable production and to the outstanding cast for delivering the best theatre this city has seen in a long, long time.  I cannot praise this show enough.  Bring it back and I will see it again!


Come Back to the Five and Dime Jimmy Dean Jimmy Dean  at South City Theatre

Reviewed on August 28th, 2006 by Maree Jones

This past Friday night a group of fellow thespians and I went to see South City’s production of Five and Dime, and to be perfectly honest I was a little nervous about it. I really love the movie version starring Cher, and I had already seen a few other South City shows that were just okay, so I was expecting the worst. By the time the play was over, however, I caught myself wiping a couple of tears from my eyes. The play was utterly moving.

     First of all, let me brag on the casting of the play, which was very intelligently done. Cindy deSa as Mona and Donna Littlepage as Joanna were two of my favorites. When Littlepage first came on the scene as the transsexual Joanna, she had this regality to her which is rarely seen on a Birmingham stage. I honestly could not take my eyes off of her. What I also like about her character is that I can believe that she is Joe, as Littlepage and Chris Sams (Joe) actually favored a little bit. You could see the development of the character Joe into his female counterpart, Joanna, right before your eyes.

     The best thing about all of these characters, however, was the fact that the way they were written was so complex that I actually felt like I know these women. At the climax of the play when Mona has her huge breakdown I immediately thought of many breakdowns I had witnessed by the women in my own family. My heart just felt for her. All of the characters had their own qualities that make them who they are, but what made them well-rounded characters was the fact that they all had their own stories as well. I saw more than one dimension of all of them, and that really impressed me. I felt empowerment as Edna Louise (Amy Donahoo) told Stella May (Mary Ann Kane-Garrett) that she felt sorry for her. I wanted to stand up and cheer, “Yeah girl, money isn’t everything if you’re not happy!!!” I didn’t of course, but my delight manifested itself in tears of joy.

     If I had to be negative about anything in the production, though, it would have to be the costuming and hair choices. A few of the pieces felt too modern to be considered 1950’s or even 1970’s. I felt like I could go out and buy some of the outfits at the mall. And I think I may have seen a “Rachel” haircut on one of the women, too.

     But you know, if that’s the only thing I could find to really be a critic about, then I’d say you have a good production on your hands. This is honestly the best non-musical I have seen in Birmingham in a LONG time!


Arsenic & Old Lace  at South City Theatre

Reviewed on June 9th, 2006 by Billy Ray Brewton

South City Theatre really has a winner on its hands with "Arsenic & Old Lace", one of the best comedic productions I have seen in the Birmingham area in a long while.  Everything just seemed to click together with this production, from the incredible character performances to the gorgeous and massive Victorian set.  Though it clocks in right at two and a half hours, it flies by so quickly and so effortlessly that it feels like you just sat down in your chairs.

     That is thanks, in large part, to a script that is so intelligent and so engrossing.  The story here is interesting.  The two elderly Brewster Sisters are secretly killing lonely old men as their 'charity'.  When their drama critic nephew discovers this, he is thrown for a loop.  Throw into the mix a brother who thinks he's Teddy Roosevelt and another with homicidal tendencies, and you get one hell of an entertaining ride, complete with corpses, cops, cuckoos, and Elderberry Wine.

     Let's work our way from the top down.  Donna Littlepage and Sally Montgomery are the fabric used to weave this story along, and they are absolutely delightful.  Littlepage is in top form, as always, and Sally Montgomery adds all the right ingredients to their duo to make them the audience favorites from their first scene together through the curtain call.  Two better actresses could not have been found for these roles.  As Jonathan, the homicidal son, Todd Ponder seems like he stepped right off the last Broadway production of "Arsenic & Old Lace" – he was obviously born for this particular role.  His intensity level was through the roof and you could tell he loved what he was doing.  As Teddy, Richard Scott has probably the most fun role in the show and he delivers in a big way, never dropping his charming accent and always on his A-game.  In two bit parts, Chris Nelson demonstrated a nice acting range that really had many audience members unable to tell he was actually two separate characters – I hate that I just spoiled the surprise.  Dan Strickland's Dr. Einstein was wonderfully aloof, Kenny Morris' Mortimer had a nice Jimmy Stewart swagger to his performance, and Jay Smith and Jim Ruth were affective in smaller, yet crucial roles.  But, the entire cast was on task for the show, including Nicole Berry as the very 30's era girlfriend and Anthony Pohl as the Irish cop who wants to be a playwright – his accent was sometimes hard to understand, but not for long.

