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The Sheen Center for Thought & Culture

Sister Calling My Name

February 7, 2020

An author can be too close to his or her material so that the real story fails to be revealed. Inspired by his own family events, Buzz McLaughlin’s Sister Calling My Name has a fascinating premise but that is not enough. In relating a faith-based story of Michael, a man who has avoided for 18 years his mentally disabled sister Lindsey, a ward of the state since being a teenager, McLaughlin repeats lines and plot points endlessly while failing to give us enough details to bring the characters to life. The play seems to go round and round in a circle. The script note that Lindsay’s disability manifests itself in simply locking into an idea and going with it until another takes its place does not help an audience who must listen to the same dialogue over and over. Peter Dobbins’ production for Blackfriars Repertory Theatre and The Storm Theatre does little to make the characters more than labels. [more]

The Hope Hypothesis

October 31, 2019

The play’s title comes from Carew’s character. The “hope hypothesis” is the notion that, in our current environment, people have universally given up hope. Consequently, they are either attempting to destroy themselves or aiming to destroy others. That’s a fairly dire assessment of the world we live in, and one that Miller doesn’t strive to dispel. That she can project that kind of cynical outlook in such a sparkling entertainment is impressive and a bit unnerving. [more]

When It Happens to You

October 15, 2019

As a writer, O’Dell seems to eschew melodramatic elements, including pat endings with fully resolved conflicts. This a work grounded in sober reality, a work that rejects the prevalent idea that “closure” is something that will surely erase all scars and “make whole” once more those who’ve lived through such traumatic incidents. If there’s any “message” that O’Dell offers, it’s that keeping silent about having been raped can only exacerbate the pain. At the same time, she suggests, women who’ve experienced such assaults need to be able to come out about them in their own time. [more]

Ah, Wilderness!

February 3, 2019

In three acts, we get idealized Norman Rockwell-style Americana. As in his dramas, O’Neill’s sense of structure is totally idiosyncratic. Ah, Wilderness! is shorter than his dramas but still feels long at two hours and 40 minutes with an intermission but it is absorbing nonetheless. That’s due to its novel perspective. Instead of the cheapskate father and drug addict mother in Long Day’s Journey into Night, we get idealized perfect parents. The young hero here is set on a path of moral rectitude rather than dissolution. O’Neill offers an uplifting fantastical reworking of his well-documented grim upbringing where everything for a change is happily resolved. [more]

Pushkin

August 10, 2018

Gambling, palace intrigue and poetry abounds in playwright Jonathan Leaf’s imaginative and engrossing historical drama "Pushkin." In the course of two acts and numerous scenes, the eventful life of the great Russian author is skillfully dramatized during this lavish presentation that takes place from 1834 to 1837. [more]

The Rainmaker

May 6, 2018

“Never judge a heifer by the flick of her tail” is just one of the many kernels of down home wisdom in playwright N. Richard Nash’s lovely piece of Americana, The Rainmaker. It’s been tenderly revived by the Blackfriars Repertory Theatre and The Storm Theatre Company with every role perfectly cast. [more]