Tag Archives: Kim Parati

Best of Charlotte, 2017

Best of Charlotte, 2017

By Perry Tannenbaum

                                           Best ActorJeremy DeCarlos

 

Among local performers, there are strong candidacies from Brian Logsdon (Pride and Prejudice and Ragtime), Jonavan Adams (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom and The Christians), Scott A. Miller (Stupid F@#%ing Bird and The Submission), Jermaine Gamble (A Raisin in the Sun and Jitney) and Tyler Smith (Ragtime and Memphis). All of them sparkled on multiple occasions. But the runaway victory goes to Jeremy DeCarlos, who laps the field – in range and productivity – with four scintillating outings. Draped in a braided Hussar jacket, DeCarlos just finished channeling his inner Jimi Hendrix as the devilish St. Jimmy in American Idiot. That was the last of his Actor’s Theatre gems over the past year, including some cross-dressing preaching in Bootycandy, his insouciant devotion in Stupid F@#%ing Bird, and his amazing transformation – from Jerry Lewis nerd to Incredible Hulk-ish monster – in The Toxic Avenger.

Best Actress – Shar Marlin

The field of contenders is larger among the ladies, but the roles were more thinly distributed, eliminating productivity as a decisive criterion. But which other benchmark should override all others? If it’s flesh-crawling menace, Sarah Woldum gets the edge, bringing Sheridan LeFanu’s Carmilla to life in She Who Watches. Leslie Giles was the funniest as the blind librarian in The Toxic Avenger, Lucia Stetson the most revelatory as Mother in Ragtime, and Allison Snow Rhinehart was better than her Broadway counterpart as Mama in Memphis. And how can I forget the sizzling dominatrix arrogance of Nonye Obichere as Whatsername in American Idiot? I’m turning instead to Shar Marlin for her sheer power and imperial dominance in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, a dramatic stunner that also showed Shar’s blues singing chops. Dignity in the face of exploitation and discrimination. Diva!

Best Comedy – Women Playing Hamlet

 

Theatre Charlotte’s You Can’t Take It With You and the Citizens of the Universe farewell, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, were arguably the zaniest productions of the 2016-17, while the Chekhov knockoff from Actor’s Theatre, Stupid F@#%ing Bird, was surely the most poignant. And what about OnQ Productions’ A Brown Tale from James T. Alfred, maybe the funniest one-man show I’ve ever seen? All were worthy candidates, but I’m going to let Chickspeare split this prize with Donna Scott Productions for their joint production of Women Playing Hamlet. Glynnis O’Donoghue starred as the soap queen saddled with the lead role in the Mona Lisa of tragedies, and the galaxy of comediennes – all in multiple roles – offering her questionable advice included Tania Kelly, Andrea King, Vivian T Howell, and Sheila Snow Proctor.

Best Musical – Ragtime

Ragtime Promo Photos

Folks who confine their diet of musicals in Charlotte to touring productions at the PAC are missing out bigtime on the locally-produced blockbusters playing out at smaller venues around town. Actor’s Theatre scrambled to produce a marvelous Toxic Avenger at a storefront church because this city doesn’t have the vision to see the arts flourish on Freedom Drive without a needless morass of red tape. Still in exile, they just brought the noise of American Idiot to Queens University for a face-melting month. After reminding us how finely they can produce A Year With Frog and Toad, Children’s Theatre astonished with the world premiere of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever: The Musical. With more than one Broadway-level performance, Theatre showed us their mettle with Memphis, and CPCC re-emphasized that their musical excellence isn’t confined to summer anymore. Maybe it was sheer luck, but CP’s wintertime production of Ragtime was the most timely of the year, underscoring the sad fact that institutional racism, police brutality, and prejudice against immigrants aren’t quaint relics of the Jazz Age. As the martyred Coalhouse Walker, Tyler Smith’s impassioned “We are all Coalhouse!” reverberated through a city in turmoil.

