Thursday, November 13, 2014

"Nathan the Wise" Delaware Premiere at Drama League

The Delaware Premiere of a controversial and inspiring drama will open for a short run this weekend at the Wilmington Drama League.

Nathan the Wise tells the story of Jews, Muslims and Christians who discover how to live in peace. It is a parable of timely interest, considering continuing unrest in the Mideast, yet it was written during the Enlightment in 1779 and is set six centuries before that, in Jerusalem. The three main characters are Nathan, a Jewish merchant; Saladin, the Muslim sultan who ruled over much of the Mideast; and an unnamed Christian templar participating in what is now called the third crusade.

“This play was banned and burned in Nazi Germany – and was the first play performed in Berlin after the end of World War II,” said director Pat van Catledge of the work, which was written in German by Gotthold Ephraim Lessing. The Drama League production uses a modern translation. The Nazis banned it because the title character is Jewish.

To help capture the power of the play, there will be a discussion after the Nov. 16 performance. A study guide will be available for a performance scheduled just for high school students.

“Theater, at its noblest, is great storytelling which takes us out of our current situation and enables us to better understand who we are – individually and in relationship with others. That’s exactly what Nathan the Wise does,” van Catledge said. “This is a story of love and hope in a precarious world; of restoration after deep loss and suffering; of friendships that overcome biases and prejudices; of humor and mistaken identities."

Nathan the Wise runs November 13-16, at the Wilmington Drama League. Performances are at 8:00pm November 13 through 15 with a 2:00pm matinee on November 16. Tickets are $17. 

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

CD Review: A Musical Trip with Mélomanie

By Guest Blogger, Christine Facciolo
Christine holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Music and continues to apply her voice to all genres of music. An arts lover since childhood, she currently works as a freelance writer.

Never underestimate the power of music to transport an audience to other states of mind and place. Mélomanie explores this potential with the release of its latest CD, Excursions.

As its name suggests, Excursions takes the listener on a journey through a variety of musical terrains and recollections via an eclectic range of compositions written for and performed by Mélomanie. 

For example, Jennifer Margaret Barker’s Dumgoyne (2012) evokes the sights and sounds a native Scot would experience during a climb of the hill for which the composition is named. In Angico (2009), Sergio Roberto de Oliveira celebrates the fulfillment of his mother’s lifelong dream: The construction of a family vacation home in the Brazilian mountains and the successful effort to save a cherished tree on the property. Mélomanie has built its reputation on its striking and evocative pairings of early and contemporary music. 

And while this collection features contemporary works by living composers, that mission continues. Both the title track by Roberto Pace (2009) and Ingrid Arauco’s Pavane-Variations (2009) combine 16th Century forms with modern tonalities, rhythms and melodic structures. Kile Smith also applies modern compositional language to Renaissance and Baroque dance forms as the sarabande, allemande, branle, musette and canario in his eight-movement suite, The Nobility of Women (2012). 

Mélomanie (L-R): Tracy Richardson, Christof Richter,
Doug McNames, Kimberly Reighley & Donna Fournier
Photo by David Norbut Photography
There are other “provocative pairings” as well. Two selections — Angico and The Nobility of Women — are scored for Baroque instruments, while the other three works feature the modern and Baroque playing side by side. These hybrid groupings feature guest artists Eve Friedman on the modern flute and Priscilla Herreid on oboe.

If you’ve heard Mélomanie perform, then you know the caliber of artistry and skill they bring to their music. If not, this recording provides a superb entrée and will no doubt whet your musical appetite for more!

Excursions is available for purchase at or your favorite online music resource. 


Sunday, November 9, 2014

A 'Piece' Not to Be Missed at DTC

By Guest Blogger, Christine Facciolo
Christine holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Music and continues to apply her voice to all genres of music. An arts lover since childhood, she currently works as a freelance writer.

Steve Bluestein’s play Rest in Pieces — now in its World Premiere at the Delaware Theatre Company (DTC) — combines laughter and tears in a three-act, three-character dramedy that drives home an immutable law of nature: Life begins and ends with family.

Meet the Becker family of Brooklyn, New York: Leona, the unbearably overbearing matriarch; Ben, her long-suffering husband; and Steve, their mild-mannered comedy-writer son. The play is impressively acted by Donna Pescow (Leona), Lenny Wolpe (Ben) and Frank Vlastnik (Steve). These three seasoned thespians work Bluestein’s script with the precision of a Swiss timepiece.

This is a play for anyone who has ever wondered how their loved ones would react in the aftermath of their demise. Each act focuses on the remaining two members when one is removed. First, we see mother and son sparring as they cope with the loss of Ben, who seems to view his death as sweet relief from the insanely domineering Leona. Next, we watch as the two men resume their lives after Leona loses her battle with cancer. Finally, husband and wife come to terms with the sudden death of Stevie, their only child.

We get to know the family casually and — more important — intimately. Death has a knack for stripping away defenses. It’s a bit like those human-body exhibits that allow us to take a look — in astonishing detail — at the biological processes that go on without our control.

We see that death leaves a void that nothing can ever truly fill, that the living must go on no matter what, and that the life we’ve lived may not have been the life we intended or even wanted to live. But that’s OK too.

Rest in Pieces is a brilliantly written and riveting piece of theatre. Bluestein skillfully pairs razor-sharp repartees with moments of intense emotion, evoking both laughter and tears — often at the same time — from the audience. DTC executive director Bud Martin’s superb direction showcases the cast at the top of its form. 

Rest in Pieces offers a sage piece of advice for anyone who has ever been at odds with a family member: Love your family as you love yourself. It’s a very short stay. 

Don’t miss this one.