Oct 24

The Prison System is Legalized Slavery: “The Peculiar Patriot”


Presented by ArtsEmerson
Produced by National Black Theater & Hi-ARTS
Created and Performed by Liza Jessie Peterson
Directed by Talvin Wilks

October 17-28, 2018
Emerson Paramount Center
Boston, MA
ArtsEmerson on Facebook

Review by Noelani Kamelamela

(Boston, MA) For relatively local folks who missed the remount of The Peculiar Patriot at the National Black Theatre in Manhattan this summer, grab tickets and head over to the Paramount Center. If you can’t catch The Peculiar Patriot over the rest of it’s Boston run, but if you know a theatre and a community who needs this show, bug the heck out of them to pay these artists and get this to as many audiences as possible.   Continue reading

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Sep 12

One Ironic Goose Step At A Time; or Two Geeks, One Show: “Straight White Men”

Photo by Andy Brilliant/Brilliant Pictures. The cast in a moment of superficial contemplation.

Presented by New Rep Theatre
Written by Young Jean Lee
Directed by Elaine Vaan Hogue

Sept. 7 – 30, 2018
Mosesian Center for the Arts
Mainstage Theater
321 Arsenal St
Watertown, MA
New Rep on Facebook

Representation matters. Straight White Men is written by an Asian playwright. Noelani Kamelamela was asked to write a review in addition to the critique written by Kitty Drexel. Both are posted below.

Review by Noelani Kamelamela

(Watertown, MA) The synopsis of Straight White Men seems like it would be a Men’s Rights Activist’s nearest and dearest dream brought to life.  I imagine a white man in a polo shirt and khakis sitting down by the light of a tiki torch to read what would be a thoroughly delightful description: after all, the main action only involves four white men.  Yup. Four white men. No women. No people of color. This hypothetical straight white man would see the name Young Jean Lee and maybe remember sweet ole Robert E. Lee. Perhaps it hearkens him back to time before, when America was great.  “What a fine night of theatre!” this man in a barcalounger would remark aloud as he reached for his credit card and purchased a ticket to New Rep Theatre’s production which runs at the Mosesian Center for the Arts in Watertown through September 30th. Continue reading

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Mar 05

Driving Mr. Daisy: “The White Card”

Karen Pittman and Daniel Gerroll in The White Card. Photo: Gretjen Helene Photography; Charlotte manages Charles’ microaggressions.

Presented by ArtsEmerson with the American Repertory Theatre
By Claudia Rankin
Directed by Diane Paulus
Dramaturgy by P. Carl

Feb. 24 – April 1, 2018
Emerson Paramount Center
Robert J. Orchard Stage
Boston, MA
ArtsEmerson on Facebook

Reviews by Kitty Drexel and Noelani Kamelamela

(Boston, MA) The White Card is a conversation starter for those unused to discussing race at length. It’s for those who think we live in a post-racial society, the kind of person who resents the dialogue because there are “bigger problems” to fix. Other attributes include denying racism because they have imaginary Black friends, thinking “all lives matter,” and feeling threatened when any indication of their own culpability within society’s systemic racism. Those who have regular discussions on race, inequalities and the struggles for justice will have their work affirmed. Continue reading

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Feb 22

Presenting the Black Female Experience in America is a Revolutionary Act: “for colored girls who have considered suicide/ when the rainbow is enuf”

Photography by Roberto Mighty; From left: Verna Hampton, Kerline Desir, Thomika Marie Bridwell, Dayenne CB Walters, Karimah Williams, Tonasia Jones. Not pictured: Ciera-Sade Wade.

Presented by Praxis Stage
By Ntozake Shange
Directed by Dayenne CB Walters
Choreography by W. Lola Remy

Feb.15 – 25, 2018
Hibernian Hall
Boston, MA
Praxis on Facebook

Review by Noelani Kamelamela

(Boston, MA) When theatre is about lifting up oppressed voices, it is a revolutionary act.  Praxis Stage’s production of “for colored girls who have considered suicide/ when the rainbow is enuf” during Black History Month qualifies.  I recommend that locals go and see this production if they can.  Although “for colored girls . . .” is done regularly with student casts, such as the production at Boston College in 2014, it is inspiring to see a range of ages authentically represented in this show.  I will also mention that the space in Hibernian Hall is accessible, which is not always a possibility for theatre companies in the Boston area. Continue reading