Best Drama – Jitney

Early last season, PaperHouse Theatre proved that The Frock Shop on Central Avenue was the perfect site for a creepshow with a dazzling She Who Watches, and early this season, a legend made a comeback when Steve Umberger and his Playworks Group brought a sterling production of The Christians to Booth Playhouse. In between, as Charlotte was fully wakening to how badly we have neglected and mistreated our underclass, theatergoers may have finally been zonked by the realization that our city is exceptionally rife with African American acting and directing talent. Kim Parati made an auspicious directorial debut at Theatre Charlotte with a freshened-up Raisin in the Sun, but this was a vintage year for August Wilson – in two dramas directed by Corlis Hayes, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom at CPCC and Brand New Sheriff’s Jitney at Spirit Square. Hayes brought out the best in John W. Price and Jermaine Gamble as the father-son antagonists in Jitney, with Gerard Hazelton adding a mix of comedy and poignancy as the gypsy cab company’s resident lush. Move over OnQ Productions, there really is a brand new black company in town – our second! – producing professional-grade work.

Best Night @ Symphony – Mahler’s “Resurrection”

While a well-played Beethoven symphony, a Rossini overture, a Strauss tone poem, or a Mozart concerto might be the secret sauce to get newcomers to become Charlotte Symphony subscribers, longtime concertgoers like me wish to dismount the warhorses and hear something off the beaten trail. There’s plenty out there that will please both camps: big, unfamiliar orchestral works that will instantly grab you by the lapels even if Symphony hasn’t reprised them within the last decade. Armed with an audacious orchestra and choir, plus two soloists who have sung with Opera Carolina, Davidson College showed the way with a rousing performance of Ralph Vaughan Williams’ A Sea Symphony, set to poetry by Walt Whitman. That’s the sort of daring we hope for from Charlotte Symphony’s British maestro, Christopher Warren-Green. We did get a British Isles-themed evening when pieces by Edward Elgar and Peter Maxwell Davies, spiced up with a bagpiper, were served with Mendelssohn’s “Scottish.” Utilizing the Symphony Chorus and distinguished guest vocalists, Warren-Green turned up the power with a pair of Bruckner chorales last November and Mendelssohn’s Elijah last March. If you wanted to sample the full capabilities of Symphony, their chorus, and the guest vocalists Warren-Green can summon to Belk Theater, you had to hear them introducing the wonders of Mahler’s “Resurrection” Symphony No. 2 to an astounded audience.

Best Night @ the Opera – The Girl of the West

Under maestro James Meena, Opera Carolina does the oldies better than ever, as their uproarious Barber of Seville and their vivacious, ultimately anguished La Traviata amply proved. There was even some audacity in the 2016-17 programming as OpCar partnered with Warehouse Performing Arts Center and the D9 Brewing Company to produce an evening of three short operas – including the world premiere of Scott Joiner’s “Connection Lost (The Tinder Opera)” – at the brewery in Cornelius. Yes, a world premiere on Treynorth Drive! But most exciting was the Charlotte premiere of Puccini’s The Girl of the West, as Meena collaborated with six other international companies, including New York City Opera and Teatro del Giglio in Lucca, Puccini’s hometown. Singing was exemplary, persuading me that this second-tier Puccini opera was actually a first-rate work, and staging was anything but stodgy or conservative: much of the scenery was animated and bold, with authentic relics evoking the Wild West supplied by our own dearly beloved Wells Fargo. An appreciable, if infinitesimal, atonement for all the bank’s Wild West chicanery.

 

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A New “Raisin” Is Set to Explode

Review: Raisin in the Sun

By Perry Tannenbaum

At a distance of 58 years, people who read Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun and its familiar epigraph, “A Dream Deferred,” may get the idea that the playwright was exhuming a poem written by Langston Hughes back in his heyday during the Harlem Renaissance. Truth is, Hughes published this poem as part of his Montage of a Dream Deferred in 1951, a quarter of a century after his first book of poetry appeared.

