Dec 04

Commiserating in Catholicism: Sister’s Christmas Catechism

"Sister" Denise Fennell, photo credit: EEI.

Sister’s Christmas Catechism by Maripat Donovan with Jane Morris and Marc Silvia, Stoneham Theatre, 11/25/11-12/23/11 (in repertory with The Nutcracker),  http://www.stonehamtheatre.org/holidayshows2011.html.

Reviewed by Craig Idlebrook

(Stoneham, MA) “How many of you used to get hit with a wooden spoon?” deadpans Sister (Denise Fennell) in the middle of the one-woman show, Sister’s Christmas Catechism.  Hands shoot up in the audience, the owners near tears with laughing.  “We used to run as soon as my mom reached for the drawer.”

The audience reaction should seem sad.  Such a statement feels more at home in the setting of a support group.  Yet through Fennell’s deft handling of the subject-matter, it often is funny.  Sister’s Christmas Catechism is filled with ad-libbed material that tap-dances on the most sensitive spots of the recovering Catholic psyche, and it takes Fennel’s sharp comic timing and extreme “been-there-done-that” sensitivity to pull it off. Continue reading

Nov 30

Three Viewings: Humor and Human Folly at the Graveside

Adrianne Krstansky as Virginia in Three Viewings. Photo by Andrew Brilliant/ Brilliant Pictures.

Three Viewings by Jeffrey Hatcher, New Repertory Theatre, Arsenal Center for the Arts, 11/27/11-12/18/11, http://newrep.org/three_viewings.php.

Reviewed by Gillian Daniels

(Watertown, MA) Three Viewings is the kind of theatrical outing that I cannot recommend highly enough, a play where writer Jeffrey Hatcher deftly and comically attempts to capture the variation and nuance of human nature. Continue reading

Nov 28

The Ultimate Christmas Show (abridged) Review–SERIOUSLY!

Reed Martin, Austin Tichenor & Matt Rippy (L-R) Photo by Meghan Moore

The Ultimate Christmas Show by Reed Martin and Austin Tichenor, Reduced Shakespeare CompanyMerrimack Repertory Theatre, 11/25/11-12/18/11,  http://www.merrimackrep.org/season/show.aspx?sid=110.  Contains scatological humor and some Reed Martin and Austin Tichenor flesh.   

Reviewed by Becca Kidwell

(Lowell, MA)  They’re baaack!  Every so often, a rustle of popular culture floats through the air, gets put into the Reduced Shakespeare grinder and out comes some side-splitting fun.  At their east coast premiere of The Ultimate Christmas Show (abridged), the Reduced Shakespeare Company exceeds expectations.  Blending holiday traditions from ancient times to modern, religious to secular, The Ultimate Christmas Show presents a jolly evening for anyone who can appreciate a little irreverence with sincere heart. Continue reading

Nov 27

The Nutcracker: Reinventing Sugar Plum Fairies with Sugar Plum Cookies

Toys standing on left (L-R): Alycia Sacco (as doll Phoebe), Grant MacDermott (as Monkey), Nick Sulfaro (as Hugo); Seated on right (L-R): Danny Bryck (as Fritz), Sirena Abalian (as Clara). Stoneham Theatre's "The Nutcracker" is directed by Caitlin Lowans. All photographs taken by Carla Donaghey.

The Nutcracker as imagined The House Theatre of Chicago, based on the story by E.T.A. Hoffman, book by Phillip Klapperich and Jake Minton, music by Kevin O’Donnell, lyrics by Jake Minton, Stoneham Theatre, 11/25/11-12/22/11, http://www.stonehamtheatre.org/holidayshows2011.html.

Reviewed by Gillian Daniels

(Stoneham, MA) With a contemporary setting and opening scenes that take place at a Christmas party, Stoneham Theatre’s production of “The Nutcracker” promises to be a modern update of the classic E.T.A. Hoffman children’s book and eventual ballet by Tchaikovsky.  A sudden chill interrupts the family scene when it’s announced that Fritz (Danny Bryck), the older brother of Clara (Sirena Abalian), has died while serving in the military.

