Jun 04

Could be Better, Could be Worse: American Repertory Theater’s “1776”


Presented by American Repertory Theater
Produced in association with Roundabout Theatre Company
Book by Peter Stone
Music and Lyrics by Sherman Edwards
Based on a Concept by Sherman Edwards
Directed by Jeffrey L. Page and Diane Paulus
Music Direction by Ryan Cantwell
Choreography by Jeffrey L. Page
Music Supervision by David Chase
Orchestrations by John Clancy
Vocal Design by AnnMarie Milazzo
Dialect Coaching (NYC) by Dawn-Elin Fraser
Dialect Coaching (Cambridge) by Erika Bailey
Fight Direction by Thomas Schall

May 17 – July 24, 2022
Loeb Drama Center
Cambridge, MA
Run Time: 2 hours and 45 minutes, including one 15-minute intermission

The mask goes over your nose.

Critique by Kitty Drexel

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Contemporary performances of Stone & Edwards’ 1776 are a response to Hamilton. The 1997 Broadway revival production at the Roundabout Theatre had an all white, all cis male cast (with Star Trek TNG’s Brent Spiner in the role of John Adams). American Repertory Theater tries something different with its 2022 production. It is largely successful thanks to the brave, button-pushing performances of its actors. 

1776 is the reproduction of the infamous congressional meetings that lead to the United States’ declaration of independence on July 4, 1776. John Adams (Crystal Lucas-Perry), Benjamin Franklin (Patrena Murray), and Thomas Jefferson (Elizabeth A. Davis) cajole the members of the Continental Congress into voting for American independence from British tyranny.  Continue reading

Jun 01

Something worth straining for: “Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812”

Madeleine Barker and Kayla Shimizu in NATASHA, PIERRE & THE GREAT COMET OF 1812 at Wilbury Theatre Group; photo by Erin X. Smithers.

Presented by Wilbury Theatre Group
Book, music, and lyrics by Dave Malloy
Directed by Josh Short
Costume design by Meg Donnelly
Sound and lighting design by Andy Russ
Scenic Design by Keri King, Max Ponticelli, and Monica Shinn
Intimacy Direction by Susie Schutt
Music Supervision by Milly Massey
Choreography by Ali Kenner Brodsky

May 26 – June 19, 2022
WaterFire Arts Center
4 Valley Street, Providence RI
Tickets

Review by Maegan Bergeron-Clearwood

PROVIDENCE, RI — I woke up this morning to an aching neck and shoulders: a theater hangover. Last night, for two hours straight, I perched on the literal edge of my seat, craning and twisting in all directions, soaking in all there was to see and hear. This morning, I’m reminded, for the first time in well over two years, of how it physically feels to experience a story unfold, not at me, but with me.

To the creative team behind Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812 at the Wilbury Theatre Group: thank you for creating something worth straining for. Continue reading

May 23

USDAC, the Arts & Mutual Aid: “Artists and Healers as Essential to Recovery from Crisis: A Reflection on Trying Times”

Images from the event. This discussion featured jackie sumell (The Prisoner’s Apothecary), Auntie Sewing Squad, Ana Rodney, and Taja Lindley.

A discussion presented by The U.S. Department of Arts and Culture (USDAC) with 18th Street Arts Center, in L.A.
Part of WE RISE 2022
Friday, May 20, 2022 6 pm-7:30 pm ET
ONLINE 
We Rise 2022 on Facebook
U.S. Department of Arts and Culture on Facebook

Review by Afrikah Smith

“As we have seen time and time again, when the governments fail us, it’s the people who come together and help communities survive…”  —Raquel de Anda, panel facilitator

ZOOM — Presented by the U.S. Department of Arts and Culture, the discussion centered on the intersection of arts and mutual aid and what it means to create and be in community with one another. Emphasizing the ways that are anti-oppressive and that uplift and respect one another in community, the panel featured jackie sumell of The Solitary Gardens & Prisoner’s Apothecary, Kristina Wong and the Auntie Sewing Squad, Ana Rodney of MomCares, and interdisciplinary artist Taja Lindley. All whose work exemplified art, healing, and mutual aid efforts through the lenses of abolition, radical care, reproductive justice, transformative justice, and racial justice. Continue reading

May 09

So I Turned Myself to Face Me: “Blythely Ever After”

Stephanie Blythe as Blythely Oratonio. Photo by Dominic M. Mercier

Presented by Boston Lyric Opera
Directed by John Jarboe
Music direction & arrangements by Daniel Kazemi
Cowritten by John Jarboe & Stephanie Blythe 
Blythely, flower, costumes and throne designed by Machine Dazzle with Rebecca Kanach
Original sound design by Dan Perelstein Jaquette 

May 6, 2022 at 7:30 PM
Royal Boston
279 Tremont St
Boston, MA 02116

Review by Kitty Drexel

BOSTON, Mass. — Opera is not dead. Opera has the potential to thrive in these interesting times. Stephanie Blythe ushers in its new dawn as Blythely Oratonio, a drag king with a most ostentatious countenance, in Blythely Ever After. Opera, the culture, need only evolve with its denizens to survive. 

