Robert Moore
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Robert Moore

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"Picasso at the Lapin Agile"

Steve Martin's play, Picasso at the Lapin Agile, is an amusing and absurd delight. Martin's witty script is packed with humor that's both surreal and sophomoric. It exhibits the same quirky approach he's taken throughout his career, whether he's writing for television, film or his own standup routines. And, if you're a fan of his work, then you're sure to find it appealing. The Conservatory of Theatre Arts at Webster University is presenting a solid, if unspectacular production of Martin's play in the Emerson Studio Theatre at the Loretto-Hilton.

The plot explores a chance encounter in 1904 between famed artist and swarthy womanizer, Pablo Picasso, and physicist Albert Einstein, who's on the cusp of publishing his "Theory of Relativity". They're joined later by a third visitor who travels back in time from his own kingly position astride the rock and roll throne. The wacky interaction between these individuals, and the other patrons of the tavern, provides ample opportunities for the kind of silly wordplay Martin is known for.

Adam King is very good as Einstein, imbuing the frustrated patent clerk with an impish quality that's engaging and endearing. Cesar Garcia delivers a passionate and energetic performance as the self-obsessed Spaniard. Aaron Sitrick is OK as Elvis, but he needs to project a more intense presence. Robert Moore completely steals the show, overacting to hilarious effect as Schmendiman, a hapless inventor determined to succeed, despite the deadly combination of elements he's employing as a new kind of building material.

Matthew Russell Folsom gives his role as the barkeep, Freddy, a deadpan, "Martinesque" delivery that manages to work to his advantage on occasion. Shayla Spradley is fine as his philandering wife, Germaine, though she seemed a tad slow out of the gate. Gabriel Murphy does a nice job as the curmudgeonly Gaston, an elderly regular cursed with an incredibly tiny bladder. Mike Curtin, Katherine Bland, Jamie Lynn Concepcion and Cara Anne Meyer round out the supporting cast.

Doug Finlayson's direction has some nice moments, but the performances are somewhat uneven, and the show seems to run out of steam about two-thirds of the way through. Alex Bulejski's uninspired lighting scheme doesn't help matters, bypassing several creative opportunities. However, Caitlin Ayer's scenic design brings the Lapin Agile to life in sturdy, believable fashion.

This production may have a few shortcomings, but it still manages to generate it's fair share of laughs.
- KDHX 88.1fm St. Louis


"The Last Seder"

If you're in the mood for a story about a holiday miracle (and who isn't these days?) then go to the New Jewish Theatre and celebrate The Last Seder. This really is "a wonderful life,"emphasis on the "wonder," even if it doesn't take place at Yuletide; rather, it's in the spring, which is fitting on several levels because here are beginnings, as well as endings.

Director Doug Finlayson has pulled off a little miracle of his own by shepherding 11 people around the small stage at the Mark Twain Theatre, most of them members of the Price family: The Alzheimer's disease stricken father, Marvin (Richard Lewis) and his wife and now caregiver, Lily (Nancy Lewis); their four daughters, therapist Julia (Ruth Heyman) who is expecting the Price's first grandchild with her partner, Jane (Kate Frisina); attorney Claire (Michelle Hand) and perpetual fiancé, Jon (Richard Strelinger); art teacher and frustrated artist, Michelle (Nicole Angeli) who picks up a stranger, Kent, at Penn Station to be her "date" (Tyler Vickers); and Angel, nee Amy (Cara Barresi) who is soon joined by Luke (Robert Moore) the boy next door for whom she still pines. Another neighbor, Harold Freeman (John Contini) rounds out the celebrants.

This is, without question, one of the best ensembles I've seen in St. Louis. Everyone is note perfect in his or her part, and my only question about casting involved John Contini. He is such a big talent that it seemed odd that he'd play a minor character. But, he really isn't. Harold is enormously important to this story, and it takes an actor of Contini's stature to make him as memorable (and magical) as he deserves to be.

It was fun to see Nancy Lewis with her hair down, literally and metaphorically, since Lily has taken up swearing to let her emotions out. Lewis often employs a rather formal technique in her portrayals (and to be fair, many of them require that) but here I found her completely believable and sympathetic as a wife and mother in the throes of the most difficult period of her life. Richard Lewis is terrific, but it's hard to separate him from his most recent role at NJT in Chaim's Love Song, a lesser play, but an equally fine performance. I felt like I was watching Chaim with dementia at times. Still, the expression of confused affability he wears when he's not in a rage or being paranoid is heartbreakingly real.

The sisters do seem like siblings as they arrive as capable professional women (except Angel who is still a wanderer) but turn back into the children and rivals they once were when the family reunites. The best prop in the whole show is a set of Barbies belonging to Julia who gets into a funny fight with Claire when Claire tries to take them. A nice moment comes with Julia and Jane playing with the dolls, telling Ken, "Hey, you're pretty cute. Got a sister?" Angeli carries a lot of the weight as "daddy's favorite," and the one most distressed, at least outwardly, by his condition, but she's up to it. Hand and Heyman are both amazing actors and their chemistry is palpable. Barresi's part is not as meaty as the others, but she acquits herself well.

