Stark Naked Theater
Stark Naked Theater NEXT OPENING DECEMBER 4TH
The God Game
by Chan Stewart
September 18, 2014
Stark Naked Theatre attacks its most recent production of The God Game with an intensity that is something to be esteemed. The main characters do an impeccable job of calling into question where the line is drawn between politics and beliefs and how both professional and personal lives are affected in the distinction.
Justin Doran captivates as Senator Tom Trevor, a man who is battling between advancing his professional career, and standing true to his beliefs. He plays a straight to the point republican who is celebrating his anniversary with wife Lisa (Kim Tobin- Lehl) when an unexpected visitor from their past shows up and completely rocks the foundation of their opposing belief systems. The visitor, Philip Lehl’s Matthew, has been tasked with convincing an atheist Tom to align himself with his party’s more religious viewpoints to receive the Republican nomination for Vice President. Lisa, while accepting of her husband’s choice to abandon faith, feels there is a moral conflict in perpetrating a theism simply for the sake of votes. This conflict sets the stage for a 2 hour drama that has even the audience questioning where they stand on the matter, as evidenced by audible sighs, gasps, and pensive “hmphs” at all of the right places. The only complaint may be that the show’s ending felt abrupt and left us wanting more. The God Game is definitely a show worth seeing especially if you think you already know what side of the debate you sit on. The show ends it’s run September 20th at 8pm. If this is an indication of the edgy subject matter Stark Naked Theatre is willing to fearlessly tackle, it leads us to believe that the remainder of the season will definitely be worth your patronage!
The Winter’s Tale
May 14, 2014 — I’m trying to remember why I was so puffed up at the beginning of The Winter’s Tale put on tonight by Stark Naked Theater. The company had paid attention to the understandability of the language and for most of the show Jeff McMorough handled well the speech of Shakespeare. I was watching him. The king, Philip Lehl carried me along. Luis Galino, in the beginning, was a bit stodgy as the brother king. I wasn’t sure why Shunte Lofton was playing such a young spoiled child, but I was being carried along by the story. The words were not foreign ‘Middle English Literary Style’ but alive enough. The sparseness of everything, costuming, stage set, props, was enticing. I started to forget how annoyed I was at the repetitive prelude music. It just wasn’t working, somehow, like a cold engine in Winter, running but not quite running right. Then the moments began. Here and there, now by Lehl as king, now by Mike Sims, there began to be these flashes of brilliance, good acting, playing of the play. What I remember next is Tawny Stephens as Hermione’s plea of innocence. The actress starts to cry. I’m not sure I’m with her. I’m watching her like a director watching an actress begging her to pull me in, to make me believe. The tears stop falling and the speech continues and Tawny doesn’t let up. She keeps digging for it, for the truth of it and now more tears come and I’m watching Hermione protesting her innocence and I’m feeling a tear in my own eyes and another and Hermione keeps pushing and the speech is so beautiful and powerful and she’s found some of the truth in it. Her cheeks are wet. The light makes her tears glisten and I’m no longer grumpy. I’m there.
I thought Luis Galino as his second character was better prepared than his king in the first scenes, and acted well. Lehl as King really had some strong poignant moments. Discovering that he was also the director made me think I had seen him fluctuate between watching the play being played as director and watching as King. He had made some very fine decisions as director. In the body of Act One, all the actors showed the reasons why they were cast. There were flashes of accomplished acting from all of them. Act Two flowed along almost too easily. I’m not sure about all of the decisions to change the language of the play for the sake of modern gags. I’m not sure about the use of the multi-colored cd’s or the quick turning on of sexuality with the maid but thought Mike Sims was a good evil-doer and his songs were fun. King had many of the big acting moments. Brother King Luis found his stride in Act Two. The transformation of Matt Lents from one character, pretty blond prince to churlish, simple, dark bearded shepherd’s son was truly amazing. His Howie Mandel stylings were a treat for any Howie fan. Long Island lady was fun.
Stark Naked Theater did Shakespeare no great disservice. They found a way to bring this play back to life once again. I’m soooooo glad I went to see it. My one picky notice is that I did catch a few glimpses of flashes of disattachment, distracted commitment and I constantly was taken toward disbelief by ‘movement’. A bit of disclosure here. During the first decade or so of my acting training I was told I needed to work on ‘movement’. Taking classes in Tai Chi, dance of all types, tumbling, fencing, Alexander, I found stage movement becoming a more elusive and mystical achievement. Then I found an all too murderous Frenchman, here in Houston, who had figured it out. World class and unique as he was, especially for the time, I studied movement with him for almost a decade. It’s not a mystery but it is a relatively elusive yet essential ingredient in the mix that is stage portrayal. So many times in this show I found myself thinking that stage movement had not been attended to by the director or the cast. That being said, I left the theater excited and inspired. I would go again to see the same show.