Feb 11

Portrait of an Actress and Her Art: “Bare Stage”

Photo by © Kippy Goldfarb/Carolle Photo – Kevin Cirone as Parker and Ashley Risteen as Kate

Presented by Festival Theater
Directed by A. Nora Long
Written by Michael Walker

February 8, 2019 – March 2, 2019
South End / BCA Plaza Theaters
Boston, MA 02116
Event on Facebook

Critique by Gillian Daniels

Content warning: nudity, vulnerable actresses with potentially slimy, powerful men.

(Boston, MA) Kate (Ashley Risteen) believes in art and is portrayed as nothing less than a serious artist in Bare Stage. She’s a passionate actress with a mission, and in her most recent role, she’s been asked to perform naked. You know, in front of her family, friends, boyfriend, everyone, in the town where she lives. In mainstream American pop culture, the prevailing attitude seems to be, “If everyone knows what they’re in for, sure, why not?” But the reality is more complex, not just in contemplating censorship but exploitation and art. Continue reading

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Feb 11

“Cendrillon” is a Sweet, Sugary Cinderella

Presented by The Harvard College Opera
Composed by Jules Massenet
Music Directed by Benjamin P. Wenzelberg
Stage Directed by Madeline Snow

Agassiz Theater
Cambridge, MA
Feb 1-3 & 8-10
Facebook Event

Review by Gillian Daniels

(Cambridge, MA) If Massenet’s Cendrillon was a cake, it would be covered in thick, buttery frosting, have crushed sugar cookies inside, and funfetti melted into every layer. This version of Cinderella is one of the sentimental renditions of a wildly popular but very reliable recipe. As a fan of multiple versions of the rags-to-riches, wish-fulfillment fairy tale, which includes the much bleaker version explored in Into the Woods, I enjoyed the sweetness that the Harvard College Opera leans into so very hard in this production. Continue reading

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Dec 04

“Twelfth Night” Thrums with Life

L to R: Sarah Gazdowicz (OIivia), Charlotte Kinder (Viola); Photo Credit: Sharman Altshuler

Presented by Moonbox Productions
Written by William Shakespeare
Directed by Allison Olivia Choat

Nov 25 – Dec 29, 2018
Boston Center for the Arts Plaza Theatre
539 Tremont Street
Boston, MA 02116
Moonbox Productions on Facebook

Review by Gillian Daniels

(Boston, MA) There are productions of Shakespeare that are focused on reciting the text rather than acting it out. I understand the temptation. Maybe it’s the rhythm, maybe it’s the Bard’s reputation as, well, THE BARD, but sometimes theater groups seem to engage with Shakespeare’s comedy as a text to worship rather than a story to tell, even with a comedy like Twelfth Night. I’m happy to say Moonbox Production not only engages with the high emotions, cartoonish confusion, and whacky consequences of the comical cross-dressing romance but celebrates the story and its jokes with delight. Continue reading

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Dec 03

Castaway Caught in Colonialist Fantasy in “Shipwrecked!”

Presented by Moonbox Productions
Written by Donald Margulies
Original music composed and performed by Dan Rodriguez and the repertory cast
Directed by Allison Olivia Choat

Nov 25 – Dec 29
Boston Center for the Arts Plaza Theatre
539 Tremont Street
Boston, MA 02116
Moonbox Productions on Facebook

Review by Gillian Daniels

(Boston, MA) Halfway through Shipwrecked! An Entertainment, when Louis de Rougemont (Kevin Cirone)–a real person who claimed to have been stranded in the Pacific in his 1899 serial-turned-book–lives on an unspecified island in a carefree existence with an unspecified, idealized indigenous people who variously refer to him as “chief” or “god,” I thought I’d be writing a very different review. But the lively depiction of a “man-eating octopus” and “flying wombats” early in the show should have tipped me off. This is a narrative that pokes holes in itself, a comedy-drama, a man using a survivor’s unlikely colonialist narrative to build his self-worth, and a story about the stories we tell ourselves to feel better. Continue reading

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Oct 30

“Cirque of the Dead” Review 2018: Damned Good Time


Presented by Boston Circus Guild
Directed by Joseph C. Walsh

October 19 – October 31, 2017
The Oberon
2 Arrow Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
Cirque of the Dead on Facebook

Review by Gillian Daniels

(Cambridge, MA) A possessed contortionist, a painting that springs to life to ensnare its painter, a clan of vampires, and a burlesque zombie who strangely (and seductively?) tears off and eats their own skin during their aerial act. Yes, it is Halloween for the Boston Circus Guild. This year, they successfully walk the line between disturbing and beguiling. The show is fragmented into circus acts, yes, but the pieces cohere into a complete (if possessed) picture. Continue reading

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Aug 10

“Leftovers” and the Balance Between Wishes and Truths

Photo by Paul Fox.

