Final Draft: Duck Variations (optional)

Comment your Final reviews of  Duck Variations here.

5 Comments on “Final Draft: Duck Variations (optional)

  1. “The Duck Variations”
    Angela Tricarico | University of New Haven

    On the surface, The Duck Variations, one of David Mamet’s earliest plays, seems incredibly simple. The set can be as bare as the one used in TOF Productions’ Fringe Friday performance of the play—just a green park bench in the middle of a thrust stage. Two men meet on that bench in an unnamed city, in a park near a lake.

    Audiences don’t know whether the two men know each other already or if they’re complete strangers when George (Adam Zahler) sits down next to Emil (Kent Cassella) and begins talking to him, but still, it feels terse. As the conversation grows longer and less awkward, it’s anything but. The Duck Variations is roughly thirty minutes of banter between the two men, as they discuss the subjects of life and death using ducks in the park as a long-running metaphor. They’re both a little clueless; if they knew anything at all about ducks, the metaphor wouldn’t work. The ducks remind them of different things—fall and spring, life and death, loneliness, the fall of a leader and rise of another.

    The piece requires perfect timing, as the snappy dialogue often overlaps. The chemistry between Zahler and Casella was undeniable. Zahler embodied George well. His performance came with an air of confidence and ignorance necessary to the character; George truly believes everything that he’s saying, no matter how ridiculous or false it sounds, and no matter how hard Emil tried to argue the opposite. Zahler was convincing in that regard. His performance breathed life into the character in a way that felt so familiar; he reminded me of a grandfather, warm and receptive, but determined to make his points and have them be heard. He set George up to be a perfect foil to Emil. The script isn’t generous in handing out details about either man’s life, but as Emil, Casella didn’t do quite as much as Zahler in distinguishing Emil from any other generic male character. Casella tended to speak softer than Zahler, who very animatedly delivered many of his lines. Still, the two men gave life to these characters in real and convincing ways.

    The play did not have much to offer in tech or design elements beyond the aforementioned bench. Lighting was consistent throughout; the bench was well lit to convey daytime. Both men were costumed realistically and true to the character; I particularly liked the Underdog t-shirt George was wearing. These elements, though minimal, helped paint a larger picture for a show this small.

    To me, the most exciting part of TOF’s The Duck Variations was its backstory, provided partly in program notes (presented as emails between actors and director), but also during a short post-show talkback. Zahler, Cassella, and their director Jonathan Bourne co-founded Second Stage in Vermont in 1978, and this play, which ran for two performances, was their first production. Forty years later, the three men are still close friends and decided that now was the right time to revisit the play for their third performance. With time came growing into the characters, as Zahler and Cassella are now the ages that the characters should be.

    At one point in the play, Emil convinces George that there is meaning in the conversation they’re having. I found that to be one of the most important things to take away from The Duck Variations, beyond the power of lasting friendships. Everything in life has purpose and meaning, even if that meaning is presented in a non-straightforward way, not easily identified like the purpose and meaning of the conversation had by George and Emil.

  2. Dancing in the Rain
    Reviewed by Dylan Bowden

    A smorgasbord of magic and theatre graced Cape Community College’s Tilden Main Theatre in Jeremy Mikaelson’s standout show, “Dancing in the Rain”.

    As soon as the music began to play over the loudspeakers, I felt a wave of goosebumps wash over my body. What followed truly set the mood for a wonderful, but brief show. Mikaelson danced onto the stage in an elegant tuxedo with shiny pink lapels that truly was a sight for the detailed-oriented eye. Yes, the magic was impressive, but it could not have been accomplished without some exceptionally eye-catching lighting and pleasingly simplistic set design. The simplicity of the open stage also allowed the freedom of movement necessary to execute an impressive array of tricks and shine in the process.

    Since his tricks tend to revolve around umbrellas, the title of Mikaelson’s show is quite fitting. While I am familiar with the use of cloth in magic tricks – being pulled up from the throat or to create a flock of doves – I have never seen it used to create an umbrella. This uncommon trick kept my eyes following in fascination throughout Mikaelson’s stellar performance, as he conjured up umbrella after umbrella. Judging by his creativity and theatricality, not to mention his style and contagious, cheerful personality, this upcoming “international star of magic” truly has a promising career ahead of him.

