War Horse, the international stage hit that became a Steven Spielberg film, is coming to area movie screens in its original form as an epic play at the National Theatre in Britain.
By ROBERT TRUSSELL
The Kansas City Star
National Theatre Live: National Theatres War Horse, a recorded performance of the long-running London production, will be broadcast simultaneously on Feb. 27 to 350 movie theaters across the country, including the Cinemark Palace on the Plaza and the Cinemark 20 in Merriam. The show starts at 7 p.m.
Based on Michael Morpurgos novel and adapted for the stage by Nick Stafford, War Horse is a deceptively simple story of a Devon teenagers search for his beloved horse, Joey, who has been sold to the army for combat service in World War I.
The show opened in London in 2007 and three years later was staged at Lincoln Center in New York with an American cast. Spielbergs movie version was released in 2011.
Touring companies of the show are now performing in North America, Australia and the United Kingdom/Ireland. A production is also running in Berlin. The North American touring company is set to play April 1-6 at the Music Hall.
The plays calling card is the groundbreaking designs from the Handspring Puppetry Company. Each amazingly lifelike horse is manipulated by two puppeteers.
Tickets to the Feb. 27 screenings are available at each theaters box office or online at FathomEvents.com.
Fat Pig at the Living Room
Bryan Moses, associate artistic director of the Living Room, is an unabashed fan of Neil LaBute, a playwright who also writes and directs films. So hes staging LaButes provocative Fat Pig, which began previews this week and runs through Feb. 23.
The Living Room has also been staging weekly readings of other LaBute plays as a way of introducing audiences to the writers work.
I consider this LaButes masterpiece, Moses said. Of all his plays, this one, I think, is the best constructed and does its job of bringing up issues of how we view overweight people. Its a real honest look at it without pulling any punches.
Fat Pig is a love story of sorts, in which Tom, a young male urban professional, and an overweight librarian named Helen strike up a relationship. In the course of the play, each character must come to terms with his or her attitudes about weight and societys perceptions of feminine beauty.
Their relationship is complicated by Toms attitudes about her physical qualities as well as interference from his friend Carter and the reaction of Jeannie, one of Toms former girlfriends.
Moses said he locked in Bob Linebarger (God Sees Dog, Shipwrecked!) as Tom and Kenzie West (One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest, The Death of Cupid) as Helen early on. Their colleagues, Matthew James McAndrews (The Salvation of Iggy Scrooge, Zombie Prom) and Liz Golson ( Carousel, Ragtime), were chosen from 40 to 50 applicants.
LaBute, like David Mamet and certain other male playwrights, has acquired a reputation as a misogynist, which Moses says is undeserved.
Ive never gotten that because I think he really calls out men more than anything, Moses said. He shows us how horrible men are.
Moses said the show would be staged on the Living Rooms first floor in promenade style, in which the audience follows the actors from room to room as the play unfolds. The Living Room has done this before with Harold Pinters Betrayal.
Moses said other LaBute titles may be in the Living Rooms future, although nothing specific is planned at the moment.
LaBute is probably 75 percent hit for me and 25 percent miss, Moses said. But when he gets it right, he gets it right.
Next from Spinning Tree: Motherhood Out Loud
Spinning Tree Theatre follows up a successful production of Aint Misbehavin with an anthology by various playwrights on what it means to be a mother. Motherhood Out Loud begins performances tonight and runs through Feb. 16 at the Off Center Theatre at Crown Center.
This is a relatively recent play that incorporates the work of 12 women and two men. Among them are Beth Henley, Theresa Rebeck, Lisa Loomer, Cheryl West and David Cale. The piece was conceived by Susan R. Rose and Joan Stein.
They asked them to write something about their experience with motherhood, said Spinning Tree co-founder Andy Parkhurst, who is directing the show. Its not cliches. Its anything but.
Its everything from birth, which is the very first scene, to the first day of school, having that sex talk with your kid all the way through. The structure is similar to Vagina Monologues. Theres five different chapters that move through the life cycle.
The cast includes Natalie Liccardello, Kelly Main, Julie Shaw and Rick Truman. The show runs about 80 minutes without an intermission.
Were a young company, Parkhurst said. This is our third season, and we need to sell tickets and grow our audience base. With each season we learn that more and more. Without the selling of tickets, theres no production for people to see.
We thought this title was very appealing to a wide section of the population, but the piece is smarter than you might expect and has much more depth. Its not superficial.
Parkhurst and co-founder Michael Grayman both come from musical theater, but Parkhurst said that moving forward, audiences should expect a mix of musicals and straight plays.
Theres a lot of both in Kansas City, Parkhurst said, adding that what he and Grayman look for is high-quality writing. They consider what kind of piece really charges the audiences imagination. This is a play we looked at and we couldnt imagine another theater company in town doing it.
For tickets, call 816-545-6000 or go to spinningtreetheatre.com.
At the Music Hall
Next on the Kansas City Broadway Series is Bring It On: The Musical, based on the film about competitive high-school cheerleading.
Some impressive names pop up in the creative team for this show: Jeff Whitty, who claimed a Tony Award for Avenue Q, wrote the book; the music and lyrics are by Lin-Manuel Miranda, a Tony winner for In the Heights.
Also contributing to the score are composer Tom Kitt (Next to Normal) and lyricist Amanda Green (High Fidelity). Other Tony-winning In the Heights contributors include music supervisor Alex Lacamoire and director/choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler.