Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Righto, love: A whole lot of deducting going on | www.tucsoncitizen.com ®

Righto, love: A whole lot of deducting going on www.tucsoncitizen.com ®:


Righto, love: A whole lot of deducting going on
CHUCK GRAHAM
Published: 12.06.2007

What will it be? Revenge or forgiveness? Seeking revenge surely makes for better theater. Check out the mind games in "The Business of Murder" by Richard Harris. This ingenious whodunit shifts into a howdunit before reaching its resolution as a whydunit.

Invisible Theatre has turned to secular counter-programming for the holidays by coming up with this crisp production directed by James Blair. The subject is murder, but the active ingredient is cleverness.
If you love to watch a good mystery unfold onstage, if you enjoy staying at least one jump ahead of the playwright, this show is for you. It is written in the grand old tradition of Agatha Christie, with a whole lot of deducting going on.

The story takes place in London, in the relatively modern time of 1981. The one-room set does include a telly that is turned on now and then, with some other present-day conveniences mentioned in the dialogue.

Harold Dixon plays Hallett, one of those casual but saucy detectives always standing around with his hands in his pockets, making smart remarks. Act One opens with Hallett in the apartment of Mr. Stone (Douglas Mitchell), who is upset. It seems Mr. Stone's adult son might be accused of murdering Mr. Stone's wife. But pretty soon this setup is tossed into the hopper and the plot's premise begins shifting to cast Mr. Stone in a more dubious light.

By the time Maedell Dixon shows up as the mysterious Dee, all bets are off on who did what to whom.
What makes all this so much fun is seeing how evenly matched the two men are as actors. Making such a complicated plot believable requires a convincing presence. Audience members must be willing to throw themselves into every brain-wrenching twist of suspense this playwright can dream up. For that to happen, the characters must be devoted to being devious, capable of everything the script commands.
Mitchell has more lines and more explaining to do, but Harold Dixon counters with attitude. He smirks and sneers, gives the impression this is just one more crime to solve. But as more and more layers of plot are peeled away, Dixon's level of frustration rises.

Maedell Dixon's role as Dee becomes more pivotal as the conflict increases. At first we think she is just the dame. In terms of hard-boiled fiction, the woman whose presence gives all the guys so many naughty, then nasty thoughts.

Once everyone realizes nothing in this play is ever going to be what it seems, Dee's presence becomes more than symbolic. She has the potential to be a threat to both sides.
In real life, the Dixons are married to each other. Their professional careers in theater and as educators include many performances with Tucson theater companies. Harold is also a "University Distinguished Professor" in the School of Theatre Arts at the University of Arizona.
Mitchell's lengthy theater background includes considerable work in network television and more than 150 stage productions in New York, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles and Oregon. On the Invisible Theatre stage they are banging around like a couple of bulls in the same china shop.

Grade: B

additional information

IF YOU GO
What: Invisible Theatre presents "The Business of Murder" by Richard Harris
When: 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays-Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays through Dec. 16
Where: Invisible Theatre, 1400 N. First Ave.
Price: $22-$25, with group discounts
Info: 882-9721, www.invisibletheatre.com

Thursday, December 6, 2007

IT's 'The Business of Murder' is an impeccable play


Tucson Weekly : Arts : Intriguing Theater


PUBLISHED ON DECEMBER 6, 2007:
Intriguing Theater
IT's 'The Business of Murder' is an impeccable play
By JAMES REEL

As audience members take their seats before the start of The Business of Murder at Invisible Theatre, Bernard Herrmann's music for various Alfred Hitchcock movies plays in the background. This is an important clue: Hitchcock was a master of psychological thrillers, not Agatha Christie-style whodunits, and it's a psychological duel that's about to play out on the IT stage.

The Business of Murder is a 1981 play by Richard Harris, not the late actor but a prolific British television writer who specialized in crime and detective teleplays. TV shows can open up and go on location, but plays are necessarily limited in their settings, unless the producers have a large budget or a very imaginative director and audience. Harris makes the most of the constricted theater, capitalizing on the claustrophobic atmosphere in an increasingly tense cat-and-mouse game. And the finest thing about Harris' script is that we're never quite sure who is the cat and who is the mouse.