     Now, on to the set.  This is, without a doubt, South City Theatre's most massive undertaking in terms of set construction, and boy did it pay off.  The two story set comes complete with a staircase, gorgeous decoration, and the kind of staging that makes performing so much simpler for the actors.  I loved the use of the stage without any lights on and the use of the candles – this was a nice touch that many directors don't take advantage of quite as often as they should.  I loved how the hat rack on the stairwell kept losing hats throughout the show – planned or not, it was very creative.  The director, Dianne Daniels, obviously put great energy and passion into the production, evident from the quality of the performances and the quality of the set on which they performed.

     "Arsenic & Old Lace" was one of the best times I have had at the theatre in a long while and an absolute joy to see unfurl.  It was the first time I had seen the production staged and I can't wait to head back out and see it again.  This is a fine close to South City Theatre's 2005-2006 season, and if this is any indication of what the theatre has in store for next season, go ahead and mark me down for season tickets.  I am sold, and you will be to after seeing one of the best shows of the past season, from any theatre in town.


The Fantasticks , South City Theatre

Reviewed on April 23, 2006 by Billy Ray Brewton


"The Fantasticks" is my second favorite musical of all-time.  I have been involved with the production before, I have studied the show a considerable amount, and I have seen a few productions of it previously -- basically, I love the show.  So, I was quite excited when I saw that South City was staging the production down in Alabaster.  Overall, my positive review is hampered by some serious problems; but, it is positive nevertheless.

The show centers around two young lovers who are tricked by their feuding fathers and the scheming El Gallo, and eventually discover themselves through assorted adventures and happenings in the world.

In a sense, they grow up.  There is not much to say about the production of the show because the production is supposed to be minimal -- there is very little in terms of sets, and the minimalism helps with the message of the show.  It is very much the "Our Town" of stage musicals.  So, the set was wonderful.

In terms of performances, we'll move from the top down.  Jonathan Goldstein does not have the vocal range for El Gallo.  This is not a negative comment so much as something I am just very use to.  El Gallo has to be a baritone, borderline bass -- he doesn't have to be, but he needs to be.  See Jerry Orbach for a perfect example.  However, what Jonathan Goldstein lacks in vocal range, he makes up for in energy and panache and a real flair on stage -- you never get bored while watching him work.  The two lovers, Amanda Davis and Brandon Triola, blend so nicely together and seem to have great chemistry -- however, the character of Matt was played a bit too arrogant and a bit too comical.  Matt is a very naive character -- a young kid who acts too old.  It was too slapstick, at times, and that took away from the slow progression of the character into adulthood.  Amanda Davis handled this transformation much better.  The two fathers, Tim Calhoun and Paul G. Barnes, were electric by themselves; together, however, there was something missing -- they just didn't find a connection on stage and it was very evident.  Libby Medicus, as the Mute, was really just there, as is required by the character.  For what it's worth, she did a fine job, but she really didn't have as much to do as the Mute does in most other versions I have seen.  Finally, the highlights of the show were David Gregson and Chris Burch as Henry and Mortimer, the two bumbling actors who help stage the abduction.  David Gregson was born to play Henry, and he hits all the right notes.  Chris Burch is big and bumbling and perfectly cast and the Indian turned Pirate with the thick Cockney accent.

The biggest problem I had with the show was the choreography.  Wow. This was most noticeable with the fathers.  Most of the choreography between the two was something you would expect to see in an elementary school production of "Charlotte's Web".  It seemed more like sign language than anything else.  This lack of choreography is what led to the two songs between the fathers looking and feeling so awkward.

Most of the others songs also lacked any flair whatsoever in the dance department.  I am just use to seeing the song "Plant A Radish" performed with much more movement and show.  It was very disappointing to see it staged so sheepishly.  Another problem with the show was comedy.  "The Fantasticks" has some very humorous moments, but I noticed that some of them were woefully misplaced.  The biggest example was during "Round and Round".  This is supposed to be a dark song, an almost creepy song.  You didn't get any of that here -- El Gallo was played as almost whimsical.  More attention should have been paid to the mood of the production -- that would have been quite beneficial.

