Mar 22

Living in Exile: A War Story of Epic Proportions

Robert Walsh and Tamara Hickey; photo by Stratton McCrady c 2011

Living in Exile by Jon Lipsky, 3/17/11-3/27/11.  http://www.actorsshakespeareproject.org/.

Reviewed by Becca Kidwell

How do you fit the story of a ten year war into a night of entertainment?  First, take a familiar piece of material; second, get two talented actors; third, have Actor’s Shakespeare Project produce it.  Many students have struggled with The Illiad in school.  Jon Lipsky reinvents Homer’s story of the epic battle of Troy. Continue reading

Mar 18

EDUCATING RITA: Laughing at Learning

Jane Pfitsch as Rita in Educating Rita, by Willy Russell, directed by Maria Aitken at the Huntington Theatre Company, 3/10/11 Set Design Allen Moyer Costume Design Nancy Brennan Lighting Design Joel E. Silver © T Charles Erickson photoshelter.com/c/tcharleserickson tcepix@comcast.net

Educating Rita by Willy Russell, Huntington Theatre Company, 3/11/11-4/10/11.  http://www.huntingtontheatre.org/ Herbal cigarettes smoked during the show.

Reviewed by Becca Kidwell

During my studies to become a teacher, I was told one of the movies that I should not see on education was Educating Rita.  I can understand some of the caution; I would not want to be a teacher like Frank, but the story does remind us of the pure joy of learning and the need for critical thinking.  Knowledge is more than expertise and understanding is more than results.  The Huntington’s production of Educating Rita reminds us that learning should not be at the cost of  of our individuality.

Being a perpetual student, Allen Moyer’s set had my “geeky sense” tingling–a room full of books and a sterile, air of pomposity–typical of a professor’s office.  The office also hides the desperate desire of Frank (played by Andrew Long) to pretend that he is still an academic although he has been jaded for years.  Life and renewed purpose enter Frank’s office in the form of Rita (played by Jane Pfitsch).   Continue reading

Mar 09

reasons to be pretty–Do these jeans make my butt look fat?

Greg (Andy Macdonald) confronts Carly (Danielle Muehlen) who is responsible for his break-up in a scene from the SpeakEasy Stage Company production of Neil LaBute’s Broadway hit reasons to be pretty, Photo: Craig Bailey/Perspective Photo.

reasons to be pretty by Neil LaBute, Speakeasy Stage Company, 3/4/11-4/2/11.  http://www.speakeasystage.com/doc.php?section=showpage&page=reasons Contains mature language.

Reviewed Becca Kidwell

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”  When we get out of high school, we hope the teasing will stop; however, we find new forms of teasing in fashion magazines, tv shows, and hanging out with friends.  Have we become too sensitive?  No.  But where do we draw the line?  How do we stop feeling put down by the world and begin feeling secure in ourselves?  Speakeasy Stage Company’s production of reasons to be pretty by Neil LaBute makes us examine these questions through their dynamic production.

Anyone who knows about LaBute should not be too surprised by the tirade of expletives that open the play.  They will not be too surprised that the cause is Steph, played by Angie Jepson, who hears that her boyfriend Greg, played by Andy McDonald, has described her face as “regular”.  While it is an extreme reaction, we understand that it is akin to any answer to the question “do my jeans make my butt look fat?”  Andy McDonald plays a calm, normal guy who dodges the verbal missiles on all sides, but still ends up with Steph leaving him.  Angie Jepson’s belligerent performance is matched by the vulnerability she displays when Steph keeps returning to Greg for approval. Continue reading

Mar 07

Yellowman: Shades of the Past

Yellowman by Dael Orlandersmith, Trinity Repertory Company, 2/25/11-4/3/11.  http://www.trinityrep.com/on_stage/current_season/DM.php Contains mature language and themes

