(Boston, MA) There’s a funny story the actor Charles Grodin shares about famed acting teacher Uta Hagen, where Hagen was dissecting the terribleness of a scene Grodin had just done. She hated everything except for one moment when Grodin’s scene partner was slow to hand the actor a prop. Because there was a delay, Grodin looked genuinely concerned, and that, Hagen announced, was true acting.
I’m not a big fan of the Method myself, but I’m starting to see her point, especially when it comes to Shakespeare. Acting involves a weird combo of memorization and playful improvisation. But when it comes to the Bard’s work, too many productions are populated with actors who know they are saying weighty words and making weighty gestures; every move is preordained and dripping with importance. Such a style robs the lyrical and impish qualities of plays that once were performed for bawdy Elizabethans.
Luckily, there are productions like Bad Habit’s staging of Much Ado About Nothing to inject life into scripts that we have too long sanctified. Continue reading →
(Watertown, MA) Sometimes you are having a bad day. Sometimes you are in such a bad mood that escapism is the only way to manage. It was in such a state that I entered the New Rep’s production of Little Shop of Horrors at the Arsenal Center for the Arts. I tell you this so that you will know exactly how steep a hill the cast had to climb in order for me to emerge smiling; which I did. Continue reading →
(Boston, MA) It’s nice for Stephen Sondheim and his partner John Weidman to clear up a few things for us about theater in their mishmash of a play, Assassins, playing at the Boston University Theatre.
They have proven a fundamental truth: You can populate your play with profoundly interesting characters, give them things to do that impact every theatergoer’s psyche and bestow wonderful music for them to sing as they do it, but if the script doesn’t allow them to interact in a meaningful way, it’s just an exercise in futility. The playwrights prove this point despite the best efforts of a talented cast, who creates full-fledged and compelling characters. In fact, the cast and stellar set give us such high expectations that it makes the mind want to rebel at this idle script all the more. Continue reading →
(Lowell, MA) The author starts with a blank page. It fills with words. From where do the words come? That is the underlying mystery of Merrimack Repertory Theatre’s masterful production of Ghost-Writer. Continue reading →
They’re ba-ack…Alice, John, and Michelle return to thwart the troublesome MBTA. On June 8th, T: An MBTA Musical, the surprising smash hit of last summer, makes stops at Club Oberon. Where do ideas for musicals come from? Melissa Carubia, the show’s composer, takes us on the underground journey.
(Auburndale, MA) Healthy competition is good for children!–Well, that’s what everyone says. The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee tells a story that soccer and hockey parents have been learning in the past few years: kids still need to be kids. It’s hard enough to adjust to the physical, social, emotional changes without being expected to act like an adult. Continue reading →
(Boston, MA) When the upwardly mobile Lucy and Rex Taylor (Nikkole Salter and Victor Williams, respectively) are unable to buy a house in Boston because they’re black, they turn to Patty Ann and Joe Donovan (Marianna Bassham and McCaleb Burnett) to buy one for them during the 1950’s. The complex relationship this creates between them bleeds over into the early 2000’s when the Harrisons’ grandchildren discover the elderly Donovans want the house back. The drama that results is tight and enjoyable. Continue reading →
The oppressed can’t name their condition without fear of reprisal. They can’t gather together. They can’t escape their condition in the traditional refuges of family, community, friendship and sex. Imagine trying to create change swimming against such a tide. Continue reading →
(Watertown, MA) Inconvenient truths sometimes come from the mouth of the mad, from those with the least to lose. From the most hopeless in the New Repertory Theatre’s unflinching drama Long Day’s Journey into Night, we receive the troubling message that you can’t outrun the past. If the past is not dealt with, it can rise from the grave and overtake the present and the future. Along with this, we also learn that perhaps you should ask your doctor about possible side effects before taking any new medication. Continue reading →
(Boston, MA) There are many ways to be trapped. For some thrill-seekers, the risk of death and the short life it might bring is a better alternative than dying incrementally in quiet desperation. Continue reading →