A Salute to Andre Barron
I first got to witness Andre Barron’s directorial gifts back in the early 2010s at Theatre 40 and Open Fist, but it wasn’t until he began his association with THE ROAD Theatre Company several years later that I really started paying serious attention to one of L.A.’s most accomplished directors.
The play was The Other Place, Sharr White’s compelling look at a woman whose mental acuity, at first seemingly as sharp as yours or mine, we gradually begin to doubt, though it wasn’t until about halfway through White’s riveting, complex puzzle of a play that the reason for the inconsistencies in its protagonist’s narrative became achingly clear.
I made sure in my February 2015 write-up not to give away that reason. (I wonder how many other reviewers did the same.) What I did make certain to mention was Andre’s “assured, nuanced direction” and the performances he elicited from leading lady Taylor Gilbert (“a dramatic tour-de-force that deserves to be seen, savored, and celebrated”) and “the magnificent Sam Anderson[‘s} … powerful support” as Taylor’s stage spouse.
Both Taylor and Sam won individual Scenies, as did their director, and supporting players Danielle Stephens and Dirk Etchison were both quite terrific too.
A year later, Andre was back at the Road directing Broken Fences, Steven Simonic’s look at effects of urban gentrification on two Chicago couples, one upwardly mobile and white, the other financially challenged and black.
Though I found fault with “the tonal inconsistencies and missed opportunities of … Simoncic’s thought-provoking, often quite powerful script,” I could only rave about Andre’s “incisive direction,” and the star turns he inspired from Mia Framboni, Kris Frost, James Holloway, Donna Simone Johnson, Ivy Khan, Bruce A. Lemon Jr., Coronado Romero, and Ben Theobald, and given that “Lemon and Johnson [did] the evening’s most memorable work as Broken Fences’ most three-dimensional characters, … and Theobald, fresh from his star-making performance in Theatre 40’s Double Doors, positively dazzle[d],” it’s no wonder all three were awarded individual Scenies in addition to their “Outstanding Ensemble Cast” honors.
Andre received his third Outstanding Direction Scenie the following year (this time for “Multiple Productions”), delivering the goods not once but twice.
First up on Andre’s 2016-2017 calendar was Edward Albee’s The Play About The Baby, and though (as with Broken Fences) I couldn’t give the play itself a rave (“whether Albee’s play will speak to you or not will depend on how you feel about abandoning the realistic for the allegorical”), Andre once again proved himself an actor’s director par excellence (“Andre Barron’s direction is the very definition of inspired”) as witnessed in the performances delivered by a reunited Sam Anderson (“it’s the chance to see Anderson outdo even his Best-Of-The-Year work in this past spring’s John is a father”) and Taylor Gilbert (“fabulous as always, and having great fun being funny and sultry and enigmatic”).
That The Play About The Baby introduced Philip Orazio (“a captivating Boy”) and Allison Blaize (“moves from guileless to devastating”) to Road Theatre audiences was yet another reason to celebrate its Los Angeles Premiere.
Andre followed Albee with Jeff Augustin’s Little Children Dream Of God, “a stunningly directed, designed, and performed Road Theatre Company West Coast Premiere” that blended Miami reality and Haitian black magic to stunning effect.
Here’s what I wrote at the time: “It less gifted hands than director Andre Barron’s, and with less gifted designers than the team assembled to create a world in which reality becomes magical and magic becomes real, Little Children Dream Of God might come across more than a bit too ambitious for its own good,” proof that a great director and design team—Sarah B. Brown,
Derrick McDaniel, Yee Eun Nam, Matthew Richter, and Michele Young —can accomplish wonders.
Outstanding Ensemble Cast Scenie winners Jonathan Bangs’, Blaire Chandler, Jonathan Nichols, Jaquita Ta’le, Courtney Sauls, Sedale Threatt Jr., and Hari Williams could not have been more memorable, with Hari and Jaquita both awarded individual Scenies too, and Rachel Tisby winning one for Outstanding Choreography.
Last but not least (indeed this is my absolute favorite of the bunch) Anna Ziegler’s A Delicate Ship proved so captivating and haunting in early 2018, I went back to see it a second time.
Taking place in real time on a snowy New York City Christmas Eve, A Delicate Ship placed its heroine Sara (Paris Perrault) in the uncomfortable position of being in the same Manhattan apartment with both her boyfriend Sam (Philip Orazio) and her childhood best friend Nate (Josh Zuckerman), neither of whom had ever heard a word about the other.
In yet another rave, I wrote “Andre Barron directs the 2015 off-Broadway hit’s West Coast Premiere with equal parts emotional nuance and visual flair, eliciting all-around superb performances from a pitch-perfect cast.”
Make that casts, plural, because not only were Paris, Philip, and Josh all three quite dazzling, understudies Allison Blaize, Hunter Garner, and Stephen Tyler Howell “deliver[ed] their own distinctive takes on Anna Ziegler’s deeply human if not always likable characters” when I went back for a second look.
Not surprisingly, Andre won his fourth Scenie for A Delicate Ship. I’m guessing there will be more to come.