If you're looking at that title and thinking to yourself (or perhaps to someone else, if you've got ESP), "Now, just what in the Sam Hill are those Red Octopi up to this go around?" well pardner, I'll tell you what: They're lampooning protesters and political dissidents, shut-ins, organic food snobs, moshing, "Downton Abbey" and the Good Lord only knows what else.
How about some of these sketch titles: "It's the '90s — It's Not All About Flannel," "Def Jill's Comedy Showcase," "Hillcrest Now Sells Coyote Meat" — and those were just the ones we could print! Just kidding, but seriously, as is usually the case with Red Octopus productions, you should leave your kiddos at home, as this shiz is for grownups only now.
Take note: The first 10 people who show up each night at 7:30 p.m. who are so inclined can enter for half price, so long as they agree to protest the show (signs will be provided).
'THE RIVER NIGER'
7:30 p.m. The Weekend Theater. $12-$16.
The Weekend Theater follows its production of the musical comedy "Monty Python's Spamalot" with a work that is a bit more sober and one that, although it debuted in 1972, has significant parallels to the present day.
"The River Niger," by Joseph A. Walker, concerns Jeff Williams, a young Air Force soldier who returns to his Harlem home after flight-training school, but not as the hero his struggling father had hoped he'd become. Tensions escalate as Williams becomes ensnared in a local gang conflict. The play earned some prestigious awards for Walker, including the Drama Desk Award for Most Promising Playwright and the Obie Award for Best American Play in 1973 and the Tony Award for Best Play in 1974.
A film version was released in 1976, starring James Earl Jones, Cicely Tyson and Louis Gossett Jr. The Weekend Theater's production, directed by Akasha Hull and Margaret Parker, runs Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. through Aug. 24.
THE MAIN THING'S 'ARKANSANITY'
8 p.m. The Joint. $20.
The in-house funny folks over at The Joint — a trio known as The Main Thing — are back with another original two-act comedy poking a little good-natured fun at The Natural State through the cracked lens that is The Fertle Family of the charming, fictional hamlet known as Dumpster, Ark.
The Fertles starred in the recent Main Thing productions "Last Night at Orabella's" and the follow-up "Weiner Day at the Rollercade." Their latest creation, "Arkansanity," is a collection of sketches and songs, at least one of which will feature the Fertles.
I've got to cop to the fact that I haven't yet made it over to see The Main Thing yet, but everyone I've spoken with has told me that it's truly, side-splittingly hilarious while also being appropriate for all ages and levels of uptightness. So you can bring your kids or your parents or your Republican Missionary Baptist mother-in-law or your wacky vegan liberal great aunt and they'll all get some chuckles.
'LEGALLY BLONDE: THE MUSICAL'
7:30 p.m. The Public Theatre. $14-$16.
Omigod! You guys! For serious! Community Theatre of Little Rock is totes producing "Legally Blonde: The Musical" at The Public Theatre! You know, the hit musical based on the 2001 film starring Reese "Don't You Know Who I Am?" Witherspoon!
Now, maybe some of you guys out there would say that you'd rather have your ears ripped off and fed to starving wolves than have to go see a musical — any musical, really, but specifically this one. Even though maybe they've been getting hints for years now that their girlfriends really like musicals and would maybe enjoy being taken out to see one every once in a freakin' blue moon. But nooooo, that's just too much to ask. They want to stay in and get stoned and watch "Koyaanisqatsi" for the zillionth time.
But you know what? Those guys are just a bunch of cynical, insecure jerks who don't know how to enjoy anything and only know how to tear things down and make fun of stuff! Because you know, it's like, "Legally Blonde" is actually a pretty funny and smart movie no matter what the stuck-up jerkwads say! So they can just sit at home and read their Cormac McCarthy books or whatever while their girlfriend and her best friends have a girls night out and go see "Legally Blonde: The Musical" and then stay out really late and have to take a cab home and have a really good time! So there!
