Tag Archives: Spring Awakening

Slice of life

I enjoyed a slice of life as only Sondheim can deliver it last night, attending the first Valley production of “Sweeney Todd School Edition,” which is being performed by Spotlight Youth Theatre in Glendale through Sunday. Folks who hit tonight’s show can enjoy the added thrill of sharing the company’s 2012/13 season reveal.

I ran into director Kenny Grossman after the show. “You’re a brave man,” I told him. “That’s a big show for a small stage.” It only worked because of clever set design — the work of Grossman and Bobby Sample. There’s also serious fun with props, the work of Vicki Grossman. (Think tools of the meat pie trade.)

There’s even a pair of Grossmans in the cast. Carly Grossman is part of the very capable ensemble, and Jamie Grossman completely rocked the role of Mrs. Lovett. Sondheim is a bear to sing, but she’s got both serious vocal chops and delightful comedic timing. The University of Arizona musical theatre program is fortunate that she’s joining their freshman class next year.

A warning to mom and pop Grossman, however. That freshman year sails by. Seems we just sent daughter Lizabeth off to college, and she’s returning next week proud to be a sophomore already. Attend the tale of the empty nest. Several seniors in the cast share college plans in their program bios — including ASU’s Barrett College/Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts and NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts.

Tyler J. Gasper, whose program bio notes that he’ll “soon be heading to New York City,” performs the role of Sweeney Todd. Gasper has performed with several Valley theater companies, including Arizona Broadway Theatre, Hale Centre Theatre, Theater Works and Desert Stages Theatre. Gasper’s bio also notes that he’s been cast in the Phoenix Theatre production of “Spring Awakening” so fans will know where to find him.

Several cast members were culled from Arizona School for the Arts in Phoenix and the Arizona Conservatory for Arts and Academics in Peoria, including some I saw in another area first — a school production of “Spring Awakening.” This is another “mature content” musical and Spotlight notes that parental guidance is suggested.

Though I wasn’t wild about every element of the show, I felt sympatico with Grossman’s vision the minute I read his director’s statement. “Sweeney Todd, School Edition isn’t about violence and blood,” he wrote. “It is a very complex story about injustice.” Its themes resonate in contemporary American society, consumed by discrepencies between the 99% and the 1%.

“The characters,” adds Grossman, “are emotional and deep.” He advises theater goers to “Focus on the love and tortured souls of the characters” rather than the musical’s violence and blood. Teens will take me to task for saying this, but it’ll be a few years until they fully appreciate the depth of love hidden amidst all that blood. That’s part of the challenge in giving youth such meaty roles.

Grossman’s note also alludes to the humor in this work, which features book by Hugh Wheeler in addition to music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim. I’ve seen two previous productions of “Sweeney Todd” and this was the funniest by far — in a good way. My favorite part of the show has always been a song titled “Johanna.” Butcher that and it’s all over in my book. Thankfully, Sam Brouillette (Anthony Hope) does a lovely job with the melody.

Half the fun was hearing reactions of audience members who’ve apparently never seen the musical before. The cumulative effect of revenge gone wrong is shocking in the show’s final scenes, and I enjoyed hearing a good gasp or two. But I was puzzled by the use of head mics in such a small house with actors plenty good at projecting their voices.

Still, I’m hoping folks will support the Spotlight Youth Theatre production of “Sweeney Todd School Edition.” It’s a slice of life that’s hard to find elsewhere, and it took real guts to put it on their menu.

— Lynn

Note: The musical director for “Sweeney Todd School Edition” at Spotlight Youth Theatre is Mark 4Man. Costumes are by Tamara Treat. Hair and make-up is by Angel DeMichael. Please note that although a Monday matinee is listed on their website, your final chance to see the show is Sunday, May 6.

Coming up: Museum meets asylum, Jim Gradillas talks playwriting

Update: Spotlight Youth Theatre’s 2012/13 season includes “The Little Mermaid Jr.” (Oct 26 -Nov 11), “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” (Dec 12 – Dec 23), “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” (Jan 11 – Jan 27), “The Yellow Boat” (Feb 15 – Mar 3), “Once On This Island” (Apr 5 – Apr 21), “Footloose” (May 24 – Jun 6). Weigh in on their Facebook page. Post updated 5/6/12.

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Much Ado in Mesa

The Mesa Arts Center is especially lovely as the evening sun sets

I headed out to Mesa Friday night eager to see Maren Maclean’s performance in “Much Ado About Nothing.” Much of what our youngest daughter Lizabeth knows about acting, Shakespeare and herself stems from time spent with Maclean, whose Beatrice in “Much Ado” is fantastically funny.

Before taking my seat, I headed to a long table featuring wares being sold to benefit the Southwest Shakespeare Company — where I found a nifty necklace, beaded bracelet and two sets of earrings. Mother’s Day shoppers take note — performing arts venues have some of the coolest stuff at some of the lowest prices.

A Shakespeare bust, perhaps, for the mother who has everything?

I also spied a group of teens and stopped the adult walking with them to ask whether they were part of a school program, since I always like to hear student reactions to Shakespeare’s works. Turns out they were attending “Much Ado” as part of the Arizona Theatre Company’s Open Doors program — and had the opportunity to chat with a trio of cast members after the show.

While a nearly full house was enjoying “Much Ado About Nothing,” which is directed for SSC by David Vining, folks in another theater were watching the Mesa Encore Theatre production of “Ragtime,” which runs through Sunday. Tall MET banners in the MAC lobby herald their next production, the musical “Hairspray,” and reveal some gutsy choices for 2012/13 — including “Spring Awakening” and a “TBA” show signified for now by a pair of eyes peeking out from a purple backdrop.

The East Valley Mormon Choral Association performed Friday evening at MAC

During intermission, I strolled outside the theater to snap photos of red and yellow walls illuminated by Mesa Arts Center — but found myself drawn to a wide flight of stairs, where girls of all ages were gathered in matching navy blue dresses that reminded me of daughter Jennifer’s old chorus uniform. Soon I found a mom — and asked what they were up to. She shared that her 12-year-old daughter is in her second year with the East Valley Mormon Choral Organization, which performed a concert called “From Classical to Broadway and Everything in Between” at the Mesa Arts Center Friday night.

She was kind enough to share her program with me, so I could learn more about the organization — which is currently holding auditions for the 2012/13 season (auditions for the EVMCO symphony take place in August). Friday’s “Easter Concert” featured “I Dreamed a Dream” (from the musical “Les Miserables”), “Stouthearted Men” (from the operetta “New Moon”), “Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Minor, Op. 18” (by Sergei Rachmaninoff) and more. Their 2012 “Christmas Concert” takes place Dec. 1 at Mesa Arts Center.

Students in the ATC Open Doors program spoke with a trio of "Much Ado About Nothing" cast members after the opening night performance

After enjoying the second act of “Much Ado About Nothing,” I stayed for a talkback with members of the cast and creative tream — then made my way to the tiny Southwest Shakespeare Company studio where a trio of “Much Ado” cast members talked shop with Opens Doors participants. Truth be told, teens trump adults with better theater questions every time. Grown-ups eager to learn more about “Much Ado About Nothing” can consult the SSC play guide online and attend today’s 9am “Flachmann Seminar” with Maren Maclean Mascarelli, now the company’s education director.

Before Friday’s performance, artistic director Jared Sakren shared news of SSC’s 2012-13 season, which opens in September with “Love’s Labour’s Lost” and continues with Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” opening in late November. A January “Winterfest!” features “Hamlet” and “The Tempest” presented in rotating repertory by a single company of players. And works by other playwrights include Noel Cowards’ “Private Lives” (Feb/March) and William Goldsmith’s “She Stoops to Conquer” (April).

