Director, Cast Rise to the Challenge of Resurrection Blues
Paul Brissett, Duluth News Tribune
October 15, 2011
Though it seems preposterously provincial to say so, the College of St. Scholastica’s production of Arthur Miller’s Resurrection Blues is warmer, deeper, funnier and altogether more edifying than was the show’s 2002 premiere at Minneapolis’s Guthrie Theater.
Much of the reason is that the play is better suited to the college’s Little Theater than to the vast thrust auditorium of the Guthrie, in which the evolution of individual characters — the play’s essence — dissipated before they could register.
But credit also must go to director Tony Barrett and an exceptional cast.
Barrett, an economics professor making only his second foray into directing, assembled a cast of three seasoned performers from the community — Dave Orman, Kevin Walsh and Brian Matuszak — and two CSS alumni of proven talent — Gretchen Ringdahl and Luke Moravec — for the principal roles, with students taking the other seven parts.
Resurrection Blues, the second to last of Miller’s plays, is set in a Central American dictatorship where a mysterious man has captivated the citizenry with his sermons on love, his rumored performance of miracles and his sometimes breaking out in a near-blinding aura.
Fearing that “Ralph” is a revolutionary, General Felix Barriaux (Orman), orders him arrested and executed by — as is the local custom — crucifixion. When an American advertising agency offers him millions for the rights to film and broadcast the execution, the general slavers at the thought of the improvements the money could buy for his country.
He sloughs off the arguments of his cousin, Henri Schultz (Walsh), heir to a pharmaceutical fortune who has retired from business to become a nomadic intellectual, that Ralph’s execution would ruin the country through revolution, world approbation or both.
Resurrection Blues is a comedy that poses some serious questions. Its parallels with the story of Jesus aside, its basic premise is absurd and some of its characters are caricatures. There are scenes of darkly comic dialogue, as when Barriaux argues that the country is moving ahead, and Schultz counters that it’s sliding toward disaster. Schultz notes the public water supply is infested with blood flukes. Barriaux points out the British plans to build a gigantic warehouse. He asks whether his cousin had noticed a new store, to which Schultz replies there was a dead baby on the curb out front.
The comic standout, though, is Matuszak’s rendering of advertising account executive Skip L. Cheeseboro, who would make “Mad Men’s” Dan Draper look like an ascetic moralist by comparison. Matuszak, founder of two local comedy theater companies and a scholar of physical humor, imbues Cheeseboro’s ethical vacancy with an intensity that virtually crackles.
As Schultz, Walsh has the most thought-provoking of Miller’s lines, about the relationship of shared history to reality and other abstractions, that Walsh delivers with a conviction that resonates with the audience.
And the ambiguity and confusion about who and what Ralph is or represents is exemplified by Moravec’s Stanley, a fried-brain hippy who has known the man well enough and long enough to know he can never know him, and struggles to explain that to Barriaux and others.
The suitability of the small performance space is enhanced by Kevin Seime’s spare, abstract set and effective lighting, and Tammy Ostrander’s musical design.
“Better” than the big city’s? Didn’t claim that. But more likeable.
Ressurrection Blues was an exceptionally strange but very interesting play. Tony Barrett attempted to change this play into something deeper, more meaningful, and definately more hilarious then when it had been performed before. He had the audience laughing constantly, and in the serious moments Barrett had everybody on the edge of their seat. He really made this play come alive and had the audience begging for more.
The actors were substantially incredible. The seriousness and crude humor made this performance. They drew in the entire audience and were more believeable then the director could've asked for. For example when they are all talking to "charlie" in the final scene, you can see all the actors focused so hard on that light as if they were actually talking to god himself, it was astonishing.
The director and these actors/actresses used such a small stage and turned it into some extraordinary. The lighting was gorgeous and highlighted everything that was important, it also was on cue everytime. Using so little for props also added a lot to this performance. They didn't need a million different costumes or scenes, it was simple. Tony Barrett directed an amazing performance.
