May 02

Antony and Cleopatra (ASPBoston): To the mattresses

Antony & Cleopatra by William Shakespeare, Actors’ Shakespeare Project, The Modern Theatre at Suffolk University, 4/27/11-5/21/11.  http://www.actorsshakespeareproject.org/season7/antony_cleo.html.

Reviewed by Becca Kidwell

Photo by Stratton McCrady

Actors’ Shakespeare Project continues to bring intelligible Shakespeare to Boston.  One of Shakespeare’s most complicated plots of politics and passion, Antony and Cleopatra can leave Shakespeare neophytes confused and questioning.  This production provides a clear path for understanding and appreciation of the text.

The backdrop, designed by Jeff Adelberg, looks like a collection of mattress coils that make up a wall.  This suggestive detail reflects Antony’s decision-making processes.  Antony is caught up in his love and does not recognize the ever-present threat of his fellow triumvirate colleague, Octavius.  Octavius uses Antony’s distraction to destroy the triumvirate and become emperor of Rome. Continue reading

Apr 26

The House of Blue Leaves Taunts Us One More Time

The House of Blue Leaves by John Guare, Walter Kerr Theatre, 4/4/11-7/23/11.  http://www.houseofblueleaves.com/flash.php?version=standard.   Contains stage violence, including an explosion.

Ben Stiller as Artie, Edie Falco as Bananas, Jennifer Jason Leigh as Bunny. Photo by Joan Marcus

Reviewed by Becca Kidwell

Like Jay Gatsby, the characters of The House of the Blue Leaves long for love and notoriety.  But also like Jay Gatsby, their shallow dreams are based upon delusions.  David Cromer’s revival uncovers all the darkness and pain hidden in the recesses of a middle class home into the light of day with laughter and cruelty.

Scott Pask’s institution-like set provides the perfect environment for an evening of madness.  But who mad?  The housewife who feels that she is nothing more than the humiliating joke of celebrity?  The zookeeper who dreams of becoming a successful movie songwriter?  Or perhaps it’s the nuns? Continue reading

Apr 25

Eurydice: Tears From A Clown

Adam Lauver as Lord of the Underworld, Annie Winneg as Eurydice, and the chorus of stones. Photo by Rob Lorino.

Eurydice by Sarah Ruhl, The Independent Drama Society, BCA Black Box, 4/22/11-4/30/11.  http://sites.google.com/site/independentdrama/

Reviewed by Becca Kidwell

The circus is in town and it is a beautiful tragedy.  The Independent Drama Society’s production of Sarah Ruhl’s Eurydice evokes an abstract piece of shattered but connected moments.  Remaining faithful to the myth, Lindsay Eagle allows the audience to experience every breath of innocence, knowledge, and loss that the play has to offer.

The Greek chorus of stones consists of a highly skilled clowning troupe.  Upon entrance to the theatre, the audience is greeted by the members of the chorus as they play and perform.  Each member has a distinct personality that interacts in different ways between the audience and the main characters of the play.

Annie Winneg as Eurydice and Greg Nussen as Orpheus play the doomed young lovers who believe that love is all they need.  Although they do truly care for each other, they have difficulty communicating with each other or having any level of depth to their relationship, which leads to Eurydice’s struggle between her love for her husband and her love for her father.   Continue reading

Apr 24

Steel Magnolias is a tease

L to R : Rachael Warren (Truvy), Anne Scurria (Ouiser), Madeleine Lambert (Shelby) and Janice Duclos (M'Lynn) in Robert Harling's Steel Magnolias. Directed by Brian Mertes, the show runs through May 15, 2011 in the Chace Theater. Set design by Michael McGarty, lighting design by Dan Scully, costumes by William Lane. (Photo: Mark Turek)

Steel Magnolias by Robert Harling, Trinity Repertory Company, 4/15/11-5/15/11.  http://www.trinityrep.com/on_stage/current_season/OC.php

Reviewed by Becca Kidwell

Most women know if they fix their hair and get it perfect, they shouldn’t mess with it.  Unfortunately, this production has sat too long coiffing itself after it already was looking good.  The beautiful script by Robert Harling and the talented ladies of the Trinity Repertory Company get lost in gimmicks and empty space.  Perhaps, in trying to distance itself from the movie, Mertes tried to make the production “new” and “fresh”, Trinity Rep’s production of Steel Magnolias loses the intimacy that the script requires. Continue reading

Apr 19

The Book of Grace: You Can’t Go Home Again

Frances Idlebrook as Grace, Jesse Tolbert as Buddy, Steve Barkhimer as Vet

The Book of Grace by Suzan-Lori Parks, Company One, 4/15/11-5/7/11. Mature themes and language, sexual content, and stage violence. http://www.companyone.org/

Reviewed by Becca Kidwell

What is the cost of forgiveness and reconciliation? What is the real threat? Company One’s production of Suzan-Lori Parks’ The Book of Grace explores these questions through an intimate scene between three connected, yet separate, individuals.