The very first images on stage are of a London police detective named Hallett snooping around an apartment. Perhaps he's on to something. But perhaps not, because he is soon joined by the flat's owner, a fussy, nervous fellow named Stone, who seems to want his son to inform on some drug thugs he's involved with. But the son fails to materialize, and Hallett takes his leave; Stone, alone, very methodically prepares for something devious.

Soon he receives a visit from a television writer named Dee, something of a stand-in for Harris himself. Dee has quickly become a popular and financially successful writer of detective scripts, and Stone has invited her to see his dying wife about a story idea she has. But like the son, the wife never materializes, either; instead, Stone expounds upon the subject of murder: its motivations, or lack of motivations; its techniques; those individuals, like police detectives and TV writers, who make money in the murder business without having to commit the crime themselves; and even a bit about the plight of the homicide victims' survivors.

It's a very talky, philosophical scene, one sure to bore the deerstalker cap off of anyone who wants to get on with looking for clues and spotting inconsistent alibis. But Harris has set up a great many clues and inconsistencies in these first scenes; you merely have to listen carefully to these characters talk, instead of spotting Col. Mustard in the conservatory with a rope.

It's the second act where the tension escalates, but even through most of this half of the play, questions continue to mount. Has a murder already taken place, or is it about to? If it hasn't happened yet, can it be stopped? And who, exactly, is the victim?

Victimization and revenge are the true subjects of The Business of Murder, it gradually becomes clear, but even in those rare moments when you think you've figured out exactly what's going on, you're never sure that you won't be thrown off by some twist or reversal a moment later.
Rigorously directed by James Blair, IT's production keeps every prop, every element of blocking, every tic of character precisely in place. Not that anything seems mechanical; it's just as meticulous as a murderer's plan.

Douglas Mitchell is especially fine as Stone. He passes himself off as a finicky, fretful, overgrown mouse in the first scene with Hallett, but when interacting with Dee, he grows utterly creepy in his intensity and slightly overbearing manner.

He's well-matched by the husband-and-wife team of Harold and Maedell Dixon as, respectively, Hallett and Dee. Harold's somewhat lower-class cop is cocksure and just arrogant enough to chuckle at his own little jokes, yet he's also watchful, and the actor delivers a particularly alert, controlled performance. Likewise, Maedell's Dee is a bit high-strung but not out of control. If there's anything to criticize in her performance, it's that the vodka her character swills seems to have little effect; Dee's nerves are manipulated solely by Stone, an external rather than internal force. Yet the shifting dynamic between Mitchell and Maedell Dixon in their first scene together is so finely modulated that it's hard to complain.
The actors also know how to find the occasional humor in their characters and their situation, but perhaps the funniest line is an accident of casting: Maedell Dixon must say to her husband, Harold, "Don't tell me what I can and cannot do--I'm not your wife."

Nothing else happens by accident in this production of The Business of Murder; every element is as fastidious as the script's own intrigue.

The Business of Murderpresented by Invisible Theatre 7:30 p.m., Wednesdays and Thursdays; 8 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays; 3 p.m., Sundays; through Dec. 161400 N. First Ave.$22-$25882-9721

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Mitchell is a must-see in Invisible Theatre's whodunit | www.azstarnet.com ®

Mitchell is a must-see in Invisible Theatre's whodunit www.azstarnet.com ®:

Published: 11.30.2007

Mitchell is a must-see in Invisible Theatre's whodunit

By Kathleen Allen

ARIZONA DAILY STAR

Pay attention.

Pay very close attention.

In the first scene of the first act of "The Business of Murder," which Invisible Theatre opened Wednesday, about everything you need to know to solve the mystery is revealed to you.

Still, we're willing to bet you'll miss it.

That's what makes this genre, and this Richard Harris play, so much fun — it keeps you guessing, even as the clues are hidden in plain view.

The play — which IT first staged 17 years ago — is a pretty standard cat-and-mouse story.

Mr. Stone lures the detective, Hallett, to his apartment under false pretenses. And he lures Dee, the married Hallett's lover, there, too. It seems he's setting them up, but for what? And why?

Playing Stone is Douglas Mitchell, who is fairly new to the Old Pueblo.

He is an impressive talent. He gave his Stone a jittery nervousness that made you suspect, and in an instant turned that into a steely resolve that made you frightened. And the man has a way with an English accent.

He stole this show, and that's saying a lot — his co-stars in the three-person play were the talented husband-and-wife team of Harold and Maedell Dixon.