The show runs through July 28, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m.
'MONTY PYTHON'S SPAMALOT'
8 p.m. Weekend Theater. $16-$20.
Based on the 1975 comedy "Monty Python and the Holy Grail," the smash hit "Monty Python's Spamalot" is without question among the most successful Broadway shows of the last decade.
The musical comedy was "lovingly ripped off" from the cult favorite film by Eric Idle. Sure, there was some grumbling from certain quarters of the Python camp (Terry Gilliam and Terry Jones didn't sound too high on it when it debuted, with the former describing it as "Python-lite" and the latter, somewhat less charitably, as "utterly pointless").
But audiences voted with their wallets, to the tune of a first-run gross of more than $175 million. The show has toured nationally three times, pointing to the durability of not only the Python brand, but of the musical itself, which won three Tony Awards, three Drama Desk Awards and a Grammy.
The Weekend Theater's production runs through July 28. (Note: the opening night performance is at 8 p.m., but subsequent Friday and Saturday shows will start at 7:30 p.m. All Sunday shows are at 2 p.m.)
'SPANK! THE FIFTY SHADES PARODY'
8 p.m. Walton Arts Center, Fayetteville. $20-$45.
If ever there were a cultural phenomenon that was ripe for mercilessly sadistic mockery, it is the so-called erotic novel "Fifty Shades of Grey." I mean seriously, y'all. I know that the reception to the book was largely all like, "ooh, BDSM, how controversial," and that a good number of critics took issue with its depiction of dom-sub relationships or whatever.
But this thing started off as "Twilight" fan fiction. Now, that would be a pretty clever put-down right there, only it's actually true. Here's another pretty good one, from Salman Rushdie: "I've never read anything so badly written that got published. It made 'Twilight' look like 'War and Peace.' "
So the only reasonable response to the novel — aside from the bummer of realizing just how banal so many people's lives are — is laughter. Thus, "Spank! The Fifty Shades Parody," which is apparently a pretty good bet for a fun girls' night out.
ARKANSAS SHAKESPEARE THEATRE: 'KING LEAR'
7:30 p.m. Reynolds Performance Hall, UCA. $27.
The titular ruler seeks to divide his kingdom, apportioning it to his daughters on the basis of which one loves him most. He finds only empty flattery, betrayal, trickery and, of course, tragedy. Rebekah Scallet, producing artistic director of AST and the one at the helm of this production, has been enthralled by "King Lear" since college.
According to her director's note, Scallet enrolled in "Advanced Shakespeare" expecting to delve deep into more obscure works such as "Troilus and Cressida," only to learn that the entire semester would be spent solely on "King Lear." "I thought, 'A whole semester on one play? How is that possible? What will talk about all those classes?' I was in for an adventure, though, because not only did we have plenty to talk about, I left that class thinking I could spend at least two or three more semesters exploring the play. I also left with a strong desire to direct it: to engage with the text in a performance context and continue on the road to discovery and understanding."
Scallet has gotten her chance to direct the great tragedy. Given the general acclaim that AST has earned over the last several years, I predict it will be an illuminating performance. The play will also be performed at the same place and time on Saturday and Sunday.
ARKANSAS SHAKESPEARE THEATRE: 'MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING'
7:30 p.m. Outdoors, The Village at Hendrix. Pay what you can.
It's June now, which means, among other things, that Shakespeare lovers in Arkansas are in for a treat: The return of the Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre, which brings in dozens of professional actors and other stage talents to produce several of The Bard's works, as well as another play.
This year, AST brings us "Much Ado About Nothing," "King Lear," "A Midsummer Night's Dream" and "Oliver!", the musical based on the Dickens novel "Oliver Twist." The festival takes place at The Village at Hendrix, Reynolds Performance Hall at the University of Central Arkansas and at an outdoor spot in the Argenta Arts District.
