Aug 10

“Leftovers” and the Balance Between Wishes and Truths

Photo by Paul Fox.

Presented by Company One Theatre
Written by Josh Wilder
Directed by Summer L. Williams
Developed by C1 PlayLab

July 21 – August 18, 2018
The Strand Theatre
543 Columbia Road, Boston, MA 02125
The Leftovers on Facebook

Review by Gillian Daniels

(Boston, MA) When a giant dandelion bursts out of the ground in their Philadelphia yard, Kwamaine (the charming Christian Scales) is enchanted while his older brother, Jalil (Kadahj Bennett, who pulls some of the best humorous faces I’ve seen on any given stage), is understandably baffled. Their harassed mother, Raquelle (Lyndsay Allyn Cox), is mostly just annoyed. Writer Josh Wilder and director Summer L. Williams deliver an odd, funny city-based fable that becomes a magic realist quest through systemic poverty, race, The Cosby Show, and the insulating nature of fantasies. Continue reading

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Aug 03

“Richard III”: Uncomfortably Mirroring a Summer of Our Discontent

Faran Tahir (Richard III) and the cast of Richard III (photo by Evgenia Eliseeva)

Presented by the Commonwealth Shakespeare Company
Written by William Shakespeare
Directed by Steven Maler

July 18 – August 5, 2018 
Parkman Bandstand
Tremont Street & Winter Street
Boston, MA 02108
CSC on Facebook

Review by Gillian Daniels

(Boston, MA) The Commonwealth Shakespeare Company brings an arresting production of Richard III to Boston’s Common. The grim story of a happily evil king is enlivened by the performance of Faran Tahir as he swaggers, lies, and simpers his way to a throne that might as well be soaked in blood. The play is grounded in real world anger toward a cartoonish villain who disintegrates into a self-doubting coward. It’s a cathartic watch, one that both moved me and concerned me in the way it compliments and comments on topical news items. Continue reading

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Jun 05

“Les Liaisons Dangereuses”: When You Play the Game of Patriarchy, Everyone Loses

Jaime Carrillo (Volanges), Greg Maraio (Merteuil), Dan Whelton (Valmont) & Stewart Evan Smith (Danceny). Photo: Jorden Photography.

Presented by The Nora Theatre Company
Directed by Lee Mikeska Gardner
Adapted by Christopher Hampton
Novel by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos

May 31st – July 1st, 2018
Central Square Theatre
450 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge
Central Square Theater on Facebook

Content Warning: (In the show’s own words.) Full nudity, sexual content, violence, and a damn good sword fight. Suggested age: 18 and over.

Review by Gillian Daniels

(Cambridge, MA) When dividing the population into a binary construct where one group is viewed as perpetually in danger of committing sexual indiscretions and possessing virtue that they may only give to certain people, and the other group is seen as committing indiscretions and betrayals because they can’t help themselves, yes, some awful dynamics are at play. In this production, the source material of Les Liaisons Dangereuses is not much altered, but the way it’s performed is. The players all appear to be male without makeup, dresses, or distinctive cosmetic traits, beyond the apparently random distribution of a few bits of jewelry, rosary beads, and gloves. To clarify, this is a faithful adaptation of a story where two manipulative, almost-lover aristocrats spend their time “ruining” innocence. The gender of the characters remains the same as it was in Pierre Choderlos de Laclos 1782 novel. The gender of the actors just doesn’t always conform to those of their characters. In having an all-male cast, gender is shown as the flimsy construct it is, and adherence to stringent, narrow roles reproduce only an eventual misery in everyone. But just because the proud Vicomte de Valmont (Dan Whelton) and perceptive Marquise de Merteuil (Greg Maraio) seem to see the pieces of the social contraption in which they move doesn’t mean they can escape the trap. Continue reading

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May 22

Batman Burlesque Brings Out the Brave and the Bold

Presented by The Slaughterhouse Society

May 20 – May 25, 2018
The Oberon
2 Arrow Street
Cambridge, MA
The Slaughterhouse Society on Facebook

Review by Gillian Daniels

CONTENT WARNING: Psychosexual camp with some abuse and violence for good measure.

(Cambridge, MA) Maybe it’s the number of expertly dressed femme fatales and smart suited gentleman villains in the rogue gallery. Maybe it’s just the spandex. All the same, Batman’s unique blended history of pulp, humor, and darkness puts it at the same cross-section of camp and psychosexual horror in which Boston’s happily weird burlesque scene specializes. The Slaughterhouse Society makes sure burlesque and Batman are a match made in vaudeville variety show heaven. Continue reading

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Feb 08

Flighty “Die Fledermaus” Wobbles But Lands

FPresented by The Harvard College Opera
Composed by Johann Strauss II
Libretto by Karl Haffner and Richard Genée
Music Directed by Sasha Yakub
Stage Directed by Mitch Polonsky