Now for the positive.  Some of the sequences really dazzled.  "The Rape Ballet" was the highlight of the show, well staged, and unbelievably enjoyable.  "It Depends On What You Pay" was a very well done, with Jonathan Goldstein delivering his very best vocal, and all three actors sparkling with energy that was lacking in some of the other numbers.  And, once again, Henry and Mortimer stole the show with their few scenes scattered throughout.  I guess I just wanted to see more of the show that I love -- the show I have seen before.  I was disappointed that some classic bits from the show -- bits that were started in the original Off Broadway production -- did not show up when I expected them to.  For a show that looked as if it was trying to hard to be authentic, it really did leave out some stuff that should not have been discarded.  Alas, I enjoyed the show.  I enjoyed it quite a bit.  This is a musical that every theatre lover should so, and you will likely not be disappointed when you see it at South City.  I am probably a little more scrutinizing because I have such high regard for the show.  In fact, I am willing to bet that you will definitely enjoy the show.  But, you won't know until you give it a try.


Inherit the Wind , South City Theatre

Reviewed on March 12, 2006 by Richard Metzer

This show marked my second South City Theatre experience and my expectations were high.  The original film version of  Inherit the Wind is one of my all-time favorite films and this was the first time I ever had the chance to see the stage version.  Overall, I guess I would have to say my experience with this production was a mixed bag.

There was just something missing the entire night and I never could put my finger on it.  It felt like half of the ensemble was really giving it their all and the other half was just there to be there.

Here were the problems I had with the show:  (a) highs and lows.  Some of the performers were completely over-the-top, while others were more understated than they needed to be.  There was no balance with the performance; (b) the courtroom scenes.  They were just inconsistent.

One minute they would be high speed and relentless, and the next they would be lethargic and yawn inducing; and, (c) some of the performances.  Maybe I am being too harsh, considering this is a community theatre, but some of these actors were just not up to the level the material requires.  Examples:  the young guy who played Cates - -the individual the entire play is about -- looked uncomfortable in his own shoes.  He and the girl who played Rachel had no chemistry at all, and some of his gestures were so rigid and unpolished.  It looked like a ventriloquist's dummy was playing the role.  I also had a problem with the Judge.  I swear I caught him looking down at something during the second act, and I hope it was not the text.  I am just going to assume he was trying to think of his lines or something, because that would take me to a totally new level.

But it was not all bad.  There were some aspects of the show I admired.  I very much enjoyed the staging of the production -- very small, yet very grand in scale.  I loved the crowd reactions in the courtroom scenes -- very disruptive and very nice...they added some nuances that really gave so much to the production.  As for the performances, the three leads made the show -- everyone else was either mediocre, or had such a tiny role, I could not tell.  The three leads played Drummond, Brady, and Hornbeck, and they were exceptional.

Drummond and Brady were equally impressive with powerful and meaningful performances -- their courtroom scenes sparkled with impeccable dramatic timing.  Hornbeck was played in a way I had never imagined and stole the show for most of the audience -- the swagger and the lecherous motions and gestures.  The final scene between Drummond and Hornbeck was the best of the entire show.

Overall, "Inherit the Wind" is a decent enough theatre experience.  I wanted more, but I guess I was expecting too much.  I would certainly recommend to theatre lovers and to those of you interested in history that is coming back on us today.


The Odd Couple (Female Version)  at South City Theatre

Reviewed on January 14, 2006 by Richard Metzer

This was my first trip to South City Theatre since moving to the Birmingham area last June, and I must say I was quite surprised with my experience.  The show was Neil Simon's "The Odd Couple", with a female cast.  The show is pretty faithful to the plot of the male version, though the names and some of the circumstances have changed.  Act One basically deals with introducing the characters and setting up the differences between Olive and Florence.  Act Two picks up steam by showcasing the ups and downs of both Olive and Florence and their attempts at a relationship.  We are also introduced to the Costazuela Brothers, who take the place of the Pigeon Sisters from the male version.  The entire show depends on the comedy timing and on the performances of the actors, though I guess that is true with most comedies.  This is especially true with Neil Simon productions.

     Though the show gets off to a somewhat slow start, things start picking up pretty quick, and once they do, they do not let up for a moment.  Tammy Salazar White is strong as Olive, playing her as both sarcastic and cynical, though someone you could easily imagine having for a best friend.  Cynthia deSa brings the energy on stage to a whole new level and left the audience rolling in the floor for most of the night -- he facial expressions are absolutely flawless and hr comedic timing is unmatched in the show.  When the two Spanish brothers enter, the show steps it up another notch.  Brad Riegel and Lee Green deliver two of the funniest supporting performances I have ever seen in a theatrical production, especially in Birmingham.  Riegel, especially, takes control of his character and is firing on all cylinders.  As for the rest of the cast, Amy Donahoo as the dimwitted Vera and Dianne Daniels as the 'buddy/buddy' Renee provide plenty of laughs in their roles, and Shanda Bizzle as the cop is strong as well.

