Nov 18

Safe But Not Sorry*: “The Play That Goes Wrong”

Photo by Mark. S. Howard.

Presented by Lyric Stage Company of Boston 
By Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer, and Henry Shields
Directed by Fred Sullivan, Jr.
Stunt Coordinator/Fight Captain: Michael Liebhauser
Scenic Design by Peter Colao
Run Crew: Hazel Peters, Talene Pogherian
Featuring Kelby T. Akin, Alexa Cadete, Nora Eschenheimer, Dan Garcia,
Mitch Kiliulis, Michael Liebhauser, Marc Alexander Pierre, and Dan Whelton. Understudies: Margaret Clark, Patrick French, and Matt C. Ryan.

November 11 – December 18, 2022
Lyric Stage Co.
140 Clarendon St
Boston, MA 02116

Approximately two hours, including one intermission.
This production uses strobe lighting and fog effects. There is one live simulated gunshot in Act 2.

Review by Kitty Drexel

“Anything worth doing is worth doing badly.” — G. K. Chesterton

BOSTON, Mass — Chesterton was a Christian philosopher who argued, with this statement, that most things are done by novices who do those things imperfectly. This Chesterton saying goes along with the Voltaire-attributed aphorism, “don’t let perfect be the enemy of good.” 

Neither Chesterton nor Voltaire was responsible for a cast of accident-prone actors or an elaborate set determined by fate to destroy itself on opening night. Not even Voltaire, the paragon of eighteenth-century French amateur and society theatre, could have imagined The Play That Goes Wrong.  Continue reading

Oct 28

The Precise and the Indefinable: “On Beckett” 

Photo via https://artsemerson.org/events/on-beckett/

Presented by ArtsEmerson, with Irish Repertory Theatre 
Produced by Octopus Theatricals
Conceived and performed by Bill Irwin
Based on the writings of Samuel Beckett, Texts for Nothing, The Unnamable, Watt, and Waiting for Godot.

October 26 – 30, 2022
Open Captioning, Oct. 29, at 2:00 PM
Audio Description, Oct. 30, 2:00 PM
Emerson Paramount Center
559 Washington St
Boston, MA 02111

Beckittns on Instagram

90 minutes, no intermission

Critique by Kitty Drexel

ArtsEmerson isn’t asking you to turn your phone off for its health. Turn your damn phone off, you git. 

BOSTON, Mass — On Beckett is a masterclass taught by Bill Irwin on the works of playwright, novelist, Nobel Prize winner, and, among other things, WWII resistance fighter Samuel Beckett. Irwin’s dedicated performance, journalistic dramaturgy, and storytelling transcend the medium of the solo show. 

On Beckett isn’t merely a performance incorporating the works of the infamous playwright; it is a doctorate-level dissertation. Emerson, give Irwin his honorary Ph.D.     Continue reading

Oct 11

Dank Memes for Forest Teens: “Eat Your Young”

Maez Gordon, Abacus Dean-Polacheck, Charlotte Stowe, Sunny Feldman; Photo by Hilary Scott Photography.

Presented by Boston Playwrights’ Theatre the Boston University College of Fine Arts School of Theatre
By J.C. Pankratz
Directed by Shamus
Fight and intimacy direction by Yo-El Cassell

Oct. 6 – 16, 2022
PRIDE NIGHT: Friday, October 14 at 8 p.m.
Boston Playwrights’ Theatre
949 Commonwealth Ave.
Boston, MA 02215

A strobe light effect is used during the performance.

Content warnings: Substance abuse disorders, drug use, self-harm, body dysmorphia, disordered eating, fatphobia, violence, and occasional misgendering. Find resources here.

Critique by Kitty Drexel

BOSTON — I fully support content warnings. Content warnings enable survivors to make better choices for their needs. Content warnings are a sign of an empathetic and understanding theatre company. Sometimes even a survivor won’t know when they will be triggered. It is better to err on the side of compassion than to abstain.  

Horror theatre can tell important stories, but often it is an excuse to disgust an audience with cool theatre tricks and fake blood. Eat Your Young is a hard departure from torture porn (or torture fanfiction, as is the case for much of theatre), and I am glad to see it, but it was not the show I was expecting from the content warnings or the summary on the BPT website. 

