Jun 21

Sexy & Romantic: “Venus & Adonis”

Presented by Cambridge Chamber Ensemble
Music by John Blow
Libretto by Anne Kingsmill Finch or Aphra Behn
From Ovid’s Metamorphosis 
Stage direction by David R. Gammons 
Music direction by Stephanie Beatrice
Choreography by Alissa Cardone
Supratitles by Danielle Shevchenko 
Concert-master, Ming-hang Tam

June 17, 18, 19, 2022
Cambridge Multicultural Arts Center
41 2nd Street
East Cambridge, MA

Review by Kitty Drexel

Apologies to the cast, orchestra, and crew of Venus & Adonis. Family issues (including a COVID scare) prevented me from publishing this review on time. Mea culpa. 

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Cambridge Chamber Ensemble’s production of John Blow’s Venus & Adonis was delightful. It was under an hour and packed in more action in 60-minutes than other Baroque operas do in 150 minutes. If you missed it, that’s a damn shame. Donate here and catch the next one. 

Adonis & Venus is a romantic opera. Cambridge Chamber Ensemble’s production was sexy. It needed an intimacy director. Continue reading

Jun 16

Liminal Spaces for Desettlement: “The Orchard”

The Making of THE ORCHARD Virtual Experience from Igor Golyak on Vimeo.

Presented by Arlekin Players Theatre & (zero-G) Lab
Conceived, adapted, and directed by Igor Golyak
Based on The Cherry Orchard by Anton Chekhov, as translated by Carol Rocamora 
With new material by Igor Golyak 
Robotics designed by Tom Sepe
Music composition by Jakov Jakoulov
Emerging technologies design by Adam Paikowsky
American Sign Language direction by Seth Gore
Translations by Carol Rocamora
Full creative crew credits are HERE
Featuring Jessica Hecht, Juliet Brett, Darya Denisova, Elise Kibler, John McGinty, Nael Nacer, Mark Nelson & Ilia Volok
Mikhail Baryshnikov as Anton Chekhov and Firs

June 16 – July 3, 2022
The Orchard is a hybrid piece of theater and can be seen in two formats:
Live & In-Person
Baryshnikov Arts Center, NYC
&
Virtual Experience, Online
(zero-G) Lab

The show runs just under 2 hours, with no intermission.

Review by Kitty Drexel

This review is of the virtual performance of The Orchard on Tuesday, June 14, 2022.

New York & Online — The Arlekin Players are no strangers to the digital theatre. Their productions of chekhovOS / an experimental game/, Witness, and State vs. Natasha Banina were wildly successful. chekhovOS / an experimental game/ and Witness were both live and audience-interactive in ways that the theatre community hadn’t seen before. These shows navigated the new frontier of digital theatre by showing artists and audiences what is possible. 

They were also super cool to watch.  Continue reading

Jun 14

Jam, Jive and Everything: “Ain’t Misbehavin’: The Fats Waller Musical Show”

The company; Photo by Nile Scott Photography

Presented by Greater Boston Stage Company
Co-produced with The Nora at Central Square Theater and The Front Porch Arts Collective
Conceived by Richard Maltby, Jr. & Murray Horwitz
Musical Adaptions, Orchestrations, and Arrangements by ​Luther Henderson
Directed and Choreographed by Maurice Emmanuel Parent
Co-Choreographed by Ilyse Robbins
Co-Music Direction by Dan Rodriguez and David Freeman Coleman

June 9-26, 2022
Greater Boston Stage Company
395 Main Street
Stoneham, MA 02180
Runtime: 2 hours including intermission

Review by Kitty Drexel

STONEHAM, Mass. —  Ain’t Misbehavin’ is a show that builds and builds until the energy and the intensity seem unsustainable. Then it builds some more. The musical opens with the titular song and spans the great career of Thomas Wright “Fats” Waller. There is little dialogue but a lot of impressive dancing. 

The red Art Deco set by Jon Savage, Aria Pegg, and Tori Oakes transports the audience to a speakeasy deep in the bowels of New York. The audience is flanked by large-scale landscape murals depicting Black jazz musicians and dancers a la Josephine Baker. The stage extends close to the first row to give the cast plenty of room to stomp, prowl, and wiggle. Café tables are placed on the edges of stage left and right.  Continue reading

Jun 11

Believe Victims, Listen to Black Women: “The Light” at the Lyric Stage

Photo by Mark S Howard; Dominic Carter and Yewande Odetoyinbo.

Presented by the Lyric Stage Company of Boston
By Loy A. Webb
Directed by Jacqui Parker
Intimacy direction by Ted Hewlett
COVID safety officer: Emily Collins
Music credit: “Natural High” from the EP “After Hours,” Allyssa Jones feat. Apollo Payton
Featuring: Dominic Carter and Yewande Odetoyinbo

June 3-June 26, 2022
Lyric Stage Company of Boston
140 Clarendon St
Boston, MA 02116
The Playbill 
70 minutes with no intermission

Review by Kitty Drexel

BOSTON — The Light at Lyric State of Boston demands its audience believe victims, to listen to them. Trust their stories; lead with compassion. 

