“Love, Loss…” is Just the Right Fit

January 29th, 2016

By Bill Grennan

Omaha, NE — Stories we tell and the clothes we wear are the subject of the latest show at the Omaha Playhouse.

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For Performers, ‘Woolf’ is a Beast of a Challenge

May 20th, 2015

By Bill Grennan

Omaha, NE — The Tony Award-winning drama continues through June 7th at the Omaha Community Playhouse.

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How Do We Consume Art?

April 23rd, 2015

By Bill Grennan

Omaha, NE — The ghost of John Barrymore tries to teach a hot-shot young actor a thing or two at the Omaha Playhouse.

(From Left) Kevin Barratt as John Barrymore and Ben Beck as Andrew Rally

(From Left) Kevin Barratt as John Barrymore and Ben Beck as Andrew Rally

I Hate Hamlet by Paul Rudnick runs through May 10th on the Hawks Mainstage of the Omaha Community Playhouse. It tells the story of Andrew, a young television actor who’s been given the role of a lifetime, playing Hamlet in the park in New York City. The only problem is that he hates Hamlet. When he moves into his new place in New York, he soon finds out that it once belonged to acting legend John Barrymore. When Barrymore’s ghost starts walking around the residence, Andrew’s life and career are turned upside down as he clashes with the acting apparition. The show’s director, Ablan Roblin, said the play’s balance of tone is what makes it quite peculiar.


“It’s interesting because this play, in my opinion, lives in a lot of different areas,” he said. “There are some areas that are high comedy and then there are some areas in the script where it’s pretty poignant. It’s got some really nice moments.”


The key to show, Roblin said, lies in the offsetting dynamics between slapstick humor and high art. To find that sweet spot, Roblin had to rely on the words given to him by playwright Paul Rudnick.


“The way he puts all those things together in the script is kind of genius because it’s a mash of a lot of different styles,” Roblin said. “It’s been fun doing that. It’s been a challenge in some aspects because you have to find out where some of these characters live. Some of these characters live in a different place than the others. Finding the cohesion in that has been really interesting.”


Regardless of whether the show he’s directing is a drama or comedy, Roblin tackles each project he works on with the same mindset. It’s one of digging deep into a script, deep into the human condition, and finding the simple truths among the situations.


“You look at a piece of work and get a general idea of what you feel this is about,” he said. “Then you get into it and you realize there are a lot of sub-layers; a lot of little areas you are peeling back. Not that it gets heavy, but you are finding the truth. Once you find the truth in what you are doing some amazing comedy ensues. Especially if it’s written well, which this one is.”


The key for audiences, Roblin said, is observing how we consume art in its many forms. Are we the ‘sitting at home binge watching Netflix’ type? Do we dress in our finest attire for the symphony type? Are we somewhere in between? How serious do we take our art?


“[The character] Gary, who plays the agent, has a really honest take on how people view [high art]. His question halfway through the show is, ‘I’m just wondering which arm rest is mine?’ I think there’s a universal truth to that. I think everyone has experienced that, even actors. That’s what makes this so interesting because it gives you a glimpse into why people make the choices they make as an artist. Why people consume the type of art they consume. Then, you are able to sit back and laugh at it, and enjoy it in a lot of ways that you probably couldn’t.”


The Omaha Community Playhouse’s production of I Hate Hamlet by Paul Rudnick runs through May 10 on the Hawks Mainstage Theatre. For more information on the production, visit www.OmahaPlayhouse.com.

“The Whipping Man” Tackles Race, Faith in Post-Civil War America

November 10th, 2014

By Bill Grennan

Omaha, NE — The latest offering in the Omaha Playhouse’s Howard Drew Theatre takes a look at post-Civil War America.

The cast of 'The Whipping Man' (from left): Andrew Prescott, Carl Brooks, and Luther Simon.

The cast of ‘The Whipping Man’ (from left): Andrew Prescott, Carl Brooks, and Luther Simon.

Now running through November 16th, the Omaha Community Playhouse’s production of The Whipping Man by Matthew Lopez takes a unique look at faith, family, and race. Set at the end of the Civil War, a wounded Jewish Confederate soldier named Caleb finds his way to his parents’ ruined home. Upon his return, he discovers his family has fled their home leaving their former slaves, Simon and John, to care for the war-torn property. The three men, tied by faith, celebrate Passover with an impromptu Seder where secrets from their past come to light.

UNO student Andrew Prescott, who plays Caleb, said that because the lead character’s family were slave-owning Jews, the play takes a unique look at the American slavery dynamic of the mid 19th century.

“The director, Stephen Nachamie, talked about how there was such a small percentage of Jewish plantation owners in the South,” Prescott said. “Very little of them actually owned slaves. They would do it to fit in with the community even though it was against their religion because they celebrate the Passover. The Seder is a celebration of the freeing of Jews in Egypt. So to take slaves on is contradictory of that, but they did it to fit in with the culture and save what small amount of slaves they would take in and give them somewhat of a better life.”

Prescott said the cast, which includes Carl Brooks and Luther Simon, and creatives behind the show took care to recognize the delicate subject matter at hand, especially considering the many narratives in the media recently on race relation in America.

“I feel like with race, you kind of have to realize that…you can get lost in the moment,” he said. “But we would make sure that we would come back to earth and say, ‘This is the play but don’t beat each other up over it.’ It gets really intense at parts.”

The show also presented a unique acting challenge for a physical actor like Prescott. His character, Caleb, is wounded when he comes home and spends much of the play immobilized in a sitting couch so his physical movements are limited.

“Very slight shifting in terms of posture and direction,” he said. “If I’m talking to someone, I’m looking one way…then I shift my body to the right, which causes a little bit of pain. The movement is motivated because I want to direct my line to that person. Also, filling the space with your voice is very important. Giving that sense of emotion in your face.”

Prescott says that the show’s eloquent traversal of such difficult subject matter makes the show a must see for audiences.

The Omaha Community Playhouse’s Production of The Whipping Man will run through November 16th inside the Playhouse’s Howard Drew Theatre. For more information on the show, visit www.omahaplayhouse.com.

‘Enron’ a Showcase of Substance and Spectacle

August 13th, 2014

By Bill Grennan

Omaha, NE — The first show in the Omaha Playhouse’s new season deals with corruption, deceit, and dinosaurs.

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Mamet’s ‘Race’ a No-Brainer for the Playhouse

May 15th, 2014

By Bill Grennan

Omaha, NE — A fast-paced legal drama takes the stage at the Omaha Playhouse.

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