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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Nov 22

Ain’t Misbehavin’: Tribute to a Lost Harlem

Pictured: Lori Tishfield, Calvin Braxton, Davron S. Monroe, Robin Long, & Lovely Hoffman. Picture by Mark S. Howard

Ain’t Misbehavin’, Music by Thomas “Fats” Waller, Based on an idea by Murray Horwitz and Richard Maltby, Jr., Lyric Stage, 11/17/11-12/17/11,  https://lyricstage.com/main_stage/aint_misbehavin/.

Reviewed by Gillian Daniels

(Boston, MA) With its familiar melodies and disarming 1940’s Harlem charm, Ain’t Misbehavin’ is probably the most energetic musical revue I’ve seen.  Done with precision and love for original composer Thomas “Fats” Waller (here played by Calvin Braxton), the show is a tribute to an era that evaporated long ago.  It replicates the energy of the time as best as it can with vibrant musical numbers and tight choreography. Continue reading

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Nov 19

Captors Connects Too Many Dots

Louis Cancelmi and Michael Cristofer in Evan M. Wiener’s CAPTORS. November 11 through December 11 at the BU Theatre. huntingtontheatre.org. Photo: T. Charles Erickson

Captors by Evan M. Wiener, Huntington Theatre Company, 11/11/11-12/11/11,  http://www.huntingtontheatre.org/season/production.aspx?id=10179&src=t.

Reviewed by Craig Idlebrook

(Boston, MA) Writing is as much about what is not said as what is said.  A playwright must learn to leave space for the audience to fill in the blanks.

Every writer at some point succumbs to excessive explanation to make sure everyone gets it.  Continue reading

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Nov 19

The Brothers Size and Marcus; Or the Secret of Sweet

James Milord - Oshoosi Size Part 2: The Brothers Size; Photo Credit: Company One

The Brothers Size and Marcus; Or The Secret Of Sweet by Tarrell Alvin McCraney,  Company OnePlaza Theatre at the Boston Center for the Arts, 11/10/11-12/3/11, In repertory with In The Red And Brown Waterhttp://www.companyone.org/Season13/Brother_Sister_Plays/synopsis.shtml.  Contains strong sexual content and some graphic language.

Reviewed by Anthony Geehan

(Boston, MA) It was once said by the great American musician Miles Davis, “it’s not the notes you play; it’s the ones you don’t play.” While he was using the phrase to sum up the art of preforming jazz music, the saying resonates a sort of “less is more” mentality that is palpable to every form of art. From the Hemingway’s seven word classic “Baby Shoes” to sculptor Tony Smith’s famous block works, minimalism can be both a necessity when resources are scarce and an inspiring self-induced boundary to work within. In the world of theatre, its idea has been stretched from one man plays and single set pieces to improvised comedy and flash mob acts. Possibly one of the best examples of minimalism in theater today can be found in Tarell McCraney’s The Brother/Sisters Plays, a trilogy spanning the story of three separate generations living in the bayous of Louisiana, all told with minimal set pieces and eight actors playing characters in three separate moments in time connected through kin. While part one of the trilogy In The Red and Brown Water is a full length play, parts two and three, The Brother Size and Marcus; Or the Secret of Sweet are shorter works, shown in tandem in order to wrap up the series arc. Continue reading

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Nov 06

Spring Awakening: Must See Anachronistic Musical of Teenage Repression

Spring Awakening, music by Duncan Sheik, book and lyrics by Steven Sater, The F.U.D.G,E Theatre Company, Black Box Theater at the Arsenal Center for the Arts, 11/4/11-11/12/11, http://www.fudgetheatre.com/.  Adult Themes and Language.

Reviewed by Gillian Daniels

 

(Watertown, MA)  Spring Awakening is not a show I would recommend; instead, it is a show I would require audiences to see.  Despite the early-20th century backdrop of Germany, the pop-rock musical is a thinly veiled indictment of contemporary repression of teenage sexuality.  Members of the cast occasionally wear anachronistic clothing: goggles, fingerless gloves, and sneakers.  If not for the pervasive nature of the Internet in our modern times and the sometimes salacious information it provides, the play would be perfectly suited for a contemporary adaptation in Middle America.

