Tag Archive: insurgo theater movement


Photo by John Beane

Insurgo Theater Movement debuted a new version of what is becoming a classic tragicomedy clown “Nutcracker” Dec. 19-Jan. 7 at the Plaza, this year including two glib, flightless birds as protagonists.

The show opens witha a strategically lit set made of plastic, draped and stapled to the back of the stage. A frosty, arctic climate is the setting, as it turns out; a white stage and two waddling penguins (Michelle Meyer and Melanie Ash) confirm the locale.

Comical exchanges between the birds comprise the bulk of the show, but it is no less poignant because of this. Sweetness abounds, and the appearance of a dashingly dressed — and superbly acted — Nutcracker (Brandon Oliver Jones) provides yet another avenue for wordless warm fuzzies.

The plot itself is Insurgo nuance at its best. A Nutcracker mysteriously appears in an enormous gift-wrapped box and decks out a chilly set with Christmas cheer. Penguins cavort, Santa’s jolly offstage presence is implied and, especially for an offbeat production, the show ends optimistically.

However, stealthily woven throughout the plot is a thread of references to such issues as overfishing and ocean pollution. Suffice it to say that a hungry penguin gnawing on a plastic bottle isn’t 100 percent funny, and it probably wasn’t intended to be. It’s clear that director John Beane and assistant director Daneal Doerr have some big topics on their minds, but this does little to dampen the whimsy of the show.

From a choreographic standpoint, “The Insurgo Nutcracker” is spot-on. Clutzy, cuddling penguins carom around the small stage, bumbling into each other, the  Nutcracker and various inanimate objects. The effect is darling and makes for  most entertaining versions of “Nutcracker” classics like “Waltz of the Flowers” and the snow scene from George Balanchine’s original. And with a 40-minute running time, the production is accessible to all but the most staunch of Scrooges.

Needless to say, this might not make the list for balletomanes. However, for the rest of us, “The Insurgo Nutcracker” warrants recognition as a holiday tradition in the making. Sugarplum is nice, but until you’ve seen a pique-turning penguin in a tutu, you have yet to witness the full embodiment of “sweet.”

Insurgo Theater specializes in improv, but Marko Westwood proved on Feb. 2 that he’s not so bad at it, either. When an elderly couple that lives below Westwood had their rent money stolen, Westwood organized a last-minute benefit concert to keep the couple from being evicted.

“THANKS,” a concert featuring dancers from Westwood’s Repertory Dance Theater and performers from the Insurgo troupe, was the result. Tickets were $10 at the door and a donation box was made available on Insurgo’s homepage with the goal of collecting the $400 minimum payment.

All told, the effort was reciprocated with $820.

"Twelfth Night," Insurgo Theater Movement

Considering the short notice, the cohesion in the show was impressive. Insurgo kicked in several scenes from their erotic Shakespeare rendition called “Twelfth Night,” which was a wise plug for current and upcoming shows. Other improv skits from their “Improvious Bastards” series illuminated the breadth and talent of the performers and were fantastically funny to watch.

Dance numbers made up about a quarter of the show. “You Can’t Get a Man with a Gun,” previously performed in a show at the Onyx in January, made an appearance and featured Serena Bartholomew and Petrina Olson. Olson also performed “Gravity,” a contemporary number full of lyrical swings and falls. Marko and Megan Westwood performed “Always/again,” an amazingly poignant study in dependence and separation. “Inner Sanctum on the Outside of My Sleeve,” by Jewel Racquel, centered around a red plywood cube and concluded the show in appropriate avant garde fashion.

Mick Axelrod performed several installments of “Wordsplay,” a charismatic and literary riff on the oh-so-eloquent English language — think rap, 17th-century style. The acts were both lexically aloof and conversational, an interesting juxtaposition that made them quite enjoyable. Ava Galore’s vocals were excellent as well in “Wherever He Ain’t,” a strong character number backed by a voice that can’t be knocked. Geo Nikols lip-synced to “Billie Jean” and graciously kept the program from getting too serious.

Quirky comedy was well represented and well received. Sam Craner performed “The Date,” a skit about a man preparing a candle-lit dinner when his date cancels at the last minute. Rosalie Miletich Ellis and Dave Surrate took the cake for acts that induced a head-tip, a wrinkled brow and a laugh. “The Interview” took place between an interviewer and a potential employee, who would spontaneously switch into canine mode and bark and growl at the interviewer. The doggie-style skit was just barely on this side of palatable, which is, of course, exactly how Insurgo likes it.

So despite the short notice and the hodge-podge program, the show was a success in more ways than one. Perhaps Westwood and the Insurgo gang should produce impromptu concerts more often. They certainly have a knack for it.

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