Dec 17

A Good-Hearted Mashup: What the Dickens?!

What the Dickens?! Music & Lyrics by Adam Brooks and TC Cheever; Book by TC Cheever, ImprovBoston, 12/15/11-12/23/11, http://www.improvboston.com/whatthedickens.

Reviewed by Craig Idlebrook

(Cambridge, MA) The holiday season is littered with entertainment chestnuts that get trotted out every year.  Some can get worn thin, like poorer productions of A Christmas Carol; others take on a hipster status, like the television special A Charlie Brown Christmas.

If you want to enjoy two holiday traditions at once, come see What the Dickens?!, a mashup musical that populates Dickens’ classic Christmas morality tale with Schultz’s Peanuts characters.  Watching this play is like downing an invented drink mixed at a holiday party: the two flavors may mix curiously, but it’s all good.  Continue reading

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Dec 13

A Christmas Story: Resurrecting Americana for the Holidays

l. to r. Adam Freeman as Schwartz, Charlie Brodigan as Flick, Lexi Ryan as Esther Jane, and Andrew Cekala as Young Ralphie. Photo by Andrew Brilliant/ Brilliant Pictures

A Christmas Story, adapted/written by Philip Grecian, New Repertory Theatre, Charles Mosesian Theater, Arsenal Center for the Arts, 12/11/11-12/24/11, http://newrep.org/christmas_story.php.

Reviewed by Gillian Daniels

(Watertown, MA) Like the film it’s adapted from, the stage version of A Christmas Story paints a childhood spent during the holidays in a golden glow.  Yes, the flustered family of Ralphie (Andrew Cekala) meet nothing but frustrations as they try to pull Christmas together against mean-spirited neighborhood dogs, hideous bunny suits, and intimidating department store Santas, but their holiday is ultimately a nostalgic one. Continue reading

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Dec 11

Priscilla Dreams The Answer–And The Answer Is 42

The ensemble of Priscilla Dreams the Answer. Left to Right: Bob Mussett (Harry), Dakota Shepard (Zop), Caroline L. Price (Priscilla), Michael Caminiti (Simon), Emily Kaye Lazzaro (Zip). Photo Credit: Sarah E. Farbo

Priscilla Dreams The Answer by Walt McGough, Fresh Ink Theatre Company, The Factory Theatre, 12/8/11-12/17/11,  http://www.freshinktheatre.com/on-stage.html.

Reviewed by Becca Kidwell

(Boston, MA) Douglas Adams would be proud of Walt McGough.  While Priscilla does not have to deal with a world that is already destroyed, she does have to find the answer to save both the Earth and another planet that has a close relationship with the Earth.  This clever and witty play takes the audience on a journey through space and time but never loses sight of the core humanity, which is the test of well-crafted science fiction. Continue reading

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Dec 10

Great Acting While on a Treadmill: The Merry Wives of Windsor

Photo Credit: Stratton McCrady

The Merry Wives of Windsor by William Shakespeare, Actors’ Shakespeare Project, Davis Square Theatre, 12/7/11-1/1/12, http://www.actorsshakespeareproject.org/events/merry-wives-windsor-0.

Reviewed by Craig Idlebrook

(Somerville, MA) It’s one thing for a young theater troupe to be ambitious, but it’s something else to watch the troupe succeed in its ambition.

In its early history, the Actors’ Shakespeare Project has decided to skip the low-hanging fruit of the Bard’s body of work and reach for some of his more obscure works.  (Hands up for anyone who knows a single line from Troilus and Cressida, which the troupe performs in the spring.) Continue reading

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Dec 08

Hope Held ‘HIGH’

Sister Jamison Connolly (Kathleen Turner) and Cody Randall (Evan Jonigkeit) in HIGH, Photo credit: Lanny Nagler

High by Matthew Lombardo, Broadway National Tour, Cutler Majestic Theatre,

12/7/11-12/11/11,  http://www.highonbroadway.com/about.html.  Male nudity, mature language and themes

Reviewed by Becca Kidwell

(Boston, MA)  

“When we were children, we used to think that when we were grown-up we would no longer be vulnerable. But to grow up is to accept vulnerability… To be alive is to be vulnerable.”  Madeleine L’Engle

How do we find strength and salvation in the middle of pain and suffering?   Everyone tries to hide from pain and many people try to protect others from the experience, but the inevitability of life is that human beings get hurt.  We try to breathe and “be strong”–to not let anyone see that we are falling apart.  What if we all admitted that we are not perfect–that there isn’t even one person out there that could be categorized by society’s standards as “normal”?  High offers no escape from that darkness that lies inside of all of us and calls us to either face our flaws or recede further into our own shame. Continue reading

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Dec 05

ChristmasTime Dazzles

Photo Credit: Reagle Music Theatre

ChristmasTime, Reagle Music Theatre, 12/3/11-12/11/11, http://www.reagleplayers.com/current.html.

Reviewed by Gillian Daniels

(Waltham, MA) The Reagle Theatre, for its Christmas pageant, does not settle on a few simple scenes followed by the solemn Nativity.