Resurrection blues was nothing less than disappointing. The play was set in a South American country but the set offered nothing to show or convince anyone of that setting. Instead what was there was a wall of sorts and “neon” light designs shining upon it.
Scenes that show the glow of the unseen character had a long delay in the stage lights going down in an effort to exaggerate said glow. The result left the scenes feeling incredibly tacky.
The acting was exceptional from the character Stanley played by Luke Moravec and several other cast members. Still the acting done by Kealey Baron playing Jeanine was weak to say the least. It was very hard to tell if she was crying or laughing and the way she delivered dialog was like hearing someone read from a book with very little passion.
Personally this play was not worth seeing and honestly I felt like asking for my money back. Most of the time I was leaning back with my arms crossed asking “why should I care?” in truth I felt very little empathy for any of the characters on stage. If anything what I felt
Dark, honest, and humorous were the themes of the play, Resurrection Blues, which was performed at the College of St. Scholastica on October, 22th. The play was about the characters that talked about and dealt with a mysterious man who was considered the second resurrection of God. The story proceeded with the discussion whether to kill him or not. The matter of crucifying a mysterious man revealed not only religious issues but also uncovered various conflicts regarding money, hope, and politics, which were portrayed as dark comedy.
Although Jesus’ second resurrection was a heavy subject, Arthur Miller, the playwright, told the story in a sarcastic voice. Each character was drastic in their own way, which made the characters appear to be irrational and satirical. In the first scene, General Felix Barriaux and Henri Schultz argued the matter of crucifixion. This scene addressed Miller’s intention concealed under the play. Miller probably wanted to address diverse people’s point of views and reactions on the issue of the mysterious man and his crucifixion.
Tony Barrett, the director of the play, cannot be overlooked when evaluating the play. Barrett deserves a compliment for having created the realistic atmosphere of Latin America. Since there was no special stage settings, Barrett seemed to have succeeded making the audiences have deep feelings of being in an exotic and politically monarchical place by directing actors. Fine acting, which must have accorded with a delicate directing, showed each character’s notions and personality in great details. Dave Orman, who played General Felix Barriaux, strongly appealed the powerful characteristic of the General and Luke Moravec, who played Stanley, a disciple of the mysterious man, showed very sophisticated acting of a feared man.
Overall, Resurrection Blues was a price worthy play that was very entertaining and had profound meaning that one could think of.
Tony Barrett's production of Arther Miller's Resurrection Blues was a full bodied experience. Though shaky at times, the all around experience of the play was powerful and left you thinking. This is a well produced play by the St. Scholastica Theater, and with strong characters played by Dave Orman (General Felix), Kevin Walsh (Henri), Brian Matuszak (Skip Cheeseboro) and Luke Moravec (Stanley) really brought the experience together through their passionate acting.
Though the beginning was hard to follow, after the first two scenes the play seemed to come together more and make sense. Some of the acting felt week with emotional display, mostly from Kealey Baron (Jeanine) and Jessica Korynta (Sarah), just didn't give their characters a strong passion. Some of the scenes it was hard to tell if she was smiling or crying.
Other than that, the play was excellent, the scenes were done well with little on stage, and the lighting was excellent to portray the different scenes and areas where the events took place. The short comings of this play are heavily outweighed by everything that was done right.
Resurrection Blues by Arthur Miller should have just been a newspaper article in the Duluth New Tribune. The level of emotion was not equal to how powerful this play should have been performed. Resurrection Blues was really difficult to get into. At the beginning of a performance, individuals expect to be shocked, stunned or taken to a new level of curiosity. Many people were lacking these reactions in the SpotLight at the college of St. Scholastica. Although this was not the best performance there were some very essential elements that made this production appealing to the eye.
