Sunday, April 19, 2015

I Hate Hamlet

"It's Shakespeare. It's like algebra on stage," as quoted by the character of John Barrymore in Omaha Community Playhouse's latest production, I Love Hamlet.

Real estate broker, Deirdre McDavey, knows that she has the perfect New York apartment for the Hollywood actor whose show was just cancelled. The apartment was once the residence of John Barrymore. What actor wouldn't be thrilled to live in the actual space inhabited by the legendary man. Added to that, his actor has agreed to play the lead in "Hamlet" for the upcoming Shakespeare in the Park. However, Andrew is not certain that he is capable of portraying this character, knows that he really does not want to play this part, and is definitely not thrilled with this apartment.

Being that Andrew is a television actor. He really does not have the training and experience to understand and play and Hamlet. Even when his girlfriend, agent, promoter, and even the ghost of John Barrymore encourage him, he really doesn't believe he can be successful in this role and still just doesn't want it.

As Andrew Rally, Ben Beck is perfect as the television/commercial actor who doesn't view himself as a talented individual. He has thoroughly enjoyed his five years as the lead on L.A. Medical, the long running successful television show which has now been cancelled.

His girlfriend, Felicia Dantine is portrayed by Julie Fitzgerald Ryan. She is delightful as the 29-year-old-virgin with her firm belief that she will have absolutely no sexual relationship until she is married.

In the role of John Barrymore, the ghost, is Kevin Barratt. He wonderfully captures the dignity of the legendary actor while still being realistic character that is known as an alcoholic, seducer and experienced Shakespearean actor whose reputation as Hamlet is considered one of the best of all time. He successfully became the larger than life Barrymore while still being obviously flawed.

Kim Jubenville is in the role of Lillian Troy. She is Rally's agent who unquestionably wants him in this role. However years ago she had a fling with Barrymore in that actual apartment.

As the real estate broker/psychic Deirdre McDavey, Kim Jubenville possesses the New York accent. With her high-heeled, short-skirted, flashy clothes she is delightful as the flirtatious real estate broker.

Rounding out the cast is Dave Wingert as Gary Peter Lefkowitz who has the Hollywood connections for Rally's future and fortune. He truly became the sleazy promoter looking for the best moment to optimize every opportunity.

This adult play is a fast-paced, delightfully humorous journey accompanying a present day television heartthrob who needs to find a new acting gig. Being thrust into the world of John Barrymore is more than a little unsettling for Andrew. The apartment is styled from the first half of the twentieth-century and definitely not one that a television star would value. Added to that, Andrew learns from the actual ghost of Barrymore who must stay within the walls of the apartment as he both educates and entertains Andrew along with the audience and most of the cast.

The sets, costumes, hair, props, lighting, sound, and direction are perfect. Obviously this behind-the-scenes support crew is outstanding with this well-organized and well-managed production with the actual scene for the entire play being only the living room of the apartment.

Additionally, the two lead male roles needed to interact while fencing. This was effective and masterfully done with no obvious injuries.

The play consists of two acts of about an hour separated by an intermission.

I Hate Hamlet continues at the Omaha Community Playhouse located at 6915 Cass Street in Omaha through May 10th, 2015. Shows are Wednesday through Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.

Ticket prices are $ 36 for adults and $ 22 for students with special group prices available and can be purchased of the Omaha Community Playhouse Box Office by calling (402) 553-0800 or online at or

I Love Hamlet is a delightfully humorous show for those who enjoy Shakespeare, those who feel a little intimidated with Shakespeare, those who would like to better understand Shakespeare and for any adult that enjoys a light-hearted humorous show.

Friday, April 3, 2015

The Meluhhan Oracle

The Meluhhan Oracle
I. J. Roy
Scorpio Books
Charleston, South Carolina
$ 12.99
324 pages

The words of a storyteller can magically weave images of places far away and times long past. However, the people in these tales are memorable while still being realistically human with their personal errors in judgments, selfishness, and risk taking. These stories, even adult ones as in this novel, still reveal life lessons while revealing the people and everyday life of the culture.

The Meluhhan Oracle is the creation of author I. J. Roy who envisions the world of long ago in the lands between Meluhha and Sumer which is now known as the Indus Valley Civilization currently recognized as Northwest India and Pakistan. He utilized information from archeological finds to construct this tale.

