Here is C.B. Goldsmith's review of the first of the three EPCC Performers Studio plays, "The Outrageous Adventures of Sheldon and Mrs. Levine." It opened June 14-17 and will be staged again July 12-15 at the EPCC Transmountain Forum Theatre. He got the review in on time, but the edited version got eaten (along with my Dave Koz and BeBe Winans story, which I had to rewrite) by a power failure-induced computer glitch. I'm just getting around to editing and posting it now, and this review should run in the Living section on July 12. "Spring Awakening" runs tonight through July 1 and repeats July 26-29; "Avenue Q" returns July 19-22.
By C.B. Goldsmith
Summers in El Paso are filled with wonderful traditions, from Music Under the Stars to dominoes on the porch with our neighbors to reading that paperback book everyone is raving about.
Well, add another one to the list. The El Paso Community College Performers Studio, now in its fifth season of summer repertory theater, is not to be missed.
This fine company is presenting a series of three plays, all local debuts, including two Tony Award-winning musicals. The series began June 14-17 with the dark yet uproarious comedy “The Outrageous Adventures of Sheldon & Mrs. Levine,” written by Sam Bobrick and Julie Stein.
It’s set in New York and details that classic connection between a Jewish mother and her son. The El Paso audience on opening night roared early and often at those funny, sad and maddening universal bonds between every obsessive mother and her only child.
The main character is Mrs. Doris Levine, one of those larger-than-life women upon which great theater is built — Mama Rose in “Gypsy” and Gertrude as the mother in “Hamlet,” come to mind. The stage belongs to Doris.
Talented Mary Jane Windle owned Doris — and the stage — from the moment the curtain rose. In lesser hands, Doris could have been cartoonish, but Windle made subtle, smart choices and used her consistently powerful voice. Her pace and her comedic timing were spot-on.
The play features only two characters, Doris and her son Sheldon, who read and write letters to each other. But the performance requires huge energy, evenly paced over two acts. Windle was more than up to it.
Doris is an overbearing, neurotic nightmare. Her unmarried, 30 year-old son Sheldon is her equal in terms of phobic, fixated dysfunction. EPCC alumnus David Ruiz had no easy task sharing the stage with such a gigantic character as Doris and talent like Windle’s. But he more than holds his own in a part that is both difficult and daunting.
Ruiz sang solidly, handled a parrot with flair and his accents were ample. He started a little unevenly, but found his voice and cadence in the second act. His put-upon pathos was both touching and true.
The play was expertly directed by Elizabeth Gaidry, who is renowned for her work at Jefferson, El Paso, Bowie and Bel Air. She takes a play that could be ethnic caricature and steers her actors to perform with what best can be described as over-the-top understatement.