In a 2020 article by the American Psychological Association, “Black Women Often Ignored by Social Justice Movements,” lead researcher Stewart Coles said “Black women are often overlooked in people’s conversations about racism and sexism even though they face a unique combination of both of these forms of discrimination simultaneously.” Continue reading

Jun 04

Could be Better, Could be Worse: American Repertory Theater’s “1776”


Presented by American Repertory Theater
Produced in association with Roundabout Theatre Company
Book by Peter Stone
Music and Lyrics by Sherman Edwards
Based on a Concept by Sherman Edwards
Directed by Jeffrey L. Page and Diane Paulus
Music Direction by Ryan Cantwell
Choreography by Jeffrey L. Page
Music Supervision by David Chase
Orchestrations by John Clancy
Vocal Design by AnnMarie Milazzo
Dialect Coaching (NYC) by Dawn-Elin Fraser
Dialect Coaching (Cambridge) by Erika Bailey
Fight Direction by Thomas Schall

May 17 – July 24, 2022
Loeb Drama Center
Cambridge, MA
Run Time: 2 hours and 45 minutes, including one 15-minute intermission

The mask goes over your nose.

Critique by Kitty Drexel

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Contemporary performances of Stone & Edwards’ 1776 are a response to Hamilton. The 1997 Broadway revival production at the Roundabout Theatre had an all white, all cis male cast (with Star Trek TNG’s Brent Spiner in the role of John Adams). American Repertory Theater tries something different with its 2022 production. It is largely successful thanks to the brave, button-pushing performances of its actors. 

1776 is the reproduction of the infamous congressional meetings that lead to the United States’ declaration of independence on July 4, 1776. John Adams (Crystal Lucas-Perry), Benjamin Franklin (Patrena Murray), and Thomas Jefferson (Elizabeth A. Davis) cajole the members of the Continental Congress into voting for American independence from British tyranny.  Continue reading

May 09

So I Turned Myself to Face Me: “Blythely Ever After”

Stephanie Blythe as Blythely Oratonio. Photo by Dominic M. Mercier

Presented by Boston Lyric Opera
Directed by John Jarboe
Music direction & arrangements by Daniel Kazemi
Cowritten by John Jarboe & Stephanie Blythe 
Blythely, flower, costumes and throne designed by Machine Dazzle with Rebecca Kanach
Original sound design by Dan Perelstein Jaquette 

May 6, 2022 at 7:30 PM
Royal Boston
279 Tremont St
Boston, MA 02116

Review by Kitty Drexel

BOSTON, Mass. — Opera is not dead. Opera has the potential to thrive in these interesting times. Stephanie Blythe ushers in its new dawn as Blythely Oratonio, a drag king with a most ostentatious countenance, in Blythely Ever After. Opera, the culture, need only evolve with its denizens to survive. 

Drag queen Sapphira Cristál, she of the six-octave range, opened the concert in a stately purple taffeta robe with “Dich Teure Halle” from Wagner’s Tannhäuser. She sang live but she was so pitch-perfect that she sounded recorded. This aria sounds as good sung by a queen if not better than it does by a princess soprano. Continue reading

Apr 25

Joy, Compassion, Kicking Ass in Spandex: “Black Super Hero Magic Mama”

Ramona Lisa Alexander – Photo by Lauren Miller

Presented by Company One in collaboration with American Repertory Theater,
Boston Public Library, and Boston Comics in Color Festival
Written by Inda Craig-Galván 
Directed by Monica White Ndounou
Dramaturgy by Ilana M Brownstein and Regine Vital
Animation design & comics consultant: Cagen Luse
Fight choreography by Margaret Clark

April 23 – May 21, 2022
Rabb Hall @ Boston Public Library’s Central Branch
Copley Square
Boston, MA 
All tickets are Pay-What-You-Want ($0 minimum)

Recommended for ages 14 and up. This production contains depictions of police brutality, violence, death, grief, depression, and strong language.

Review by Kitty Drexel

BOSTON, Mass. — The leads of Black Super Hero Magic Mama deserve a critic that looks like them. I look like the cops that are acquitted by juries that also look like me for killing unarmed Black men and women. There are more white critics than Black critics in New England. We need more Black critics in Boston. I strongly urge interested individuals to apply for The Porch’s Young Critics Program this winter and then to shoot me an email. 

