Friday, October 29, 2010

With nerves steeled by years of critical dedication, O.C. Weekly's Joel Beers sat through the entirety of SHOPPING & FUCKING last Sunday and emerged on the other side with another trenchantly observant review grasped tight in hand:
Make no mistake: Though Shopping and Fucking gets a great deal of notoriety from its unceasing parade of horrifyingly violent and hardcore sexual scenes, it’s a play about money—how people who crave it will do just about anything to get it and what the reckless pursuit of it does to their souls.
Ravenhill peppers his gruesome, albeit very funny at times, play with everything from allusions to The Lion King to armchair theories of codependency. But commerce drives nearly every exchange—peddling Ecstasy tabs, resorting to phone sex to deal with debt, paying for sex in order to keep it a transaction rather than an emotional connection.
Helmed by Weekly arts contributor Dave Barton (who also directed the 2001 Rude Guerrilla production), Monkey Wrench’s staging doesn’t shy away from Ravenhill’s uncompromisingly savage tone. There is no attempt to soften the violence or hardcore sexuality, and there is a good reason why eight people walked out of the show during its first two weekends: Most people have real problems with watching private perversions and gruesome fantasies unleashed anywhere other than on their computer monitors or in their own imaginations....
[Y]ou might find it difficult to like Shopping and Fucking. But it’s doubtful you’ll walk away not thinking about what you just witnessed. Maybe those thoughts will lead you to question capitalism further. Perhaps they’ll help you to define your standards of what is offensive. Or maybe you’ll just want to jack off. Whatever. But there’s no denying Shopping and Fucking will leave some kind of impression—and it most definitely will not look like indifference.
Read the whole piece, rife with Beers' sharp insights, here.

And tickets? Why yes, still very much available. $20 General, $10 students, buy online or cash at the door. Under 17? No FUCKING for you.
--O.C. Weekly
Reviewed by Joel Beers


Monday, October 25, 2010

The Spark O.C. blog has not one but two separate, individual, and totally unique blog posts on (first) the experience and (then) the content of Mark Ravenhill's SHOPPING & FUCKING, currently inspiring strong audience reactions over at the Monkey Wrench Collective theater.

Watching three well-heeled ladies depart the theater at intermission at Sunday's performance inspired the first blog post:
Observing three audience members linger during intermission and then decide to depart yesterday's performance of the Monkey Wrench Collective production of Marc[sic] Ravenhill's Shopping and F***ing made me speculate about their motivation.
Throughout my long career in the theatre, I've witnessed plenty of walkouts. There's a tendency to assume that people are leaving because they're offended, and a similar expectation that artists are smugly satisfied because of it.
While there may be some truth in those perceptions, the reality is, not surprisingly, a bit more complicated.
The second post is a more direct review of the production:

For his first full-length play, written in 1996, UK dramatist Marc[sic] Ravenhill hits the mark most of the time as he peers into the pathetic lives of penniless, aimless and addicted young people who have concluded that life consists of little more than dangerous transactions in which sex and drugs are equal opportunity employers. The glimmer of hope, at least in the case of one man and woman, is their fascination with hearing and telling stories--not that the stories themselves ever seem to end happily. But the play, Shopping and F***ing, also sports absurdly funny moments that occasionally balance out the pervasively grim lives of its characters.
Monkey Wrench Collective's production, staged by artistic director Dave Barton, takes the raw material of this play (and some of it is very raw indeed, though the nudity and heartless sexual encounters never appear gratuitous), and makes clear that Ravenhill's is truly "the well-made play" in its adherence to theatrical conventions.

(Full disclosure: Spark O.C. reviewer Rick Stein will be directing Michael Tremblay's DAMNEE MANON, SACREE SANDRA at Monkey Wrench next June.)

Tickets for SHOPPING & FUCKING remain damnedly purchasable via the internet for a scant $20 General Admission fee and an even cheaper $10 for students (or those dedicated enough to forge their own Student I.D.s). Absolutely no one under 17 allowed. Walk-outs discouraged, but tolerated with a minimum of dirty looks. 

Reviewed by Rick Stein


Thursday, October 21, 2010

Joel Beers' Orange Curtains blog has an interview up with Monkey Wrench Collective Artistic Director Dave Barton about his second go-round directing Mark Ravenhill's SHOPPING & FUCKING, our current production receiving both critical raves and critical walk-outs:
How has your relationship with the play changed since the first time you directed it? Do you find more things to unearth the second time around?  
Ravenhill's work operates on a lot of different levels and I've found that when I've revisited them they always reward me with new insights. The first time I did the play, I took his themes very seriously--even too seriously, in hindsight. I was intimidated by the explicitness of the sex and directed the play with a focus on the more tragic aspects. while my first cast really went where they needed in order to capture the grittiness of the sex, we missed a lot of the play's humor. ...
Another difference is that as good as that first production was, I'm not sure I fully understood the play's harshness and I think I tried to soften some of it, unconsciously. The play's world view is bleak and uncompromising. I think this second production serves that darkness better.
You can read the rest of Dave's thoughts on the controversial nature of the play right here, and, as always, pick up some tickets of your very own by clicking here.


