Jan 11

HYSTERIA: the naked women in Freud’s closet

Hysteria, or Fragments of an Analysis of a Obsessional Neurosis by Terry Johnson, The NoraTheatre Company, Central Square Theater, 1/6/11-1/30/11.  Nudity and mature themes.  http://www.centralsquaretheater.org/season/10-11/hysteria.html

Reviewed by Becca Kidwell

Freudian analysis?  A dream of Dali?  Too much spicy food?  These are questions the audience might ask while watching Hysteria.  Using the real meeting between Freud and Dali as a starting point, Johnson’s play moves from farce to surrealism to nothingness.  The Nora Theatre Company makes this strange journey palatable and pleasurable and  masks the flaws of the script.

The exaggerated perspective of the set, Freud’s study, immediately tells the audience that something peculiar is going to happen.  As the play unfolds, Janie E. Howland’s surrealistic set design matches the frenetic energy that is sent forth from the actors.  No one questions the absurdity of the situations that take place because the cast commit fully to the roles that they play.  Richard Sneed, as Freud, tries to hold the world together as it keeps trying to spiral out-of-control.  His warm-fatherly nature combined with Freud’s philosophies moves the audience from sympathy for a dying man to anger at an intractable man that will not even admit the possibility that he might have erred. Continue reading

Dec 30

Building Relationships

Barefoot In The Park by Neil Simon, Zero Point Theater, 12/28/10-1/2/11.  http://www.zptheater.com/

Reviewed by Becca Kidwell

Zero Point Theater, a relatively new theatre company, brings Neil Simon’s crowd-pleasing favorite Barefoot In The Park to the stage.  While a few of the references from the 1963 play are dated, the integrity of this piece—underscoring the complexity of developing relationships—remains sound, along with the majority of the quips and witty dialogue that Simon is famous for. Continue reading

Dec 28

The Problem With Previews–Version 2.0

by Becca Kidwell

[This is based on the article I wrote in November, but then deleted because I did see the production after its opening and I wanted the theatre to have the opportunity to have a successful show, if warranted, without prejudice.]

Preview performances are not a new invention in the theatre. In fact, although I could not find the origin, I have found news articles dating back to the 1900’s regarding theatre previews. Most theatres will agree that “preview week is about nuance. For the creators, cast and crew, the seven [preview] performances will be a chance to fine-tune before the official opening night four days from now. They will make changes during the day and try them out at night before an audience.”1 However, that definition allows for flexibility and abuse to the detriment of the audience. Continue reading

Dec 14

A Warm, Affirming Life

It’s A Wonderful Life:  A Live Radio Play by Joe Landry, Trinity Repertory Theatre, 12/3/10-1/2/11.

http://www.trinityrep.com/on_stage/current_season/MTM.php

Reviewed by Becca Kidwell

Resident acting company members Stephen Berenson, Anne Scurria, Timothy Crowe, Fred Sullivan Jr. and Angela Brazil in It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play adapted by Joe Landry, co-directed by Curt Columbus and Tyler Dobrowsky. Set designs by Michael McGarty, lighting by John Ambrosone, costumes by Alison Walker Carrier. (photo: Mark Turek)

Trinity Rep brings a warm new tradition to its stage.  The endearing story of George Bailey receives new life in this stage adaptation by Joe Landry.  The production does not offer perfection, but it does offer a fun family night out.  Set in a 1940’s radio station, the talented five person cast portrays all of the main characters from the story.

The cast consists of the following acting company members:   Stephen Berenson, Angela Brazil, Timothy Crowe, Anne Scurria, and Fred Sullivan, Jr. who have proven themselves time and again in dozens of Trinity shows.  The play creates a challenge for the actors since the characters are linked with  iconic performances such as:  Jimmy Stewart, Donna Reed, Lionel Barrymore, Thomas Mitchell, and Henry Travers; however, the cast manages to uphold audience expectations while making the roles their own.  Continue reading

Dec 07

End. Begin. End. Begin Again.

Meghan McGeary as Hannah. Photo by Marcus Stern.


The Blue Flower.  Music, Lyrics, Script, and Videography by Jim Bauer; Artwork, Story and Videography by Ruth Bauer.