    While I enjoyed Mikaelson’s addition to the plethora of Fringe Friday shows presented at KCACTF, the length of the show and the content presented were too brief for my taste. Though there is something to be said about the uniqueness of his tricks, Mikaelson’s stuck closely to the use of umbrellas and cloths in his performance with just the occasional flick of confetti – lending a hint of sameness to the production. Yes, the show revolves around the use of umbrellas, but it could have benefited from a bit more variety in the set. In addition, the show ended too suddenly, with an almost jarring abruptness that undermined the joy of the performance and left me wanting more. I found myself looking around the audience to see if the show would continue. But no, it was really over, just like that.

    I understand that the purpose of Fringe Friday is to present short, theatrical scenes, yet I still hoped that this beautiful display of magic would have continued for at least another ten to fifteen minutes. The show was marvelous, entertaining – and even quite thought provoking in some instances – but I felt a sense of disappointment among members of the audience due to its overly short time on stage. I loved that Mikaelson’s magic was performed in such a theatrical manner – though I would also have loved for Mikaelson to explore his performance in more depth, and milk the time and enjoyment that he brought to all of the audience members.

    But in the midst of a stressful week, these few minutes of magical theatre were truly appreciated, offering a chance to relax, decompress, and let one’s mind wander among the impossible feats. Kudos to the coordinators of the Fringe Festival at KCACTF for giving students and opportunity to showcase their creativity and voice for hundreds of people to experience. If you are interested in showcasing your idea, show, or concept at the next annual KCACTF, apply before the Fall of 2019 to be considered. Whether you’re an an audience member or a director, you will not be disappointed. Congratulations, Jeremy Mikaelson.

  3. Fringe Friday: Dancing in the Rain
    Review by Andrea Vargas – Rhode Island College
    Stunning magic – just don’t blink, or it will be over.
    “Dancing in the Rain” is a ten-minute magic show staring Magician Jeremy Mikaelson. As the announcer introduces the magician’s entrance, the audience learns that Mikaelson has over 11 years of work in magic. He travels all over the world performing his magic tricks and has studied with the oldest magicians in the world with The Society of American Magic. The tricks range from simplistic to elaborate and Mikaelson’s ability to put on a great show is astounding. Unfortunately, it only lasted ten minutes. The feeling of nostalgia hits the audience, as if they were at the circus with family. That memory was quickly snatched away when the whole event was done within what felt like seconds.
    The show is filled with tricks such as umbrellas turning to dust, bandanas turning into a huge rod. The umbrellas tend to be multiplied like bunny rabbits. Small flashy tricks were the style of this show and it showed. A big finale trick would have been an engaging way to end the show, but our magician stuck to the basics. Even though our magician kept it simple with their magic, it was still done well and amazed me never the less.
    The costume in which Mikaelson presented his tricks in was very stylish. Most magicians wear the typical tux and top hat. Staying away from this stereotype, he wears purple lapels which accented the black suit which had slight embellishments without making the entire suit bedazzled. I enjoyed all the colors featured in his lighting design and magical props. The sound design filled the show with fun up beat and fast paced sound. Unfortunately, a small hiccup was noted at the end of routine within the final moments of the show when Mikaelson left stage with a good amount of music still remaining. The audience sits in their seats wondering where the magician would come from next. To my dismay, the house lights came up and our magician is never seen again.
    Mikaelson has talent and skill proving to be a very engaging performer especially when making eye contact with his audience and using choreographed gestures to get the audience’s attention. Even his gesturing to specific audience member who should “watch with their own eyes” through simple hand movements causes anticipation, making his tricks even better. As I walked out of the theatre, my ears are filled with the chatter of the audience asking for more. I was very happy to sit and forget about life for a minute and watch some magic tricks instead of watching another two-hour long show that makes me question my entire way of life. I look forward to seeing more magic from Mikaelson in the future with possibly a lengthier show and maybe even a small set as opposed to the single umbrella in the center of the stage. The talent was there, but the performance would benefit from Fringe Friday helping Mikaelson put on a longer show.

  4. “THE YELLOW WALLPAPER” Presented as Part of Fringe Friday

    “Welcome, you’re free to sit where ever you like, including the stage.”

    New and nonconforming, the CCRI Player’s devised adaption of “The Yellow Wallpaper” is a strangely captivating retelling of a time-honored classic. As soon as I walked into the theatre, I knew “The Yellow Wallpaper” would be different from other productions at KCACTF this year. For starters, the audience was immediately encouraged by the usher to sit on stage. I am glad that I took the opportunity to go out of my comfort zone and participate in that way as it gave an intriguing, up-close and personal perspective on the play. I felt like a bystander watching the women through their struggle, unable to help.