     I loved how the show tried to stay true to an 80's theme.  The music and the clothing and the hairstyles made me very nostalgic.  The set was fantastic, with a big kudos to whoever inserted the Nagel painting into the first act.  I came to South City expecting mediocre theatre, but ended up having more fun than I have at any other show I have seen in the Birmingham area.  "The Odd Couple" is a wonderful show with amazing performances, especially from the two leads, and I thoroughly recommend it to any one and every one.  I can't wait to see what this director and this theatre has in store next.


The Complete Works of William Shakespeare at South City Theatre by The Park Players

Reviewed on August 1st,, 2005 by Ryan Story

Now it might shock a few people for me to be so open about this but I really don’t usually like Shakespeare.  Sure the plots are complex and the characters are multi-layered, but I just don’t go in for period pieces.  I also find the early Modern English distracting because I spend too much time thinking about what is being said instead of enjoying the show.  So you can see why I was less then thrilled to be going to The Complete Works of William Shakespeare, Abridged! However, once I got into my seat and the show started up I found myself enjoying the show.

A lot of the reason I was having fun right off the bat was because of Grey Tilden.  Tilden is one of only 3 actors in the show so you can imagine how crazy it gets when you have 3 people playing all of Shakespeare.  Tilden came out at the top of show with so much energy it put the audience right on track for what was to come.  He also decided to make his character gay without being stereotypical about it.  His timing was on the mark and he never missed a punch line.  Norman Ferguson, Jr. was also effective.  I have seen him in a few things about town and have been pleasantly surprised each time.  A. Clay Boyce rounded out the cast and gave the best performance I have seen from him.  Boyce’s best moment was playing Titus Andronicus as a cooking show host.  For audience members unfamiliar with Titus, it is perhaps Shakespeare’s bloodiest play.  Watching Tilden come in as Titus’ daughter with a lisp (her tongue was cut out) made me laugh out loud.

Shakespeare, Abridged! starts out with Romeo and Juliet; that piece took so long I began to wonder how we were going to get through the other 36 plays in less then 4 hours.  However, they put all of the comedies together since they felt it was basically the same plot.  The Histories all got tossed in together, too.  Actually, they covered everything except Hamlet in the first act.  With all the other plays covered so quickly I wondered how they would make a whole act out of a single play (and a tragedy at that) funny.  They did it, though.  Then, when it was all said and done, they did Hamlet in 60 seconds.  Then they did it in 10 seconds. Then backwards.  Before running it backwards we were warned to listen for the satanic messages.  There was one alright, and it got the biggest laugh in the show.

The only major disappointment was Othello.  I know another responder to the show stated he liked it.  I found it offensive.  Trying to figure out who would play Othello out of the 3 actors they had, the troupe went though a few PC jokes.  I never thought being PC was very funny.  Then, since Othello is a Moor they decided to rap the play since all of the actors on stage were Caucasian.  Of course Othello is usually played by an African American so I guess they thought rap would be funny.  It wasn’t.  Are we, as an audience, supposed to automatically connect rap with African Americans?  Can only African Americans appreciate rap music?  Can only African Americans actually perform rap?  What about the Beastie Boys? Where do they fall?  Now it may actually be in script that Othello is supposed to be rapped.  If it is then I find it rather short sighted to think that the playwrights didn’t think that at some point someone besides a Caucasian would actually perform their material.  Even if it was in the script then it is still as offensive.

Now that I am off my soapbox I would like to say it didn’t ruin the moment for me.  I still enjoyed the rest of the show and would actually recommend it if it were still running.  This was, by far, the best show Park Players has done and I am looking forward to seeing their next production, Twelfth Night.


The Complete Works of William Shakespeare at South City Theatre by The Park Players

Reviewed on July 30th, 2005 by Billy Ray Brewton

After seeing "The Shape of Things" the night before, I needed something lighthearted and whimsical to replace the cynicism and good natured badness of a Neil LaBute piece.  "The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)" provided just the relief my senses needed -- a mindless, madcap romp through some of the most beloved pieces of English literature the world has ever known.  This was one of the better staged shows I have ever seen by Park Players, though minimal to no direction is required, as the actors are given most of their instruction by the playwrights.  Credit the actors then for turning such a hodgepodge of material into something moderately cohesive and highly entertaining.

