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

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

Feb 23

Photograph 51: A Slighted Discovery

Becky Webber as Rosalind Franklin and Nick Sulfaro as Ray Gosling in Photograph 51 performing through March 18 at Central Square Theater, 450 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA. Presented by The Nora Theatre Company. Photo: A.R. Sinclair Photography

Photograph 51 by Anna Ziegler, The Nora Theatre Company, Central Square Theater, 2/9/12-3/18/12, http://www.centralsquaretheater.org/season/11-12/photograph-51.html.

Reviewed by Becca Kidwell

(Cambridge, MA) Photograph 51 chronicles Rosalind Franklin’s work, which leads to the discovery of the double helix structure of DNA.  Surrounded by men, Franklin does not have a chance for her voice to be heard amongst her male colleagues.  Nora Theatre Company’s production presents a truthful historical presentation of the discovery. Continue reading

Feb 19

Daddy Long Legs: Musical Humor and Charm

Robert Adelman Hancock & Megan McGinnis, photo by Meghan Moore

Daddy Long Legs, Music and Lyrics by Paul Gordon, Book by John Caird, Based on the novel by Jean Webster, Merrimack Repertory Theatre, 2/9/12-3/4/12

Reviewed by Anthony Geehan

(Lowell, MA) The concept of love at first sight is something that has been around in theater and literature since the times of ancient mythology. There is another and more complicated hook for a love story however, in which two people fall in love without ever seeing each other. Such pieces as Mask, Sleepless in Seattle, and Parfumerie have taken on the concept that love can spark purely on personality and intrigue without any physical attributes taken into account. So it is with the musical Daddy Long Legs, a new performance being hosted by The Merrimack Repertory Theatre based off the book by John Caird. Continue reading

Feb 16

Medea: Special Victims Unit – Corinth

Medea with Chorus, L to R: Sarah Newhouse*, Obehi Janice, Jennie Israel* & McCaela Donovan © 2012 Stratton McCrady Photography

Medea by Euripides, Actors’ Shakespeare Project, Cambridge Multicultural Arts Center, 2/8/12-3/4/12,  http://www.actorsshakespeareproject.org/whats-new/medea.  Mature content.  Not recommended for children under 13.

Reviewed by Becca Kidwell

(Cambridge, MA) No one who watches Court TV or Law and Order can deny the pull of a good crime drama.  Even those who pretend to be indifferent or opposed to crime drama cannot help being drawn in (and for those who are still pretending that they don’t care, wasn’t that you who tweeted about the Casey Anthony trial all of those times?).  What may surprise audiences of Medea is that society hasn’t changed much in 4000 years.  Actors’ Shakespeare Project brings to life a Greek drama that examines the dark impulses and desires that haunt not only the “cultured” audiences from Greece’s Golden Age, but also the dark realities of our own society.

Before the play even starts, the audience is surrounded by an air of mystery and foreboding.   Continue reading

Feb 12

Shouting and Spittle: MONSTER

Monster by Neal Bell, Boston Center for American Performance/Boston University Theatre, Lane Comley Studio 210, 2/9/12-2/25/12, http://www.bu.edu/cfa/bcap/monster.html.

Reviewed by Craig Idlebrook

(Boston, MA) A play rarely works when the actors have to emotionally sprint throughout all acts.  A cast needs to pick its moments to ratchet up the tension and raise the stakes, or risk numbing the audience with melodrama.  Unfortunately, the Boston University production Monster begins at a precipice of volume and angst and never can climb down to connect with theatregoers.  Instead of communion, the production comes closer to an assault.

Monster is an ambitious staging of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.  At its best, the tale can be a window into the theme of the messy pain of creation and abandonment from God and/or our parents.  Continue reading

Feb 02

The Real Thing: An Infidelity Play in Capable Hands

Joseph O'Meara, Mark O'Donald and Sarah Carlin (© 2012 Jon Sachs)

The Real Thing by Tom Stoppard, Salem Theatre Company, 1/28/12-2/18/12, http://salemtheatre.com/on_stage.htm.

Reviewed by Gillian Daniels

(Salem, MA) Much ink has been devoted to the subject of infidelity and romantic betrayal.  Whether in songs, books, or plays, it’s a well-worn trope.  Tom Stoppard recognizes this early on in The Real Thing, establishes that it’s a literary convention in the first scene, and spends the rest of the play dissecting what it really means to the characters. Continue reading

Jan 24

Sugar: A Naturally Sweetened Life Story

Sugar by Robbie McCauley, ArtsEmerson, Jackie Liebergott Black Box in the Paramount Center, 1/20/12-1/29/12, http://alturl.com/fj8j3.

Reviewed by Gillian Daniels

(Boston, MA) Robbie McCauley begins the story of her life reciting food from her Georgia upbringing in the 1940’s.  In detail, she describes cake and succulent barbecue ribs, the taste of Southern cooking compacted with an African American childhood restricted by racial segregation.  She cheerfully rattles off the names of her favorite dishes and the relatives she best associates with them before revealing the diabetes with which she continues to fight. Continue reading

Jan 19

ART: A Matter of Perspective

l. to r. Robert Pemberton as Marc and Robert Walsh as Serge in 'ART'. Photo by Andrew Brilliant/ Brilliant Pictures.

Art by Yasmina Reza, New Repertory TheatreArsenal Center for the Arts, 1/15/12-2/5/12, http://newrep.org/art.php.

Reviewed by Becca Kidwell

(Watertown, MA) Art is…well, about art–the styles, philosophies, the impact on the individual.  When a person creates a work of art, using quality tools always helps in creating a quality piece (although that’s not to say that there aren’t some interesting works of art made from found objects).  Antonio Ocampo-Guzman starts with some of the finest:  a brilliant script and a trio of Boston talent.  Without any deeper analysis, those are two reasons to see the show.  The problem with art, as the play postulates, is that art is subjective and will not necessarily be seen the same through the same lens by each person. Continue reading

Jan 14

Making Something out of Nothing: THE VOICE OF THE TURTLE

Hanley Smith and William Connell. Photo by Meghan Moore

The Voice of the Turtle, Merrimack Repertory Theatre, 1/5/12-1/29/12, http://www.merrimackrep.org/season/show.aspx?sid=103.

Reviewed by Craig Idlebrook

(Lowell, MA)  In comic books, as in soap operas, you’re always hoping your favorite super hero will finally get his/her romantic mate.  It was such a relief when Lois finally slipped off Superman’s glasses and figured out that Clark was a world-beater.  And Peter Parker was always getting such a raw deal, even though he could have crushed his foes with his bare hands as Spider-Man, that it was a blessed event when Mary Jane finally noticed him.

But as soon as that happened, the characters stopped growing and the dialogue in the comics became just painful.  It would be “darling” this and “sweetie” that, with some artful fade-outs when the couple needed some alone-time.  The conversations grew so bad to read that you couldn’t wait for Lex Luthor to erase Lois’s memory with a Wipe-O ray gun and the courtship could start all over. Continue reading