Theater notes: Kelly Critics, C.S. Lewis, Tim Hartman and casting

Thursday, 26 April 2012 08:02 AM Written by 
Kelly Critics

Double jeopardy? So might Pittsburgh Central Catholic think, having seen its spring musical (“Bye Bye Birdie”) reviewed by not one but two Kelly Critics – students from other high schools, fanning out to describe, evaluate and sharpen their writing skills.

You could also add Moon (“Guys and Dolls”) and Pine-Richland and Elizabeth Forward (both “Wedding Singer”), each of which got a Kelly Critic review as well as one by Chris Rawson.

That’s me, and I’ve been the one editing the student reviews before posting them on the PG site. I must say some reviews have been very good and some . . . well, at the other extreme. Most, of course, as with most things, fall in the middle.

But that’s up to you: take a look at the dozen Kelly Critic reviews we’ve posted so far and see which you think are the best . . . not the most favorable to your favorite school, of course, but the best written, most insightful, whatever your criteria might be.

“Shadowlands”

Last weekend I caught one of the final performances of “Shadowlands,” William Nicholson’s play about C.S. Lewis. Although I wasn’t there to review, I wanted to see it for several reasons: interest in Saltworks, the Christian arts company which was the subject of my very first PG review, just over 29 years ago; interest in C.S. Lewis, a scholar of literature important in my life (but not as a Christian apologist or chronicler of Narnia); and admiration of Tim Hartman, playing the lead.

Hartman was repeating a role he played for Saltworks in 1996, opposite Karla Rosenthal as Joy; she, now Karla Knudsen, also reprised her role. I reviewed it then, and without checking back on my review, I can’t compare specifics, but I can say that Hartman’s understanding of the role seems richer and deeper. He is a remarkable actor.

As to the play, it dramatizes a remarkable man. Oddly, it’s the second play about C.S. Lewis we’ve had in the past month or so, and this one is by far the better play, with a richer dramatization of character. The lesser play was at the Public Theater, and you might wonder why they staged it, until you recall that it has Freud in its title – always good box office. No, maybe I’m joking, but I still don’t understand its popularity.

Speaking of the Public Theater

Tim Hartman is the local actor who comes first to mind as a definite upgrade for one of the actors in the Public’s current “Around the World in 80 Days.” Another possibility is a very different actor, Michael Fuller. And there are doubtless a couple more. This thought is occasioned by wondering why, when the Public has recently been using more local actors, they didn’t use any in this show. Reading the program, it’s clear: director Marcia Milgrom Dodge has worked with all these actors before (except one, who she has wanted to), and it’s reasonable to give a visiting director that leeway. Still, I wonder if she knew of the talent available here?

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