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Spoleto has brought back some favorites with a nearly-sold out encore run of Don Giovanni and a new one-man show by Mike Daisey. The big festival is also pimping a world premiere of Geisha and staging a unique version of Tristan & Yseult. Piccolo's theatrical offerings are pretty slim, since the College of Charleston didn't program anything in the Physician's Auditorium. Instead, PURE Theatre steps up to the plate for its first year as an official Piccolo venue with two of their own shows and Topdog/Underdog from Columbia's NiA Company.


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Don Giovanni

What is it? Last year's production of Mozart's 1787 masterpiece was a $500,000 affair that completely transformed the abandoned Memminger Auditorium into a rolling hillside dotted with cherry trees in spring, summer, and autumn foliage, a pair of water-filled pools, an enormous, crumbling head fallen from an unseen statue, and a new arrangement of stadium-style seating in the corners and along the sides of the stage. Featuring an avant-garde staging that included both traditional elements and some very modern touches (period costumes, Polaroid cameras, KFC, singers climbing into the audience), the opera was sold out long before it opened, and was such a success that Spoleto quickly announced plans to preserve the set in the Memminger until this spring and present the work again for Spoleto 2006. Why see it? This year's encore brings back every cast member from last year's production but one, including Nmon Ford in the title role (who had female audience members panting last year when he stripped down to a black Speedo the size of a cocktail napkin). Who should GO? At three hours, it's a little long for the kids, but come on — you don't want to waste one of these seats on a child anyway. It's also pretty risqué; there's plenty of skin and blatant sexual innuendo, even photos of naked women strewn about the floor. Buzz: You decide. Here's what The New York Times had to say about it last year: "In a wildly adventurous season of opera at the Spoleto Festival U.S.A., the hottest topic of discussion is ... the most standard of operas, Mozart's Don Giovanni, in a staging by Günter Krämer. And rightly so. This is, in fact, as much an installation as a production, and another triumph for the Memminger Auditorium. The set is magnificent: undulating hills with trees, leaves, a pond, and a few props. With the action dispersed everywhere, even into the orchestra and the audience, sight lines are sometimes distant or obstructed. Still, it is a magical place to stage an opera." (Patrick Sharbaugh)

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Spoleto Festival USA •$15 (limited view)-$140 • 3 hours • May 25, 27, 29, 31, June 2, 4 and 6 at 8 p.m. • Memminger Auditorium, 22 Beaufain St. • 579-3100


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52 Pick Up

What is it? A smart cabaret play about the rise and fall of a love affair broken up into 52 "scenelets" represented by playing cards scattered around the stage, reconstituted into a new pattern each night. Why see it? Critically hailed from Australia to Charleston (where it played Piccolo in 2001), 52 Pick Up is a lot of fun and a lot of theatre packed into a single deck of cards. Who should go? A perfect date show, it has plenty for anyone who has ever been in a relationship (sorry, Mepkin Abbey residents). buzz: A solid star in the repertoire of Seattle's theater simple troupe, it's sure to be a sell-out. Again. (Bill Davis)
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Piccolo Spoleto • $15 • 1 hour 15 min. • May 28, June 3 at 2 p.m.; May 30 at 7 p.m.; May 31 at 3 p.m.; June 1, 4, 8, 9 at 5 p.m.; June 6 at 9 p.m. • Theatre 99, 280 Meeting St. (above the Bicycle Shoppe) • 554-6060


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Roméo et Juliette

What is it? Tunefully crafted 19th-century French opera staged and conducted by a 21st-century crew. Why see it? We don't know about you, but we're curious as to how a guy who gave up a career in the priesthood decided to write an opera centered on the quintessential love couple of all time. Charles Gounod composed 12 operas, but only Roméo et Juliette and Faust made the big-time hit parade. Two out of 12 is not exactly a great average, and it's somewhat titillating to muse why love, lust, death, and temptation were such inspiring themes for this somewhat austere and serious-looking 19th-century gentleman. Who should go? Opera lovers and those who never tire of eternally doomed romance, as well as those curious about how modern staging may reveal new depth in a time-tested work. Buzz: This is center-stage Spoleto, numero uno. (Fernando Rivas)

