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Tina Ann Brock

AEA, SAG-E


"It's Not the Answer that Enlightens, but the Question. " - Eugene Ionesco

Barrymore Award Best Supporting Performer 2017

Barrymore Award
Best Supporting Performer 2018
Theatre Philadelphia

The Catwoman

By the Bog of Cats by Marina Carr

Irish Heritage Theatre

 
 
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Reviews


 

by Tennessee Williams  (2022) 

By David Fox, Parterre Box
Reclining Standards

Link to full article

In recent months, several prominent New York critics have acknowledged and celebrated a few theaters outside the Big Apple. As a Philadelphian, it’s gratifying to see some national recognition sent our way, although those mentions are usually limited to a couple of well-known companies – the Wilma, and Pig Iron in particular. Deserving as they are, much of the most consistently strong and innovative work comes from smaller companies that should be better known. For me, the memorably if quirkily named Idiopathic Ridiculopathy Consortium (IRC as it’s known locally) is at the top of that list. The company, co-founded in 2006 by Producing Artistic Director and actor Tina Brock along with Bob Schmidt, has specialized in Absurdism, but not always in the way audiences might expect. Some classic examples of that genre feature prominently, including multiple productions of Ionesco’s The Bald Soprano and The Chairs. But for my money, IRC’s work is most interesting—even revelatory—when Brock and company turn their absurdist interests to works that largely lie outside that category. The last four years have included exceptionally strong productions of plays as diverse as Christopher Durang’s Betty’s Summer Vacation, William Inge’s Come Back, Little Sheba, and Tennessee Williams’ Eccentricities of a Nightingale. Another Williams’ rarity is on tap now for their return to live theater—The Two Character Play—and IRC’s interest in absurdism is an especially apt lens here. As with so much later Williams, the piece has a checkered and rather bleak history. It premiered in London in 1967 and, reworked and retitled as Out Cry, made its way to Broadway—very briefly—in March 1973. A 2013 off-Broadway revival, again called The Two Character Play, fared rather better, though the behind-the-scenes antics of star Amanda Plummer threatened to overshadow the show itself. to expand on click. In recent months, several prominent New York critics have acknowledged and celebrated a few theaters outside the Big Apple. As a Philadelphian, it’s gratifying to see some national recognition sent our way, although those mentions are usually limited to a couple of well-known companies – the Wilma, and Pig Iron in particular. Deserving as they are, much of the most consistently strong and innovative work comes from smaller companies that should be better known. For me, the memorably if quirkily named Idiopathic Ridiculopathy Consortium (IRC as it’s known locally) is at the top of that list. The company, co-founded in 2006 by Producing Artistic Director and actor Tina Brock along with Bob Schmidt, has specialized in Absurdism, but not always in the way audiences might expect. Some classic examples of that genre feature prominently, including multiple productions of Ionesco’s The Bald Soprano and The Chairs. But for my money, IRC’s work is most interesting—even revelatory—when Brock and company turn their absurdist interests to works that largely lie outside that category. The last four years have included exceptionally strong productions of plays as diverse as Christopher Durang’s Betty’s Summer Vacation, William Inge’s Come Back, Little Sheba, and Tennessee Williams’ Eccentricities of a Nightingale. Another Williams’ rarity is on tap now for their return to live theater—The Two Character Play—and IRC’s interest in absurdism is an especially apt lens here. As with so much later Williams, the piece has a checkered and rather bleak history. It premiered in London in 1967 and, reworked and retitled as Out Cry, made its way to Broadway—very briefly—in March 1973. A 2013 off-Broadway revival, again called The Two Character Play, fared rather better, though the behind-the-scenes antics of star Amanda Plummer threatened to overshadow the show itself.

Cameron Kelsall, The Broad Street Review

Idiopathic Ridiculopathy Consortium specializes in the weird and wonderful world of late-career Tennessee Williams.  Actor and director Tina Brock may have met her match in The Two-Character Play, a spindly oddity offered in a rare revival as part of the Philadelphia Fringe Festival. 

Yet Brock and her intrepid collaborators—co-star John Zak and co-director Peggy Mecham—don’t merely face the challenges of this sometimes incomprehensible, often hilarious exploration of life in the theater and the constraints of family. They vanquish them. I’m willing to venture that this material has never seemed so lucid, or emerged with such sweet poetry, as it does here.

 

Written in 1969 and revised constantly during the final years of Williams’s life, The Two-Character Play follows a traveling brother-and-sister act on its last legs. Stranded in an unnamed Southern city in the middle of a tour that’s seen better days, Felice (Zak) and Clare (Brock) find themselves dead broke, abandoned by their company, and facing a hostile audience. What are they to do but soldier on?

The action collapses into a vivid haze of vaudevillian grandeur and harsh reality.  As Felice and Clare enact the title entertainment for their hungry spectators—a melodramatic comedy about a pair of siblings dealing with the aftermath of their parents’ deaths—it becomes increasingly difficult to tell the facts of their lives from the fictions they portray.

