Players inject life into dying dog

In last week’s preview of enigmatic theatre company’s world premier of Athena, I wrote that it “demands special effects that can’t reasonably be expected to work in the NCSC black box space.” Either I jinxed them, or some wag on the crew decided to pull a plug for my benefit.

The second performance of the play, Aug. 15, was crippled by a backstage power failure which eliminated video projections necessary, again quoting my preview, to “suggest the climactic house-wrecking wind storm” in the penultimate scene. It’s always something. Video or no, the storm scene was more effectively portrayed than I anticipated. Alas, the play itself was no better. There wasn’t a lot of there there, and not much to care about.

However, stellar performances by David Hopes, as Donald, a lightning victim of quiet beauty, and Tiffany Cade, as Kate, a slightly neurotic post-partum mother, graced the evening. Others on the cast turned in commendable performances and brought a bit of life to the stage.

Michael MacCauley‘s direction was inspired, weaving the multiple scenes of an extended one-act play into a continuous tapestry, and Brian Sneeden‘s lighting and sound were excellent. Knowing Peter Brezny‘s work, I could only imagine that the multimedia piece of the puzzle would have been equally fine — but there was that pesky blackout.

The direction, production and acting in this show left me hoping for more from this young stage company. Next time with juice.

— Cecil Bothwell, staff writer

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About Cecil Bothwell
A writer for Mountain Xpress since three years before there WAS an MX--back in the days of GreenLine. Former managing editor of the paper, founding editor of the Warren Wilson College environmental journal, Heartstone, member of the national editorial board of the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies, publisher of Brave Ulysses Books, radio host of "Blows Against the Empire" on WPVM-LP 103.5 FM, co-author of the best selling guide Finding your way in Asheville. Lives with three cats, macs and cacti. His other car is a canoe. Paints, plays music and for the past five years has been researching and soon to publish a critical biography--Billy Graham: Prince of War:

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6 thoughts on “Players inject life into dying dog

  1. MarDivPhoto

    Sigh… on the one hand, it’s nice to have one’s predictions borne out. On the other hand, when the prediction is about a continuing bias on the part of a reviewer, a certain sadness must be acknowledged. When actors Hopes and Cade, and director MacCauley, are complimented deeply for their contributions, one has to ask if they could have contributed anything to a truly “limp” script. Apparently Mr. Bothwell believes that the crayon scribblings of any five-year-old could be turned into great individual performances by the right people, and playwrights are minor contributors to the overall performance. An interesting point of view, but I think I found his contributions to his previous position on the paper to have more juice.

  2. Disappointed Arts Reader

    I heard you showed up 30 mins. late for this play and it only runs one hour and 20 mins. What gives at Mountain Xpress that they allow this to be called a review? People deserve to know that you’re only giving 60% as a staff writer. Even in your preview article last week, you never asked to sit in on a rehearsal or discuss the script with the playwright or director. Get it right Cecil or don’t do it at all.

  3. Concerned for the Arts

    I am disappointed in Cecil Bothwell, the editors, and publishers of Mountain Xpress for publishing “Players inject life into dying dog” in the August 16 issue.

    The role and responsibility of an art critic is to deepen an understanding of a work within a context of aesthetics or theory. Of what use is the writing of Cecil Bothwell to art makers and art supporters other than arrogant personal commentary that contributes to the disappearance of art today? If there is no potential for real criticism, I ask that Mountain Xpress find a reviewer with critical knowledge of the craft and a respect for the form. The practice of critical writing can be of great service to all artists and cultural initiatives, regardless of its positive or negative connotation, by offering a genuine reflection of the work’s strength and weakness within a particular context.

    A shallow and opinionated review that overrides objectivity shows an unfortunate lack of respect to artists, readers, and critics on part of the publishers. Such reviews end dialogue, dishearten art makers, and abandon art entirely. At a time when public interest and funding are at an all time low in the arts, responsibility for and participation in its unsupported form must be acknowledged.

    As Bothwell hides behind a commanding voice without ethical ground, a terrible disservice has been paid to the playwright and your readers. Mountain Xpress has contributed to a great injustice in the community while claiming to support it. I trust that the lack of skill transparent in Bothwell’s musings is evident. However, I hope that the publishers show a sense of integrity to the artistic community by finding another writer with a solid understanding of the form.

  4. CJ Breland

    I saw “Athena” last night, and I must agree with Mr. Bothwell. (Please notice that I am using my real name, not shooting from behind a silly pseudonym.) The passion and skill with which the director and actors approached the work was obvious, and there were some very touching and very funny moments. But the play itself is uneven and would benefit from serious attention to its themes and character arcs. I hope the playwright has watched the audiences to see when they sat up in their seats, when they checked out, and will revisit her play with an eye toward tightening it up.

    Last, I’d like to say that the Asheville theatre community needs reviewers who have a keen eye and aren’t afraid to ruffle feathers. Rock on, Cecil!

    And rock on, NCSC and the Catalyst Series! Taking risks is the only way to create exciting theatre.

  5. “As Bothwell hides behind a commanding voice without ethical ground, a terrible disservice has been paid to the playwright and your readers. Mountain Xpress has contributed to a great injustice in the community while claiming to support it. I trust that the lack of skill transparent in Bothwell’s musings is evident. However, I hope that the publishers show a sense of integrity to the artistic community by finding another writer with a solid understanding of the form.”

    Oh My God…get over yourself already

    “The role and responsibility of an art critic is to deepen an understanding of a work within a context of aesthetics or theory”

    A) not necessarily. B) Read his review, he did so…and with a succinctness that you yourself would do well to emulate…

  6. For the record, I was 15 minutes late for the stated start time, and have no idea whether the play actually started at exactly 7:30 p.m. (I was held late on another story and literally ran from my office to the theater.) I also know, based on the script, that I didn’t miss much.

    Criticizing creative efforts in a meaningful way, particularly if one is inclined as I am to be a booster of local artists, is tough. Add to that the wide range of readership knowledge and interest and you quickly find yourself riding a tightrope on a unicycle. Too tough on the artists? Or too kind and therefore misinforming potential attendees? Too concise (or is that giving short-shrift)? Or too windy and analytical?

    I’m not angling for sympathy, just explaining a bit about how I see my work as a reviewer. They say hard cases make bad law. In a way that’s true of hard art as well— edgy art, new art—so I try to suss out what I think is good, even in flawed work, and give credit where it’s due. Oh, and I attend performances on my own time — for love of the arts—I’m sure the paper would be happy to get free submissions from others with a critical eye and an attitude. Then again, that’s what this comment section is for.

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