Dec 06

Losing the Heartbeat: “Little Women: The Broadway Musical”

Photo by Nile Scott Studios

Presented by Greater Boston Stage Company
Based on the novel by Louisa May Alcott
Book by Allan Knee
Lyrics by Mindi Dickstein
Music by Jason Howland
Directed & Choreographed by Ilyse Robbins
Music Direction by Matthew Stern

November 25 – December 23, 2022
Greater Boston Stage Company
Stoneham, MA

Review by Kate Lew Idlebrook

Stoneham, Mass — As producers mine history for intellectual property that can be spun into gold, especially those that are in the public domain, they can sometimes lose sight of what makes a classic a classic.

Unfortunately, this was the case with Little Women: The Broadway Musical. In the original story, Luisa May Alcott created a world full of wonderfully full, relatable characters. She allowed her characters to speak for themselves and trusted her readers to hear the message. I only wish the Greater Boston Stage Company’s production of this play had the space to do the same. Continue reading

Dec 05

Slick Christmas Dreams: “‘Twas the Night Before…”


Presented by Cirque du Soleil
Facebook  Twitter  Instagram  Snapchat

November 25 – December 11th, Wednesdays Through Sundays, various times
Boch Center – Wang Theatre
270 Tremont St
Boston, MA 02116

Review by Craig Idlebrook

BOSTON — If you are an aspiring fiction writer in whatever genre and have a good idea for a Christmas-themed show, I suggest you pursue it. If our 365-day lust for Hallmark Christmas movies is any indication, there is always a need for more content, and, frankly, most of the ideas that are out there are mediocre at best.

Of course, as an honest critic, I should always take my own idiosyncrasies into account, and how it might differ from the viewpoint of others. I like a low-key Christmas season, and many people don’t, and this difference can color our perspectives on yuletide spectacle. Continue reading

Dec 03

The Status of Post-quarantine Community Theatre in Eastern Massachusetts: An Interview with Kai Chao

Headshot of Kai Chao.

Interview by Kitty Drexel

EMACT website

Boston’s indoor mask mandate was lifted on March 5, 2022 according to the City’s government website. Residents and visitors to Boston are not required to wear a face covering in indoor public spaces such as gyms, bars and restaurants, museums, and entertainment venues.

Many Boston theatre companies still require their patrons to wear face masks when attending professional, live theatre events. Professional theatre companies are guided by union rules but are free to establish their own masking requirements.

The Huntington in Boston strongly encourages masks at evening performances and requires them at matinees. A few blocks away, The Lyric Stage Company encourages masks but doesn’t enforce them. One mile farther, Boston Playwrights’ Theatre requires masks at all performances.

Community theatre companies are not obligated to follow the rules of the Actors’ Equity Association. Director, choreographer, and photographer Kai Chao is the President of Eastern Massachusetts Association of Community Theatres (EMACT). He graciously agreed to discuss the state of our post-quarantine community theatre in New England.

Please note: this interview has been edited for length, clarity, and grammar. Continue reading

Nov 23

A call to action: Time is of the essence for arts & culture policy

A gathering tour by the MASSCreative
Presented by MASSCreative

Friday, November 18, 2022
MASSCreative on Facebook

Article by Afrikah Smith

ONLINE — After the winning victory of elected State Governor Maura Healey and Lieutenant Governor Kim Driscoll in the Massachusetts midterm election, will the state’s arts & culture sector be ready to advocate for policy and legislation in January 2023?

MASSCreative has taken action in touring around the state, both virtually and in-person, to hear from institutions, cultural leaders, creative advocates, and artists about the top priorities from the sector. Geared towards a conversation between MASSCreative staff and attendees, the gatherings tour offers the opportunity for all to connect and discuss the ways that federal, state, and local governments can push and ensure the sector to become stronger, more equitable, and better funded. Continue reading

Nov 18

Safe But Not Sorry*: “The Play That Goes Wrong”

Photo by Mark. S. Howard.

Presented by Lyric Stage Company of Boston 
By Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer, and Henry Shields
Directed by Fred Sullivan, Jr.
Stunt Coordinator/Fight Captain: Michael Liebhauser
Scenic Design by Peter Colao
Run Crew: Hazel Peters, Talene Pogherian
Featuring Kelby T. Akin, Alexa Cadete, Nora Eschenheimer, Dan Garcia,
Mitch Kiliulis, Michael Liebhauser, Marc Alexander Pierre, and Dan Whelton. Understudies: Margaret Clark, Patrick French, and Matt C. Ryan.

