Nov 20

Art and Capitalist Consumption and “Room&Board&Opera”

Presented by Boston Opera Collaborative
Music by Jonathan Bailey Holland
Libretto for “The Battle of Bull Run Always Makes Me Cry” and “Naomi in the Living Room” by Jonathan Bailey Holland
Libretto for “Always” by Jon Jory
Music Director & Pianist for “Always” by Patricia Au
Stage Director for “Always” by Ingrid Oslund
Music Director & Pianist for “The Battle of Bull Run Always Makes Me Cry” and “Naomi in the Living Room” by Jean Anderson Collier

November 7, 2019
Room&Board
375 Newbury Street, 
Boston, MA 02115
Room&Board&Opera

Review by Gillian Daniels

(Boston, MA) Room & Board is a US-chain of upscale furniture stores that started in Minnesota about three decades ago. The particular one I went to on Newbury Street has a showroom that has been utilized in a number of Boston-based events, so maybe it’s not so surprising that a theater company would see an opportunity to bring art into an unlikely space. Boston Opera Collaborative has pushed forward with this unexpected, incongruously hilarious venue, setting three, ten-minute comic operas in this space for what was a one-night only event and a unique moment in my time as a theater critic. Continue reading

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Oct 24

“My Fascination with Creepy Ladies” and a Complete Replication of Poe

Foreground, front to back: Siobhan Carroll, Luz Lopez, Elena Toppo.
Background, front to back: C. Padraig Sullivan, Christine Power, Jessica Golden

Presented by Anthem Theatre Company
A Collection of Horrors by Edgar Allan Poe
Conceived and Directed by Bryn Boice
Featuring Anthem company members Michael Poignand, Johnny Kinsman, Siobhan Carroll, Olivia Z. Cote, Sarah Gazdowicz, Jessica Golden, Katie Grindeland, Luz Lopez, Jessica Scout Malone, Eric McGowan, Christine Power, C. Padraig Sullivan, and Elena Toppo.
Designed by Bridget K. Doyle and Theona White

October 17 – November 3, 2019
South End / BCA Plaza Theatres
Plaza Black Box Theatre
539 Tremont Street
Boston, MA 02116
Event on Facebook

Review by Gillian Daniels

(Boston, MA) Berenice, Annie, Ligeia, Rowena, Annabel Lee, Morella, Lenore, and so many others– an archetype with many names collapsed into a single, waifish woman with hair that hangs loose over her shoulders and a hint of otherworldliness. Meanwhile, the heroes and narrators of these stories are boiled down into the figure of a melancholic, bow-tied, possibly opium-addled narrator.

The woman in question is always on the verge of death, or has already died, but in the wake of that death, she is somehow made more beautiful, powerful, and entrancing. In Anthem Theatre Company’s My Fascination with Creepy Ladies, these characters are now four, leering, dancing, and laughing Creepy Ladies that haunt eight, terrorized, pale, bow-tied Poes. Continue reading

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Jun 25

“Corteo”: What Circus Dreams May Come

Presented by Cirque du Soleil 
Directed and Created by Daniele Finzi Pasca and Line Tremblay
Music Composed and Directed by Jean-Francois Cote, Phillipe LeDuc, and Maria Bonzanigo

June 19th – June 30th, 2019
Agganis Arena
925 Commonwealth Avenue
Boston, MA 02215
Corteo on Facebook

Review by Gillian Daniels

(Boston, MA) Mauro, the Dreamer Clown, tells the audience, “I dreamed of my funeral.” Except it’s no dream; this character is actually on his deathbed. A funeral becomes a party and the party becomes a circus. Angels fly on wires above, shoes walk across the stage on their own, and our narrator relives childhood memories while he’s fitted for wings. The somber frame narrative balances the rest of the show, which is cheeky, saccharine, and full of dream imagery that seems to have been cut, raw, from a sleeper’s mind. Continue reading

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May 22

An Alternate Tyranny and Timeline in Handel’s “Silla”


Presented by The Cambridge Chamber Ensemble
Music by G.F. Handel
Libretto by Giacomo Rossi
Music Directed by Juliet Cunningham
Stage Directed by Ingrid Oslund
Produced/Executive Direction/Translation by Martha Birnbaum
Rossana Chung, violin
Rob Bethel, violincello
Lisa Putukian, oboe
Juliet Cunningham, harpsichord
May 17 – May 19, 2019
Warehouse IX
Somerville, MA
The Cambridge Chamber Ensemble on Facebook

Review by Gillian Daniels

(Somerville, MA) Roselin Osser as Silla has the wild eyes, swagger, and exquisite cheekbones of a villain as he dominates the stage. In this alternate version of 2019, the Roman Republic is alive and well and Silla, after a successful military campaign, announces that he plans to rule as Perpetual Dictator of Rome. The reporters are horrified. Silla’s wife, Metella (the hilarious Theresa Egan) grits her teeth and stands by her man. As Silla begins to openly lust after other women and jail his political enemies, however, Melania–I mean, Metella, yes, begins to wonder just how much her loyalty to a tyrant husband is worth. Continue reading

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May 07

“black odyssey boston”: Greek Myth Meshes Beautifully with African Diaspora

Brandon G. Green & Johnny Lee Davenport. Photo: Nile Scott Studios.

