Reviews

ANNIE — ROOSTER

The Messenger; Madison, KY November 2, 1984
“There was nothing in the show to compare to the song and dance routine of ‘Easy Street’ done by Rooster (played outstandingly by Bart Lovins) and his Jersey City gal. Lovins is convincing as a typical big city, street swindler and his accent bears out well in both talk and song. Furthermore Lovins, as Rooster, is a truly remarkable dancer with the style and flair not often seen at the local level of theatre, Lovins’ future, thus, seems extremely bright.”
— Jim Pickens

PINOCCHIO –PINOCCHIO

Greensboro News and Record; North Carolina January 26, 1989
“Bart Lovins’ Pinocchio seems as innocent and easily led as it’s possible for a marionette to be.”
— Abe D. Jones

The Carolinian; UNC @ Greensboro February 2, 1989
“Pinocchio, portrayed by Bart Lovins, captures the youthfulness and naive qualities that make for a totally convincing marionette, longing to become a real boy.”
— William Simmons

THE ROAR OF THE GREASEPAINT…. — COCKY

January 18, 1990
“Bart Lovins as Cocky is superb, and one wonders how long it will be before his name is in greater lights than Winter Park can provide.”
— Liddy Mason

THE FOREIGNER — ELLARD

January 18, 1990
“Especially entertaining are the scenes where a slow-witted local (Ellard), perfectly played by Bart Lovins, tries to teach (the foreigner) english.
— Liddy Mason

THE EMPEROR’S NEW CLOTHES — MR. SEW

Detroit Free Press December 21, 1990
“Enter a couple of swindlers who call themselves Mr. Stitch and Mr. Sew; they make clothes that look invisible to diwits and people unfit for their positions.
Mr. Stitch is the brains of the operation; Mr. Sew doesn’t quite get the concept. “If this wool is invisible,” he asks, “was the lamb invisible, too, boss?”
All the performers are good, with standouts being… Bart Lovins as the lithe and lively Mr. Sew.”
— Martin F. Kohn

Colorado Spring 1991
“…the duo who devised an invisible set of clothes for the emperor, also were likeable — despite some Jerry Lewis-style mannerisms on the part of Mr. Sew.”
— Lyman Pitman

SLEEPING BEAUTY — THE FAUN/PRINCE

The Grand Rapid’s Press May 17, 1992
“The characters are well portrayed. Bart Lovins creates a spritely Faun through dance and mime and later matches the courtly manner of King and Queen as he assumes his proper identity as Prince.”
— Dave Nicolette

The Detroit News May 15, 1992
“To keep us on our toes, Eiler offers surprises and plot twists. Such as: Who is this lithe and cute faun-boy who keeps dancing across the stage, playing llittle pipes?
–Ellyce Field

Detroit Free Press pg. 12-C May 15, 1992
“Speaking of twists, a word about fauns: A significant character in the play is a faun — i.e., a creature who is part man and part goat. Explain that to your children; otherwise, they may wonder why everyone keeps talking about Bambi when there’s not a deer in sight. True fans will be pleased to see in “Sleeping Beauty” the return of…graceful Bart Lovins as the faun…who (was) so delightful in Prince Street’s previous show, “The Emperor’s New Clothes.”
— Martin F. Kohn

FATHER OF THE BRIDE — TOMMY

The Herald Bulletin; Anderson, IN February 15, 1996
“The funny part of the show is watching everyone in the family, including the bride’s brother, Tommy, (Bart Lovins) quietly sneak the ‘church-only’ invitations into the ‘church and reception’ card file.”
— Theresa Campbell

The Indianoplis News February 13, 1996
“Bart Lovins plays Kay’s younger brother, Tommy, with a wonderful nasal nerviness that hits just the right note as he keeps score in…the civil war in (the Banks’) house.”
— Marion Garmel