In the fallout of this tonal shift, the party guests dispose of the Christmas tree like pallbearers taking away a coffin.  The core members of the family, including parents Meagan Hawkes and Mark Linehan, continue to grieve.  From there, the original story is used as a springboard for Clara to deal with the loss of her brother. Continue reading

Nov 24

Arabian Nights: Colorful Storytelling

The Ruhk and the Cast in a scene from The Nora Theatre Company and Underground Railway Theater’s production of Arabian Nights running from November 17 – December 31 at Central Square Theater, 450 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA. Tickets & Information: 866-811-4111 or CentralSquareTheater.org. Photo: A.R. Sinclair Photography.

Arabian Nights, adapted by Dominic Cooke, The Nora Theatre Company and Underground Railroad Theater at the Central Square Theater,  11/17/11-12/31/11,  http://www.centralsquaretheater.org/season/11-12/arabian-nights.html.

Reviewed by Anthony Geehan

(Cambridge, MA) The ancient civilizations of the Middle East where a progressive and highly advance set of empires and people, making large strides in the studies of mathematics, astronomy, and architecture. Many of these contributions have had a phenomenal affect on the modern world, including their ancient stories that have influenced the structure and tone of a wide range of stories throughout Western civilizations, from King Arthur and the Nights of the Round Table to Loony Tunes. Many of the more influential stories from the area were collected within the famous book 1001 Arabian Nights, a series of tales and legends of ancient Persia, ranging from epic adventure tales to short comedies told around the central focus of a young woman named Scheherazade attempting to quell the rage of a wronged king and save the woman of his kingdom. A selection of these tales, as well as the story of Scheherazade and the king is the focus of The Nora Theatre Company and Underground Railway Theater’s first combined effort Arabian Nights; a grandly staged yet minimal production of classic tales of adventure, morality, and humor. Continue reading

Nov 23

A Confused Classic: A Christmas Carol

Brian McEleney as Ebenezer Scrooge and the cast of the 35th annual production of Dickens' A Christmas Carol, adapted by Adrian Hall and Richard Cumming, directed by Christopher Windom, presented by Cardi’s Furniture with supporting sponsor Amica Insurance. Performances will be November 18 - December 30 in the Chace Theater. Set design: Michael McGarty; Costume Design: William Lane; Lighting Design: John Eckert. Photo by: Mark Turek.

A Christmas Carol, adapted from Charles Dickens’ novel by Adrian Hall and Richard Cumming, original music by Richard Cumming, Trinity Repertory Company, 11/18/11-12/30/11, http://www.trinityrep.com/on_stage/current_season/ACC.php.

Reviewed by Craig Idlebrook

(Providence, RI) At first glance, it seems easy to perform A Christmas Carol; just round up the usual characters from last year and dust off the crutch.  But staging a play that everyone knows can present a challenge because of audience dogma; everyone has an idea of the way the play should go. A director can be ridden out on a rail if s(he) strays too far from the collective idea of the play.

Confronted with such a double-edged sword, directors have two options.  They may either decide to stage the play faithfully, trying to bring out bits of nuance to keep theater-goers and actors from falling asleep, or stage the play in a new way that helps the audience examine why it has become such a cultural icon.  Continue reading

Nov 22

Ain’t Misbehavin’: Tribute to a Lost Harlem

Pictured: Lori Tishfield, Calvin Braxton, Davron S. Monroe, Robin Long, & Lovely Hoffman. Picture by Mark S. Howard

Ain’t Misbehavin’, Music by Thomas “Fats” Waller, Based on an idea by Murray Horwitz and Richard Maltby, Jr., Lyric Stage, 11/17/11-12/17/11,  https://lyricstage.com/main_stage/aint_misbehavin/.

