Jul 27

Radical Hope and Radical Change: “The Hidden Territories of the Bacchae”

Photos by David Weiland & Graceson Abreu Nunez.

Presented by Double Edge Theatre
A response to The Bacchae by Euripides
Conceived, directred, and designed by Stacy Klein
Co-created and adapted with Milena Dabova, Jennifer Johnson, Travis Coe, and Carlos Uriona
Musical compositions and direction by Amanda Miller

Wed – Sun, July 20 – July 31 at 8pm, August 3 – 6 at 7:30pm
The Farm
948 Conway Road
Ashfield, MA 01330
Tickets

Review by Maegan Bergeron-Clearwood

ASHFIELD, Mass. — Driving along the twisted back roads to Ashfield, Massachusetts, my friend and I were in high, hopeful spirits. Double Edge Theatre, now in its 40th year, has crafted a foolproof yet ever-surprising mode of experiential performance. Season after season, it guides wide-eyed audiences through a labyrinth of natural scenic tableaus: dancers weave spiral paths through waist-high grasses; actors spin poetry from atop boulders, trees, ladders, canoes, and stilts; aerialists swoop across the rafters of the warm wooden barn. And, so my friend and I joyfully trekked 40-plus minutes to a remote stretch of farmland, expecting an evening of unexpected delights.

But the most delightfully unexpected element of The Hidden Territories of the Bacchae was not at the behest of the artistic team, but was instead a brilliant creative choice from Double Edge’s most important collaborator: the weather. About 40 minutes in, dark storm clouds started to impede our otherwise picturesque dusky tableau. Dionysus’ (played by both Travis Coe and Milena Dabova) braggartly claims of godlike power took on awe-inspiring meaning, and the performers leaned into the new subtext. We in the audience chuckled at the sky’s clever dramaturgical timing, but nervously so. We were not only at the mercy of the elements, but of our Double Edge guides, and we could only hope that our trust in them was not unfounded. Continue reading

Jul 18

Edith Wharton’s Intelude: “Mr. Fullerton, Between the Sheets”

Photo by Jason Grow. Newhouse as Wharton.

Presented by Gloucester Stage Company
By Annie Undeland
Directed by Judy Braha
Featuring Sarah Newhouse* as Edith Wharton, Ryan Winkles* as Morton Fullerton, Joshua Wolf Coleman* as Henry James, and Bridgette Hayes as Posy.

June 8 – 22, 2022
Gloucester Stage Company Theater
267 East Main St
Gloucester, MA

95 minutes without intermission

Review by Craig Idlebrook

GLOUCESTER, Mass. — How do you bring an iconic author’s love letters to life? That was the unenviable task that playwright Annie Undeland volunteered to do when she came across the letters Edith Wharton wrote to a lover during an extramarital affair. In reading the letters, Undeland has said she was struck how Wharton, who was known to be a refined and biting observer of Gilded Age society, became so nakedly besotted and unguarded, like any fool in love. Continue reading

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 19

An Interview with Samantha Gould of Open Door Theater: “The Lightning Thief”

Presented by Open Door Theater
Book by Joe Tracz Music & Lyrics by Rob Rokicki
Adapted from the book The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan
Directed by Stephanie Henry and Brian Kelly
Musical Direction by J. Parker Eldridge

June 24, 25, and 26, 2022
Rain dates June 27 and 28
Outdoors at NARA Park Amphitheater
25 Ledge Rock Way
Acton, MA 01720

Friday, June 24 at 7:30pm / ASL, open captioning, sensory-friendly
Saturday, June 25 at 2:00pm / ASL, open captioning, sensory-friendly
Saturday June 25th at 7:30pm / ASL, open captioning, sensory-friendly, audio described
Sunday, June 26 at 2:00pm / ASL, open captioning, sensory-friendly, audio described

Interview conducted by Kitty Drexel

ACTON, Mass. — President & Executive Producer Samantha Gould of Open Door Theatre graciously agreed to an email interview ahead of Open Door Theater’s production of The Lightning Thief. This email has been edited lightly for grammar and clarity.

Queen Kitty: For those unfamiliar with Open Door Theater, please introduce yourself and the company to the New England Theatre Geek readership. 

Samantha Gould: Open Door Theater is an all volunteer non-profit community theater with a mission of equity and access and inclusion since 1980. 

Open Door Theater was awarded the Most Accessible Cultural Organization in the Commonwealth from the Massachusetts Cultural Council Up Initiative in 2019, having been an inaugural UP member in 2015. Each year we try to improve our reach by expanding our inclusive design practices and bettering ourselves.  Continue reading

Jun 14

Finding Songs in Sorrow: “Woody Sez: The Life and Music of Woody Guthrie”

Presented by Merrimack Repertory Theatre
Devised by David M. Lutken with Darcie Deaville, Helen Jean Russell, and Andy Teirstein
Directed by Nick Corley and Sherry Lutken
Music direction by David M. Lutken
Featuring Darcie Deaville, Maggie Hollinbeck, David M. Lutken, Andy Tierstein

June 8 – 22, 2022
Merrimack Repertory Theatre
Merrimack Ales,
92 Bolt Street
Lowell, MA 01852
The Playbill

2 hours with intermission

Review by Craig Idlebrook

LOWELL, Mass. — In the 21st century, the folk singer can easily be a target of ridicule, an archetype in American music which is somehow prone to both over-earnestness and affectation. However, the folk singer had more earnest origins. Folk music, as most know it, was made up of storytelling songs passed down and performed by families and groups of people, and it was the folk singer’s job to find and share these songs. 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 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

May 05

The Politics of Punching Down: “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder”

Jennifer Ellis, Robert St. Laurence*, Kate Klika, Phil Tayler, Jared Troilo*, Lori L’Italien, Aimee Doherty*, Todd McNeel, Jr., Leigh Barrett*. Photo by Mark S. Howard.

Presented by The Lyric Stage Company of Boston
Music and Lyrics by Steven Lutvak
Book and Lyrics by Robert L. Freedman
Directed by Spiro Veloudos
Music Direction by Matthew Stern
Choreography by Larry Sousa

April 15 – May 22, 2022
Lyric Stage Company
40 Clarendon St
Boston, MA
Tickets

Critique by Maegan Bergeron-Clearwood

BOSTON, Mass. — Laughter is never neutral. Whiteness is never neutral. A comedy of manners might stake the claim that farce is some great, humanizing equalizer, but humor is inherently directional: someone is always doing the laughing, and something, or someone, is always being laughed at.

A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, which won the Tony in 2014 for Best Musical, is vague about its directionality. Ostensibly, we’re laughing at the hypocritical mores of upper crust Edwardian England, but we’re just as often prompted to laugh at, for example, effeminate men, hyper-feminine women, or the “exotic” peoples suffering under the thumb of colonialism offstage. 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