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Feb 22

A Queer Bildnungsroman “Torrey Pines”

Presented by ArtsEmerson 
Torrey Pines
Directed by Clyde Petersen
Animated by Clyde Petersen & Chris Looney
Original music recorded in collaboration with Kimya Dawson and Chris Walla (Death Cab for Cutie)

Feb. 14 – 17, 2018
Jackie Liebergott Black Box Theatre
Boston, MA
ArtsEmerson on Facebook

ArtsEmerson presented a lovely set of screenings of “Torrey Pines” with a live band and live foley.  A stop motion film about a young adolescent’s experiences, the lead in the film was also the lead in the band which played, Your Heart Breaks.  The Seattle band has been touring with this movie since its premiere in 2016.  It is wonderful that this movie was brought to Boston, especially since there are few art pieces with trans creators at the helm. Continue reading

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Jan 25

Subvert Everything; 1 Critique and 1 Op-Ed: “Proof”

Photo: Forden Photography. Design: Bird Graphics; Featuring Michael Tow & Lisa Nguyen.

Presented by the Nora Theatre Company
Written by David Auburn
Directed by Michelle M. Aguillon

Jan. 18 – Feb. 18, 2018
Central Square Theater
Cambridge, MA
CST on Facebook

Introduction: Below are two pieces in response to The Nora Theatre’s production currently playing at Central Square Theater in Cambridge, MA. First is my critique of the production. The second is an opinionated response from fellow Geek Noelani Kamelamela. I asked Noelani to write a response to the production because representation is important. Three out of four cast members of Proof are Asian-American. This is significant because David Auburn didn’t factor race into his writing process. This means white was his default. No one gets extra credit for treating people of color like human beings. The Nora does get kudos for subverting the racial paradigm.

Review by Kitty Drexel

“In a good proof there is a very high degree of unexpectedness, combined with inevitability and economy. The argument takes so odd and surprising a form; the weapons used seems so childishly simple when compared with the far-reaching consequences; but there is no escape from the conclusions.”  – G.H. Hardy, A Mathematician’s Apology

(Cambridge, MA) The stigma around mental illness remains sharp. The Nora Theatre’s production of Proof doesn’t tackle this stigma so much as wait until the audience is pliable and then viciously assault it. It isn’t gentle but it is effective.   Continue reading

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Sep 15

A Dear John letter to modern American politics: “The Return to Morality”

Photo courtesy of TTC Facebook page

Photo courtesy of TTC Facebook page; the cast, looking much happier here than their characters do in the production.

Presented by Titanic Theatre Company
Written by Jamie Pachino
Directed by Michelle M. Aguillon

September 8-25, 2016
Central Square Theatre
Cambridge, MA
Titanic Theatre on Facebook

Review by Noelani Kamelamela

(Cambridge, MAIt is a presidential election year in these United States.  Ordinary campaigns are already the cesspools of public opinion where good policies raise their hands and get passed over for workable compromises.  Presidential campaigns are therefore a special circle of our own red, white and blue hellscape where we, the people, can gather together and worry about our future as a nation.  It is a Sisyphean task, which means the situation is ripe for comedy.  Titanic Theatre Company’s production of The Return to Morality elicits anxious laughter in this context.   Continue reading

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May 31

La Donna è divertente!

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Looking fierce.

La Donna Improvvisata
Presented by ImprovBoston
Starring, improvised by Lisa Flanagan
Musical accompaniment by Mike Descouteaux

May 29, 2016 @11pm
Improv Boston
Cambridge, MA
La Donna on Facebook

Review by Noelani Kamelamela

(Cambridge, MAMusical improv is a special permutation of improvisational comedy.   I think it appeals to people who both love comedy and have a lot of experience in listening to different genres of music.  I’ve certainly been subjected to short form musical improv in which the creation of mostly unrelated individual song-scenes  felt much longer than the allotted two minutes.  Stringing short song-scenes together into a long form musical improv set can be challenging even for mid-sized groups to tackle.  Musical abilities and frequently a pianist are required.  One supporting piece that can be useful is the addition of a premise.  In “La Donna Improvvisata,” Lisa Flanagan did a unique send-up of opera tropes entirely with the help of one accompanist on keyboard. Continue reading