Harold Dixon's detective was arrogance with a working-class English accent, and Maedell Dixon's Dee was a bundle of hysterical nerves that just got worse as she drank more and more.

But in the second act, the Dixons both built to an emotional peak too quickly. That robbed the climax of the play of much of its intensity and drama. Harold Dixon, particularly, was at such an impassioned level that when it needed to be higher, it had nowhere to go.

James Blair directed this production with an eye toward clarity. And while it dragged a tad in the first act, it quickly picked up the pace in the second.

"The Business of Murder" is a fun whodunit-and-what-was-dun play. And while it might not have the oomph it could have, it does have Douglas Mitchell. And that's reason alone to go see it.

review

"The Business of Murder"

•Presented by: Invisible Theatre.
•Playwright: Richard Harris.
•Director: James Blair.
•When: 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays; 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; and 3 p.m. Sundays through Dec. 16.
•Where: Invisible Theatre, 1400 N. First Ave.
•Tickets: $22-$25.
•Information: 882-9721.
•Running time: 2 hours, plus one intermission.
•Et cetera: Tickets are half-price a half-hour before a performance.

● Contact reporter Kathleen Allen at kallen@azstarnet.com or 573-4128.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Invisible Theatre Presents THE BUSINESS OF MURDER

Tucson Theatre Announcements List: Tucson: The Invisible Theatre Presents THE BUSINESS OF MURDER


From: CATHY JOHNSON [mailto:cathyj@flash.net] Sent: Wednesday, November 28, 2007 1:32 PMSubject: The Invisible Theatre Presents THE BUSINESS OF MURDER

Mention you saw this announcement on TTA
and receive a special discount on your ticket price!!

“Welcome to a thriller that
achieves it all…”
- London Times

THE BUSINESS OF MURDER
By Richard Harris
Directed by James Blair
Through the generous support of Dr. Robert and Sandy Maxfield

WHEN: November 28 – December 16, 2007

WHERE: The Invisible Theatre (1400 N. First Avenue at Drachman)

TICKETS: Ticket Price: $16 - $25 per person
Call (520) 882-9721 for reservations and information
Discounts available for groups of 10 or more

SHOW DATES: Preview on November 27th at 7:30 pm = $16.00
Wednesdays & Thursdays at 7:30 pm = $22.00
Fridays & Saturdays at 8:00 pm = $25.00
Sunday matinees at 3:00 pm = $25.00

RUSH TICKETS: One half-hour prior to curtain for any scheduled performance, tickets are available for half price (subject to availability)

RUNNING TIME: 2 hours with one intermission


November 28, 2007, Tucson, Arizona - The Invisible Theatre is proud to present the tantalizing thriller, THE BUSINESS OF MURDER, by the acclaimed playwright Richard Harris. This cat and mouse mystery directed by James Blair and starring Harold Dixon, Douglas Mitchell and Maedell Dixon, centers on the relationship between a successful television playwright, a detective and a methodical mystery man with one special interest in common – murder. After many twists and turns, the plot unfolds revealing a tale of intrigue and revenge. THE BUSINESS OF MURDER ran for eight years at the Mayfair Theatre in London and promises an evening of gripping drama right up until the final climax.

Friday, November 23, 2007

'Business of Murder' is suspenseful and full of twists | www.azstarnet.com ®

'Business of Murder' is suspenseful and full of twists www.azstarnet.com ®:

Published: 11.23.2007

'Business of Murder' is suspenseful and full of twists

By Kathleen Allen

ARIZONA DAILY STAR

It's autumn in London, the early 1980s.

A man by the name of Stone has asked the police detective, John Hallett, to help set his son straight — he's selling drugs, and he's in serious trouble, says Stone.

And so begins "The Business of Murder," a suspense-filled story with more twists than San Francisco's Lombard Street.

"I love this genre," says James Blair, who is directing the production for Invisible Theatre.

"I like the old English mysteries that are a little claustrophobic. Something's familiar about them, but something's off."

And there's definitely something off about this Richard Harris story. And compelling — it ran in London for nine years.

That doesn't surprise Blair.

"It's just very intelligently written," he said in a recent phone interview. "It's very literate, and so driven by the three characters. And once you get a sense of a character, then it shifts."

Those shifts keep Blair on his toes.

"I have to highlight all the clues," he said. "I have to make sure the audience sees all the clues — but not so much that they figure it out."

