|Joe had read rapturous reviews of Daniel MacIvor's CUL-DE-SAC in the New York Times, following MacIvor's performance of his own script off-Broadway. In the Fall of 2006, Joe finally got his hands on a script, and then did a read of it for Sarah Whitney and Tamara Kenny. Both were enthusiastic that a production should be pursued.
Joe followed up, obtained the rights, and scheduled the production for February, 2007. Sarah Whitney, now with daughter Carena passing the one year mark, agreed to direct.
CUL-DE-SAC had more technical requirements than Joe's previous solo pieces, and thus Technisonic was a perfect venue. Doug Hastings and Tom Newcomb of Tech's staff provided the lighting working with Sarah's design, and friends of Sarah's from Chicago, Todd Lauterbach and Robert Steel provided sound design and original music.
Joe was was excited by the challenge of the many different characters CUL-DE-SAC demanded him to portray, and under Sarah's direction, was happy with where he wound up.
Check out the reviews for critical response. Popular response was similar.
By Calvin Wilson
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
Among the greatest challenges for an actor is the one-person play. With no one else onstage, and only minimal scenery, the responsibility of transporting the audience into the realm of the story can be daunting.
"Cul-de-Sac," which afterMidnight is presenting, has an invaluable asset: Joe Hanrahan. One of the most gifted actors on the St. Louis scene, he turns in a mesmerizing performance in Daniel MacIvor's disquietingly provocative — but surprisingly hilarious — look at suburban malaise. The play is energetically directed by Sarah Whitney.
Hanrahan deftly portrays an array of characters during the play's 90 minutes without intermission. In one scene, he's both a sexually frustrated wife and her insensitive, loudmouthed husband. Somehow, he captures the humor of their situation without trivializing the pain.
Throughout the play, Hanrahan masterfully balances merriment with menace. Particularly entertaining is his execution of a bit of business involving the theme music to a popular, long-running TV series.
There's a hint of Harold Pinter — particularly his plays "The Birthday Party" and "The Caretaker" — in MacIvor's repeated references to a mysterious sound that ominously made its way through the suburban cul-de-sac. Ultimately, we learn what that sound was and why it haunts the people who heard it.
While addressing much the same concerns as the films "American Beauty" and "Happiness," MacIvor makes fresh observations about loneliness, despair and disconnectedness. "Cul-de-Sac" takes you places you may not always want to go. But Hanrahan makes a spellbinding guide.
Cul-de-sac will leave you looking twice at your neighbors.
Joe Hanrahan is a cast of many in this after Midnight production.
By Dennis Brown
I'm a sucker for an interesting story," Leonard promptly informs us, then proceeds to tell one. For the next 80 minutes we enter the homes and minds of the neighbors who live on Leonard's suburban cul-de-sac. Three generations — from a precocious thirteen-year-old girl to a retired veterinarian — reveal their inner yearnings and dark secrets. We never learn the name of this street, but it might be called Spoon River Lane, for it shares the sorrowful tone of Edgar Lee Masters' cemetery ode, Spoon River Anthology. The difference here is that no one is dead. No one, that is, except Leonard.
The first thing to admire about Daniel MacIvor's Cul-de-sac is writing that deftly reveals character and imparts information in the slyest ways. Early on, for instance, when Leonard looks at his watch and says that although the timepiece used to be his, now "it's evidence," our curiosity is piqued. That's when we begin to realize that Leonard is as dead as Joe Gillis at the outset of Billy Wilder's Sunset Blvd. Leonard has been killed — not in a swimming pool — but in a pool of his own blood. More good writing: When one of the neighbors admiringly informs us that Leonard's house contains shelf upon shelf of books "and not a knickknack among them," in a single phrase we're able to visualize the décor of both homes.
