Mar 05

What’s Happening at the Boston Lyric Opera: Agrippina

(copy of press release–working on article about opera, but it will not be ready by the time their show starts & I want you to have the information)

Oh, the depravity!
Boston Lyric Opera goes Baroque with elegant, insidious Agrippina

Caroline Worra stars in satire of the fall of the Roman Empire, opening March 11

Production features three countertenors: Anthony Roth Costanzo,
David Trudgen and José Alvarez

WHAT: Witness the ultimate stage mother have a major melt-down in one of opera’s most intense “mad scenes,” as she plots to make her son Nero Emperor of Rome in BLO’s production of Handel’s fast-paced Agrippina. This light and frothy opera with insidious undertones is based in historical fact, weaving the twisted tale of a mother’s desperate scheme to remove her husband from the throne and elevate her spoiled teenage son…creating a complicated intrigue of shifting alliances and turning the Imperial court into a nest of elegant vipers.

This classical yet modern production, created by Glimmerglass and New York City Opera, features exciting debuts and is the third in BLO’s 2010-2011 Season; it will be presented at the Citi Performing Arts CenterSM Shubert Theatre. Three countertenors, a five-piece continuo group and an elevated orchestra pit built specifically for the production will immerse the audience in a uniquely Baroque experience. Continue reading

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Feb 05

RUMORS fly like bullets

Rumors by Neil Simon, Walpole Footlighters, 2/4/11-2/20/11, http://www.footlighters.com/

Reviewed by Becca Kidwell

Photos by Dan Busler Photography

Walpole Footlighters breathes life into the wily, witty, wordsmith’s farce:  Rumors.  Although the script itself brings little to the genre other than being an obvious testing ground for Neil Simon, Walpole Footlighters offers a bubbly evening of laughs to take your mind off all of the snow.

The story surrounds an anniversary party gone awry:  the wife and the servants have run off, the host has shot himself in the ear, and the guests try to cover up an apparent scandal.  Comic craziness ensues.

Led by David Giagrando, the cast is able to overcome some of the script’s flaws.  Giagrando, as Lenny Ganz, tries to control the situation and fails hilariously; his performance produces the perfect neurotic New York yuppie while using every subterfuge in his arsenal (including a wonderfully performed “story” in the second act) to keep the host’s secret from getting into the news.  Barbara Shapiro and James Merlin (as Cookie and Ernie Cusack) amplify the neuroses with their screwball personalities and actions.  Shapiro’s physical comedy provides some of the funniest moments of the night.

While the script itself drags in some places, the show overall provides an enjoyable evening of belly laughs that remind us of a simpler time (who ever thought the 80’s would be called that?) when appearance was the only important thing.  Walpole Footlighters provides a delightful production to get you outside of the city and outside of yourself.  2/4/11.  TNETG.

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Jan 18

NEIGHBORS: What do you see?

Christine Power (Jean), Lori Tishfield (Melody), Johnny Lee Davenport (Richard)

Neighbors by Brandon Jacob-Jenkins, Company One, BCA, 1/14/11-2/5/11.  Explicit Language and Sexual Content.

http://www.companyone.org/Season12/Neighbors/synopsis.shtml

Reviewed by Becca Kidwell

“Who do you think you are?”  With each generation, the answer to that question becomes more ambiguous and cryptic.  Yet, the question does not go away and becomes the fulcrum for the conflict in Brandon Jacob-Jenkins’ play Neighbors.  Company One does not apologize for the rawness of the material, but embraces it and challenges the audience to do the same.

The young actors Lori Tishfield and Tory Bullock steal the show.  Ms. Tishfield’s portrayal of Melody Patterson, a confused teenager of a mixed-race family, underscores the need for love, acceptance, and belonging that we all search for.  Her honest performance is matched by the sweet naiveté of Tory Bullock as Jim Crow, Jr.  Jim does not want to follow in his father’s footsteps as a performer, but becomes more comfortable as he develops a relationship with Melody. Continue reading

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Nov 30

Love in the Moonlight

(front to back) Anne Gottlieb (Frankie) and Robert Pemberton (Johnny) in FRANKIE AND JOHNNY IN THE CLAIR DE LUNE. Photo by Christopher McKenzie.

Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune by Terrence McNally, New Repertory Theatre, 11/28/10-12/19/10.  Nudity and Mature Themeshttp://newrep.org/frankie_johnny.php

Reviewed by Becca Kidwell

Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune is a difficult play to stage.  The tight, witty, intelligent romance by Terrence McNally requires a comparable production that will not fall flat; New Repertory Theatre’s current production rises to the challenge.

