Jul 24

Ladies Pondering Lives, Fashion in “Love, Loss, and What I Wore”

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Presented by Hub Theatre Company of Boston
by Nora & Delia Ephron
based on the book by Ilene Beckerman
directed by Paula Plum

July 19 – August 3, 2013
The First Church in Boston
66 Marlborough Street
Boston, MA 02116
Hub Theatre Co of Boston Facebook Page

Review by Gillian Daniels

(Boston) Until recently, I scorned “chick lit” and “chick flicks,” resenting the idea that light, fluffy fare was meant for women alone.  I’ve begun to wonder, however, if the label has been stuck on books and films having to do with women because of how the material is approached or because it’s about women, period.  It’s an insulting, dismissive label and it would be a little too easy to slap it on Love, Loss, and What I Wore. Continue reading

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Mar 04

Clybourne Park: Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

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Michael Kaye, Thomas Derrah, Marvelyn McFarlane, DeLance Minefee, Paula Plum, and Tim Spears in a scene from SpeakEasy Stage’s production of Clybourne Park, running March 1-30 at the Calderwood Pavilion at the Boston Center for the Arts. Tickets/info at speakeasystage.com or 617.933.8600. Photo by Craig Bailey/Perspective Photo.

By Bruce Norris

Directed by M. Bevin O’Gara

Presented by Speakeasy Stage Company

March 1 – March 30

Nancy & Edward Roberts Theatre at the Boston Center for the Arts Boston, MA

Speakeasy Stage Co Facebook Page

Review by Becca Kidwell

A strong script elevates a performance or points out the flaws of the company.  Speakeasy Stage’s production of Clybourne Park demonstrates its mastery through a strong ensemble, innovative set, and smart direction.  After seeing Clybourne Park, there is no question why this clever, dark play won at the Tony Awards in 2012.  When Boston sees Speakeasy Stage’s production, they will be talking about it for the rest of 2013 (Norton and IRNE awards in its future?).  The ensemble, comprised of Paula Plum, Thomas Derrah, Marvelyn McFarlane, Tim Spears, DeLance Minefee, Michael Kaye, and Philana Mia, pulls the audience into a dynamic confrontation between politics and politeness that never apologizes Continue reading

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Jan 09

“33 Variations”: Beethoven Mired in Melodrama

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Photo credit: Mark S. Howard; snuggles with Beethoven.

Photo credit: Mark S. Howard; snuggles with Beethoven.

By Moises Kaufman
Directed by Spiro Veloudos

presented by The Lyric Stage Company of Boston
140 Clarendon Street, 2nd floor
Boston, MA  02116
Lyric Stage Facebook Page

Review  by Gillian Daniels

(Boston) In Moises Kaufman’s 33 Variations, only works of genius transcend death. Musicologist Dr. Katherine Brandt (Paula Plum) throws herself into her studies of Ludwig van Beethoven when diagnosed with a debilitating disease. Brandt’s crisis is contrasted with Beethoven (James Andreassi) as he loses his hearing in 1823.

The contemporary setting is ultimately too light when played side by side with history. Katherine fights against her illness tooth and nail as she struggles to complete her research in Germany, but where that illness should be driving the drama, it instead turns 33 Variations into an issue piece when it could have been so much more.

Katherine’s strained relationship with her daughter, Clara (Dakota Shepard), never feels terribly real, which is disappointing. I understand why Katherine demands perfection of her adult child but I don’t understand why those demands still inspire such loyalty in Clara. It’s not that it isn’t heartening to watch her help Katherine through her sickness, but the relationship feels weak.

Even weaker, though, is Clara’s romance with Mike Clark (Kelby T. Akin), her mother’s nurse. It’s cute in a romantic comedy sort of way. Still, a male nurse dating a distressed, emotionally vulnerable woman strains believability. Despite this, their courtship is cute and humorous. Remembering his profession and under what circumstances their affair transpires, though, wrecks the illusion.

33 Variations is most alive when it deals with history and those obsessed with it. Beethoven’s struggle to write thirty-three variations of a mediocre waltz is thrilling. We can see exactly why Katherine is so passionate about him and his life. It also explains why a friendship grows between her and Dr. Gertrude Ladenburger (Maureen Keiller) while they do research in the Beethoven archives. The really interesting story, the one about art and talent transcending time, is there. It’s just buried under melodrama.

