Patrick B. McGuigan
From the Arts Notebook, the final weekend of Every Brilliant Thing (reviewed here, the opening of Oklahoma City Repertory Theatre’s new season), and the start of a limited run for Painted Sky Opera’s “Barber of Seville.”
* * *
In the opening show of OKC Rep’s 2019-2020 season, actor Jon Haque is in his best form. He draws us to tears of sadness and memory, and into soaring moments of joy and fondness. The story shares the chronicle of one character remembering the course of his own life and that of his mother, beset through all her days with a deep depression pointing to a sad end in suicide.
The lad begins in early years to write down happy thoughts, usually in a full sentence but sometimes in just a few key words.
As reflected in comments earlier this week, Haque is magnificent in the one-man performance. … The story is alternately joyful and heart-breaking, poignant and powerful.” The audience is drawn into the performance in clever and unthreatening ways, giving the drama authenticity and delivering the story of (most of) a life and those touched in the course of that time. This production is the most deft use of unrehearsed (but scripted) audience participation this reviewer has ever experienced.
“Every Brilliant Thing” is great theatre. All credit to Don Jordan, artistic director for OKC Rep (formerly CityRep) for choosing this show for the new cycle.
Haque draws stellar support from all in off-stage posts. Linda K. Leonard’s direction makes full use of the intimate CitySpace venue in the basement of the Civic Center. Haque, always a master in projection and dynamism, literally touched everyone in the audience during a particular moment of enthusiastic interaction during the performance this reviewer attended.
Steve Emerson’s stage direction (with assistant Michael Corolla) and the lighting of Scott Hynes makes it easy to suspend disbelief and let imagination take you through the years of the life of Narrator,
Haque’s life (from age seven through late middle age) as he writes down his “brilliant things” – sometimes in orderly notebooks, often on whatever paper or surface is available in a given moment. The set design is plain and simple, flexible enough to give Haque what he needs. Marcellus Hawkins is credited for the Sound Design – you will be thrilled with the apt selection of songs presented in snippets that fit perfectly with the story line.
The subject matter is grave, yet presented with such gracious energy and wit (sometimes dark, sometimes natural) that it enters the souls of the audience members, there to marinate and rest for a time, to emerge in unbidden moments for days after. Some research would be required to separate Haque’s ad-libs, unfailingly on-point, from the underlying script of Duncan Macmillan (with Johnny Donohoe). Suffice to say that this is performance art that matters.
For the two remaining evening performances, a time for interaction with caring advocates for mental health (from the Green Shoe Foundation, the show sponsor) is built into the evening. ‘Every Brilliant Thing’ continues in the CitySpace Theatre (Civic Center, downtown Oklahoma City) tonight – Friday, September 20 7:30 p.m., – continuing tomorrow – Saturday, September 21 1:30 & 7:30 p.m., – and Sunday, September 22 1:30 p.m. (Closing Matinee). Ticket information: visit cityrep.com or call (405) 848-3761.
In a recent online post from The Painted Sky Opera, the musical genre described as having “has a reputation for being a little dark and tragic. But, there are plenty of operas where you won’t end up crying at the end! In fact, “The Barber of Seville” features a sweet and wonderful love story around which are wrapped some of the vivid and hilarious characters you’ve ever seen on stage.”
The publicity push continued, “Meet Count Almaviva. He’s in love with clever and fiery-hearted Rosina and she definitely returns his affections from afar. The only problem is that they can’t quite seem to get around Rosina’s overprotective and unpleasant guardian to get some alone time. So, Almaviva enlists local barber Figaro to help the two prospective lovers evade any undue attention. Instead, their actions lead to a whole lot of commotion as well as a ton of laughs. Re-imagined with a new setting in midwest America in 1910, Painted Sky Opera’s production of The Barber of Seville is filled with bubbly and exciting music and features a playful irreverence which will delight you and make you burst out laughing.”
The production set to begin Friday (September 20) features the return to the local stage of
Oklahoma City University alum mezzo soprano Mary Beth Nelson. Painted Sky Opera’s production, organizers assert, will highlight “some of the best singers from around the United States along with a stellar orchestra led by Maestro Jan McDaniel and stage direction by Artistic Director Rob Glaubitz.”
The Barber of Seville was scheduled to open Friday, September 20. It will continue on Sunday, September 22 and Friday, September 27, with a total of three performances in the Freede Little Theatre. Discounts are available (seniors, military, students). Ticketing information can be obtained by clicking here.
All of performances of this production include English supertitles. For more information, visit online: www.paintedskyopera.org.
The City Sentinel print edition is available (still just 10 cents) early in every month at Barnes & Noble, 6100 North May Avenue, Oklahoma City, 73112.