Canadian playwright-actor MacIvor wrote this flashy script as a one-person showcase for himself, but Joe Hanrahan — who sniffs out solo shows like a canine tracking drugs — has a splendid time with it too. Hanrahan's victim is a sweet little guy. A little too gay for some neighbors' liking, but not in-your-face. He's quiet and unassuming, an unlikely hero. Hanrahan is nattily garbed in black; one senses that Leonard might enjoy attending his own funeral. Although initially his hands are clasped, as if in prayer, in time they become hyperactive storytelling tools. And when the fingers aren't animated, the knees are bending. If it's true that in death your life flashes before you, here we can envision Leonard at age five singing "I'm a Little Teapot."
At one point the play addresses "the possibility of transformation," and that's precisely what occurs here. Under the simpatico direction of Sarah Whitney (and with helpful lighting from Doug Hastings and Tom Newcomb), Hanrahan has a field day delineating the various neighbors — male, female, young, old. Though they seem normal enough at a cursory glance, they all harbor secrets. In the aftermath of the Shawn Hornbeck revelation, as people are asking themselves how much they know — or want to know — about their neighbors, Cul-de-sac evokes an almost uncanny timeliness.
The script labors mightily in trying to distinguish between a cul-de-sac and a dead-end street. (The playbill cleverly includes a chart of the cul-de-sac, which helps to clarify the action.) But isn't the distinction simple? A cul-de-sac has a turnaround at the far end. There are no corners in a cul-de-sac, which is why this afterMidnight production has found the ideal stage at Technisonic Studios. The show is presented in a room without corners. From ceiling to floor, you only see curves.
By evening's end, the play throws us a curve of its own. Rather than building in suspense and tension as we approach Leonard's doom, the action begins to unravel. Once we've met everyone, the story has nowhere to go. The Christmas block party, which is meant to dazzle us because the same actor is changing character with every line, instead seems like a virtuoso trick. The minute Leonard leaves the party and the cul-de-sac, his narrative loses its focus and devolves into a male version of Looking for Mr. Goodbar. But until that point, and for most of this intriguing journey, Cul-de-sac impresses in both intent and execution.
Reviewed by Richard Green It seems fitting to start off with a bit of gossip, since that's the stock-in-trade of Daniel MacIvor's one-man script, so here it goes: Less than a mile away from Cul-de-Sac's venue, Doubt just had its own rather surprising St. Louis debut when Tony-winner Cherry Jones couldn't make it, owing to swollen vocal chords. By all accounts, local actress Darrie Lawrence filled-in beautifully.
The fact that you could find an actress of confidence and stature in the Midwest to step into what has become Ms. Jones' star-vehicle at the intimidating Fox Theatre may seem surprising. But, as my companion at Cul-de-Sac observed, there are a lot of great actors out there just waiting for their chance. In Daniel MacIvor's Cul-de-Sac Joe Hanrahan clearly falls into this category, playing ten or more roles with distinction, introspection and flair.
The play has a foreboding film noir quality, even as the characters' common embarrassments regularly tickle us in odd places. Mr. Hanrahan's main character is Leonard, a lonely but kind-hearted gay man who recounts the events leading up to his own murder on a dead-end street. Up till then, he was best known in neighborhood affairs as a do-gooder, only to be repaid for his efforts by a neighbor who breaks up his long-term relationship.
Sarah Whitney directs Mr. Hanrahan, and the results are remarkable: each character, from a disturbingly modern 13-year-old girl to a retired veterinarian, quickly becomes recognizable, even before they open their mouths. And Mr. MacIvor's script leaves tantalizing mysteries lying about as he draws closer and closer to the exact moment of murder. But best of all is how well the playwright's own sense of humor, and the actor's, have meshed together.
Mr. Hanrahan also does a fine job showing how rumors and gossip get twisted into something vaguely ghoulish, in a clever indictment of suburban isolation. This isolation takes over until the loneliest are destroyed. Everything, from Leonard's adopted pronunciation of "Puerto Vallarto" to the demise of his hedge (after his own demise), becomes a subject for gimlet-eyed speculation. Yet all of this is accomplished without the usual canned attitudes: Mr. Hanrahan keeps his characters as well-tended as blades of zoysia grass, albeit with a good deal more originality and spontaneity.