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SPOLETO FESTIVAL USA • $20-$125 • 2 hours 20 min. • May 26 at 7 p.m.; May 29 at 2 p.m.; June 3, 9 at 8 p.m. • Gaillard Municipal Auditorium, 77 Calhoun St. • 579-3100


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Tristan & Yseult

What is it? A contemporary reimagining of the legend that, back in medieval Britain, was hotter than the Brad-Jennifer-Angelina love triangle. Oh, and it was the source of Wagner's much-loved opera Tristan and Isolde. Why see it? Until recently, the humble region of Cornwall, England was best known as a cheap vacation destination for Limey surfers. Perhaps the pathetic waves there inspired the name of Kneehigh Theatre, which has been the focus of a stage revival that's put the Cornish coast back on the map. With native critics and audiences raving, Kneehigh now bring their down-home brand of thespianism to Chucktown. Who should go? Dorks, losers, and unrequited lovers. This story is told from the point of view of the geeks who don't get the girl (or boy), so this is a show for the jaded and the jilted. Buzz The modernization of this mythical love story may not be everyone's cup of tea, but this is definitely a strong, ingenious slice of theatre. (Nick Smith)

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SPOLETO FESTIVAL USA • $35-$75 • 2 hours 10 min. • May 25-27, 29, 31, June 1, 2, 6-10 at 8 p.m.; May 28, June 3, 4, 11 at 3:30 p.m.; May 28, June 3 at 8:30 p.m. • Dock Street Theatre, 135 Church St. • 579-3100


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A Beautiful View

What is it? Canadian troupe da da kamera's latest work is a dramatic and comedic one-act that deals with the story of two women who accidentally fall in love, and out of it, back and forth over the course of three decades. Why see it? You may remember writer/director Daniel MacIvor, who performed his exquisite one-man show Cul-de-Sac at the Spoleto Festival two years ago. MacIvor, co-founder of the company, writes sharp plays that deal with the complexities of relationships — no matter who is involved in them — and explore people's ideas of themselves. MacIvor and Co. have let A Beautiful View develop over the course of years, much like the relationships of his characters. Who should go? Fans of da da kamera and plays that develop organically. The company is disbanding, and this is their last new work before they part ways next year. Anyone who appreciates terrific writing and works that explore love and relationships. Buzz: Reviews of A Beautiful View have been favorable so far. Based on the brilliance of da da kamera's Cul-de-Sac alone, whatever they produce should be well worth seeing. (Jennifer Corley)

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SPOLETO FESTIVAL USA • $30 • 1 hour 15 min. • June 7 at 8 p.m.; June 9, 10 at 5 p.m., June 11 at 3 p.m. • Emmett Robinson Theatre, Albert Simons Center, 54 St. Philip St. • 579-3100


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Hip-Hop Theatre: An Evening with Danny Hoch

What is it? A production of excerpts from Danny Hoch's solo shows such as Jails, Hospitals, & Hip-Hop, Till the Break of Dawn, and his performances on HBO's Def Poetry Jam. Why see it? This show will take the audience through a variety of characters from NYC, showcasing hip-hop culture, environment, politics, and American society. Hoch is a celebrated performer dedicated to community outreach. He's won numerous fellowships and awards, including Obies. Who should go? If you like John Leguizamo but feel he's a little too big for his britches, Hoch is for you. If you like seeing multi-cultural entertainment but hate UPN, Hoch is for you. Buzz: The New York Observer has called Hoch "the finest solo artist in America." (Jennifer Corley)
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SPOLETO FESTIVAL USA • $22 • 1 hour 30 min. • June 8, 9, 10 at 9 p.m.; June 11 at noon • Emmett Robinson Theatre, Albert Simons Center, 54 St. Philip St. • 579-3100


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Monopoly!

What is it? Monologist Mike Daisey, who impressed audiences last year with his show The Ugly American, returns with his comedic one-man piece about big business, greed, and how corporate rule influences individual life. Why see it? Daisey is an engaging performer; his storytelling is top-notch. He's animated and lively and makes everything he talks about absolutely fascinating. Monopoly! appears to be an intricately woven story. In this show he examines events from his own life, the history of the board game Monopoly, the battle between Thomas Edison and rival Nikola Tesla, and Microsoft's anti-trust lawsuit. Who should go? Those who enjoyed The Ugly American will most likely get a kick out of this, as will anyone who complains about companies like Wal-Mart taking over their neighborhood. Buzz: The New York Times called Monopoly! "relentlessly interesting." Daisey's stories and captivating style have brought him back for this year's festival, so if you missed him last year, now's your chance. Bonus tip: Daisey will also perform his newest show, Invincible Summer, in a one-night-only performance on Tues. June 6 at 7 p.m. (Jennifer Corley)

