Charlotte theater fans may have thought that the best reason to drive up I-77 and catch the Davidson College production of Communicating Doors was to catch a rare whiff of director Steve Umberger's work. But in recent years, the Theatre Department at Exit 30 has made some serious strides -- and some notable incursions in the Charlotte scene.
So the production featured a couple of Theater majors that Actor's Theatre subscribers will be familiar with. Kelsey Formost turned heads as the predatory Clea in an outstanding production of The Scene, and Ian Bond was the intriguing bisexual Alex in The Little Dog Laughed earlier last season. Both of these pros -- and everyone else -- were upstaged by Desirée Domo as Poopay, a quavery dominatrix who, during a series of time travels from 2014 to 1994, is transformed into a brave heroine by the example of Ruella, staunchly portrayed by Kim Murphy.
No shame in that, for none other than TV stalwart Bonnie Franklin was upstaged by Eva Kaminsky when Umberger directed this sci-fi adventure comedy for Charlotte Rep in 1999. That's how irresistible Poopay is, with Kaminsky stronger on the comedy end and Domo bringing out the growth curve a little more sharply. Domo, Formost, and Murphy were all scintillating last year up at Davidson in Scapin, so nobody should be surprised how well this latest Wildcat strike came together. Actually, this Doors denouement was rather moving, in a way that recalled the original Back to the Future.
Department chair Anne Marie Costa, who directed The Scene down on Stonewall Street, has dealt a couple of aces starting off the past two seasons. Scott Ripley was the guest director for that tasty take on Scapin, like Umberger a past CL Theaterperson of the Year.
While AvantVanGuard doesn't officially launch until this Thursday, with a latenight aftershow at Carolina Actors Studio Theatre following the new production of Monster -- The Real Story of Frankenstein, we caught a foretaste after the Pointers late last Friday. If Night of the Living Dead can serve as a predictor, Cirque de Morte will be gory, campy, gloomy, hysterical and heavy on the makeup. James Walker and Nick Iammatteo were the chief earthlings fending off the alien zombies engulfing the world, with James Cartee directing the mayhem between splices of the classic film.
We will carefully watch this new CAST offshoot and report on all bizarre mutations that show up over the Halloween weekend on Clement Avenue.