As people entered the theatre the music had put a smile on their faces. It was not overbearing or un-tasteful; a lot of people really enjoyed it. Another really nice factor was the lighting. The use of color was really attractive to the human eye. At the end of the production when the cast was looking up at Charlie the lighting created the perfect mood; the atmosphere was cold and silent. There was not a lot of prop use during the play, but the play was not lacking anything due to this. The actors also used the stage space well and it was easy to see everything. The way they set up different scenes on different sides of the stage was very appropriate for the story line, it was a good set up.
Even though Resurrection Blues was rather well set up, there are some things that were hard to ignore. One such instance would be the acting. Some of the actors held up the name of their character with an outstanding persona, others did not. At two pm on a Sunday afternoon it seemed like the theatre was the second place some of the actors wanted to be. It is hard to get into a play and be fully interested when the actors and actresses seem uncomfortable on stage and with the character they are trying to portray.
It was made clear that there was an individual who thought he was quite divine. He was a man who claimed to be in tune with others emotions to a great extent, and he had a message that he wanted to share. Throughout the production he was at war with himself on whether he wanted to go through with the resurrection or not. That being said he was meant to be a very important character. One could tell that the cast was trying to make this man appear very important. Some actors and actresses achieved that goal but the rest brought the intensity down a few notches. This set an unequal balance between the actors and their purpose and the audience could tell.
Resurrection Blues was a very well, technically put together performance. The lighting was great and use of props and colors were exceptionally represented in the most appropriate way. Yet, this was a difficult play to become excited about. Most of the audience was at a loss for emotion and they did not walk out of the theatre feeling elevated.
Resurrection Blues, performed on October 20th, was a performance that included both extraordinary performances from some actors and some quite frustrating and disappointing performances from other actors.
Upon the beginning of the play it was interesting to see that even though this production of Resurrection Blues was a college production, many of the main actors did not appear to be college students. Either many of the actors were not college age or the makeup people are to be greatly applauded in this production. As the play progressed though, it was clear why not many of the main actors were college students. Indeed, there was only one notable performance by a college aged looking actor, and this was the actor who played Stanley. Not only was there a great deal of emotional depth exhibited through Stanley’s character, but apart from perhaps Shultz, Stanley was the only character who had developed throughout the play. A scene with Stanley early in the play showed him being interrogated by the General of a dictatorship. In this scene, Stanley showed a great amount of fear and scared passivity that was effective for capturing the audience’s attention. Later at the end of the play though, Stanley still giving an excellent performance the whole time, was challenging the General in his advice to Charlie, the potential messiah, and even instructing Charlie, whom Stanley believed to be God or at least a holy figure, in the best course of action. This shows a great deal of character development, Stanley going from a scared captive not knowing what the hell he was in for to a rebellious leader in his defiance of the general and instruction to Charlie.
Stanley’s performance was not the only notable one. Other exceptional performances include the General who displayed an effective role as the scary bad guy and Shultz, who did an excellent job of playing the voice of reason and exhibiting a sense of poetic objectivity amidst a time of chaos. Shultz’s quintessential, and most notable performance was his monologue after his conversation over drinks with the network producer. Both of these performers though had great chemistry together and while they were together, both the actor that played the General and the actor that played Shultz put on spectacular performances.
While there were a few fantastic performers, Stanley, Shultz, and the General; there were also a few poor performances as well. The word poor is putting it nicely too. From not good to dreadful, the worst performances were Shultz’s daughter, the camera man’s wife, and the camera man himself. Shultz’s daughter’s main scene was her monologue at the beginning. This was basically her one chance to woo the audience with her acting ability, and there was nothing significant at all about the performance. While this wasn’t nearly as bad as a performance as the camera man and his wife, it was very lacking compared to the exceptional performance of other actors. This actress’s performance seemed more like one from a high school sophomore acting among other amateurs than a college student acting among great actors such as the ones listed above. The second worst performance of the night was the wife of the camera man. There was nothing notably bad about this performance, it just wasn’t as good as Shultz’s daughter’s performance and wasn’t as bad as the camera man’s performance.
The camera man’s performance was without a doubt the worst performance of the production, and for very concrete reasons. It seemed more like watching a seventh grader who decided to give acting a try for the first time and received a role in a play where everyone who tries out is given a part. Everything about his performance seemed contrived and forceful. It was like this performer was trying to be an actor, and not trying to be the actual character. When this happens, an acting performance seems less believable to the audience because the actor has not fully convinced himself to believe that he himself is the actual character. If this actor wishes to be more believable and more appealing to the audience like the actors that portrayed Stanley, the General, and Shultz, then he must while performing identify himself as the character he is portraying and then act more on instinct, or at least be able to fake as though he is doing this. This is in contrast to identifying himself as an actor playing a character and deciding what to do on the basis of what his character, or another actor playing his character would do in a given situation.
Overall, the play was quite enjoyable and it was interesting to see some exceptional actors and actresses as well as up and comers.
Thursday night’s performance of Arthur Miller’s Resurrection Blues wasn’t your typical show. With an audience of roughly 100 people, the audience packed the small theatre in anticipation of a great show, and they were given just that; plus more. Being one of Miller’s final plays, Resurrection Blues touches on many different social issues from faith to human nature. This show is a comedic and satirical reflection of the human condition and anyone who saw St. Scholastica’s performance of this show Thursday night left questioning not only themselves, but humanity as a whole thanks to a brilliant performance by a diverse cast.
A show that has such great depth as Resurrection Blues does isn’t easy to tell. However, director Tony Barrett rose to the occasion and was a vital piece to this tremendous show on many levels. First, he chose an exceptional cast that was as diverse as the story called for and that had true chemistry on stage. Dave Orman, who portrayed General Felix Barriaux, was as convincing as they come. Although frustrating at times, the audience comes to love Felix as the show progress and Orman did a simply extraordinary job of taking us on the journey of transition from stubborn general and hapless romantic to amicable womanizer. Without a sincere Felix, the show would have stalled, and thanks to Orman it flowed with impeccable realism.
Each character in Resurrection Blues had to be as every bit as real as Felix, and for the most part, they were. In addition to Orman’s portrayal of Felix, Kevin Walsh played Felix’s cousin, Henri Schultz. Throughout the show Schultz’s pleads Felix to release a prisoner that his people have claimed to be the son of God. He is not a desperate character, but rather an intelligent aging man with a sense of desperation. Walsh needed to convey this to the audience and also have effective chemistry with Orman. This is where Barrett deserves great praise. Choosing these two actors to play those two characters drove the play and it wouldn’t have been the same play if either was replaced with a different actor. Their engaging and symbiotic performances made the audience believe as if Orman and Walsh and their respective characters were actually cousins and grew up together.
Although this show had superb acting on most levels, there were a few minor details that if cleaned up would have enhanced the play to another level. The opening of the play featured a monologue by Kealey Baron that lacked passion. Baron played Jeanie, Daughter of Henri who just tried to commit suicide. Her performance felt robotic rather than emotional or disconnected. It also dragged on instead of set the tone for the rest of the show.
With the exception of the last scene, Resurrection Blues lacked lighting design altogether. The final scene where all the characters speak to Charlie made great use of light and space. Also a scene where the characters were in a garden and scattered shapes of green light made the audience feel as if they were walking along in the garden. However beyond those two scenes, the lighting did absolutely nothing to enhance the play set wise or invoke mood. It felt as if the audience was watching a play that took place in one room despite the play calling for several diverse locations. Overall simple lighting additions could have given this show that extra push to make it seamlessly flawless.
The Cast of Resurrection Blues is what ultimately made this show what it was; a funny, satirical, and thought provoking projection of human nature and religion. The chemistry between actors drove the audience to be compelled by their relationships and character decisions. If Miller could have seen his play put on by St. Scholastica, I’m convinced he would have been pleased by the performance, as was the audience on Thursday night.
This page contains a single entry by Mark Harvey published on October 13, 2011 11:21 AM.
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