When Hansberry seized upon it, “A Dream Deferred” could hardly have been anthologized more than a couple of times, let alone become an acknowledged part of America’s literary heritage. Hansberry’s script and the performances by Claudia McNeil and Sidney Poitier as Lena and Walter Lee Younger – in both the 1959 Broadway production and the 1961 Hollywood adaptation – were almost surely the bridge that carried Hughes’s poem across that gulf.

And was Raisin perhaps the key link between Langston’s “Dream” poem and a certain speech by the Rev. Martin Luther King?

The questions of how prescient or pivotal the works of Hughes and Hansberry were in anticipating or sparking the Civil Rights advances that followed are temptingly open to conjecture. What the current Theatre Charlotte production shows us to be indisputable is Hansberry’s intention to show us all of the possible answers Hughes offers to his poem’s opening question, “What happens to a dream deferred?” She clearly opts for the idea that the right answer to Hughes’s multiple choices is all of the above.

Yes, we see all that is festering and rotting within the Younger family in Walter Lee’s deteriorating relationships with his mom Lena and his wife Ruth. But thanks to Natasha T. Wall as Lena and Jermaine Gamble as Walter Lee, we see the most compelling and decisive turns that deferred dreams take. It’s Lena who is most sensitive when the dreams of her family, including her own, begin to dry up like that raisin, and it’s Walter Lee who personifies the explosions that can occur after a lifetime of being thwarted and disrespected.

In her Theatre Charlotte debut, director Kim Parati wisely scales down these two titans to less mythic, more human dimensions. With Wall, there’s also a subtle update: this matriarch isn’t crossing the stage to slap her daughter Beneatha when the spirited collegian implies that God no longer resides in the Younger household. But this Lena does take firm hold of her daughter and give her a firm shaking.

So okay, maybe Parati has discreetly tossed the sagging “like a heavy load” aspect of deferred dreams off the shoulders of the elder Youngers. The less-burdened Gamble becomes a less monumentally whiney Walter Lee than we usually see, more of a victim and less of a screw-up. I noted with surprise that this Walter Lee actually seems to have given some thought to his liquor store scheme. I find more in Gamble’s failure that makes me think that Walter Lee feels like he let his father down as much as his mother.

Of course, we never see dad, though set designer Tim Parati hangs a strategic photograph near the Younger front door that must be him. It’s the $10,000 from his life insurance that fuels the newborn hopes and storm clouds that besiege the Youngers in their undersized apartment, where Walter Lee’s son Travis conspicuously sleeps on the couch. If that merely seems cute, then there’s also the spectacle of the family racing out the front door to snare the bathroom that they share with their neighbors.

A real newborn threatens to make the living situation worse as the family waits for the big insurance check to come in the mail – Ruth is pregnant with a second child that she dreads telling Walter Lee about. There’s a dark conspiratorial tone to the way Hadassah McGill as Ruth talks about the prospect of abortion, reminding us of the prehistoric life-of-the-mother era before Roe v. Wade.

Now I can’t defend Hansberry from the charge that she neglects the “stink like rotten meat” line in Hughes’s poem. Yet Parati seems very keen on giving new emphasis to the most cryptic outcome of deferred dreams – if “crust and sugar over Like a syrupy sweet” is the bluesy, jazzy sublimation I think it is. When Beneatha puts her newfound African music on the phonograph and starts dancing in the African garb that her Nigerian beau Asagai has given her, the temperature is already pretty warm because costume designer Tiffany Eck has done her work in sparkling fashion.

More importantly, Silka Salih El Bey as Beneatha knows exactly how to shake what needs to be shook. Layer on Walter Lee staggering into the apartment after a daylong bender he’s been on since Mama’s rejection and Ruth’s news, and you have a virtual orgy. For Walter quickly imagines himself as one of the warriors that Beneatha’s folk dance is welcoming back to the village, joining his sister in her primitive dance – before exiting to puke. The joy and the warrior spirit merged here like I’d never seen it before.