American Repertory Theatre, 12/1/10-1/8/11.

http://www.americanrepertorytheater.org/events/show/blue-flower

Reviewed by Becca Kidwell

The moment the audience enters the doors (actual scenery), they are invited to join Max Beckmann’s collage of memories.  An accordion player crosses the stage and roams the audience prior to the start of the show.  The stage is in a state of ordered disorder—the perfect working space for creating art.  All of the elements (the music, lighting, acting, scenery, and film) swirl around to form a story of love, loss, sorrow and hope. Continue reading

Nov 30

Love in the Moonlight

(front to back) Anne Gottlieb (Frankie) and Robert Pemberton (Johnny) in FRANKIE AND JOHNNY IN THE CLAIR DE LUNE. Photo by Christopher McKenzie.

Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune by Terrence McNally, New Repertory Theatre, 11/28/10-12/19/10.  Nudity and Mature Themeshttp://newrep.org/frankie_johnny.php

Reviewed by Becca Kidwell

Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune is a difficult play to stage.  The tight, witty, intelligent romance by Terrence McNally requires a comparable production that will not fall flat; New Repertory Theatre’s current production rises to the challenge.

A two-person play needs two strong actors.  Anne Gottlieb and Robert Pemberton deliver beyond expectations.  Not only are they strong individual actors, but they also thrive as a couple.   While Terrence McNally has said that the play is a “romantic fairytale”, the play would not hold an audience’s attention if it was not grounded in genuine, believable characters.  As Robert Pemberton speaks every line, his eyes reveal the sincerity of his heart.  Over the span of one night, Johnny’s profession of love could seem ludicrous, even threatening—except for the fact that this Johnny is truly sincere and truly loves Frankie.  Ann Gottlieb walks the delicate line between being fragile and resilient.  If she does not display strength, the character of Johnny would crush her; at the same time, the character of Frankie has been hurt and the vulnerability still has to be there to create the tension.  As Frankie, Gottlieb has found this balance so that the character can hold her own against Johnny, but still fear the pain of heartbreak.  Gottlieb and Pemberton completely draw the audience in to Frankie and Johnny’s struggle where one can’t help but fight with them for the connection to something that can last.  They ARE Frankie and Johnny—trying to be more than just a couple of “bodies bumping around in the night”. Continue reading

Nov 22

The Religion of Family

Vengeance is the Lord’s by Bob Glaudini, WORLD PREMIERE, Huntington Theatre Company, 11/12/10-12/12/10.  http://www.huntingtontheatre.org/season/production.aspx?id=8511

Larry Pine (Mathew Horvath) and Karl Baker Olsen (Donald Horvath) in Vengeance Is The Lord's, by Bob Glaudini, directed by Peter DuBois. Photo by T Charles Erickson

Reviewed by Becca Kidwell

“Honor thy father and mother” is the first and only commandment in the Horvath family.  In Vengeance Is The Lord’s, the Horvath family sticks together, supports each other—in all endeavors—but to what end?  The play starts out with a normal family Thanksgiving scene; the father starts by telling about his need to turn someone in who stole a car and the mother talks about forgiveness for Myers, their daughter’s killer.  As the story unfolds, however, the veneer is lifted to reveal not only hypocrisy but also an active crime family.  The audience and the youngest son Donny begin to question what justice means and how far love and loyalty should extend within a family.

The set by Eugene Lee provides a “gilded cage” for the Horvaths.  The house looks like any normal suburban household—with one exception—Cheryl’s room.  While it seems like any other bedroom in any other house, this bedroom haunts the Horvath family.  Along with the Horvath family, the audience is constantly reminded of the empty room and Cheryl’s horrific murder as the house spins on a turntable.  The effect of the turntable mirrors the family’s discontent; when they slow down or stop, the family ends up confronting problems that they would rather ignore.   The lighting design by Japhy Weideman, the sound design by Ben Emerson, and the original music by David Van Tieghem add to the tense domestic scene.