Cul-de-Sac features a highly evocative sound design and original music by Todd Lauterbach. Through March 10, 2007 at the Technisonic Studio, 500 South Ewing. For information call (314) 487-5305 or visit them on-line at www.midnightcompany.com.
Written by Daniel MacIvor Directed by Sarah Whitney
Cast: Joe Hanrahan
Crew: Sound design and original music: Todd Lauterbach; Assistant to the Sound Designer: Robert Steel; Sound Operator: Kareem Deanes; Lighting Design: Doug Hastings and Tom Newcomb; Stage Manager: Linda Menard Costume Design: Rebecca Saul;
Additional support from Technisonic Studios, The Arbor Group, New World Post-Production, Matt Mauger, Joe Rogg and Millie Garvey.
KWMU Theatre & Film Critic: Joe Pollack
A cul-de-sac is, basically, a dead end, a street that ends in a curve so that cars make a u-turn and head back. There’s no way out. And that’s what faces Joe Hanrahan in a valiant attempt to create entertainment from Daniel MacIvor’s one-man play of that name.
"Cul-de-Sac," directed by Sarah Whitney, opened over the weekend in the small black box of Technisonic Studios, and runs through March 10. Hanrahan, as always, takes multiple characters, keeping them differentiated with minor twists of accents, pronunciations, gestures and so on. It’s a fine performance, as Hanrahan usually gives, but this tale about a handful of residents in a Canadian suburb suddenly goes off the rails, becoming unpleasant, rude and unrewarding.
Gay hustlers, like straight ones, rarely add anything to the theatrical experience except bad language and sordid moments; MacIvor’s are no exception.
The people who live on the street have little to offer, but are more interesting than Leonard, even in his fatal adventure. The others – Ken Turner and his daughter, Madison; Joy and Eddy Walsh -- drift away like morning fog, and when it came to the Bickersons, I missed the old radio days when they were portrayed by Don Ameche and Frances Langford.
No reason to park in the "cul-de-sac" for this After Midnight Producton, starring Joe Hanrahan and running through March 10.
Technisonic Studios, 500 South Ewing (near I-64 and Jefferson)
Welcome to Canadian suburbia, where Leonard lives, or rather lived, in a home on a cul-de-sac, or dead-end street as he sometimes refers to it, with five other families. There’s also an empty house next to Leonard’s that is rumored to about to be purchased by a young couple with children.
Of course, now the empty house stands next to Leonard’s own empty house, since he’s just been murdered. He’s calm about it, though, as he describes his life, and those of his neighbors, in mock Law & Order style in Daniel MacIvor’s peculiar but oddly compelling one-man drama.
MacIvor wastes little time in packaging his thoughts in this tight, little, one-act show that consumers barely 75 minutes or so. AfterMidnight has set this sober cautionary tale on a single slab starkly lit by Doug Hastings and Tom Newcomb, who illuminate both the timid Leonard and his sinister shadow. A pillow serves as the single prop utilized by actor Joe Hanrahan, who portrays not only Leonard but the various neighbors on his street, including an 11-year-old girl named Madison who steals the performance in Hanrahan’s fitfully funny portrayal of a young girl who befriends Leonard even as his male lover departs and her own parents bicker in their post-divorce period.
We see the neighbors interrogated about the murder, as well as at a Christmas party recalled by Leonard. Hanrahan portrays the variety of characters with various degrees of success, as each persona has his or her own tales of life to tell with individual perspective. There are neither right nor wrong answers, just a conundrum in what Leonard remarks is the “dead end of life.”
Director Sarah Whitney maintains an effective and haunting mood in this briskly told work, aided effectively by Todd Lauterbach’s original music. There’s also a handy little map of Leonard’s ‘hood on the back of the program. All in all, Cul-de-Sac is a nifty if melancholy little perspective that offers both laughs and laments.
A 4 on a scale of 1-to-5.
Written by Laura Hamlett
Following his impressive turn in St. Nicholas a couple years back, Hanrahan again takes the stage solo in Cul-de-Sac, a fully absorbing intermissionless 90-minute monologue which finds him embodying a neighborhood worth of characters.