The London production coaxed all sorts of "wows" out of the hard-to-please press there.

"Welcome to a thriller that achieves it all," gushed The London Times.

"The most ingenious murder mystery to have appeared on the London stage in a decade," crowed the Daily Mail.

And this from the Sunday Mirror:

"The best stage thriller for years, it is sharply written … and kept me guessing to the end."

With a play with such high expectations, you've got to have a cast to carry it off.

He's got one, said Blair: Maedell Dixon, Harold Dixon and Douglas Mitchell, all actors with impressive professional theater résumés.

While you can expect to enjoy yourself at the production, don't expect an epiphany, said Blair.

"A mystery is just a good time," he said. "They don't make political statements or anything like that. For two hours, you can forget about everything else and enjoy a good mystery. And the script has enough twists in it, I don't think anyone will be able to figure it out."

Preview

"The Business of Murder"

•Presented by: Invisible Theatre.
•Playwright: Richard Harris.
•Director: James Blair.
•When: Preview is 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, opening is 7:30 p.m. Wednesday. Regular performances are 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays; 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and 3 p.m. Sundays through Dec. 16.
•Where: Invisible Theatre, 1400 N. First Ave.
•Tickets: The preview is $16; regular performances are $22-$25.
•Information: 882-9721.
•Running time: 2 hours, plus one intermission.
•Cast: Maedell Dixon, Harold Dixon, Douglas Mitchell.
•Et cetera: Tickets are half-price one-half hour before a performance.

● Contact reporter Kathleen Allen at kallen@azstarnet.com or 573-4128.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Invisible Theatre presents THE NIGERIAN SPAM SCAM SCAM

Tucson Theatre Announcements List: Tucson: Invisible Theatre presents THE NIGERIAN SPAM SCAM SCAM


From: CATHY JOHNSON [mailto:cathyj@flash.net] Sent: Tuesday, October 16, 2007 1:22 PMSubject: Invisible Theatre presents THE NIGERIAN SPAM SCAM SCAM

The Invisible Theatre
presents
THE NIGERIAN SPAM SCAM SCAM
By Dean Cameron

ARIZONA PREMIERE

Three Performances Only!
$25
Mention this e-mail to buy tickets for half price!

October 18 at 7:30 pm
October 19 at 8:00 pm
October 20 at 8:00 pm

“Please help me! I am beneficiary to a fortune of 30 million dollars!!!” You’ve seen something like that in at least one e-mail a week. You’ve deleted it immediately or you’ve read it and wondered what was going on. Actor Dean Cameron did not delete the e-mail but instead began corresponding with one of the scammers. What results is an innovative and award winning theatrical event!
“Screamingly funny…”
- Los Angeles Times

Please Call 882-9721 for Reservations

Invisible Theatre
1400 N. First Avenue (at Drachman)
http://www.invisibletheatre.com/

Friday, October 12, 2007

Do not delete this 'Nigerian Spam Scam Scam'

Do not delete this 'Nigerian Spam Scam Scam' www.azstarnet.com ®

Published: 10.12.2007

Do not delete this 'Nigerian Spam Scam Scam'

By Levi J. Long

ARIZONA DAILY STAR

When Dean Cameron got an e-mail from a Nigerian con artist, the actor didn't immediately trash the forwarded scam letter. Instead, Cameron turned the tables on the con man, wrote him back and turned nine months worth of e-mails into "The Nigerian Spam Scam Scam," a comedy detailing the unusual correspondence.

After more than 150 national and international shows, Tucson audiences can get a glimpse at the curious e-mail messages that make up "The Nigerian Spam Scam Scam," opening Thursday for a three-night run at The Invisible Theatre.

In the spirit of the play, the Star conducted its interview through a chat program with Cameron from his Los Angeles home.

Why did you decide to write the play based on the e-mail?

"Initially, I'd just been sending the e-mails to friends. After a couple of months, they were telling me 'You must do something more with these . . . a play or something.' So I did. We tested a version which was way too long but was a proof, a concept sort-of-thing. When the correspondence finished, I trimmed quite a bit of it and worked with Paul Provenza, the director, on the actual script."

Everyone I know has gotten one of those spam e-mails. What's been the reaction from audiences when they hear about the show?

