Entertainment, The Features, We Love Arts

We Love Arts: The War of the Worlds

Regen Wilson as Orson Welles in SCENA Theatre's "War of the Worlds." Photo credit: Ian C. Armstrong.

As a child one of my favorite Halloween activities was listening to a taped radio rebroadcast of The War of the Worlds. In my memory it’s always during a power outage, candles flickering, my father scaring us kids even more by playing scratchy old records afterwards on a creepy vintage Victrola. Though the voice of Orson Welles instantly connected me to primal fear, there was always something in that rumbling tone that felt safe, an underlying comic lifeline, a wink. But my father made sure to explain that wink got Welles in a hell of a lot of trouble.

In SCENA Theatre’s recreation of the October 30, 1938 broadcast, Regen Wilson nails that Wellesian voice just right. But the production itself is too faithful to a fault. Simply too much of a recreation, it strangely fails to mine the greater implications of the original broadcast. It feels like a dusty museum piece, playing to an almost empty house the night I visited. Talented actors, a fine production design, all on display for what purpose? When one can download the original in a few minutes and be frightened by Welles himself, what could the intent of such a performance be?

That almost empty house preyed on my mind while writing this review. There is no worse feeling when you love theater. But I have to be honest, all that reverential recreation made for a dry night out. The confines of this conceit are just too restraining for SCENA, which only released itself into what it does best – chaotic surrealism – in the final minute. It all adds up to lost opportunities. And considering this is a remount of their 2006 production, the safe choices are even more mystifying.

At first glance, this seems a respectable production to introduce you to Welles’ infamous prank about a Martian invasion.  It’s well-acted with good production values, taking up an easy hour of your time in the H Street Playhouse. Continue reading

Entertainment, We Love Arts

We Love Arts: You’re A Good Man Charlie Brown

With an original debut in 1967, You’re A Good Man Charlie Brown wowed audiences long before it became fashionable to bring successful franchises of any kind onto the stage (Harry Potter: The Musical anyone?) Ever since it’s original production, Charlie Brown has become one of the great classic musicals that have been put up time and time again with numerous revivals, regional productions, and tours under it’s belt. The District now can get a taste of CB, Snoopy, Lucy, and the gang over at H-Street Playhouse where the show opens the second season of the No Rules Theatre Company.

The Peanuts franchise has become an American institution thanks to comic series with over 17,000 strips and a series of television specials that still run every holiday season. In fact any minute now we should be expecting It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown to fill the airwaves on ABC.

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