Full frontal chancla fight, Karina Beleno Carney and Luz Lopez in “Alma”. Photo: Nile Scott Studios.
Presented by Central Square Theater Written by Benjamin Benne Directed by Elena Velasco Choreography by Angie Jepson Dialect Coaching by Cristhian Mancinas-García Community Connectivity Dramaturgy by Zowie Rico Featuring Karina Beleno Carney (she/ella) and Luz Lopez (she/her)
February 23 to March 26, 2023 Central Square Theater 450 Massachusetts Avenue Cambridge, MA 75 minutes with no intermission
Critique by Kitty Drexel
Cambridge, MA — The Oxford English Dictionary says the American Dream is “the ideal that every citizen of the United States should have an equal opportunity to achieve success and prosperity through hard work, determination, and initiative.” Benjamin Benne’s Alma at Central Square Theater is the story of a family that comes to accept that some American dreams are only available to wealthy, white, and documented dreamers. Continue reading →
Presented by ArtsEmerson A Malthouse Theatre Production Written & Performed by Wang Chong Codirected & Production designed by Emma Valente Codesigned by Emma Lockhart Wilson Dramaturgy by Mark Pritchard
February 1 – 12, 2023 American Sign Language Performance – Saturday, February 11 at 2:00 PM Audio Described Performance – Sunday, February 12 at 2:00 PM Emerson Paramount Center Jackie Liebergott Black Box 559 Washington Street Boston, MA 02111
Recommended for Ages 16+ 60 minutes, no intermission
Review by Kitty Drexel
Boston, MA — ArtsEmerson respectfully asked journalists attending Wang Chong’s Made in China 2.0 to please refrain from discussing certain topics in an email days before the performance. They did this to ensure Chong’s safety while he visits the US and when he eventually leaves the US. Boston can be dangerous.
Journalists were encouraged to discuss Chong as an artist, his previous work, how his work was received, and his upcoming work. We were asked to be sensitive when discussing Chong’s style of theatre-making and why it’s considered risky.
I readily agreed to ArtsEmerson’s request. Freedom of speech is important to me. The sanctity of human life is too. America loves freedom! Continue reading →
Presented by Pipeline Theatre Company Written by Philip Santos Schaffer Directed by Isabel Quinzaños Alonso Performed by Mary Round Dramaturgy by Anna Woodruff Sound Design & Composition: Jorge Olivo Stage Manager: Matt Engle Producing Consultant: Stefanie Harris
February 1 – March 30, 2023 Your Phone/Zoom, Over 2 nights From anywhere in the USA Pipeline on Instagram
Review by Kitty Drexel
Your Phone — It is important for an audience member of Baby Jessica’s Well-Made Play to do some research before attending. I, like a dingus, thought I didn’t need to research the story behind Baby Jessica because she was in the news when I was a kid.
Friends, I incorrectly thought this play would be hilarious. I was six when 18-month-old Jessica McClure was rescued after being trapped for 58 hours in an abandoned water well in Midland, Texas. Don’t be like me. Please at least the Pipeline Theatre FAQ.
It is very important to note that Baby Jessica’s Well-Made Play is an interactive, conversational play. It occurs over two (2) scheduled evenings. The first evening runs two and a half hours long (150 minutes) but the attendee should give themselves an additional half hour (30 minutes) for setup before the show starts. That is a total of three hours or 180 minutes. Continue reading →
Presented by The Huntington In association with Hartford Stage Written by Kate Snodgrass Directed by Melia Bensussen Original music by Jane Shaw Fight direction and intimacy consultancy by Ted Hewlett Dramaturgy by Charles Haugland January 13–February 12, 2023
Production trigger warnings: slut shaming, victim blaming, mansplaining, manipulative and controlling behavior
Critique by Kitty Drexel
BOSTON, MA —Theatre doesn’t dive into feminine wrath the same way other media does. M3GAN, a current popular horror movie about a prescient AI doll, Jennifer’s Body (2009), and Teeth (2007) all hit the mainstream in ways that other horror plays haven’t.
