Jun 18

Darkness Eats Unwanted Souls, or The Homeless are Human: “King of Shadows”

Trinidad Ramkissoon and Laura Chowenhill in “King of Shadows.” Photo via Flat Earth’s Facebook page.

Presented by Flat Earth Theatre
By Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa
Directed by Michael Hisamoto
Puppetry by Amy Lehrmitt
Intimacy direction by Betsy S. Goldman

June 7 – 22, 2019
Mosesian Center for the Arts
Watertown, MA
Flat Earth on Facebook

Critique by Kitty Drexel

Disclaimer: I auditioned for this production, and was not cast. It is my opinion that only a jackass would allow rejection, a natural process of auditioning, to taint their review.

Trigger warnings: mentioned sexual abuse, mentioned sex work (which is real work)

(Watertown, MA) There is a lot of ambiguity in Aguirre-Sacasa’s King of Shadows. He doesn’t communicate a clear message to his audience.  Specifically, he doesn’t clarify what it is he’s trying to say. At no fault of Flat Earth, Hisamoto or the cast, Aguirre-Sacasa implies in only uncertain terms that teen homelessness is bad, rich grad students with savior complexes are ineffective, and fairytales are fun. The details are a mishmash of complications. Flat Earth does a good job with the script, but Aguirre-Sacasa isn’t doing them any favors. Continue reading

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Jun 17

Close Your Eyes and Think of England: “Cloud 9”

Cast of “Cloud 9”
Photo: Nile Scott Studios

Presented by the Nora Theatre Company
By Caryl Churchill
Directed by Lee Mikeska Gardner
Voice and Music direction by Caitlin Gjerdrum
Dramaturgy by Sophie Gore
Text and dialect coaching by Allison Olivia Choat

June 6 – 30, 2019
Central Square Theater
Cambridge, MA
CST on Facebook

Critique by Kitty Drexel

Warning: this post contains spoilers. The spoilers are necessary to the conversation.

Trigger warnings: child abuse, mentions of domestic violence, racism, sexism, creepy dolls

Satire: (noun) sat·​ire | \ ˈsa-ˌtī(-ə)r
Definition of satire

1 : a literary work holding up human vices and follies to ridicule or scorn
2 : trenchant wit, irony, or sarcasm used to expose and discredit vice or folly – Per the Merriam-Webster online dictionary

(Cambridge, MA) Satire doesn’t have to be funny. Most satire is funny, but it isn’t a hard and fast rule. Much of comedy is found funny because of its treatment of serious topics. For example, jokes about the Boston Str8 Pride Parade* will get a laugh in some situations. In other situations, the jokes don’t land because this parade represents unadulterated hate towards the LGBTQ+ community. We understand why your jokes are “funny,” but it’s our lives those neo-nazis are protesting. The protest might be funny if it were satire – But it isn’t. It’s real. We’re real too. 

I mention this because the themes that Caryl Churchill attacks in Cloud 9 are real too. Heteros still think that the LGBTQ+ community is asking for extra protections. People of Color (POC) are being massacred in the US for their audacity to take up space. These things aren’t funny but jokes about them can be if told properly. Cloud 9’s themes are still relevant. Continue reading

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May 06

One World, Many Stories: “The Earthroom”

Photo by Paul Fox.

Presented by Fresh Ink Theatre
Written by Marge Buckley
Directed by Rebecca Bradshaw
Fight choreography by Omar Robinson
Dramaturgy by Sarah Schnebly

May 3-18, 2019
Boston Playwrights’ Theatre
949 Commonwealth Avenue
Boston, MA 02215
Fresh Ink on Facebook

Critique by Kitty Drexel

Disclaimer: I auditioned for this production, and was not cast. It is my opinion that only a jackass would allow rejection, a natural process of auditioning, to taint their review.

(Boston, MA) Playwright Marge Buckley has a unique aptitude to balance quirky comedy with human truths. Her science fiction play The Earth Room merges family dynamics with interplanetary conquest with urban planning. It all bounces off the larger issue of mental health avoidance. Human beings may colonize Mars; they may even invent the holodeck, but they will still be inherently guided by human nature.   Continue reading

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Apr 29

“American Moor”: The Black Man And The Play

Presented by ArtsEmerson
Written and Performed by Keith Hamilton Cobb
Directed by Kim Weild
Lighting Design by Alan C. Edwards

April 10 – 21, 2019
Emerson Paramount Theatre
Boston, MA
ArtsEmerson on Facebook

Critique by Diana Lu

(Boston, MA) American Moor is a masterpiece of a one-man show. Written and performed by accomplished actor Keith Hamilton Cobb, the 90 minute monologue portrays the interior narrative of an overqualified black actor as he goes through yet another disheartening audition to play Shakespeare’s Othello for yet another clueless white Director (Josh Tyson). The descriptive prowess of Cobb’s blow-by-blow detail plays out like The Old Man and the Sea. His impressive acting chops create some of the most intense, emotionally raw, and true to life moments I’ve ever seen on any stage, including The Globe Theater in London.
Continue reading

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Apr 25

Guns Are Implicitly Made for Killing: “Trigger Warning”

L to R: Steve Auger, Lilly Brenneman, Liz Adams; Photo courtesy of Zeitgeist Stage Company

Presented by Zeitgeist Stage Company
By Jacques Lamarre
Directed by David J. Miller

April 12 – May 4, 2019
Plaza Black Box Theater
Boston Center for the Arts
Boston, MA
Zeitgeist on Facebook

Critique by Kitty Drexel

Trigger warnings: gunshot sound effect, screaming, domestic violence, mentions of suicide, historically accurate newsreel depicting survivors fleeing danger, cop violence  

(Boston, MA) This month marks the 20 year anniversary of the Columbine High School massacre. I remember watching it on TV with my brothers before, realizing there was nothing I could do, going to work out. I just knew that my thoughts and prayers would bolster the victims through those hard times.

