Critiques and Commentary: Moonbox’s 3rd Annual Boston New Works Festival

Presented by Moonbox Productions as part of the 3rd Annual
Boston New Works Festival
 Partnered with the Theatre Community Benevolent Fund

June 20-23, 2024
Calderwood Pavilion
Boston Center for the Arts
527 Tremont St 
Boston, MA

Critique by Kitty Drexel

BOSTON — Moonbox had its 3rd annual Boston New Works Festival at the BCA. The three performances I attended on different two days were well attended. This is a hopeful sign that the Boston theatre ecology is healing from lockdown. We love to see it.

The festival hosted readings and staged performances of new works by living playwrights over four days. The BCA’s foyers were alive with visual art by local artists. Actors, crew, and designers bustled from show to show with audience members. Moonbox did a good job of telling attendees they were in the right place: brave, tireless volunteers handed out playbill inserts and directed attendees; free pins awaited pickup on tables with festival information.

The bathrooms were atrocious, but that’s a festival for you. Transfer times from show to show were rushed, but that should be expected, too.

The vibes were otherwise positive and the seats had butts in them. Theatre is a lifestyle choice, and it was a good weekend to choose the theatre.

Moonbox partnered with TCBF to produce the 2024 3rd Annual Boston New Works Festival. TCBF provides financial relief to its community members in times of need. It is a venerable organization. Please consider donating. No donation is too large.

How To Not Save the World with Mr. Bezos
A reading
By Maggie Kearnan
Directed by Taylor Stark
Attended June 22, 4 PM

“I met a traveller from an antique land,
Who said—“Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. . . . Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;
And on the pedestal, these words appear:
My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”
-By Percy Bysshe Shelley

Maggie Kearnan’s How To Not Save the World with Mr. Bezos answers the question “Why haven’t any billionaires become Batman” with intense alacrity. The play also exercises Pierre Gaspard Chaumetteto’s infamous 1793 call to “Eat the Rich” by throwing a BBQ in honor of one billionaire’s hubris. With 4th-wall bending, minimal staging, and a catchy sing-a-long musical interlude, the June 22 performance was a reading but its preparation showed us HTNSTWWMB was (mostly) ready for a staged production.

To radically summarize: How To Not Save the World with Mr. Bezos is an interview between an independent journalist, Beaumont (Jessica Golden), a fastidious Fact Checker (Jacob Schmitt), and the notorious resource hoarder who is definitely not Batman, Iron Man, or even Green Arrow, Jeff “couldn’t be arsed to save the Amazon rainforest when it was literally on fire” Bezos (Brooks Reeves). The interview begins calmly but swiftly devolves into a socialist’s absurd wet dream. Lucy Leahy read the stage directions.

The first two acts of the play were engrossing; the third act lagged. A lot happens in the third act. Kearnan expects her audience to digest new information and sudden consequences at points during the show when a lifetime of performance media and literature has told us to expect resolutions instead. Instead of resolving, the audience is expected to digest more. The script keeps going. We felt overwhelmed. 

The characters presented by Golden, Schmitt, and Reeves were entrancing; they kept a good pace set by director Stark and kept their energy sky-high. We wanted to know who they were and why they were in a room together. 

Playwright Kearnan writes sympathy into her characters. It’s this sympathy that sews doubt in the audience’s minds. We come to realize just as good, law-abiding persons are capable of inhumane acts of cruelty, so are despots capable of incredible kindness. For better or for worse, humans contain multitudes.    


By John Minigan
Directed by Allison Choat
Dramaturgy by Bridget Kathleen O’Leary 
Attended on June 22, 6 PM

New Hampshire’s motto is “Live free or die.” Some folks will bend over backward to live freely while denying you the same right. They’ll say they believe in small government for guns while also regulating the heck out of uteruses. Local Hannaford’s have been hosts for impromptu prayer circles. It’s not a stretch for John Minigan’s Covenant to occur in New Hampshire. 