Content warnings are an imperfect, relatively new practice. Eat Your Young contains elements of traditional psychological horror, but it is largely a comedy. The content warnings lead me to expect jump scares, even physical torture. I was surprised when neither happened. 

Lucia (Abacus Dean-Polacheck), Jelly (Charlotte Stowe), Ginger (Sunny Feldman), and Quinn (Maez Gordon) are four mismatched teens enrolled in an abusive emotional growth school disguised as the wilderness survival program. The teens are abandoned in the forest without resources except for their water bottles, a baggie of tampons, and their sociopathic counselors Marty (Ross Beschler) and Marty B (Jay Eddy).  Continue reading

Oct 04

Hurt Me, Daddy: “Dracula: A Feminist Revenge Fantasy, Really”

Sara Jones plays Renfield (left); shown with Maria Hendricks as Dr. Van Helsing (middle) and Lisa San Pascual as Mina Harker (right). Photo by Gillian Mariner Gordon.

Presented by The Umbrella Stage Company 
Based on the novel by Bram Stoker
By Kate Hamill
Directed by Michelle Aguillon
Original Music Compositions by Valerie Forgione
Intimacy Direction by Kayleigh Kane 
Fight Direction by Sarah Flanagan

Sept. 30 – Oct. 23, 2022
The Umbrella Arts Center
40 Stow Street
Concord, MA 01742

Critique by Kitty Drexel

CONTENT WARNINGS: This play contains sexual situations, violence, and death by suicide. It may not be appropriate for persons under 16 years old.

This production uses strobe light effects and fog effects.

CONCORD, Mass. — Do heteros know they’re supposed to like their partners? Dracula: A Feminist Revenge Fantasy, Really is yet another retelling of a classic gothic romance novel in which men treat their female partners terribly; their behavior is belittling, lacks respect, and reeks of contempt. It’s no wonder playwright Kate Hamill rewrote it with a snappy, violent finale. 

Dracula: A Feminist Revenge Fantasy, Really spins the novel by Bram Stoker for a modern audience of thinking minds. Mina Harker (Lisa San Pascual) expects a baby any day now, but her husband Jonathan (Joseph Jude) must assist Count Dracula (Dustin Teuber) with land acquisition. Mina’s best friend Lucy Westenra (Gabrielle Hatcher) can’t contain her glee at marrying Dr. George Seward (Dominic Carter) but fears she must for George’s sake.

Renfield (Sara Jones) can’t remember what happened to her husband. Drusilla (Emily Sheeran) and Marilla (Bowen Huang) hunger. Dracula: A Feminist Revenge Fantasy, Really is not told in letters, thankfully. Continue reading

Oct 01

Where’er the Surge May Sweep: “Ada and the Engine”

Mishy Jacobson in Ada and the Engine. Photo: Nile Scott Studios.

Presented by Central Square Theater
Brit d’Arbeloff Women in Science Production
A Catalyst Collaborative@MIT Production
Written by Lauren Gunderson
Directed by Debra Wise
Choreography by Judith Chaffee
Featuring Kortney Adams, Diego Arciniegas, Mishy Jacobsen, and John Hardin

The online playbill

September 22 to October 23, 2022
Central Square Theater
450 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA

Critique by Kitty Drexel

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Lauren Gunderson’s Ada and the Engine at Central Square Theater is not either’s best work. Central Square Theater has produced better shows and produced better shows by Gunderson. Gunderson has written better plays.

Ada and the Engine is problematic, and the script has problems. It reorganizes the life of English mathematician Augusta “Ada” King, Countess of Lovelace to tell a unique story about the intersection of computational science and gender roles. It approximates Ada Lovelace’s life to continue the discussion about the uphill battle women face in STEM.  Continue reading

Sep 27

From the Back to the Middle and Round Again: “Fabulation or, The Re-Education of Undine”

Lyndsay Allyn Cox as Undine. Photo by Mark S Howard.

Presented by the Lyric Stage Company of Boston
Written by Lynn Nottage
Directed by Dawn M. Simmons
Intimacy consultant: Ted Hewlett
COVID-19 safety officer: Emily Collins
Online Playbill

Sept. 16 – Oct. 9, 2022
140 Clarendon St
2nd Floor
Boston, MA 02116

Approximately 2 hours, including one 15-minute intermission.