While admiring some of the Mesa Art Center’s architectual elements, I spied a poster for “Alice: A Wonder-Full New Musical,” coming to MAC in May thanks to Christian Youth Theatre in Phoenix — which is part of a national after-school theater arts training program started in San Diego. The pop/rock work by Jon Lorenz transforms two Lewis Carroll tales into a modern day adventure of high school students more smitten with listening to “The Red Queen” band than finishing their homework.

There’s a simple solution for that, by the way. Less pencil-and-paper homework, and more out-there-in-the-community arts education.

— Lynn

Note: Click here to learn about additional performances, events, exhibits and classes coming to the Mesa Arts Center

Coming up: Tomfoolery meets tango

Weird meets worthy

L to R: Wendy Cavalari, Samantha Hammer, Jessica Hickey and Carol Gibson

A group of Valley women working to raise and award scholarship funds for art students are taking their cause to Spread the Weird studio in Phoenix this month.

Break the Mold was established in 2010 “to provide encouragement and financial support to young women desiring to further their art education and encourage them to pursue a career in the arts.”

Its founders describe themselves as “educators and artists, business women and creative souls, representing visual and performing artists and creative writers.” I get it. They’re weird good.

Break the Mold is “searching for young women who contribute whole-heartedly to both their school and local communities, who celebrate their identity and individuality, and who live and work passionately for the sake and sacredness of their creativity.” Their current scholarship deadline is March 23 and applications are already coming in.

The Break the Mold scholarship is intended to help the winner pursue her art education. Candidates must be female seniors attending high school in the metropolitan Phoenix area who are involved in any form of art. Think fine arts, music, film, web design, graphic design, theater, drama, dance and such.

They’re heading to Spread the Weird to share the love on Sat, March 24 for a pair of “make and take” sessions with a catered lunch in between. You can join them from 9:30am-12:30pm and/or 1:30-4:30pm for a lovely bit of repoussé work (think relief sculpture) at $25/session — and opt to join the catered lunch crowd for $10.

Jessica Hickey of Tempe, a Break the Mold founder who teaches art in Mesa, told me recently that the group has raised more than $600 of the nearly $1,000 they hope to award in their first scholarship round. When not making, teaching or advocating for the arts, Hickey enjoys hitting street fairs, art galleries and dog parks.

Break the Mold also includes Samantha Hammer (an elementary education major at ASU who rocked the thespian vibe in high school), freelancer Wendy Cavalari (who does the web design, Flash animation and graphic design thing), Carol Gibson (a film and theater buff working as a consultant, teacher and actor) and Jenny Evans (a painter who holds degrees in art education and art history from ASU).

Folks can explore Break the Mold musings at www.breakthemoldaz.org. Those of you eager to Spread the Weird can visit www.spreadtheweird.com.

— Lynn

Note: I recently heard from a father in my favorite Texas town (think “Keep Austin Weird”) who shared that his daughter’s high school took part in piloting “Spring Awakening: School Edition.” Click here to learn more about the Austin High School Red Dragon Players.

Coming up: Let’s talk trends, Art meets athletics

Madcap musings

Madcap Theaters located in Centerpoint on Mill in Tempe

“Geeks’ Night Out” comes to Tempe this week as the Arizona SCITECH Festival meets “Third Thursdays” in Tempe’s Mill Avenue District — and the fine folks at Madcap Theaters host an Allied Paranormal Investigations team who’ll be “showing the equipment they use in researching potential hauntings.”

MADCAP's mission is providing affordable community-based performance space

Other “Geeks’ Night Out” happenings, taking place at various Tempe locations, feature everything from robotics to astronomy — plus a pop culture trivia competition. Think “Star Wars” vs. “Star Trek.” Folks can dress up like their favorite inventor or don the geek version of business attire for a tech job fair.

Harry Potter meets musical theater at Madcap Theaters in Tempe this month

A little something called “It’s a Musical Showcase” comes to Madcap Theaters for just two shows next weekend. It was conceived and created by a pair of ASU theatre majors, and it features fare you’ll have a hard time finding elsewhere — including a work from “A Very Potter Musical.”

