All articles by James MacKillop

Drafters Tackles Unnecessary Roughness

Drafters concerns a semipro football team called the Syracuse Stallions.

Ryan Hope Travis, head of the Paul Robeson Performing Arts Company, has been transforming the community-based outfit since he took over last year. The Syracuse-specific original stage work Drafters allows us to see the new energy and new faces he is bringing to the fare. For his fast-moving 90-minute script, gender roles and sexual harassment dominate the raucous locker-room talk of a dozen players. Not all the cast is African-American, and the words “race” and “color” are never mentioned. “Wegmans” and “Nottingham High School,” however, are heard.



Penguin Tango’s Alternative Zoo Story

The Penguin Tango at the Redhouse Arts Center

In his curtain speech, playwright-director Stephen Svoboda acknowledges that the impulse for the Redhouse Arts Center’s production of The Penguin Tango comes from one of America’s most frequently banned books. Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson’s 2005 children’s book And Tango Makes Three won praise from the likes of Maurice Sendak but brought down the wrath of censors. Reportedly based on an episode observed in life, two male penguins, Roy and Silo, were sitting on a small rock apparently trying to hatch it like an egg. Seeing this, a zookeeper gave the males an egg produced elsewhere, and they hatched it, producing a chick named Tango, whom they raised. Whoa! Call out the moral militia!



Monster Mash

October 30, 31 and Nov. 1, 2 at Baldwinsville Theatre Guild

Mel Brooks’ musical version of his 1974 movie Young Frankenstein is a spoof of a spoof of a film adaptation of a classic novel. Fans of his film (Brooks thinks it’s his best) will be delighted that every quotable gag (“Big knockers!”) is lovingly retained in Baldwinsville Theatre Guild’s splashy production.



Slavery Keys Dramatic Conflict in The Piano Lesson

The pun in the title of August Wilson’s The Piano Lesson is a signal that of all the plays in his “Pittsburgh Decalogue,” it has the most to teach.

The child in the Hill District household, Maretha (Marcea Bond), is indeed learning how to master the keyboard. The greater lesson is what is to be learned from the heavily engraved piano, a bitter legacy from slave times. Strong-willed Berniece (Erika LaVonn), a niece in Doaker Charles’ home, still cherishes all that the piano represents.



Welcome to SALT City

Surprises and sentiment dominate the 10th annual SALT Awards, and stage critic James MacKillop covered it all from the balcony

Streamlining kept the 10th annual Syracuse New Times Syracuse Area Live Theater (SALT) Awards under two hours, but still packed in more gags, skits and episodes than ever. The event was held Sunday, Oct. 26, at Syracuse Stage, on the set of the current production of August Wilson’s The Piano Lesson.



Lonely Planet Recalls the AIDS Epidemic

(Review) Lonely Planet at the Kitchen Theatre Company

People who use typewriters and answer the loud bells of heavy desk phones are still worth listening to. Steven Dietz’s Lonely Planet, set specifically in 1991, employs light absurdist humor and extended metaphors before the audience at Ithaca’s Kitchen Theatre Company figures out just where it’s going.



Sad Café’s Southern Discomfort

(Review) The Ballad of the Sad Cafe at Le Moyne College’s Coyne Center for the Performing Arts

Carson McCullers was the female Tennessee Williams, but with an even deeper taste for misfits. Despite her capacious gifts for theatrical dialogue, McCullers’ 1951 novella The Ballad of the Sad Café was adapted for the stage by Edward Albee in 1965, crafting explosive encounters while remaining faithful to the original text. It took visionary director Matt Chiorini, of Le Moyne College’s Boot and Buskin Theater Club, to know that this nearly forgotten treasure would make a great fit with a student company. The townies of Oklahoma (reset from Georgia by Chiorini) look as authentic as scenic designer Karel Blakeley’s rough-hewn but imposing set, the men in scraggly redneck beards and the women in Montgomery Ward duds.



Evil Dead Serves Up Ghoulish Goulash

(Review) Central New York Playhouse’s Evil Dead: The Musical

The Central New York Playhouse’s area premiere of Evil Dead: The Musical arrives with a number of firsts. For starters, it’s the first show to have its own designated “splatter zone,” with seats tightly lined up together near the stage.



Ducking the Goosesteppers

Appleseed Productions presents ‘The Diary of Anne Frank’

Director Lois Haas takes three routes to refresh Appleseed Productions' version of The Diary of Anne Frank. One is small, dealing with the accents. With tutoring from voice coach Marcia Mele, all people confined in the secret upper room speak with muted German accents: “anyone” becomes “anyvun.” This reminds us that we always think of Anne as Dutch; her vulnerable family had fled Germany to be in Holland. Such safety would vanish.



Prejudice Drives Tony-Winning Tuner Tragedy

SU Drama throws a ‘Parade’

Parade sounds like an unlikely title for a musical about a lynching. The title also carries two meanings for this season opener from the Syracuse University Drama Department.