"It's odd. When I first began performing the show a couple of years ago, I had to spend quite a bit of the intro explaining the e-mail and the scam, as not many people were familiar with it. Now folks are quite aware of the '419 scam,' as we all get several of them a week. So when someone says 'Nigerian Scam' they know what I'm talking about. But to answer your question more specifically, they love it. They're always amazed that I was able to keep this guy on the line for nearly a year, but when you see the show or read the correspondence, you see that the 'Dean Cameron' (character) I was writing as was just crazy enough and just rich enough for the scammer to hang in there."

And for nine months, "Dean Cameron" was a sexually confused Florida millionaire, who loved cats and had retained Perry Mason as a personal attorney. Why and how did you come up with this persona?

"Only my shrink understands; it just happened."

Was it hard to keep that up?

"No, frighteningly simple. The difficulty was in keeping stuff straight, especially at one point (when) I forwarded a scam e-mail from another scammer to 'Ibrahim,' my original scammer. . . . 'Ibrahim' began posing as this other scammer so then I began writing 'Ibrahim' posing as 'Donald,' knowing that it's 'Ibrahim' . . . and now as the scam has evolved with others, I have 'Perry Mason' working with another person to scam me out of money. . . ."

Wow, that's about as complicated as a 'Days of Our Lives' storyline. How did you guys communicate?

"E-mail. . . . Eventually I called 'Ibrahim' and was talking with the voice of 'Dean' and the voice of 'Perry Mason.' I also have been talking to a woman in Peru who apparently loves me and just needs a few thousand bucks for her father's operation so I called her. It's nuts. I also sent 'Ibrahim' a package of goodies."

So what's become of the real "Ibrahim" and does he know about "The Nigerian Spam Scam Scam" production?

"He does now. About six months ago, I sent him a press pack for the show. What's interesting is this: He still thinks that Perry Mason is real. So Perry has been working with 'Ibrahim' on his writer royalties for the show as, technically, 'Ibrahim' wrote half of the show. His (real) name is Josef."

Preview

• "The Nigerian Spam Scam Scam"
• Presented by: The Invisible Theatre.
• Playwright: Dean Cameron.
• When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday and 8 p.m. next Friday-Saturday.
• Where: The Invisible Theatre, 1400 N. First Ave.
• Tickets: $25, discounts available.
• Information: 882-9721 or www.invisibletheatre.com.
• Running time: 70 minutes, with no intermission.
• To find out more about 419 scams: Go to www.419eater.com.
● Contact reporter Levi J. Long at 573-4179 or llong@azstarnet.com.
All content copyright © 1999-2007 AzStarNet, Arizona Daily Star and its wire services and suppliers and may not be republished without permission. All rights reserved. Any copying, redistribution, or retransmission of any of the contents of this service without the expressed written consent of Arizona Daily Star or AzStarNet is prohibited.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

My Nigerian Partner

Tucson Weekly : Arts : My Nigerian Partner


PUBLISHED ON OCTOBER 11, 2007:

My Nigerian Partner

Actor Dean Cameron tells how he managed to scam a spam scammer

By JAMES REEL
Dean Cameron and Victor Isaac in The Nigerian Spam Scam Scam.
You get one almost every day: an e-mail from a stranger requesting an "urgent business relationship." The sender, a barrister or the widow or orphan of some deceased African strongman, needs help moving millions of dollars from a threatened bank account into the United States. A remarkably large percentage of it can be yours, if you open a U.S. account, put some of your own money in it and help facilitate the wire transfer.

In the immortal lyrics of Monty Python, "Spam, spam, spam, spam ..."

It's the inescapable "4-1-9" scam (named after the Nigerian statute that, ineffectively, outlawed it), a descendant of the good old "Spanish Prisoner" con. A few people fall for it and get bilked out of hundreds or thousands of dollars; one or two have even been murdered. Most of us just delete the messages ... day after day after day.

Not Dean Cameron. He wrote back and scammed the spammers.

Cameron, an actor and writer who has starred in a lot of movies and TV shows you probably haven't seen (Rockula, Ski School 1 and 2), was biding his time one day on the set of short-lived TV show Mister Sterling. Bored, he checked his e-mail. ("In the '70s, I would've been doing cocaine, but this is the new millennium," he says.) Yet again, there was Nigerian spam in his inbox. Yet again, he replied with his standard non sequitur message: "Great. Do you have any toast?"

Usually, for obvious reasons, that message gets no response. But this time, the spammer wrote back.