Covenant has two locations: a religious compound in rural New Hampshire, and an empty room in a government facility. Jordan (played on Saturday evening by Kelly Chick. She was on on-book but performed so naturally you wouldn’t know it) is a government agent meant to infiltrate the compound and report on its potential for violent action. She reports to and is debriefed by a disembodied Voice (Matthew Zahnzinger) located behind a wall through a microphone. Jordan tells us about Creed (Phil Taylor) a charismatic cult leader, Eleanor (Ashley Victoria Jones who led with poise and dignity), and Rachel (Sophie Salsman Collins) a sensitive, young acolyte with special gifts. Over 90 minutes, we learn about Jordan’s grave experiences and how even small changes to a mission by one person can irreparably alter the lives of many. 

New Hampshire is my home state. I know firsthand how a person can walk a little too long into the New Hampshire woods and find themself deeply lost. You might hear a person scream, or you might not. You might hear a gunshot on a weeknight, or you might not. Your gaslighting may depend on what the good ole boys in the small-town police want you to believe.

I found Covenant to be a chilling 90-minute ride down conspiracy theory memory lane that kept me on the edge of my seat. My date didn’t. They said the show’s pace wandered and the energy lagged. Multiple things can be true at the same time. 

We both agreed that the subject matter was creepy. It’s terrifying how cultish the federal government is and how governmental cults can be. Multiple things can be true at the same time.

We both agreed the acting was great. Collins is eerie as the preternaturally bright Rachel. Zagnzinger’s voice plus sound designer Adam Smith’s placement of the voice throughout the black box was unsettling. Costumes by Ailey Rivkin captured the icky aesthetics of Christianity’s hypocritical modesty standards for women. 

New Hampshire is a conservative place. People tend not to see or not hear a lot in the backwoods. People mind their own damn business out there, too. So, if a group of “Christians” decided to start a “cult,” locals would mind their own damn business about it lest someone turned questions back on them and how they spend their Sundays.

Covenant passes the Bechdel test. It’s not an entertaining show, but it gave us a lot to talk about on our T trip home. 


Holy Chicken Sandwich 
By Kira Rockwell
Directed by Cassie Chapados
Dramaturgy by Cassie Chapados
Attended June 23, 3 PM

In the parking lot of your local fast food joint, denizens are congregating to win a chance at free food for a year. They packed their bags and popped their tents to spend the night huddled in the lot without heating, air conditioning, or indoor plumbing. Jade (Lindsay Eagle who imbued the show with lots of flair and well-times eye twitches) is your overwhelmed but devoted store and rally manager with up-to-date announcements. It’s her job to ensure the event goes smoothly. Little does she know the Powers That Be have seized control of the event and the timeline of Jade’s destiny.

We watch as Jade overcomes unforeseen obstacles, miracles of science, and freaks of a hallucinogenic nature. Vivian Liu-Somers, Eli Saracino, Kevin Groppe, Kandyce Whittingham, and Kit Newell play influencers, franchise employees, faithful worshipers, and other supporting characters. 

We’re still talking about Holy Chicken Sandwich. This show is like a Chick-fil-A/McDonald’s cult fantasy fever dream in which only Colonel Sander’s most precious stakeholders get to ascend to Nirvana by never touching a single crumb of sandwich dust. From soup to deez crusty nuts, this show was a trip.

The performance of this play was nearly derailed by holes in its pacing. Ensemble members were sometimes so focused on erecting tents and placing props that the quirky dialogue came to a standstill. The cast did their best to improvise lines to keep the momentum going, but they were not effective. This play needed a tech person.

The KFC and Chick-fil-A-like props by Sarabeth Spector and the chicken costumes by E Rosser were brilliant. The audience instinctually understood the inspirations for both but no legal representation could send a cease and desist letter. Props and costumes made the show funnier, and it is already a cleverly funny show. Kudos to the cast members for their willingness to commit to the unhinged hilarity of the chicken-related togs.    

Holy Chicken Sandwich is funny but, right now, that’s all it is. It has the potential for depth: there is a queer relationship subplot that is sweetly romantic but manifests at the last minute out of nowhere; the play’s third act transcends science fiction and fantasy norms by incorporating off-realm characters with grand wisdom also out of nowhere; then, our heroine is joined for a lawnchair epilogue that further attempts to resolve characters’ relationship issues that didn’t need a full scene to resolve. The last 20 minutes included so much resolution I was hoping someone would resolve my problems if I raised my hand. The show went on for a while.   

Holy Chicken Sandwich has a lot of heart and a lot of puns. Our audience had a good time because the cast was having a blast. There is great potential in it for a clucking good time. 

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