Written by Daniel MacIvor, directed by Sarah Whitney, performed by Joe Hanrahan.
Joe Hanrahan is brilliant and St. Louis is lucky to have him. For one, he cofounded the Midnight Company, a professional theater group in our town. For two, he has an uncanny knack for selecting plays that are witty, well-written, intelligent, captivating, and fulfilling. For three, he usually stars in these productions, sometimes as the sole actor. And he's an amazing one, at that.
Yes, you read that correctly: the sole actor. One-man plays. Following his impressive turn in St. Nicholas a couple years back, Hanrahan again takes the stage solo in Cul-de-Sac, a fully absorbing intermissionless 90-minute monologue which finds him embodying a neighborhood worth of characters.
The title of the play refers to the dead-end street on which said neighbors reside. The play's main character, Leonard, begins the narration, recalling a late night on which the neighbors did or did not hear a storm, a commotion. Something terrible has happened, we learn; as neighbors are interviewed, more is revealed: it's happened to Leonard, the only gay member of the neighborhood, and it's resulted in his death. There are distractions—porn on the computer, an empty house—so it takes the entirety of the play's unfolding for us to learn the details of the event.
"Maybe my first mistake," Leonard reveals early on, addressing the audience, "is not trying hard enough to like hockey." This, of course, refers to the character's sexuality, which ultimately leads to his downfall. After we are well introduced to Leonard, Hanrahan moves to portray other residents in the neighborhood, beginning with the Walshes, Joy and Eddy who, we are told, are awake when "it" happens: he's upstairs, pretending to be asleep; she's downstairs, watching the end of a scary movie.
One by one, the neighbors reveal their impressions of Leonard and what they heard at precisely 2:01 a.m. on the Sunday night in question. We meet the veterinarian, Dr. Bickerson, who freely admits to taking matters into his own hands concerning Leonard's elderly cat, no longer missing; we meet the socialites, Samuel and Virginia, hosts of the neighborhood's annual Christmas party.
Without a doubt, Hanrahan's most impressive performance is that of Madison Turner, Leonard's 13-year-old neighbor and friend. Her parents divorced, Madison lives with her father, for whom she spares no disdain. She's been writing a novel, The Balsa Wood Astronaut, since she was 11; as the book's recently gone missing, however, she's moved to writing it in her head, making it up in her dreams as she sleeps. (Leonard later admits to having stolen the journal, as Madison only intended to burn it upon completion anyway.)
Over the course of an hour and a half, Hanrahan embodies fully eight distinct characters, from their speaking patterns to their vocal inflections to their facial expressions to their mannerisms. Each of them comes from different backgrounds, with varying opinions of and sensitivities to their deceased neighbor, his actions, and his lifestyle. Yet as Dr. Bick reveals, we're more alike than we sometimes appear. "Birth, death, love, weather, arthritis—the same five things happen to everyone."
The set's sparse, a sound stage at Technisonic Studios. Gray walls, cement floors, and a gray box to the rear left combine for minimalist surroundings, made further bare by Hanrahan's all-black ensemble. The sound effects—an impending storm, background music at a party—are minor, as well, yet effective.
Maybe it's that we're left wondering for so long, our minds given room to roam, to fill in the blanks. Maybe it's that what happens is random, preventable, senseless. Maybe it's that a character outside of the cul-de-sac is introduced. Whatever the reason, I found myself a tad dissatisfied when Leonard's fate was finally revealed. Not dissatisfied enough to not recommend the play, mind you, because it's still a brilliant piece of writing. And certainly not dissatisfied so that I wouldn't sing Hanrahan's praises high and low, because I am and I will. afterMIDNIGHT's presentation of Cul-de-Sac is well worth your 90 minutes and your $15. Go. Laura Hamlett
|KDHX Music Review - Cul-de-Sac
Reviewed by Kirsten Wylder
Playing "against type" is a challenge for any actor. In college, it was part of our senior graduating project. To play against your age, gender or ethnicity proved your were a worthy actor. Joe Hanrahan should get a PhD for his one man performance in After Midnight's current production. Mr. Hanrahan is no stranger to one man shows. He's the resident guru of St. Louis when it comes to this particular theater genre. Cul-de-Sac, however, has him portraying a much wider spectrum.
