Wednesday, December 12, 2018

My How Time's Have Changed?

It's been almost 140-years since Henrik Ibsen wrote A Doll's House. As I write this  review, we are just a week away from the 139th anniversary of the play's premier at The Royal Theatre in Copenhagen, Denmark. My how time's have changed. Or have they?

I admit I was a bit perplexed when I learned that TheatreLab, Richmond's "home of unexpected and evocative performance" was producing a play more than a century old. Even more perplexed knowing that TheatreLab's 2018/2019 season is "In Pursuit of Happiness."

Controversial, sure, but there's not much happy about A Doll's House.

We all know what happens when we make assumptions. I was wrong, of course. Director Joshua Chenard convinced me that Ibsen's work is just as relevant today as it was all those years ago. 

The plot could have been ripped from the #MeToo headlines. 

Nora Helmer (Katrinah Carol Lewis) and her husband Torvald (Landon Nagel) have, by all appearances, an ideal marriage. Torvald is devoted, they have a child, and Nora is able to use her wiles to get anything she wants. 

For a 19th-century woman, she had it all. But Nora is not a typical woman of her time. The more she realizes she is just a doll in her husband's house - something to show off, play with and dress up - the more she recognizes she is an actor playing a script that has been predestined for her. Her brave, dramatic choice - to walk away from her marriage and child - was hugely controversial when the play was originally performed.

And it is just as brave and dramatic in 2018 when women are still fighting for equality, are often still viewed as objects to be possessed, and where the decision to walk away from a marriage and children - something that is accepted when it's the man who does the leaving - is still controversial. The time's haven't changed as much as we think.

I loved everything about TheatreLab's production of A Doll's House

The set was a facade of a set. The doors and walls and objects are depicted in black marker, as if to say - the dining room is *supposed* to be here, the plants *should* go right here, and the floor boards and ceilings *ought* to be ornamental. 

Photo credit: Tom Topinka

The entire cast is solid. Nora's childhood friend, Kristine Linde (Amber Marie Martinez) delivers a subtle, nuanced performance as a single woman reluctantly turning to Nora's aid in search of a job.  

Anna (Jocelyn Honore) hops to her masters' commands - always present to fulfill a whim, handle a crisis, and play mother to the Torvald's son, Jon. Her performance is steady and reassuring. 

Nils Krogstad (Axle Burtness) is convincing as Torvald's bank employee, a down-on-his-luck father with questionable scruples. 

The child, Jon (Faris Alexander Martinez)'s performance bespoke the "children should be seen and not heard" sentiment of the time. 

Todd Patterson played the crusty, disabled Doctor Rank - the couples' closest friend - with great skill and precision. When he finally reveals his feelings to Nora, the audience absorbs his pain at the rejection.

Landon Nagel's Torvald Helmer was exceptional. Tender, menacing, cowardly, and domineering. The facility with which he went from impassioned lover to outraged husband was fascinating to watch.

But oh my god! Katrinah Carol Lewis *became* Nora. I was completely drawn into her exquisite performance. From facial expressions, to hand gestures, to the way she walked I was watching a woman in an unhappy marriage trying to convince herself she was living the life she wanted. I agonized watching her squirm from Torvald - not wanting his touch but needing to use her cunning to get him to succumb to her will. 

TheatreLab you have done it again. It is days later and I'm still thinking about A Doll's House and how very relevant Ibsen is even today. We think that courage has to look spectacular - Dr. Christine Blasey Ford testifying during the hearings for then Supreme Court Nominee Brett Kavanuagh. We think it has to send ripple waves throughout the country - the dozens of women confronting Harvey Weinstein's predatory behavior.

But Nora reminds us that sometimes the most courageous act you can perform is to look at your sham of a life and decide you are worthy of more. When the door slams and the play ends, we know that Nora is redefining what it means to be a woman - as more than just wife and mother and doll - and we know what an act of triumph it is for women everywhere. 

Sometimes the pursuit of happiness is a revolutionary act.

In addition to the stellar cast, kudos belong to the entire production team: 
Direction by Josh Chenard
Scenic Design by Chris Raintree
Lighting Design by Erin Barclay 
Costume Design by Ruth Hedberg 
Sound Design by Josh Chenard 
Properties Design by Connor Scudder
Assistant Direction by Drewe Goldstein
Production Stage Management by Breezy Potter.