Company One and American Repertory Theatre’s Black Super Hero Magic Mama shows us an unsettled Chicago. Sabrina Jackson (Ramona Lisa Alexander, who ran that stage like Pam Grier on a mission) is raising a bright young quiz show star Tramarion Jackson (Joshua Robinson). When Tramarion isn’t trouncing the competition on “Know Your Heritage” with Coach Corey Brackett (Ricardo Engermann), he’s writing comic books with his friend Joseph A Hughes aka Flat Joe (Anderson Stinson III). These two smart but mouthy kids have bright futures. That is until the worst happens. Continue reading

Apr 23

God Is Change: “Octavia E. Butler’s The Parable of the Sower”

Presented by ArtsEmerson
Created by Toshi Reagon and Bernice Johnson Reagon
Co-Directed by Eric Ting & Signe V. Harriday 
Music and Lyrics by Toshi Reagon and Bernice Johnson Reagon 
Music Direction by Toshi Reagon  
Choreography by Millicent Johnnie 
Movement Director: Yasmine Lee 
Performed by Marie Tatti Aqeel, Alina Carson, Helga Davis, Kyle Garvin, Jared Wayne Gladly, Toussaint Jeanlouis, Karma Mayet Johnson, Morley Kamen, Alexandra Koi, Josette Newsam, Shelley Nicole, Toshi Reagon, Noah Virgile, Evie Schuckman Orchestra Monique Brooks Roberts, Zach Brown, Bobby Burke, Fred Cash, Jr., Chogyi, Matt Graff 
Orchestra: Monique Brooks Roberts, Zach Brown, Bobby Burke, Fred Cash, Jr., Chogyi, Matt Graff

April 21 – 24, 2022  
Open Captioning: Fri, April 22 @ 8:00 PM
American Sign Language: Sun April, 24 @ 2:00 PM
Emerson Cutler Majestic Theatre 
219 Tremont Street
Boston, MA 02116

Recommended for Ages 13+  

Running Time: 120 minutes, no intermission 

Please Note: Proof of vaccination or a negative test is required for entry

Critique by Kitty Drexel

“All that you touch
You Change.
All that you Change
Changes you.
The only lasting truth
Is Change.
God
Is Change.”
Earthseed, Lauren Olamina in The Parable of the Sower

BOSTON, Mass. — The audience was small on Thursday night but grateful. We’d waited over two years to see Toshi Reagon’s Octavia E. Butler’s The Parable of the Sower. The air was palpable with anticipation. We had each other to talk to and other excited conversations to easedrop on. When the theatre held the house lights for an extra 20 minutes to allow late audience members to straggle in, we were okay with it. 

When the lights finally dimmed to signal the start of the show, a hush fell over us. Finally, after all this waiting, it was time for church. 

Octavia E. Butler’s The Parable of the Sower is an opera adapted by Toshi Reagon and Bernice Johnson Reagon from the Afro-futurist science fiction writer Octavia E. Butler’s novel The Parable of the Sower.  The ArtsEmerson website says it is “a genre-defying, modern congregational opera that celebrates two centuries of Black music.”  Continue reading

Mar 25

We Know You Can Dance to the Beat: An Interview with Brian Boruta about Umbrella Stage’s “Head Over Heels”

Presented by Umbrella Stage
Adapted by James Magruder
Concept and Original Book by James Whitty
Music by The Go-Go’s
Directed by Brian Boruta
Music direction by David Wright
Choreography by Lara Finn

April 15 – May 8, 2022 (no performance 4/17)
Presented on the Main Stage
The Umbrella Arts Center
40 Stow Street
Concord, MA 01742

Interview by Kitty Drexel

CONCORD, Mass. — The Umbrella Stage returns to performances this April with Head Over Heels. Brian Boruta generously chatted with me on Friday, March 18 about the musical, gender politics, and The Go Go’s. 

This interview is condensed. It has been edited for grammar, congruity, and clarity. 

Queen Kitty: It’s awesome that you’re starting with Head Over Heels. Why this show now?

Brian Boruta: It’s funny; I think about this show now, because we had chosen this show earlier than now. Then things all got moved around.

We moved, a couple of years ago, to a committee-based approach to season planning. As we were coming out of the pandemic, it was really important that as many voices and perspectives as possible be included in program planning. 

One thing that came to the fore in that conversation was finding ways throughout the season coming out of the pandemic to just celebrate joy in many forms, to celebrate love, to amplify different marginalized voices throughout the season. Head Over Heels really popped out as that title that we could put towards the end of the season that celebrates joy, celebrates love, and celebrates community.  Continue reading

Mar 19

I Need Your Hand on My Heart: “Everyday Life and Other Odds and Ends”

Presented by ArtsEmerson and Sleeping Weasel
Written by Charlotte Meehan
Directed by Tara Brooke Watkins
Choreographed by Peter DiMuro
Videography by Lee Francois
Original composition “Alone Together” by Kirsten Volness

Live: March 12 – March 27, 2022
Streamed: April 1 – 10, 2022
Emerson Paramount Center
Jackie Liebergott Black Box
559 Washington Street
Boston, MA 02111

Review by Kitty Drexel

BOSTON, Mass. — Everyday Life and Other Odds and Ends by Charlotte Meehan is about people. People are confusing, leaky, wonderful, breakable creatures capable of great love and harrowing despair. 

This play is also about disability. We are introduced to Meehan’s characters and their relationships, and then we learn about their relationships to Parkinson’s Disease. People with disabilities are human first so it is right that we learn the world of the play in this order. 

In Everyday Life and Other Odds and Ends, three imperfect couples navigate their relationships. We watch them live with Parkinson’s Disease. The persons with PD are surviving. The caretakers are too. Survival means something different to each couple. We learn what survival means at the same time they do.  Continue reading