Tuesday, September 20, 2016

A Delicious War Erupts at the Delaware Theatre Company

The North American premiere of Warren Adler’s tour de force black comedy The War of the Roses opens the Delaware Theatre Company (DTC’s) 2016-17 season. This devilishly witty play exposes the dark side of divorce and invites the audience to savor in its mayhem.

Christina DeCicco & Jake Noseworthy play the doomed couple.
The story is mostly told through flashbacks while the couple – Jonathan Rose, a high-powered Washington, DC lobbyist and his “arm candy” wife Barbara – are meeting with their lawyers to discuss divorce. The play takes the audience on a journey from their first encounter as naïve, idealistic 20-somethings at an auction to the deconstruction of their 18-year marriage in their lavish home.

Over the past 18 years, Jonathan has become successful in the DC political scene, while Barbara (who quit college to marry the then-struggling law student) has accompanied her husband to countless business dinners and parties, while raising their two children. She completed decorating their grand home with fine furniture and art and now she’s ready for a new project – making and selling her gourmet pâté.  Jonathan is not interested in supporting his wife’s new venture; instead, he wants her to remain the perfect wife and mother. Unhappy with his lack of support, Barbara begins to fall out of love and eventually wants a divorce.

Since Barbara worked years creating the perfect home, she feels that Jonathan should be the one to leave…but Jonathan has no plans to move.  To try and rectify the problem, Jonathan and Barbara are instructed by their lawyers to annoy the other one to the point that one of them will leave. The couple goes beyond annoying each other and begins a battle royal when their children leave for camp, escalating into a full-fledged war of will and wit. Director Bud Martin has a keen ability to execute dark, menacing scenes while finding the humor in them. Thankfully, he has a stellar cast ready to tackle the physical and emotional challenges this piece demands.

Jack Noseworthy and Christina DeCicco are spectacular as Jonathan and Barbara. They are tasked with making their characters likeable while demonstrating appalling behaviors, a feat not easily done. These seasoned actors understand the importance of fully developing their characters so the audience connects with them and finds humor in their despicable actions.
Lenny Wolpe as Jonathan’s lawyer, Goldstein, and Cameron Folmar, as Barbara’s lawyer, Thurmont, are also delightful. Mr. Wolpe, a rabbi-turned-lawyer, provides Jewish proverbs to help guide Jonathan through the divorce, while the waspy Thurmont seems to get bored with Barbara’s antics, focusing more on sporting activities while meeting with her. The rest of the ensemble cast including Adam Altman, Eric Kramer, Brian McCann, Kerry Kristine McElrone, and Karen Peakes are hysterical as members of the DC elite during an explosive dinner party scene.

As with most recent DTC productions, the set is an important character. Designer Paul Tate DePOO III has meticulously created the Rose’s magnificent two-story home from the fine furnishings to the gigantic crystal chandelier that plays an important part in the outcome of the war. Unfortunately, the gorgeous set is destroyed by the end of the play – much like the characters’ marriage.

The War of the Roses is the perfect guilty pleasure. Don’t miss it before it closes on October 2nd. For tickets and additional information, visit www.delawaretheatre.org.   

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Ladybug Festival Hits Milestones, Announces Exciting Strides

Just over a month ago, something truly breathtaking happened in the 2nd & LoMa (Lower Market Street) area of downtown Wilmington (catch a glimpse of it all in the video at right) --- over 7,000 people from neighborhoods throughout our city joined with folks as far as Baltimore and New York City to celebrate women in music.  For readers unfamiliar with Wilmington's Ladybug Festival, here’s a quick rundown. 

Back in 2011, local entertainment company Gable Music Ventures wanted to produce an event to serve as a free, local alternative to the newly announced Firefly Festival. Why? Gable owners Gayle Dillman and Jeremy Hebbel had heard from musicians and fans alike a need for more presence for Delaware artists and an affordable musical festival option. 

2016 Ladybug Festival. Photo by Moonloop Photography.
Gable Music dove into action, delivering a free, live music "block party" in just six weeks, with 20 local female artists in five locations on Lower Market Street in Wilmington. The concept proved a hit, especially under its moniker of Ladybug --- the official state bug of Delaware. 

The Festival's popularity has grown each year, and 2016 was a groundbreaking year for Ladybug in attendance and scope: Ten stages of music ran throughout the day with headlining national acts Mary Lambert and Caroline Rose.  The generous outpouring of support from the community over the past 5 years has led to a pivotal decision from Gable: To expand the event into a two-day festival in Summer 2017.

The decision comes as a result of astounding response from artists across the country, notes Dillman, with nearly 3,000 artists showing interest.  Gable will take on the Herculean task of paring the list down to just 55 artists, when the event will take place on Thursday, July 20 and Friday, July 21.

The expanded footprint Gable will present also has plans for educational seminars on Friday, July 21, with music industry professionals coming together to mentor Delaware artistsFriday evening will be another musical block party, celebrating women at a yet-to-be-determined location.

Thanks to Drexel alumna Erica Dillman, who attended this summer's Ladybug Festival with associate Tristan Seyek, for capturing and sharing the wonderful video footage here! 

Monday, August 22, 2016

CD Review: Richard Raw's "Word Warrior"

The opening track of artist and activist Richard Raw’s Word Warrior, called Intro: R.A.P, is a short and detailed history of rap, from Melle Mel to now. It’s a fitting intro, as Raw represents the now in every way --he speaks on racial injustice and the current climate of discord as Black Americans are once again standing up to systemic racism.

That may sound like bleak subject matter, but Raw goes for inspiration as he speaks directly to the Black Community of Wilmington and beyond to Rise Up, Don’t Let Them Take Your Crown, and Shine Yo Light, three melodic tracks that lead into the Afrocentric Chaka Zulu then on to the reggae beat of Word Warrior, featuring Jahiti of BrownFish. True to its name, the title track uses words and rhyme to spread his message of empowerment.

Word Warrior isn’t all about activism; about midway though, it shifts with Cool, followed by what should have been the hit of the summer, At the BBQ featuring Ann Letreece. It’s a celebration of Black culture and community (and, of course, food). Ain’t Nothing Like a Woman is all about respect and love, while Watch Your Health is a hip-hop PSA that reminds folks to eat healthy while still managing to groove. While the topics on the back end are less political, they still focus on the Black experience: Close-knit communities, faith, family, music, and culture.

Raw knows the history of those that came before him, both as a musician and an activist, and he weaves them into the stories he tells with humility. There’s no posturing, no glitz, no hype. In a time when using words against the status quo can be downright dangerous, Raw really is a warrior.