Friday, April 29, 2016

Theater review: The Magic Kite

Posted By on Fri, Apr 29, 2016 at 4:28 PM

Papa Roberto dabbles in magic, to the delight of his kids, Tito and Milagro. His most treasured father-and-son moments are spent building and flying kites – until Papa goes off to work and never returns. How Tito reacts to his dad’s sudden deportation to Mexico is the heart of The Magic Kite, now in its world premiere production at ImaginOn. Children’s Theatre of Charlotte commissioned the new work by José Cruz González because artistic director Adam Burke was moved by artist-activist Rosalia Torres-Weiner’s paintings and her Papalote Project here in town. (Read more about Torres-Weiner here.)
The Magic Kite (Photo by Donna Bise)
  • The Magic Kite (Photo by Donna Bise)

At the same time that this project gives children of deported parents the opportunity to vent some of their anguish through artistic expression, classmates, teachers and parents become more aware that families fractured by deportation are living right here in Charlotte. Staging this new play at  ImaginOn's Wells Fargo Playhouse is a great way to extend that worthy mission to an even wider audience.

González, whose adaptation of Tomás and the Library Lady was staged at the same venue five years ago, seems a bit rushed here when establishing the kite and magic strands of his plot at the beginning and when he ties them together at the end. There’s plenty going on in just over 45 minutes as Burke directs the four members of the Children’s Theatre Resident Touring Company, since each of the performers communicates with us through at least one puppet – and a few sprinklings of Spanish.

Although Mark Sutton’s puppet designs have a nice folksy quality to them, narrowing our attention is a bit challenging with Torres-Weiner’s paintings flanking the stage while we jump back and forth from the magic scenes to the kite scenes. Scott Miller presides over these early scenes warmly and authoritatively as Papa with officious, worried support from Veda Covington as Mama Esperanza. It turns out that it’s really important for Roberto to get his taillight fixed.

When Papa gets picked up and deported, the weight of the story falls upon Tito, and Rahsheem Shabazz moved me in making Tito’s transition from awestruck child to the little man of the house. Leslie Ann Giles seems shortchanged at first, drawing the role of littler Milagro, but she soon gets her hands on a couple of other puppets. The most significant of these is Tito’s school chum Jamal, aggrieved by the loss of his mother, but Giles also gets the choicest cameo as the pet cat.

As often happens in children’s literature, wounds and losses that two kids have in common help in bridging their differences and cementing their friendship. González poignantly employs magical realism when Tito takes his family skyward on his kite, journeying to Mexico where they can be reunited with Papa. But an invisible barrier prevents them from crossing the border, so Tito and his family can see his beloved Papa, but they cannot join him.

At such fantastical moments, puppets can facilitate wonders. It’s just the aftermath that González bungles, loosening his grip on the tiller as we sail toward a consoling affirmation. I’m reminded of my teaching days, when I’d notice the class bell sneaking up on me. I’d rush through – or even skip over – the crucial ending of my lesson to assign the homework before the students rushed out.

Pretty much the same thing happens here as González tells us that more kites fly upwards after Tito’s sadly lands. We just don’t get a satisfying account of how that happens or what it means. The Magic Kite could easily unfold all its potential magic if González could add 10-15 minutes to it. Meanwhile, it was very useful to have Torres-Weiner hanging around after last Sunday’s matinee to answer kids’ questions in the talkback. They asked some really good ones. 

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Lunch Break (4/29/16): NC medical marijuana bill passed to NCGA health committee

Posted By on Fri, Apr 29, 2016 at 11:30 AM


Medical marijuana is now on the docket for state lawmakers, who are considering a bill that would legalize the medicinal use of cannabis derivatives. House Bill 983, which also creates provisions for taxing medical marijuana, was introduced on Tuesday by primary sponsor Rep. Kelly Alexander Jr. The bill passed initial inspection and yesterday was forwarded to the Committee on Health for further review. (Fox46 Staff) NC Norml of Asheville has created a Change.org petition calling for the state legislature to pass the bill. The petition has received over 1,850 signatures in its first day. In Creative Loafing's recent 4/20 issue, Erin Tracy Blackwood wrote about how medicinal marijuana use could help thousands of people living in North Carolina, and already does help some who risk breaking the law to self-medicate. 

