Marcus Adolphy, Clare Perkins, George Eggay, Andrew Frame, and the company of “The Wife of Willesden.” Photo: Marc Brenner
A Kiln Theatre Production presented by the American Repertory Theater
Adapted by Zadie Smith, adapted from Chaucer’s “The Wife of Bath”
Direction by Indhu Rubasingham
Composition and sound design by Ben and Max Ringham
Movement Direction by Imogen Knight
Fight Direction by Kev McCurdy
Voice & Dialect Coaching by Hazel Holder
Cambridge, MA –Loud, rebellious female characters from classic literature are juicy fodder for feminist reclamation, and understandably so. For women and folks of marginalized gender identities, it’s rare to see ourselves reflected as complex human beings in historical texts, even if most of these surviving texts are by dead white men. Shakespeare, for instance, likely didn’t have radical feminist intentions when he wrote Taming of the Shrew. But, Kate’s story is reshaped and retold again and again and again, problematic parts and all, if only to prove to the world that yes, women like her always existed.
The Wife of Willesden, a Kiln Theatre Production currently running at the A.R.T., strives to continue in this tradition, reexamining with the titular character from Chaucer’s “The Wife of Bath” (a tale from The Canterbury Tales) through a 21st century lens. The text was adapted (or translated, which I would argue is more accurate) by novelist Zadie Smith, with raucous, ensemble-driven direction by Indhu Rubasingham. 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 →
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 Huntington In association with Hartford Stage Written by Kate Snodgrass Directed by Melia Bensussen Original music by Jane Shaw Fight direction and intimacy consultancy by Ted Hewlett Dramaturgy by Charles Haugland January 13–February 12, 2023
Production trigger warnings: slut shaming, victim blaming, mansplaining, manipulative and controlling behavior
Critique by Kitty Drexel
BOSTON, MA —Theatre doesn’t dive into feminine wrath the same way other media does. M3GAN, a current popular horror movie about a prescient AI doll, Jennifer’s Body (2009), and Teeth (2007) all hit the mainstream in ways that other horror plays haven’t.
Popular theatre gets the Medea myth, the Greek tale about a half goddess, enchantress and unfortunate mother of Jason’s (of the Argonauts fame) who became so enraged by her husband’s infidelity she mercy-kills his children. Honestly, what did Jason expect? They don’t call it divine retribution for nothing.
The Art of Burning follows five adults and one teen through vicious divorce proceedings. Patricia (Adrianne Krstansky in a wig that is doing no one any favors) and Jason (Rom Barkhordar) are about to finalize their divorce when Patricia requests full custody of their daughter Beth (Clio Contogenis). Jason’s girlfriend Katya (Vivia Font) is pregnant and Jason wants to keep it. Divorce lawyer and friend Mark (Michael Kaye) and his wife Charlene (Laura Latreille) are having marriage problems of their own. 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.
BOSTON — Rx Machina by Caity-Shea Violette is one of two plays about addiction currently running in Boston. It’s no coincidence. COVID-19 has decimated our mental health.
The modern human, when faced with a medical crisis and no affordable solutions, will turn to legal and illegal self-medicating. The CDC’s website says that the opioid epidemic is a public health crisis. The news, any channel, will confirm this statement. Continue reading →
CONTENT ADVISORY: This production contains depictions of addiction and self-harm, discussions of sexual assault, an extended strobe light sequence, herbal cigarette smoke, and loud noises.
BOSTON — A friend once told me, despite the burden mental illness can present, that the brain is trying to help. The myriad painful symptoms I and many others experience as effects of mental illness are the brain’s way of facilitating, even normalizing the abnormalities of life. Sometimes, I’d rather it not.
Just because the brain is trying to help, it doesn’t mean the brain is actually helping. It takes tremendous discipline to correct negative behaviors and toxic thoughts and to learn new ones. Failure is inevitable. If it takes a village to teach toxic patterns, it takes another village to reinforce positive ones.
SpeakEasy Stage’s People, Places & Things running at the BCA is about addiction, mental health, the theatre, and identity. Emma (Marianna Bassham in a performance that will blow your mind) is in denial. She abuses drugs to cope with her performing career, her family, and the life that happens in-between. She’s on so many drugs when she collapses on stage during a production of The Seagull, it’s a miracle she isn’t dead already. Continue reading →
ONLINE – With recent news of post-pandemic plans and mask mandates being lifted as early as April 2022 in California and New York, is it too soon to talk about a post-pandemic life in the Greater Boston area? With the trajectory of where we are heading, no. In fact, there is optimism that 2022 will be better.
Hosted by the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, GBCC President & CEO James Rooney moderated Moving Forward: Too Soon to Talk About Post-Pandemic Life?. Theone-hour panel featured guest speakers Dr. Kevin Churchwell, Dr. Anne Klibanski, and Dr. Kevin Tabb, from Boston’s leading healthcare institutions, on what we can possibly expect in the very near future. Continue reading →
The cast in The Huntington’s production of The Bluest Eye by Lydia R. Diamond; Photo by T Charles Erickson.
Presented by The Huntington Based on the American classic novel by Toni Morrison Written by Lydia R. Diamond Directed by Awoye Timpo Choreography by Kurt Douglas Music direction by David Freeman Coleman Original music by Justin Ellington Dramaturgy by Sandy Alexandre Intimacy direction by Ayshia Mackie-Stephenson
January 28 – March 13, 2022 Digital access available through March 27, 2022 ASL-INTERPRETED PERFORMANCE: Friday, February 11 at 8pm. OPEN CAPTIONED PERFORMANCE: Tuesday, February 15 at 7:30pm. AUDIO-DESCRIBED PERFORMANCE: Saturday, February 26 at 2pm Calderwood Pavilion at the BCA Boston, MA The Huntington on Facebook
The Bluest Eye plays in approximately one hour and 40 minutes with no intermission.
Content warning: every kind of violence amidst a Black community
Critique by Kitty Drexel
“Coming together in a circle to tell a story is essential to our humanity. That’s what we’re inviting the community into with The Bluest Eye.” – Director Awoye Timpo
Boston, MA — The synopsis for The Bluest Eye would have a newcomer believe that the play is about unattainable, western i.e. colonialist beauty standards. It is, but The Bluest Eye is about much more.
Pecola Breedlove (Hadar Busia-Singleton) has come to stay with Claudia (Brittany-Laurelle) and Freida (Alexandria King). We learn through Claudia’s narration all about the Breedloves. Mrs. Breedlove (McKenzie Frye, who tears the roof off in her role) and Mr. Cholly Breedlove (Greg Alverez Reid) are scarred from growing up in the Midwest.
Through an examination of their stories, we come to understand Pecola and why she dreams of having blue eyes. Ramona Lisa Alexander, Brian D. Coats and Lindsley Howard round out the cast. The cast is excellent together and individually in their own right. Continue reading →