Review by Kitty Drexel

“In literary criticism, the term fabulation was popularized by Robert Scholes, in his book The Fabulators, to describe the large and growing class of mostly 20th century novels that are in a style similar to magical realism, and do not fit into the traditional categories of realism or romance.”

BOSTON — An undine (or Ondine) is a mythological water elemental out of the European tradition. The Swiss alchemist Paracelsus wrote of a nymph who became human out of love for a mortal man. Without love, she has no soul and cannot live on land. Undine must take care for she will die if her lover is unfaithful. 

An undine stands as a modern metaphor for the woman who cannot let go of love. Her relationship is over, her lover moved on, but the undine will not move on. There’s the possibility of a happy ending though – Undine can go home if she kills her boyfriend before he cheats

Fabulation or, The Re-Education of Undine puts Undine (Lyndsay Allyn Cox) at the top of her game. She has everything: a wildly successful boutique PR firm in Manhattan, a handsome husband Hervé (Jaime José Hernández) with a fancy accent to match his l’accent aigu, a devoted assistant (Brittani Jenese McBride), a full bank account, a bougie accountant (Barlow Adamson), and more social currency than Wendy Williams. Or, she does until Hervé disappears with his clothing and every last penny she has. And, she’s reluctantly pregnant.  Continue reading

Sep 23

True Silence is the Rest of the Mind: “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike”

Presented by Titanic Theatre Company
Written by ​Christopher Durang
Directed by Darren Evans
Featuring Shelley Brown, Alisha Jansky, Scot Colford, Eric McGowan, Will Shapiro, and Julia Hertzberg

September 21-October 8, 2022
BCA Plaza Black Box Theater
Boston, MA

Review by Kitty Drexel

“Resumé”by Dorothy Parker
Razors pain you;
Rivers are damp;
Acids stain you;
And drugs cause cramp.
Guns aren’t lawful;
Nooses give;
Gas smells awful;
You might as well live.

BOSTON — Titanic Theatre Company’s Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike is the most intimate version you will ever see. The cast (and their melodramatic breakdowns) places the fourth wall practically on our laps. An audience has no choice but be sympathetic to a cast delivering breakdown after melodramatic breakdown within a short range.  

Durang’s comedy is an offshoot of Anton Checkhov’s most famous plays, but it isn’t a parody.  Vanya (Scot Colford), Sonia (Shelley Brown), and Masha (Alisha Jansky) are brother and sisters reunited to attend a costume party at the Dorothy Parker house up the street in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. To the dismay of Vanya and Sonia, Masha has brought flavor of the week Spike (Eric McGowan) with her from New York City. Spike has found Nina (Julia Hertzberg fresh, sweet and effervescent as strawberry soda) at the pond. No one gets along until they almost do. Cassandra (Will Shapiro) hopes they can read the omens before it’s too late.    Continue reading

Sep 18

Your Religion Is A Lifestyle Choice: “Heroes of the Fourth Turning”

Elise Piliponis, Karen MacDonald, Jesse Hinson, Dayna Cousins, and Nathan Malin in Heroes of the Fourth Turning. Photo by Nile Scott Studios.

Presented by SpeakEasy Stage Company
By Will Arbery
Directed by Marianna Bassham
Featuring Karen MacDonald, Dayna Cousins, Jesse Hinson, Nathan Malin, and Elise Piliponis

September 9 ⁠–⁠ October 8, 2022
The Roberts Studio Theatre in the Stanford Calderwood Pavilion
Boston Center for the Arts
527 Tremont Street
Boston, MA

This show runs one hour and 55 minutes with no intermission.

Critique by Kitty Drexel

“…Yeah, they’re not even inviting us to this conversation. It’s this insane thing that they’re all getting hung up on, this small minority of confused people, but all the people, all the people like suddenly so defensive about using the word ‘they’ but ‘they’ doesn’t make any damn grammatical sense.”
– Justin, Holy Fool, from Heroes of the Fourth Turning by Will Arbery

“Have you ever danced with the devil in the pale moonlight?”
-Jack Nicholson as The Joker in Batman (1989)

BOSTON — Merriam-Webster primarily defines religion as “a personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices.” The definition branches off into sub-definitions: service and worship of God or the supernatural, commitment to religious faith, and a system of beliefs “held to with ardor and faith.” Alas, Merriam-Webster doesn’t tell us which religion will get one into Heaven (or if there even is a Heaven.) 