The Charlotte Hornets have the chance to win their first playoff series in 14 years tonight when they face the Miami Heat for Game 6 of the opening round of the NBA playoffs at Time Warner Cable Arena. The Hornets lead the series 3-2, and need just one more to move on and face the winner of the Indiana/Toronto series. If the Hornets lose tonight, the teams will go back to Miami for Game 7. (Ryan Pitkin) 

A man was shot during an attempted robbery at a southeast Charlotte apartment complex early this morning. The unidentified victim suffered minor injuries after being shot in the leg at the Teal Point Apartments on N Sharon Amity Road. Police have not revealed circumstances surrounding the shooting, or how the man was involved in the attempted robbery, but reports indicate that a language barrier may be impeding their investigation. (Jennifer Miller, WBTV) 

Bryce Benning, a 24-year-old band teacher at Chesterfield-Ruby Middle School in South Carolina, is facing charges of criminal sexual conduct with a minor following accusations that he had an improper relationship with a 14-year old female student. The accusations came earlier this week, and Benning resigned from his position at the school yesterday. During an interview with investigators, he reportedly confessed to the relationship and was arrested. Benning is currently out on bond. (Justin Pryor, WCCB)

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Thursday, April 28, 2016

Theater review: Fly by Night

Posted By on Thu, Apr 28, 2016 at 4:31 PM

Is everything pre-ordained by a higher power? Or might everything that happens simply be the inevitable outcome when the algorithms of time and space work upon the star stuff that materialized in the wake of the Big Bang? If not, might a lucky ring or a soothsayer’s gaze into a crystal ball shift the gears of an oncoming fate? These are a few of the notions that Kim Rosenstock was playing with when she conceived Fly by Night, the last musical Actor’s Theatre of Charlotte will ever stage at 650 E. Stonewall Street.
Cassandra Howley Wood as Daphne and Christopher Ryan Stamey as Harold in Fly by Night. (Photo by George Hendricks Photography)
  • Cassandra Howley Wood as Daphne and Christopher Ryan Stamey as Harold in Fly by Night. (Photo by George Hendricks Photography)

Will Connolly and composer Michael Mitnick joined Rosenstock’s writing team, producing a storyline that revolves around two South Dakota sisters who fall in love with the same New York slacker, Harold McClam, a full-time sandwich maker and songwriter. Daphne and Miriam are as radically different as sisters can be. Daphne is impatient to leave Hill City behind and become a Broadway star, while Miriam is perfectly content to stick around home and pour coffee for the townsfolk at her waitressing job.

But Miriam already is a star in the sense that, listening to her dearly departed dad, she has absorbed the notion, during fondly remembered stargazing sessions, that we all come from that star stuff they were counting in the nighttime sky. Aspirationally, there is a link between Harold and Daphne, who meet first at the clothing shop where she clerks and again across his sandwich counter. Vocationally and temperamentally, Harold has a kinship with Miriam. They spark more instantaneously, more intensely, and more lastingly. Trouble is, they meet at the Brooklyn diner where Miriam works when Harold is already engaged to marry Daphne.

Hovering over the action, as a kind of providential presence with avuncular Our Town overtones, the Narrator frequently shape-shifts into some of the orbiting characters in his tale, including both of the sisters’ parents and the eccentric soothsayer. We actually begin the main story on November 9, 1964, with the funeral of Harold’s mother – exactly one year before his dad’s abortive suicide attempt.

There will be a certain providence in Mr. McClam’s survival, to be sure, but until then, his morose appearances can be somewhat trying and tedious. Each of the three central characters is being tormented by a livelier, more interesting nemesis. Daphne has Joey, a commercially successful playwright who’s getting serious about his craft by writing a play just for her. With plenty of revisions, stretching out the rehearsal process. Harold is bedeviled by the sandwich shop owner, Crabble, a quintessentially cranky New Yorker. The only inkling we get that Crabble has a heart is his chronic hesitation to fire Harold for all his delinquencies and screw-ups.