THE FANTASTICKS –MATT

The Herald Bulletin; Anderson, IN January 9, 1997
“This show…features a wonderfully talented cast….The plot is simple, and the music is enjoyable. ‘I Can See It’…(is) sung with great compassion.”
— Theresa Campbell

Indiana Weekender January 20, 1997
“Bart Lovins as The Boy is young but demonstrates great professionalism on stage and is, in a word, sensational!”
— Joan Morillian

Nuvo Live; Indianapolis, IN January 20, 1997
“On the plus side, the voices of Stein,…Hildebrand and Lovins are faultless.”
— Maureen Dobie

The Indy East; Indianapolis, IN January 8, 1997
“The professional cast’s experience was evident in its quick paced and well-timed interaction and transactions. Jacqueline Hildebrand and Bart Lovins were delightful as the couple in love.”
— Ellen Kongshaug

The Indianapolis Star January 6, 1997
“(‘The Fantasticks’) is blessed with a cast that makes the most of it. Several roles stand out. Jacqueline Hildebrand as Luisa, the girl, and Bart Lovins as Matt, the boy, make you believe they are real…. He plays Matt like a computer nerd at the beginning, but you can see him grow into a wiser, better man.”
— Marion Garmel

Critic’s Corner; Indianapolis, IN January 20, 1997
“Bart Lovins’ unusual singing voice may have been appropriate but was disturbing at times.”
— Charles Epstein

LEND ME A TENOR –BELLHOP

Critic’s Corner; Indianapolis, IN February 20, 1997
“Bart Lovins plays the part of the obnoxious bell hop complete in red uniform. Lovins adds a great deal to the show as he cavorts in and out, interrupting the proceedings. By the way, his before-the-curtain speech was especially different and extremely entertaining. It was well writen and expertly presented by the funny Mr. Lovins.”
— Charles Epstein

Lawerence Township Journal; Lawerence, IN February 12-19, 1997
“The opening, with Bart Lovins (the bellhop) was clever.”
— Dawn DeJan

The Herald Bulletin; Anderson, IN February 13, 1997
“I really enjoyed the opening of the show; it was different and out of the ordinary. The show features an incredibly talented cast….Bart Lovins deserves applause as the obnoxious singing bellhop.”
— Theresa Campbell

The Indianapolis Star February 11, 1997
“Bart Lovins as the bellhop also gives a standout performance.”
— Marion Garmel

Indiana Weekender; Indianapolis, IN February 17, 1997
“The cast (includes)…an hilarious bellhop (Bart Lovins)….All are excellent. Bart Lovins in the role of the bellhop is sensational.”
— Joan Morillian

THE X-MAS FILES APPLAUSE! APPLAUSE! — DIRECTOR

Volume V, Issue 3

Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens
Editor-In-Chief
Tel/Fax: 718.357.7075
Subscription Publication

CONTRIBUTING CRITICS
Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens
Tree
Andrew Martin
Jan Wallman
George S. Bettinger
Bob Ost

Bob Ost
The X-mas Files – Written & Directed by Duane Domutz & Bart Lovins
Upstairs at Rose’s Turn (55 Grove Street; 212-502-0763)
Reviewed 12/19/99 at 9:00 p.m.

What they say about governments may also be true about Christmas traditions: every culture gets the one it deserves. Santa and his reindeer was a comforting conceit for a more innocent era; now the end-of-millennium cynicism of The X-mas Files by Duane Domutz and Bart Lovins has landed this year under the rooftop of Rose’s Turn, having made its initial manifestation last year at downtown’s Expanded Arts. For those members of Generation X-File who would rather see Frosty melt, instead of their hearts, here’s a twisted little Christmas fable in the form of an offbeat collision of Chris Carter and Charles Dickens.