A Doll's House continues through Saturday December 22 2018. 
For tickets visit:



Direction by

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Fun for the Whole Family

Looking for a fun, theatrical event that's fit for the whole family?  The Whistle Stop Theatre's production of The Little Match Girl is well worth the trip to the Hanover Arts and Activity Center in Ashland, VA.

Director and Playwright Louise Ricks brings to life Hans Christian Anderson's classic fairytale in a way that retains its darker, moralistic tone while still being a delight for younger children.

The story is familiar - a poor young girl supports her family by selling matches. Sales are slow and the Little Match Girl and Gerda, her cat and only companion, are cold. The townsfolk ignore and avoid her as they go about their daily lives. Unable to sell a single match, she chances her father's punishment and three times lights a match. As the fire warms her and she drifts to sleep, her hopes and dreams come to her in visions. Upon lighting the last match, she envisions her beloved Babushka. Falling into a permanent sleep, she and Babushka are forever reunited. The townspeople, finding the Little Match Girl frozen with a smile on her face, belatedly find compassion for the girl.

Ziona Tucker is sweet and compelling as the titular character. And her sidekick Gerda the Cat played by Caroline Beals is perfectly charming. Beals' furrowed brows and cat-like hand gestures are delightful. I giggled every time she meowed.

Louise Ricks Photography 

The familiar story is bitter sweet. However, while the theme of death is clear to adults and more mature children, the younger ones won't pick up on it. There is plenty of on-stage action that is whimsical and perfect for younger children. The little boy sitting in front of me squealed in delight each time Annie Zanetti appeared. Zanetti is as terrific physical actress, and she brought her characters, particularly Babushka- to life with zany facial expressions and creatively choreographed movement. 

Each adult cast member plays several characters. Shalandis Wheeler Smith portrayal of an elderly townsperson made kids and adults laugh out loud. Marcos Martinez, Walter Riddle and Justin Sisk round out the adult actors, and all provide strong, enthusiastic performances appropriate for the audience. 

Prudence Reynolds (CHILD) has so much sass and poise, and a commanding presence.
Louise Ricks Photography 

The audience sits in the round as the action takes place all around. There are few props; the cold wind and lit flames are portrayed by the actors through voice and whimsical choreography. Some of the story's finer points are told through facial expression alone, and each cast member uses those expressions to great effect.

Kudos to stage manager Jordan Lively, and to Sarah Rose Wilkinson for music direction.

Seeing The Little Match Girl was a charming way to spend a rainy Saturday evening.

To purchase tickets visit:

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

There's a Balm on Broad Street

Monsignor O'Hara (Michael Hawke) wasn't the only one unfamiliar with the meaning of 'balm of Gilead.'

A quick visit to google and I found the origin - referred to in the Old Testament, in Gilead there was a tree that produced a balm with healing powers. In the New Testament, Jesus is the balm for salvation.

The first known African-American spiritual  to include reference is "The Sinner's Cure" an 1854 hymn attributed to Washington Glass:
There is a balm in Gilead; to make the wounded whole; there's power enough in heaven; to cure a sin-sick soul.
Well there's a balm on Broad Street.

For just over two hours you can escape from today's troubled word, and delight in Virginia Rep's Sister Act. A balm indeed. Laughter, comedic capers, a kick-ass group of nuns, and a message about unlikely friendships, and having your sisters' back, Sister Act was a delight from start to finish.

Felicia Curry electrifies as Deloris Van Cartier -  (the character originally brought to life by Whoopi Goldberg in the movie of the same name) who is on the run and in hiding as Sister Mary Clarence in a Philadelphia convent. Andrea Rivette portrays Mother Superior to perfection.  And newcomer Sincee J. Daniels thrills as the show's villain, Curtis.

Michael Hawke gives a strong, endearing performance as the Monsignor desperate to keep the convent from being sold to 'two bachelors who deal in antiques.' I giggled out loud when Monsignor jumps up and down in his voluminous vestments, and yells "goodie!"

You can't help but cheer for the sincere, utterly lovable Eddie (Durron Marquis Tyre) a Philadelphia cop assigned to protect Deloris - who has harbored a not-so-secret crush on Deloris (plain old Doris Carter) since high school.