The story is that of Leonard and his premature and violent demise. It came rather unexpectedly one night, well, actually early one morning. The only thing any of his seven neighbors could contribute to the mystery was the eerie noise they heard at the precise time of his life being taken. It came to an end in his home, on the cul-de-sac he shares with the "ear-witnesses."
Hanrahan portrays nine characters including all seven neighbors. They span the spectrum from a 13-year-old girl with a personality disorder to an 80-year-old veterinarian who killed Leonard's cat. All of the neighbors take turns telling their version of the night in question and their opinion of Leonard (and his alternative lifestyle.) A wide range of topics are covered from the city of "Porta Valarta" that Leonard intentionally mispronounces to keep his neighbor Joy from feeling low class, to the 5 things that every person has in common with everyone else: birth death, love, weather and arthritis. These are our "givens." The residents of the Cul-de-Sac share their views. Leonard fills in the gaps. All show up in a memory of the year's past Holiday party. Hanrahan keeps each resident distinct and separate. A master.
Directed by Sarah Whitney, the show keeps a brisk pace. The characters are clear and the story is as well. Todd Lauterbach's sound design was perfect. Doug Hastings and Tom Newcomb's lights were impressive and helped establish the separate characters. The all black costuming by Rebecca Saul maintained the neutrality of the actor allowing the characters to speak for themselves.
Cul-de-Sac runs through March 10  at Technisonic Studios, 500 South Ewing. For tickets or information call 314- 487-5305 or at midnightcompany.com.
|The Vital Voice
A Caucasian Talk Circle: ‘Cul-De-Sac’
by David Noble Dandridge
“Cul-de-Sac”: Anybody remember that comic strip that used to run in the back of Details Magazine called “Cul-de-Sac”? Anyway, not important. The “Cul-de-Sac” in question is the story of Leonard, the lone gay man living on the titular, circular, dead end street. Leonard’s story is told by himself and by his more conservative neighbors: a bourgeois intellectual couple who throw the neighborhood’s annual Christmas party, a blue collar guy and his busybody wife, a widowed veterinarian, a single man and his precocious teen-aged daughter. The neighbors gossip about petty differences and the strange habits of their fellow suburbanites, but sooner or later they all get back to Leonard and vaguely refer to a tragic incident that hangs forebodingly over the rest of the play.
The entire cast is Midnight Company co-founder Joe Hanrahan. Hanrahan plays, by my count, nine characters but I could be off by one or two. He takes on the daunting task of going it alone for 90 minutes straight with only minimal help from lighting, costume and props. The characters are for the most part introduced to us one at a time with little overlap, which makes things easier on Hanrahan, and the audience. Midway through the play however is the show’s true set piece: a Christmas party scene in which the entire “cast” is on stage at once. Hanrahan and playwright Daniel MacIvor have so sharply etched their characters that even when they all interact in the same scene, we are never confused about who is speaking or to whom. Seeing Hanrahan flow seamlessly back and forth between curmudgeonly old men, sarcastic teen-aged girls and charming middle-aged women is pure entertainment.
Once the mostly sedate, suburban characters have been introduced and the audience is lulled into the rhythms of a lighthearted comedy, Hanrahan and MacIvor pull the final trick from their sleeves with the introduction of a final character; a violent, sociopathic hustler. In this role, Hanrahan is able to convey a sense of menace that is a stunning contrast to the play’s other characters. His range and control are impressive, to say the least.
When all is said and done “Cul-de Sac” is a gimmick play, but it’s a good gimmick and Hanrahan has the chops to make it work.
“Cul-de Sac” runs through March 10. For ticket information: www.midnightcompany.com
Revised: October, 2007
© The Midnight Company