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Apr 20

Two Reviewers, One Play: ARCADIA

The Cast of ARCADIA. Photo: A.R. Sinclair Photography

The Cast of ARCADIA. Photo: A.R. Sinclair Photography

Presented by Central Square Theater & and the Nora Theatre Company
Written by Tom Stoppard
Directed by Lee Mikeska Gardner

Current-May 15, 2016
Central Square Theater
Central Square, Cambridge, MA
Central Square/Nora Theatre on Facebook

Noe and I attended this performance together. We were impacted differently so we both wrote reviews. One follows after the other below.  Continue reading

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Feb 14

After so long, we’re still back to this: BACK THE NIGHT

2/3/14 Boston Playwrights' Theatre presents 'Back the Night' By Melinda Lopez. Directed by Daniela Varon. February 4-28-2016. With violence on campus rising to epidemic proportions, Em is in total denial. But when her best friend Cassie gets assaulted, Em makes some unexpected personal discoveries. Sometimes you do the wrong thing for the right reason. 2016-02-03_BACKTHENITE_002.jpg - Photograph By Kalman Zabarsky

Presented by Boston Playwrights’ Theatre
Written by Melinda Lopez
Directed by Daniela Varon

February 4-28, 2016
Boston Playwright’s Theatre
Boston, MA
BPT on Facebook

Review by Noelani Kamelamela

Trigger warnings: sexual assault and physical violence, sexual situations, adult language, suicide, mental health, activism

(Boston, MA) Institutional support of criminals and criminal behavior either through incompetence or genuine ignorance is common. Although a college campus is the setting of Melinda Lopez’s Back the Night, it could be a stand-in for a fancy secondary school or any urban space. It is both cheaper and simpler in these forums to blame the victim than actually pursue justice.

Em, Sean and Cassie pit themselves against assault on campus after Cassie is injured one night. Em is the pre-med Nancy Drew who likes putting things into proper boxes and Melissa Jesser portrays her with an intensity that simmers just below the surface. Cassie (Amanda Collins), long an ardent anti-violence advocate, is finally putting a lot of her principles to the test. Sean just wants everyone to make it to graduation alive. Along the way, the undergraduates realize that intentions aren’t pure on any side of the issue. The set served as both metaphor and scenery, with decaying infrastructure and dorm furniture offset by autumn leaves and warm lighting.

When I attended, the audience of mostly college aged students and a few older attendees were both amused and engaged. Although the play is a new work, the topics have been stewing in higher education for some time. Local universities such as Boston University responded in the past three years to federal investigations related to sexual harassment under Title IX by leveraging pre-existing resources and coordinating new sets of training for incoming and ongoing students, staff and faculty. For survivors as well as for those who work at or attend a university, the transitions toward justice seem insignificant and much less than what was promised.

To be fair, there are a lot of great sea changes still occurring: a queer character like Sean, played by a bouncy Evan Horwitz, or a non-white character like Em can exist on a campus, which is a sign of progress. Authorities can’t produce those specific, permanent and positive transitions in a vacuum. Rallying and other forms of pressure by non-authorities as well as pushback, then, is more like a dance: there is movement over time, even if there is no easily discernible direction. Also, dances end, and it can take time before a different dance begins.

Lopez gets the internet’s impact on survivor’s rights in many ways: frequently the ability to reach lots of potential activists doesn’t lead to the revolution, especially since the internet reaches not only sympathetic minds, but also perpetrators and victim-blamers who are all too willing to sit on the sidelines and throw stones. At the very least, perpetrators are not given a forum in the play. There’s still lots of meat to chew on. Even when your friends are a mirror or an inspiration, they can still misunderstand and make demands on your sanity that can be almost as terrible as physical trauma. At a fairly short hour and a half, humor between the three friends lightens the frustration, exhaustion and constant questioning. Lopez has captured the voice of modern undergraduates and also provided a snapshot of the strained relationships of students to the adults who are supposed to guide and shield them.

Next on deck for Boston Playwrights’ Theatre is Rhinoceros a co-production with Suffolk University written by Eugene Ionesco at the Modern from February 25-March 13.

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