There wasn't a secondary character in the cast that didn't put in a top-notch performance; a true stellar ensemble performance. Curtis's sidekicks Joey (Paul S. Major), Pablo (Mark Parello, Jr.), and TJ (Anthony Cosby) deliver some of the show's funniest moments as they try to track down Van Cartier who witnessed Curtis - her married lover - murder an informant.

Major's writhing on the ground as he imagines himself seducing the nuns at Queen of Angels Convent is priceless in the funniest musical moment - when the sidekicks sing Lady in the Long Black Dress.

Though all the nuns were hilarious with exceptional voices, two in particular stood out. Kelsey Cordrey lit the stage up with her warm, funny, and enthusiastic portrayal of Sister Mary Patrick.

And Gwynne Wood, in her first job since graduating from the Boston Conservatory, is infectious in her role as Sister Mary Robert,  a young postulate who delivers my favorite musical moment - belting out The Life I Never Led. What a voice!

Bravo to Robin Arthur for great direction and choreography. The live orchestra under the direction of Anthony Smith is top notch. Costumes, scenes, lights, sound . . . it all added up to just the balm for the soul-sickness that often accompanies the holiday season.

Sometimes the best theatre isn't overly dramatic or tense. It isn't so deep you need a degree in philosophy to understand it. Sometimes it is the heartfelt, stellar performances of a bunch of exceptional talent having a heck of a lot of fun, with a script that is heartwarming and uplifting.

Sister Act is just such a show. The audience was on their feet at the end of the performance. Theatre audiences in Richmond have on occasion been overly generous with standing ovations. This one was well-earned.

Sister Act  continues at Virginia Rep's November Theatre Marjorie Arenstein Stage through January 6, 2019. For tickets visit:

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Cosmic Appointments With Foregiveness

In Letters from the J Underground: Shared experiences with the principles of A COURSE IN MIRACLES we watch author Ruth Perkinson unzip.

In language gorgeous and raw, Perkinson exposes personal traumas and fears, reveals in soul-wrenching detail her struggle and victory over alcoholism and mental illness, and gifts us with the joy, spiritual transformation, and the many cosmic appointments with forgiveness she's experienced since going blind but gaining her sight.

"J" is Jesus and A Course in Miracles (ACIM) is the international phenomenon published by the Foundation for Inner Peace in 1976 after Columbia University psychology professor Helen Schucman channeled the voice of Jesus over a period of seven years - word for word. ACIM has provided a path to spiritual transformation for millions across the world, and gained its largest growth in popularity after Marianne Williamson discussed the course on Oprah in 1992.

Essential to understanding ACIM and Letters from the J Underground is, Perkinson writes:

"J teaches us that the key to everything is true forgiveness and the idea of a shared love. He teaches us that a universal theology is not necessary but a universal shared experience of love and forgiveness is to gain access to going home: Heaven and staying there and not returning any longer to a world of confusion and despair."

For Perkinson, this world provides many cosmic appointments with forgiveness. When I first met her, Perkinson led a gathering of writers - Featherstone Writers - who met weekly to discuss the craft of writing, receive feedback, and to share "writerly news" - articles, essays, and other tidbits specific to writing. There are a number of writers in town who came to believe they were real writers through Perkinson's loving attention. 

So, the ultimate cosmic appointment with forgiveness came when this one-time high school English teacher, published author of fiction and non-fiction, and editor who relied on her sight for her livelihood, started to go blind. Yes, she was angry and afraid. You can read about it in J Underground, but ultimately she chose forgiveness. "The peace of God is inside all of us. When we forgive, we tap into that altar of light He placed there."

In J Underground, Perkinson takes special care to note that "the Course is only a self-study book. It is not meant to become any kind of religion at all." It is about two competing thought systems which either reflect love or fear. And "only love is real." Spend any time in Perkinson's presence and you just know you are in the presence of someone who practices forgiveness. Says Perkinson, "When I encounter a cosmic appointment with a forgiveness opportunity - as we are never at a shortage for those in this classroom of a world - I remind myself to turn it over to the Holy Spirit. It takes willingness."

Not only is Perkinson willing to forgive small transgressions - the irate woman who cursed her in traffic as Perkinson was realizing she needed to give up driving - but the big transgressions as well - years of overmedication for mental illness, tremendous battles with alcohol and drug abuse, attempts at suicide . . . GOING BLIND.

