Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Chelsie Hill of Pacific Grove introduced on "Push Girls"

Monterey Peninsula native Chelsie Hill was introduced to a national cable audience on Monday night's episode of "Push Girls" on The Sundance Channel.
In her introduction (embedded video above), Hill is greeted on the show by cast member Mia Schaikewitz. They are attending a dance recital by wheelchair-bound dancer Auti Angel.
In a voice-over, Schaikewitz explains that Angel first met Hill and introduced the Pacific Grove native to the cast.
“Now we’ve all taken her under our wings,” Schaikewitz said.
Hill’s story is explained briefly in a snap montage. A photo of Hill prior to her car accident
justapozed with a picture of her in the hospital.
“When I first met the girls, my first reaction was “Oh my gosh, you can be beautiful and be in a wheelchair,” Hill said in an aside.
“When I was in the hospital, I watched video of (Angel) dancing,” Hill explained. “I met (Angel) and then she introduced me to the girls. I’m definitely still learning my body right now. And being with the girls has definitely helped me a lot.”

During Angel's competition scenes, Hill shares some emotional anguish brought.
"I've been dancing since I was three. Going into the ballroom competition and seeing all those dancers brings back that feeling," Hill said,"like if I could just turn off my paralysis for two hours and dance, oh my gosh. I'd be the happiest person ever."
Hill will have a recurring role in the season's second half, according to a show spokesperson.
"Push Girls" airs Monday nights on The Sundance Channel. Check your cable provider's listings for show time.

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Friday, June 08, 2012

Review: "Old Ringers" @ Paper Wing Theatre Co.

The current production of Old Ringers at the Paper Wing Theater in Monterey was written by Joseph Simonelli, directed by Katie Burmaster, and was billed as a Neil Simon style comedy. Thus I arrived at the theater with high expectations.

The set revealed a 1960s style apartment somewhere in New Jersey with Amanda the daughter (Kelly Machado) working on a laptop computer, which was the first of the series of incongruities. Amanda was talking to her mother, Diane (Andrea MacDonald), who was in another room but unfortunately Amanda's voice was low enough to entirely miss her first two or three sentences. 

My first indication that there were philosophical differences between mother and daughter was the subsequent arrival of three of mom’s old friends. While the older women discussed their current financial plight Amanda found spaces in the conversation to lecture them about the evils of drink and sex.

When Diane receives a call requesting phone sex the idea of supplementing their income by providing this obviously needed service took root. All four women, Diane; Verna (Suzanne Alvin) the only one of the group who showed a glimmer of a promiscuous past; Kathy-Anne (Linda Dale) whose struggle to cover up with her raincoat provided the only true comedic moment; and Rose (Kira Gray) participating in providing this service, even including Harry (Richard Mueller), Diane’s current physical interest, whose role consisted of potentially servicing a gay clientele.

The title of the show indicated that all four of these women had, somewhere in their history, worked in burlesque. But the costumes did not match those expectations. There were no feathers, no garish earrings, and no boa in sight. Incoming calls were transferred from a princess phone to cell phones creating even greater confusion as to timelines.

Officer Rumson (Jay DeVine), Amanda's current romantic target, saved the day by collecting all cell phones and offering to find jobs for the would be soiled doves.

The overall comedic aspect was lost in part by the fumbling of lines and a feeling that the show had not received adequate rehearsal time. The constant movement of five or more people on stage at the same time screamed for better blocking and the set called for much greater research. 

Perhaps with a few more shows under their boas and the redefining of the space and electronic props this show will be able to present the easily identifiable comedy intended by the playwright and cast.

-Sam Sebastian

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Review: "One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest"

You’d be crazy to miss The Western Stage’s production of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.

I went into the stage adaptation of Ken Kesey’s novel with no expectations and an open-mind. I’ve not seen the movie or read the novel but both have become such staples in American culture that everyone seems to be familiar with the narrative.

The ensemble cast did a fabulous job creating a believable version of a psychiatric hospital’s dayroom inhabitants.

Nathan Liittschwager, as Billy Bibbit, is vulnerable and displays the anguish one might expect from a person who had recently attempted suicide and has the expected problems with meeting his mother’s expectations

Ron Cacas’ descriptions of his hallucinations as Martini had audience members double-checking themselves to ensure that it was merely his hallucination. Alex Bush’s Ruckley serves as a warning to other dayroom dwellers of what happens to those who buck the system.

John G. Bridges’ portrayal of Charles Cheswick reveals a man who plays by the rules of the institution but finds it difficult to measure up to rules on the outside.

Valerio Biondo’s Scanlon never reveals what caused his stint in the psychiatric institution but one can well imagine with the bit at the beginning of the play.

There are three players who merit special attention, however.

No version of “Cuckoo: would be complete without a stern Nurse Ratched, in this case played with tight control by Dawn Flood Fenton. While I had expected a Nurse Ratched who chewed up the scenery, Ms. Fenton’s portrayal showed far more restraint and calm control – she
may have been too nice, in fact.

Jeff McGrath’s mesmerizing interpretation of Randall McMurphy was reminiscent of Nicholson’s film version, though he made the role his own. He was blustery and conniving, a good time Charlie who found a way out of the workhouse.

But it was Reynald Medrano’s interpretation of Chief Bromden that held the play together.

For most of the play Medrano doesn’t speak while on stage and we listen instead to his thoughts in quiet moments before or after scenes. When he finally does speak it catapults the action into high gear and causes the other men to question their own inevitable shrinkage as a result of their time in the psychiatric hospital.

This performance reminds me that we have wonderful local talent on the central coast and in particular on The Western Stage.

-Lee Ann Ritscher

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