That’s at least part of the loopy fun of the piece, which finds energetic life in this production’s fleet pacing. Zak and Brock convey the anxious, delirious emotions of two people who only feel comfortable when they are inhabiting someone else’s skin. Felice and Clare frequently discuss the dangers of getting lost in the play—the potential trauma of extreme dissociation—but the audience senses they feel most alive when they slip behind the veil of make-believe.

 

That ebullience contrasts achingly with the bitter truth of the siblings’ backstage existence. Brock, never better as an actor, finds uncomfortable truths in Clare’s paranoia and her growing dependence on alcohol and amphetamines.  Zak, a fine comic performer who’s just as adept in drama, shows the sad-sack responsibilities of holding their act together. 

 

In the end, The Two-Character Play is also a tense and occasionally agonizing portrait of familial codependency.  The relationship between Felice and Clare shares similarities with the sibling pairs found in Williams’s more heralded works: the doleful bond between Tom and Laura in The Glass Menagerie, the passionate antagonism of Blanche and Stella in A Streetcar Named Desire. It also echoes the playwright’s own devotion to his sister Rose, who was lobotomized in the 1940s. Brock, Zak, and Mecham’s direction communicates these uncomfortable but necessary bonds.

Near the start of the show, Clare reminds Felice of an encounter she had with a doctor, who remarked on their bravery. “I said, Why, that’s absurd,” she tells him. “My brother and I are terrified of our shadows.” That may be so, but Brock and her company are fearless.

The Eccentricities of a Nightingale
by Tennessee Williams (2018)

Cameron Kelsall, The Broad Street Review

"I have come to expect reinvention from the scrappy, gloriously named Idiopathic Ridiculopathy Consortium, which specializes in absurdist theater... nothing prepared me for the revelation of director/actor Tina Brock’s The Eccentricities of a Nightingale, presented as part of the Fringe Festival at the Bethany Mission Gallery, a private temple to outsider art...as an actor, Brock made a wonderful impression as Alma Winemiller..." 

The Eccentricities of  Nightingale
by Tennessee Williams (2018)

David Fox, Reclining Standards

"The moment Tina Brock arrives on stage in The Eccentricities of a Nightingale, the world—to quote another play by Tennessee Williams—is lit by lightning. Brock plays Miss Alma Winemiller, one of Williams’ most elliptical heroines...Brock, blonded and marcelled with a doll-like prettiness that is simultaneously exquisite and hard-edged, does something even bolder. She channels the essence of Williams’ women on a grander scale. The effect is disquieting and thrilling." 


Seen here, she isn’t just Miss Alma. She’s Blanche Dubois, Alexandra Del Lago, Amanda Wingfield. Brock profoundly understands these Southern women—their pride and vulnerability, their humor, desperation, and anger. And she knows how to bring it to the stage in a brilliant performance, vibrating with energy and richly nuanced." 

Betty's Summer Vacation 

by Christopher Durang (2019) 

Toby Zinman, The Philadelphia Inquirer 

"No doubt this wild show will offend or shock some audience members. No doubt others will try to chastise the show for insensitivity to the psychosexual moment. But anybody trying to hashtag IRC or Durang will be left standing on the dock with their mouths hanging open, having missed the boat. Tina Brock directs with gusto and glee.


Trying to summarize the plot is an exercise in absurdity, but that, of course, is what IRC is dedicated to. As the company, under Brock’s savvy artistic direction, has moved on from the European theater of the absurd (playwrights like Ionesco) to the American absurdists (playwrights like Durang), the direction of travel is away from the metaphorical and philosophical and toward the riotously outrageous. IRC’s last production, the very American Eccentricities of a Nightingale by Tennessee Williams, was a far more melancholy work than this current show, but it launched a similar attack on society’s mores and values. Ultimately that means us.

The “us” in Betty’s Summer Vacation is a group of three (Josh Hitchens, Carlos Forbes, and Kassy Brandford); we hear them before we see them, as their raucous laughter seems to come from the ceiling. Then they talk to the people onstage. Then they appear, looking like Creatures from the Black Lagoon, begging for another scene: “Entertain us.” They are the audience, the lappers-up of celebrity gossip, the droolers over bizarre rumors of perversions, the lovers of tabloid scandal sheets and trash-talk Court TV. “Us” have been schooled. Completing the party is the owner of the house, Mrs. Seizmagraff (Tina Brock, amazing, a human earthquake), Trudy’s mother. 

The Chairs

by Eugene Ionesco (2016, 2009)

Debra Miller, DC Metro Arts 

"Idiopathic Ridiculopathy Consortium’s razor-sharp production of Eugène Ionesco’s The Chairs presents a wildly sardonic view of life’s futility in hysterically funny, deeply disquieting, award-worthy performances by company Co-Founders Bob Schmidt and Tina Brock as the protagonists, and long-time IRC member Tomas Dura as The Orator. Under Brock’s expert direction, every intonation, facial expression, gesture, and pose is spot-on and flawlessly delivered with a perfectly constructed rhythm, high-decibel urgency, and rapid-fire pace that makes the thoroughly engaging 75-minute performance fly by, as quickly as life.