Each chapter builds upon the characters and consequences of the previous ones, all revolving around a few central figures as their quests filled with learning experiences and adventures. These characters believe in their fates, each one fulfilling their personal destiny and purpose in life. The mastery of interweaving of the characters throughout the entire novel is phenomenal.

The first character is a woman who has light hair and light skin making her different from her family and others. An albino is usually not safe and is endangered in any species. Zayaa fortunately survives and has a daughter, Tiraa.  When her daughter draws the attraction of the Chief High Priest, Zayaa knows that her family now has to make a crucial decision.   By being proclaimed by the gods, The-Dreamer-of-Truths-Yet-to-Come, she knows that she is The Meluhhan Oracle. How can she be saved from her destiny? Who decides your fate? 

 The second involves a man who dreams of being a trader while in search of the White Gods of the Great Northern White Mountains. He possesses a knowledge of people, problem solving and uncommonly common sense which breaks through the barrier of being an outsider. He seems to magically penetrate communities that need to be inclusive for their survival. However, there is always a price to pay and risks.

Even with evidence of active trading in these areas, the residents of the numerous cities were distrustful of outsiders and besides having their own languages, oftentimes also had mannerisms and customs unique to that individual community. Building trust and close friendships is integral for the success of each character.

Finally the last is a servant to the second, caring for the sick man through his death. He is burdened with not listening attentively for the one thing that he needs.

The Meluhhan Oracle is an adult novel. The intended audience needs to be adults due to the imagery of the tortures and sexual content.

These vignettes which comprise this novel resemble the tales of past cultures that have passed through generations but are actually the fiction created by I. J. Roy.

The Meluhhan Oracle is a treasure of stories revealing small snapshots of the past about people who have lived in an area with a rich heritage and numerous conflicts endured throughout time from a masterful storyteller, I. J. Roy.

Monday, March 9, 2015

"One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" - Chanticleer

"There's such alot of things that are true, even if they don't really happen."

Think about the truth in that statement.

Can a group of men who individually have problems with their everyday lives learn to help themselves and each other? The answer can be found at the Chanticleer Community Theater this weekend in the current show, "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest".

In the domineering and demanding role of Nurse Ratched, Debbie Bertelsen is wonderful being despicable and overbearing tyrannical ruler in this group of dysfunctional men. As one character states about life in this room, "You'll be safe as long as you keep HER temper."

Even with Nurse Ratched the eight men in the mental ward command this stage. In this small microcosm of society, each character has their own individual problems and learns more about themselves and each other as they join together in helping each other.

As the innocent and inexperienced Billy Bibbit who stutters and who still needs his mother's approval, Brandyn Burget is phenomenal.  He perfectly embraces this role. Joseph Eddie excelled in the role of the catatonic Ruckley. Chief Bromden is portrayed by Frank Insolera Jr. as the mute Native American descendant of a peaceful tribe who imparts wisdom through his visions to the audience. As the leader of the group, Randy Vest wonderfully becomes Dale Harding whose problem is having a younger wife with urges, desires, and expectations that he has difficulty fulfilling. Charles Cheswick III as portrayed by David Sindelar was glorious as the wimpy, insecure cowardly lion character. Both Jim Farmer as Anthony Martini and Tom Steffes as Frank Scanlon are marvelous in roles that showed their individual peculiarities while allowing their characters to evolve throughout the play.  Craig Bond is an outstanding in the role of Randle P. McMurphy, the small time criminal who is just searching for an easy way out of prison work and an easy path in life.

The small parts were outstanding with the aides, doctor, hookers all being outstanding even during their short time on stage.

The uncomfortable part of this show is the humanity of the story. Everyone one of us can somewhat see ourselves in at least one of the characters at some time. The use of laughter and making the best out of an unpleasant situation are daily life lessons for everyone.

The support crew is absolutely marvelous with every aspect being perfect in adding to the production rather than being a distraction from the sets, costumes, make-up, direction, sound, lighting, management, and program.

This is one play where I unquestionably expect nominations from the area Theater Arts Guild. I expect much recognition for this particular production.

The stage version of "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" is different from both the movie. Both the play and the movie were adapted the novel focusing on the best for each rather than a consistent story..

The actual timing of the show is an hour for each act with a fifteen-minute intermission separating the two. The content of this play is definitely adult oriented and not intended for children.

The show continues this weekend with show times at 7:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday nights and a matinee Sunday at 2 p.m. Tickets can be purchased at the box office by calling (712) 323-9955. The price of tickets is $ 20 for adults, $ 16 for seniors, and $ 10 for older students. Please keep in mind that this is an adult program.