"The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)" is a two-act piece.  The first act covers every single Shakespeare piece, minus one.  Act Two covers "Hamlet", arguably the Bard's most accomplished piece of literature.  Most of the dramas are handled with one of the actors portraying the female lead, while "Titus Andronicus" is presented as a cooking show.  "Hamlet" becomes interactive as audience members are asked to portray various levels of Ophelia's mind, including the id and superego.  While the first act covers most of Shakespeare's work, Act Two is, by far, the more humorous of the two.

My personal favorite was a cockeyed attempt at a rap song to sum up "Othello" for the masses -- watching three overly white Caucasians attempt rap beats and rhyming slang was quite enjoyable.

The cast couldn't have been any better.  Norman Ferguson, Jr. stole the show, especially when he broke out his banjo and warded off a verbal assault from a menacing group of three year olds.  Grey Tilden was highly effective as the gentleman usually responsible for the cross-dressing.  It was quite obvious that he was, by far, the youngest of the three actors, but he certainly kept up, and outperformed, at times.  And, as usual, A. Clay Boyce was as off-the-wall and engaging as you could imagine -- especially during the "Titus Andronicus" cooking show, and whilst performing with hand puppets.  These three actors really elevated this piece above its typical level, threw in some local humor, and delivered in a big way.

Adding to my enjoyment was the fact that this was not shown outside in the 100 degree temperature, as with most Park Players show.  This was the extended third weekend at the newly renovated and more than spacious South City Theatre in Alabaster, AL.  This was the perfect setting for the show, and the three actors catered to a nearly packed house.  "The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)" is not going to change the world, and it probably won't even change your perception of the Bard, as a whole.  What it will do, however, is make you laugh; and, sometimes, that's all we really need.


The Coarse Acting Show at South City Theatre

Reviewed on June 11th, 2005 by Scott Sims


There is a lot of truth in the old saying “Dying is easy, Comedy is hard.”  That truth comes forward with any comical theatrical production, but is especially apparent with South City Theatre’s latest offering.

        The premise of this hilarious comedy was inspired by Michael Green’s book, “The Art of Coarse Acting”.  This very funny book teaches actors how to act by telling them what not to do.  If you want to be coarse, or “rough”, just follow the guidelines, which were founded on amateur acting mistakes.  The book proved so popular with theatrical types that scripts began to be written to illustrate these acting mistakes and production problems.  Thus, “The Coarse Acting Show” was born.  The best of these scripts take on some seriously dramatic classic works and show how unintentionally funny they can become when in the hands of amateur actors and crew members. 

        And that’s where the hard part comes in.  The key to the comedy is being a good enough actor to play the part as a serious amateur actor who is soon over his depth while swimming in a production full of mistakes and mishaps.  If you play the part as if you are doing a comedy, you lessen the humor.  Quite a minefield to maneuver.  And South City Theatre does an excellent job of handling this difficult job by making it look easy and fun. 

        With a cast and crew of over thirty people, South City presents seven mini-plays, each skewering a different theatrical genre with wonderfully clueless and egotistical abandon.  These mini-plays are: “Streuth” – a murder mystery, “Il Fornicazione”(The Adulterer) – an opera, “Sweet Tea” - working class melodrama ‘A Colliers Tuesday Tea’ redone in Southern style, “Last Call for Breakfast” – from the theatre of the absurd, “All’s Well That Ends As You Like It” – Shakespeare, “The Cherry Sisters” – Russian tragedy, and “Moby Dick” – an American literary epic.

        With such a large cast and so many comic moments, I hesitate to single out any for mention.  But hesitation has never stopped me before.  George Scott’s Inspector in “Streuth” is delightfully  Clouseau like.  Cindy deSa is a hoot as the Cook in “Streuth”, the Conductor of the orchestra in “Il Fornicazione”, and Ida Hepplethwaite in “Sweet Tea”.  Donald Cano shows strong force as the Leader of the Hunt in “Il Fornicazione”, the God Pan in the Shakespeare parody, and Queequeg the cannibal in “Moby Dick”.   B.J. Underwood showed great physical comedy and focus as Alfonso, the lover, in the opera and the Stationmaster in “The Cherry Sisters”.  David Gregson’s delivery of all his lines were pitch perfect as James the butler, Grandpa Hepplethwaite, and Grot, the Elizabethan loon.  Billy Ray Brewton’s Ishmael has a great accent and comic timing that anchors the swirl of activity found in “Moby Dick”.  A comic highlight to me was the spoof of the avant-garde “Last Call for Breakfast”.  I have seen a performance of some of Samuel Beckett’s theatre of the absurd and it cries out for parody.  The dancers who begin this segment were very funny in their serious choreography.  They were followed by the performances of She and He, played by A.J. Hancock and Pete Moffatt.  This pair of young actors received some of the loudest laughs of the night with their inspired dance moves, dramatic line delivery, and “important” gestures.  Then we have the appearance of Sugar Cube, played by Carly Strickland, who clearly is embarrassed to be in such a show and says her lines as if she were forced to be in the part.