“It’s a Musical Showcase” includes 14 songs, but only the first of two acts is dubbed “family friendly” so parents concerned about such things can opt for having the kids leave at intermission. Featured shows include “Chicago,” “Rent,” “Once Upon a Mattress,” “Wicked,” “Spring Awakening,” “The Little Mermaid,” “Avenue Q,” “Moulin Rouge” and more.

This view of Madcap's snack bar demonstrates that perception is everything

A digital arts festival called “PLAY” comes to Madcap Theaters next month thanks to UrbanSTEW. The festival “celebrates the union of art and technology” — and this year’s theme is “disability perception.” It’ll feature music, dance, activities and exhibits exploring human limits and abilities. Special guests include Crossing 32nd Street, Dulce Dance Company and ASU’s laptop orchestra.

There's plenty of artwork to enjoy in and around Madcap Theaters in Tempe

Temple Grandin, Ph.D., a professor of animal science at Colorado State University best known to most for her advocacy on behalf of those living with autism, comes to Madcap Theaters in March for an Autism Society of Greater Phoenix event that also features Dianne Craft, M.A., CNHP, of Child Diagnostics in Denver.

Three large rabbit sculptures surround a pond near Madcap Theaters

Grandin is a proponent of neurodiversity, the author of many works (including “Animals Make Us Human” and “Animals in Translation” with co-author Catherine Johnson) and the subject of a semi-biographical film (“Temple Grandin”) starring Claire Danes that was released by HBO Films in 2010.

Mellow Mushroom near Madcap Theaters is full of art ala skateboards

Those who favor venues with diverse “off the beaten path” offerings have a friend in Madcap Theaters. A geeky friend, perhaps. But a friend nonetheless. Learn more about upcoming events, included those noted above, by visiting Madcap Theaters at www.madcaptheaters.com.

— Lynn

Note: Click here for details about the Autism Society of Greater Phoenix 13th Annual Autism/Asperger’s Conference, and here to explore Mellow Mushroom offerings.

Coming up: A trio of Tempe galleries, Hands-on history

Guest review: “Spring Awakening”

By guest blogger Tyler Pounds

Artistic creators of the theatric, known to the less pretentious as actors, have their work cut out for them as time goes on, with pesky playwrights giving them new cutting edge pieces to put on while directors backed by Red Hat Society chapters demand classics as suitably aged as them.  

That is why a well-rounded training program teaches both new and old styles of acting, and why it was a real treat to see a group of high school students at Arizona Conservatory for Arts and Academics (ACAA) put on a production of “Spring Awakening,” a recently licensed Broadway musical with music by Duncan Sheik which is a musicalized reimagining of Frank Wedekind’s 1891 expressionist play “Spring Awakening: A Children’s Tragedy.”

Expressionism, to be drastically simple, purposefully keeps the audience from immersing in the story so they have a fuller grasp of the themes of the play. “Spring Awakening” (the musical) uses its alternative rock music to contrast the 18th century setting while also making contemporary the story of teenagers experiencing sexual uges for the first time.

Tyler Pounds is an ASU student and actor who frequently appears in Valley theater productions

Common expressionistic techniques such as fourth wall breaking, choreographed movements and using audience implants to join stage movement were well used. Some were…clunky.

When singing was required, microphones were pulled from inside coat pockets and under chairs. On Broadway this was daring, and became a trademark of the production; in such a small space with a teenage sound crew of one, it became gut wrenching.

Harmony lines overshadowed lyrics, coughing underscored quiet scenes and singing disappeared when the overly-relied on kids’ mics weren’t on during their short alternating solos. On the small stage, microphones with the batteries taken out would have given them all the pros and none of the cons.

Another hiccup happened during Hanschen’s seduction of Ernst, when the actor portraying Ernst seemed suddenly nervous about acting out any feeling with an entire audience watching. While adding humor to the scene, it killed the expressionist meaning.

Addressing that, the audience is there to propel the audience. Not the characters. The play itself is a closed box, occasionally saying something to a hypothetical audience the way a news anchor talks to viewers. It is very against the spirit of Expressionism.

