Spoiler Alert: New England Theatre Geek discusses a central theme of K-I-S-S-I-N-G. Knowing this information shouldn’t ruin the play’s other surprises, character arcs, or ending. Your reaction to this plot point, how the characters react to it, and the audience’s reaction may teach you about your own inherent biases.
Critique by Kitty Drexel
BOSTON, MA — The Huntington and The Porch must please update their summary for K-I-S-S-I-N-G. It no longer accurately describes the show. I thought there was going to be a lot more David Bowie and at least one quote from bell hooks. There are no pizza box art projects or fireworks displays. The co-production is/was highly anticipated. That part can stay.
K-I-S-S-I-N-G is a quasi-Cinderella story about the emotional and sexual awakening of Lala (Regan Sims), a young woman living on the edge of poverty who craves art, poetry, and the feel of warm, supportive arms around her. She lives with her emotionally stunted mother Dot (the ethereal Patrese D McClain who dominated the stage with her presence) and her little brother Max. Lala’s father Jack (James Milord) loves Lala like the sun loves the sparkle on the ocean’s waves, but he can only visit once a week. Continue reading →
Presented by Lyric Stage Company of Boston
By Lauren Yee
Directed by Michael Hisamoto
Featuring Barlow Adamson, Jihan Haddad, Gary Thomas Ng, Tyler Simahk
Scenic Design: Baron E. Pugh
Costume Design: Seth Bodie
Lighting Designer: Michael Clark Wonson
Sound Design: Elizabeth Cahill
BOSTON, MA — Sports are theatre: bodies are in motion, in the here-and-now of time and space, performing feats of incredible physical achievement, telling riveting stories about power and pathos. Staging sports-themed plays, therefore, offers inherent performative, spectacle-driven potential.
Unfortunately, the Lyric Stage’s production of Lauren Yee’s The Great Leap doesn’t quite tap into. For only having four characters, The Great Leap is a surprisingly busy play, which makes the flatness of the production particularly noticeable: the script is full of entangled plot lines and intersecting themes, often to its detriment. Continue reading →
Presented by Wheelock Family Theatre In partnership with Adventure Theatre MTC Book by Sandra Eskin & Michael J. Bobbitt Music and lyrics by William Yanesh Adapted from the book by Robert McCloskey Directed by Emily Ranii Music directed by Jon Goldberg Choreographed by Joy Clark Artistic Sign Language/ASL Coaching by Kelly Kim
Feb. 17 – March 12, 2023 Wheelock Family Theatre at Boston University 180 Riverway Boston, MA 02155 Open Captioning provided at all events Accessibility Performance Dates: March 5th, 2023 at 2:00 PM and March 11th, 2022 at 2:00
Run Time: 70 minutes with no intermission
Review by Kitty Drexel
Boston, MA —Wheelock Family Theatre’s Make Way For Ducklings: the Musical celebrates all things great about Boston. Sandra Eskin, Michael J. Bobbitt, & William Yanesh’s musical (based on the book by Robert McCloskey) pays loving homage to the many ways our city amazes and confounds tourists, townies, and even the most stalwart of proud New Englanders. This theatrical tribute is intended for families of all ages. It will surely charm the meanest of Boston bruisers so adults without wee ones should feel free to attend but mind their manners when they do. Continue reading →
Circa performers in “Sacre.” O Robert Torres for CSB
Presented by Celebrity Series of Boston Commissioned by Merrigong Theatre Company. Co-produced by La Comete Created by Yaron Lifschitz and the Circa Ensemble Based on Igor Stravinsky’s Le Sacre du Printemps (The Rite of Spring) Music by Philippe Bachman & Igor Stravinsky Directed by Yaron Lifschitz
Production warning: This production uses theatrical haze, smoke, and strobe effects. There are sections where the music will be loud.
Boston, MA — Circa contemporary circus’ Sacre is to the circus what Igor Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring (Le Sacre du Printemps) is to classical music. History has refined their cultural significance. Neither are intended for children or the faint of heart.
The gatekeepers of classical music remember the May 29th, 1913 premiere of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring for its violent riot at the Paris Théâtre des Champs-Élysées. While there are no official accounts, personal accounts from opera composer Giacomo Puccini and Le Figaro critic, composer, and musicologist Henri Quittard (whose infamy lives on to this day), described the production in terms of its barbarism and inelegance. Continue reading →
Presented by ArtsEmerson A Malthouse Theatre Production Written & Performed by Wang Chong Codirected & Production designed by Emma Valente Codesigned by Emma Lockhart Wilson Dramaturgy by Mark Pritchard
February 1 – 12, 2023 American Sign Language Performance – Saturday, February 11 at 2:00 PM Audio Described Performance – Sunday, February 12 at 2:00 PM Emerson Paramount Center Jackie Liebergott Black Box 559 Washington Street Boston, MA 02111
Recommended for Ages 16+ 60 minutes, no intermission
Review by Kitty Drexel
Boston, MA — ArtsEmerson respectfully asked journalists attending Wang Chong’s Made in China 2.0 to please refrain from discussing certain topics in an email days before the performance. They did this to ensure Chong’s safety while he visits the US and when he eventually leaves the US. Boston can be dangerous.
