Out West Arts: Performance at the end of the world

Opera, music, theater, and art in Los Angeles and beyond

(Not so) On the Cheap

March 11, 2009

Steve Weingartner and Allegra Fulton
Photo: Craig Schwartz/ANW 2009

Doing more with less is the specialty of the house at A Noise Within in Glendale. The repertory company dove into the spring leg of its season over the weekend with Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, in a new production directed by founder and co-director Geoff Elliott. In true house tradition, this is a show that may be short on elaborate stage technology, but it more than makes up for it in the quality of the performance. It’s an update to a Hollywood vision of 1950s Italy, which appears about as far as you might want to go with the centuries-old sexual politics of the original, which are hard to stomach, much less comprehend, by modern standards. Still the evening is energetic, well paced, and actually funny throughout. Many of the company’s usual excellent cast members have a hand in this including Steve Weingartner whose more determined than crafty Petruchio almost throws the work into romantic comedy territory. (Which I guess it kind of is.) Allegra Fulton’s Kate has enough rage to make this believable without dragging the whole thing into a loud screech. This is a play all about chemistry in the end, and luckily these two fine performers muster more than enough. The set design by Kurt Boetcher makes extremely good use of the space with surprisingly meager resources. This Shrew is brightly colored and vibrant and never looks cheap. All of this is wrapped up in 50s Italianate pop hits from Rosemary Clooney, Dean Martin, and Louis Prima. Why not? The play is onstage until May 17.

This less is more attitude is probably important for the company right now for other reasons as well. Having been unable to further fulfill their mission in their current space in Glendale, the company is in the midst of developing new, more sophisticated digs in Pasadena inside of the old Stuart Pharmaceuticals building. The development will perserve this historic landmark of mid-century modern architecture and provide more substantial facilities for the group to achieve it's substantial educational and artistic goals. They are currently in a capital campaign to upgrade a building that has been given to them for just this purpose. The timing of course is bad, but it was also not of their choosing. Given the many great years of theater this troupe has provided to the Los Angeles area for the last few decades, here’s hoping they more than meet their goal and live on where they have the resources and technology to match the quality of the work they demonstrate time and again.


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