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Wednesday, April 17, 2024
The independent student publication of The University at Buffalo, since 1950

Arts

ARTS

Georgia railroad on my mind

The American Repertory Theater's production of Red Clay last Friday at the Cabaret Theatre on Main Street was modest yet entertaining, showing once again that there is great potential in local theater. Playwright Matthew LaChiusa knows what he's doing. His play, which could be described as a mix between Tennessee Williams and the TV show Dallas, has witty dialogue, colorful characters and a decent plot. Welcome to the world of Southern Comfort. In 1982 Georgia, Danny Gibbons (John Kaczorowski), the young, insecure owner of Red Clay Railroads, and his right-hand man, William Kincaid (Peter Jaskowiak), are planning to make the railroad public. They seek the help of a New York investment firm that sends representative – and the boss's daughter – Ruby Lucas (Tara Kaczorowski) to evaluate the railroad. Everything seems fine on the surface, but of course, nothing is. The sinister Kincaid is secretly planning a scheme that would make him rich and leave Gibbons hanging. Aided by a disgusting private eye, Joe Hamilton (Christopher Standard), Kincaid plans to take over one of the most successful railroads in Atlanta by any means necessary. So this is how corporate takeovers are done in the South: through a lot of drinking, smoking, scheming and screwing. It's not much different than in the North, except that the South certainly has a better sense of humor about it. The play is pleasurable to watch. If you're into Tennessee Williams, Eugene O'Neil, Tony Gilroy, alcohol, or Southern accents, then you're in for a treat. However, Red Clay brings nothing new to the table. The play isn't a soap opera, but it does venture into the melodramatic. The play's realism is sometimes compromised by its old-fashioned need for dramatic flair. The characters don't develop much, and the plot has been seen many times before. LaChiusa's portrayal of the South is considerably fair. It's easy and quite typical for Northerners to poke fun at the South, yet LaChiusa has none of that. He has a great understanding of Southern culture – its mannerisms, sense of history and pride, as well as its considerable dedication to humor. There is, of course, the tackiness, shown most clearly by Kincaid's bimbo secretary Clara Hood (Andrea Andolina) and Gibbons's friend Billy Ray Gunn (Patrick Cameron). Then there are the scenes set in a local bar, which is more of a product of the '70s and '80s than of Robert E. Lee. The play shows great attention to detail. Director Drew McCabe does what he can to establish an accurate milieu. The clothes, the ample liquor, the Confederate flags, the slicked-back hair and even the portraits of Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan give the impression that we are in post-Watergate southern America. LaChiusa's dialogue is often witty and driven. It propels the action forward and gives the characters just enough room to breathe. Dialogue often defines theater and the play is good enough to make it enjoyable. What Red Clay has in style, though, is hindered somewhat in substance. The plot includes the obvious turns: Gibbons and Lucas having an affair, Kincaid fooling every businessman he sees, Hamilton and Kincaid loading their bodies with liquor, and a takeover scheme that is easily understood. Crooked corporate dealings are nothing new, especially nowadays, so it would have been nice to see the play do something more with it, considering it seems to set out for something higher. Indeed, there are other parts of the play that badly want to be noticed. There's a sing-off in Act II that's funny, but nonetheless uncomfortable to watch. Gibbons and Lucas's relationship – in fact, Lucas's character in general – is very prominent, yet is too robotic to be realistic. And Act III spirals so out of control that it's like watching someone ride an automated bull. Red Clay is still a fine work nonetheless. It's never boring and has a style of its own that engages the audience. The play is simply a dramatic shot wrapped in a vernacular blanket. The play also shows that Buffalo's theater life has a lot of energy. LaChiusa's pen and McCabe's direction worked very well together. Overall, Red Clay is an exercise in dramatic turnarounds and Southern style, and it is done well – that is to say, Buffalo style. The play can be seen in The Cabaret Theater at 672 Main Street through this Saturday. E-mail: arts@ubspectrum.com