Journalists were encouraged to discuss Chong as an artist, his previous work, how his work was received, and his upcoming work. We were asked to be sensitive when discussing Chong’s style of theatre-making and why it’s considered risky.
I readily agreed to ArtsEmerson’s request. Freedom of speech is important to me. The sanctity of human life is too. America loves freedom! Continue reading →
Presented by the Lyric Stage of Boston Music, lyrics, book, and orchestrations by Dave Malloy Directed by Courtney O’Connor Music direction by Dan Rodriguez Dramaturgy by Megan Jepsen, Marieska Luzada Orchestra: Bethany Aiken, Mindy Cimini on keyboards
RUNNING TIME: APPROXIMATELY 2 HOURS AND 10 MINUTES, INCLUDING A 15-MINUTE INTERMISSION.
Critique by Kitty Drexel
BOSTON, Mass. — As a girl I was introduced to the music of Sergei Rachmaninoff via the 1996 Geoffrey Rush movie Shine about pianist David Helfgott. I remember thinking Rachmaninoff’s music was so wondrous that it would be worth going a little mad to play it so beautifully.
It is terrifically easy for innocent children to romanticize the mental health crisis of adults. I’m an adult now with two degrees in classical music, but I don’t entirely disagree with my teenage self.
Preludes is Arcade Fire’s Win Butler (minus those pesky sexual assault allegations) meets contemporary musical theatre that arbitrarily skips between the centuries. It’s the story of poor, little rockstar composer Rach (Dan Prior) who suffers from debilitating writer’s block. Rach is seeing Dahl (Aimee Doherty), a hypnotherapist, to break his block and reach the great heights of success again. Rach shares his journey with his fiancee Natalya (Kayla Shimizu), opera singer Chaliapin (Anthony Pires Jr.), and assorted Russian intelligentsia (Will McGarrahan). Dan Rodriguez kicks ass as Rachmaninoff.
I’m of two minds about Dave Malloy’s Preludes at the Lyric Stage: it’s whiny and navel-gazy; and, it directly attacks the artist’s universal conundrum of creating art that is both valuable and entertaining. The Lyric’s production does not negate itself by doing both simultaneously.
This is what it is to be an artist. We desperately want to be hired but know that we may never reach our full potential. Every artists has that one brilliant friend who gave up because they couldn’t reconcile all that excruciating, costly, invisible work for lack of career recognition.
Audiences don’t often get to see artists complaining. As in the rest of life, artists can complain and still feel truly grateful for our discipline and talents. We bitch to our therapist, pick ourselves up again and get back to our art. In Preludes, Rach doesn’t get back to it because he can’t. Artists are people too.
Audiences will recognize Dave Malloy from his biggest success Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812. Preludes is a great departure from Great Comet. For one thing, it’s mercifully shorter. For another, it has more than the one melody played over and over and over.
Malloy’s original compositions in Preludes have tight, exposed vocals. Sometimes the vocals are a capella. He incorporates techno elements on two keyboards. Malloy requires vocals to sing lines independent of the techno music.
The Preludes cast meets Malloys demands and conquers them. Whatever one might think of the script or the music, the cast does a great job. Kayla Shimizu has both an expressive legit voice and impressive, cathartic-sounding mix. Anthony Pires Jr. bounds across the stage as Chaliapin. Will McGarrahan wears many hats while wearing the same shirt. Aimee Doherty charms as Dahl.
Dan Prior rides waves of Rach’s mental health to the big breakdown in Act 2 like a professional surfer. Prior and director O’Connor paced both acts uncannily well to preserve Prior’s energy and the audience’s patience. By the time Rach is ready to tell his Big Tale, we’re ready to hear it.
Music director Dan Rodriguez is the soft-focus star of Preludes. He plays piano center stage, rarely looks up from the keyboard and utters few words over the course of the two-hour production. He hovers omniscient, observant, seen and unseen.
The actors drift around Rodriguez weaving Malloy’s story, but it’s Rodriguez who does the impossible work of interpreting Rachmaninoff’s genius and then threading Malloy’s compositions under and through. Then Malloy asks his music director to conduct from the stage. And then Malloy asks him to sing.
Rodriguez is a known, beloved music director in Boston. Rodriguez has the trust of his cast, his unseen orchestra, and the audience. We believe his Rachmaninoff and in his skill at the piano. This may be his most challenging role to date, and he meets it with aplomb. He takes a risk coming in front of the curtain. It pays off.
Photo by Mark S. Howard.
The “Who’s Who in Preludes” playbill article adds a thoughtful touch to the playgoing experience. It puts nine faces to nine famous name drops in the show and gives the audience something to consider during the intermission. (Such as how Tolstoy maintained such an exact yet plush eyebrow to mustache hair ratio). We’re introduced to how each knows Rachmaninoff and why they are important to Preludes. More dramaturgy is HERE.
