Sep 05

Witchcraft, Politics and Womanhood: “The Weird”

Photo credit: Nile Hawver/Nile Scott Shots

Presented by Off the Grid Theatre Company
Written by Kirsten Greenidge, Obehi Janice, Lila Rose Kaplan, and John Kuntz
Directed by Steven Bogart

September 1-16, 2017
Calderwood Pavilion at the BCA
527 Tremont St. Boston, MA
Off the Grid on Facebook

Review by Polly Goss

(Boston, MA)The Weird is the latest devised piece from Off the Grid Theatre Company. Artistic Director Alexis Scheer, invited 4 different Boston based writers to compose pieces that tackle the intersection between belief in witchcraft and politics. An ambitious and intriguing premise, which unfortunately The Weird does not fulfill. The Weird`s cast includes many talented actors, who do a good job of adding authenticity to the often fragmented writing. However the chaotic and incoherent writing, means the show ultimately fails to tackle any one theme in depth and leaves the audience feeling unsatisfied and underwhelmed. Continue reading

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Feb 14

After so long, we’re still back to this: BACK THE NIGHT

2/3/14 Boston Playwrights' Theatre presents 'Back the Night' By Melinda Lopez. Directed by Daniela Varon. February 4-28-2016. With violence on campus rising to epidemic proportions, Em is in total denial. But when her best friend Cassie gets assaulted, Em makes some unexpected personal discoveries. Sometimes you do the wrong thing for the right reason. 2016-02-03_BACKTHENITE_002.jpg - Photograph By Kalman Zabarsky

Presented by Boston Playwrights’ Theatre
Written by Melinda Lopez
Directed by Daniela Varon

February 4-28, 2016
Boston Playwright’s Theatre
Boston, MA
BPT on Facebook

Review by Noelani Kamelamela

Trigger warnings: sexual assault and physical violence, sexual situations, adult language, suicide, mental health, activism

(Boston, MA) Institutional support of criminals and criminal behavior either through incompetence or genuine ignorance is common. Although a college campus is the setting of Melinda Lopez’s Back the Night, it could be a stand-in for a fancy secondary school or any urban space. It is both cheaper and simpler in these forums to blame the victim than actually pursue justice.

Em, Sean and Cassie pit themselves against assault on campus after Cassie is injured one night. Em is the pre-med Nancy Drew who likes putting things into proper boxes and Melissa Jesser portrays her with an intensity that simmers just below the surface. Cassie (Amanda Collins), long an ardent anti-violence advocate, is finally putting a lot of her principles to the test. Sean just wants everyone to make it to graduation alive. Along the way, the undergraduates realize that intentions aren’t pure on any side of the issue. The set served as both metaphor and scenery, with decaying infrastructure and dorm furniture offset by autumn leaves and warm lighting.

When I attended, the audience of mostly college aged students and a few older attendees were both amused and engaged. Although the play is a new work, the topics have been stewing in higher education for some time. Local universities such as Boston University responded in the past three years to federal investigations related to sexual harassment under Title IX by leveraging pre-existing resources and coordinating new sets of training for incoming and ongoing students, staff and faculty. For survivors as well as for those who work at or attend a university, the transitions toward justice seem insignificant and much less than what was promised.

To be fair, there are a lot of great sea changes still occurring: a queer character like Sean, played by a bouncy Evan Horwitz, or a non-white character like Em can exist on a campus, which is a sign of progress. Authorities can’t produce those specific, permanent and positive transitions in a vacuum. Rallying and other forms of pressure by non-authorities as well as pushback, then, is more like a dance: there is movement over time, even if there is no easily discernible direction. Also, dances end, and it can take time before a different dance begins.

Lopez gets the internet’s impact on survivor’s rights in many ways: frequently the ability to reach lots of potential activists doesn’t lead to the revolution, especially since the internet reaches not only sympathetic minds, but also perpetrators and victim-blamers who are all too willing to sit on the sidelines and throw stones. At the very least, perpetrators are not given a forum in the play. There’s still lots of meat to chew on. Even when your friends are a mirror or an inspiration, they can still misunderstand and make demands on your sanity that can be almost as terrible as physical trauma. At a fairly short hour and a half, humor between the three friends lightens the frustration, exhaustion and constant questioning. Lopez has captured the voice of modern undergraduates and also provided a snapshot of the strained relationships of students to the adults who are supposed to guide and shield them.

Next on deck for Boston Playwrights’ Theatre is Rhinoceros a co-production with Suffolk University written by Eugene Ionesco at the Modern from February 25-March 13.

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Mar 16

Inclusive and Intersectional: THE TASTE OF SUNRISE

Photo by Craig Bailey, Perspective Photo.

Elbert Joseph as Tuc in Mother Hicks at Emerson Stage. Photo by Craig Bailey, Perspective Photo.

Presented by Wheelock Family Theatre
Written by Suzan L. Zeder
Composed by Peter Stewart
Directed by Wendy Lement and Kristin Johnson
Choreographed by Patricia Manalo Bochnak

March 13 – 22, 2015
200 The Riverway
Boston, MA
Wheelock on Facebook

PART TWO OF THE WARE TRILOGY, produced with Emerson Stage (Mother Hicks, February 2015) and Central Square Theatre (The Edge of Peace, April 3-12, 2015)

Review by Kitty Drexel

(Boston, MA) In Susan Zeder’s The Taste of Sunrise, Tuc (Elbert Joseph) grows up poor, black and deaf in an ASL-ignorant hearing community in Ware, IL.  At the behest of the well-intentioned Dr. Graham (Donna Sorbello), Jonas Tucker (Cliff Odle) sends Tuc to a school for the deaf to learn how to speak. After years of social solitude, he finally meets kids just like him. They teach him sign; Tuc learns to communicate and to express himself. With help from friends Maizie (Amanda Collins) and Nell Hicks (Brittany Rolfs), discovers what it means to self-discover, to lose and then rebuild one’s identity. Continue reading

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