Feb 02

Beijing to Melbourne to Boston: “Made in China 2.0”

Presented by ArtsEmerson
A Malthouse Theatre Production
Written & Performed by Wang Chong   
Codirected & Production designed by Emma Valente  
Codesigned by Emma Lockhart Wilson  
Dramaturgy by Mark Pritchard

February 1 – 12, 2023
American Sign Language Performance – Saturday, February 11 at 2:00 PM 
Audio Described Performance – Sunday, February 12 at 2:00 PM 
Emerson Paramount Center 
Jackie Liebergott Black Box 
559 Washington Street 
Boston, MA 02111

Recommended for Ages 16+
60 minutes, no intermission

Review by Kitty Drexel

Boston, MA — ArtsEmerson respectfully asked journalists attending Wang Chong’s Made in China 2.0 to please refrain from discussing certain topics in an email days before the performance. They did this to ensure Chong’s safety while he visits the US and when he eventually leaves the US. Boston can be dangerous. 

Journalists were encouraged to discuss Chong as an artist, his previous work, how his work was received, and his upcoming work. We were asked to be sensitive when discussing Chong’s style of theatre-making and why it’s considered risky. 

I readily agreed to ArtsEmerson’s request. Freedom of speech is important to me. The sanctity of human life is too. America loves freedom!  Continue reading

Feb 01

Reach Out and Touch Someone: “Baby Jessica’s Well-Made Play”

Presented by Pipeline Theatre Company
Written by Philip Santos Schaffer
Directed by Isabel Quinzaños Alonso
Performed by Mary Round
Dramaturgy by Anna Woodruff
Sound Design & Composition: Jorge Olivo
Stage Manager: Matt Engle
Producing Consultant: Stefanie Harris

Interested in tickets? Please read the FAQ!

February 1 – March 30, 2023
Your Phone/Zoom, Over 2 nights
From anywhere in the USA
Pipeline on Instagram

Review by Kitty Drexel

Your Phone — It is important for an audience member of Baby Jessica’s Well-Made Play to do some research before attending. I, like a dingus, thought I didn’t need to research the story behind Baby Jessica because she was in the news when I was a kid. 

Friends, I incorrectly thought this play would be hilarious. I was six when 18-month-old Jessica McClure was rescued after being trapped for 58 hours in an abandoned water well in Midland, Texas. Don’t be like me. Please at least the Pipeline Theatre FAQ.

It is very important to note that Baby Jessica’s Well-Made Play is an interactive, conversational play. It occurs over two (2) scheduled evenings. The first evening runs two and a half hours long (150 minutes) but the attendee should give themselves an additional half hour (30 minutes) for setup before the show starts. That is a total of three hours or 180 minutes.  Continue reading

Jan 30

Did she go crazy or did she go crazy at you?: “The Art of Burning”

Presented by The Huntington
In association with Hartford Stage
Written by Kate Snodgrass
Directed by Melia Bensussen
Original music by Jane Shaw
Fight direction and intimacy consultancy by Ted Hewlett
Dramaturgy by Charles Haugland
January 13–February 12, 2023

The Huntington @ Calderwood/BCA
527 Tremont St. 
Boston, MA 02216
The Playbill 

Production trigger warnings: slut shaming, victim blaming, mansplaining, manipulative and controlling behavior

Critique by Kitty Drexel

BOSTON, MA — Theatre doesn’t dive into feminine wrath the same way other media does. M3GAN, a current popular horror movie about a prescient AI doll, Jennifer’s Body (2009), and Teeth (2007) all hit the mainstream in ways that other horror plays haven’t. 

Popular theatre gets the Medea myth, the Greek tale about a half goddess, enchantress and unfortunate mother of Jason’s (of the Argonauts fame) who became so enraged by her husband’s infidelity she mercy-kills his children. Honestly, what did Jason expect? They don’t call it divine retribution for nothing.   

