Sep 15

A Dear John letter to modern American politics: “The Return to Morality”

Photo courtesy of TTC Facebook page

Photo courtesy of TTC Facebook page; the cast, looking much happier here than their characters do in the production.

Presented by Titanic Theatre Company
Written by Jamie Pachino
Directed by Michelle M. Aguillon

September 8-25, 2016
Central Square Theatre
Cambridge, MA
Titanic Theatre on Facebook

Review by Noelani Kamelamela

(Cambridge, MAIt is a presidential election year in these United States.  Ordinary campaigns are already the cesspools of public opinion where good policies raise their hands and get passed over for workable compromises.  Presidential campaigns are therefore a special circle of our own red, white and blue hellscape where we, the people, can gather together and worry about our future as a nation.  It is a Sisyphean task, which means the situation is ripe for comedy.  Titanic Theatre Company’s production of The Return to Morality elicits anxious laughter in this context.   Continue reading

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Jun 23

By the time you notice her, you’re already caught in the web: “Spider Cult the Musical”

13227041_1709956299255837_8492057768646383105_nScripted and Produced by Jade Sylvan
Created, Directed, Choreographed and Produced by Fem Bones
Music by Catherine Capozzi

June 24 6:30 pm and 10:30 pm
June 26 5 pm and 8:30 pm
Club Oberon
Cambridge, MA
Spider Cult on Facebook

Review by Noelani Kamelamela

(Cambridge, MA) Back in 2012, a Kickstarter campaign funded quite a bit of Fem Bones’ Revenge of the Battle Robot Nuns, a sci-fantastical burlesque show birthed by the Slaughterhouse Sweethearts, possibly New England’s only horror burlesque troupe.  Spider Cult: The Musical is a spin-off set in the same universe and  it retains quite a lot of the slashes of the macabre and deviant sexuality that made Revenge so memorable. Initially, Jade Sylvan pitched Scout’s story to Fem Bones as a spin-off movie after seeing Revenge.  Jade was enamoured of Revenge because the action reminded them of discovering weirdness and sexuality for the first time as a queer individual.  Instead of creating a movie, Jade banged out a script for a live show which gets translated by the indomitable Fem Bones and the Slaughterhouse Sweeties with special guests onto the Oberon stage this Friday and Sunday for one weekend only.   Fans and other supporters of fringe theatre stepped up via Kickstarter yet again to fund the first reading as well as the creation of the show. Continue reading

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May 31

La Donna è divertente!

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Looking fierce.

La Donna Improvvisata
Presented by ImprovBoston
Starring, improvised by Lisa Flanagan
Musical accompaniment by Mike Descouteaux

May 29, 2016 @11pm
Improv Boston
Cambridge, MA
La Donna on Facebook

Review by Noelani Kamelamela

(Cambridge, MAMusical improv is a special permutation of improvisational comedy.   I think it appeals to people who both love comedy and have a lot of experience in listening to different genres of music.  I’ve certainly been subjected to short form musical improv in which the creation of mostly unrelated individual song-scenes  felt much longer than the allotted two minutes.  Stringing short song-scenes together into a long form musical improv set can be challenging even for mid-sized groups to tackle.  Musical abilities and frequently a pianist are required.  One supporting piece that can be useful is the addition of a premise.  In “La Donna Improvvisata,” Lisa Flanagan did a unique send-up of opera tropes entirely with the help of one accompanist on keyboard. Continue reading

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May 03

A Passionate Concert: Ana Moura on April 30, 2016


Presented by World Music/CRASH arts
April 30, 2016 @ 8pm only
Berklee Performance Center
Boston, MA
Ana Moura on Facebook
World Music/CRASH arts on Facebook