Jerry Colbert as Narrator and Lisa Smith Bradley as Miriam in Fly by Night. (Photo by George Hendricks Photography)
  • Jerry Colbert as Narrator and Lisa Smith Bradley as Miriam in Fly by Night. (Photo by George Hendricks Photography)
Miriam has the most important tormentor, that kooky soothsayer who gives her the most improbable set of omens for determining her destined true love, wrapped into a prophecy that promises bliss and catastrophe. All of them begin to recur when Harold walks into her life, sending Miriam scurrying back to South Dakota when the two are on the verge of connecting.

Fleeing fate is no less futile for Miriam than it was for Macbeth or Oedipus. She holds out the hope that her doom isn’t settled until time stands still. That will happen on November 9, 1965 – twice.
Three significant events will happen on that date, only one of them anticipated: the postponed opening of Daphne’s play. Ironically, the only stars shining on Broadway that night will be those that twinkle mockingly in the sky.

With Chip Decker directing and Jerry Colbert narrating, Fly by Night moves along briskly with plenty of verve and heart. Colbert has aged gracefully into the paternal wisdom that the Narrator and Miriam’s dad deliver, yet there is comical extravagance each time he becomes the Brooklyn soothsayer or the South Dakota mom. This Narrator seems to become most personable when he stops the action to guide us into a prefatory flashback, so we appreciate Colbert more and more as these time loops proliferate.

Colbert himself loops back to his heydays, flying by night to some fairly high notes and singing with an ease we haven’t heard from him since, oh, maybe 1997 in the 1940’s Radio Hour. Perhaps he’s inspired or rejuvenated by his co-stars. The sisters, Cassandra Howley Wood as Daphne and Lisa Smith Bradley as Miriam, are aptly cast, already ablaze in their early pair of star songs. Wood repeatedly chants “I’m a star!” with Broadway conviction belting out her anthemic “Daphne’s Dream” as she begins navigating the New York rat race, and there’s a cute Avenue Q silliness to her “More Than Just a Friend” duet with Harold.

Bradley simply torches her calling card, “Stars I Trust,” creating a wider gulf between the sisters than you’ll find on the original cast album, and there’s a greater maturity to her lighter “Breakfast All Day” sequel as she settles into Brooklyn, with less of a shuffling rock beat from the three-piece band directed by Ellen Robison. So easily grooved into a humdrum rut, it’s surprising how unnerved Miriam becomes when the soothsayer sings his “Prophecy” – in two parts – and when her eyes first meet Harold’s. Bradley, Colbert, and Christopher Ryan Stamey make it all work.

Stamey cut his teeth at Actor’s Theatre as their go-to wild man in trashy treasures like Slut and The Great American Trailer Park Musical, so to watch him mellowed into the relatively colorless Harold could be jarring to those who have witnessed his vintage exploits. But he actually nails it as both the nerdy Romeo and the mistake-prone sandwich drone. Best of all, he’s the adult in the room in his ultimate showdown with Miriam, “Me With You,” tapping into who he is and what we all believe must be right in the face of implacable destiny.

Supporting roles all draw superb performances. Stephen Seay is wonderfully hyper as Joey when he first pursues his muse Daphne in “What You Do to Me” – and still spoiled rotten, revision after revision. James K. Flynn captures the working class vulgarity of Crabble with a poifect accent, combining with Stamey in “The Rut,” a paean to workplace hopelessness and drudgery. Perpetually toting a wee record player and a vinyl recording of La Traviata in his pathological grief, Rob Addison eventually gets to break out of his stonefaced depression as Mr. McClam. Toward the end, he decides to actually go see that opera and later, when someone finally has the time to listen, he pours out his sad, sad love story, “Cecily Smith.” Which just happens to rhyme with one of the best lines of the night: “Who cares what you are listening to? It’s who you’re listening with.”