Popular theatre gets the Medea myth, the Greek tale about a half goddess, enchantress and unfortunate mother of Jason’s (of the Argonauts fame) who became so enraged by her husband’s infidelity she mercy-kills his children. Honestly, what did Jason expect? They don’t call it divine retribution for nothing.
The Art of Burning follows five adults and one teen through vicious divorce proceedings. Patricia (Adrianne Krstansky in a wig that is doing no one any favors) and Jason (Rom Barkhordar) are about to finalize their divorce when Patricia requests full custody of their daughter Beth (Clio Contogenis). Jason’s girlfriend Katya (Vivia Font) is pregnant and Jason wants to keep it. Divorce lawyer and friend Mark (Michael Kaye) and his wife Charlene (Laura Latreille) are having marriage problems of their own. Continue reading →
Presented by the Lyric Stage of Boston Music, lyrics, book, and orchestrations by Dave Malloy Directed by Courtney O’Connor Music direction by Dan Rodriguez Dramaturgy by Megan Jepsen, Marieska Luzada Orchestra: Bethany Aiken, Mindy Cimini on keyboards
RUNNING TIME: APPROXIMATELY 2 HOURS AND 10 MINUTES, INCLUDING A 15-MINUTE INTERMISSION.
Critique by Kitty Drexel
BOSTON, Mass. — As a girl I was introduced to the music of Sergei Rachmaninoff via the 1996 Geoffrey Rush movie Shine about pianist David Helfgott. I remember thinking Rachmaninoff’s music was so wondrous that it would be worth going a little mad to play it so beautifully.
It is terrifically easy for innocent children to romanticize the mental health crisis of adults. I’m an adult now with two degrees in classical music, but I don’t entirely disagree with my teenage self.
Preludes is Arcade Fire’s Win Butler (minus those pesky sexual assault allegations) meets contemporary musical theatre that arbitrarily skips between the centuries. It’s the story of poor, little rockstar composer Rach (Dan Prior) who suffers from debilitating writer’s block. Rach is seeing Dahl (Aimee Doherty), a hypnotherapist, to break his block and reach the great heights of success again. Rach shares his journey with his fiancee Natalya (Kayla Shimizu), opera singer Chaliapin (Anthony Pires Jr.), and assorted Russian intelligentsia (Will McGarrahan). Dan Rodriguez kicks ass as Rachmaninoff.
I’m of two minds about Dave Malloy’s Preludes at the Lyric Stage: it’s whiny and navel-gazy; and, it directly attacks the artist’s universal conundrum of creating art that is both valuable and entertaining. The Lyric’s production does not negate itself by doing both simultaneously.
This is what it is to be an artist. We desperately want to be hired but know that we may never reach our full potential. Every artists has that one brilliant friend who gave up because they couldn’t reconcile all that excruciating, costly, invisible work for lack of career recognition.
Audiences don’t often get to see artists complaining. As in the rest of life, artists can complain and still feel truly grateful for our discipline and talents. We bitch to our therapist, pick ourselves up again and get back to our art. In Preludes, Rach doesn’t get back to it because he can’t. Artists are people too.
Audiences will recognize Dave Malloy from his biggest success Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812. Preludes is a great departure from Great Comet. For one thing, it’s mercifully shorter. For another, it has more than the one melody played over and over and over.
Malloy’s original compositions in Preludes have tight, exposed vocals. Sometimes the vocals are a capella. He incorporates techno elements on two keyboards. Malloy requires vocals to sing lines independent of the techno music.
The Preludes cast meets Malloys demands and conquers them. Whatever one might think of the script or the music, the cast does a great job. Kayla Shimizu has both an expressive legit voice and impressive, cathartic-sounding mix. Anthony Pires Jr. bounds across the stage as Chaliapin. Will McGarrahan wears many hats while wearing the same shirt. Aimee Doherty charms as Dahl.