El Bey is a stunning actress for her age (a senior at Northwest School of the Arts), but she gets plenty to play off of. Not only is there rawness and seething fury from Gamble – as a sibling, a son, and a husband – there is also charming equipoise and bemused detachment from Gerard Hazelton as Asagai, most pointedly when he chides Beneatha for her assimilationist dress and her straightened hair.

There’s a visible age difference between Hazelton and El Bey, so her eagerness to make herself over to his liking still plays credibly. But the takeaway between this Beneatha and Walter Lee doesn’t sustain itself so easily. When El Bey is backing down against Mama about God still residing in their home, there’s too much vivacity in her to think she’s crushed. And when Walter Lee so memorably comes into his manhood in the final scene, his assumption that Beneatha must get his permission before following Asagai back to Nigeria no longer seems to have the weight it had when Poitier laid down the law in 1961.

Among the many satisfactions of this Theatre Charlotte Raisin is its clear vision. Parati and her cast know what still holds strong, what parts can stand stronger emphasis, and where to mute some attitudes that would soon lapse after Hansberry’s time. There’s even a character we’ve never seen before, neighbor lady Mrs. Johnson (an intrusive, snoopy, and hint-dropping Eryn Victoria), who drops by and quickly overstays her welcome.

The scene, discarded from the show before it originally opened on Broadway, doesn’t add to the power of Hansberry’s script. But it ensures that this Raisin is like none you’ve ever seen before

A Dream Remembered… and Still Deferred

Preview: A Raisin in the Sun

By Perry Tannenbaum

When Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun opened at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre in New York on March 11, 1959, it was unquestionably a historical milestone. Hansberry was the first African American woman to write a play produced on Broadway, and Lloyd Richards was the first African American man to direct.

Although it lost the 1960 Tony Award to The Miracle Worker, Hansberry’s drama was destined to become a cultural touchstone, sprouting two notable offshoots. It was the most memorable target for George C. Wolfe’s 1986 satire, The Colored Museum, where the Younger family matriarch, Lena, was hilariously lampooned in “The Last Mama-on-the-Couch Play.”

Then in 2010, Bruce Norris wrote the sobering Clybourne Park, which opens on the same day as the Act 3 climax of Raisin and then, after intermission, takes us back to the home that the Youngers bought 50 years later, when the all-white neighborhood has become all-black. Posthumously and indirectly, Norris’s play honored Hansberry by taking the Tony Award – and the Pulitzer Prize – for drama.

Through it all, Raisin has continued to speak to audiences. Since the last time Theatre Charlotte brought the Youngers to Queens Road thirteen years ago, the sturdy script has been revived twice on Broadway, heaping more posthumous Tonys on Hansberry’s masterwork.

Kim Parati, directing for the first time at Theatre Charlotte, sees the play as more than a milestone or a touchstone.

“It’s a litmus test of our progress,” she observes, “or lack thereof, over these last 50 years. We’re still debating the infrastructure of the decaying conditions in the poor and segregated South Side of Chicago. We’re still lamenting the pain of the black male when it comes to dealing with THE MAN, and we’re still examining the conditions that rob poor people – and in this case, poor blacks – of their dreams.”

Hanberry’s drama actually had its roots in litigation her family was involved in 25 years before she wrote it, a case that fought Chicago’s “restrictive covenants” enforcing segregated neighborhoods through agreements by all-white property owners’ associations. You don’t forget such things when your mother patrols the house with a loaded gun at night to protect the family, or when your case – eventually adjudicated in the family’s favor by the Supreme Court – gets you spat upon on your way to school.

No wonder, then, that the home sold to Hansberry’s father in 1937 became officially recognized as a historic Chicago landmark. But while the confrontation with the emissary from the Clybourne Park Improvement Association is at the core of the drama, the young playwright, not yet 29 when Raisin premiered, layered on so much more. When Lena receives the $10,000 check from her late husband’s life insurance policy, only a portion of it goes toward a down payment on her dream home.