This production takes its audience to as many locales as possible: a Cathedral interior, Santa’s workshop, a busy Victorian street, and a digest version of the Nutcracker performed almost completely by ballet dancers in teddy bear suits.  Christmas Time is energetic, all-encompassing, and exhausting in its depiction of the holiday. Continue reading

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Nov 30

Three Viewings: Humor and Human Folly at the Graveside

Adrianne Krstansky as Virginia in Three Viewings. Photo by Andrew Brilliant/ Brilliant Pictures.

Three Viewings by Jeffrey Hatcher, New Repertory Theatre, Arsenal Center for the Arts, 11/27/11-12/18/11, http://newrep.org/three_viewings.php.

Reviewed by Gillian Daniels

(Watertown, MA) Three Viewings is the kind of theatrical outing that I cannot recommend highly enough, a play where writer Jeffrey Hatcher deftly and comically attempts to capture the variation and nuance of human nature. Continue reading

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Nov 28

The Ultimate Christmas Show (abridged) Review–SERIOUSLY!

Reed Martin, Austin Tichenor & Matt Rippy (L-R) Photo by Meghan Moore

The Ultimate Christmas Show by Reed Martin and Austin Tichenor, Reduced Shakespeare CompanyMerrimack Repertory Theatre, 11/25/11-12/18/11,  http://www.merrimackrep.org/season/show.aspx?sid=110.  Contains scatological humor and some Reed Martin and Austin Tichenor flesh.   

Reviewed by Becca Kidwell

(Lowell, MA)  They’re baaack!  Every so often, a rustle of popular culture floats through the air, gets put into the Reduced Shakespeare grinder and out comes some side-splitting fun.  At their east coast premiere of The Ultimate Christmas Show (abridged), the Reduced Shakespeare Company exceeds expectations.  Blending holiday traditions from ancient times to modern, religious to secular, The Ultimate Christmas Show presents a jolly evening for anyone who can appreciate a little irreverence with sincere heart. Continue reading

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Nov 27

The Nutcracker: Reinventing Sugar Plum Fairies with Sugar Plum Cookies

Toys standing on left (L-R): Alycia Sacco (as doll Phoebe), Grant MacDermott (as Monkey), Nick Sulfaro (as Hugo); Seated on right (L-R): Danny Bryck (as Fritz), Sirena Abalian (as Clara). Stoneham Theatre's "The Nutcracker" is directed by Caitlin Lowans. All photographs taken by Carla Donaghey.

The Nutcracker as imagined The House Theatre of Chicago, based on the story by E.T.A. Hoffman, book by Phillip Klapperich and Jake Minton, music by Kevin O’Donnell, lyrics by Jake Minton, Stoneham Theatre, 11/25/11-12/22/11, http://www.stonehamtheatre.org/holidayshows2011.html.

Reviewed by Gillian Daniels

(Stoneham, MA) With a contemporary setting and opening scenes that take place at a Christmas party, Stoneham Theatre’s production of “The Nutcracker” promises to be a modern update of the classic E.T.A. Hoffman children’s book and eventual ballet by Tchaikovsky.  A sudden chill interrupts the family scene when it’s announced that Fritz (Danny Bryck), the older brother of Clara (Sirena Abalian), has died while serving in the military.

In the fallout of this tonal shift, the party guests dispose of the Christmas tree like pallbearers taking away a coffin.  The core members of the family, including parents Meagan Hawkes and Mark Linehan, continue to grieve.  From there, the original story is used as a springboard for Clara to deal with the loss of her brother. Continue reading

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Nov 24

Arabian Nights: Colorful Storytelling

The Ruhk and the Cast in a scene from The Nora Theatre Company and Underground Railway Theater’s production of Arabian Nights running from November 17 – December 31 at Central Square Theater, 450 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA. Tickets & Information: 866-811-4111 or CentralSquareTheater.org. Photo: A.R. Sinclair Photography.

Arabian Nights, adapted by Dominic Cooke, The Nora Theatre Company and Underground Railroad Theater at the Central Square Theater,  11/17/11-12/31/11,  http://www.centralsquaretheater.org/season/11-12/arabian-nights.html.

Reviewed by Anthony Geehan

(Cambridge, MA) The ancient civilizations of the Middle East where a progressive and highly advance set of empires and people, making large strides in the studies of mathematics, astronomy, and architecture. Many of these contributions have had a phenomenal affect on the modern world, including their ancient stories that have influenced the structure and tone of a wide range of stories throughout Western civilizations, from King Arthur and the Nights of the Round Table to Loony Tunes. Many of the more influential stories from the area were collected within the famous book 1001 Arabian Nights, a series of tales and legends of ancient Persia, ranging from epic adventure tales to short comedies told around the central focus of a young woman named Scheherazade attempting to quell the rage of a wronged king and save the woman of his kingdom. A selection of these tales, as well as the story of Scheherazade and the king is the focus of The Nora Theatre Company and Underground Railway Theater’s first combined effort Arabian Nights; a grandly staged yet minimal production of classic tales of adventure, morality, and humor. Continue reading

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