Presented by by The Front Porch Arts Collective & Underground Railway Theater
Written by Marcus Gardley
Directed by Benny Sato Ambush
Choreographed by Melissa Alexis
Music Directed by Alyssa Jones

April 25 – May 19, 2019
Central Square Theatre
450 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02139
black odyssey boston on Facebook

Review by Gillian Daniels

(Cambridge, MA) Brandon G. Green is Ulysses Malcolm Lincoln, a soldier who’s unmoored. Not just unmoored on the sea, but unmoored in time, place, and personhood. We follow him on a journey as episodic as The Odyssey with as much raw, mythic power. The classic epic has been broken down and rebuilt with a mosaic of African diaspora culture. black odyssey boston is truly an epic in that it is three hours of fantastical and strange adventures. It finds its way home, however, not when it tries to piece together every popular touchstone it can lay its hands on, but when it focuses on the human relationships of its characters. Continue reading

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Apr 22

A Bone to Pick with “Sylvia”

Photo by David Costa; L/R: Allan Mayo (Greg) and Shana Dirik (Sylvia)

Presented by Theater UnCorked
Directed by Michelle M. Aguillon
Written by A.R. Gurney

April 18-21, 2019
Calderwood Pavilion
539 Tremont Street
Boston, MA 02116
Theater UnCorked on Facebook

Review by Gillian Daniels

(Boston, MA) You need to know that I really love dogs. I watch videos on YouTube of dogs playing, ashamed of chewing through things, and mindlessly devoted to various owners as they try to follow them to work. But in watching Sylvia, I couldn’t make space in my heart for it the way I have done for pitbulls, goldens, and mutts. The story is just that the dog’s played by a lady (Shana Dirk) and the man who adopts her, Greg (Allan Mayo, who has a gentle, nervous presence), adores her while the put-upon, uptight wife, Kate (the formidable Kim McClure), is jealous. Repeat joke until end of play. Curtain. And folks who want just that out of their theater experience will be satisfied. Continue reading

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Apr 18

Drinking with Aristotle in “Ipsa Dixit”

Presented by Original Gravity Concert Series
Music & Libretto by Kate Soper
Performed by Equilibrium
Soprano: Stephanie Lamprea,
Violin & Acting Music Director: Nicole Parks
Flute: Orlando Cela
Percussion: Mike Williams

April 12th at 7:30pm
Inner Space
17 Station Street
Brookline, MA, 02445
Original Gravity on Facebook

Review by Gillian Daniels

(Brookline, MA) Ipsa Dixit is Art with a capital, “AH,” an often playful and highly erudite experiment with language and music chiefly meant for people who are already into That Kind of Thing. As a whole, it doesn’t have a clear entrypoint for laymen. This is, at least partially, about the meaning of words vs. the intent of the isolated mind that created them, ie. the vast chasm between expressing something verbally and the isolated brain meat where that verbiage was formed. So yes, it certainly falls into the category of My Thing, with its mosaic of words excerpted from the works of Aristotle, Sophocles, Freud, and Lydia Davis, among others. The music layered on top of these various texts construct an impressionistic portrait of what that language feels like. If you have ever found yourself hungry for a tense drama about a diagrammed sentence, this show is for you. During its two intermissions, there were people who bounced so solidly off the text, they ended up bouncing themselves. Otherwise, others stuck it out for the impressive oddity of Soper’s work as well as the free drinks provided by participating breweries. Continue reading

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Apr 03

“Don Giovanni” Reframed for Our Troubled Times

Photo via Boston Opera Collaborative

Presented by Boston Opera Collaborative
Music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Libretto by Lorenzo Da Ponte
Stage Direction by Patricia Maria-Weinman and Greg Smucker
Conducted by Tianhui Ng

March 28 – April 6
Ben Franklin Institute of Technology
41 Berkeley Street
Boston, MA 02116
Don Giovanni on Facebook

Content warning: Assault and sexual assault

Critique by Gillian Daniels

(Boston, MA) This iteration of Don Giovanni begins with a projection of the infamous pussy-grabbing quote from our Cheeto-in-Chief. It goes on to present images of Brett Kavanaugh, Kevin Spacey, Harvey Weinstein, and so many (too many) others. From minute one, it’s clear this is a production without subtlety, but for those of us who wake up in dread of what the news will say about the continued degradation of women’s rights in the United States, this is exactly the production we need. To use Don Giovanni as a lens to view our very national moment is a bold move and a difficult one to land. Continue reading

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Mar 26

“Not Medea”: Scorned Woman Gets Her Say

Photo by Jake Scaltreto. Who is their right mind double-crosses a half goddess, dark sorceress capable of patricide on a whim? That idiot, Jason.

