Monday, June 17, 2024

On the Run with Bonnie & Clyde at Wilmington Drama League

By Hannah Leposa
Theater fan Hannah Leposa is excited to be living in Wilmington where there is a lively theatre community and high quality performances.


Bonnie and Clyde, produced by Wilmington Drama League, follows the lives of the notorious Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow as they navigate love and being on the run in the South during the Depression era. 

Bonnie and Clyde now playing at Wilmington Drama League. 
Photo by Sheena Ahlmer.
Not having any background on the show before attending, I was pleasantly surprised when I walked into a comedy and found myself laughing more times than I could count during the show. The show uses a mix of gospel and blues music, written by Frank Wildhorn, lyrics by Don Black, and a book by Ivan Menchell. This production was directed by Liz Hazlett.

The cast was truly excellent. Standout stars included Stephen Piergrossi as Clyde Barrow and Chiara Robinson as Blanche Barrow.

Stephen Piergrossi’s portrayal of outlaw Clyde Barrow was exceptional. Piegrossi's acting was superb, but it was his storytelling during the musical numbers that made him truly shine. It was well beyond anything I have seen in a community theater production.

Chiara Robbinson was funny, captivating, and vocally excellent from her first moment on stage. Her portrayal of Blanche Barrow had me excited every time I saw her. You Love Who You Love was a standout performance of the show performed by Robinson and Meghan Arters, who portrayed the titular Bonnie Parker.

Meghan Arters as Bonnie Parker was ravishing. Every time she opened her mouth to sing, I knew I was in for something amazing. Her performance of How ‘Bout a Dance was stunning.

Young Bonnie and Clyde, portrayed by Callie Hazlettt and Owen Ahlmer respectively, sounded amazing and showcased voice maturity beyond their young ages. Alex Bock played the older brother of Clyde perfectly, and I would have believed that two actual brothers were on stage during their performance of When I Drive.

I get nervous when I attend productions where the cast is speaking with accents, often people drop the accent or are terrible at it. This cast put in the work. Everyone committed and it added a level of professionalism to the production that heightened the audience's overall experience.

I would be remiss if I did not mention some of the crew. Lighting designer Ryan Philips reminded me how integral lighting can be to elevating a show to the next level with his superb design. The choreographer, Patrick Murray made great use of space and I was impressed with the chair choreography in You’re Goin’ Back to Jail. Costume designer Shelli Ezold transported us back to the 1930s with her attention to detail and design with each character's costumes.

The remaining performances of Bonnie and Clyde are on June 21 and 22 at 8:00pm and June 23 at 2:00pm. All shows are at the Wilmington Drama League. The show runs around 150 minutes with an intermission. Tickets are $25 and can be purchased at tickets available now at wilmingtondramaleague.org.

Monday, May 13, 2024

Recognizing Improv Comedy as an Art Form

By Jeff Gudzune
Jeff writes book reviews for a variety of publishers and is active in community theater. Since 2013, Jeff has owned and operated Matrix Notary Service.

In the pantheon of theater, improv is one of the most difficult arts to master. It is not for the timid. There is no script, no set, and no director. It’s a series of extemporaneous actions; a symbiosis that requires familiarity and trust. There must be a bond among the performers for it to work. 

Fearless Improv serves as an exemplar of that bond. A frequent sight onstage as City Theater Company's traveling comedy team, this troupe has mastered the art — weaving hilarious concepts from the ether. Moreover, they have been so gracious as to share their talents with curious laymen such as myself.

Learning lines and blocking can be difficult even under the controlled circumstances of a scripted play or musical. To create a character, dialogue, and blocking based on a simple premise and then launch into a performance is deer-in-headlights terrifying! The talented array of performers at Fearless do this weekly. 

Featuring an ever-growing cast, Fearless has been a staple at CTC for almost 10 years. I recently had the opportunity to take the Intro to Improv workshop taught by Jason Langin. In just two hours, the participants went from a collection of 15 strangers too timid to give more than their names to a fully interactive group, feeding off one another’s creativity in a series of short skits and exercises. It was terrifying and exhilarating!

Fearless Improv provides an off-the-cuff and truly wondrous experience. Improv starts with a premise, a suggestion from the audience. From this premise, the performers springboard into a full-fledged comedic performance. Fearless recently added a musical component to their shows with Drew Waldron improvising musical interludes and songs as part of the show. Sadly, Drew is leaving for new opportunities at the conclusion of the season. His contributions will be missed.

Fearless Improv brings something new every time. While there is a format to the show, anything can happen. The reality of improv is to expect the unexpected. It takes talent to instantly come up with dialogue and run with it, and it takes keen observation to see where the scene is going. It’s obvious that members of this group trust one another and have developed a strong working relationship.