Agassiz Theater
Cambridge, MA
Jan 31 – Feb 4
Facebook Event

Review by Gillian Daniels

(Cambridge, MA) The Harvard College Opera succeeds in creating a production of Die Fledermaus with the boozy haze that one would associate with a show that sings a tribute to champagne, dubbed “the king of wines!” How else would a woman, Rosalinde (Veronica Richer, a marvelous soprano), successfully disguise herself from her husband, Eisenstein (Ethan Craigo), with a flimsy mask? Why else would an innocent man, Alfred (the charming Samuel Rosner), happily go to prison instead of the husband of his beloved? The logic of this operetta is certainly rooted in the logic of being pleasantly drunk. It’s only when the show becomes more interested in its sensibility than its story, like someone drinking under the impression he’s far funnier and balanced than he thinks he is, that it begins to wobble. Continue reading

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Jan 26

Caregiver Vents and Mourns in “Mala”

Presented by Huntington Theatre Company and ArtsEmerson
Written and performed by Melinda Lopez
Directed by David Dower

Jan. 6 – Feb. 4, 2018
Calderwood Pavilion
Boston Center for the Arts
Boston, MA

Review by Gillian Daniels

(Boston, MA) “Dying doesn’t make you wise,” says Melinda Lopez, describing the death of her tough, stubborn mother. “Dying doesn’t make you generous.” The words could serve as the thesis of Mala, a story of a loyal daughter processing guilt and bitterness over the death of her elderly parents. Baked into the subject matter is a grim but gentle humor, one that picks at the coat of polish usually applied to recollections of the grieving process. Lopez’s pain, here, is visceral and true, not some softly lit movie set. Continue reading

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Dec 24

A Mobile, Spectacle-Driven Adaptation of “Sense and Sensibility”

Presented by Bedlam
Written by Kate Hamill
Based on the novel by Jane Austen
Directed by Eric Tucker

December 10, 2017 – January 14, 2018
The American Repertory Theater (A.R.T.)
ART on Facebook

Review by Gillian Daniels

(Cambridge, MA) Communicating the swift wit of a Jane Austen story is sometimes lost in an adaptation of her work. What better metaphor for the pace and quick gossip of polite society than a stage where all the furniture has wheels and actors move across it with the precision of a ballet? Bedlam, in its own words, “creates works of theatre that reinvigorate traditional forms in a flexible, raw space.” This adaptation is as kinetic and flexible as described, but it works best when its uses its techniques to highlight Austen’s source material, not when they try to rely on special effects. Continue reading

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Nov 07

We Want More of “OUT’hood FEST!”

Presented by The Theater Offensive
Performers: Eddie Maisonet, Erin Ebony, Danny Harris Sr., Cheyenne Harvey, and J.D. Stokely

October 30, 2017
Hibernian Hall
184 Dudley Street, Boston, MA 02119
Roxbury, Massachusetts

Review by Gillian Daniels

(Roxbury, MA) OUT’hood FEST is a festival designed to by and for the voices and works of local LGBTQ POC. The night I attended was specifically a “taster” of this talent, the culmination of The Theater Offensive’s pilot program, the OUT’hood Residency. This program supports the creation of artwork by, for, and/or about LGBTQ people of color who are local to Boston. If what I saw this year was any indication, this festival will invigorate some of the most versatile artists of the Boston community. Storytellers Eddie Maisonet, Erin Ebony, Danny Harris Sr., Cheyenne Harvey, and J.D. Stokely certainly shined, and I look forward to finding more of their work. Continue reading

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Oct 30

“Robyn is Happy” Deals in Devastating Discomfort

The Hub Theatre Company of Boston presents “Robyn is Happy” through Nov. 11 at the First Church Boston. PHOTO COURTESY HUB THEATRE OF BOSTON

Presented by Hub Theatre Company of Boston
Written by Michael Elyanow
Directed by Kelly Smith

October 27 – November 11th
First Church Boston
Boston, MA
Hub Theatre Company of Boston on Facebook

Review by Gillian Daniels

 (Boston, MA) Robyn (the confident, hilarious Amie Lytle) has been acting unpredictably since her divorce, alienating her friends of twenty-seven years, the neurotic Trudy (warmly portrayed by Lauren Elias) and sensible Hannah (Christine Dickinson, who delivers a powerful performance). Their friendship is tested as each character redraws their personal boundaries. The actresses hand in fantastic performances, but Robyn is Happy shifts from human melodrama to whacky unreality without pumping the breaks. My problem is largely with finding in what level reality the story is set. Continue reading

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Oct 30

Moby Dick, Disassembled in [or, the whale]

Photo courtesy of imaginary beasts’ Facebook page.

Presented by imaginary beasts
Written by Juli Crocket
Directed by Matthew Woods
Musical Composition by Kangaroo Rat Music (Anna Bell & Tim Desrosiers)
Movement Coaching by Molly Kimmerling and Amy Meyer

October 14-November 4, 2017
Charlestown Working Theater
Charlestown, Massachusetts
[or, the whale] on Facebook

Review by Gillian Daniels

(Boston, MA) “No one remembers an Ahab with two legs,” SHE (Raya Malcolm) tells the third member of the Ahab chorus, Danny Mourino, before sweeping him through a door that exudes a blue, haunting light. This disassembled retelling of Moby Dick is similarly haunting, stylish, and similarly full of light, specifically light slapstick, cheerful music, and a cast of tumblers on a colorful, creepy set complete with giant whale ribs. It’s delightful and strange, and I would expect nothing less from imaginary beasts. Continue reading

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