Review by Noelani Kamelamela

(Boston, MA) The last time Ana Moura was hosted by World Music/CRASH arts in 2014, she brought the house to its feet in a celebration of her latest release at the time Desfado.  This show was excellent in a different way.  Certainly, her latest album Moura has been touring since last year and those performances were condensed for her concert at the Berklee Performance Center this past Saturday. Featuring a great backing band, Ana Moura dazzled the typically stoic New England audience to the point of stupefication for two hours. Continue reading

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Feb 14

After so long, we’re still back to this: BACK THE NIGHT

2/3/14 Boston Playwrights' Theatre presents 'Back the Night' By Melinda Lopez. Directed by Daniela Varon. February 4-28-2016. With violence on campus rising to epidemic proportions, Em is in total denial. But when her best friend Cassie gets assaulted, Em makes some unexpected personal discoveries. Sometimes you do the wrong thing for the right reason. 2016-02-03_BACKTHENITE_002.jpg - Photograph By Kalman Zabarsky

Presented by Boston Playwrights’ Theatre
Written by Melinda Lopez
Directed by Daniela Varon

February 4-28, 2016
Boston Playwright’s Theatre
Boston, MA
BPT on Facebook

Review by Noelani Kamelamela

Trigger warnings: sexual assault and physical violence, sexual situations, adult language, suicide, mental health, activism

(Boston, MA) Institutional support of criminals and criminal behavior either through incompetence or genuine ignorance is common. Although a college campus is the setting of Melinda Lopez’s Back the Night, it could be a stand-in for a fancy secondary school or any urban space. It is both cheaper and simpler in these forums to blame the victim than actually pursue justice.

Em, Sean and Cassie pit themselves against assault on campus after Cassie is injured one night. Em is the pre-med Nancy Drew who likes putting things into proper boxes and Melissa Jesser portrays her with an intensity that simmers just below the surface. Cassie (Amanda Collins), long an ardent anti-violence advocate, is finally putting a lot of her principles to the test. Sean just wants everyone to make it to graduation alive. Along the way, the undergraduates realize that intentions aren’t pure on any side of the issue. The set served as both metaphor and scenery, with decaying infrastructure and dorm furniture offset by autumn leaves and warm lighting.

When I attended, the audience of mostly college aged students and a few older attendees were both amused and engaged. Although the play is a new work, the topics have been stewing in higher education for some time. Local universities such as Boston University responded in the past three years to federal investigations related to sexual harassment under Title IX by leveraging pre-existing resources and coordinating new sets of training for incoming and ongoing students, staff and faculty. For survivors as well as for those who work at or attend a university, the transitions toward justice seem insignificant and much less than what was promised.

To be fair, there are a lot of great sea changes still occurring: a queer character like Sean, played by a bouncy Evan Horwitz, or a non-white character like Em can exist on a campus, which is a sign of progress. Authorities can’t produce those specific, permanent and positive transitions in a vacuum. Rallying and other forms of pressure by non-authorities as well as pushback, then, is more like a dance: there is movement over time, even if there is no easily discernible direction. Also, dances end, and it can take time before a different dance begins.

Lopez gets the internet’s impact on survivor’s rights in many ways: frequently the ability to reach lots of potential activists doesn’t lead to the revolution, especially since the internet reaches not only sympathetic minds, but also perpetrators and victim-blamers who are all too willing to sit on the sidelines and throw stones. At the very least, perpetrators are not given a forum in the play. There’s still lots of meat to chew on. Even when your friends are a mirror or an inspiration, they can still misunderstand and make demands on your sanity that can be almost as terrible as physical trauma. At a fairly short hour and a half, humor between the three friends lightens the frustration, exhaustion and constant questioning. Lopez has captured the voice of modern undergraduates and also provided a snapshot of the strained relationships of students to the adults who are supposed to guide and shield them.

Next on deck for Boston Playwrights’ Theatre is Rhinoceros a co-production with Suffolk University written by Eugene Ionesco at the Modern from February 25-March 13.