Resident acting company member Joe Wilson, Jr. as Eugene and Brown/Trinity Rep MFA actor Rachel Christopher ’11 as Alma in Yellowman by Dael Orlandersmith, directed by Laurie Carlos, now through April 3 at Trinity Rep. Set design by Seitu Jones, costume design by William Lane and lighting design by Michael Wangen. (photo: Mark Turek)

Reviewed by Becca Kidwell

“We hate everything we are told to hate until we realize it is us, ourselves, a new baby just had as we lower her into the well.”  Laurie Carlos, Director

Are we the products of our past?  As if being birthed from their own parents’ hatred, Rachel Christopher as Alma and Joe Wilson, Jr. as Eugene enter to rhythmic breathing and begin to tell their separate, yet intermingling stories of their lives. Under the direction of Laurie Carlos, Trinity Rep creates an evening of dance and poetry–of lives brought together–and torn apart.

Alma is raised by her mother Odelia who passes on her ingrained hatred of being dark-skinned.  Alma complains about being fat and big, but even in childhood Eugene is attracted to her.  Eugene grows up being hated for his light-skin by many Continue reading

Mar 05

What’s Happening at the Boston Lyric Opera: Agrippina

(copy of press release–working on article about opera, but it will not be ready by the time their show starts & I want you to have the information)

Oh, the depravity!
Boston Lyric Opera goes Baroque with elegant, insidious Agrippina

Caroline Worra stars in satire of the fall of the Roman Empire, opening March 11

Production features three countertenors: Anthony Roth Costanzo,
David Trudgen and José Alvarez

WHAT: Witness the ultimate stage mother have a major melt-down in one of opera’s most intense “mad scenes,” as she plots to make her son Nero Emperor of Rome in BLO’s production of Handel’s fast-paced Agrippina. This light and frothy opera with insidious undertones is based in historical fact, weaving the twisted tale of a mother’s desperate scheme to remove her husband from the throne and elevate her spoiled teenage son…creating a complicated intrigue of shifting alliances and turning the Imperial court into a nest of elegant vipers.

This classical yet modern production, created by Glimmerglass and New York City Opera, features exciting debuts and is the third in BLO’s 2010-2011 Season; it will be presented at the Citi Performing Arts CenterSM Shubert Theatre. Three countertenors, a five-piece continuo group and an elevated orchestra pit built specifically for the production will immerse the audience in a uniquely Baroque experience. Continue reading

Feb 27

FREUD’S LAST SESSION: meeting of the minds

Martin Rayner as Freud and Mark H. Dold as Lewis c 2010 by Kevin Sprague

Freud’s Last Session by Mark St. Germain, Barrington Stage Company Production, The Marjorie S. Deane Little Theatre at the West Side Y. (Off-Broadway).  1st Run:  July 22-November 27, 2010, 2nd Run:  1/14/11-open run.

Reviewed by Becca Kidwell

What would happen if Sigmund Freud and CS Lewis took a meeting?  That is the premise of Mark St. Germain’s play Freud’s Last Session.  Freud, played by Martin Rayner, invites the young scholar CS Lewis, played by Mark H. Dold, to find out how someone who had been a rational atheist could be deluded into believing in the “myth” of Christianity. Dr. Armand M. Nicholi, Jr.’s book, The Question of God, influenced St. Germain to posit what might transpire between these strong individuals. Continue reading

Feb 26

BILLY ELLIOT: some sparks of ‘electricity’

Alex Ko as Billy Elliot, http://alturl.com/zk5dt

Billy Elliot, book and lyrics by Lee Hall, music by Elton John, based on the Universal Pictures/Studio Canal Film, Imperial Theatre (Broadway), 2009 Tony Award for Best Musical, open run since 10/1/08, http://www.billyelliotbroadway.com/Contains mature language and themes.  (for those with allergies:  fog and cigarette smoke, avoid the orchestra section)