Drag queen Sapphira Cristál, she of the six-octave range, opened the concert in a stately purple taffeta robe with “Dich Teure Halle” from Wagner’s Tannhäuser. She sang live but she was so pitch-perfect that she sounded recorded. This aria sounds as good sung by a queen if not better than it does by a princess soprano. Continue reading

May 05

The Politics of Punching Down: “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder”

Jennifer Ellis, Robert St. Laurence*, Kate Klika, Phil Tayler, Jared Troilo*, Lori L’Italien, Aimee Doherty*, Todd McNeel, Jr., Leigh Barrett*. Photo by Mark S. Howard.

Presented by The Lyric Stage Company of Boston
Music and Lyrics by Steven Lutvak
Book and Lyrics by Robert L. Freedman
Directed by Spiro Veloudos
Music Direction by Matthew Stern
Choreography by Larry Sousa

April 15 – May 22, 2022
Lyric Stage Company
40 Clarendon St
Boston, MA
Tickets

Critique by Maegan Bergeron-Clearwood

BOSTON, Mass. — Laughter is never neutral. Whiteness is never neutral. A comedy of manners might stake the claim that farce is some great, humanizing equalizer, but humor is inherently directional: someone is always doing the laughing, and something, or someone, is always being laughed at.

A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, which won the Tony in 2014 for Best Musical, is vague about its directionality. Ostensibly, we’re laughing at the hypocritical mores of upper crust Edwardian England, but we’re just as often prompted to laugh at, for example, effeminate men, hyper-feminine women, or the “exotic” peoples suffering under the thumb of colonialism offstage. Continue reading

Apr 25

Joy, Compassion, Kicking Ass in Spandex: “Black Super Hero Magic Mama”

Ramona Lisa Alexander – Photo by Lauren Miller

Presented by Company One in collaboration with American Repertory Theater,
Boston Public Library, and Boston Comics in Color Festival
Written by Inda Craig-Galván 
Directed by Monica White Ndounou
Dramaturgy by Ilana M Brownstein and Regine Vital
Animation design & comics consultant: Cagen Luse
Fight choreography by Margaret Clark

April 23 – May 21, 2022
Rabb Hall @ Boston Public Library’s Central Branch
Copley Square
Boston, MA 
All tickets are Pay-What-You-Want ($0 minimum)

Recommended for ages 14 and up. This production contains depictions of police brutality, violence, death, grief, depression, and strong language.

Review by Kitty Drexel

BOSTON, Mass. — The leads of Black Super Hero Magic Mama deserve a critic that looks like them. I look like the cops that are acquitted by juries that also look like me for killing unarmed Black men and women. There are more white critics than Black critics in New England. We need more Black critics in Boston. I strongly urge interested individuals to apply for The Porch’s Young Critics Program this winter and then to shoot me an email. 

Company One and American Repertory Theatre’s Black Super Hero Magic Mama shows us an unsettled Chicago. Sabrina Jackson (Ramona Lisa Alexander, who ran that stage like Pam Grier on a mission) is raising a bright young quiz show star Tramarion Jackson (Joshua Robinson). When Tramarion isn’t trouncing the competition on “Know Your Heritage” with Coach Corey Brackett (Ricardo Engermann), he’s writing comic books with his friend Joseph A Hughes aka Flat Joe (Anderson Stinson III). These two smart but mouthy kids have bright futures. That is until the worst happens. Continue reading

Apr 23

God Is Change: “Octavia E. Butler’s The Parable of the Sower”

Presented by ArtsEmerson
Created by Toshi Reagon and Bernice Johnson Reagon
Co-Directed by Eric Ting & Signe V. Harriday 
Music and Lyrics by Toshi Reagon and Bernice Johnson Reagon 
Music Direction by Toshi Reagon  
Choreography by Millicent Johnnie 
Movement Director: Yasmine Lee 
Performed by Marie Tatti Aqeel, Alina Carson, Helga Davis, Kyle Garvin, Jared Wayne Gladly, Toussaint Jeanlouis, Karma Mayet Johnson, Morley Kamen, Alexandra Koi, Josette Newsam, Shelley Nicole, Toshi Reagon, Noah Virgile, Evie Schuckman Orchestra Monique Brooks Roberts, Zach Brown, Bobby Burke, Fred Cash, Jr., Chogyi, Matt Graff 
Orchestra: Monique Brooks Roberts, Zach Brown, Bobby Burke, Fred Cash, Jr., Chogyi, Matt Graff

April 21 – 24, 2022  
Open Captioning: Fri, April 22 @ 8:00 PM
American Sign Language: Sun April, 24 @ 2:00 PM
Emerson Cutler Majestic Theatre 
219 Tremont Street
Boston, MA 02116

