Mar 22

‘Ma Rainey’ Sings the Music of the Soul

Yvette Freeman and Corey Allen in August Wilson’s MA RAINEY’S BLACK BOTTOM. March 9 – April 8, 2012 at the BU Theatre. huntingtontheatre.org. Photo: T. Charles Erickson.

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom by August Wilson, Huntington Theatre Company, 3/9/12-4/8/12, http://www.huntingtontheatre.org/season/production.aspx?id=10262&src=t.

Reviewed by Becca Kidwell

(Boston, MA) Music breathes and pulses as each note is played.  The blues provide a voice for the inexpressible feelings of the human experience.  The blues celebrate the good, the bad, and the ugly parts of life in its entirety; it is neither surprising that the blues came out of the African American spiritual tradition, nor that soul, r&b, and hip-hop were derived from the blues and at the core of the best is the heart and soul of the artist.  What happens when that soul is taken away?  Can the heart survive?

This question permeates the existence of each of the characters in August Wilson’s play Ma Rainey’s Black BottomContinue reading

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Mar 20

The Man From Earth: A Mystery of History

Photo by Reid Gilman

Jerome Bixby’s The Man From Earth by Richard Schenkman, Hovey Players, 3/9/12-3/24/12, http://www.hoveyplayers.com/news/2011-2012-season/jerome-bixby%E2%80%99s-the-man-from-earth/.

Reviewed by Anthony Geehan

(Waltham, MA) The phrase “history is written by the victors” is a saying that shows a built in flaw in the study of our past. The idea that a subject that must be completely impartial and factual is weakened when records that are worked with could be exaggerated at some points and completely falsified at others. This concept of incomplete information is the main theme of Jerome Bixby’s The Man From Earth, the science fiction mystery piece currently being performed by Waltham’s The Hovey Players at The Abbot Memorial Theater. Continue reading

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Mar 17

James and the Giant Peach

James and the Giant Peach, based on the book by Roald Dahl, Boston Children’s Theatre, Boston Center for the Arts Plaza Theatre, 3/17/12-3/25/12, http://bostonchildrenstheatre.org/season/jamesandthegiantpeach/.

Reviewed by John Herring

(Boston, MA) James and the Giant Peach follows a young orphan boy and the charming crew of insects he befriends on an entertaining and hilarious trans-Atlantic journey aboard a gigantic piece of fruit.” If you have read the story, or have been read the story, you know and probably love it already. If not, WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN HIDING?! And you also will love the story in full live presentation. Continue reading

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Mar 17

A Muddled Shrubbery: INTO THE WOODS

Into the Woods; music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, book by James Lapine, Nextdoor Theater Company, Nextdoor Center for the Arts, 3/9/12-3/24/12,

http://www.nextdoortheater.org/Nextdoor_Theater/THEATER_SHOWS.html.

Reviewed by Craig Idlebrook

(Winchester, MA) Be careful what you wish for.  No, wait. It’s a jungle out there.  No, wait.  No day but today.  No, wait.  Teach your children well.  No, wait. Continue reading

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Mar 16

Crave & Beyond The Light: Emotional Explosion

Daniel J. Raps, Erin Rae Zalaski, Jesse Wood, and Christina Malanga in Beyond the light — at Calderwood Pavilion; photo credit Heart and Dagger Productions

Abigail Matzeder, Michael Underhill, and Terrence Patrick Haddad in CRAVE — at Calderwood Pavilion, Photo Credit: Heart and Dagger Productions

Crave by Sarah Kane and Beyond the Light by Joey C. Pelletier, Heart & Dagger Productions, Boston Center for the Arts Rehearsal Hall A, 3/9/12-3/17/12, http://www.heartanddagger.org/.Partial nudity and mature themes

Reviewed by Becca Kidwell

(Boston, MA) Many have tried to dramatize depression to mixed results. The problem tends to be that depression by it’s very nature is a passive thing-the person doesn’t want to do anything. Heart & Dagger escapes the trap of a dry, clinical look at depression by presenting two one acts that cut to the visceral core of despair and the fight to survive.

Continue reading

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Mar 13

“Just Another Day” for Kerry Dowling

Foreground: Chris Caron and Kerry A. Dowling. Rear from Left: Michael Tacconi, Christopher Chew, Sarah Drake, and Michael Levesque in a scene from the SpeakEasy Stage Company production of Next to Normal, running now thru April 15th at the Stanford Calderwood Pavilion at the Boston Center for the Arts, 527 Tremont Street, in Boston’s South End. Tix/Info: 617-933-8600/www.SpeakEasyStage.com. Photo: Craig Bailey/Perspective Photo.