Reviewed by Becca Kidwell

Yes, it’s been a little over two years and I have just been to see Billy Elliot.  I confess, I am very hesitant to spend over $100 on a ticket to a show that I don’t know much about.  Musicals based on movies have had a mixed history (Footloose, The Wedding Singer, Carrie, Legally Blonde, The Producers, Hairspray, Nine, etc.). So, I was looking at my break in February and trying to figure out what shows I would see in New York.   Continue reading

Feb 20

THE SECRET GARDEN: A Magical Secret Worth Sharing

photo by Gary Ng

The Secret Garden, book and lyrics by Susan Kosoff, Music by Jane Staab, Wheelock Family Theatre, 1/28/11-2/27/11 (including weekday performances 2/22/11-2/25/11), http://www.wheelockfamilytheatre.org/feature-performance.aspx

Reviewed by Becca Kidwell

As I was watching Wheelock’s production of The Secret Garden, I wished I was eight again (except for the horrible prospect of growing up again).  Wheelock Family Theatre is a magical place where dreams come alive, and this is particularly evident in their production of The Secret Garden.

One can’t help but be enchanted by the scenery by Matthew T. Lazure.  The garden wall rotates and reveals the inside of the garden, and Colin’s room appears from the walls of the seemingly impenetrable house.  Another clever aspect is the “growth” of the flowers during intermission; I put my head down for one minute–I look up and see leaves; I put my head down for another moment, look up and see flowers in full bloom. Continue reading

Feb 13

CYMBELINE: such stuff as dreams are made on

Cymbeline by William Shakespeare, Actors’ Shakespeare Project, 2/9/11-2/20/11, part of THE WINTER FESTIVAL (also playing:  The Hotel Nepenthe by John Kuntz, 2/23/11-3/6/11; and Living in Exile by Jon Lipsky, 3/9/11-3/20/11)  http://www.actorsshakespeareproject.org/season7/winter_festival.html

Brooke Hardman as Imogen and De'Lon Grant as Posthumous; photo by Stratton McCrady, c 2011

Reviewed by Becca Kidwell

This is why I love theatre.  No sets. No real props (except musical instruments).  Plain white clothing.  All that is left is the artists and the words.  Cymbeline, one of Shakespeare’s final plays, is rarely staged because of its meandering plots and complicated relationships (for a detailed plot summary, go to SparkNotes—really, it’s not cheating); Actors’ Shakespeare Project not only takes on the challenge, but performs the play possibly better than even Shakespeare could have envisioned it.

This phenomenally talented cast of seven takes the multiple plot twists and numerous characters and creates a cohesive and pleasurable fable for adults.   Continue reading

Feb 05

RUMORS fly like bullets

Rumors by Neil Simon, Walpole Footlighters, 2/4/11-2/20/11, http://www.footlighters.com/

Reviewed by Becca Kidwell

Photos by Dan Busler Photography

Walpole Footlighters breathes life into the wily, witty, wordsmith’s farce:  Rumors.  Although the script itself brings little to the genre other than being an obvious testing ground for Neil Simon, Walpole Footlighters offers a bubbly evening of laughs to take your mind off all of the snow.

The story surrounds an anniversary party gone awry:  the wife and the servants have run off, the host has shot himself in the ear, and the guests try to cover up an apparent scandal.  Comic craziness ensues.

Led by David Giagrando, the cast is able to overcome some of the script’s flaws.  Giagrando, as Lenny Ganz, tries to control the situation and fails hilariously; his performance produces the perfect neurotic New York yuppie while using every subterfuge in his arsenal (including a wonderfully performed “story” in the second act) to keep the host’s secret from getting into the news.  Barbara Shapiro and James Merlin (as Cookie and Ernie Cusack) amplify the neuroses with their screwball personalities and actions.  Shapiro’s physical comedy provides some of the funniest moments of the night.

While the script itself drags in some places, the show overall provides an enjoyable evening of belly laughs that remind us of a simpler time (who ever thought the 80’s would be called that?) when appearance was the only important thing.  Walpole Footlighters provides a delightful production to get you outside of the city and outside of yourself.  2/4/11.  TNETG.