    The original tale is told through a series of journal entries written by an unnamed woman, a wife of a physician. She is forbidden from working or exercising and is locked inside an upstairs nursery as a form of treatment for what her husband deems a “temporary nervous depression”. Over time she becomes obsessed with the pattern of the room’s yellow wallpaper, believing there to be a woman trapped behind it. The story follows the women’s dissent into true insanity due to her confinement and is praised as a work of classic feminist literature. For those who have never read Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s classic short story, the inspiration behind this devised piece of the same name, the performance simply would not have made any sense. While there were moments of obvious physical representations of confinement and separation, the performance was careful not to hold the audience’s hand, allowing for personal interpretation and discovery.

    Having foreknowledge of the story, I was excited to see the CCRI Player’s take. I was greeted with a thoughtful piece filled with passion and expression. Four women entered the stage dressed all in black, armed with five strips of fabric: two grey, two white, and one yellow. As a series of unrecognizable, overlapping words played, the women started to develop the story of the unnamed woman through a sequence of interpretive dance and pantomime. The idea of separation and struggle became clear as two of the women, divided by grey fabric, found each other mirrored like a reflection. Unable to reach each other through the division they fought pulling back and forth as their world began to spin. By now the over lapping words had stopped and changed to a melancholic and hauntingly lyrical arrangement of contemporary instrumental and vocal music. The rest of the performance remained hypnotizing, and although short in length, its brevity did not take away from its lasting impact.

    There were a few things I do feel could have been improved upon or used to enhance the overall production value. For example, utilizing a more dynamic lighting design to aid in the fluctuations of mood or setting. However, despite this detail, it was inspiring to see young female theatre artists proudly performing a work of their own creation.

  5. The Yellow Wallpaper
    Jhada-Ann Walker

    Short and spicy are just the adjectives for this experimental performance.
    “The Yellow wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman is a dramatic piece devised by the CCRI players into an half an hour show. The performers related the short story about the oppressive forces of the patriarchal society during the 19th century.
    The ambiance was set with slow songs changing the mood from being anxious to a dreadful one as I took my seat on stage left. No I’m not a part of the cast but I do consider the term VIP since the option was given to sit on the stage. It is not very often that experimental performances are shown much appreciation like standard theatrical performances and therefore the audience was not packed.
    This performance used movement, music and props to relate a strong message without any dialogue. The song choices are just fitting to the occasion especially the opening and ending repetition of voices and the loud thudding heartbeats. Instantly a feeling of fear, struggle, madness and anxiety fills the air. Four women are seen, each holding a fabric and a yellow cloth in the center, creating a powerful image.
    Movement and relationship with the props was the driving force of communicating the “temporary nervous depression” (hysteria) through the sudden intensifying motions. The pairs were mirrored on the stage, which was very effective decision of displaying the similar torment that females face at home, work and play. The repetition of movement by each performer gave the notion that this was an issue that moved throughout a generation of females. The circular formations, body rolls, fetus positions, back and forth rocking, stretching of fabric, tug of war, standing, sitting, lying were all techniques in movement that was explored by the performers to tell their story.
    White fabric gave the idea that the females were new to the illness so the actresses that used that color moved more terrified. While the grey fabric which has more hue tells that the ladies holding it were experienced and numbed to the pain and were ready for a breakthrough. With that said, the most captivating moment of the piece was the escape attempted through the knots that held the fabrics together. This section was just powerful in showing how much women in the 19th century endured the fight of being trapped within the domestic sphere.
    The title of the piece was incorporated into the performance through the yellow fabric that was placed center stage. It reminds me of sunlight; the ray of hope that women longed for. Or that beam of light within women that was hidden due to oppression. Or the withering of a woman’s soul turning from green to yellow like a plant. However, wrapped in the yellow fabric was a very important tool; sources of information in the form of journal entries that was written by a woman in misery.
    Throughout the play the actors were silent until a page was read from a book discovered in the yellow fabric. This broke the tension and energy built up in the piece because the actor was not enunciating enough for the words to be heard clearly. At this point it was hard to even sympathize anymore for the mood and the focus was not the same. The actors were also lacking in much face expression and emotion which was perceived as not being convincing enough. The lack of characterization worked effortlessly, as it sent the message that women of all sort, age, rank, you name it ,are seen for the vessel they are, females.
    I enjoyed the manner in which the four ladies evoked a range of heart wrenching emotions through a series of physical performances. Perhaps this was a reflection of the journey to feminism.

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