10 Minute Stretch Breaks: “Dream Boston”

Presented by the Huntington Theatre Company
Dream Boston: A New Series of Audio Plays
The 54th in ’22 by Kirsten Greenidge
McKim by Brenda Withers
Overture by Kate Snodgrass
By the Rude Bridge by Melinda Lopez

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Critique by Noelani Kamelamela

STREAMING – I appreciate theatre makers using online platforms to present pre-recorded work or livestream theatrical content. In these times, when it is prudent for people not to be in theatres or congregating outdoors for a concert, the creation of work that can be digested at home or even on a lunch break is a political act beyond taking general responsibility for the health and welfare of a community by cancelling in person productions.

Dream Boston is easy to digest in four separate audio plays and can be listened to with an internet connection on someone’s phone for less than ten minute stretches.  The playwrights and the directors for Dream Boston are women.

Thematically, each play which is a part of Dream Boston takes place in the future. So, hope is one goal, clearly:  the honest belief that Boston and many people who live in Boston will weather COVID-19.

Kristin Greenidge’s play The 54th in ‘22 was more of the moment than I had expected. In addition to being an awkward first in-person date, there is mention of not only the pandemic but the protests immediately after.  It is simple to imagine more scenes spinning out of the conversation between Greg (Brandon G. Green) and Nola (Lyndsay Allyn Cox).

This future Boston is interesting even if their conversation isn’t electrifying.  The lack of chemistry between them is spun as nervousness and misunderstandings. I did get the sense that they both characters have not met new people in a long time.

Brenda Withers’ McKim is a much cuter meet-cute, in part because the actors already arrive at their scene at different levels. They are guided by that hesitant fascination most Bostonians experience when a stranger approaches them and actually speaks.

Lilian Nuñez (Krystal Hernandez) is a live wire looking for a book and Edward Librarian (Nael Nacer) plays the straightest of straight men, or rather straightest of librarians.  She doesn’t get exactly what she expects.  Their playful banter reminds me of many of the random interactions between strangers that used to happen around the City (and will hopefully happen again someday).

Overture by Kate Snodgrass steers clear of the romance. The 4th of July can be romantic, but instead, an MIT custodian (Richard Snee) helps a woman (Elle Borders) commemorate her dad’s passing in a special way. Since their setting is even further from this year, there are no direct mentions of 2020, which is refreshing even though there are callbacks to coronavirus. In their voices you can hear grief, but also the joy of knowing a person, a specific and unique person whose memory they both hold dear.

I’m pleased that By the Rude Bridge, which uses only one actor primarily, Lonnie Farmer, whose voice is majestic and calming even when he has to channel harsh emotions. Farmer’s voice gently holds you as he retells his part in reenacting Boston’s first colonial victory five years from now.  I re-listening to this play just for the soothing tone of his voice.  I could listen to him read the phone book.

Sound in all four plays with music as well as incidental foley highlights another dimension that the Huntington is adept at during staged productions.  The audio exists as another character that establishes time and place or simply moves action along.  The sound design is seamless and there is both pre and post show narration by Artist in Residence Melinda Lopez.

I’m struck by the radical hope in these plays and the questions they pose regarding what is most important to humanity and what we need to collectively remember from this time. I appreciate that these characters do not imagine a world without the coronavirus, but a world that has survived.

The important things in life such as family, joy, companionship:  we’ll still have these things even if we don’t all make it.  I like these futures that feel familiar.  The landmarks are familiar; the banter feels familiar.  I’m sad that there are no flying cars or universal healthcare but it was overall a very pleasant way to spend an hour of time.

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