Dan Prior rides waves of Rach’s mental health to the big breakdown in Act 2 like a professional surfer. Prior and director O’Connor paced both acts uncannily well to preserve Prior’s energy and the audience’s patience. By the time Rach is ready to tell his Big Tale, we’re ready to hear it.
Music director Dan Rodriguez is the soft-focus star of Preludes. He plays piano center stage, rarely looks up from the keyboard and utters few words over the course of the two-hour production. He hovers omniscient, observant, seen and unseen.
The actors drift around Rodriguez weaving Malloy’s story, but it’s Rodriguez who does the impossible work of interpreting Rachmaninoff’s genius and then threading Malloy’s compositions under and through. Then Malloy asks his music director to conduct from the stage. And then Malloy asks him to sing.
Rodriguez is a known, beloved music director in Boston. Rodriguez has the trust of his cast, his unseen orchestra, and the audience. We believe his Rachmaninoff and in his skill at the piano. This may be his most challenging role to date, and he meets it with aplomb. He takes a risk coming in front of the curtain. It pays off.
Photo by Mark S. Howard.
The “Who’s Who in Preludes” playbill article adds a thoughtful touch to the playgoing experience. It puts nine faces to nine famous name drops in the show and gives the audience something to consider during the intermission. (Such as how Tolstoy maintained such an exact yet plush eyebrow to mustache hair ratio). We’re introduced to how each knows Rachmaninoff and why they are important to Preludes. More dramaturgy is HERE.
For those of you who know what it is to have spoken with the muses and be abandoned by them, it is no small thing to have experienced their presence. Attempting to call them back is painful, embarrassing, and painfully embarassing. Malloy’s work represents his experiences. It isn’t universal. Be kind.
People want/need art but don’t want to pay artists a living wage. Preludes asks an audience to see an artist as a person, an imperfect, breakable person with more flaws than genius or friends. We ask a lot of our artists. Preludes asks us to give a little more than money and time.
Presented by American Repertory Theater Based on the novel by Yann Martel Adapted by Lolita Chakrabarti Directed by Max Webster Scenic and Costume Design by Tim Hatley Puppetry and Movement Direction by Finn Caldwell Puppet Design by Nick Barnes by Finn Caldwell Video Design by Andrzej Goulding Lighting Design by Tim Lutkin Sound Design by Carolyn Downing Original Music by Andrew T. Mackay Dramaturgy by Jack Bradley
“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.” – The Bene Gesserit’s “Litany Against Fear” from Dune by Frank Herbert
Critique by Kitty Drexel
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Life of Pi at American Repertory is for fans who loved the novel and the movie. It’s for people who loved the movie, too. Life of Pi may also appeal to people who don’t regularly attend the theatre but enjoy a spectacle epic.
Life of Pi the stage adaptation is not for children. The movie was rated PG, but the theatrical version is PG-13 at least. Puppets are no longer an indication of child-friendly content. Life of Pi’s puppets can be graceful and inspire wonder – yes – they also rightly invoke fear. Continue reading →
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 →
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
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 →
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).
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.
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 →
PROVIDENCE, RI – When I think of Fringe, at the forefront of the word salad it conjures is “vulnerability.” Fringe in particular brings out the most intensely personal, soul-baring works. It does so largely by allowing artists free reign to put on whatever show they want. It is, among other things, a festival of works from the heart.
For the uninitiated, the Fringe Festival is a theatre festival devoted to experimental or fringe theatre works. It got its start in Edinburgh, but now has chapters all over the world, including one in Providence presented by The Wilbury Theatre Group, now in its ninth year. At a Fringe, you will see works the likes of which you probably have never seen before and that you may never see again. The performances range from poetry to music, dance to clownery, and things that defy any categorization. After two years without a live Fringe Festival because of COVID-19, local artists have a ton of pent up expression ready to be unleashed.Continue reading →