The design team, Dee Blackburn for the set and Carley Walker for the lights, give us a nice off-Broadway sense of the various locations, efficiently transporting us to Miriam’s yard and front porch in South Dakota, the seedy nightclub where Harold tries out his song, Crabble’s misspelled sandwich shop, and McClam’s bathtub.

When we get to Penn Station and Times Square, however, an SOS goes out to our imaginations. After “At Least I’ll Know I Tried,” a tasty quintet ushering in the eventful denouement, I prophesy you’ll answer that SOS willingly.

Lunch Break (4/28/16): Robbery at Hidden Valley Elementary, trouble on both Tryons

Posted By on Thu, Apr 28, 2016 at 11:30 AM


CMPD and CMS police are currently looking for a suspect in a robbery that happened near Hidden Valley Elementary School this morning. Police say a parent of a student was robbed just after 10 a.m. The school has been put on lockdown while police circle the area with cruisers, K-9 units and their "Snoopy" helicopter. (WSOC Staff) 

South Tryon Street was closed this morning after a car ran into a utility pole. The driver was not injured. The road was closed between Camden Road and Park Avenue, but was expected to open again at noon. (Fox46 Staff) 

The other side of Tryon was also closed down for a time this morning but has already re-opened after a semi-truck became stuck under a train bridge on North Tryon Street. The incident happened just after 6 a.m. near 16th Street and was cleared before 9 a.m. (WBTV Web Staff) 

The Charlotte Hornets won their third straight playoff game last night, taking a 3-2 series lead over the Miami Heat in the first round. Courtney Lee's three-pointer with 25 seconds left ended up being the game-winner. The Hornets have a chance of winning the series tomorrow night in Charlotte and moving on to play the winner of the Boston and Indiana series. 

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Today's Top 5: Thursday

Posted By on Thu, Apr 28, 2016 at 10:54 AM

Here are the five best events going down in Charlotte and the surrounding area today, April 28, 2016 as selected by the folks at Creative Loafing.

Catch the Dance: An Inspired Movement at Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture
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Citizen Cope at Neighborhood Theatre

Charlotte Ballet: Spring Works at Knight Theater

Alive After Five w/ Breakfast Club at Rooftop 210

Intervention at Petra's

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Today's Top 5: Wednesday

Posted By on Wed, Apr 27, 2016 at 10:31 AM

Here are the five best events going down in Charlotte and the surrounding area today, April 27, 2016 as selected by the folks at Creative Loafing.

Smashing Pumpkins at Ovens Auditorium
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Giant Snakes Invade Your Country at Freedom Park Pavilion

Father John Misty at The Fillmore

Triptych Collective at Snug Harbor

Alessia Cara at Red Eye Diner

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Lunch Break (4/26/16): Shootings, stabbings, hit-and-runs, bad stuff

Posted By on Tue, Apr 26, 2016 at 11:30 AM


CMPD is looking for the suspect they say shot an employee at 7-Eleven in northwest Charlotte this morning. Police say the victim, 20-year-old Ronari Galloway, knows the suspect. Galloway was reportedly shot in the back during an altercation in the 7-Eleven on the 5400 block of Brookshire Boulevard at about 5 a.m. this morning. (Justin Pryor, WCCB) 

Police are also still looking for a man who allegedly stabbed another man in the neck at a Greyhound bus station this morning. The victim was reportedly transported to the hospital with serious but non-life-threatening injuries. The incident happened at about 2:30 a.m. this morning at a bus station on W Trade Street. (WBTV Web Staff) 

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Police have released a surveillance photo of the van that is believed to have struck and killed six-year-old Anthony Castellon-Rivera on Sunday afternoon. Police say the vehicle is a white Ford E-150 cargo van with possible South Carolina license plates, a silver star shaped front right rim, no hubcap on the back right tire and damage along the right side of the van including the front right corner. Police ask that anyone with information about the crash or vehicle call Detective S. Williams at 704-432-2169 or Crime Stoppers at 704-334-1600. (Ryan Pitkin) 

