Dr. Blackwell's BLOG

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Theater Review: Off-Broadway’s Sleep No More and RENT

Filed under: Performing Arts — Dr. Christopher Blackwell @ 02:03


Sleep No MoreSleep No More is like no other theatrical experience one can ever have. Instead of entering a theater and passively watching a show unfold on a stage, the audience here actually is immersed directly into the production, is side-by-side with the actors, and interacts with the myriad of sets, rooms, and props as they experience the scenes and have their own unique perspective of the show. The actors here are brilliant. Like the audience, they do not talk. But unlike the audience, who must wear masks throughout their stay at the “McKitrick Hotel,” they are easily recognized. The sets and scenes are macabre; and it’s very difficult to really make sense of what’s going on. The audience follows the actors as they go room-to-room and act out their role in the “story,” all of which must be interpreted in silence. I am very glad I got to participate in Sleep No More. It was fascinating and exciting; and the sets were absolutely spine-tingling, scary, and extraordinarily detailed. While I often felt like I was on a “wild goose chase” literally running after the actors and could make little sense of things, the entire experience was very cool. I don’t think I would do it again and I see serious issues with someone attempting to complete it if they cannot ambulate well. But it is something worth doing that provides quite a unique theatrical experience.


RENT: RENT is currently playing in a “reimagined” form at New World Stages Off-Broadway. The only thing I can say about the show, is that it was simply awful. When the original director of RENT (Michael Grief) admits he brought the show back to the stage for profit (which he did to Broadway World), be warned. But when you compile a cast that is shockingly amiss for a show that was a centerpiece of musical theater for over a decade and is loved and cherished by millions, you aren’t going to please many fans of the show. There are a small number of bright spots. The actors who portray Collins (Tony nominee Brandon Victor Dixon), Maureen (Emma Hunton), and Angel (MJ Rodriguez) are great. But the remainder are either horribly miscast (a great example of which is Justin Johnston–who played Angel wonderfully in the show on Broadway but bombs as Roger) or are relatively talentless. Arianda Fernandez butchers the role of MiMi–her voice was void of any dynamic quality and was either soft as a whisper or harsh as a dog bark. She even cracked several of the more punctuated words of many of RENT‘s classic songs. And Josh Grisetti’s Mark is atrocious. He appears to have little to no formal vocal training as he sounded much more as if he were talking through the songs rather than singing them. RENT is a wonderful show that is unbelievably poignant and moving. But this staging of RENT is worthless. If you’re a fan of the show, do yourself a huge favor and SKIP this trashing of the production at New World Stages.

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