The basic idea is a terrific one: having Agents Scully and Muldar (here named Scowley and Muller) investigate those well-known ghostly visitations of old Ebeneezer Scrooge as if Dickens’ A Christmas Carol were an X-File case. (And if you don’t know what an X-File cas4e is, the show itself won’t mean much to you either.) Logically enough, the old geezer’s been committed to the Bedlam Institute for the Mentally Insane, compulsively spouting geysers of Christmas cheer; and his implacable enthusiasm proves a perfect foil for the coolness of the X-Files agents.

When this extended comedy sketch works, it works quite well. In their role as co-directors, Mr. Domutz and Mr. Lovins display a fine visual comic sense – there is a good deal of precisely directed posing and mugging, including a clever recreation of the show’s opening credits that sets a promisingly loopy tone for the evening. Salvatore Garguilo is a dead ringer for David Duchovny’s Fox Muldar, and has an hilarious comic take on Duchovny’s air of “alienation” and disinterest; and Laura Gurry is appropriately dyspeptic impersonating Gillian Anderson’s Dana Scully role, although he doesn’t quite match Garguilo’s level of comic exaggeration. The character names – he’s Agent Facts Muller and she’s Agent Donna Scowley – are symptomatic, though, of the imprecision of the writing since Duchovny is actually the “scowly” one and Anderson is the one always searching for “facts.”

Another running gag plays off of another continuing character in the TV show, a particularly malevolent assassin who chain-smokes. Called “Emphysema Man” here, James Hay misses the cold-blooded, lip-curling sneer and world-weary stoop of the TV original that could have made this gag a truly dead-on bit of hilarity; still, there is a hint of well-thought out satire in his constant battle with the “no smoking” house rules of Rose’s Turn. Ironically, the most impressive performance of all is from J.M. McDonough as Scrooge, although it is not a comic exaggeration at all; rather, it is a beautifully acted, nuanced, believable caricature that nearly rivals Alistair Sims’ classic film portrayal. Bruce Barton and Jane Mendez are also appealing in their true-to-Dickens portrayals of Scrooge’s nephew Fred and lost love Belle, respectively. Unfortunately, Dickens proves to be the undoing of what should be an irreverently wild evening of unearthly delight. Domutz and Lovins’s fidelity to the original A Christmas Carol, with stretches of narrative quoted verbatim, is the soft underbelly of what one wishes were a more ferociously satirical creation. Though it has lots of attitude, this pleasant little show rarely shows its teeth. There are two bits of musical writing in the evening, however, that are quite clever. The first is composer E. Karl Gallmeyer’s witty opening rendition of The X-Files theme music poisonously laced with traditional Christmas Carols; the other is the very silly, barely relevant afterthought of an encore, the cast’s singing of “The Twelve Days Of Christmas” with lyrics referring to an alien abduction (my personal favorite: those fifth-day golden rings being replaced by “five anal probes”).

At the risk of being a bit of a Scrooge myself, I do wish that what happens in between were more consistently funny. Still, even if TV’s The X-Files doesn’t make it back next season, I do hope The X-mas Files will continue its yearly visitations; with another year’s gestation, and some work from the authors, maybe this cute little monster will cast off its civilized skin and develop more bite.

A STUDY IN SCARLET — DIRECTOR

From: Foolscap Document, The Newsletter of “The Three Garridebs”
Volume I, Number 1, February 98
Go at once if convenient. If inconvenient, go all the same.

There is a unique theatre experience currently being presented in New York. Any attempt to dramatize A Study In Scarlet is unusual, but this one is done in a small space (about 30 seats) by ten actors playing over 25 roles – and it is very well done!

The set consists of four chairs, which become a bar, a window or a hansom cab. All other props – the mantelpiece at 221b, Mrs. Hudson’s crockery, the Mormon wagon train are all exactly as you imagined them when you read the story – because you are allowed to imagine them here.

You become a patron in the Criterion Bar, overhearing Stamford and Watson, you sit in a corner of the rooms at Baker street as Holmes and Watson discuss the case, you are in John Ferrier’s house when Brigham Young admonishes him – you are there.

