Back in the swing…NAT presents New Voices in the Heartland

Back in the swing…NAT presents New Voices in the Heartland

By Edith McCauley, Theater Critic

A midsummer illness interrupted my usual activities, but I’m back. Thanks to my many friends and relatives for their loving support. My energy returned, and theater remains high on my agenda.

NAT’s New Voices in the Heartland, a festival of new play readings, began with Peter Shelburne’s Musically Inclined. Carl Balson as a composer and college professor deals with an estranged daughter, played by Makeesha Sharp. Returning to her father’s house, she brings controversy. The arrival of David Gingerich, a frustrated former student, complicates matters with his plot to sell a bogus Mozart piece.

The first act ended after an hour and 15 minutes. My energy waned. The lovely food at the reception preceding the play probably contributed to my weariness; nevertheless, we left at intermission.

Martin Blinder’s The Perfect Man incorporates a play within a play following the careers of Nat (Ed Carlson) and Brook (Bernadette Wysocki). Wysocki, a stunning young woman in her first appearance at NAT, promises to be an actress of note.

Multiple roles for Nicky Bertolino as the perfect man, Ken Staaf as Nat’s agent and a family court judge, and Jerry Stevens as a waiter and lisping actor auditioning for a role, kept the audience thoroughly entertained. Judged by many as the best of the series, the critiques should aid the playwright in preparing the work for staging.

Closing the series, Lenya Rides Again, the first play by Californian Barry Dantzscher, was directed by Jim Radloff. Following the closing of the Clock Tower Dinner Theatre, Radloff came to NAT as stage manager. It is good to see him directing again. Valerie Hoglund was featured as Lotte Lenya with Brian Housewert as Howard Achwartz, a Texan of German Jewish descent whose infatuation with Lenya began when he was a teenager. Their first meeting in Lenya’s Manhattan hotel suite set early in WW II reveals much of their history. Her sexuality, an inherent part of her personae, enthralls the young soldier, whose strict background leaves him unprepared for the encounter.

Hoglund’s accent, often difficult to achieve, creditably interprets the playwright dialogue. A woman of the world, her love affair with Housewert, brief but powerful, centers the action. A moment of sensitivity comes with her recollection of a sexual experience on the street with an older man. Graphically specific, Hoglund becomes a child again searching for love.

Dantzscher’s enthusiastic response to the direction of Radloff and the performances of Hoglund and Housewert bodes well for future stagings. My favorite of the series, although not appropriate for all audiences, is sophisticated, and its representation of the intensity of the two characters makes it a work for future development.

Unable to see the other two productions, I heard positive reactions from those who attended. Richard Raether directed Painting By Numbers by Adrien Royce, and The Bridge Party by David O’Sullivan was directed by Gail Dartez.

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