Interview by Becca Kidwell

Continuing its electrifying season, SpeakEasy Stage Company is presenting now thru April 15th the 2010 Pulitzer Prize-winning musical Next to Normal.  The overwhelming demand for tickets prompted SpeakEasy to extend the run one additional week before the show even opened – an unprecedented move in the company’s 20-year history.    http://www.speakeasystage.com/doc.php?section=showpage&page=normal Continue reading

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Mar 10

Impressive, Uneven and Important: REFLECTIONS OF A ROCK LOBSTER

Felix Teich as ‘Paul Guilbert’ and Ian Shain as ‘Aaron Fricke’, Photo by Saglio Photography, Inc.

Reflections of a Rock Lobster by Burgess Clark, based on the true story of Aaron Fricke, Boston Children’s Theatre, Wimberley Theatre at Boston Center for the Arts, 3/3/12-3/11/12, http://bostonchildrenstheatre.org/season/rocklobster/.

Reviewed by Craig Idlebrook

(Boston, MA) To be a gay teen often has meant living every moment in hostile territory, where everything you do is wrong because of who you are.  Too often, it has meant years of enforced isolation and violence.

This is what the Boston Children’s Theatre production of Reflections of a Rock Lobster does best, creating the claustrophobia of a gay teen’s world where everything feels hostile, including one’s own feelings.  The play, put on by the Boston Children’s Theatre with a few grown-ups thrown in the mix, chronicles the true story of a pair of trailblazing gay teens who in 1980 challenged their school’s ban on same-sex couples at the prom and made the world a little bit less hostile.  Continue reading

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Mar 04

Acting Natural While Cramming it In: SAINT JOHN THE DIVINE IN IOWA

Photo Credit: Another Country Productions

Saint John the Divine in Iowa by Lyralen Kaye, Another Country Productions, Boston Playwrights’ Theatre, 3/2/12-3/18/12, http://www.anothercountry.org/productions.html.

Reviewed by Craig Idlebrook

(Boston, MA) There is a fine line to walk when it comes to groundbreaking plays.  It’s difficult to keep a thought-provoking issue from swallowing the play.  The result can be a diatribe at worst, or an afterschool special at best.  The only way to keep a play that handles heavy-hitting social issues on track is to populate it with characters who are drawn razor-sharp and true to life. Continue reading

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Mar 04

Not Buying It: BAKERSFIELD MIST

Photo Credit: Andrew Brilliant / Brilliant Pictures

Bakersfield Mist by Stephen Sachs, New Repertory Theatre, Arsenal Center for the Arts, 2/26/12-3/18/12, http://newrep.org/bakersfield_mist.php.

Reviewed by Craig Idlebrook

(Watertown, MA) 

Audiences, like art critics, want to believe, but the New Repertory Theatre production of Bakersfield Mist doesn’t give theatergoers a chance.  Instead, the audience must suspend disbelief the moment we spot a central character’s obviously-fake tattoo.  For a play intent on debating what is real, Bakersfield Mist provides a poor facsimile of real life.

The play centers on a plausible and chewy scenario:  A trailer-park loser, Maude (Paula Langton), has summoned a renowned art critic, Lionel (Ken Cheeseman), to authenticate a Jackson Pollack painting bought at a thrift shop.  Some $50 million to $100 million is riding on Lionel’s opinion.  The answer, the play suggests, is much messier than checking “yes” or “no”, and both Maude and Lionel must wrestle with their pasts and their notions of art to view the painting. Continue reading

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Mar 03

Monsters: A Midlife Musical Meltdown

Photo Credit: Mak Kramer Photography

Monsters! A Midlife Musical Meltdown; The Regent Theatre, GP Productions, and Image Theater, 2/25/12-3/10/12, http://www.regenttheatre.com/details/monsters_the_musical.

Reviewed by Becca Kidwell

(Arlington, MA) We’ve all been there (well, at least anyone 25 or older).  Years pass; we have successes and failures.  And then it hits us–where did all those years go?  Remember the wide-eyed 18 year old who thought he/she had everything figured out?  Monsters! A Midlife Musical looks at what happens when all of the insecurities, all of the doubts, and all of the concessions that have been made in Samantha’s life confront her on her 40th birthday. Continue reading

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