A third will go toward fulfilling her daughter Beneatha’s ambitions to attend medical school and become a doctor. The rest goes to Lena’s bitter and discontented son Walter Lee, who wishes to shed the daily humiliations of a limousine driver and open a liquor store. Meanwhile, Walter Lee’s wife Ruth has just learned that she is pregnant with another child that her family cannot afford.

So there’s a whole swirl of racial, societal, and women’s issues percolating throughout Raisin, with extra splashes of conflict supplied by Beneatha’s two suitors, the well-to-do George Murchison and Nigerian exchange student Joseph Asagai. Maybe Beneatha, immersing herself in African culture, should just forget this America thing and run off with Asagai to his homeland.

Amid all these conflicted and bickering folk, one non-combatant emerges with a pivotal role: Travis, Walter Lee’s son.

Parati takes on the task of shaping all these turbulences, crosswinds, and the crystallization they lead to with less than two years’ experience in directing. But Parati’s debut as director came a full 16 years after a young Kim Watson made her Charlotte acting debut in the long-forgotten Naked Navigations at a 5th Street art gallery where her turn as Madonna was interrupted by a passing freight train.

Her other role as Star, an Oscar recipient, was more indicative of things to come. By 2001, Parati had made her debut at Children’s Theatre as an unexpectedly active Annabel Lee in Tales of Edgar Allen Poe, before winning CL’s Best Cameo award in 2002 with walk-ons in The Vagina Monologues and Jungalbook and making her Charlotte Repertory Theatre debut in 2003.

Asked what her favorite roles were in her acting days, Parati cites her roles as Kaa the snake in Jungalbook, Janet in the rolling world premiere of Steven Dietz’s Yankee Tavern (2009), and multiple roles in Charles Randolph Wright’s Blue (2009). Recalling each of these productions, Parati offered customized kudos for each of her directors, respectively April A. Jones at Children’s Theatre, Dennis Delamar at CAST, and Sidney Horton at Actor’s Theatre.

Curiously, it was none of the above – nor her stellar turn in Intimate Apparel (CL Best Actress, 2007) nor A Lesson Before Dying or Bug (CL Best Supporting Actress, 2005) – that turned Parati toward directing. Her “aha” moment happened at Spirit Square in the Collaborative Arts Theatre production of Bad Dates, the one-woman show written by Theresa Rebeck.

“After all,” she recalls thinking, “I’d managed to carry a show on my shoulders for more than 80 minutes each night and not only survive it, but grow in the confidence that I might have the vision and fortitude to manage an entire production. That’s when I began thinking about directing.”

It took three years before Parati got her chance from Nicia Carla at PaperHouse Theatre to direct A Woman of No Importance. The site for this Oscar Wilde revival was unlikely, the first time The Frock Shop on Central Avenue was used for a theatrical production. Yet the triumph was undeniable: We picked the sophisticated PaperHouse frolic as both our Best Comedy and Show of the Year for 2015.

Other recent career moves for Parati have included resigning from WFAE after 10 years, delivering her own story on The Moth Radio Hour, and obtaining her realtor’s license. Keeping her hand in directing, she also piloted Motherhood Out Loud for Three Bone Theatre and The Bluest Eye for On Q Productions.

So it wasn’t a huge surprise when Theatre Charlotte executive director Ron Law called on Parati for A Raisin in the Sun.

“Ron and his team have worked hard to create a theatre that celebrates diversity and thought it might be wonderful to have a black woman direct a show written by a black woman!”

This black woman, as you may have surmised, is well-connected – and in demand. More than 50 actors showed up for auditions, and Parati found herself calling back 30. Better yet, she didn’t have to scout beyond this talent pool to fill any of Hansberry’s roles. Parati is excited about the new faces in the cast, and she’s also planning a couple of surprises, restoring one of the scenes – plus a telling moment – that were cut from the original 1959 premiere.