November 11 – December 18, 2022
Lyric Stage Co.
140 Clarendon St
Boston, MA 02116

Approximately two hours, including one intermission.
This production uses strobe lighting and fog effects. There is one live simulated gunshot in Act 2.

Review by Kitty Drexel

“Anything worth doing is worth doing badly.” — G. K. Chesterton

BOSTON, Mass — Chesterton was a Christian philosopher who argued, with this statement, that most things are done by novices who do those things imperfectly. This Chesterton saying goes along with the Voltaire-attributed aphorism, “don’t let perfect be the enemy of good.” 

Neither Chesterton nor Voltaire was responsible for a cast of accident-prone actors or an elaborate set determined by fate to destroy itself on opening night. Not even Voltaire, the paragon of eighteenth-century French amateur and society theatre, could have imagined The Play That Goes Wrong.  Continue reading

Nov 09

A kind stop for death: “Lighting”

Photo courtesy of David Weiland.

Presented by Double Edge Theatre
Lightning
Directed and devised by DE Design Director Jeremy Louise Eaton
and co-created with the DE Company (Amanda Miller, Dylan Young, Phoebe Hiltermann, Ewa Timingeriu)
Lighting and sound design by John Peitso

My Soul is in Command: a tragi-comic musical creep show
Conceived, written, performed by Robert Carlton
With guidance from Jennifer Johnson

November 4-6, 2022
Performed at The Farm
948 Conway Road
Ashfield, MA MA 01330

Review by Maegan Bergeron-Clearwood

Leaving the barn performance space at Double Edge Theatre this weekend felt like stumbling off of a merry-go-round. As my friend and I removed our masks and breathed in the fresh farm air, our eyes drifted upward; for a breath or two, we found ourselves stunned by the moon spinning through the sky, until we realized it was just the clouds, not the universe, drifting across our gaze. I’m not sure if we would have fallen under the spell of this cosmic optical illusion if we hadn’t just emerged from Lightning, a dizzying, trickster-y performance that blurred the edges between dream and reality. Continue reading

Nov 09

Racism, Misogyny and Old White Men Oh My! I’d Like to Put Jack Back in The Box: A “Jack in the Box” book review

Jack in the Box or, How to Goddamn Direct
By Jack O’Brien
Published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Hard cover/e-book
$28.00/$14.00
272 pages
ISBN 9780374603830

Review by Alyssa O

The Interwebs — Three-time Tony Award winning director Jack O’Brien has a lot to say about theater. And why shouldn’t he? Throughout the course of his decades-spanning career he’s worked with all the greats; Mike Nichols, Neil Simon, Andrew Lloyd Webber, the list keeps going.

He’s collected all of these tales in his latest book, Jack in the Box, or How to Goddamned Direct.

The book is, in its best moments, part no-holds-barred manifesto on trusting your instincts, and part memoir of the good old days of theater, rife with juicy behind the scenes show-biz anecdotes about people you’ve definitely heard of. What working director wouldn’t want a peek inside that box?

Jack in the Box really shines as a charming, rip roaringly funny read that affirms the unexpected joys of working in the theatre. The brilliance of this book is that it’s not a how-to manual. It delivers nothing in terms of rules or actionable instructions an eager neophyte director can take back to the rehearsal room.

What it does do is celebrate the fact that whether you’re throwing together your first rehearsal in a local church basement or at the Old Globe Theater, nobody really knows what the heck they’re doing. Theater is an experiment, there is no road map, and that is a beautiful thing.

Plenty of big names have already sung the book’s praises. Ethan Hawke calls Jack in the Box, “magic… illuminating, insightful, and essential.”

Nathan Lane says it’s, “the most candid, eloquent, hilarious and moving explanation I’ve ever read on the subject [of directing].”

But, I’m guessing that if you’re reading New England Theater Geek, you’re looking for a different take. Gosh darn it, I’m here to give it to you.

Unfortunately, Jack in the Box takes a hard-left turn into old-white-man land that I cannot endorse or recommend to any contemporary director working to build a more inclusive world.

Whether it’s hints on how to deal with difficult cast members (spoiler alert: in his career he can only think of two moments of “stop-the-music adversity, both involving actresses”) or how to approach “edgy” humor involving racial stereotypes (I’m not even going to do a pull-quote from his anecdote about his old pal Jerry Lewis going for it with Jew jokes. In a world where antisemitism is dangerously on the rise again, I don’t know what editor thought it would be cute to keep that one in.)

Jack in the Box is woefully out of step with the values of most modern theatre creators. I can’t even recommend it as a fun if slightly out of touch read about the Golden Days of Theater.