The Art of Burning follows five adults and one teen through vicious divorce proceedings. Patricia (Adrianne Krstansky in a wig that is doing no one any favors) and Jason (Rom Barkhordar) are about to finalize their divorce when Patricia requests full custody of their daughter Beth (Clio Contogenis). Jason’s girlfriend Katya (Vivia Font) is pregnant and Jason wants to keep it. Divorce lawyer and friend Mark (Michael Kaye) and his wife Charlene (Laura Latreille) are having marriage problems of their own.  Continue reading

Jan 13

Somewhere Deep Inside, Love Is Hiding: “Preludes”

Photo by Mark S. Howard.

Presented by the Lyric Stage of Boston
Music, lyrics, book, and orchestrations by Dave Malloy 
Directed by Courtney O’Connor
Music direction by Dan Rodriguez
Dramaturgy by Megan Jepsen, Marieska Luzada
Orchestra: Bethany Aiken, Mindy Cimini on keyboards

Jan. 6 – Feb. 5, 2023
Lyric Stage 
140 Clarendon Street
Boston, MA 02116

RUNNING TIME: APPROXIMATELY 2 HOURS AND 10 MINUTES, INCLUDING A 15-MINUTE INTERMISSION.

Critique by Kitty Drexel

BOSTON, Mass. — As a girl I was introduced to the music of Sergei Rachmaninoff via the 1996 Geoffrey Rush movie Shine about pianist David Helfgott. I remember thinking Rachmaninoff’s music was so wondrous that it would be worth going a little mad to play it so beautifully.

It is terrifically easy for innocent children to romanticize the mental health crisis of adults. I’m an adult now with two degrees in classical music, but I don’t entirely disagree with my teenage self. 

Preludes is Arcade Fire’s Win Butler (minus those pesky sexual assault allegations) meets contemporary musical theatre that arbitrarily skips between the centuries. It’s the story of poor, little rockstar composer Rach (Dan Prior) who suffers from debilitating writer’s block. Rach is seeing Dahl (Aimee Doherty), a hypnotherapist, to break his block and reach the great heights of success again. Rach shares his journey with his fiancee Natalya (Kayla Shimizu), opera singer Chaliapin (Anthony Pires Jr.), and assorted Russian intelligentsia (Will McGarrahan). Dan Rodriguez kicks ass as Rachmaninoff.   

I’m of two minds about Dave Malloy’s Preludes at the Lyric Stage: it’s whiny and navel-gazy; and, it directly attacks the artist’s universal conundrum of creating art that is both valuable and entertaining. The Lyric’s production does not negate itself by doing both simultaneously. 

This is what it is to be an artist. We desperately want to be hired but know that we may never reach our full potential. Every artists has that one brilliant friend who gave up because they couldn’t reconcile all that excruciating, costly, invisible work for lack of career recognition. 

Audiences don’t often get to see artists complaining. As in the rest of life, artists can complain and still feel truly grateful for our discipline and talents. We bitch to our therapist, pick ourselves up again and get back to our art. In Preludes, Rach doesn’t get back to it because he can’t. Artists are people too.  

Audiences will recognize Dave Malloy from his biggest success Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812. Preludes is a great departure from Great Comet. For one thing, it’s mercifully shorter. For another, it has more than the one melody played over and over and over. 

Malloy’s original compositions in Preludes have tight, exposed vocals. Sometimes the vocals are a capella. He incorporates techno elements on two keyboards. Malloy requires vocals to sing lines independent of the techno music. 

The Preludes cast meets Malloys demands and conquers them. Whatever one might think of the script or the music, the cast does a great job. Kayla Shimizu has both an expressive legit voice and impressive, cathartic-sounding mix. Anthony Pires Jr. bounds across the stage as Chaliapin. Will McGarrahan wears many hats while wearing the same shirt. Aimee Doherty charms as Dahl. 

Dan Prior rides waves of Rach’s mental health to the big breakdown in Act 2 like a professional surfer. Prior and director O’Connor paced both acts uncannily well to preserve Prior’s energy and the audience’s patience. By the time Rach is ready to tell his Big Tale, we’re ready to hear it. 