Fearless Improv offers regular live performances, September through May, at CTC's home at The Delaware Contemporary, as well as quarterly "18 and over" shows at Wilmington Brew Works. They also offer regular improv classes for adults, a summer youth improv camp, and professional development workshops for corporate and business groups. 

To learn more, visit city-theater.org/fearless.

Sunday, April 21, 2024

Dancing Through City Theater Company's 30th Anniversary Season Closer, "Dancing at Lughnasa"

Jeff Gudzune writes book reviews for a variety of publishers and is active in community theater. Since 2013, Jeff has owned and operated Matrix Notary Service.

City Theater Company's cast of Dancing at Lughnasa.
Photo by Joe del Tufo, Moonloop Photography.
No one does drama, peppered with light humor, better than the Irish. Lives of toil, tragedy, and the struggle for upward mobility are made easier by finding the humor in life. It’s a reality that refreshes in a world of 24-hour news cycles foreshadowing international conflict, political upheavals, and the possibility of economic catastrophe.

City Theater Company's production of Dancing at Lughnasa, directed by Mary Catherine Kelley, is the personification of Irish Drama. It’s not devastating, but it is stark and evocative. The story is based on playwright Brian Friel's own reflections of life in rural Ireland in the summer of 1936. The eclectic extended family members have their own story to tell, seasoned with an equal mix of humor and sorrow.

The action takes place in the Mundy household, a small cottage in the town of Ballybeg during the summer of 1936. The narration is provided by an adult Michael Mundy (Daryan Borys), who also speaks in the voice of his 7-year-old self during interactions with his family. Michael appears offstage as an adult, and the cast interacts with the air around a spotlight representing the child.

Michael is unaware of the tempest brewing within his family, the drama that will crescendo as the play moves through its acts. He only wants to enjoy the remaining weeks of summer before school starts and to find some peace in a house filled with women — five unmarried sisters Kate (Kerry Kristine McElrone), Agnes (Jessica Jordan), Rose (Kate Brennan), Maggie (Jennifer Youngblood), and Christina (√Čibhleann Clyne), Michael's mother.

The presence of his famous Uncle Jack (Paul McElwee), a Roman Catholic priest who has just returned from Uganda, adds a bit of mystery to the boy’s life. To further complicate matters, his wayward father, Gerry (Aidan McDonald), suddenly arrives to court his mother and purchase the boy's affection.


The Mundy family is a tapestry of latent desires and buried trauma. Kate, the oldest, is a schoolteacher and devout Catholic who is leery of the pagan themes of the approaching festival of Lughnasa — a Gaelic celebration marking the start of the harvest. Anges and Rose knit gloves but find their way of life endangered by industrial competition. Maggie and Michael’s mother, Christina, tend the house and reflect on what their lives could have been. Jack struggles to express himself and often wanders the house attempting to give voice to his muddled thoughts. Things are further complicated by the arrival of Michael’s father Gerry—a wanderer with big promises and very little follow through.

The talented cast conveys the emotions of the piece through their expressions and body language, as well as spot-on Irish accents. The musical accompaniment adds a sad tone to the actions presented on the stage. 

Among the central themes of the show are regret over the path not taken, the struggle for survival, and challenges to faith. Father Jack returns from missionary work to find his spiritual outlook somewhat changed. Social Scientists would call this "going native," but he has come to realize that not all roads lead to Rome in the spiritual sense. This concerns Kate, whose devotion to her faith leaves her fearful for her brother’s soul. Anges and Rose are forced to work long hours in the glove factory to support the family as Kate is forced into early retirement. Through it all, they remain united. There is conflict, but it is wholesome. It’s family.

Dancing at Lughnasa is a study of Irish culture and family life. The idyllic community in which the players live exists in the space between two worlds. There is the strict Irish Catholic heritage, devoted to the tenets of the religion and its firm dogma and the local traditions that may not be in line with that faith. The weight of the world in which they live is evident in the physical expressions of the actors as they portray a kaleidoscope of emotions on stage. One could not help but be taken away from the moment. 

While each performer brought their heart and soul to the role, the standout was Jennifer Youngblood’s embodiment of fun-loving life-spirit Maggie. Delivering stark, often comedic commentary, she serves as a bridge between the more serious Kate and the rest of the family. Equally impressive was Kate Brennan’s Rose, whose disability does not hamper her desire to find love.

Remaining performances of Dancing at Lughnasa are Sunday, 4/21, matinee (2:00pm) and Wednesday, 4/24 through Saturday, 4/27 (all 8:00pm). Tickets are available online at City-Theater.org.  Seating is mostly on risers, but ADA seating is available by alerting the House Manager. City Theater Company performs in the Wings Black Box of The Delaware Contemporary, located at 200 S. Madison Street, near the Wilmington waterfront.