Letters from the J Underground is revelatory; exposing the heart and soul of a woman who should have every reason to be bitter and angry yet brings light and joy instead. Long out of the gay closet - she came out as Lesbian years ago - in J Underground, Perkinson comes out of the most personal, perhaps riskiest closet of all - the Reincarnation Closet. But Perkinson has nothing to lose by revealing her past selves. She's absolutely fine with who she is. A child of the Holy Spirit.

Whether you are skeptical or not, Letters from the J Underground is a gift from Perkinson to the reader. In a world that seems rife with hatred and hostility, murder and mayhem, famine, disease, crimes against humanity - and the list goes on - Letters from the J Underground offers an altar of light.

To purchase Letters from the J Underground visit:

Friday, November 23, 2018

What's On My Nightstand

Pema Chodron - Awakening Loving Kindness

Djuna Barnes - Nightwood

Michelle Tea - Modern Tarot

Confessions - St. Augustine

Drawing Down the Moon: Witches, Druids, Goddess-Worshippers and Other Pagans in America - Margot Adler

The Uses of Enchantment: the Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales - Bruno Bettleheim

The Complete Stories - Flannery O'Connor

Preparation for the Next Life - Atticus Lish

Untie the Strong Woman - Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Ph.D.
Dark Debts - Karen Hall

Monday, November 19, 2018


Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are solely mine. Just in case, you know, there are any readers out there who are catching the national disease of not being able to distinguish facts from opinions. 

Photo Credit: John MacLellan

There is trouble in Who-Ville.
The grinch is back in town.
You'll see. 

Julie Harthill Clayton Turner isn't with GayRVA anymore.
She's now InkQueery.
Much as she loves to laugh, and thinks the world's WAY too P.C.,
Lombardo's equally-offensive-to-all script,
Isn't that funny.

I'll leave the rhyming to the poets. Before I sound too much like Scrooge, let me say that I'm all for some good adult humor. I don't mind crass, tasteless, insensitive, overly sexual, irreverent humor.  But Playwright Matthew Lombardo admittedly touched a nerve with me using the word "cunt."  I had a hard time setting that aside and not seeing the rest as overly gratuitous and just not that funny.

Call me a queer liberal snowflake.

Words matter. And that particular word has been directed at me one too many times. It's more than just a word. I'm not ready to reclaim it.

My problem was solely with the script.

But even Lombardo prevailed in the legal battle with Dr. Seuss's estate who alleged copyright infringement.

And rightly so. I may not like his words. But I LOVE our freedoms.

I urge you to go see Who's Holiday at Richmond Triangle Players and form your own opinion.

Kimberly Jones Clark's performance as the grownup Cindy Lou Who struggling with alcohol addiction, and longing to reconnect with her idyllic childhood was comic genius, and is worth the price of admission alone.

Clark's one-woman show was a master class in timing and physicality.

Stick around afterwards for a special cabaret of off-beat Christmas carols performed by Joshua Wortham (piano and vocals) and Georgia Rogers Farmer and/or Shannon Gibson Brown (vocals) that's great fun. I saw Georgia, and she never disappoints.

Directed by Dexter Ramey, Who's Holiday: The Story Dr. Seuss Didn't Want You to See runs through December 15, 2018 at Richmond Triangle Players.
For tickets visit:

Friday, November 16, 2018


After a lengthy gestational period - closer to that of an elephant than a human - I'm back and ready to reveal: IT'S A . . . 

I took a break from theatre and book reviews to focus on my own writing. That time away has resulted in A Date With the Fairy Drag Queen, my work-in-progress. And at the 2018 James River Writing Conference (October 12-14, 2018), I won the Agent Dating Game. And she wants to see my manuscript in her inbox by December 31, 2018!

AND A . . . 


FULL TIME WRITER and CEO/Co-owner of Better Beta Readers (w/ Rishonda Anthony). Better Beta Readers will  offer manuscript review services from beta reading to full content edits, and special services such as 1st chapter reviews ( - COMING SOON).

AND A . . .


INKQUEERY- One *BI girl's opinion on all things literary, theatrical, cultural, and what my inkqueerying mind happens to comment on (*representation matters).

  • You'll see me back in the theatre and can find my reviews on 

  • Have a book you'd like me to review? Contact me at

Bi for now