Apr 07

A Glancing Blow: JACK THE RIPPER (THE WHITECHAPEL MUSICAL)

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Presented by F.U.D.G.E Theatre Company
Music by Steven Bergman
Book and Lyrics by Steven Bergman & Christopher-Michael DiGrazia
Directed by Joey DeMita
Music Directed by Be Oehlkers
Stage Managed by Julie Murray

Boston Playwrights’ Theatre
Boston, MA
March 28th – April 12th, 2014
FUDGE on Facebook

Review by Craig Idlebrook

(Somerville) We can trace back modern detective-work and sensationalistic journalism to the grimy streets of London at the close of the 19th century. One summer, while an unknown serial killer was stalking prostitutes, the London police learned they had to up their forensics game, while the tabloids learned that sex and blood made a profitable mix. Continue reading

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Apr 02

Chekov in a Blender: STUPID FUCKING BIRD

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Photo credit: Apollinaire Theatre

Presented by Apollinaire Theatre Company
By Aaron Posner
Adapted by Chekhov’s The Seagull
Directed by Danielle Fauteux Jacques

March 28th – April 26th, 2014
Chelsea, MA
Apollinaire on Facebook

Review by Craig Idlebrook

(Chelsea) Merriam-Webster offers this definition of “mash-up”:
something created by combining elements from two or more sources: as
a :  a piece of music created by digitally overlaying an instrumental track with a vocal track from a different recording
b :  a movie or video having characters or situations from other sources
c :  a Web service or application that integrates data and functionalities from various online sources

You’ll notice that the good ol’ M-W doesn’t include theater in its definition, which means Apollinaire Theatre’s staging of “Stupid Fucking Bird” kind of groundbreaking.  Take a ponderous Russian classic,  “The Seagull”, make it all meta and silly, and you have this imaginative and unconventional play.  Mash-ups usually are 5 minutes long and viewed on YouTube; this play clocks in at a cool 2 hours and a half with a pair of intermissions. My friends, that’s a mash-up that shows some guts. Continue reading

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Mar 24

Eavesdropping on a Moment: TALLEY’S FOLLY

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Photo by Meghan Moore

Photo by Meghan Moore

Presented by Merrimack Repertory Theatre
By Lanford Wilson
Directed by Kyle Fabel

March 20th – April 13th, 2014
Lowell, MA
MRT on Facebook

Review by Craig Idlebrook

(Lowell) Why in the 21st century do we feel compelled to make all our special private moments so public, especially when it comes to marriage proposals? These days, a proposal is not Facebook official unless you enlist your family, Joe Biden, and the Michigan State marching band to take part in a carefully choreographed proposal that you can upload to YouTube. Continue reading

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Mar 18

Digging Our Graves, Hoping Someone Notices: THE WHALE

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Georgia Lyman and John Kuntz in the SpeakEasy Stage Company production of “The Whale.” Photo by Craig Bailey/Perspective Photo.

Presented by SpeakEasy Stage Company
By Samuel D. Hunter
Directed by David R. Gammons

March 7th – April 5th, 2014
The Boston Center for the Arts
Boston, MA
SpeakEasy on Facebook

Review by Craig Idlebrook

(Boston) No matter what you’ve heard, The Whale is not a play about obesity.  That may be hard to remember when you see a man drowning in his own corpulent flesh, the junk food wrappers strewn around his apartment serving as a testament to his mortal sin. Continue reading

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Mar 03

Character-Building: EQUALLY DIVIDED

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Photo by Meghan Moore. Pictured: Jill Tanner, Felicity La Fortune, Will Lyman and Anthony Newfield.

Photo by Meghan Moore. Pictured: Jill Tanner, Felicity La Fortune, Will Lyman and Anthony Newfield.

Presented by Merrimack Repertory Theatre
by Ronald Harwood
Directed by Charles Towers

February 13th – March 9th, 2014
Lowell, MA
MRT on Facebook

Review by Craig Idlebrook

(Lowell) Professional baseball player Ichiro Suzuki once got into hot water for saying that when his team is losing year after year he focuses instead on playing for his own individual accomplishments.  To some, it showed selfishness, but to me it showed professionalism. Continue reading

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Feb 13

Repetition is Awesome. Repetition is Awesome: PEGGY PICKIT SEES THE FACE OF GOD

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Photo care of Apollinaire facebook page.