Vet, played by Steve Barkhimer, likes a rigid, controlled environment both at his job (as a border control officer) and in his home life. Grace, Continue reading

Apr 15

SONS OF THE PROPHET: On Brilliance

Yusef Bulos (Bill), Kelsey Kurz (Joseph), and Dan McCabe (Charles) in the Huntington Theatre Company’s SONS OF THE PROPHET by Stephen Karam, directed by Peter DuBois. Playing 4/1/11 – 5/1/11 at the Calderwood Pavilion at the BCA. huntingtontheatre.org. Photo by Paul Marotta.

Sons of the Prophet by Stephen Karam, Huntington Theatre Company, 4/1/11-5/1/11, http://www.huntingtontheatre.org/season/production.aspx?id=8754.

Reviewed by Becca Kidwell

“Happiness does not await us all.  One needn’t be a prophet to say that there will be more grief and pain than serenity and money.  That is why we must hang on to one another.” Anton Chekov qtd. by Stephen Karam in the program.

If Roundabout Theatre Company and the Huntington Theatre Company takes Stephen Karam’s Sons of the Prophet to Broadway next year, in June 2012 we will likely hear, “and the Tony Award for best play goes to…Sons of the Prophet.” Taking the seemingly sombre subject of pain, Karam has written a comic masterpiece.  Add to that the talented cast, direction, and set design and the result is a fast-paced night of laughter and poignancy that should not be missed.

A deer walks into a theatre…well, it doesn’t really walk..and it’s not really a deer…    And the audience hears a car crash.  Those who came from or have family from the Poconos area of Pennsylvania don’t have to question what has happened;  Car accidents with deer are common, but…a deer decoy?  We meet Joseph Douaihly, played by Kelsey Kurz, whose father was the victim of the high-school prank that went terribly wrong–and this is only another blow in a devastating year for the Douaihly family.  Joseph has physical pain that the doctors cannot diagnose; he works for a lonely, manic woman that uses his need for health insurance as leverage to try to get Joseph to write a memoir based on his distant relation to Kahlil Gibran.  When their father does not survive the accident, the Douaihly’s ailing uncle (played by Yusef Bulos) moves in with the Joseph and his brother Charles (played by Dan McCabe).   In addition, the boy who pulled the prank might be allowed to play football in his school’s playoff games prior to going to the juvenile detention center for his crime.  Hilarious, right?  –You have no idea. Continue reading

Apr 14

BREAKING THE CODE: Turing Passes The Test

Dafydd ap Rees (Mick Ross) and Allyn Burrows (Alan Turing) in Hugh Whitemore's BREAKING THE CODE through May 8. Presented by Catalyst Collaborative@MIT. Performances at Central Square Theater at 450 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge. Tickets and Information: http://CentralSquareTheater.org or 866-811-4111. Photo by A.R. Sinclair Photography.


Breaking the Code by Hugh Whitemore, Underground Railway Theater and Catalyst Collaborative @ MIT, Central Square Theater, 4/7/11-5/8/11.  http://www.centralsquaretheater.org/season/10-11/code.html.

Reviewed by Becca Kidwell

Intelligence is a prized commodity that governments and businesses appropriate for their own needs, but don’t always appreciate the ones who provide it.  Alan Turing was loved by Great Britain for his decoding work during World War II and was derided for his failure to conform to social norms after the war.  Breaking the Code masterfully explores the isolating nature of “polite” society.

Underground Railroad Company and Catalyst Collaborative@MIT bring the audience into the world of Alan Turing’s mind and memory.  Performed in the round, the audience literally steps into Janie Howland’s set of inverse geometric spirals as they take their seats.  Strings across the walls and ceiling connect formulas and ideas.  Following the idea of the spirals, director Adam Zahler has Turing (played by Allyn Burrows) follow these patterns as Turing moves through the various moments of his life.  The set and the action become an extension of Alan Turing’s personality. Continue reading

Apr 02

The Last Five Years: Tempestuous Love

(left to right) Aimee Doherty and Mark Linehan in The Last Five Years. Photo by Christopher McKenzie.

The Last Five Years, written and composed by Jason Robert Brown, New Repertory Theatre, 3/27/11-4/17/11, http://newrep.org/last_five.php.

by Becca Kidwell

Less than a week after Elizabeth Taylor’s death, what story could be more apropos than the tumultuous romance of  two artists?  Jason Robert Brown’s chamber musical about the conflict marriage and career examines the fallout of two people who meet in the middle but remain apart.  New Rep’s production of The Last Five Years delivers two masterful performances to a faulty libretto.

Aimee Doherty shows her versatility going Continue reading

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