Dec 08

Hope Held ‘HIGH’

Sister Jamison Connolly (Kathleen Turner) and Cody Randall (Evan Jonigkeit) in HIGH, Photo credit: Lanny Nagler

High by Matthew Lombardo, Broadway National Tour, Cutler Majestic Theatre,

12/7/11-12/11/11,  http://www.highonbroadway.com/about.html.  Male nudity, mature language and themes

Reviewed by Becca Kidwell

(Boston, MA)  

“When we were children, we used to think that when we were grown-up we would no longer be vulnerable. But to grow up is to accept vulnerability… To be alive is to be vulnerable.”  Madeleine L’Engle

How do we find strength and salvation in the middle of pain and suffering?   Everyone tries to hide from pain and many people try to protect others from the experience, but the inevitability of life is that human beings get hurt.  We try to breathe and “be strong”–to not let anyone see that we are falling apart.  What if we all admitted that we are not perfect–that there isn’t even one person out there that could be categorized by society’s standards as “normal”?  High offers no escape from that darkness that lies inside of all of us and calls us to either face our flaws or recede further into our own shame. Continue reading

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Dec 05

ChristmasTime Dazzles

Photo Credit: Reagle Music Theatre

ChristmasTime, Reagle Music Theatre, 12/3/11-12/11/11, http://www.reagleplayers.com/current.html.

Reviewed by Gillian Daniels

(Waltham, MA) The Reagle Theatre, for its Christmas pageant, does not settle on a few simple scenes followed by the solemn Nativity.

This production takes its audience to as many locales as possible: a Cathedral interior, Santa’s workshop, a busy Victorian street, and a digest version of the Nutcracker performed almost completely by ballet dancers in teddy bear suits.  Christmas Time is energetic, all-encompassing, and exhausting in its depiction of the holiday. Continue reading

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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