Reviewed by Gillian Daniels

(Boston, MA) With its familiar melodies and disarming 1940’s Harlem charm, Ain’t Misbehavin’ is probably the most energetic musical revue I’ve seen.  Done with precision and love for original composer Thomas “Fats” Waller (here played by Calvin Braxton), the show is a tribute to an era that evaporated long ago.  It replicates the energy of the time as best as it can with vibrant musical numbers and tight choreography. Continue reading

Nov 21

Snow Queen: American Repertory Theatre Announcement

American Repertory Theater

announces special family programming for the holidays:

THE SNOW QUEEN

a production for families and children of all ages

adapted by Tyler Monroe from the fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen

directed by Allegra Libonati

original puppets by Michael Kane

December 10-31

Loeb Drama Center 

Cambridge, Mass — The American Repertory Theater (A.R.T.), under the Artistic Direction of Diane Paulus, is adding to the already announced season a special family-oriented production — The Snow Queen, Hans Christian Andersen’s exuberant ode to childhood.  The new stage adaptation for children and their families by Tyler Monroe is directed by Allegra Libonati, with original puppets by Michael Kane, and featuring members of the A.R.T. Institute Class of 2012. The production opens at the Loeb Drama Center on December 10 and runs through December 31.

When a young boy named Kai is taken away by a wicked enchantress, his best friend Gerda must embark on a perilous journey to the North Pole to rescue him.  Using puppets, music, and magic, this heart-warming production will take you on a theatrical journey through a magical kingdom to the Snow Queen’s icy palace.

Tickets to The Snow Queen are $15.  For further information call the A.R.T. box office at 617-547-8300 or visit http://www.americanrepertorytheater.org/events/show/snow-queen

To accompany this production, the A.R.T. is offering Fairy Tale Theater, an eight-week fall theater class for children aged 4-7.   Taught by Snow Queen director Allegra Libonati and A.R.T. Outreach and Education Associate Brendan Shea, this class will take children on a fun-filled, creative adventure through their favorite fairy tales, giving them the chance to create and star in their own reimagining of classic tales, from The Little Mermaid to Hansel and Gretel.  The class will be held on Saturday mornings from October 22 through December 17 at the Loeb Drama Center and will culminate in a presentation for parents and families that features the students and actors from the A.R.T.’s The Snow Queen. Each child enrolled will receive a free ticket to the opening performance of The Snow Queen.  For more information call (617) 496-2000 x8834 or visit

all copy from press release

http://www.americanrepertorytheater.org/fairytaletheater.

Nov 19

Captors Connects Too Many Dots

Louis Cancelmi and Michael Cristofer in Evan M. Wiener’s CAPTORS. November 11 through December 11 at the BU Theatre. huntingtontheatre.org. Photo: T. Charles Erickson

Captors by Evan M. Wiener, Huntington Theatre Company, 11/11/11-12/11/11,  http://www.huntingtontheatre.org/season/production.aspx?id=10179&src=t.

Reviewed by Craig Idlebrook

(Boston, MA) Writing is as much about what is not said as what is said.  A playwright must learn to leave space for the audience to fill in the blanks.

Every writer at some point succumbs to excessive explanation to make sure everyone gets it.  Continue reading

Nov 19

The Brothers Size and Marcus; Or the Secret of Sweet

James Milord - Oshoosi Size Part 2: The Brothers Size; Photo Credit: Company One

The Brothers Size and Marcus; Or The Secret Of Sweet by Tarrell Alvin McCraney,  Company OnePlaza Theatre at the Boston Center for the Arts, 11/10/11-12/3/11, In repertory with In The Red And Brown Waterhttp://www.companyone.org/Season13/Brother_Sister_Plays/synopsis.shtml.  Contains strong sexual content and some graphic language.

Reviewed by Anthony Geehan

(Boston, MA) It was once said by the great American musician Miles Davis, “it’s not the notes you play; it’s the ones you don’t play.” While he was using the phrase to sum up the art of preforming jazz music, the saying resonates a sort of “less is more” mentality that is palpable to every form of art. From the Hemingway’s seven word classic “Baby Shoes” to sculptor Tony Smith’s famous block works, minimalism can be both a necessity when resources are scarce and an inspiring self-induced boundary to work within. In the world of theatre, its idea has been stretched from one man plays and single set pieces to improvised comedy and flash mob acts. Possibly one of the best examples of minimalism in theater today can be found in Tarell McCraney’s The Brother/Sisters Plays, a trilogy spanning the story of three separate generations living in the bayous of Louisiana, all told with minimal set pieces and eight actors playing characters in three separate moments in time connected through kin. While part one of the trilogy In The Red and Brown Water is a full length play, parts two and three, The Brother Size and Marcus; Or the Secret of Sweet are shorter works, shown in tandem in order to wrap up the series arc. Continue reading