Reviews: music, stage and comics

Reviews: music, stage and comics

Jefferson’s last stand

On Wednesday, June 21, a mid-size throng piled into the back of the Downtown Mall’s historic Jefferson Theater to bid a fond adieu (for now) to Charlottesville’s favorite purveyor of $3 movies, which is closing for at least a year to undergo “massive” renovations. Amid flyers proclaiming “Good-bye old Charlottesville: The last good place is gone,” and a video projection of George W. Bush giving the finger, raucous-yet-tuneful garage rockers The Karl Rove serenaded an increasingly inebriated crowd (with all-you-can-drink beer available for $5, many attendees seized the opportunity to dull their existential pain). The party stretched late into the night, and was marked by much reminiscing and anti-development vitriol. But, in the end, good memories and high-decibel music seemed to overpower the melancholy, and the last stragglers to leave the shuttered theater were, quite obviously and without a doubt, happier than when they arrived.

South Pacific
Heritage Repertory Theatre
Through July 1

stage

 I don’t know about you, but I like my musicals to have some meat on their bones. If a man is going to fall so in love with a woman that he can’t help but burst into song, I’d like a world war, or some such distressing thing, to loom invisibly in the background, mitigating the mushiness.
    In the case of South Pacific, the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic based on James Michener’s Tales of the South Pacific, the world war is the second one, and the lovers are a middle-aged French planter named Emile de Becque (T. Doyle Leverett) and a young American nurse named Nellie Forbush (Nancy Snow). Both live on a South Pacific island where the U.S. army has stationed a base.
    But it’s not just their story. The handsome Lieutenant Cable (Rob Marnell) arrives to lead a mission to create a spy post on a Japanese-held island, and meets Liat (Catherine Kim), the enchanting daughter of a souvenir dealer named Bloody Mary (Marthe Rowen). Cable and Liat don’t require several dates and some electric conversation to realize they’re in love—or any other kind of conversation for that matter. He only speaks English, you see, and she only speaks French. A song ensues. Thank you, intimations of prejudice and tragedy, for hovering in the air and lending the sentimentality some weight.
    Though South Pacific has a reputation for dragging at times (especially with all the exposition in Act I), veteran Heritage Repertory director Robert Chapel apparently didn’t feel the need to do any fiddling to repair the damage. Additional problems arise: Choreographer Lynee Kurdziel Formato seems to have had more luck whipping the male ensemble into shape than the female ensemble; Rowen’s Bloody Mary is too clownish to be believed; Leverett, Snow and Marnell’s singing talents exceed their acting talents; and Leverett and Snow’s voices go together like papaya juice and coconut milk.
    Nevertheless, Chapel and Formato have created a standard, safe, solid production that weathers these little storms, and in turn ensures that South Pacific’s status as a substantive bundle of song and dance remains intact.—Doug Nordfors

Civil War
By Mark Millar and Steve McNiven
Marvel Comics, monthly

comics

Is it just me, or does it seem that the world of comics is becoming more like real life every day? Batman’s got abandonment issues, Superman’s lonely, DC recently revealed that the new Batwoman is a lesbian, and now this: Marvel’s annual mega-crossover mini-series, which, in place of a clichéd alien invasion, presents a torn-from-the-headlines “event” that mixes an engaging superhero drama with reality TV trappings and a healthy dollop of C-SPAN.
    The set-up: A group of young, fame-seeking heroes track down a group of C-list villains to get footage for a reality series. In the heroes’ zeal they fail to notice that one of the villains can trigger spectacular explosions, and that their makeshift battleground is next door to a suburban elementary school. The bad guy goes boom, killing all but one of the heroes…and several hundred kids.
    The public condemnation is swift and clear: Something must be done about superheroes. For years the costumed “do-gooders” have operated outside the law. Yes, they often save the world—but they also cause billions in property damage and frequently leave behind innocent bystanders wounded in the crossfire, with nobody taking responsibility. The government quickly moves to pass the Superhuman Registration Act, which will require every “hero” to reveal his/her identity and became an official agent of the United States.
    And so the “civil war” begins.
    Some of the heroes stand behind the SRA, including Iron Man, who sees it as the next responsible step in human/superhuman evolution. Not so pleased is Captain America, who sees it as the first step toward fascism, something he saw first-hand in WWII. Cap goes on the run, and is soon labeled an enemy of the state as he puts together an underground of like-minded heroes committed to preserving their freedom. Iron Man, determined to stop Cap and his group by any means necessary, gathers up the heroes looking to fall in line with the government.
    Stuck in the middle is Spider-Man. He pledges allegiance to Iron Man, but has deep reservations about what registration means—not only heroes, but also for the friends and family they’ve sworn to protect. But by the end of the recently released Issue 2, he makes a fateful decision that will change the character forever: He removes his mask on camera and reveals to the world that he is, and always has been, Peter Parker.
    It’s a great, iconic comic moment that fandom will debate for years. It’s also in the service of a great, interesting story that addresses important social issues like immigration and gun control. How successful Civil War ultimately ends up being, however, hinges on whether or not the Powers That Be decide to simplify inherently un-simple questions. But so far writer Mark Millar has done a great job playing devil’s advocate for both sides, and has kept the story from becoming just an endless slog of speechifying (the spinoff titles have not done as well on that front). Marvel promises big changes by the story’s end, and just two issues in they’ve already delivered some truly shocking moments. Where it goes from here is anybody’s guess.—Eric Rezsnyak

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