I am, however, comforted by the fact that men like O’Brian are dinosaurs. He and his ilk will soon retire to their nursing home for obsolete fogies and leave us to take over a Zeitgeist with rulebooks they haven’t written. We inherit a global theatre community where there’s space for a variety of perspectives and where racism and misogyny aren’t excused as simply being “from a different time.”

Oct 28

The Precise and the Indefinable: “On Beckett” 

Photo via https://artsemerson.org/events/on-beckett/

Presented by ArtsEmerson, with Irish Repertory Theatre 
Produced by Octopus Theatricals
Conceived and performed by Bill Irwin
Based on the writings of Samuel Beckett, Texts for Nothing, The Unnamable, Watt, and Waiting for Godot.

October 26 – 30, 2022
Open Captioning, Oct. 29, at 2:00 PM
Audio Description, Oct. 30, 2:00 PM
Emerson Paramount Center
559 Washington St
Boston, MA 02111

Beckittns on Instagram

90 minutes, no intermission

Critique by Kitty Drexel

ArtsEmerson isn’t asking you to turn your phone off for its health. Turn your damn phone off, you git. 

BOSTON, Mass — On Beckett is a masterclass taught by Bill Irwin on the works of playwright, novelist, Nobel Prize winner, and, among other things, WWII resistance fighter Samuel Beckett. Irwin’s dedicated performance, journalistic dramaturgy, and storytelling transcend the medium of the solo show. 

On Beckett isn’t merely a performance incorporating the works of the infamous playwright; it is a doctorate-level dissertation. Emerson, give Irwin his honorary Ph.D.     Continue reading

Oct 17

A Season of Farewells in Western MA: KO Festival of Performance and the Royal Frog Ballet

“The Surrealist Cabaret” by The Royal Frog Ballet. Image from Frog Ballet/Facebook

The KO Festival of Performance
FLUSHING: Make Room for Someone Else
Presented by Sandglass Theater and Parris-Bailey Arts
Written and Performed by Linda Parris-Bailey and Eric Bass
Directed by Kathie deNobriga
Puppets by Ines Zeller Bass
Hampshire College
July 22 – 24, 2022

EZELL: Ballad of a Land Man
Presented by Clear Creek Creative
Written and Performed by Bob Martin
Directed by Nick Silie
Hampshire College, Amherst MA
July 29 – 31, 2022

The Royal Frog Ballet
Surrealist Cabaret
Park Hill Orchard, Easthampton, MA
October 7 – 8, 2022

Review by Maegan Bergeron-Clearwood

Western Mass — Theatre artists should be experts in grief: we build sets with the knowledge that we will strike them in a few brief months; we play trust games and cultivate micro-communities, only to part ways once our contracts end; we witness our art fade from memory as quickly as it’s brought to life. We are peddlers in ephemera. And yet, when it comes time to bid farewell to a process or project, it is sometimes nigh-impossible to release our white-knuckled hold on what-was.

This year, two long-standing Western Massachusetts theatre companies – both dedicated to producing work that is fresh, surprising, and even strange – reckoned with their own relationships to endings, grief, and release.

The KO Festival of Performance staged its 31st and final season this summer around the theme of “Stepping Up / Stepping Back.” KO has a storied history of producing original work, supporting local and visiting artists, and cultivating a sense of community through post-show discussions and workshops. Continue reading

Oct 13

Can’t Stop the Beat: “Drumfolk”

Photo from https://artsemerson.org/events/drumfolk/

Presented by ArtsEmerson
Performed by Step Afrika!
Directed by Jakari Sherman
Composed by Steven M. Allen
Mask Design by Erik Teague
Lighting by Marianne Meadows
Sound designed by Patrick Calhoun and engineered by Danielle McBride
Costumes by Kenaan M. Quander
Step Afrika! was founded by C. Brian Williams, with Mfoniso Akpan serving as Artistic Director

October 5 – 16, 2022, 8 p.m., with weekend matinees at 2 p.m.
Emerson Cutler Majestic Theatre
219 Tremont Street
Boston, MA 02116
Drumfolk is made possible by the New England Foundation for the Arts’ National Dance Project with lead funding from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Review by Craig Idlebrook

BOSTON — The Africans who were stolen from their continent to become slaves in the American colonies and many of their descendants created and continue to recreate strong ties of family, music, and community while the forces of white supremacy continually work to strip away their efforts and deny their humanity. This process is as constant as waves cresting on the shore. It can be traced back to the earliest days of the colonization of what would become the United States. Continue reading