The adaptation by Bart Lovins remains quite faithful to the Canon – the few minor changes are easily accepted. Mr. Lovins is also the Director. Lighting and sound by Jerry McAllister are very effective.

Erik Singer and Steven Williams make a marvelous Holmes and Watson and the supporting cast – Barabara Balph, Duane Domutz, Leonard Gibbs, James Hay, Rebecca Ingalls, Mark D. Ransom, Charles Roden and Larry Stock – slide easily through their multiple roles. Producers Robert and Jennifer Spahr are to be thanked for this effort.

In years to come, if Mr. Lovins fulfills his intention of doing more of the Canon, you will be proud to say you saw his initial offering.

THE ELEPHANT MAN — DIRECTOR

Open Circle Magazine: Volume IV – No. 1 (September 8, 1999)
by Lee Winston
Review The Elephant Man at Theatre @ St. Clement’s

The Elephant Man, Bernard Pomerance’s story of John Merrick a man of great physical ugliness who fascinated and obsessed Victoria’s London in the 1880’s, has returned to the New York stage for the first time since its Broadway opening twenty years ago – and welcome back.

The Elephant Man, at Theatre @ St. Clement’s for a limited run, has been given an ambitious and beautiful production smoothly directed by Bart Lovins and produced by Theatre @ St. Clement’s and Kevin Jay Productions.

Mr. Lovins is a very young man from Louisville, Kentucky, whose work is well worth watching. That “smoothly” above is hard won, because Mr. Pomerance’s play is written as a series of blackout sketches, and that is not what Mr. Lovins chose to stage. He has invented out-of-time sequences and street life occurrences that make a seamless unfolding of illusion and dramatic substance that seem to come “through a glass darkly” joining our time to that one. The effect makes obvious their social context and intensifies any feelings these characters evoke; it oddly makes them more ours. The shadow of Darwin had shaken their society, and it is still not quiet in ours – witness the Kansas creationism flap.

The weight of the play rests on its Merrick and its Dr. Treves, played here by two very able young men – Steve Gibbons and Steven Williams respectively – and strongly abetted by three others. First is Melissa Gray as the actress Mrs. Kendall, who reads to Merrick, becomes his friend and who has noticed that deformed as much of his body is he is sexually normal. Second is Davis Hall who plays the dour and dry Carr Gomm, head of the hospital, who supports Treves’ work, sees its exploitative potential for the benefit of the hospital and yet also sees to the needs of Merrick and Treves. He cold-bloodily dismisses a gawking porter for disobedience, adroitly gets rid of a highborn con man, smugly writes self-serving letters to the Times and warns an ebullient Treves that the job will have “consolations”, a word Treves does not at first comprehend. Mr. Hall’s portrayal is impressively understated, quiet and absolutely authoritative. Third of these deft abettors is Richard Pruitt as Bishop Walshan Howe, an assertive, blustery and self-important clergyman who is fascinated by Merrick, sees his faith, and takes charge of Merrick’s spiritual instruction.
It is the playwright’s delight to show us that all the people whose lives Merrick touches see Merrick as “like me”, especially these three. The message seems a pathetic need to share in another’s celebrity, but it comes from a profound humanity that emanates from Merrick. The play might even be subtitled “…or How an Unfortunate Caused His Keepers to See God”.