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Jan 19

Somewhere Over, Under, in Front of, Behind the Rainbow: “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz”

Photo credit: Diane Anton

Photo credit: Diane Anton; the cast stepping out

Presented by imaginary beasts 
Written and Directed by Matthew Woods
Based on the Oz novels of L. Frank Baum

January 9-30, 2016
imaginary beasts on Facebook
BCA Plaza Black Box Black Box Theatre
Boston, MA

Review by Noelani Kamelamela

(Boston, MAPlaying fast and loose with both Oz canon and popular culture, imaginary beasts returns to the marvelous lands and characters L. Frank Baum created to amuse and entertain children at the turn of the century in Winter Panto 2016:  The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.  People unfamiliar with the pantomime tradition should not come expecting a regular play, or the musical version of the show, or even a rundown of all of Baum’s Oz books.  Rather, it’s a rollicking variety of scenes that parodies both the source and contemporary mores. Continue reading

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Nov 12

Too close but still comfortable: “Six Degrees of Separation”

Credit: Paul Cantillon, Lidecphoto.com.

Credit: Paul Cantillon, Lidecphoto.com.

Produced by Bad Habit Productions
Written by John Guare
Directed by Liz Fenstermaker

November 7-22, 2015
Deane Hall at the Boston Center for the Arts
Boston, MA
Bad Habit on Facebook

http://badhabitproductions.org/shows/season-9/mainstage/six-degrees-of-separation/

(Boston, MA) Six Degrees of Separation was a celebrated play when it first hit New York stages, portraying stereotypes of the city, moneyed New Yorkers and people who aspire to be moneyed New Yorkers. This production elevates the writing to present a mix that is more than the Law & Order rerun it would like to be. Continue reading

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Oct 31

Murder and Sci-Fi in Hi-Fi: “Monster in the Mirror”

pmrpmonsterThe Post-Meridian Players present Monster in the Mirror
Hosted by Martha Putnam Sites
Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde adapted by Tegan Kehoe
Frankenstein adapted by Mike McAfee

Responsible Grace
204 Elm Street
Somerville, MA
PMRP on Facebook

Review by Noelani Kamelamela

(Somerville, MA) As days get shorter, the air gets chilly and the moon goes fang-white.  There’s Halloween related theatre abounding in New England, and I’d include the haunted hayrides and scary mazes in that pantheon.  To add to this mix, the Post-Meridian Players bring two classic terrible tales to life in Responsible Grace with their brand of live radio drama.   Continue reading

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Apr 10

Enjoyably Odd and Oddly Enjoyable: ORLANDO

Photo credit: Bad Habit Productions

Photo credit: Bad Habit Productions

Presented by Bad Habit Productions
Virgina Woolf’s Orlando
Adapted by Sarah Ruhl
Directed by Daniel Morris

April 4-April 19, 2014
Deane Hall at the Boston Center for the Arts
Boston, MA
Bad Habit on Facebook

Review by Noelani Kamelamela

(Boston, MA) Identity and discovery are heavily explored in Virginia Woolf’s Orlando, a work that spans continents, time, and gender.  Initially written as a joke of a biography for a fellow artist in the early 20th century, this more recent adaptation puts Woolf’s language forward while sacrificing character development.  This complex creation scratches the surface of a meaty, subtle series of discussions even the novel Orlando could not fully deliver. Continue reading

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Apr 03

From the Back of the House to Center Stage: LIFERS

Photo credit: Josephine Anes

Photo credit: Josephine Anes

Written by John Shea and Maureen Cornell
Directed by Brett Marks
Produced by Happy Medium Theatre and Argos Productions

March 20-April 4, 2015
Boston Playwright’s Theatre
Boston, MA
Happy Medium and Argos on Facebook

Review by Noelani Kamelamela

(Boston, MA) Happy Medium Theatre and Argos Productions have joined forces to bring to life a piece of Bostonian, working class history in Lifers.  At an enjoyable hour and a half even with a ten minute intermission, this well-edited and lively play is an ode to the people who make your meal at a local diner possible. Continue reading

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