Sep 21

Kindness Can’t Kill Systemic Disease: “Between Riverside and Crazy”

Oswaldo and Pops at breakfast. Photo by Nile Scott Studios

Presented by SpeakEasy Stage Company
By Stephen Adly Guirgis
Directed by Tiffany Nichole Greene
Fight choreography by Greg Maraio
Dialect coaching by Kelly Sabini

Sept. 14 – Oct. 13, 2018
Calderwood Pavilion
Boston Center for the Arts
Boston, MA
SpeakEasy on Facebook

Review by Kitty Drexel

“I may look how i look. That don’t mean I am how I look.”  – Lulu

(Boston, MA) Fuck the police. Fuck them for killing Black people at unprecedented rates. Fuck them for killing gay/queer/trans people because they can. Fuck them for raping women while in uniform. Fuck them for #bluelivesmatter. Fuck the police and their scare tactics, faulty de-escalation training, and their playing to the sympathies of ignorant white people. No one should die of a routine anything because a trigger happy cop couldn’t keep their shit together. Fuck them for making small changes and expecting big credit. Fuck the police and the lame white horse they rode in on. Fuck the goddamn police. Continue reading

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Feb 21

“The Honey Trap” Sweet Like Honey, Sting Like a Bee

Maureen Keiller, Barlow Adamson. Photograph credit: Kalman Zabarsky

Presented by Boston Playwrights’ Theatre & Boston University College of Fine Arts School of Theatre
Written by Leo McGann
Directed by Adam Kassim

February 16-26, 2017
949 Commonwealth Avenue
Boston, MA
Boston Playwrights’ Theatre on Facebook
Boston University New Play Initiative

Review by Travis Manni

(Boston, MA) According to the old cliché, you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. The truth of this is debatable, but it’s true that, when luring something, or someone, to its doom, it’s much simpler to do it in a soft, sweet way. On multiple levels, this was the crux of how Leo McGann’s The Honey Trap told a story of history, guilt, and revenge. Continue reading

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Jan 09

“33 Variations”: Beethoven Mired in Melodrama

Photo credit: Mark S. Howard; snuggles with Beethoven.

Photo credit: Mark S. Howard; snuggles with Beethoven.

By Moises Kaufman
Directed by Spiro Veloudos

presented by The Lyric Stage Company of Boston
140 Clarendon Street, 2nd floor
Boston, MA  02116
Lyric Stage Facebook Page

Review  by Gillian Daniels

(Boston) In Moises Kaufman’s 33 Variations, only works of genius transcend death. Musicologist Dr. Katherine Brandt (Paula Plum) throws herself into her studies of Ludwig van Beethoven when diagnosed with a debilitating disease. Brandt’s crisis is contrasted with Beethoven (James Andreassi) as he loses his hearing in 1823.

The contemporary setting is ultimately too light when played side by side with history. Katherine fights against her illness tooth and nail as she struggles to complete her research in Germany, but where that illness should be driving the drama, it instead turns 33 Variations into an issue piece when it could have been so much more.

Katherine’s strained relationship with her daughter, Clara (Dakota Shepard), never feels terribly real, which is disappointing. I understand why Katherine demands perfection of her adult child but I don’t understand why those demands still inspire such loyalty in Clara. It’s not that it isn’t heartening to watch her help Katherine through her sickness, but the relationship feels weak.

Even weaker, though, is Clara’s romance with Mike Clark (Kelby T. Akin), her mother’s nurse. It’s cute in a romantic comedy sort of way. Still, a male nurse dating a distressed, emotionally vulnerable woman strains believability. Despite this, their courtship is cute and humorous. Remembering his profession and under what circumstances their affair transpires, though, wrecks the illusion.

33 Variations is most alive when it deals with history and those obsessed with it. Beethoven’s struggle to write thirty-three variations of a mediocre waltz is thrilling. We can see exactly why Katherine is so passionate about him and his life. It also explains why a friendship grows between her and Dr. Gertrude Ladenburger (Maureen Keiller) while they do research in the Beethoven archives. The really interesting story, the one about art and talent transcending time, is there. It’s just buried under melodrama.

Now, the melodrama isn’t all bad, but it’s best when finding the bittersweet humor of Katherine’s difficulties. Otherwise, the story of a genius plagued by the perils of infirmity has been done before and better. Here, despite Paula Plum’s nuanced acting, the story drags.

Perhaps the strongest quality of the play is the way in which this well-mined material is staged. The actors really throw themselves into their roles, deftly pealing away the layers of melancholy to the humor and hope beneath the material. Pianist Catherine Stornetta does the most to breathe life into the show as she plays each variation.

It’s also magical to watch Beethoven share the stage with Katherine. When Katherine talks with Clara and Beethoven yells at his assistant, Anton Schindler (Victor L. Shopov), their conversations in their respective eras weave together. They are separate from each other only by degrees, knitted together by the desire to continue living fully and happily.

For the play, it’s an unfortunate separation that does it no favors. Katherine’s own deterioration is depicted well, but much too weak to carry a story on its own. As it is, 33 Variations tugs heartstrings, but doesn’t transcend its melodramatic trappings. If only the show had been more ambitious, maybe even as ambitious as the art that it depicts, then it would have really shined.

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Jan 25

NINE ways to leave your lover

Timothy John Smith (center) and company in a scene from the SpeakEasy Stage Company production of NINE, running Jan. 21 - Feb. 20 at the Stanford Calderwood Pavilion . Photo: Craig Bailey/Perspective Photo.

Nine, book by Arthur Kopit, music & lyrics by Maury Yeston, adaptation from the Italian by Mario Fratti, based on Fellini’s 8 ½, Speakeasy Stage Company, 1/21/11-2/20/11, http://www.speakeasystage.com/index.php

Reviewed by Becca Kidwell

Speakeasy Stage Company has created an exquisite, solid revival of Maury Yeston’s award-winning musical Nine.  With masterful direction and a stage full of talent, Maury Yeston’s vision of the struggling director as a conductor of his own affairs takes the stage with vigor and tenacity.

Nine, based on Fellini’s film 8 ½, tells the story of a formally successful film director who is struggling with both a creative crisis and midlife crisis.  Timothy John Smith plays Guido Contini, the figure who represents Fellini.  Smith infuses Guido with both an arrogant confidence of a professed womanizer and the almost childlike uneasiness of someone whose world is trying to spin out of control.  Although he is betrayed by his own schema, he picks himself up, pulls himself together, and moves on. Continue reading

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