Dec 14

Getting to Maybe: EXPOSED

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The TV has no context in this image.

Presented by Boston Center for American Performance and Boston Playwrights’ Theatre
Written by Robert Brustein
Directed by Steven Bogart
Compositions by Mark Bruckner
Musical direction by Catherine Stornetta

Dec. 10 – Dec. 18, 2015
Boston Center for the Arts
Wimberly Theatre
Boston, MA
BPT on Facebook

Review by Kitty Drexel

(Boston, MA) Normally, I adore a good potty-mouthed political satire.  I feel less alone knowing that my fellow humans also think that the Govt., its politicians, and processes are broken. As Republicans, Democrats, Independents, etc, we can all agree that the system needs an overhaul. Satires give me a modicum of hope for the future. Continue reading

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Apr 25

Integrity Sells for So Little: CITY OF ANGELS

Photo by Mark S. Howard

Photo by Mark S. Howard

Presented by Lyric Stage Co. of Boston
Book by Larry Gelbart
Music by Cy Coleman
Lyrics by David Zippel
Vocal arrangements by Cy Coleman and Yaron Gershovsky
Directed by Spiro Veloudos
Music direction by Catherine Stornetta
Choreography & musical staging by Rachel Bertone

March 27 – May 2, 2015
Boston, MA
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Review by Kitty Drexel

(Boston, MA) City of Angels pays homage to film noir with tongue firmly in cheek sexual innuendo and integrated design film tropes. The Lyric Stage Co. of Boston brings life to this beloved musical with panache and two shakes of wit with inspired clever projection design by Jonathan Carr and zippy choreography by Rachel Bertone. This production is great fun. The book and lyrics are clever. The score, vocal and instrumental, is inherently singable. The artistic upsides far outweigh the downsides. An evening spent at COA is one well spent. Continue reading

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May 16

Right is Better Than Nice: INTO THE WOODS

Photo by Mark S. Howard. The cast; kicking ass and taking names in The Woods.

 

Presented by Lyric Stage Company of Boston
Music & lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
Book by James Lapine
Directed & staged by Spiro Veloudos
Music directed by Catherine Stornetta

May 9 – June 15, 2014
140 Clarendon Street
Boston, MA 02116
The Lyric on Facebook

Review by Kitty Drexel

(BostonInto the Woods is a tough nut to crack. On the one hand, it’s a classic and butts will fill seats faster than Satan fills a church on Sunday. On the other, it’s a classic and everyone who loves this show will have an opinion that they swear it’s the only legit one because they saw that Broadway performance that one time… on DVD. The Lyric Stage Co’s production is good but not good enough to silence the naysayers (the lines to the bathrooms were all atwitter with sarcasm). The audience community of Boston is protective of their favorite shows. This one falls under the blanket of shows that the community will fight for to the death (of their subscription). Continue reading

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Jan 09

“33 Variations”: Beethoven Mired in Melodrama

Photo credit: Mark S. Howard; snuggles with Beethoven.

Photo credit: Mark S. Howard; snuggles with Beethoven.

By Moises Kaufman
Directed by Spiro Veloudos

presented by The Lyric Stage Company of Boston
140 Clarendon Street, 2nd floor
Boston, MA  02116
Lyric Stage Facebook Page

Review  by Gillian Daniels

(Boston) In Moises Kaufman’s 33 Variations, only works of genius transcend death. Musicologist Dr. Katherine Brandt (Paula Plum) throws herself into her studies of Ludwig van Beethoven when diagnosed with a debilitating disease. Brandt’s crisis is contrasted with Beethoven (James Andreassi) as he loses his hearing in 1823.

The contemporary setting is ultimately too light when played side by side with history. Katherine fights against her illness tooth and nail as she struggles to complete her research in Germany, but where that illness should be driving the drama, it instead turns 33 Variations into an issue piece when it could have been so much more.

Katherine’s strained relationship with her daughter, Clara (Dakota Shepard), never feels terribly real, which is disappointing. I understand why Katherine demands perfection of her adult child but I don’t understand why those demands still inspire such loyalty in Clara. It’s not that it isn’t heartening to watch her help Katherine through her sickness, but the relationship feels weak.

Even weaker, though, is Clara’s romance with Mike Clark (Kelby T. Akin), her mother’s nurse. It’s cute in a romantic comedy sort of way. Still, a male nurse dating a distressed, emotionally vulnerable woman strains believability. Despite this, their courtship is cute and humorous. Remembering his profession and under what circumstances their affair transpires, though, wrecks the illusion.

33 Variations is most alive when it deals with history and those obsessed with it. Beethoven’s struggle to write thirty-three variations of a mediocre waltz is thrilling. We can see exactly why Katherine is so passionate about him and his life. It also explains why a friendship grows between her and Dr. Gertrude Ladenburger (Maureen Keiller) while they do research in the Beethoven archives. The really interesting story, the one about art and talent transcending time, is there. It’s just buried under melodrama.

Now, the melodrama isn’t all bad, but it’s best when finding the bittersweet humor of Katherine’s difficulties. Otherwise, the story of a genius plagued by the perils of infirmity has been done before and better. Here, despite Paula Plum’s nuanced acting, the story drags.

Perhaps the strongest quality of the play is the way in which this well-mined material is staged. The actors really throw themselves into their roles, deftly pealing away the layers of melancholy to the humor and hope beneath the material. Pianist Catherine Stornetta does the most to breathe life into the show as she plays each variation.

It’s also magical to watch Beethoven share the stage with Katherine. When Katherine talks with Clara and Beethoven yells at his assistant, Anton Schindler (Victor L. Shopov), their conversations in their respective eras weave together. They are separate from each other only by degrees, knitted together by the desire to continue living fully and happily.

For the play, it’s an unfortunate separation that does it no favors. Katherine’s own deterioration is depicted well, but much too weak to carry a story on its own. As it is, 33 Variations tugs heartstrings, but doesn’t transcend its melodramatic trappings. If only the show had been more ambitious, maybe even as ambitious as the art that it depicts, then it would have really shined.

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