The actors form a cohesive family unit.  Roberta Wallach stands firm as the matriarch of the Horvath family, Margaret.  Wallach creates a woman who lives in pain, but who is strong and relatively self-sufficient; however, as the play progresses and the emotional pain becomes too much to bear, the character gives in to the physical operation.  Wallach reveals through this concession that Margaret has deferred some of her resolve to Matthew and Woody. Continue reading

Nov 10

Let x Equal Much Promise

Proof by David Auburn, Curtain Call Theatre, Braintree, MA  11/5/10-11/13/10 http://curtaincallbraintree.org/

Reviewed by Becca Kidwell

Take x; add a strong cast and tight direction to a Pulitzer Prize winning script, and the result will be Curtain Call Theatre’s production of Proof.   The small theater group embodies two of the main themes of the play:  testing theories and proving yourself.

The cast brings strength and soul to the script.  At the core is Sarah Jacobs.  This recent Brandeis University graduate possesses natural talent that creates an awkward, intelligent, and inwardly strong Catherine.  She has a few small affectations and a lack of cynicism, but those nuances will go away with life and career experience.  Dan Delaporta, as Hal, exudes energy and geekiness.  He displays both the self-centeredness and sensitivity that makes him a good match for Catherine.  Both actors will continue to thrive as long as they practice their craft and remain open to all opportunities. Continue reading

Nov 09

THE FARCE IS WITH HIM: An Interview with Brian McEleney

www.trinityrep.com

pictured (left to right): Fred Sullivan Jr., Brian McEleney, Anne Scurria and Mauro Hantman in Twelfth Night, directed by Brian McEleney at Trinity Rep. Set designs by Eugene Lee, costumes by William Lane, lighting by John Ambrosone. (Photo: Mark Turek)

by Becca Kidwell

In these harsh economic times, it is difficult to imagine having the same job at the same company for twenty-six years.  It is even more difficult to imagine having a theatre job for longer than the run of one show.  Brian McEleney of Trinity Rep has done both.  This year, he continues his joyful romp through life as director of Trinity Rep’s productions of Absurd Person Singular and The Crucible and actor in The Completely Fictional—Utterly True—Final Strange Tale of Edgar Allan Poe.

Although he did a few plays in high school, it was not until college when he started to think about a theatrical career.  As a senior at Trinity College (where one of his classmates was Anne Scurria—now a fellow company member), McEleney was accepted to Yale and “that convinced me that this could be a serious career, and I’ve done almost nothing else ever since.”  He first taught at Princeton University and The Bread Loaf School of English.  Since 1981, he has taught at Trinity Rep and is currently the head of acting for the Brown/Trinity M.F.A. Program.

With successful productions both in acting and directing, I ask him which he prefers:

“Hard to say which I like more; it’s kind of like asking which of your children is your favorite…  However, preproduction work as a director is tremendous fun — thinking about the play, imagining what the production should look and feel like, finding big ideas that will tie the whole thing together.  And also, when you’re directing, the dreaded labor of learning lines isn’t an issue.  However, after the play opens you’re pretty much done.  As an actor, I love the performing aspect — the fact that you get to do it eight times a week that you get a new chance every day to make it better and deeper.  I love the athletic aspect of acting that you always have to be doing your absolute best and giving the play to a new audience every night.” Continue reading

Oct 26

A Play of Imagination Leaves Little to Imagine

The Turn of the Screw by Jeffrey Hatcher, Stoneham Theatre, 10/21/10-11/7/10

http://www.stonehamtheatre.org/

Photo: Craig Bailey/Perspective Photo

Reviewed by Becca Kidwell

Gianni Downs’ minimalistic scenery welcomes the audience to an atmospheric ghost story.  As the audience enters the theatre, they see a raked black stage with a single deep purple velvet chair and slight blue lighting on the stage.  However, the main focal point runs from the stage to the balcony—a collection of ropes tied off in waves across the ceiling that lead to ropes hanging down next to the chair.  I’m intrigued.  Upon reading the director’s notes in the program, I am enthusiastic to see her desire to honor Henry James’ preference to leave fear to the imagination.  Unfortunately, from the time the house lights go down to the curtain call, I see too much.  The heavy-handed interpretation of the director combined with exaggerated characterizations lead to a production that is only scary in that it does not trust its material or its audience. Continue reading