SHOPPING AND FUCKING's second review comes courtesy the Fullertonian and Mark Stouffer, who kindly stayed for the entire production before rendering his judgment. We particularly enjoyed his disclaimer at review's end:
This is the dark dead-end in the blind alley where we find the characters, discovering their own morality by something slightly better than trial-and-error. Mark (Keith Bennett) has discovered "transactions," mutually beneficial reciprocal actions. This is near the beginning of the play and I think I have avoided spoilers so I will let you discover where he takes transactions. I can say that it is like a blind groping for the new morality in capitalism.... 
WARNING: While this is an adventurous tail [sic] some people might be offended, or even disgusted by some of the content. Don’t bring people with delicate minds. 
As always, our contractual duties oblige us to mention that tickets for this show are on sale this very moment, and can be purchased for a mere $20 General / $10 Students.

Reviewed by Mark Stouffer


Monday, October 18, 2010

The first review of SHOPPING AND FUCKING is in, and it appears our little production proved a bit too much for the intrepid critic, who nevertheless was kind enough to oblige us with his opinion in print:
The grit and the sleaze are knee deep, and [playwright Mark] Ravenhill gleefully pushes your face in it. The characters -- addicts, dealers, male prostitutes, losers all -- are highly realistic. They’re people you wouldn’t hang out with for five minutes on a street corner and they don’t make very good company in the theatre, at least in Ravenhill’s crude hands; I found them so unsympathetic and unpalatable I left at intermission.
However, there is some terrific acting here under Dave Barton’s graphic direction. Keith Bennett, as a stockbroker/junkie trying to kick the habit, not only nails the role’s Scottish accent to a fare thee well, he makes your skin crawl. Bryan Jennings excels as a gangster with the soul of an artist and the heart of a thug. Jennings has a wonderfully poetic monologue in the first act that delivers the quality of writing I expected but did not find in the rest of the play. 
Trauma units have been dispatched to Mr. Young's bedside, where we hope to have him nursed back to some semblance of health in time to review Monkey Wrench's (less graphic, we swear!) next production, Caryl Churchill's DRUNK ENOUGH TO SAY I LOVE YOU, opening October 30th.

In the meantime tickets, of course, remain available for the remainder of SHOPPING AND FUCKING's unpalatably crude run. $20 General / $10 Student, absolutely no one under 17 allowed. 

Don't say you haven't been warned.

Reviewed by Jordan Young


Saturday, October 16, 2010

The O.C. Weekly's annual Best of Orange County issue is out, and we're very pleased to find that Melanie Gable was named Best Actress for her role in Monkey Wrench Collective's production of THE FEVER.
There aren't many actors who would even consider tackling the role of a person grappling with issues both horrifyingly public and intimately private set in the context of a 90-minute monologue that slithers through some truly twisted corridors of the human psyche. But Gable not only proved her fearlessness with the decision, but also demonstrated some brilliant talent. She made the impossibly smart words and complicated thought processes of Shawn's character seem real, imbuing the character with the fragility and unquenchable curiosity that are essential to making this script more than just a very-well-written rant about the grayest areas of human morality.
Congratulations, Melanie!



CTAG is casting actors of all types and varieties for

"Blank Slate"
a play unwritten
World Premiering January 2011
at the Monkey Wrench Collective theater

Auditions are at 7pm on Sunday and Monday, October the 24th and 25th, 2010

at Monkey Wrench Collective, in downtown Fullerton.

Be sure to visit the CTAG Fan Page to get updates and the audition prompts.

The show will rehears in part time in November, and more intensely in
December, with lots of room for the holidays. It will preview and then
open in mid-January. The details of the rehearsal schedule are still being worked out and
participant's conflicts over the holidays will be taken into account.

All ages, types, and ethnicities are encouraged to audition.
Performers with extra talents are also encouraged--
musicians, jugglers, dancers, mask actors, poets, contortionists, etc
The key things we are looking for are passion and commitment. This
production will be unlike any you have participated in

"Blank Slate" is a large scale experiment in developing an original
stage play using an unusual collaborative process.
Based on the critically successful development of "The Matriarchs" for
Rude Guerrilla Theater's 7 Deadly Sins collection, implementing tested techniques that
directors, R.J. Romero & Scott Williams have developed and implemented
in previous shows at other venues, an ensemble cast will be guided
through a series of exercises, improvisations, and collaborative
development activities in order to generate a final text. This
production will deliver a world premiere original script in 8-12 weeks
of rehearsal.

This is not an "improv" show, nor is it "sketch comedy". Both those
forms are fun and entertaining, but the goal here is entirely
different. Together the creative team and the ensemble will discover:
character, conflict, catharsis; and create an original story to tell

Let go of any expectations, this show will be unusually unique!
This show will begin at the opposite end of the spectrum from most
productions -- with a production team, hand selected actors, and
literally-- a blank slate. Every member of the production will have a say, and be
expected to contribute to the development of the script. The creative
team, lead by Romero & WIlliams, will continually take in the words,
actions and other contributions from the cast and

More info will be posted on facebook. Feel free to ask questions!

R.J. Romero
Founding Artistic Director
Collaborative Theatre Artist's Studio