ARTS

Mark Valley is the Human Target

Mark Valley explodes into action as Christopher Chance, the unique private contractor, bodyguard and security expert hired to protect his clients in Human Target. Fox's Human Target is loosely based on the graphic novel of the same name. Becoming the latest comic hero turned live action drama, Valley was presented with a new and challenging problem. "It sort of had a comic book feel, so there was a challenge of trying to find a way to bring a real person into this. It wasn't written in any sort of hyper reality," said Valley. With this new challenge at hand, Valley has been able to draw upon his skills and utilize his former military training, especially when it comes to working in a team under strenuous circumstances. "I've become much more comfortable with some of the action and fighting scenes and the way Chance's relationship with the other characters is starting to become a little bit more clear," Valle said. "His relationship with Jackie [Earle Haley] and with Chi [McBride] is becoming a little bit more clear." Despite being the first person cast and not completely knowing what he was getting into, Valley is finding it to be a great learning experience and creating chemistry with his coworkers. "We are getting ready to set up a shot and we were sitting in the back, all sitting in our chairs, and the three of us started talking as actors do, and just realized, my God, we all come from completely different places in terms of parts of the country and experience in the industry and so forth, and the three of us just kind of clicked," Valley said. While not all TV shows are able to provide a good display of on-screen chemistry, Valley believes that the relationship between McBride, Haley and himself is visible to the viewer. Valley believes it is not just the actors, but the entire staff who work well together. "I didn't have a clear vision of how it would be … I went into it with an open mind thinking this is going to be exciting as to how it's going to come together … it is sort of a collaboration in some ways where everybody's influence is, kind of, if not heard, then it's felt and it's reacted to and the end product is something that everybody feels a part of," Valley said. For Valley, the role of Chance wasn't completely clear right from the get-go. It wasn't until he dove into it and started getting some hands-on work that his understanding of Chance came to a head. "I think when it really clicked for me was probably the episode ‘Rewind,' where we didn't have a lot of big pieces going on. It all took place in an airplane and you got an idea of, okay, very simply, this is something that has to get done in this plane," Valley said. For longstanding fans of the show, Valley promises that the final episode of the season will provide a treat to viewers. "Baptiste comes back. Amy Acker shows up and plays this one character who is very pivotal in Chance's past … She was sort of the catalyst for his ultimate change into becoming Christopher Chance. Lee Majors is in that episode. Armand Assante plays Chance's old boss. There's a couple major confrontations there. I think what's fun is [that] Jackie Haley and I have our first fight. Even though it takes place in the past, … you can see the roots of their relationship and why they have such a trusting bond as well," Valley said. Mark Valley has completed his transformation into the one and only Christopher Chance, so make sure to tune in and watch him kick some serious butt. Human Target airs Wednesdays at 8pm on FOX. E-mail: arts@ubspectrum.com


ARTS

Wale and students hang out for Haiti

Wale has dedicated his albums and mixtapes to both absolutely nothing (his mixtape is aptly titled "The Mixtape About Nothing") and every topic imaginable ("Attention Deficit"). He brought it all to Alumni Arena for the benefit of a good cause. The Washington, D.C. lyricist brought his go-go elements, his catalog of mixtapes and one album to Alumni Arena on Saturday for a Haiti benefit concert. Gaining hype with his acclaimed mixtapes – resulting in numerous proclamations of the rapper's potential to be the next great artist – Wale released his first album, "Attention Deficit," in Nov. 2009, putting him on the proverbial mainstream music map. Olubowale Folarin, outfitted in Billionaire Boys Club paraphernalia, hopped onstage 30 minutes late, but stayed there for longer than an hour and brought a deep show to the audience. The 25-year-old rapper's style and infectious lyrics kept those in attendance interested in the show with his mixtape hits and radio jams. Hands were waving during "Nike Boots," and the crowd was rehearsing in unison during Wale's exiting songs, which included the singles "Pretty Girls" and "Chillin'." Those two singles left a lasting impression on the crowd: after the set, Wale surveyed the crowd and signed autographs on everything from shoes to fitted hats for his waiting fans. This wasn't his only interaction with the fans in attendance. During a section in which Wale was covering throwback '90s jams, the rapper got the urge to get hyphy with the crowd and sparked some energy. He jumped during "Jump Around," and swayed with the dancing audience during "Hip Hop Hooray." This crowd participation was impressive, considering its small size. Wale wasn't deterred by the surprisingly small showing and partied with the gracious crowd when he had the chance. Despite Wale's effort, the show wasn't without its shortcomings. The rapper was sometimes drowned out by his loud band, which added a different feel to his music but also took away from the original beats of the album and mixtapes. At one point, Wale and his hype man broke out into a baby-making session. Though the smooth rhythms got people dancing, the session took away from the atmosphere that was built up by Wale's earlier songs. During this session, the hype man serenaded three women from the crowd and did his best to let his voice melt the females' unaffected hearts. While Wale took a break, the hype man brought a limited range and had most of the crowd snoozing and dreaming of the downtown and Main St. bars. Holding the benefit at Alumni Arena also took away from the show. A crowd of about 1,100 got into Wale's performance, but the floor and seats remained relatively empty. A different location would have resulted in a more club-like, intimate atmosphere. Wale's effort did triumph the downfalls and showed that he's more interested in the fans in attendance than the people who didn't show up. In his effort to gain more radio play while maintaining his underground fan base, Wale's mindset will result in more fanfare and success in the near future. Additional reporting by Lauren Nostro, Asst. City Editor. E-mail: arts@ubspectrum.com






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