And when we are seeing a play with controversial themes, the implications of the themes shown should be addressed. Again the scene with Hanschen and Ernst; in the script of both play and musical the two boys express their love, kiss multiple times, and hope to grow old together.

ACAA’s production played Hanschen as a dope and Ernst as mostly unwilling, giving one chaste kiss, brushing the line “I love you Hanschen!” off as phony, and running away from him at the end of the scene.

Wendla and Melchior, a heterosexual couple, are treated, on the other hand, as if their love is true and just and pure. The dichotomy between the two in this show seems to make the statement that homosexuality is a joke.

Meanwhile, during the songs “Touch Me” and “Mama Who Bore Me,” cast members who trace their own bodies while singing about physical acts of pleasure empasize above-the-waist stroking, diluting the message of free sexual knowledge that the show praises.

I was warned before going that some aspects of the show were toned down. But the question needs to be asked: should it? Can a play about sexuality in teenagers, meant to be seen by a teenage audience, censor itself? Touching one’s own body and gays kissing gays are all a part of growing up in our society.  ACAA put on a great high school show. The production just needs to know it still has a lot to learn.

Hopefully they (and you) will get a ticket for Nearly Naked Theatre and Phoenix Theatre’s production of “Spring Awakening,” helmed by Robert Kolby Harper and Damon Dering. Plenty of time to read the play, buy the soundtrack, and study Expressionism, as that production’s opening night is scheduled for June 15, 2012.

— Tyler

Note: Tyler Pounds is an ASU student and actor who frequenty performs in local community theater productions.

Coming up: “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part I”

Fall musical a spring awakening

The musical “Spring Awakening” is about as dark and heavy as they come – filled with traumas of teen years endured amidst harsh and repressive German culture. Think suicide, incest, child abuse and abortion. It’s based on a late 19th century work by German playwright Frank Wedekind.

It’s hardly the stuff of typical high school musicals, but that didn’t stop Adam Berger from choosing it for his school’s fall musical. Berger directed Arizona’s first high school production of “Spring Awakening” for the Arizona Conservatory for Arts and Academics, a Phoenix charter school that’s part of the Sequoia Schools group.

Berger first saw “Spring Awakening” performed on Broadway during the summer of 2007. “It was,” he says, “a theatrical experience I’ll never forget.” Berger describes the musical as “a daring work of art that puts the struggles and feelings of teenagers at its forefront in a completely honest and often explicit way.”

It features book and music by Steven Sater and music by Duncan Sheik. The touring production has twice been performed at ASU Gammage in Tempe, which had the benefit of a much larger stage. Despite the quality of ACAA’s production, some elements simply don’t transfer with ease to a smaller setting.

Going big with certain dance movements made them feel akward on the smaller stage, and the hand-held mics that visually reinforce the individuality of each character’s voice during professional productions of “Spring Awakening” were distracting at best — due in part to overall sound challenges during Sunday afternoon’s performance.

Some might say that my own German heritage is showing here — leading, as I am, with the things in my “needs improvement” column. I wish the vocalists had nailed more of the uber-high notes. I wish the scene with two boys exploring romantic feelings for one another hadn’t elicited giggles from the audience. I wish the movement work as characters explored their bodies hadn’t been more timid for the men than for the women.

But having said all that, performing a work of this magnitude with less than three months of preparation is quite a fete. It’s hard to imagine that many schools could have done it better. The cast clearly recognizes the signifiance of even being allowed to perform such a work, and wisely thanked their school principal, during closing remarks following a standing ovation, for letting them go there.

Three groups of people — the production team, the cast of 17 and the four-piece orchestra — were instrumental in pulling it off. Berger served as director, set and costume designer, sharing lighting design duties with Eli Zuick. “Set painting/decoration” was the work of “the cast.” The orchestra included Mark 4man (conductor/piano), Jonathan Nilson (guitar), Kenny Grossman (drums) and Erin Burley (violin).