"He said, 'I'm so excited to hear back from you,' as if I'd written, 'Yes, I desperately want to help you!'" Cameron recalls.

Thus began a correspondence in which the spammer pretended to be Mrs. Miriam Abacha, widow of a wealthy Nigerian general, and Cameron pretended to be a lonely, mentally declining old millionaire in Florida. He wound up with 310 pages of correspondence, and even engaged in a few phone conversations--irresistible fodder for a play.

Cameron and fellow actor Victor Isaac (as the Nigerian) will present Cameron's The Nigerian Spam Scam Scam at Invisible Theatre next week, in a three-day run.

"I started screwing with these bad, scary guys, because I'm fascinated by these people," Cameron says. "The more I came to know about them, the more I wanted to learn."

And what did he learn along the way? "I found out that they were human," he says. "Once I called them, and there was one point where I could hear them walk by a group of kids playing, and it made me sad for a second. Here I am, a rich Westerner taking advantage of these poor people and making their life into a joke. But that sadness faded quickly, because I realized the person I was portraying was an older, senile person with a lot of money, and this guy was trying to take his fortune from him. These guys have taken hundreds of thousands of dollars from people like our grandparents. They prey on the weak. Oh, they were very nice, very good at their job; the guy talked a very good game, and he was very pushy, like a time-share salesman."

Ultimately, Cameron came clean--once he'd written the play. "I sent the guy a press package earlier this year, and he's not happy about it," he says. "I've invited him to see the play. I've said, 'Please come to the United States, and we can sit down with an attorney and somebody from the FBI, and we can work the copyright stuff out."'

No answer yet.

Cameron says he learned something about himself during his effort to scam a scammer.

"There are hundreds of other people like me who are scam-baiting," he says, "but most of them are rather mean--really, making fun of the scammers in a crude way. It's just cheap humor. In what I did, I think I retained my grace. A couple of people have said after this show, 'You're still respectful of them in a strange way.' I feel like I'm like that in real life, a nice guy who just wants to have a good time."

Well, maybe that good time has gotten out of hand.

"A friend of mine started corresponding with a scammer," he says, "and he was kind of gullible; he didn't believe it was a scam. So I took over as the scammer, and I scammed my own friend out of some money. So it's gone full circle: I have become a Nigerian scammer. Except in that case, I was a woman from Peru."

The Nigerian Spam Scam Scam7:30 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 18; 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday, Oct. 19 and 20Invisible Theatre, 1400 N. First Ave.$25882-9721

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Love as Salvation

Tucson Weekly : Arts : Love as Salvation


PUBLISHED ON SEPTEMBER 27, 2007:

Love as Salvation

Jim Brochu and Steve Schalchlin share their hilarious and touching story at Invisible Theatre

By JAMES REEL
Jim Brochu and James Schalchlin in "The Big Voice: God or Merman?"
Now, here's a real odd couple. Jim is an extroverted Brooklyn Catholic who, as a boy, dreamed of becoming pope, mainly because he liked the clothes. Steve is an introverted Arkansas Baptist who, as a boy, toyed with the idea of evangelism until he learned that queers aren't welcome at the seminary, even if they never stray far from the closet.

Jim grew up going to Broadway shows starring the likes of Laurence Olivier and Vivian Leigh. Steve once saw a dinner-theater production featuring Bob Crane.

Jim and Steve meet on a cruise--in the Bermuda Triangle, aboard the sister ship of the Andrea Doria. Surely, the relationship has about as much of a chance of success as Ethel Merman did when she tried to sing quietly.

It was Merman, actually, who turned Jim's interest from the papacy to show business; upon Jim's first childhood visit to Broadway, to see Merman in Gypsy, he realized that the theater "was like church, but with energy." Yet Jim, like Steve, never quite gave up on the idea of salvation. All they had to do was figure out how to achieve it without the dubious help of organized religion.

Jim Brochu and Steve Schalchlin recount their story themselves in The Big Voice: God or Merman?, a mixture of songs, zingers, tall tales and emotional candor now playing at the Invisible Theatre. It's a love story both hilarious and touching, though not without crises, and it keeps an audience engaged even though it's obvious that everything will turn out all right.

Including Steve's struggle, since 1994, with AIDS. I mean, the guy is standing right there, thin but full of quiet vitality, so there's not much suspense about his fate. Did he succumb during a hospital crisis a decade ago? Um, obviously not. Did the unpleasant new personality he got as a side effect of his medication destroy his relationship with Jim? Well, Jim's standing right there, too, so they're probably OK together now.