Yet Parati pushes back against the notion that A Raisin in the Sun has become newly relevant after the Obama presidency and the Trump election.

“In 2008, I – like a lot of Americans – celebrated the fact that our country had elected its first black president,” Parati recalls. “Yet, the disparities between blacks and whites in education, healthcare, mortality rates and income continue to widen. I’m not convinced there was an ascent and subsequent descent for African Americans from the Obama era to now.

“Sure, our conversation since Trump has changed because the optics and rhetoric seem drastically different, but the stats about the lack of equity between blacks and whites have continued along the same trajectory.”

 

A High School Queen Drinks Drano

Reviews of Heathers: The Musical and Motherhood Out Loud

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By Perry Tannenbaum

Then the movie first came out in 1989, Heathers was already raunchy enough for an R rating. But after the musical revels of Bat Boy, Spring Awakening, Reefer Madness, and Evil Dead have already pushed the envelope, raunchy in 2016 is an altogether different proposition. Three of the first six songs in the new Queen City Theatre Company production of Heathers: The Musical take us to places where the movie feared to tread.

“Candy Store” is fairly ballsy as the three Heathers — Heather Chandler, Heather McNamara, and Heather Duke — lay down the rules for admission into their elite clique. But it’s Veronica’s “Fight for Me” that tells us ballsy is just the beginning. Newcomer J.D. shows her there’s somebody else to be impressed with at Westerburg High School. Yes, the backup singers are chanting “holy shit, holy shit, holy shit!” Pretty soon, J.D. is encountering Veronica at a 7-Eleven and enticing her with the mind-numbing effects of Slurpees in “Freeze Your Brain,” comparing a deep sip to a hit of cocaine.

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But when “Dead Girl Walking” climaxes, it’s a full-blown copulation song of animalistic force. And unlike the movie, where J.D. is always breaking into Veronica’s bedroom, here it’s Veronica hungering for J.D. and hunting him down. “Shut your mouth,” she commands, “and lose them tighty-whities!”

With Laurence O’Keefe and Kevin Murphy combining on the book, music, and lyrics, Heathers is actually the lovechild of the mischief-makers who had separately brought us Bat Boy and Reefer Madness. Besides Bat Boy, O’Keefe can claim the musicalized Legally Blonde on his résumé, while Murphy was head writer on Desperate Housewives. That should adequately preface my declaration that the musical, which rocked the off-Broadway scene in 2014, outclasses the movie in every way.

The music certainly does rock, and with KC Roberge and Matt Carlson as our leads, it’s rocking harder here in the QC than it does on the original cast album. Directing the show, Glenn T. Griffin steers us quickly away from Glee territory, with Carlson’s highly-amped and punkish read on J.D., a brilliant move when the dreamboat turns out to be a raving psychotic.

But while Veronica mulls over the relative merits of staying in the Heathers’ good graces or killing them off — an ambivalence Roberge sustains earnestly — it isn’t all sex, drugs, and rock. There are three pointed ballads in Act 2, one by a surviving Heather who is contemplating suicide, another by the cruelly shunned Martha Dunnstock (nicknamed Dump Truck) about her halcyon days in kindergarten, and a wistful Veronica-J.D. duet, “Seventeen,” on the charms of being ordinary humdrum high schoolers.

When they aren’t plotting date rape, footballers Ram and Kurt are the clowns you expect jocks to be, but the unexpected jolt of new comedy happens at their funeral when their dads deliver their eulogies. Time after time, J.D.’s acts of homicidal mayhem result in unlikely epiphanies. The Heathers Band, led at the keyboard by Mike Wilkins, gives rousing support to “My Dead Gay Son” and all the other showstoppers, but it’s Tod Kubo’s choreography that pushes the big ensembles over the top.