Things kick off this year on Thursday at The Village (east of Hendrix College's main campus) with "Much Ado About Nothing," which will be performed June 6-8 and June 14 and 16. It will be performed June 21-22 in Argenta. All performances of this play are pay-what-you-can. "Oliver!" opens Wednesday at Reynolds, and runs June 13, 15, 25 and 28.
Who doesn't love a good cocktail, right? And who doesn't love "Jersey Boys," the Tony- and Grammy-winning jukebox musical that tells the story of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons?
Say, here's an idea: what if the Arkansas Times was to have a contest for the best "Jersey Boys"-inspired cocktail, and give the winner a pair of tickets to see the musical June 19 at Robinson Center Music Hall, plus entry to the official after-party at Boscos, where that person's winning cocktail would be served? Sound keen? Bet.
Here's the deal: email your cocktail recipe to firstname.lastname@example.org and put "JERSEY BOYS COCKTAIL" in the subject line. We'll select the most promising recipes, then your trusty and (very) seasoned Times cocktail experts will try them out and anoint a winner. The contest is open from through June 6, and the usual caveats apply (no Times employees, don't scalp the tickets, etc.).
Feel free to get all crazy and "mixologist" with this thing, but know that if your recipe is too out-there, calling for emulsified durian oil or pulverized fresh loganberries or something else that no self-respecting bartender has ever heard of, then you might not win. Cool? OK. Aaaand... go!
If you're interested in catching the standup comedy of Bill Cosby, the gentle country stylings of Pam Tillis and Lorrie Morgan, an evening with Tony-winning actress and singer Audra McDonald or an mind-blowingly intriguing presentation from astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, you will be pleased to know that all of those folks are on the bill for the University of Central Arkansas's upcoming Public Appearances series.
Other highlights: "The Addams Family Musical," journalist Lisa Ling, The Haifa Symphony Orchestra and a performance from Bela Fleck and Chick Corea.
A press release with the full schedule is available after the jump.
THE MAIN THING: 'WIENER DAY AT THE ROLLERCADE'
8 p.m. The Joint. $20.
Anybody who digs giggles, chortles, chuckles, titters, yukkety-yuk-yuks, and/or laughs will probably want to go ahead and get on down to The Joint, where the in-house comedy experts, collectively known as The Main Thing, will this very weekend unveil their latest two-act comedic play.
The crew is once more inviting the audience along for a trip to the bucolic little burg of Dumpster, Ark., where the Fertle Family is gearing up for the town's biggest event of the year, Wiener Day. Who knows what manner of small-town foofaraw and hillbilly high jinks those wacky Dumpsterites (Dumpsterinians?) will get up to on Wiener Eve? Ol' Doc Moore is hosting and cain't nobody understand what he says, and Bridgette is in the running for Weiner Queen, and Country Wayne Conaway is mixed up in this Shinola, but don't ask me how.
And Lordy, what if the fine citizenry of Wiener, Ark. was to find out that the folks in Dumpster had up and stoled their town's name what for to call their festival? Could get dicey, so hang onto your hats folks. The show runs at 8 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays through July 13.
Fayetteville’s TheatreSquared last week announced the lineup for its eighth season. The five-play season will feature the world premiere of “The Spiritualist” by Robert Ford; “4,000 Miles” by Amy Herzog, a finalist for the 2012 Pulitzer Prize; Charles Dickens’s holiday classic “A Christmas Carol”; “Good People” by David Lindsay-Abaire; and Shakespeare’s “Hamlet.” Five-play packages start at $105. Call the Walton Arts Center for more information at 489-571-2785, or visit their website at theatre2.org/subscribe.
More information about the plays from the press release, after the jump.
The Arkansas Repertory Theatre’s current show “Death of a Salesman” — its first production of Arthur Miller’s iconic and storied play — is a wrenching affair, a glimpse into a dysfunctional family finally confronting reality after years of failure, denial and unfulfilled promise. The story will probably ring familiar for most theatergoers: a salesman, in the waning days of his career, falls to pieces in the face of a lifetime’s worth of disappointment and delusion.