A two-person play needs two strong actors.  Anne Gottlieb and Robert Pemberton deliver beyond expectations.  Not only are they strong individual actors, but they also thrive as a couple.   While Terrence McNally has said that the play is a “romantic fairytale”, the play would not hold an audience’s attention if it was not grounded in genuine, believable characters.  As Robert Pemberton speaks every line, his eyes reveal the sincerity of his heart.  Over the span of one night, Johnny’s profession of love could seem ludicrous, even threatening—except for the fact that this Johnny is truly sincere and truly loves Frankie.  Ann Gottlieb walks the delicate line between being fragile and resilient.  If she does not display strength, the character of Johnny would crush her; at the same time, the character of Frankie has been hurt and the vulnerability still has to be there to create the tension.  As Frankie, Gottlieb has found this balance so that the character can hold her own against Johnny, but still fear the pain of heartbreak.  Gottlieb and Pemberton completely draw the audience in to Frankie and Johnny’s struggle where one can’t help but fight with them for the connection to something that can last.  They ARE Frankie and Johnny—trying to be more than just a couple of “bodies bumping around in the night”. Continue reading

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Nov 22

The Religion of Family

Vengeance is the Lord’s by Bob Glaudini, WORLD PREMIERE, Huntington Theatre Company, 11/12/10-12/12/10.  http://www.huntingtontheatre.org/season/production.aspx?id=8511

Larry Pine (Mathew Horvath) and Karl Baker Olsen (Donald Horvath) in Vengeance Is The Lord's, by Bob Glaudini, directed by Peter DuBois. Photo by T Charles Erickson

Reviewed by Becca Kidwell

“Honor thy father and mother” is the first and only commandment in the Horvath family.  In Vengeance Is The Lord’s, the Horvath family sticks together, supports each other—in all endeavors—but to what end?  The play starts out with a normal family Thanksgiving scene; the father starts by telling about his need to turn someone in who stole a car and the mother talks about forgiveness for Myers, their daughter’s killer.  As the story unfolds, however, the veneer is lifted to reveal not only hypocrisy but also an active crime family.  The audience and the youngest son Donny begin to question what justice means and how far love and loyalty should extend within a family.

The set by Eugene Lee provides a “gilded cage” for the Horvaths.  The house looks like any normal suburban household—with one exception—Cheryl’s room.  While it seems like any other bedroom in any other house, this bedroom haunts the Horvath family.  Along with the Horvath family, the audience is constantly reminded of the empty room and Cheryl’s horrific murder as the house spins on a turntable.  The effect of the turntable mirrors the family’s discontent; when they slow down or stop, the family ends up confronting problems that they would rather ignore.   The lighting design by Japhy Weideman, the sound design by Ben Emerson, and the original music by David Van Tieghem add to the tense domestic scene.

The actors form a cohesive family unit.  Roberta Wallach stands firm as the matriarch of the Horvath family, Margaret.  Wallach creates a woman who lives in pain, but who is strong and relatively self-sufficient; however, as the play progresses and the emotional pain becomes too much to bear, the character gives in to the physical operation.  Wallach reveals through this concession that Margaret has deferred some of her resolve to Matthew and Woody. Continue reading

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Nov 10

Let x Equal Much Promise

Proof by David Auburn, Curtain Call Theatre, Braintree, MA  11/5/10-11/13/10 http://curtaincallbraintree.org/

Reviewed by Becca Kidwell

Take x; add a strong cast and tight direction to a Pulitzer Prize winning script, and the result will be Curtain Call Theatre’s production of Proof.   The small theater group embodies two of the main themes of the play:  testing theories and proving yourself.

The cast brings strength and soul to the script.  At the core is Sarah Jacobs.  This recent Brandeis University graduate possesses natural talent that creates an awkward, intelligent, and inwardly strong Catherine.  She has a few small affectations and a lack of cynicism, but those nuances will go away with life and career experience.  Dan Delaporta, as Hal, exudes energy and geekiness.  He displays both the self-centeredness and sensitivity that makes him a good match for Catherine.  Both actors will continue to thrive as long as they practice their craft and remain open to all opportunities. Continue reading

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Oct 26

A Play of Imagination Leaves Little to Imagine

The Turn of the Screw by Jeffrey Hatcher, Stoneham Theatre, 10/21/10-11/7/10

http://www.stonehamtheatre.org/

Photo: Craig Bailey/Perspective Photo

Reviewed by Becca Kidwell

Gianni Downs’ minimalistic scenery welcomes the audience to an atmospheric ghost story.  As the audience enters the theatre, they see a raked black stage with a single deep purple velvet chair and slight blue lighting on the stage.  However, the main focal point runs from the stage to the balcony—a collection of ropes tied off in waves across the ceiling that lead to ropes hanging down next to the chair.  I’m intrigued.  Upon reading the director’s notes in the program, I am enthusiastic to see her desire to honor Henry James’ preference to leave fear to the imagination.  Unfortunately, from the time the house lights go down to the curtain call, I see too much.  The heavy-handed interpretation of the director combined with exaggerated characterizations lead to a production that is only scary in that it does not trust its material or its audience. Continue reading

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