Presented by Apollinaire Theatre Company
by Roland Schimmelpfennig
Directed by Megan Sandberg-Zakian

February 7 – March 1, 2014
Chelsea Theatre Works
189 Winnisimmet Street
Chelsea, MA
Apollinaire on Facebook

Review by Craig Idlebrook

(Chelsea) We cling to words as if they were a trail of breadcrumbs in a deep, dark forest.  The cadence of conversations is the most important music in our lives.  The collective expectation of how words flow in human speech, hardwired into our brains, can be the playwright’s best friend or worst enemy.  As soon as a script is spoken aloud, the dialogue is judged for whether or not it rings true. If, however, the script can present a few verbal twists and turns that take us to unexpected places, the playwright has the audience eating out of the palm of his/her hand. Continue reading

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Feb 03

Disparate Pieces: THE WHIPPING MAN

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Care of the New Rep Facebook page.

Presented by New Repertory Theatre
by Matthew Lopez
Directed by Benny Sato Ambush

January 25th – February 16th, 2014
Arsenal Center for the Arts
321 Arsenal Street
Watertown, MA
New Rep on Facebook

Review by Craig Idlebrook

(Watertown) Sometimes you can check off all the boxes for what makes an interesting play without the play adding up to great theatre.  The Whipping Man, playing at the New Repertory Theatre, has all the ingredients (interesting slice of history, family drama, a striking set, a strong cast), but they don’t create something bigger. Continue reading

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Jan 30

Technicolor Fabulousness: HAIRSPRAY

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Photo by Gary Ng.

Presented by Wheelock Family Theatre
Book by Mark O’Donnell & Thomas Meehan. Music by Marc Shaiman
Lyrics by Scott Wittman & Marc Shaiman
Based on the New Line Cinema film written and directed by John Waters.
Directed by Susan Kosoff
Musical Direction by Matthew Stern
Choreography by Laurel Conrad

January 24 – February 23rd, 2014
180 The Riverway
Wheelock College
Boston, MA
Wheelock Family Theatre on Facebook

Review by Craig Idlebrook

(Boston) The first act of Wheelock Theatre’s Hairspray is such a great way to dance away the winter blues that it should be prescribed like Vitamin D.  Words fail to do justice in describing this outlandish, energetic, and mirth-filled play, which unfolds like American Bandstand on just a hint of acid, so I’ll just say that I smiled straight through from the downbeat of the opening number until intermission.  Since the second act couldn’t top the first without causing people to disappear to a Nirvana of spastic theatrical comedy, it’s probably just as well that the play trailed off slightly after intermission, like a great joke that leaves you with a fit of the giggles. Continue reading

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Jan 27

Historical Footnote: THE CLEARING

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Photo credit: The Wellesley Summer Theatre Company

Presented by The Wellesley Summer Theatre Company
by Helen Edmundson
Directed by Nora Hussey

January 9 – February 2, 2014
Ruth Nagel Jones Theatre
Dana Chapman Walsh Alumnae Hall
Wellesley MA 02481

The theatre is handicapped accessible, for disability services Jim Wice @ 781-283-2434

Review by Craig Idlebrook

(Wellesley) If, like me, you have a history degree that you find yourself using as a doorstop or a paper weight, then you might like any play or movie that has cannons, bodices, and acts of Parliament.  But it’s hard to judge whether a work of historical fiction is actually good, or if it’s just an excuse to geek out on people talking about legislation and wars of yesteryear. Continue reading

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Jan 21

Gritty Art: THE DEVIL’S MUSIC – THE LIFE AND BLUES OF BESSIE SMITH

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 Photo by John Quilty.

Photo by John Quilty.

Presented by Merrimack Repertory Theatre
By Angelo Parra
Concept, Musical Staging, and Direction by Joe Brancato

January 9th – February 2nd, 2014
Lowell, MA
MRT on Facebook

Review by Craig Idlebrook

(Lowell) Do you know the blues?  I mean really know the blues?

I’m not talking about some wannabe pop singer appropriating the blues to make the crowd gasp on American Idol.  I’m not talking about the rock n’ roll hybrid blues that the Rolling Stones used to distance themselves from the Beatles.  I’m talking the unsanitized blues, rife with onion-skin-thin innuendo about graphic sex and domestic violence.  It’s raw and splintered music, the kind where you can taste hunger and oppression and yet you laugh so you don’t cry. Continue reading

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