Presented by Flat Earth Theatre
Written by Allison Gregory
Directed by Elizabeth Yvette Ramirez

March 15 – 30, 2019
The Mosesian Center for the Arts
321 Arsenal Street
Watertown, MA
Flat Earth Theatre on Facebook

Critique by Gillian Daniels

(Watertown, MA)  The myth of Medea is a story of betrayal and fury, where Jason of the Argonauts takes a sorceress wife for material gain and is deeply surprised when she takes her vengeance out on him and their children. Here, the myth of a child-killing witch fits roughly over a more contemporary story of an overworked nurse in pediatric oncology as she takes a night for herself to recount a bitter divorce with humor and then with searing rage. In mainstream culture, the Classical myth of Medea has become known as the story of a mother so cartoonishly evil, it’s difficult to feel the full impact of the horror her narrative contains without exploring each bloody layer. Luckily, the audience of Not Medea has been blessed with both the intimacy of a stripped-down theater experience and the raw passion of actress Juliet Bowler as the titular-woman-who-is-not-Medea-though-she-also-plays-Medea.

Not Medea appears to be a combination of genres, a one-woman show fused with a Classical play, complete with Chorus (Cassandra Meyer). There’s a late reveal that further opens the story into discomfort and parental Hell, but the melodrama keeps the bones of a Greek tragedy by centering a character’s terrible trauma and the wisdom she gains from it. Bowler as the Woman and director Elizabeth Yvette Ramirez make remarkable choices in humanizing a character who’s not a clear-cut heroine.

Bowler, as always, brings grit to her role, and, here, sympathy. She plays Medea and the Woman with the same tumult of anger, lust, and hurt, even if their actions aren’t quite identical. We get the sense of this stressed, tough as nails nurse seeing this play and hating how much she sees herself in it. Certainly, as an audience, we are asked to judge each character presented in the show, like Gene Dante as the heroic Jason with a selfish surfer dude’s dimwitted edge, but we are never made to regard them with the inhumanity and scorn that so many versions of Medea heap on these characters.

I like how brave the play is in addressing the fallibility of mothers. It’s something I’ve been delighted to see in few other shows where women who have children are not portrayed as goddesses or people always able to see the best in their kids, but fallible individuals with their own sources of pain. Yes, facing the imperfection of mothers can be a tough sit, but the way this show explores all the troubles and regrets of motherhood is deeply refreshing.

Even the Chorus seems to have some internal struggles regarding her relationship to the story. Meyer repeatedly nears the end of the stage with fear, unable to leave. She also, memorably, seems furious with the Woman for addressing the audience directly–obviously the Chorus’s job, and a delicious meta moment in the narrative.

Not everything works for me. Playwright Allison Gregory’s makes some distracting choices. The sections of the play that more strictly adhere to the source material often become repetitive, jarring with the contemporary ebb and flow of Not Medea’s other, less Classical scenes. I think there are story elements in the show that would have packed a firmer punch with some careful editing. Also, I found Gregory’s choice in names for the Woman’s offspring just a little too on-the-nose.

Ultimately, the play succeeds in what it seems to set out to do: exploring the layers of a Classical myth with understanding and thought. Like the queen goddess Hera angry at her husband for his many dalliances or the punishment Aphrodite earns for not being loyal to a husband she was made to marry in the first place, popular Greco-Roman mythology has been filtered through a lens that dismisses female anger. Not Medea leans into that fury and, like many Greek tragedies, comes out the other side wiser for it.


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Feb 11

Portrait of an Actress and Her Art: “Bare Stage”

Photo by © Kippy Goldfarb/Carolle Photo – Kevin Cirone as Parker and Ashley Risteen as Kate

Presented by Festival Theater
Directed by A. Nora Long
Written by Michael Walker

February 8, 2019 – March 2, 2019
South End / BCA Plaza Theaters
Boston, MA 02116
Event on Facebook

Critique by Gillian Daniels

Content warning: nudity, vulnerable actresses with potentially slimy, powerful men.

(Boston, MA) Kate (Ashley Risteen) believes in art and is portrayed as nothing less than a serious artist in Bare Stage. She’s a passionate actress with a mission, and in her most recent role, she’s been asked to perform naked. You know, in front of her family, friends, boyfriend, everyone, in the town where she lives. In mainstream American pop culture, the prevailing attitude seems to be, “If everyone knows what they’re in for, sure, why not?” But the reality is more complex, not just in contemplating censorship but exploitation and art. Continue reading

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