I was 18 and naively trusted our government to prevent this tragedy from ever repeating. Unfortunately, as the students of Parkland, Virginia Tech, Sandyhook and others attest, the US Govt. has failed its citizens. It can’t even pass moderate gun control measures. Theatre such as Zeitgeist’s Trigger Warning will continue to be necessary until our money-grubbing politicians can wean themselves of the NRA’s violence-hemorrhaging teets. Continue reading

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Apr 19

Constant Good Affections: “The Clearing”

Presented by Hub Theatre Company of Boston
By Helen Edmundson
Directed by Daniel Bourque
Assistant direction and dramaturgy by Isabel Dollar
Dialect coaching by Meredith Gosselin
Fight direction by Samantha Richert

April 5 – 20, 2019
First Church in Boston
66 Marlborough St
Boston, MA
Hub on Facebook

Critique by Kitty Drexel

(Boston, MA) The Clearing is about white on white ethnic cleansing. It is 1652 and Cromwell is rabid for Catholic land and English Royalist lives. His Parliament passed the Act for the Settlement of Ireland and sentenced them to lives in Connaught, deportation to Barbados, or to death. It wasn’t very pleasant for anyone except Cromwell’s cronies. Hub Theatre’s production isn’t a hopeful production (the colonizers win) but it tells a necessary story.  
Continue reading

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Apr 16

“Cardboard Piano”: Good Intentions, Poorly Executed

Photo by Andrew Brilliant/Brilliant Pictures; L-R: Rachel Cognata and Marge Dunn.

Presented by New Repertory Theatre
Written by Hansol Jung
Directed by Benny Sato Ambush

March 23 —April 14, 2019
The Dorothy and Charles Mosesian Center for the Arts
321 Arsenal St
Watertown, MA 02472
New Rep on Facebook

Critique by Diana Lu

(Watertown, MA) Cardboard Piano is a two-part sociopolitical drama. The first act portrays a young love affair between Chris, a missionary’s daughter (Marge Dunn), and Adiel (Rachel Cognata), a Ugandan teenager, and how it was torn apart by senseless homophobia and war violence. The second act sees the daughter return to Uganda 15 years later to find the man who killed her lover (Michael Ofori/Marc Pierre) reviving her father’s church and continuing to oppress his young, queer congregants. Continue reading

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Apr 01

He’s Asking For It: “Extremities”

Photo credit: Ashley Yung; Alissa Cordeiro (Marjorie)

Presented by Also Known As Theatre
In partnership with Boston Area Rape Crisis Center (barcc)
By William Matrosimone
Directed by Alexandra Smith
Fight choreography by Jessica Scout Malone

March 28 – April 13, 2019
First Church Cambridge
11 Garden St.,
Cambridge, MA 02138

Critique by Kitty Drexel

Trigger warning: assault, sexual assault, gas lighting, victim blaming

(Cambridge, MA) It’s a cruel and unusual punishment to be found at guilty of assault when protecting oneself from attacker. Cyntoia Brown served 15 years in prison for murdering a man who bought her for sex so she could flee. At 16 years old, she was tried her as an adult and sentenced to 51 years in prison without parole. She has only recently received clemency for her unreasonably harsh and unjust sentencing. Also Known As Theatre’s production of Extremities puts into stark relief just how easy it is for the US legal system to turn on women for not performing victimhood to exacting standards. Brown is receiving a modicum of justice but how many women will not? 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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Mar 20

Her Name is Dr. Franklin, You Git: “Photograph 51”

Pictured: Stacy Fischer; Photo by Maggie Hall

Presented by The Nora Theatre Company
A Catalyst Collaborative@MIT Production
The Brit d’Arbeloff Women in Science Production Series
Written by Anna Ziegler
Directed by Rebecca Bradshaw
Voice and dialect coaching by Rebecca Schneebaum

March 14 – April 14, 2019
Central Square Theater
450 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, Massachusetts 02139
CST on Facebook

Trigger warnings: vintage sexism, gaslighting, victim blaming

Critique by Kitty Drexel

(Cambridge, MA) Photograph 51 is depressing – not because it’s a depressing play, but because it tells us (STEM researchers, women, women within STEM, etc.) how little progress towards gender equality we have made since Dr. Rosalind Franklin discovered the structure of DNA. Her work, her words went largely ignored and men took all of the credit for her work. This is disturbing. That women in STEM are still silenced is even more so.   Continue reading

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