Which character did you enjoy the most? Which character is most like you?

Sunday, February 15, 2015

The Goldfinch

The Goldfinch
Donna Tartt
Little, Brown and Company
Hachette Book Group
New York, New York
ISBN: 978-0316055437
October 2013
$ 30.00
755 pages

"That life-whatever else it is- is short. That fate is cruel but maybe not random....And in the midst of our dying, as we rise from the organic and sink back ignominiously into the organic, it is a glory and privilege to love what Death doesn't touch."

How do we know when a piece of artwork is a masterpiece? How does anyone learn about beauty, form, style and technique in recognizing true art whether in music, writing, or art?

Theo Decker has never been a part of a group. Early in his life, he was singled out for his intelligence and placed in advanced classes. With another student, Theo and Andy frequently found themselves bonded in a type of friendship joining in their constant battle against bullies. Through the natural isolation, the two had a bound of survival by relying on each other as their only friend.

Theo also was extremely close to his mother, especially after his father abandoned the two. She was beautiful and had a natural charm attracting people to her as a fly is drawn to a light.

After being suspended from school one day, his mother took him to a museum prior to their meeting with the school. When she went into another room, Theo's world changed forever. The building exploded. Theo became conscious and was aware of two people near him, an elderly man and a girl who was close to his age. The man gave him a ring and told him to take a particular painting, The Goldfinch which was painted by Vermeer's teacher who was also a student of Rembrandt. Realizing that death was near, he grabbed the painting and went home to wait for his mother. He knew that if she could not find him, she would look for him at home. At what point would he give up and realize that she was dead?

What does an orphaned thirteen-year-old boy do with a stolen painting? The answer is The Goldfinch.

The Goldfinch is a little reminiscent of the Twin Towers' disaster along with a realistic view of gifted children, absent fathers, foster care, drug-usage, art crime, and the antique business all blended into a well-written memorable tale.

This is the type of tale the obsesses your thinking day and night, even when the last page ends with the final period. The true gloriousness of this tale is how well the book constantly encircles art and attempts to define that which words cannot describe,

The Empty Throne

The Empty Throne
Bernard Cornwell
Harper Collins Publishers
New York, New York
ISBN: 978-0-06-225071-1
$ 27.99
297 pages

"Leave one alive, that had been my father's advice. Let one man take the bad news home to frighten the others,...which meant the survivor, if there was one, would take the news of defeat to widows and orphans."

This was the belief of many fighters of numerous battles throughout history. Always leave one person alive, usually a youngster, to deliver the news to the towns and families about the fates of their loved ones. Considering the limits of communication back in the years prior to the 1900s, this appeared to be a common practice throughout much of European history.

In the land that would become England in the years of 900 A.D. the constant battles between the Vikings and the Saxons proved that life was still unsettled. Besides heritage there were also changes in religion with most people either following the gods of the Norse or the new beliefs of Christianity. Between the regions of Wessex, Mercia, East Anglia, and Northumbria there were constantly disagreements but there is now a possible hope of becoming a unified country since AEthelred, the ruler of Mercia, had died without a legitimate heir.

The obvious successor would be the West Saxon king. However, AEthelred's widow, AEthelflaed was loved by the people of Mercia, but not her husband. She followed her own path as a warrior and also possibly had her own lover while frequently in disagreements with her husband. Could a female succeed in uniting this land?

The Empty Throne opens with Uhtred who was called Osbert, the son of Uhtred, the lord in The Pagan Lord. So now the son is in charge of a war party with many men who had served his father. Lord Uhtred is not fighting but becoming an aging warrior who is slowly healing from numerous old wounds. Uhtred has devised a strategy for capturing a large group of Norsemen. Through cunning, scheming, misdirection, and the firm belief of doing what he believes is right, they look forward to the day when this land in no longer plagued by these Northern invaders.

Bernard Cornwell places the reader directly in the middle of the battles. With Uhthred whose brother was disowned in the previous novel for becoming a Christian priest and his father, Lord Uhthread, Cornwell masterfully writes a tale based on the actual recorded history of these events. With names that are not commonly known, this novel is action-adventure at its best turning history into a readable page turner

The Empty Throne is the eighth book in Bernard Cornwell's Saxon Tales following The Pagan Lord. I strongly feel that this particular novel would be difficult to understand without reading the previous installment.