Now, the melodrama isn’t all bad, but it’s best when finding the bittersweet humor of Katherine’s difficulties. Otherwise, the story of a genius plagued by the perils of infirmity has been done before and better. Here, despite Paula Plum’s nuanced acting, the story drags.

Perhaps the strongest quality of the play is the way in which this well-mined material is staged. The actors really throw themselves into their roles, deftly pealing away the layers of melancholy to the humor and hope beneath the material. Pianist Catherine Stornetta does the most to breathe life into the show as she plays each variation.

It’s also magical to watch Beethoven share the stage with Katherine. When Katherine talks with Clara and Beethoven yells at his assistant, Anton Schindler (Victor L. Shopov), their conversations in their respective eras weave together. They are separate from each other only by degrees, knitted together by the desire to continue living fully and happily.

For the play, it’s an unfortunate separation that does it no favors. Katherine’s own deterioration is depicted well, but much too weak to carry a story on its own. As it is, 33 Variations tugs heartstrings, but doesn’t transcend its melodramatic trappings. If only the show had been more ambitious, maybe even as ambitious as the art that it depicts, then it would have really shined.

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Oct 09

A Stylish, Creepy “Macbeth”

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Photo Credit Stratton McCrady Photography

by William Shakepeare
directed by Paula Plum

Actors’ Shakespeare Project
Chevalier Theatre
Medford, MA
Oct 03, 2012 – Nov 04, 2012
Actor’s Shakespeare Project Facebook Page

Review by Gillian Daniels

(Medford) The Actors’ Shakespeare Project’s Macbeth wraps itself in a pleasing 1920’s aesthetic. Opening in the midst of a funeral procession, Latin is chanted for a tiny coffin as the witches follow in nun habits. Lady Macbeth (Mara Sidmore) turns to hush them as the funeral ends and she sits down to listen to the radio. The effect of the historical displacement is gorgeous and creepily off-putting. Continue reading

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Nov 02

The Divine Sister: Holy Moly!

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A postulant (Sasha Castroverde, left) is serenaded by her Mother Superior (Jeffery Roberson aka Varla Jean Merman, right) in a scene from the SpeakEasy Stage Company production of The Divine Sister, running now thru Nov. 19. Photo: Craig Bailey/Perspective Photo.

The Divine Sister by Charles Busch, Speakeasy Stage Company, Nancy and Edward Roberts Studio Theatre at the Boston Center for the Arts, 10/21/11-11/19/11, http://www.speakeasystage.com/doc.php?section=showpage&page=divine. Contains adult language and content.

Reviewed by Becca Kidwell

(Boston, MA) “The hills are alive–with the sounds of…” *gag* (Hold on. Sometimes when I get emotional I tend to gag. Well, not really, but a nun or two in this play do and it becomes a running gag). Charles Busch and Speakeasy Stage Company bring singing, biking, and wrestling nuns to the stage. With cheek and pluck, Speakeasy Stage furnishes a delightful trip to the world of nun movies, tv shows, and musicals.

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May 02

Antony and Cleopatra (ASPBoston): To the mattresses

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Antony & Cleopatra by William Shakespeare, Actors’ Shakespeare Project, The Modern Theatre at Suffolk University, 4/27/11-5/21/11.  http://www.actorsshakespeareproject.org/season7/antony_cleo.html.

Reviewed by Becca Kidwell

Photo by Stratton McCrady

Actors’ Shakespeare Project continues to bring intelligible Shakespeare to Boston.  One of Shakespeare’s most complicated plots of politics and passion, Antony and Cleopatra can leave Shakespeare neophytes confused and questioning.  This production provides a clear path for understanding and appreciation of the text.

The backdrop, designed by Jeff Adelberg, looks like a collection of mattress coils that make up a wall.  This suggestive detail reflects Antony’s decision-making processes.  Antony is caught up in his love and does not recognize the ever-present threat of his fellow triumvirate colleague, Octavius.  Octavius uses Antony’s distraction to destroy the triumvirate and become emperor of Rome. Continue reading

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