Apr 19

The Book of Grace: You Can’t Go Home Again

Frances Idlebrook as Grace, Jesse Tolbert as Buddy, Steve Barkhimer as Vet

The Book of Grace by Suzan-Lori Parks, Company One, 4/15/11-5/7/11. Mature themes and language, sexual content, and stage violence. http://www.companyone.org/

Reviewed by Becca Kidwell

What is the cost of forgiveness and reconciliation? What is the real threat? Company One’s production of Suzan-Lori Parks’ The Book of Grace explores these questions through an intimate scene between three connected, yet separate, individuals.

Vet, played by Steve Barkhimer, likes a rigid, controlled environment both at his job (as a border control officer) and in his home life. Grace, Continue reading

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Apr 14

BREAKING THE CODE: Turing Passes The Test

Dafydd ap Rees (Mick Ross) and Allyn Burrows (Alan Turing) in Hugh Whitemore's BREAKING THE CODE through May 8. Presented by Catalyst Collaborative@MIT. Performances at Central Square Theater at 450 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge. Tickets and Information: http://CentralSquareTheater.org or 866-811-4111. Photo by A.R. Sinclair Photography.


Breaking the Code by Hugh Whitemore, Underground Railway Theater and Catalyst Collaborative @ MIT, Central Square Theater, 4/7/11-5/8/11.  http://www.centralsquaretheater.org/season/10-11/code.html.

Reviewed by Becca Kidwell

Intelligence is a prized commodity that governments and businesses appropriate for their own needs, but don’t always appreciate the ones who provide it.  Alan Turing was loved by Great Britain for his decoding work during World War II and was derided for his failure to conform to social norms after the war.  Breaking the Code masterfully explores the isolating nature of “polite” society.

Underground Railroad Company and Catalyst Collaborative@MIT bring the audience into the world of Alan Turing’s mind and memory.  Performed in the round, the audience literally steps into Janie Howland’s set of inverse geometric spirals as they take their seats.  Strings across the walls and ceiling connect formulas and ideas.  Following the idea of the spirals, director Adam Zahler has Turing (played by Allyn Burrows) follow these patterns as Turing moves through the various moments of his life.  The set and the action become an extension of Alan Turing’s personality. Continue reading

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Mar 22

Living in Exile: A War Story of Epic Proportions

Robert Walsh and Tamara Hickey; photo by Stratton McCrady c 2011

Living in Exile by Jon Lipsky, 3/17/11-3/27/11.  http://www.actorsshakespeareproject.org/.

Reviewed by Becca Kidwell

How do you fit the story of a ten year war into a night of entertainment?  First, take a familiar piece of material; second, get two talented actors; third, have Actor’s Shakespeare Project produce it.  Many students have struggled with The Illiad in school.  Jon Lipsky reinvents Homer’s story of the epic battle of Troy. Continue reading

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Mar 18

EDUCATING RITA: Laughing at Learning

Jane Pfitsch as Rita in Educating Rita, by Willy Russell, directed by Maria Aitken at the Huntington Theatre Company, 3/10/11 Set Design Allen Moyer Costume Design Nancy Brennan Lighting Design Joel E. Silver © T Charles Erickson photoshelter.com/c/tcharleserickson tcepix@comcast.net

Educating Rita by Willy Russell, Huntington Theatre Company, 3/11/11-4/10/11.  http://www.huntingtontheatre.org/ Herbal cigarettes smoked during the show.

Reviewed by Becca Kidwell

During my studies to become a teacher, I was told one of the movies that I should not see on education was Educating Rita.  I can understand some of the caution; I would not want to be a teacher like Frank, but the story does remind us of the pure joy of learning and the need for critical thinking.  Knowledge is more than expertise and understanding is more than results.  The Huntington’s production of Educating Rita reminds us that learning should not be at the cost of  of our individuality.

Being a perpetual student, Allen Moyer’s set had my “geeky sense” tingling–a room full of books and a sterile, air of pomposity–typical of a professor’s office.  The office also hides the desperate desire of Frank (played by Andrew Long) to pretend that he is still an academic although he has been jaded for years.  Life and renewed purpose enter Frank’s office in the form of Rita (played by Jane Pfitsch).   Continue reading

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Mar 09

reasons to be pretty–Do these jeans make my butt look fat?

Greg (Andy Macdonald) confronts Carly (Danielle Muehlen) who is responsible for his break-up in a scene from the SpeakEasy Stage Company production of Neil LaBute’s Broadway hit reasons to be pretty, Photo: Craig Bailey/Perspective Photo.

reasons to be pretty by Neil LaBute, Speakeasy Stage Company, 3/4/11-4/2/11.  http://www.speakeasystage.com/doc.php?section=showpage&page=reasons Contains mature language.

Reviewed Becca Kidwell

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”  When we get out of high school, we hope the teasing will stop; however, we find new forms of teasing in fashion magazines, tv shows, and hanging out with friends.  Have we become too sensitive?  No.  But where do we draw the line?  How do we stop feeling put down by the world and begin feeling secure in ourselves?  Speakeasy Stage Company’s production of reasons to be pretty by Neil LaBute makes us examine these questions through their dynamic production.

Anyone who knows about LaBute should not be too surprised by the tirade of expletives that open the play.  They will not be too surprised that the cause is Steph, played by Angie Jepson, who hears that her boyfriend Greg, played by Andy McDonald, has described her face as “regular”.  While it is an extreme reaction, we understand that it is akin to any answer to the question “do my jeans make my butt look fat?”  Andy McDonald plays a calm, normal guy who dodges the verbal missiles on all sides, but still ends up with Steph leaving him.  Angie Jepson’s belligerent performance is matched by the vulnerability she displays when Steph keeps returning to Greg for approval. Continue reading

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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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