Music director Dan Rodriguez is the soft-focus star of Preludes. He plays piano center stage, rarely looks up from the keyboard and utters few words over the course of the two-hour production. He hovers omniscient, observant, seen and unseen. 

The actors drift around Rodriguez weaving Malloy’s story, but it’s Rodriguez who does the impossible work of interpreting Rachmaninoff’s genius and then threading Malloy’s compositions under and through. Then Malloy asks his music director to conduct from the stage. And then Malloy asks him to sing.  

Rodriguez is a known, beloved music director in Boston. Rodriguez has the trust of his cast, his unseen orchestra, and the audience. We believe his Rachmaninoff and in his skill at the piano. This may be his most challenging role to date, and he meets it with aplomb. He takes a risk coming in front of the curtain. It pays off.

Photo by Mark S. Howard.

The “Who’s Who in Preludes” playbill article adds a thoughtful touch to the playgoing experience. It puts nine faces to nine famous name drops in the show and gives the audience something to consider during the intermission. (Such as how Tolstoy maintained such an exact yet plush eyebrow to mustache hair ratio). We’re introduced to how each knows Rachmaninoff and why they are important to Preludes. More dramaturgy is HERE.

For those of you who know what it is to have spoken with the muses and be abandoned by them, it is no small thing to have experienced their presence. Attempting to call them back is painful, embarrassing, and painfully embarassing. Malloy’s work represents his experiences. It isn’t universal. Be kind. 

People want/need art but don’t want to pay artists a living wage. Preludes asks an audience to see an artist as a person, an imperfect, breakable person with more flaws than genius or friends. We ask a lot of our artists. Preludes asks us to give a little more than money and time. 

Dec 23

One Big Deep Breath. Now: “Chicken & Biscuits”

Presented by Front Porch Arts Collective
In partnership with Suffolk University
Written by Douglas Lyons
Directed by Lyndsay Allyn Cox
Dramaturgy by Juliette Volpe
Fight/intimacy consultations by Ted Hewlett

Dec. 9, 2022 – Jan. 8, 2023
Modern Theater
525 Washington St.
Boston, MA 02108

Critique by Kitty Drexel

BOSTON, Mass. — For centuries white people told the lie that the white experience is universal. Theatre is about universal stories, we white people said. If a story is truly universal, it can be played by any cast and be seen by anyone, and the intended message will still resonate. 

These days, it’s less about convincing producers that Black people can tell a story; it’s about convincing white people that they’ll appreciate a show created for someone else first, white people last. My fellow white people, if you can love Lizzo, an artist who has said to ETonline she makes music for the Black experience, you can love a play like The Porch’s Chicken & Biscuits

In St. Luke’s Church in New Haven, CT, sisters Baneatta Mabry (award-winning Boston actor Jacqui Parker) and Beverly Jenkins (Thomika Bridwell) are mourning the death of their father Bernard Jenkins. Reginald Mabry (Robert Cornelius) is leading the service for Bernard while being a supportive husband to Baneatta but the drama is flying too high for Reginald to catch up.  Continue reading

Dec 20

She Sets Fire to the Smell of Lemons: “OTP” at BPT

Blanca Isabella, Hampton Richards; Photo by Stratton McCrady.

Presented by Boston Playwrights’ Theatre and the Boston University New Play Initiative
Written by Elise Wien
Directed by Enzo Gonzales
Cultural consultant: Ciera-Sadé Wade
Intimacy coaching by Jess Scout Malone
Featuring: Hampton Richards, Blanca Isabella, Diego Cintròn, Dom Carter

December 8-18, 2022
Boston Playwrights’ Theatre
949 Commonwealth Ave.
Boston, MA 02215

Content Advisory: This play contains mentions of suicide and depictions of self-harm.

