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

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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

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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

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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

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Mar 09

reasons to be pretty–Do these jeans make my butt look fat?

Greg (Andy Macdonald) confronts Carly (Danielle Muehlen) who is responsible for his break-up in a scene from the SpeakEasy Stage Company production of Neil LaBute’s Broadway hit reasons to be pretty, Photo: Craig Bailey/Perspective Photo.

reasons to be pretty by Neil LaBute, Speakeasy Stage Company, 3/4/11-4/2/11.  http://www.speakeasystage.com/doc.php?section=showpage&page=reasons Contains mature language.

Reviewed Becca Kidwell

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”  When we get out of high school, we hope the teasing will stop; however, we find new forms of teasing in fashion magazines, tv shows, and hanging out with friends.  Have we become too sensitive?  No.  But where do we draw the line?  How do we stop feeling put down by the world and begin feeling secure in ourselves?  Speakeasy Stage Company’s production of reasons to be pretty by Neil LaBute makes us examine these questions through their dynamic production.

Anyone who knows about LaBute should not be too surprised by the tirade of expletives that open the play.  They will not be too surprised that the cause is Steph, played by Angie Jepson, who hears that her boyfriend Greg, played by Andy McDonald, has described her face as “regular”.  While it is an extreme reaction, we understand that it is akin to any answer to the question “do my jeans make my butt look fat?”  Andy McDonald plays a calm, normal guy who dodges the verbal missiles on all sides, but still ends up with Steph leaving him.  Angie Jepson’s belligerent performance is matched by the vulnerability she displays when Steph keeps returning to Greg for approval. Continue reading

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Mar 05

What’s Happening at the Boston Lyric Opera: Agrippina

(copy of press release–working on article about opera, but it will not be ready by the time their show starts & I want you to have the information)

Oh, the depravity!
Boston Lyric Opera goes Baroque with elegant, insidious Agrippina

Caroline Worra stars in satire of the fall of the Roman Empire, opening March 11

Production features three countertenors: Anthony Roth Costanzo,
David Trudgen and José Alvarez

WHAT: Witness the ultimate stage mother have a major melt-down in one of opera’s most intense “mad scenes,” as she plots to make her son Nero Emperor of Rome in BLO’s production of Handel’s fast-paced Agrippina. This light and frothy opera with insidious undertones is based in historical fact, weaving the twisted tale of a mother’s desperate scheme to remove her husband from the throne and elevate her spoiled teenage son…creating a complicated intrigue of shifting alliances and turning the Imperial court into a nest of elegant vipers.

This classical yet modern production, created by Glimmerglass and New York City Opera, features exciting debuts and is the third in BLO’s 2010-2011 Season; it will be presented at the Citi Performing Arts CenterSM Shubert Theatre. Three countertenors, a five-piece continuo group and an elevated orchestra pit built specifically for the production will immerse the audience in a uniquely Baroque experience. Continue reading

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Feb 20

THE SECRET GARDEN: A Magical Secret Worth Sharing

photo by Gary Ng

The Secret Garden, book and lyrics by Susan Kosoff, Music by Jane Staab, Wheelock Family Theatre, 1/28/11-2/27/11 (including weekday performances 2/22/11-2/25/11), http://www.wheelockfamilytheatre.org/feature-performance.aspx

Reviewed by Becca Kidwell

As I was watching Wheelock’s production of The Secret Garden, I wished I was eight again (except for the horrible prospect of growing up again).  Wheelock Family Theatre is a magical place where dreams come alive, and this is particularly evident in their production of The Secret Garden.

One can’t help but be enchanted by the scenery by Matthew T. Lazure.  The garden wall rotates and reveals the inside of the garden, and Colin’s room appears from the walls of the seemingly impenetrable house.  Another clever aspect is the “growth” of the flowers during intermission; I put my head down for one minute–I look up and see leaves; I put my head down for another moment, look up and see flowers in full bloom. Continue reading

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Feb 13

CYMBELINE: such stuff as dreams are made on

Cymbeline by William Shakespeare, Actors’ Shakespeare Project, 2/9/11-2/20/11, part of THE WINTER FESTIVAL (also playing:  The Hotel Nepenthe by John Kuntz, 2/23/11-3/6/11; and Living in Exile by Jon Lipsky, 3/9/11-3/20/11)  http://www.actorsshakespeareproject.org/season7/winter_festival.html

Brooke Hardman as Imogen and De'Lon Grant as Posthumous; photo by Stratton McCrady, c 2011

Reviewed by Becca Kidwell

This is why I love theatre.  No sets. No real props (except musical instruments).  Plain white clothing.  All that is left is the artists and the words.  Cymbeline, one of Shakespeare’s final plays, is rarely staged because of its meandering plots and complicated relationships (for a detailed plot summary, go to SparkNotes—really, it’s not cheating); Actors’ Shakespeare Project not only takes on the challenge, but performs the play possibly better than even Shakespeare could have envisioned it.

This phenomenally talented cast of seven takes the multiple plot twists and numerous characters and creates a cohesive and pleasurable fable for adults.   Continue reading

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Jan 21

‘Full’ of Inspiration

R. Buckminster Fuller:  The History (and Mystery) of the Universe by DW Jacobs,  American Repertory Theater, 1/14/11-2/5/11. http://www.americanrepertorytheater.org/events/show/r-buckminster-fuller-history-and-mystery-universe.

R. Buckminster Fuller: THE HISTORY (and Mystery) OF THE UNIVERSE. Performed by Thomas Derrah. Photo: Marcus Stern.

Warning: contains profound thoughts

Reviewed by Becca Kidwell

When someone asks me what subjects I liked when I was in school, I always say “all except science, I HATE science.”  What I have learned over the past few years is that I have hated science because no one made it interesting for me.  R. Buckminster Fuller:  The History (and Mystery) of the Universe reminds me again that love of science and love of learning start with a person who engages, challenges, and pushes you to see the world in new ways.

The one-man show connects theories of science, philosophy, sociology, and sustainability to life.  Fuller comes to life in such a way that the audience feels that they are at a “real” lecture.  Thomas Derrah presents the same frenetic and contagious energy that was Bucky Fuller’s trademark.  He bounces and dances around as he explains his principles for improving “spaceship earth” and also questioning all of the norms that surround us.  Like Bucky, he uses any and all forms of media that are available to him to get his point across. Continue reading

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Jan 20

Afterlife: Needs a new life

(left to right) Dale Place as Black Bird and Thomas Piper as Connor in afterlife: a ghost story. Photo by Andrew Brilliant/ Brilliant Pictures.

afterlife:  a ghost story by Steve Yockey, New Repertory Theatre, 1/16/11-2/6/11, http://newrep.org/afterlife.phpContains strong language.

Reviewed by Becca Kidwell

Steve Yockey’s afterlife:  a ghost story should be subtitled an evening of one acts.  While both acts of the play contain the same characters and themes, the familiarity ends there.  Act I displays a realistic, yet mundane evening between a grieving couple; they are packing up the beach house where they used to live.   They talk around the subject of their son’s death, but other than some yelling and “crying” they really remain stuck in one place until their house is washed away.  Act II portrays a fantasy world (somewhere between heaven and hell) where the Danielle, Connor, and their son work out their grief.  They receive the assistance of a postman, a proprietress, another ghost, and a bird puppet.  afterlife:  a ghost story has potential to transform into an interesting play if the first act removes ninety percent of its action and the second act has the chance to develop more fully. Continue reading

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