(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 →
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 →
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.
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 →
[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 →
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 →