The biggest surprise, to me anyway, is Vickers. He is sweet, vulnerable, disappointed, hopeful; in other words, he creates a fully formed, three-dimensional person on that stage with less material than the women and Marvin have. He embodies the tradition of sharing Seder with a stranger, but to Marvin, he is no stranger. Vickers has been working a lot lately, and I always enjoy him, but he was outstanding here. Strelinger has a number of nice moments as the eternally frustrated Jon to whom the controlling Claire is afraid to commit, and college senior Moore shows that the Webster University Conservatory knows how to train actors.

The play itself is a magical mystery tour through an unconventional Seder with a group of "really reformed" Jews, as Lily puts it where a miracle does indeed occur. And while Marvin says he's been dreaming of angels and bells are involved, there are no pixies here ready to fix everything. But the bells signify the true miracle of this Seder meal, its beginning and end. Fortunately, there is a denouement which allows us to dry our tears before leaving the theatre, but as I looked around, there were plenty of audience members still sniffling and wiping eyes.

What actually happens is open to interpretation, but I'll leave it to you to peel back the layers and decide what you think really goes on at the last Seder in the home shared by the Prices since early in their marriage. And Dunsai Dai's set, while looking rather simple, is truly multipurpose. Beds, tables (seating everyone) a kitchen-all that and more is either depicted or suggested. Glenn Dunn's lights define the spaces and guide us to which action takes precedence at any given time because everyone is busy living in unison, as people do. At one point, we're both in the house and at the seashore in the same space. And neither one seems far-fetched.

Everything about this production is first-rate. Congratulations to Finlayson, the cast and crew, and Kathleen Sitzer, Artistic Director of NJT, for this achievement. I did hear some complaints about language and sexual content, so be warned if you have delicate sensibilities, but I'm guessing you don't if you read KDHX reviews. Take an evening out of your holiday revels to see this one, and remember the NJT is dark on Fridays.

The Last Seder runs through Dec. 21 at the New Jewish Theatre which is spending this season at the Mark Twain Theatre on the campus of Clayton High School. For tickets, call 314-442-3283 or visit http://www.brownpapertickets.com/. For more information including a short guide to the characters and the plot, go to http://www.newjewishtheatre.org/. - KDHX 88.1fm St. Louis


Discography

Nothing released

Tegan & Sara, Lior, Nelly Furtado, Britney Spears, A*Teens, Led Zeppelin, Tracy Chapman, Zero 7, Air, BT, Morcheeba, Missy Elliott, Norah Jones, Bon Iver, The Beatles, Elliot Smith, Solange Knowles, Talking Heads, Jamiroquai, Of Montreal, Bjork, Tori Amos, Bloc Party, Jimi Hendrix, S Club 7, Simon & Garfunkel, and my friends Corley Pillsbury and Jillian Secor.

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Bio

My name is Robert Moore and I am from Memphis, Tennessee. I am twenty-two years old and I am a recent recipient of my BFA in Acting and a minor in French from Webster University, where I did four years of training at the Conservatory of Theater Arts. While living in St. Louis, my professional career began with a film, a play, and a TV show. I can be seen in the Landmark Theater release “Shadowland” starting this summer. Last December my stage debut was in The Last Seder at the New Jewish Theatre, which received a Kevin Kline Award nomination for Best Ensemble. In 2008, I was part of “Macy’s Stars on Broadway,” a one night fashion event that was telecast throughout St. Louis. I was in productions at Webster such as Picasso at the Lapin Agile as the crazy Schmendiman, Oklahoma! (Winner Best Musical, Riverfront Times 2008) and Tony Kushner’s Angels in America. I am also a dancer, with formal training in Ballet and Jazz. I am also skilled in Modern, Hip-Hop, and Tap.

I graduated from Ridgeway High School in Memphis in 2005, where I fell in love with being on stage. I was very active in the theater department and Speech and Forensics team. Along with doing plays, I won many competitions, including 5th place at the THSSDL State Tournament in Humorous Interpretation my senior year. I am an alumni of two prestigious summer programs through the Memphis Rotary PREP Program; Phillips Exeter Academy Summer School in Exeter, NH and the National High School Institute Theater Arts Division, otherwise known as the “Cherubs” program, at Northwestern University in Chicago. I was a teen panelist with Onpoint, a community program and radio talk show of high school students, through K97fm/Clear Channel Radio. As part of Memphis in May’s celebration of South Africa in 2004, I participated in a foreign exchange trip to the country, where I was privileged to meet notaries F.W. Dekleirk and Nelson Mandela. I was involved in Facing History and Ourselves and met Holocaust survivor and author Elie Wiesel, civil rights activist Elizabeth Eckford, among others.

I am now a fully fledged artist. My driving motivation is my craft, and contributing to the social diversity and cohabitation of the world through art. I am very passionate about the arts and society and my focus in my life is to steer them into future progress and evolution. Not only do I act, sing, and dance, I dabble in photography, I write poetry and have written plays and short stories, I speak French, and do a little female impersonation from time to time. I picked up the guitar when my best friend Laura Moore gave me one for Christmas. I took lessons under Dave Black, a jazz musician in St. Louis for a year. This past Christmas break I acquired congas and started getting in touch with my inner rhythm. The next steps from there are to play my music and continue to develop my sound and head into the studio. I hope to have an album recorded by the end of this year. My first love is the stage, however I am putting it on the back burner to try other outlets in the entertainment field. I have a 2011 goal of living and working in California. In the meantime, it’s life!