Presented by Company One Theatre
Written by Josh Wilder
Directed by Summer L. Williams
Developed by C1 PlayLab

July 21 – August 18, 2018
The Strand Theatre
543 Columbia Road, Boston, MA 02125
The Leftovers on Facebook

Review by Gillian Daniels

(Boston, MA) When a giant dandelion bursts out of the ground in their Philadelphia yard, Kwamaine (the charming Christian Scales) is enchanted while his older brother, Jalil (Kadahj Bennett, who pulls some of the best humorous faces I’ve seen on any given stage), is understandably baffled. Their harassed mother, Raquelle (Lyndsay Allyn Cox), is mostly just annoyed. Writer Josh Wilder and director Summer L. Williams deliver an odd, funny city-based fable that becomes a magic realist quest through systemic poverty, race, The Cosby Show, and the insulating nature of fantasies. Continue reading

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Aug 03

“Richard III”: Uncomfortably Mirroring a Summer of Our Discontent

Faran Tahir (Richard III) and the cast of Richard III (photo by Evgenia Eliseeva)

Presented by the Commonwealth Shakespeare Company
Written by William Shakespeare
Directed by Steven Maler

July 18 – August 5, 2018 
Parkman Bandstand
Tremont Street & Winter Street
Boston, MA 02108
CSC on Facebook

Review by Gillian Daniels

(Boston, MA) The Commonwealth Shakespeare Company brings an arresting production of Richard III to Boston’s Common. The grim story of a happily evil king is enlivened by the performance of Faran Tahir as he swaggers, lies, and simpers his way to a throne that might as well be soaked in blood. The play is grounded in real world anger toward a cartoonish villain who disintegrates into a self-doubting coward. It’s a cathartic watch, one that both moved me and concerned me in the way it compliments and comments on topical news items. Continue reading

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Jan 26

Caregiver Vents and Mourns in “Mala”

Presented by Huntington Theatre Company and ArtsEmerson
Written and performed by Melinda Lopez
Directed by David Dower

Jan. 6 – Feb. 4, 2018
Calderwood Pavilion
Boston Center for the Arts
Boston, MA

Review by Gillian Daniels

(Boston, MA) “Dying doesn’t make you wise,” says Melinda Lopez, describing the death of her tough, stubborn mother. “Dying doesn’t make you generous.” The words could serve as the thesis of Mala, a story of a loyal daughter processing guilt and bitterness over the death of her elderly parents. Baked into the subject matter is a grim but gentle humor, one that picks at the coat of polish usually applied to recollections of the grieving process. Lopez’s pain, here, is visceral and true, not some softly lit movie set. Continue reading

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Dec 24

A Mobile, Spectacle-Driven Adaptation of “Sense and Sensibility”

Presented by Bedlam
Written by Kate Hamill
Based on the novel by Jane Austen
Directed by Eric Tucker

December 10, 2017 – January 14, 2018
The American Repertory Theater (A.R.T.)
ART on Facebook

Review by Gillian Daniels

(Cambridge, MA) Communicating the swift wit of a Jane Austen story is sometimes lost in an adaptation of her work. What better metaphor for the pace and quick gossip of polite society than a stage where all the furniture has wheels and actors move across it with the precision of a ballet? Bedlam, in its own words, “creates works of theatre that reinvigorate traditional forms in a flexible, raw space.” This adaptation is as kinetic and flexible as described, but it works best when its uses its techniques to highlight Austen’s source material, not when they try to rely on special effects. Continue reading

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Nov 07

We Want More of “OUT’hood FEST!”

Presented by The Theater Offensive
Performers: Eddie Maisonet, Erin Ebony, Danny Harris Sr., Cheyenne Harvey, and J.D. Stokely

October 30, 2017
Hibernian Hall
184 Dudley Street, Boston, MA 02119
Roxbury, Massachusetts

Review by Gillian Daniels

(Roxbury, MA) OUT’hood FEST is a festival designed to by and for the voices and works of local LGBTQ POC. The night I attended was specifically a “taster” of this talent, the culmination of The Theater Offensive’s pilot program, the OUT’hood Residency. This program supports the creation of artwork by, for, and/or about LGBTQ people of color who are local to Boston. If what I saw this year was any indication, this festival will invigorate some of the most versatile artists of the Boston community. Storytellers Eddie Maisonet, Erin Ebony, Danny Harris Sr., Cheyenne Harvey, and J.D. Stokely certainly shined, and I look forward to finding more of their work. Continue reading

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