Mar 08

The Simple Beauty of “Grand Concourse”

Photo by Glenn Perry Photography; full stage with cast.

Presented by SpeakEasy Stage Company
By Heidi Schreck
Directed by Bridget Kathleen O’Leary

March 3-April 1, 2017
539 Tremont Street
Boston, MA 02116
SpeakEasy Stage Company on Facebook

Review by Travis Manni

(Boston, MA) While I try not to make a habit of going to see religious shows, there’s something about the themes of religion that is compelling. They bring people together and allow them to question anything from faith and love to forgiveness and existence. And while playwright Heidi Schreck’s Grand Concourse manages to tackle all of these, what’s captivating about the show is that it does so without forcing religious concepts. Continue reading

Nov 05

Death is Not A Fight You Win: MALA

Presented by ArtsEmerson
Written and performed by Melinda Lopez
Directed by David Dower
Dramaturgy by P. Carl

Oct 27 – Nov. 20, 2016
Audio Described Performance: SAT, NOV 12 @ 2PM
American Sign Language Performance: SAT, NOV 19 @ 2PM
Emerson/Paramount Center
Jackie Liebergott Black Box Theatre
Boston, MA
ArtsEmerson on Facebook

Review by Kitty Drexel

(Boston, MA) Forgiveness is a conscious act of releasing pain. To forgive oneself is to choose to unburden purposeful self-torment. It’s one of the hardest gifts to give ourselves and the most necessary. Mala is not a show about a woman who has forgiven herself for the role she played in her parents deaths. It is about a woman so torn up that she must relive her role in them with each performance. Continue reading

Feb 14

After so long, we’re still back to this: BACK THE NIGHT

2/3/14 Boston Playwrights' Theatre presents 'Back the Night' By Melinda Lopez. Directed by Daniela Varon. February 4-28-2016. With violence on campus rising to epidemic proportions, Em is in total denial. But when her best friend Cassie gets assaulted, Em makes some unexpected personal discoveries. Sometimes you do the wrong thing for the right reason. 2016-02-03_BACKTHENITE_002.jpg - Photograph By Kalman Zabarsky

Presented by Boston Playwrights’ Theatre
Written by Melinda Lopez
Directed by Daniela Varon

February 4-28, 2016
Boston Playwright’s Theatre
Boston, MA
BPT on Facebook

Review by Noelani Kamelamela

Trigger warnings: sexual assault and physical violence, sexual situations, adult language, suicide, mental health, activism

(Boston, MA) Institutional support of criminals and criminal behavior either through incompetence or genuine ignorance is common. Although a college campus is the setting of Melinda Lopez’s Back the Night, it could be a stand-in for a fancy secondary school or any urban space. It is both cheaper and simpler in these forums to blame the victim than actually pursue justice.

Em, Sean and Cassie pit themselves against assault on campus after Cassie is injured one night. Em is the pre-med Nancy Drew who likes putting things into proper boxes and Melissa Jesser portrays her with an intensity that simmers just below the surface. Cassie (Amanda Collins), long an ardent anti-violence advocate, is finally putting a lot of her principles to the test. Sean just wants everyone to make it to graduation alive. Along the way, the undergraduates realize that intentions aren’t pure on any side of the issue. The set served as both metaphor and scenery, with decaying infrastructure and dorm furniture offset by autumn leaves and warm lighting.

When I attended, the audience of mostly college aged students and a few older attendees were both amused and engaged. Although the play is a new work, the topics have been stewing in higher education for some time. Local universities such as Boston University responded in the past three years to federal investigations related to sexual harassment under Title IX by leveraging pre-existing resources and coordinating new sets of training for incoming and ongoing students, staff and faculty. For survivors as well as for those who work at or attend a university, the transitions toward justice seem insignificant and much less than what was promised.

To be fair, there are a lot of great sea changes still occurring: a queer character like Sean, played by a bouncy Evan Horwitz, or a non-white character like Em can exist on a campus, which is a sign of progress. Authorities can’t produce those specific, permanent and positive transitions in a vacuum. Rallying and other forms of pressure by non-authorities as well as pushback, then, is more like a dance: there is movement over time, even if there is no easily discernible direction. Also, dances end, and it can take time before a different dance begins.

Lopez gets the internet’s impact on survivor’s rights in many ways: frequently the ability to reach lots of potential activists doesn’t lead to the revolution, especially since the internet reaches not only sympathetic minds, but also perpetrators and victim-blamers who are all too willing to sit on the sidelines and throw stones. At the very least, perpetrators are not given a forum in the play. There’s still lots of meat to chew on. Even when your friends are a mirror or an inspiration, they can still misunderstand and make demands on your sanity that can be almost as terrible as physical trauma. At a fairly short hour and a half, humor between the three friends lightens the frustration, exhaustion and constant questioning. Lopez has captured the voice of modern undergraduates and also provided a snapshot of the strained relationships of students to the adults who are supposed to guide and shield them.

Next on deck for Boston Playwrights’ Theatre is Rhinoceros a co-production with Suffolk University written by Eugene Ionesco at the Modern from February 25-March 13.

Apr 29

Richly Developed Heroines: BECOMING CUBA

Presented by Huntington Theatre Co
Written by Huntington Playwright-in-Residence Melinda Lopez
Directed by M. Bevin O’Gara

March 28 – May 3, 2014
Calderwood Pavilion at the BCA
Boston, MA
Huntington Co on Facebook

Review by Kitty Drexel

(Boston) Becoming Cuba at the Huntington Theatre is about blood origins. It is about the effect blood-ties have on our decisions, and the indirect way our origins affect the world around us. Specifically, it is about sisters Adele (Christina Pumariega) and Martina (Rebecca Soler) who run a pharmacie in Spanish-occupied Cuba. Adele attempts to remain neutral as war threatens the country she loves: her family fights in the rebellion; her husband died fighting for Spain. As Adele cares for the people of Havana, she comes to understand that loyalty is a complex beast. Love and loyalty can be divided while still remaining whole. Continue reading

Sep 24

Redemption in the Motherf**cker with the Hat

Photo Credit: SpeakEasy Stage Company

by Stephen Adly Guirgis
Directed by David R. Gammons

presented by Speakeasy Stage Company
539 Tremont Street, Boston, Massachusetts 02116
SpeakEasy Stage Company Facebook Page
September 14 – October 13, 2012

Review by Gillian Daniels

(Boston) Speakeasy Stage’s The Motherf**ker with the Hat is a dark comedy that never quite tips over into bleak. Its main characters are addicts, recovering and otherwise, but they either have a sense of humor about it or have learned to accept their shortcomings. Fresh out of jail, Jackie (Jaime Carrillo) tries to break the tight circuit of repeating behaviors that has him locked into a pattern of loving, drinking, and messing up. Continue reading