IMG_5097The three Heathers retain their iconic croquet mallets from the film, but costume designers Beth Killion and Ramsey Lyric get Griffin’s drift and take their outfits in a more dominatrix direction. Together in various synced poses, they are sensational — all in major roles for the first time.

Tessa Belongia, a senior at Northwest School of the Arts, has the requisite queen bee regality for Heather Chandler, a bitch that O’Keefe and Murphy just couldn’t bear putting to sleep. She appears just once after J.D. offs her with Drano in the film, but here in the musical, she haunts Veronica repeatedly.

You wonder which Heather will be top dog after Chandler’s demise, and Nonye Obichere proves to be a worthy successor as Duke, not at all the dimwit of the movie but a lingering villainess until the finale.

Ava Smith, who also auditioned for the Blumey Awards last Saturday, was McNamara, the most sensitive of the Heathers, but she doesn’t give away her softness too soon.

Martha is a conflation of two of Veronica’s classmates in the film, making for a more satisfying stage character than either of her film components, and Allison Andrews capitalizes big-time on her anguished moment in the spotlight, “Kindergarten Boyfriend.” Griffin’s casting, Liam Pearce as linebacker Ram and Kaleb Jenkins as quarterback Kurt, cures the Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dum aspect of the film — Pearce is far taller — helping us to feel that Martha is smitten by a real person rather than a generic jock in a school jacket. The horny pals are also a pretty effective comedy team.

Notwithstanding Carlson’s spiked hairdo, there’s a thread of 80’s nostalgia that lingers on. J.D. has this Paleolithic, Oklahoma City notion of destroying his high school by planting remotely controlled dynamite packs throughout the building and setting them off with a detonator hidden down in the basement. Pretty lame compared with today’s hip style of grenades and assault weapons, right?

Adults are all as clueless as we remember from teen films immemorial, if not a bit eccentric. Here they’re interchangeable enough for three elders to play multiple roles. Alyson Lowe is funniest as Ms. Fleming, the hippy-dippy teacher who wants the student body to assemble and ventilate after each murder. Steven Martin and Nathan Crabtree split four Dads between them, but their gay moment at the church funeral is unforgettable — and so very 2016.

Fast Birth Hi-Res-1

What a wonderful idea Susan R. Rose and Joan Stein had for a Mother’s Day theatre event: a group of monologues and brief sketches, mostly by women playwrights, called Motherhood Out Loud. Turns out the brilliance of this idea largely belongs to Three Bone Theatre which staged the Charlotte premiere at McBride & Bonnefoux Center for Dance Studio last weekend. Nearly every other production that came up in my Google search, dating back to Fall 2011, opened during some month other than May.

The timing helped, for some of the 22 stories were sappy, and the five “fugues” that prefaced the five chapters — “Fast Births,” “First Day,” “Sex Talk,” “Stepping Out,” and “Coming Home” — were unnecessary. The best segments were those that confounded expectations.

Although she perpetrated all those fugues, Michele Lowe also wrote “Queen Esther,” narrated by a Jewish mother whose son refuses dress up as any of the customary male characters for his school’s Purim party.

“If We’re Using a Surrogate…,” by Marco Pennette, was a gay father’s account of arranging — and attending — his daughter’s birth, two very awkward meetings with an obliging lesbian. Theresa Rebeck’s “Baby Bird” brought us the experience of an American mother adopting a Chinese baby, and “Michael’s Date,” by Claire LaZebnik, was a mother’s account of chaperoning her autistic son on his first date.Group Hi-Res

Perhaps the most unexpected piece was “Elizabeth,” where a divorced man goes home to his elderly mom and finds that he needs to mother her.

A cast of 18, sensitively directed by Kim Parati, helped us over the rough spots. So did that timing when we came to Jessica Goldberg’s “Stars and Stripes,” about a military mother, and Annie Weisman’s concluding “My Baby,” an unabashed description of the joy and pain of childbirth. No better time for these than Mother’s Day.