Oct 17

Collected Stories: The Property of Intellect

l. to r. Liz Hayes as Lisa and Bobbie Steinbach as Ruth in Collected Stories. Photo by Andrew Brilliant/ Brilliant Pictures.

Collected Stories by Donald Margulies, New Repertory Theatre, Arsenal Center for the Arts, 10/9/11-10/30/11. http://newrep.org/collected_stories.php.

Reviewed by Becca Kidwell

(Watertown, MA) Storytelling began as a way to pass on history and myths of a culture. In fact, some of the earliest stories were only credited when they were written down (for example, Homer with The Illiad and The Odyssey). Nowadays, even ideas are called into question. Birds can no longer Tweet ® and can only chirp due to Twitter receiving the trademark for the word “tweet”. Where do we draw the line? Are we the sum of our thoughts? Who owns the rights to what we learn and what influences us? New Rep’s production of Collected Stories examines these issues.

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Sep 12

Rent (MA): Celebrating and Embracing Humanity

The cast of RENT. Photo by Andrew Brilliant/ Brilliant Pictures.

Rent, book, music and lyrics by Jonathan Larson, New Repertory Theatre, Charles Mosesian Theater, Arsenal Center for the Arts, 9/4/11-10/2/11, http://www.newrep.org/rent.php. Mature themes, Full-frontal nudity.

Reviewed by Leah White

(Watertown, MA) The New Repertory Theatre, in residence at the Arsenal Center for the Arts, opens its 2011-2012 season with Jonathan Larson’s Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning musical, RENT.  Considered groundbreaking in its 1996 premiere, RENT uses the story of struggling bohemian artists to convey its message of love, tolerance, and friendship. Continue reading

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May 10

PASSING STRANGE: More than ‘the real’

The cast of Passing Strange. Photo by Andrew Brilliant/ Brilliant Pictures.

 Passing Strange, book and lyrics by Stew, music by Stew and Heidi Rodewald, New Repertory Theatre, The Charles Mosesian Theater, Arsenal Center for the Arts, 5/1/11-5/22/11, http://newrep.org/passing_strange.php.

Reviewed by Becca Kidwell

New Repertory Theatre’s production of Passing Strange examines a classical theme in a post-modern construct–the quest for the meaning of life.  Like Candide and Pippin, the youth in Passing Strange leaves his familiar surroundings to find “the real” or the meaningful existence but finds only more illusion and more questions.  New Rep’s masterful presentation carries the audience along the journey, earnestly hoping the youth will find what he is looking for.

If New Repertory Theatre uses even half of the talent from Passing Strange for their fall production of Rent, they will have another hit on their hands.  The vibrant cast of Passing Strange electrifies the concert-style stage with their performances. Continue reading

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Apr 02

The Last Five Years: Tempestuous Love

(left to right) Aimee Doherty and Mark Linehan in The Last Five Years. Photo by Christopher McKenzie.

The Last Five Years, written and composed by Jason Robert Brown, New Repertory Theatre, 3/27/11-4/17/11, http://newrep.org/last_five.php.

by Becca Kidwell

Less than a week after Elizabeth Taylor’s death, what story could be more apropos than the tumultuous romance of  two artists?  Jason Robert Brown’s chamber musical about the conflict marriage and career examines the fallout of two people who meet in the middle but remain apart.  New Rep’s production of The Last Five Years delivers two masterful performances to a faulty libretto.

Aimee Doherty shows her versatility going Continue reading

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Jan 20

Afterlife: Needs a new life

(left to right) Dale Place as Black Bird and Thomas Piper as Connor in afterlife: a ghost story. Photo by Andrew Brilliant/ Brilliant Pictures.

afterlife:  a ghost story by Steve Yockey, New Repertory Theatre, 1/16/11-2/6/11, http://newrep.org/afterlife.phpContains strong language.

Reviewed by Becca Kidwell

Steve Yockey’s afterlife:  a ghost story should be subtitled an evening of one acts.  While both acts of the play contain the same characters and themes, the familiarity ends there.  Act I displays a realistic, yet mundane evening between a grieving couple; they are packing up the beach house where they used to live.   They talk around the subject of their son’s death, but other than some yelling and “crying” they really remain stuck in one place until their house is washed away.  Act II portrays a fantasy world (somewhere between heaven and hell) where the Danielle, Connor, and their son work out their grief.  They receive the assistance of a postman, a proprietress, another ghost, and a bird puppet.  afterlife:  a ghost story has potential to transform into an interesting play if the first act removes ninety percent of its action and the second act has the chance to develop more fully. Continue reading

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Dec 28

The Problem With Previews–Version 2.0

by Becca Kidwell

[This is based on the article I wrote in November, but then deleted because I did see the production after its opening and I wanted the theatre to have the opportunity to have a successful show, if warranted, without prejudice.]

Preview performances are not a new invention in the theatre. In fact, although I could not find the origin, I have found news articles dating back to the 1900’s regarding theatre previews. Most theatres will agree that “preview week is about nuance. For the creators, cast and crew, the seven [preview] performances will be a chance to fine-tune before the official opening night four days from now. They will make changes during the day and try them out at night before an audience.”1 However, that definition allows for flexibility and abuse to the detriment of the audience. 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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