The live music, especially solo guitar and violin work, was haunting. Vocals by the full cast and ensemble, especially during the final musical number (“The Song of Purple Summer”) were rich and powerful. My favorite vocal performances featured Chica Loya (“Whispering”) and Kimberlyn Austin (“Don’t Do Sadness/Blue Wind”).

The cast of “Spring Awakening” included students from ACAA and other schools, including Arizona School for the Arts, Brophy College Preparatory, Desert Vista High School and Notre Dame Preparatory. Two adults with community theater credits, Brett Aiken and Terri Scullin, performed adult men and adult women roles.

Every student cast member bio boasts prior on-stage experience, working with Arizona Broadway Theatre, Broadway Palm Theatre, Desert Foothills Theatre, Greasepaint Youtheatre, Mesa Encore Theatre, Phoenix Theatre, Spotlight Youth Theatre, Theater Works and Valley Youth Theatre.

The acting performance of several students improved, as if slowly unfolding, over the course of the production. Namely Chica Loya (Wendla), Brad Cashman (Melchior) and Ian M. White (Moritz). Loya could have conveyed youthful innocence without resorting to the baby-like quality in her voice, but her performance was impressive nonetheless.

The scenes where you’d most expect high school students to stumble were some of the most beautifully executed ones. To some they’re dubbed “the switch scene” and “the swing scene.” Thankfully, “the self stimulation scene” included a blanket and a light touch of humor. The perils of puberty are central to “Spring Awakening,” and these thoughtful actors convey them well.

Plenty of people question the appropriateness of “Spring Awakening” for high school students, but a grandmother who saw Sunday’s performance told me she understands the lure of this work for youth — noting that its stories are their stories. “They have an intrinsic connection to this material,” reflects Berger, “that we adults can only look back and remember.”

— Lynn

Note: ACAA was careful to note the “mature” nature of this piece in event materials, even requiring a parent-signed permission slip for audience members under the age of 18. Nearly Naked Theatre will present “Spring Awakening” in association with Phoenix Theatre in June/July 2012 — click here for details.

Coming up: A Valley actor and college student shares his “Spring Awakening” reflections, “God of Carnage” on stage and screen, Opportunities for young playwrights

Review: “Oedipus for Kids!”

“Oedipus for Kids!” is one of 30 musicals in this year’s New York Musical Theatre Festival, but you don’t have to fly across the country to enjoy it. The Valley’s own Nearly Naked Theatre is presenting the work through Sept 10 at  The Little Theatre at Phoenix Theatre.

Before you go, a few things you should know. It’s adult material not suitable for children. And it’s full of all the things you’d expect in a tale of Oedipus Rex — except the gore. There’s no blood during the eye scene — just curious squirts from a pair of cleverly concealed creamer containers — although a final scene does get messy when a character takes a baklava knife in the back.

I attended the Aug 21 performance with my daughter Lizabeth, part of her informal “farewell tour” before leaving for college theater studies in NYC.  I felt torn, knowing I’d have to miss the National Youth Theatre Awards at the Herberger Theater Center that night.

“Oedipus for Kids!” is directed by Toby Yatso, one of Lizabeth’s teachers for many years at Arizona School for the Arts, and Sunday was her only real opportunity to say “thanks” and share a bit of goodbye banter. It just didn’t feel right to miss this bit of his work after all he’s meant to my daughter.

Sunday’s audience included several older teens, including ASA theater major Nicole Speth, who seemed disappointed that others weren’t catching the show’s many references to Greek mythology. Speth was delighted about putting all those studies of Greek mythology during sophomore year to good use.

Don’t send your teens if you’re convinced they’ve never experienced foul language akin to the title of a Broadway show starring Chris Rock that closed just last month. “Oedipus for Kids!” is anything but politically correct when it comes to topics like suicide and disabilities. It’s the spoofs of political correctness, Greek weddings, children’s entertainment and actors who take themselves too seriously that make this show such a killer comedy.

Still, “Oedipus for Kids!” is tame by some Nearly Naked standards. Yatso describes it as pretty typical fare in terms of content, but notes that unlike other works from this theater company, there’s no nudity. Only underwear. And simulated sex behind a rack of costumes. That’s a relief.