Recommended for Ages 13+  

Running Time: 120 minutes, no intermission 

Please Note: Proof of vaccination or a negative test is required for entry

Critique by Kitty Drexel

“All that you touch
You Change.
All that you Change
Changes you.
The only lasting truth
Is Change.
God
Is Change.”
Earthseed, Lauren Olamina in The Parable of the Sower

BOSTON, Mass. — The audience was small on Thursday night but grateful. We’d waited over two years to see Toshi Reagon’s Octavia E. Butler’s The Parable of the Sower. The air was palpable with anticipation. We had each other to talk to and other excited conversations to easedrop on. When the theatre held the house lights for an extra 20 minutes to allow late audience members to straggle in, we were okay with it. 

When the lights finally dimmed to signal the start of the show, a hush fell over us. Finally, after all this waiting, it was time for church. 

Octavia E. Butler’s The Parable of the Sower is an opera adapted by Toshi Reagon and Bernice Johnson Reagon from the Afro-futurist science fiction writer Octavia E. Butler’s novel The Parable of the Sower.  The ArtsEmerson website says it is “a genre-defying, modern congregational opera that celebrates two centuries of Black music.”  Continue reading

Apr 17

Stop Wasting Food: “BURGERZ”

Presented by ArtsEmerson
Written & performed by Travis Alabanza
Produced by Hackney Showroom
Directed by Sam Curtis Lindsay
Movement by Nando Messias
Dramaturgy by Nina Lyndon

April 13 – 23, 2022
Jackie Liebergott Black Box Theater
Boston, MA 
ArtsEmerson on Facebook

Review by Noe Kamelamela

Content warning:  gender-based violence and transphobia are discussed in this review and also in BURGERZ.

BOSTON, Mass. –In the time before the COVID pandemic started here in the States, the danger of being visibly queer felt risky and fun to me, heading to the strip mall eager to anger gender essentialists a bit like poking caged bears, a way to appease my past teenaged, quieter, closeted self. I was armed with keen attention to exits and entrances, always ready to leave. I would relate scenes to friends about children asking me what it was to be different.  Or people – rude people, very rude – being weird to me about what bathroom I went to, regardless of whatever I wore or which bathroom I used it was always wrong. Continue reading

Apr 12

Women Gone Wild: “Beasts” at BPT

Clara Francesca, Caroline Emily Calkins; Photos by Stratton McCrady

Presented by Boston Playwrights’ Theatre
by Cayenne Douglass
Directed by Kelly Galvin
Fight choreography by Ryan Winkles
Online Playbill 

April 7-17, 2022
Boston Playwrights’ Theatre
949 Commonwealth Ave.
Boston, MA 02215

Review by Kitty Drexel

BOSTON — There is nothing more hardcore than birthing a baby (sorry BASE jumpers). It’s not “the most beautiful thing I’ve ever experienced” as my own father put it. Babies are metal AF. 

Just like many other XXXtreme tasks, delivering and rearing a baby doesn’t come naturally to many mothers. Maternal instincts require hard work: research, doctor visits, mommy groups, prenatal yoga, therapy, emotional and physical labor. Beasts by Cayenne Douglass explores the psyche of pregnancy. It takes a deep dive into what it means to be gestating a human parasite.  Continue reading

Mar 25

We Know You Can Dance to the Beat: An Interview with Brian Boruta about Umbrella Stage’s “Head Over Heels”

Presented by Umbrella Stage
Adapted by James Magruder
Concept and Original Book by James Whitty
Music by The Go-Go’s
Directed by Brian Boruta
Music direction by David Wright
Choreography by Lara Finn

April 15 – May 8, 2022 (no performance 4/17)
Presented on the Main Stage
The Umbrella Arts Center
40 Stow Street
Concord, MA 01742

Interview by Kitty Drexel

CONCORD, Mass. — The Umbrella Stage returns to performances this April with Head Over Heels. Brian Boruta generously chatted with me on Friday, March 18 about the musical, gender politics, and The Go Go’s. 

This interview is condensed. It has been edited for grammar, congruity, and clarity. 

Queen Kitty: It’s awesome that you’re starting with Head Over Heels. Why this show now?

Brian Boruta: It’s funny; I think about this show now, because we had chosen this show earlier than now. Then things all got moved around.

We moved, a couple of years ago, to a committee-based approach to season planning. As we were coming out of the pandemic, it was really important that as many voices and perspectives as possible be included in program planning. 

One thing that came to the fore in that conversation was finding ways throughout the season coming out of the pandemic to just celebrate joy in many forms, to celebrate love, to amplify different marginalized voices throughout the season. Head Over Heels really popped out as that title that we could put towards the end of the season that celebrates joy, celebrates love, and celebrates community.  Continue reading