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SPOLETO FESTIVAL USA • $22 • 1 hour 30 min. • June 2, 3, 4 at 9 p.m., June 5 at 7 p.m.; June 6 at 7 p.m. • Emmett Robinson Theatre, Albert Simons Center, 54 St. Philip St. • 579-3100


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Geisha

What is it? A blend of traditional kabuki and contemporary theatre that explores the idealized geisha. Why see it? Singaporean director Ong Keng Sen melds modern and ancient, expected and unexpected in this production, with a traditional Onnegata (female role played by men in kabuki theatre) performance by the acclaimed Gojo Masanosuke, who co-stars with African-American actress Karen Kandel, weaving stories of geisha and those involved with them. Geisha's sound design is also a study in opposites, with a traditional three-stringed shamisen accompanied by a modern soundscape designed by a computer sound artist. Who should go? Anyone interested in Asian theatre and culture (kabuki especially), fans of Karen Kandel (you may remember her from her performances in Spoleto productions Peter & Wendy and Silver River). Buzz: If you haven't bought your tickets already, you might be SOL; at press time, available tickets were scarce. (Jennifer Corley)

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SPOLETO FESTIVAL USA • $35 • 1 hr. 15 min • May 26, 27, 29, 30 at 8 p.m.; May 28 at 2 p.m. • Emmett Robinson Theatre, Albert Simons Center, 54 St. Philip St. • 579-3100


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Underneath the Lintel

What is it? A one-man show starring the terrific Stephen White in a story about a librarian becoming obsessed with finding whoever dropped a 113-year overdue book in the night depository. Why see it? This play by Glen Berger was one of PURE Theatre's highlights last season, so it's good they're bringing it back for those who missed it or who'd like to see it again. Lintel unravels like its main character, revealing many rich layers to the story. Not only is there an entertaining narrative about a likeable man on a journey, but there are deeper topics that surface as the play evolves. Who should go? Anyone who goes to theatre hoping it will make a real impact on them, anyone who questions existence, and anyone who thinks local theatre can't be on a level comparable to other companies visiting for the festival. Buzz: It's a repeat, but this was one of Charleston's best productions last year. (Jennifer Corley)
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PICCOLO SPOLETO • $15 • 1 hour 30 min. • May 26 at 5 p.m.; May 27, 29, 31, June 1 at 8 p.m.; May 28, June 2, 11 at 6 p.m.; June 3 at 2 p.m.; June 4, 10 at 9 p.m. • PURE Theatre, The Cigar Factory, 701 E. Bay Street • 554-6060


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Topdog/Underdog

What is it? Suzan Lori-Parks' tale of two African-American brothers destined for sibling rivalry — after being named Lincoln and Booth as a joke by their father. Parks' take on the Cain and Abel tale has the brothers simmering with resentment and mutual antagonism. Why see it? The play has drawn comparisons to Sam Shepard's True West, dealing with brothers coping with abandonment and living on the fringe of society. More than an African-American version of Shepard, however, Lori-Parks' play has been lauded for melding heightened language with an accessible story. This production from Columbia's young NiA company was called "one of the top 10 Columbia theatre productions of the past decade" by The State. Who should go? Anyone not exposed to Lori-Parks' works, who was once named New York's Most Promising Playwright and later went on to win the Pulitzer and have a screenplay (Girl 6) directed by Spike Lee. Buzz: Nobody knows much about this Columbia theatre company, but this Pulitzer Prize-winning play has the potential to be incredibly moving. (Jennifer Corley)
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PICCOLO SPOLETO • $15, $12 seniors/students • 3 hours • June 6, 7, 8, 9 at 7 p.m., June 10, 11 at 2 p.m. • PURE Theatre, The Cigar Factory, 701 E. Bay St. • 554-6060