As promised, Brock and her IRC team “bring good nothingness to life” as they tackle Ionesco’s message head-on, with full-throttle force and an unmatched comprehension of the absurd that will make you laugh till you cry, then haunt you long after you leave the theater. But please exit this trenchant production of The Chairs by way of the door, not through the window." 

The Chairs 

by Eugene Ionesco (2009) 

Toby Zinman 

The Philadelphia Inquirer

"People laughed.  People Cried.  Mostly we just sat wide-eyed and amazed...Eugene Ionesco's one-act, The Chairs, is an extremely difficult work, and The Idiopathic Ridiculopathy Consortium, under Tina Brock's brilliant direction, nails it. The bizarre plot involves and Old Man and Old Woman (the breathtakingly brave Tina Brock )...

Come Back Little Sheba 

by William Inge (2019) 

Richard Lord

The Philadelphia Free Press

"Tina Brock’s Lola is a stellar performance in its own right, a marvelous creation. This Lola is such a warm and fragile figure that we just want to rush over and give her a reassuring hug. The corrosive strains of living in an emotionally desiccated middle-class home are expressed vividly by Brock. Lola, once quite pretty, still likes to half-flirt with the milkman, the mailman and probably other male visitors to the home. One moment in this production that utterly captures Lola’s sad existence comes when she tells one of these men, “That’s what we’re here for: to keep each other comp …any.” Just the way Brock delivers that line, with the break in the last word, reveals so much about Lola and her repressed life." 

The Bald Soprano 

by Neal Zoren (2020) 

NealsPaper.com

Tina Brock constantly sophisticates and updates her act as she breezes, ambles?, through a canon few are brave enough to touch to accentuate the logic in the absurd in pieces of that ilk and the pain of being different or unfulfilled in a naturalistic world. Brock is tops as both as actress and a director. This latest rendition of Ionesco’s “The Bald Soprano” is a masterpiece of wit and a jaunty jaundiced look at polite society and all of its banality and inanity. Luckily Brock illuminates banality and inanity without practicing it. Aimless conversation, the mores of hosting, fascination with the uninteresting unusual, and the whole realm of thoughtless inertia passing for life is visible in a snappy, fun-filled 90 minutes on the IRC stage. Brock creates a party atmosphere, leading the way as a chatty wife and an ebulliently excited hostess to guest she did not expect. Or did expect until they were too late arriving when they arrived. IRC’s gift is presenting the topsy-turvy as the mundane. The bright but obvious ordinariness of situations and talk is what makes it amusing and what comments on how much of our lives we invest in trivia. The Bethany Mission Galley becomes a character, as Brock deftly uses its loopily arcane pieces as props and charts. The furniture on the Brock-designed set and Erica Hoelscher’s marvelous ’60s chic suburban costumes add to the fun and the commentary. Especially amusing is when the host couple excuses themselves to change clothes, and the husband comes back wearing the exact outfit he left in. Diction and crisp, pointed line reading in an IRC gift, and Brock, Bob Schmidt, Sonja Robson, and John Zak practice it to a rousing tee. Always reliable Tomas Dura is marvelous as the maid. Carlos Forbes has the bravura to overcome the lack of substance in the fire chief’s appearance. Spirited and funny, this is a “Bald Soprano” for the doubting and fearful. Brock will convert them to Absurdist fans!

The Eccentricities of a Nightingale 
by Tennessee Williams (2018)

Toby Zinman, Phindie 

"ECCENTRICITIES is lush, loquacious and very typical Williams: lonely, sex-starved women, men struggling against overbearing mothers, desperation everywhere. We’re in Glorious Hill, Mississippi, and Miss Alma (the superb Tina Brock in a knockout performance) is the town’s oddball old maid; she feeds the birds, she makes extravagant gestures, she teaches singing: as she puts it she is “guilty of gilding the lily.” 

Betty's Summer Vacation 

by Christopher Durang (2019) 

David Fox, Reclining Standards

"Oh, and then there’s Trudy’s overbearing mother, Mrs. Seizmagraff (the great Tina Brock) who seems like a cross between Lucy Ricardo and Norma Desmond), and insists on reminding her daughter what a constant disappointment she is. And Buck (Chris Fluck), an aging surfer with (as he imagines it) an irresistible allure for the ladies—the kind of guy who thinks a good come-on line is: “I have pictures of my penis; do you want to see them?”

Theater

Eccentric Characters Known and Loved

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The Eccentricities of a Nightingale by Tennessee Williams (2018)
Leocadia by Jean Giraudoux (2017)
Ivona, Princess of Burgundia by Witold Gombrowicz (2014)
The Chairs by Eugene Ionesco (2016)
Paradise Park by Charles Lee
The Bald Soprano by Eugene Ionesco (2019)
The Marriage by Nikolai Gogol
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Ondine by Jean Giraudoux
Betty's Summer Vacation by Christopher Durang
The Bald Soprano by Eugene Ionesco
Paradise Park by Charles Lee
Leocadia (Time Remembered) by Jean Anouilh
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