Detectives have charged the parents of a 10-month-old infant who was found dead by police responding to a call to the family's home in Hickory Grove on Sunday morning. CMPD announced the arrests yesterday evening, saying that an investigation and a consultation with the medical examiner's office found that Tayara Beecham was assaulted before her death. Basheba Freeman, 20, and Taquan Beecham, 23, were both charged with homicide due to child abuse and taken into custody. (Ryan Pitkin) 

The man killed in a plane crash on a Boone golf course yesterday was reportedly a retired North Carolina state trooper. Ben Chappell, 69, died at the scene, while two other men riding in the plane with him survived. The plane crashed on a golf course near the Boone Airport just before 1 p.m. after reportedly pulling a touch-and-go at the airport, hitting the runway and immediately taking back off. The two men were rushed to the hospital by helicopter in critical condition. (Dave Faherty, WSOC) 


Monday, April 25, 2016

Lunch Break (4/25/16): Bill filed to repeal HB2, multiple rallies in Raleigh

Posted By on Mon, Apr 25, 2016 at 11:30 AM


The North Carolina legislature began a new session this morning, and a group of Democrats filed a bill to repeal House Bill 2 in its entirety. Representatives Darren Jackson, Susi Hamilton, Graig Meyer and Grier Martin introduced the bill this morning. If passed, it would also appropriate the amount spent on the special session called to pass HB2, more than half a million dollars, to the Human Relations Commission. (Ryan Pitkin) Rallies both for and against HB2 have already begun outside the Legislative Building in Raleigh and are expected to continue throughout the day. (WCNC, Associated Press) 

An overturned tractor-trailer shut down all lanes of southbound I-77 at Harris Boulevard this morning and it's expected to remain closed until this afternoon. No one was injured in the crash, but crews are cleaning up diesel fuel that may have spilled while also pumping the truck's tanks dry of the remaining fuel. (Fox46 Staff) 

Police are still looking for the driver of a van that struck and killed a young boy on Eastway Road yesterday. Anthony Castellon-Rivera was crossing the street with his family when he was struck by a white work van with a ladder atop it. A Hispanic male reportedly stopped and exited his vehicle before getting back in and driving off. Police say the man was in his mid-30s with curly, black hair. The van is believed to have a South Carolina license plate. (WBTV Web Staff) 

Police made an arrest this morning in the case of an unrelated hit-and-run in the University area earlier this month. Police arrested Gerson Gutierrez and Shaquala Davis for their involvement in the incident. Gutierrez is believed to have been driving the green minivan that struck and killed 45-year-old Keith Ricks while he drove his Harley Davidson on Mallard Creek Road on April 4. He was arrested at a hotel on Sugar Creek Road this morning. Davis has been charged with harboring a fugitive. (Ryan Pitkin) 

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Saturday, April 23, 2016

Today's Top 5: Saturday

Posted By on Sat, Apr 23, 2016 at 11:12 AM

Here are the five best events going down in Charlotte and the surrounding area today, April 23, 2016 as selected by the folks at Creative Loafing.

Tuck Fest w/ Langhorne Slim & The Law at U.S. National Whitewater Center
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Dances of India at CPCC's Halton Theater

Santigold at The Fillmore

GayCharlotte Film Festival at Theatre Charlotte

Charlotte Jazz Festival in Uptown

Friday, April 22, 2016

Today's Top 5: Friday

Posted By on Fri, Apr 22, 2016 at 5:45 PM

Here are the five best events going down in Charlotte and the surrounding area today, April 22, 2016 as selected by the folks at Creative Loafing.

Cherry Pie exhibit at Union Shop Studio
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Alabama Shakes at Charlotte Metro Credit Union Amphitheater

New Frequencies: Trio Red Space at McColl Center for Art + Innovation

Underoath at Amos' Southend

The Little Mermaid Jr. at Matthews Playhouse

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