        There are so many different comic moments that the night is really like a comedy buffet; everyone will find something that tickles their funny bone.  It makes for a really fun evening of entertainment, with the emphasis on the word fun.  This many-layered production also reminds us all, in its deliberately clumsy way, of the immediacy and unpredictability that makes live theater so engaging.


The Crucible at South City Theatre

Reviewed October 8th, 2004 by Scott Sims


     Under the direction of Alan Gardner, South City Theatre has again produced a quality production.  Much has been said about Arthur Miller’s classic play, The Crucible.  There is the social commentary reflected in the comparisons to the 1950’s McCarthyism.  And there is the fact that this play is often required reading in our education system, for obvious reasons.  But setting all that aside there still remains an excellent theatrical experience, and that is what South City provides.

     The key here is strong direction and accomplished acting.  Alan Gardner, with assistant director Diane Daniels, displays a sure hand in the directing category.  Alan also did the stage design which is simple, functional, and invokes the dark mood of the piece.  In regard to performances, the main triangle presented by Jonathan Goldstein, Amanda Medlin, and Flannery Miles were quite substantial.  Jonathan Goldstein inhabited John Proctor with all the robust emotions you would expect from an Arthur Miller protagonist. Amanda Medlin exhibited just the right amount of long suffering strength as Elizabeth Proctor.  Flannery Miles breathed life into the character of Abigail, making her at times the sweet confused young woman and the next the chilling, evil manipulator.  That being said, The Crucible is an ensemble piece and the triangle would soon crumble without strong support from the other cast members.  Not to fear here, each member of the ensemble provides a first-rate performance.  While space does not allow me to write about each portrayal I would like to highlight a few.  Cindy Desa’s presentation of old Rebecca Nurse had the required age and moral strength.  David Gregson’s Giles Corey supplied the needed humor.  Michael Wilson’s Reverend Hale displayed the confusion and the internal wrestling produced by the swirling events.  Jackie Cohill’s Tituba brought to life a difficult historical character.  The four young women played by Kelsey Sherrer, Patti Jones, Shannon Brunner, and Carly Strickland all exhibited youth gone awry to unnerving effect.  All the actors deserve mentioning: Scott Nesmith, Raymond Quintero, Jim Ruth, Christie Kosatka, Lee Lowery, Christopher Hancock, Pete Moffatt, Terry James, and A.J. Hancock.

     Don’t see this play because it is historical or because your English teacher would be proud of you.  See this play because it is Fall and nothing celebrates the season more than enjoying well done theatre.  Theatre that will entertain you while at the same time exploring the darker aspects of human nature.


The Night of January 16th at South City Theatre
Reviewed October 9, 2003 by John Medlin

     In 1933, the year The Night of January 16th was penned by Ayn Rand, unabashed sexual liberty and a soulless devotion to the more base practices of industrialism were enough to convict any young woman of murder.  Such is the dilemma of Karen Andre, the defendant in this courtroom drama.  Ayn Rand, often called the greatest American thinker of the 20th century, deftly creates Miss Andre as the challenge to the moral absolutes that would convict her.  The Night of January 16th presents a compelling story that causes the audience to decide if Miss Andre is being prosecuted for her actions or her motives.  The first production of South City Theatre’s second season, The Night of January 16th is both entertaining and thought-provoking.  As expected, Francie Gardner’s (Steel Magnolias) direction is dead on; somehow holding nothing back without going over the top.  Comic performances from Cindy DeSa and Scott Nesmith balance the intensity of those of the attorneys portrayed by local favorites Michael Leslie and Tom Geislinger.   Mindy Wester’s Karen Andre is alternately icy and passionate, inciting a distrust in her every word that is rivaled only by the fear that the distrust is founded.  Her guilt or innocence is literally left up to you to decide, as the final verdict is handed down by a jury selected from the audience.  A preponderance of conflicting evidence and explosive testimony makes jury duty anything but tedious. 

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