Undaunted by the responsibilities of their roles, Gibbons and Williams are heartbreaking, each rising to the big moments with aplomb. In a late scene in Act II, when Merrick is building a model of St. Phillip’s Church, he asks Treves about rules “for your own good” and says, “You don’t believe, do you?” Treves stammers on about why he sent Mrs. Kendal away; he happened into the room, you see when Mrs. Kendal was showing her bared breasts to Merrick. Treves has thought only improper things, but Kendal had only risen to Merrick’s request to see, for the first time in his life, young, healthy woman’s body, one not fat, withered or distorted. Then Merrick throws Mr. Williams’ Treves into complete confusion when he calls the doctor “merciful. I myself am proof of it.” This leads to Treves’ “mad scene”, including a mirror of his lecture to medical students by a suave, normal, well dressed and wry Merrick with a clothed but emotionally naked Treves on display. This sequence alone, and the actors’ superb work in it, is sufficient reason to see the production, on display at St. Clement’s until September 25th. And that is a bare beginning.
Pride of place must go to Steve Gibbons, the slender, blonde, six-foot-plus actor who plays John Merrick. He conveys the need, the humanity and terror of Merrick before he comes to the hospital, endures nakedness during the medical lecture and the confusion during the bath in his room which seems to be about everyone in the world except him, the quiet center of the storm.

During Mr. Lovins’ prologue and various crowd scenes Mr. Gibbons plays several other people, and during his death scene he dances a brief waltz with Mrs. Kendal. Gibons, of course, is not deformed, but has the stances and moves to make one believe completely that his character is.

Three sequences may haunt you: Ross, played by Ty Stover, the manager who abandoned Merrick in Belgium but now is in need himself. He wants to go back into business, wants a percentage, talks of whores and business partners, but Merrick sends him away saying “I’m sorry. That’s just the way things are. Be content.” Second item is the Nurse Sandwich scene. Sandwich, played by Barbara Crafton, applies for the job of the nurse who will feed Merrick. Dr. Treves insists that he will hold the lunch tray. The severe and bitter woman Ms. Crafton plays is full of confidence until she sees Merrick. Though Treves has warned her that he is “beyond ugly”, she seems to fall apart and beats a hasty retreat. Merrick wryly thanks Treves for “saving the lunch this time.” The third haunting moment with Mr. Gibons occurs when Dr. Treves decides to introduce the actress Ms. Kendal to Merrick. She is impressed and suggests that all London would be proud to know Merrick, and that friends would make his life more normal. The doctor agrees, and they leave, but the last moment is Merrick’s. His mixed feelings of once more being on display tear a sob from Mr. Gibbons that will rip your heart out.

There is new incidental music for this production by Darryl Curry, which suffuses and underscores the story throughout, in total harmony with Mr. Lovins’ directorial view. The score has a small song for the Pinheads in the brutal Belgium scene that becomes a lullaby of the angels as Merrick dies. These transformations and underlinings accompany the show at key points, subtly as in a movie and superbly. Mr. Curry is an Oberlin graduate and a composer/playwright too. Future presenters of The Elephant Man and Samuel French, take note of this worthy other option to the original solo cello. The sound design, by Matt Berman, delivered the score clearly, presently and without distortions; only the invisible presence of the music made anyone aware of it.

David Barber’s set design provides spacious “street” above ad below a central raised platform where all the scenes occur: the London hospital room adjoining Dr. Treves’s office that becomes Merrick’s home. Mr. Barber’s design is tall and moody, beautifully extending the St. Clement’s brickwork and rafters into the settings. Lighting by Josh Bradford is dreamy and darkly atmospheric up high and cruelly bright up close, enhancing Pomerance’s dark tale. That it all works so well probably implicates its technical director, Duane Demits. The costume design, by Sandra King, keeps the dark colors and heavy fabrics of the late Victorian era, but does not favor the corseted look one might expect. It is an acceptable alteration; we do not need actors in pain because another era’s expectations made stupid use of the human body.

As parting shots, there are attractive bits throughout by the supporting company: The miserable “sacked” porter, Will, and the “moral swamp” Lord John, who has lied to the hopital and misspent the funds, played by Daniel Haughey; Snork, the orderly who brings Merrick his dinner, played by Kevin Roberge; the elusive mother of Merrick, whom he loves and who gave him up to the workhouse, whom we see fairly often in passing, and the flighty duchess, both played by Heather McKenney; the vicious manager of the pinheads played by William Koch; the Pinheads, who giggle, sing, cower, and double as Siamese twins, played by Jennifer Phelps and Marisa Bela, and the sarcastic, laughing countess played by Ms. Bela; the young Merrick, face swathed in gray cloth, played by young Teddy Alvaro. His ensemble appearances as various young men bring youth and welcome variety to the world of the play, though he has no lines.