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Wolfi

What is it? The story of Mozart as a young man, written by four College of Charleston students and their professor. Why see it? Written by locals, acted by locals, it focuses on Mozart when he was college-aged, 21, and trying to live up to his acclaimed childhood as a well-traveled prodigy. Who should go? Anyone who still wants to celebrate Amadeus's 250th birthday, which seems to have faded a bit since all the hubbub in January. Buzz: Apparently, in this production, Mozart learns what it means to be an adult. Not exactly how Animal House's Tom Hulce portrayed him on screen. (Jonathan Sanchez)
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PICCOLO SPOLETO • $15, $12 students/seniors • 2 hours • May 26-30, June 1-5, 7-11 at 7:30 p.m. • Chapel Theatre, 172 Calhoun St. • 554-6060


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A Number

What is it? Charleston's PURE Theatre lives up to its name with a stripped-down, no-frills slice of remarkable theatre, distilling the dramatic potential of human cloning in a one-hour show. Why see it? Two guys. A sparse set. Multiple characters, plotlines, and ideas. PURE's performance of A Number was chilling when it premiered last year, and the ensuing six months have made the play's themes no less relevant. Whether or not the cloning concept grabs you, this show's really about the relationship between a father and his son(s), the lies that parents tell their children with the best intentions, and the inevitable fallout of those lies. But regardless of familial status, chances are there's something in A Number that will hit a nerve in every audience member. Who should go? Theatre-goers with busy schedules or short attention spans, and aspiring actors who'll see how much a performer can do in a short time with the right kind of material. Buzz If this show matches the standards of its 2005 run, then it's definitely one to catch. (Nick Smith)

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PICCOLO SPOLETO • $15, $12 seniors/students • 1 hour • May 26, 30 at 8 p.m.; May 27, 29, June 1, 4 at 6 p.m.; May 28, June 2, 3 at 9 p.m.; June 6, 8 at 5 p.m. • PURE Theatre, The Cigar Factory, 701 East Bay St. • 554-6060


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Trust

What is it? Prolific playwright Steven Dietz's compelling dramatic comedy about the rock music scene is given its due by the College of Charleston's student-run Center Stage company. Why see it? Well, for a start, it features "nudity, strong language, and kleptomania" — the trifecta of theatre gold! Of course, it also helps that The Village Voice has called the persuasive play "a rock n' roll La Ronde," infused with "smart, quick dialogue" and "a sharp knowingness." Who should go? Those who aren't easily offended by nekkidness and cussing, people who haven't just quit smoking cold turkey (the actors light up on stage), and anyone who thought Almost Famous could have used a little more edge. Buzz: Though you may not be able to Trust much but death and taxes, this spiky drama centering on the loves and lives of two musicians should give you pause for thought. (Isabella Eliot)
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PICCOLO SPOLETO • $15, $12 seniors/students • 2 hours 15 min. • May 26, 29, 31, June 3, 6, 8, 10 at 8:30 p.m.; May 27, 28, June 1, 2, 4, 7, 9 at 5:30 p.m. • Theatre 220, Simons Center, 54 St. Philip St. • 554-6060


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Hambone

What is it? Art Forms and Theatre Concepts' Hambone is a play from S.C. native Javon Johnson about four black men of different generations and the travails they face from family dislocation and cultural alienation. Set in a South Carolina diner in 1988 against the backdrop of father-son relationships, it explores the bonds of friendship — along the way dwelling on the early music of soul singer James Brown. Why see it? AFTC is a local company, created (in 1996) and led by Lowcountry playwright Art Gilliard, dedicated to producing plays about the African-American experience. Hambone premiered in Chicago at the Victory Gardens Theater in 2001; Johnson also won the 1999 Theodore Ward Competition for African-American playwrights and was a finalist for the National New Play Award in 1999. Who should go? AFTC tends to produce plays whose dramatic themes center around the notion of family, and Hambone looks to be no different. This one should be for everyone, but particularly those fond of August Wilson. Buzz: While Art Gilliard and his group are certainly capable of landing a bullseye, the company's production history has its share of lemons, too. Hambone's a past award-winner, though, so the tea leaves look good for this one. (Patrick Sharbaugh)
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PICCOLO SPOLETO • $20, $15 seniors/students • 1 hour 45 min. • May 26, 28 at 7 p.m.; May 30, 31 at 6 p.m.; June 3, 6, 7 at 8 p.m.; June 9 at 9 p.m. • Footlight Players Theatre, 20 Queen St. • 554-6060


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