The antagonizing white, conservative, protagonists of Will Arbery’s Heroes of the Fourth Turning attack each other in the name of God’s perfect love. They use their Catholic faith and rigid dogmas to interrogate the each other in the name of friendship. They are insecure people sloppily looking for answers to life’s biggest questions: Why are we here? What is our purpose? Who will love me? If God loves all of us, why do I feel so alone? These Samaritans might identify as Catholic but, over the course of an evening, we discover each person expresses love differently. Continue reading

Sep 03

Anti-racist Discourse Can Feel Like an Attack: “Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992”

Wesley T. Jones as Keith Watson and Elena Hurst as Hector Tobar in “Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992.” Photo: Lauren Miller

Presented by American Repertory Theater in association with Signature Theatre
Conceived, Written, and Revised by Anna Deavere Smith
Directed by Taibi Magar
Scenic Design by Riccardo Hernandez 
Costume Design by Linda Cho 
Lighting Design by Alan C. Edwards 
Sound Design by Darron L. West 
Projection Design by David Bengali 
Movement Coach Michael Leon Thomas
Dialect Design by Amy Stoller
Sensitivity Specialist Ann James
Featuring Elena Hurst (she/her), Wesley T. Jones (he/him), Francis Jue (he/him), Carl Palmer (he/him), and Tiffany Rachelle Stewart (she/her). 

Digital playbill
Digital guide & dramaturgy 
Runtime: Two and one half hours, including one 15-minute intermission.

Aug. 28 – Sept. 24, 2022
ASL Interpreted: 9/18 at 2PM & 9/21 at 7:30PM
Audio Described: 9/17 at 2PM & 9/22 at 7:30PM
Open Captioned: 9/17 at 2PM & 9/22 at 7:30PM
Relaxed: 9/24 at 2PM
Loeb Drama Center 
64 Brattle Street
Cambridge MA 02138

This production contains footage of extreme violence, instances of racialized and discriminatory language, and the sound of a gunshot.

Review by Kitty Drexel

I can’t forever dwell in darkness.
I can’t forever dwell in the idea,
just identifying with people like me,
and understanding me and mine.

  • Twilight Bey

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992 isn’t a conversation starter. It is the continuation of a centuries-long conversation. While my fellow white people are arguing about woke politics and sniffling about their fragile feelings, BIPOC and their allies live the negative effects of systemic racism. 

This play is about the violence perpetrated against Latasha Harlins, Soon Ja Du, Rodney King, and George Floyd. Graphic violence is depicted. Audience members see the moment when Latasha Harlins dies. We see LAPD police brutally and mercilessly beat Rodney King. Reginald Denny nearly died during the Los Angeles riots. This play is not for children.  Continue reading

Aug 29

Geeks Review Books: “HowlRound Anthology: Essays and Conversations from the First Ten Years”

HowlRound Anthology: Essays and Conversations from the First Ten Years
Fifty essays from 2011 to 2020
Published by HowlRound Theatre Commons
Edited by May Antaki
Copyright 2022
Paperback, 514 pages
ISBN: 978-1-939006-06-6
$20.00
First edition, May 2022
Purchase the Anthology

Book review by Kitty Drexel

“We make rituals and allow communities to witness new propositions with an emotional vulnerability that unites us in our humanity, and in our greater universal connectedness.” 

  • From “Walking the Awkwardly Heroic Yet Often Depressing Path of Near-Impossible Catastrophe Evasion Through Kick-Ass Poetics” by Elizabeth Doud, 24 April 2015.

BOSTON — HowlRound Anthology: Essays and Conversations from the First Ten Years is not a dainty book of light reading. It is a girthy 514 pages wrapped between a Halloween orange front and back cover, with small font and no fluffy filler. Its only pictures are black-and-white headshots of contributing authors arranged next to author biographies. It’s taken me a month to write this review and I’m only three-quarters of the way through. You could fight off a fascist with this weighty book and win.

The contents aren’t light either. HowlRound clearly strived to be anti-racist, intersectionally feminist, transparent, diverse, and equitable while remaining fully loyal to its mission of amplifying progressive, disruptive ideas about art forms and facilitating connections between diverse practitioners. These articles will challenge your current practices and beliefs and, hopefully, enable you to be a better theatremaker, ally, and person.  Continue reading