Review by Kitty Drexel

BOSTON, Mass — OTP is the acronym for One True Pairing, which identifies a person’s favorite fictional romantic relationship. In Wien’s OTP, now closed, best friends Michelle (Hampton Richards) and Ceci (Blanca Isabella) are co-writing a submission to Madame Tussaud’s “Melt Your Heart Out” fanfiction contest. 

Their fanfic features a teenage President Barack Obama (Diego Cintròn doing good accent work). Obama is the leader of the free world during the day and immortal stealer of hearts by night. Suspend your disbelief. OTP is worth it. 

All is well until their lives outside the fanfiction writing intrude on their work: Michelle is running for JSA President! Ceci is writing solo fanfic! Both girls learn that there is more to friendship than convenience and (relation)shipping the same world leader. Dom Carter stars as an uncannily familiar politician with amnesia whom Ceci must rescue from mutant foxes in apocalyptic Illinois.  Continue reading

Dec 16

Fear Is the Mind Killer: “Life of Pi” at A.R.T.

Presented by American Repertory Theater
Based on the novel by Yann Martel
Adapted by Lolita Chakrabarti
Directed by Max Webster
Scenic and Costume Design by Tim Hatley
Puppetry and Movement Direction by Finn Caldwell
Puppet Design by Nick Barnes by Finn Caldwell
Video Design by Andrzej Goulding
Lighting Design by Tim Lutkin
Sound Design by Carolyn Downing
Original Music by Andrew T. Mackay
Dramaturgy by Jack Bradley

Dec. 6, 2022 – Jan. 29, 2023
Loeb Drama Center
64 Brattle Street
Cambridge, MA 02138

“I must not fear. 
Fear is the mind-killer. 
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. 
I will face my fear. 
I will permit it to pass over me and through me. 
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. 
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. 
Only I will remain.”
– The Bene Gesserit’s “Litany Against Fear” from Dune by Frank Herbert

Critique by Kitty Drexel

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Life of Pi at American Repertory is for fans who loved the novel and the movie. It’s for people who loved the movie, too. Life of Pi may also appeal to people who don’t regularly attend the theatre but enjoy a spectacle epic. 

Life of Pi the stage adaptation is not for children. The movie was rated PG, but the theatrical version is PG-13 at least. Puppets are no longer an indication of child-friendly content. Life of Pi’s puppets can be graceful and inspire wonder – yes – they also rightly invoke fear.  Continue reading

Dec 07

Joy to the Sacred and the Ordinary: “Black Nativity”

Image from “Black Nativity” Facebook page.

Presented by The National Center of Afro-American Artists
https://blacknativity.org/
Executive Producer and Director: Voncille Ross
Choreographer: George Howard
Ballet Mistress: Desiree Springer
Choral Director, Children of Black Persuasion: Marilyn Andry
Choral Director, Voices of Black Persuasion: Milton L. Wright
Stage Manager: Brion-Michael Rock
Board of Directors – Margaret Burnham and Vivian Johnson, Co-Chairpersons, Kafi Meadows, Frances Bernat, Denzil D. McKenzie, Melissa Nobles, Amy Olatunji, Honorable Milton L. Wright

December 2 – 18, 2022, weekends, with matinees at 3:30 pm and evening shows at 8 pm
Robert J. Orchard Stage
Paramount Center
559 Washington Street
Boston, MA 02111

Review by Craig Idlebrook

BOSTON, Mass — There are competing ideas in the narrative of the traditional Christian nativity story – that the son of God is born and that a young woman who is temporarily homeless gives birth to a child in a barn and the child is loved. One of the most profound aspects of Black Nativity, a long-running production of Langston Hughes’ holiday show, is that it deftly gives equal weight to both.

The poet Hughes, who wrote the book and utilized traditional Christmas carols for this musical, first staged Black Nativity off-Broadway in 1961. Less than a decade later, in 1969, the play was first performed in Boston. The Boston production has become a beloved, if sometimes overlooked, holiday tradition here for more than a half century, and taking part in the cast has become an intergenerational endeavor for some Black families in the area. Continue reading

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
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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