In Robert Walden’s Willy Loman, you feel the weight of the years and all of life’s thousands of disappointments great and small in every lumbering step. His posture and crumpled frame communicate nearly as much as Miller’s words to convey the brokenness of this man. He pinballs fitfully between bursts of manic optimism, convulsions of rage and rose-colored recollections of the good old days, when his sons Biff and Happy showed such promise.
As Linda Loman, Carolyn Mignini effortlessly alternates between diminutive, devoted wife and mother and fiercely loyal defender of her crumbling spouse. In one moment, smilingly accepting each interruption and shushing as she tries to chime in, in another, heaping guilt and rage on her two sons and utterly owning the famous line: “Attention must be paid.”
As Biff, Rep veteran Avery Clark embodies the directionless angst and wanderlust of his character. In the flashback scenes, he’s a cocksure and carefree football star Adonis, while the present-day Biff, 34 and still trying to figure out what to do with his life, is desperate and still deeply wounded by a scarring, long ago encounter with his father’s failings.
Craig Maravich’s Happy Loman is all libidinous id, more successful than his brother only in that he’s managed to maintain a job and an apartment, but still an emotionally stunted man-child.
The use of Alex North’s original score feels somewhat anachronistic, but this adds an unsettling layer to the production that deepens the experience. Similarly, the period-perfect costumes and props lend a preserved-in-amber visual quality to the show, but the grief and the rage and the disappointment and fleeting optimism are all alive and breathing in the moment. Mike Nichols’ set is both visually appealing and economical in its use of the space, and the lighting works beautifully with the design.
The Rep has put together a cast that brings this emotional and at times traumatic work to messy, tearful life on the stage. The play is nearly three hours long, but under Bob Hupp’s deft direction it neither drags nor feels rushed. This show seems like it will be one of those Rep productions that people will talk about long after its run has ended. It is not to be missed.
“Death of a Salesman” runs through May 12, with performances at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday, 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. on Sundays. Tickets are $25-$40.
Various times. Walton Arts Center. $53-$79.
For a certain species of crusty old punker — maybe, say, the sort of miscreant who grew up worshipping Cometbus and once dubbed all of Sewer Trout's records onto one handy cassette — it's still really weird on some level that Green Day made a Broadway musical.
Sure, the band has been enormously famous for the better part of two decades now, so there's certainly a case to be made for telling those sorts of folks to just get over it, you know? And it's not that there's anything wrong with making a Broadway musical ... with a pop-punk soundtrack ... about a bunch of bored suburban kids who turn to drugs and alcohol ... and have names like St. Jimmy and Whatsername ... which would become hugely popular and go on to gross millions of dollars and win a Grammy and two Tony Awards among others ... .
Sure, there's nothing wrong with any of that. But man, it still seems kinda weird. Showtimes are 8 p.m. Friday, 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday.
'THE ODDS ARE AGAINST U.S.'
7:30 p.m. Argenta Community Theater. $20-$30.
James wrote "The Odds are Against U.S.," a play in verse that will make its debut this weekend. Via email, James said the play "captures the reality of the youth in black America and how they are often affected by urban environments or ghettos." He was inspired to write the play because he felt it was important for people to understand the struggle of black American youth growing up in such environments.
The play's nine-strong cast includes several members of Foreign Tongues, Roots of Life Theatre Group and other folks who are involved in the local poetry, theater and spoken word communities, so if you've got an interest in checking out some of the next generation of talent from Little Rock's fertile scene, don't miss "The Odds are Against U.S." The play also runs Saturday at 2:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Get tickets here or at Ugly Mike's Records or Pyramid Art Books & Framing.
agree 100% with Cosmo. the movie experience was horrible there in every way imo
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