See this show. it deserves a long life.

PEER GYNT — DIRECTOR

by Martin Denton for www.nytheatre.com

Ibsen’s long epic play Peer Gynt comes alive in Bart Lovins’s splendid production at Expanded Arts. The program says that Kenneth McLeish’s translation has been “further adapted by Clifford Notes,” which is indicative of the tone of the piece. It’s playful, original, accessible, and thoroughly contemporary; yet it’s entirely respectful of the material: dazzlingly clear, and liberally and thoughtfully abridged for a 2001 audience.

This Peer Gynt is also brilliantly theatrical. Using the surreal paintings of Rene Magritte as a starting point, Lovins and his company of seven actors find startlingly simple but inventive ways to realize even the most fantastic elements of Ibsen’s play in a tiny space and on a tiny budget. So cast members line up along the rear wall holding up open umbrellas to create a forest, and evocative objects like a chessboard and a telephone serve as masks for various supporting players populating the sprawling story. Seven actors portray more than seventy characters (not just people, but also animals and things); six of them also take the role of Peer for a portion of the play. Transitions, when one actor hands over Peer’s bowler hat to the next, correspond to pivotal moments in Peer’s story; they’re remarkably lovely, keys to the beauty and grace of Lovins’s staging.

At this point, a brief synopsis is probably in order. Peer Gynt is the proud, eager, good-for-nothing son of a poor farm woman. Rather than work, Peer spends his days dreaming and making up fanciful adventures, becoming something of a laughingstock among his neighbors. As the play opens, Peer’s mother tells him that his one-time girlfriend is about to be married to someone more respectable; Peer crashes the wedding and has a final tryst with the girl. He then meets and falls instantly in love with the beautiful Solveig; and then he escapes from the village in search of  fame and fortune.

The remainder of the play recounts Peer’s adventures on what turns out to be a lifelong quest. His travels take him, most famously, to the hall of the Mountain King (you’ll enjoy the clever way that Lovins invokes the familiar Grieg musical accompaniment); and also to various forests, seas, and cities all over Norway and the world. Peer does battle with enemies both mortal and magical, but none is as dangerous as his final struggle for his own soul. Peer’s love for his mother and for his faithful Solveig eventually help redeem him.

I’d be lying if I said that the story wasn’t convoluted and confusing; Lovins doesn’t solve this, but he diverts our attention from it by keeping us constantly engaged and entertained. When Peer somehow winds up in Arabia, for example, the sultry gyrations of three harem girls (two of them played by men!) prove intoxicating enough to eradicate any questions as to how Peer got there. Similarly, wondrously imaginative renderings of a shipwreck, a jungle, even an encounter with the Devil, move the story along vigorously. Lovins and his cast make such engaging and entertaining company that we cast aside any lingering doubts about where we might be going; we relax and let them guide us on Peer Gynt‘s fanciful and often far-fetched journey.

All seven actors are to be commended for their outstanding work here. Particularly memorable are Jeff Riebe, whose characters range from the young Peer to a dour but pragmatic priest to a thrillingly agile monkey; Catherine Rolfe-Day, who is an almost ethereal Solveig; and Davis Hall, who has a stunningly perfect moment as Peer’s mother in her death scene. Salvatore Garguilo, Jane Mendez, Judi Polson, and Duane Domutz comprise the rest of the cast; each doing fine work in numerous roles.

No one does Peer Gynt these days, so to Expanded Arts and director Lovins we must express our gratitude just for letting us see it on its feet. But Lovins deserves more than that: he’s clearly a talented and visionary young director whom we will certainly keep an eye on.

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