So the show isn't so much about what happens in the end as what happens along the way. Even so, that question in the title--God or Merman?--always dangles over the proceedings, almost forgotten in the second half, but demanding an answer by the final curtain. And an answer, it gets, a satisfying one that isn't at all contrived.

The Big Voice is subtitled "a musical comedy in two lives," and it could only be pulled off through the collaboration of two utterly dissimilar people. Brochu, who wrote the script, does most but by no means all of the talking, regaling the audience with ridiculous, endearing stories about how as a child, he wanted more than anything a record of Pope Pius XII singing Gregorian chant, or how he broke into television being cast in commercials as a dancing raisin and a lemon from outer space. "Within a month," he declares, "I was known as one of the most dependable fruits in show business."

Schalchlin wrote the music and most of the lyrics, and he seems more comfortable sitting behind his electric piano, telling his own story in song. He employs the generic ballad style common in small musicals these days, pleasant enough but not as individual. Schalchlin's most memorable songs are a well-constructed piece about a childhood encounter with a flashy evangelist, and a duet with Brochu in which they puzzle out how to put their shattered relationship back together again.

Schalchlin has the better voice of the two; Brochu's is more, well, Mermanesque, but, unlike Ethel, he doesn't settle for a dull stand-and-deliver routine. He acts every phrase, and all in all, his style is that of a barely restrained Zero Mostel. (As a matter of fact, Brochu is about to open his one-man show about Mostel, Zero Hour, on Broadway, and Invisible Theatre is presenting a single, sneak-preview benefit performance of the show at 3 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 7; tickets for that will cost $35.)

Ultimately, Jim and Steve don't really have to choose between God and Merman. In many ways, religion and show business are the same thing, and not just in the crass ways that quickly come to mind. Whether or not Jim and Steve love Jesus, as the Baptists back in Steve's hometown would insist is necessary, they love each other. And that's the best foundation there is for salvation on this earthly plane.

The Big Voice: God or Merman?presented by Invisible Theatre7:30 p.m., Wednesdays and Thursdays; 8 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays; 3 p.m., Sundays; through Oct. 61400 N. First Ave.$25-$27882-9721; http://www.invisibletheatre.com/

'The Big Voice' speaks volumes to audiences - WildLife

'The Big Voice' speaks volumes to audiences - WildLife

'The Big Voice' speaks volumes to audiences
play review
By: Elizabeth M. Holder
Posted: 9/27/07
It's amazing how you can find someone, that significant other, in the most unlikely of circumstances. Who could have known that a Roman Catholic boy from Brooklyn and a Baptist boy from Arkansas would one day meet on a cruise ship in the Atlantic Ocean?

Jim Brochu and Steve Schalchlin never anticipated their chance meeting, their eventual life partnership and the creation of "The Big Voice: God or Merman?" But now they definitely have an inspirational life together and an astounding show that everyone should see in Tucson while they still can.

Where some two-person shows may feature one actor and use the other to play a supporting role, this musical equally showcases two talented actors and their unique life experiences.
"The Big Voice"
Invisible Theatre
5 stars!!!
Through Oct. 7
1400 N. First Ave.


Brochu and Schalchlin effortlessly wear the hats of many other minor characters in the lives of the two men, from childhood through adulthood. They began their lives wanting to help others by being spiritual leaders, a priest and a preacher. But they discovered their true calling was to serve others through the arts.

Where mainstream religion chastises people who are different, they are able to speak to those same people and build newfound hope. Growing up, they thought they would save souls from behind the pulpit. Now, they know they are saving lives in the theater through the shows they produce.

Eventually, the audience learns that their lives are forever changed when Schalchlin is diagnosed with a serious illness. Their experience proves that no matter how much despair and turmoil you may receive from adverse circumstances, there is always a way to gain empowerment through it.

Longingly waiting for the "Big Voice" to speak to them, only the passing of time for these gentlemen shows if that greatly anticipated heavenly revelation or divine moment comes from God, Ethel Merman or both. The duo's powerful acting, singing and stage presence fill the small Invisible Theatre effortlessly. It is hard to believe even two exceptionally talented men could have written this humorous, evocative and moving show on top of their already stunning merits.