I’m a big admirer of Nearly Naked’s work (and that of founding artistic director Damon Dering), though I don’t really have what it takes to hit every show. In quaint parlance, I suppose I’m a bit of a prude when it comes to artistry meeting anatomy. “Oedipus for Kids!” is perfect for those of us ready to dip only our big toe into the water.

Folks who relish the risque know that this is where to find it. Still, I expect to see more Nearly Naked shows than usual this season because their five-show line-up includes a tantalizing take on “Romeo and Juliet” and the local premiere of “Spring Awakening” (a joint venture with Phoenix Theatre featuring direction by Damon and Phoenix Theatre’s Robert Kolby Harper).

“Oedipus for Kids!” features book by Gil Varod and Kimberly Patterson, lyrics by Gil Varod and music by Robert J. Saferstein (who also provides additional material). It’s published by Samuel French, which offers a summary of the work — a play within a play — on its website.

Charles Isherwood of The New York Times describes “Oedipus for Kids!” as “a spoof of children’s theater, with some truly funny songs and endearlingly loopy performances from a cast of just three.” The three are members of a fictional theater troupe specializing in performing the classics for children.

After success with the likes of “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” Fuzzy Duck Theatre Company decides to tackle “Oedipus Rex” by Sophocles. Seems two troupe members are in the middle of a nasty divorce, and the third is an actor with “questionable methods.”

Samuel French notes that “off-stage disagreements between the cast members spill onstage.” Think “Noises Off!” with less booze and more blood. Their description also mentions “flesh wounds” and “fornication” — making it clear that this is an adults-only piece.

I’m told that the show’s two writers contacted Nearly Naked after learning they’d be mounting “Oedipus for Kids!” — offering to share updates to the work. Apparently this is the first full-scale production to feature those updates, and Varod and Patterson will attend the final Friday performance to see the result (and stay for a talkback with audience members).

The cast of Nearly Naked’s “Oedipus for Kids!” includes Johanna Carlisle (Catalina/Mommy/Jocasta/Oracle), Doug Loynd (Allistair/Lauis/Tedipus/Sphinxy) and Chad McCluskey (Evan/Oedipus). Aya Nameth, set to graduate next fall with a B.A. in theatre performance from ASU, is the Catalina understudy.

Carlisle is a veteran Valley actress whose program bio notes that her favorite role is that of mom to her son Maxx. Maxx Carlisle-King is a gifted teen actor currently appearing as “Sketch” in the Valley Youth Theatre production of “Hairspray” at the Herberger Theater Center.

Loynd’s bio recalls boyhood days in California spent acting, singing and dancing, Also sewing — which explains his skill as costume designer for Nearly Naked’s “Oedipus for Kids!” It also offers an homage of sorts to the cats he credits with “urging him to continue his passion.” More proof that the best artists owe it all to their cats.

Chad McCluskey “hails from foggy Newfoundland” and studies “Secondary Education: Chemistry” at ASU. Let’s hope some well-meaning parents won’t use McCluskey’s bio to lecture their own child with acting plans about the practicality of things like teaching degrees and “real jobs.”

McCluskey’s comedic performance in “Oedipus for Kids!” is the one to beat this season. “Oedipus for Kids!” is a gem of a show. Yatso’s directing sensibilities are perfectly matched to this work, which also features his choreography.

Musical direction by Mark 4man kicks the energy of “Oedipus for Kids!” into high gear. It helps to have songs like “A Little Complex” and “Be Kind to the Blind” to start with. And volunteers willing to join cast members on stage for a song about the plague.

But 4man’s music tracks, created at home with his keyboard according to Yatso, give the feel of a live band. Songs played before each act opens make for fantastic foreplay. As it should be for the opening of Nearly Naked’s 13th season.

— Lynn

Note: Those of you seeking Oedipus tales for younger audiences can click here.

Coming up: “Titus Andronicus” opens the Southwest Shakespeare Company season