May 22

An Alternate Tyranny and Timeline in Handel’s “Silla”


Presented by The Cambridge Chamber Ensemble
Music by G.F. Handel
Libretto by Giacomo Rossi
Music Directed by Juliet Cunningham
Stage Directed by Ingrid Oslund
Produced/Executive Direction/Translation by Martha Birnbaum
Rossana Chung, violin
Rob Bethel, violincello
Lisa Putukian, oboe
Juliet Cunningham, harpsichord
May 17 – May 19, 2019
Warehouse IX
Somerville, MA
The Cambridge Chamber Ensemble on Facebook

Review by Gillian Daniels

(Somerville, MA) Roselin Osser as Silla has the wild eyes, swagger, and exquisite cheekbones of a villain as he dominates the stage. In this alternate version of 2019, the Roman Republic is alive and well and Silla, after a successful military campaign, announces that he plans to rule as Perpetual Dictator of Rome. The reporters are horrified. Silla’s wife, Metella (the hilarious Theresa Egan) grits her teeth and stands by her man. As Silla begins to openly lust after other women and jail his political enemies, however, Melania–I mean, Metella, yes, begins to wonder just how much her loyalty to a tyrant husband is worth. Continue reading

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May 07

“black odyssey boston”: Greek Myth Meshes Beautifully with African Diaspora

Brandon G. Green & Johnny Lee Davenport. Photo: Nile Scott Studios.

Presented by by The Front Porch Arts Collective & Underground Railway Theater
Written by Marcus Gardley
Directed by Benny Sato Ambush
Choreographed by Melissa Alexis
Music Directed by Alyssa Jones

April 25 – May 19, 2019
Central Square Theatre
450 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02139
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Review by Gillian Daniels

(Cambridge, MA) Brandon G. Green is Ulysses Malcolm Lincoln, a soldier who’s unmoored. Not just unmoored on the sea, but unmoored in time, place, and personhood. We follow him on a journey as episodic as The Odyssey with as much raw, mythic power. The classic epic has been broken down and rebuilt with a mosaic of African diaspora culture. black odyssey boston is truly an epic in that it is three hours of fantastical and strange adventures. It finds its way home, however, not when it tries to piece together every popular touchstone it can lay its hands on, but when it focuses on the human relationships of its characters. Continue reading

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Apr 03

“Don Giovanni” Reframed for Our Troubled Times

Photo via Boston Opera Collaborative

Presented by Boston Opera Collaborative
Music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Libretto by Lorenzo Da Ponte
Stage Direction by Patricia Maria-Weinman and Greg Smucker
Conducted by Tianhui Ng

March 28 – April 6
Ben Franklin Institute of Technology
41 Berkeley Street
Boston, MA 02116
Don Giovanni on Facebook

Content warning: Assault and sexual assault

Critique by Gillian Daniels

(Boston, MA) This iteration of Don Giovanni begins with a projection of the infamous pussy-grabbing quote from our Cheeto-in-Chief. It goes on to present images of Brett Kavanaugh, Kevin Spacey, Harvey Weinstein, and so many (too many) others. From minute one, it’s clear this is a production without subtlety, but for those of us who wake up in dread of what the news will say about the continued degradation of women’s rights in the United States, this is exactly the production we need. To use Don Giovanni as a lens to view our very national moment is a bold move and a difficult one to land. Continue reading

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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
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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
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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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