A comedic musical, Brochu and Schalchlin demonstrate great skill while executing their physical and verbal humor that keeps the audience in stitches. The audience could be heard continuously laughing out loud, and, on more than one occasion, enthusiastic applause filled the house.

"The Big Voice" can be seen at the Invisible Theatre, 1400 N. First Ave., through Oct. 7. Showtimes are Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m. Admission is $25-$27, and tickets are available for half-price a half-hour prior to curtain. Call 882-9721 for reservations and more information.
© Copyright 2007 Arizona Daily Wildcat

"Big Voice" boy meets boy love story

Tucson Citizen review 09.27.2007
by Chuck Graham
Tucson Citizen

Friday, September 21, 2007

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Invisible Theatre to host LA's award-winning Charles Phoenix

Tucson Theatre Announcements List: Tucson: Invisible Theatre to host LA's award-winning Charles Phoenix


From: BELSUZ@aol.com [mailto:BELSUZ@aol.com] Sent: Thursday, June 28, 2007 9:18 AMSubject: IT July 1

My Dear "Funny" Friends,On July 1 at 3 PM an extraordinary humorist and entertainer is coming to Tucson. That's right, the Invisible Theatre will host LA's award-winning Charles Phoenix. You ask ...
Who is Charles Phoenix?
From the kitsch to the classic, Charles Phoenix loves to celebrate mid-century design and culture. His passion combined with his thrift shop-found vintage 40s, 50s, and 60s slides developed into crowd-and-critic-pleasing live slide show performances. SRO audiences on both coasts are delighted by Phoenix’s unique ability to point out the hysterical and historical, the ironic and the iconic
“He joyfully mines America’s past through its fashion and design…” â€" New York Times"Our most favorite cultural anthropologist!" â€"LA City Beat

BOOK YOUR RESERVATIONS NOW FOR THIS NOT-TO-BE-MISSED TRIP!Please give Phyllis a call at 520 882-9721 for your special internet price!
See You Sunday!!With appreciation,SuzP.S. Remember, friends don't let friends miss great shows!
Check out the Charles Phoenix website and Chuck's article in the Tucson Citizen for additional information http://www.godblessamericana.com/http://www.tucsoncitizen.com/ss/calendar/55934.php

Friday, June 1, 2007

Sizzling Summer Sounds at Invisible Theatre

Tucson Theatre Announcements List: Tucson: Sizzling Summer Sounds at Invisible Theatre

From: Suz [mailto:invisibletheatre@email.com] Sent: Friday, June 01, 2007 3:39 PMSubject: Sizzling Summer Sounds at Invisible Theatre

IT's Coming ...Tucson's Original Cabaret Series!Sizzling Summer Sounds!Starting June 14.
Click here for information:http://www.invisibletheatre.com/html/sizzling_summer_sounds.html

ACT NOW by calling (520) 882-9721$25 with Discounts Available

Don't forget to make your dinner reservation at Pastiche
3025 North Campbell520 325-3333http://pasticheme.com/

Invisible Theatre 1400 North First Avenue (at Drachman) Tucson AZ 85719

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Invisible Theatre presents SWIMMING IN THE SHALLOWS

Tucson Theatre Announcements List: Tucson: Invisible Theatre presents SWIMMING IN THE SHALLOWS

From: Suz [mailto:invisibletheatre@email.com] Sent: Tuesday, May 08, 2007 2:45 PMSubject: Invisible Theatre Event

The Invisible Theatre presents the hilarious,
SWIMMING IN THE SHALLOWS.
This quirky and mad-cap comedy, directed by Joy Hawkins, stars William Hubbard, Christopher Johnson, Molly McKasson, Sarah MacMillan, Victoria McGee and Jeffrey Scotland. It revolves around six friends who try to find the meaning of existence while negotiating their way through the tricky world of love. This is a contemporary look at heterosexual relationships, gay marriage and everything in-between!
Please call 882-9721 (Tickets $22-$25 with group discounts available)for this not-to-be-missed comedy!
May 15 - June 3, 2007Performances are Tuesday-Thursday 7:30 PM, Friday and Saturday 8 PM and Sunday 2 PM.
Invisible Theatre
http://www.invisibletheatre.com/
Invisible Theatre 1400 North First Avenue(at Drachman)

Season Tickets for our 37th Anniversary Season are now on sale!Your "Passport to Entertainment" awaits you!