Instead, we follow our main character, Melchior Gabor, passionately played by Jared Walsh, as he deals with the puberty, lust, and lack of information plaguing his age group.  The adults in his community, varied roles all played fantastically by Linda Goetz and Jim Fitzpatrick, refuse to give their children and charges any information that would make their transitions into adulthood easier.  Continue reading

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Nov 02

The Divine Sister: Holy Moly!

A postulant (Sasha Castroverde, left) is serenaded by her Mother Superior (Jeffery Roberson aka Varla Jean Merman, right) in a scene from the SpeakEasy Stage Company production of The Divine Sister, running now thru Nov. 19. Photo: Craig Bailey/Perspective Photo.

The Divine Sister by Charles Busch, Speakeasy Stage Company, Nancy and Edward Roberts Studio Theatre at the Boston Center for the Arts, 10/21/11-11/19/11, http://www.speakeasystage.com/doc.php?section=showpage&page=divine. Contains adult language and content.

Reviewed by Becca Kidwell

(Boston, MA) “The hills are alive–with the sounds of…” *gag* (Hold on. Sometimes when I get emotional I tend to gag. Well, not really, but a nun or two in this play do and it becomes a running gag). Charles Busch and Speakeasy Stage Company bring singing, biking, and wrestling nuns to the stage. With cheek and pluck, Speakeasy Stage furnishes a delightful trip to the world of nun movies, tv shows, and musicals.

Continue reading

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Oct 30

This Verse Business: The Road Less Traveled Of Frost’s Poetry

Gordon Clapp as Robert Frost. Photo by Meghan Moore.

This Verse Business by A.M. Dolan, Merrimack Repertory Theatre, 10/20/11-11/13/11,  http://www.merrimackrep.org/season/show.aspx?sid=101.

Reviewed by Anthony Geehan

(Lowell, MA)  There is an inherent problem in the study of classic poetry. Most of what is deemed worthwhile to scholars are works that tend to be genre defying and broke the conventions of the times they were written in. However, when a poet’s collection becomes so widely revered, scholars tend to set them as the new template for the system that the writer had originally broken through. This leads to the poems losing much of their edge and therefore becoming mundane to modern audiences. There is possibly no bigger victim of this “catch-22” than west coast born, New England based poet Robert Frost, and there is possibly no better cure for this academic sickness than a play like This Verse Business. Continue reading

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Oct 24

Phantom Tollbooth: Topsy-Turvy Family Entertainment

The Phantom Tollbooth, based on the book by Norman Juster, book by Norman Juster and Sheldon Harnick, lyrics by Sheldon Harnick, music by Arnold Black, Wheelock Family Theatre, 10/21/11-11/20/11, http://www.wheelockfamilytheatre.org/feature-performance.aspx.

Reviewed by Gillian Daniels

(Boston, MA) A musical adaptation of Norton Juster’s 1961 children’s book of the same name is currently being performed at the Wheelock Family Theater.  With an inventive, bright cast and set, the play is sure to fascinate younger viewers.  Continue reading

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Oct 20

‘Or,’ Women Will Have The Last Laugh

Aphra (Stacy Fischer) catches William (Ro'ee Levi) and Nell (Hannah Husband). Photo by Mark S. Howard.

 

Or, by Liz Duffy Adams, Lyric Stage Company, 10/14/11-11/6/11, https://lyricstage.com/now_playing/or/  Contains mature themes.

Reviewed by Becca Kidwell

(Boston, MA)  A new age is dawning in the 1660’s.  Women are allowed to act.  Strict Puritan regulations have been lifted.  What’s a girl to do?  Aphra Behn, one of the first professional playwrights that was female, has some answers with the help of modern day playwright Liz Duffy Adams.  Lyric Stage brings a delightful evening of ‘girl power’ to the stage in this play of Restoration, modern, and post-modern ideals.   Continue reading

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