Dock Street Theater’s Little Shop of Horrors – A Horticulturalist Nightmare

By Mark A. Leon

From the moment Crystal, Chiffon and Ronnette walked on the stage singing Little Shop of Horrors, you knew you were in for a musical medley of horror, humor, love and a strange twist. Played wonderfully by Carin Lagerberg, Maggie Saunders and Madeline Glenn Thomas, the choral arrangements of these three middle school dropouts served as a beautiful musical narration of this oddly strange story of alien domination disguised as a unique flower.

Throughout the evening, the three sidewalk dwelling singers transformed from lost teenagers to beauty queens dancing on steps, the street, the shop and for a moment in the balcony. You were even delighted to see them peak through the window of the florist shop.

The stage was designed in thirds to create the perception of three simultaneous acts flowing in perfect symmetry throughout the performance. With the florist shop as the center of attention, the city backdrop, steps, garbage and hobo’s complimented and lent more detail to the area of the city deemed “skid row”.

Early in the production, when we are introduced to Audrey 2, you could not help but feel a sense of comfort as this Muppetsesque plant warms you as it bloomed and swayed in Seymour’s hands; a soothing feeling soon to be washed away as its grew and power reached new heights.

Kent Reynolds creates the role of Seymour, the dorky backroom florist with no direction in life, with precision and accuracy with his shy awkward demeanor, nerdy attire and misguided ambitions for fame and fortune. As you watched him on stage, you cannot help but sense he stepped right off the set of Leave it to Beaver. With his Beaver Cleaver hair, glasses and subtle innocence, he took on the role and made it his own.

George Younts, took on Mr. Mushnik, the down on his luck Skid Row florist owner who is one step away from closing the shop and giving up. His sense of greed and ambition and obliviousness created a character that channeled Zero Mostel from The Producers. As we will learn in Act II, greed truly led him to a dark place.

Katie Arthur as Audrey was charming. Her inner city accent, blond wavy hair, airy personality and pretty girl with low self-esteem image created a balance for the florist shop bringing a naive beauty to Seymour and Mr. Mushnik. Her inability to get out of an abusive relationship with Orin, the dentist, added a sub-plot that would feed into the main focus of the play, Audrey II.

horrorPen Chance, the chameleon of the troop took on five roles during this performance including both genders. His quirky personality was expressed well with each scene he performed in and it was clear he was having fun playing a series of side bar characters. A little nitric oxide inhalation as Orin helped bring humor to the role of the abusive dentist.

The center of the play was Audrey II, played remarkably by puppeteer and actor, Josh Harris and Nathan Burke. As a bluesy singing plant with a thirst for human blood and flesh, Audrey II was a showstopper. As he grew, his presence became more and more prominent. The audience became closer to the sinister plot and soon learned the true plan. With his playful harmonies, whiny calls for “feed me” and deviant behavior, Audrey II manifested a love/hate relationship with the audience.

In the end, you feel a sense of horror, relief, justice, uncertainty and just all around fun. With that combination, director Marybeth Clark and the entire collection of players, musicians and stage hands create a wonderful night at the theater.

Remember Charleston, if you take anything away from Dock Street’s performance, “Don’t Feed The Plants” and most importantly see this production.

A Message of Hope from Dock Street’s The Diary of Anne Frank

Your journey begins with an exquisite set design inviting you in with a bed of tulips in the forefront and a cramped shelter with the walls and floors covered in the writings of a thirteen year old dreamer.? The back center wall is a soft and heartfelt black and white image of Anne Frank.? Before the first words are uttered, the audience becomes part of a two year struggle for survival.? Surrounded by chaos and uncertainty, these eight children and adults from different backgrounds and lifestyles endured starvation, alienation and potential death.? At the heart of situation was a young, energetic young lady named Anne Frank who shared her experiences with the world through her personal and candid observations during this period of hiding.

Played with poise and emotional strength by Lila Clark, a freshman at Academic Magnet High School, Lila brought a air of innocence, warmth, hope and optimism to the stage.? Her portrayal of Anne was highlighted by the many layers she exposed during her performance.? Throughout the live production, you witnessed a young lady with the same dreams, boyhood crushes and imagination as any young boy or girl, but her situation was unlike any other.? Throughout the performance, she brought a level of energy and complexity that complimented the acting troop and comforted the audience who watched fully aware of the impending tragedy.? Her playful demeanor and mature observation of the world around her was played elegantly.? As we moved toward a bitter climax, we never lost site of hope as we witnessed her first crush, her nightmare episodes and her dreams to dance and travel to Paris.

Victor Clark gave an exceptional portrayal of the? role of Otto Frank, the grounded and calm father and business owner.? His ability to absorb all the chaos and maintain a sense of order was a gift on stage.? His relationship with Anne and ability to internalize all his fears provided salvation to the rest of the residents who hid in silence for over two years.

In the background the sounds of sirens and planes built up the tensions and inside the cramped quarters, the eight Jewish survivors waited, starving not knowing if they would live or die.

The Diary of Anne Frank as told by the Dock Street Theater, was not a story of Nazis and Jews (though a flag of Europe and Asia with a swastika was ordained on the back wall), good versus evil or coming of age.? It is a story of family, hope and love.? One of the greatest tragedies of this story is that a young girl, intelligent, loving and full of dreams was taken from us.? In her foresight, Anne wanted to leave behind a reminder of not just her life and struggles, but all those that fought to stay alive.

Anne Frank was the biographer of a generation lost and never truly got to see the importance of her words.

As the story begins, we see a black and white image of Anne center stage on the back wall.? Her father walking through the hidden shelter one final time after the war had past and the survivors were released from the concentration camps. ? Along with a scarf and glove on the floor, he finds Anne’s journal.? For the next two hours, we are taken through those pages, feeling the pain Otto felt being the last survivor.? During a Hanukkah scene in December, 1944, Otto recited the Hanukkah prayers on the first night.? One candle representing his future, alone without family.

The supporting cast contributed well depicting the anger and anticipation.? Complimented by Steve Fordham, who has been a fixture in the community as a long time actor, playing Jan Dussell, Benjamin McCoy as young Peter Van Daan, Maddy Seabrook as Margot Frank, Andrea Rausch and Kent Reynolds as the Van Daan’s and Beth Curley as Edith Frank, the mother of reason trying to understand why this madness was happening all around.

The strength of the performances of Lila Clark and Victor Clark to some extent minimized the contributions of the supporting cast, but overall, the actors played off of each other well and provided an excellent interpretation of Anne Frank’s writing.

The direction of the play by Julian Wiles was artistic and respectful.? By creating separation points throughout the stage and panning light on the key scenes, he could capture the essence of the quarters and still provide direction to the audience on the emphasis of the scene.? Whether it was Anne writing at her desk or a hug from her father after a nightmare, the soft lighting with the backdrop of darkness let us be part of something intimate.

This is an personal story told from the heart of a teenage girl.? Even in the end, she never stopped believing and hoping.

In a time of adversity, we have one thing that can keep the heart strong and that is love.? Anne Frank has taught millions of people that lesson in the last 70 years since her passing.? Dock Street used gentleness and dignity to interpret her words and bring them back to life.

?The Diary of Anne Frank will be playing at Charleston Stage at Dock Street February 11 – March 1 – Tickets