For those of you who know what it is to have spoken with the muses and be abandoned by them, it is no small thing to have experienced their presence. Attempting to call them back is painful, embarrassing, and painfully embarassing. Malloy’s work represents his experiences. It isn’t universal. Be kind.
People want/need art but don’t want to pay artists a living wage. Preludes asks an audience to see an artist as a person, an imperfect, breakable person with more flaws than genius or friends. We ask a lot of our artists. Preludes asks us to give a little more than money and time.
Dec. 9, 2022 – Jan. 8, 2023 Modern Theater 525 Washington St. Boston, MA 02108
Critique by Kitty Drexel
BOSTON, Mass. — For centuries white people told the lie that the white experience is universal. Theatre is about universal stories, we white people said. If a story is truly universal, it can be played by any cast and be seen by anyone, and the intended message will still resonate.
These days, it’s less about convincing producers that Black people can tell a story; it’s about convincing white people that they’ll appreciate a show created for someone else first, white people last. My fellow white people, if you can love Lizzo, an artist who has said to ETonline she makes music for the Black experience, you can love a play like The Porch’s Chicken & Biscuits.
In St. Luke’s Church in New Haven, CT, sisters Baneatta Mabry (award-winning Boston actor Jacqui Parker) and Beverly Jenkins (Thomika Bridwell) are mourning the death of their father Bernard Jenkins. Reginald Mabry (Robert Cornelius) is leading the service for Bernard while being a supportive husband to Baneatta but the drama is flying too high for Reginald to catch up. Continue reading →
Blanca Isabella, Hampton Richards; Photo by Stratton McCrady.
Presented by Boston Playwrights’ Theatre and the Boston University New Play Initiative Written by Elise Wien Directed by Enzo Gonzales Cultural consultant: Ciera-Sadé Wade
Intimacy coaching by Jess Scout Malone
Featuring: Hampton Richards, Blanca Isabella, Diego Cintròn, Dom Carter
Content Advisory: This play contains mentions of suicide and depictions of self-harm.
Review by Kitty Drexel
BOSTON, Mass — OTP is the acronym for One True Pairing, which identifies a person’s favorite fictional romantic relationship. In Wien’s OTP, now closed, best friends Michelle (Hampton Richards) and Ceci (Blanca Isabella) are co-writing a submission to Madame Tussaud’s “Melt Your Heart Out” fanfiction contest.
Their fanfic features a teenage President Barack Obama (Diego Cintròn doing good accent work). Obama is the leader of the free world during the day and immortal stealer of hearts by night. Suspend your disbelief. OTP is worth it.
All is well until their lives outside the fanfiction writing intrude on their work: Michelle is running for JSA President! Ceci is writing solo fanfic! Both girls learn that there is more to friendship than convenience and (relation)shipping the same world leader. Dom Carter stars as an uncannily familiar politician with amnesia whom Ceci must rescue from mutant foxes in apocalyptic Illinois. Continue reading →
Presented by The National Center of Afro-American Artists https://blacknativity.org/
Executive Producer and Director: Voncille Ross
Choreographer: George Howard
Ballet Mistress: Desiree Springer
Choral Director, Children of Black Persuasion: Marilyn Andry
Choral Director, Voices of Black Persuasion: Milton L. Wright
Stage Manager: Brion-Michael Rock
Board of Directors – Margaret Burnham and Vivian Johnson, Co-Chairpersons, Kafi Meadows, Frances Bernat, Denzil D. McKenzie, Melissa Nobles, Amy Olatunji, Honorable Milton L. Wright
December 2 – 18, 2022, weekends, with matinees at 3:30 pm and evening shows at 8 pm
Robert J. Orchard Stage
559 Washington Street
Boston, MA 02111
Review by Craig Idlebrook
BOSTON, Mass — There are competing ideas in the narrative of the traditional Christian nativity story – that the son of God is born and that a young woman who is temporarily homeless gives birth to a child in a barn and the child is loved. One of the most profound aspects of Black Nativity, a long-running production of Langston Hughes’ holiday show, is that it deftly gives equal weight to both.
The poet Hughes, who wrote the book and utilized traditional Christmas carols for this musical, first staged Black Nativity off-Broadway in 1961. Less than a decade later, in 1969, the play was first performed in Boston. The Boston production has become a beloved, if sometimes overlooked, holiday tradition here for more than a half century, and taking part in the cast has become an intergenerational endeavor for some Black families in the area. Continue reading →
ArtsEmerson isn’t asking you to turn your phone off for its health. Turn your damn phone off, you git.
BOSTON, Mass — On Beckett is a masterclass taught by Bill Irwin on the works of playwright, novelist, Nobel Prize winner, and, among other things, WWII resistance fighter Samuel Beckett. Irwin’s dedicated performance, journalistic dramaturgy, and storytelling transcend the medium of the solo show.
On Beckett isn’t merely a performance incorporating the works of the infamous playwright; it is a doctorate-level dissertation. Emerson, give Irwin his honorary Ph.D. Continue reading →