Feb 27

Sins of the Father: DEATH OF A SALESMAN

Photo by Mark S. Howard.

Photo by Mark S. Howard.

Presented by Lyric Stage Co of Boston (40 Years)
By Arthur Miller
Directed by Spiro Veloudos

February 14 to March 15, 2014
Boston, MA
Lyric Stage on Facebook

Review by Kitty Drexel

From the program notes: Robert N. Wilson, The Writer as Social Seer

“Willy’s failure is our failure, for we are also involved in the cult of success, and we, too, measure men by occupational attainment rather than by some sympathetic calculus of the whole human being. We are all partners in the American Dream and parties to the conspiracy of silence surrounding the fact that failures must by definition outnumber successes, given our cultural ground rules and or singular interpretations of the words ‘success’ and ‘failure’.”

(Boston) There is so much that The Lyric’s production of Death of a Salesman gets right. This is a fantastic production – the best of theirs I’ve seen all season, which is saying a lot for a theatre that regularly that creates solid art. It is the same cut and dried script that generations have come to love with a few spins that make it new and poignant.   Continue reading

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Jan 07

As in Life, “Working” is a Mixed Bag

Photo by Mark S. Howard for Lyric Stage Co of Boston; The Cast.

Presented by The Lyric Stage Company of Boston
Based on the book, Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do, by Studs Terkel.
Adapted by Stephen Schwartz and Nina Faso.
Additional contributions by Gordon Greenberg. Songs by Craig Carnella, Micki Grant, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Mary Rodgers and Susan Birkenhead, Stephen Schwartz, James Taylor.
Directed & Choreographed by Ilyse Robbins
Music Direction by Jonathan Goldberg

January 3 to February 1, 2014
140 Clarendon St.
Boston, MA
The Lyric on Facebook

Running time: Approximately 1 hour and 45 minutes with no intermission.

Review by Kitty Drexel

Boston) Studs Terkel’s book Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do is a collection of essays/interviews with Americans in the workforce. It spans a variety of jobs and careers while exploring the motivations behind the work the subjects do. The employed and unemployed look for recognition, justification and greater purpose looking for recognition in the work that we do. The musical, Working adapted by Stephen Schwartz and Nina Faso, uses samples from Terkel’s book to bring the dialogue to the stage. Continue reading

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Dec 09

Life (Instructions Not Included): BECKY’S NEW CAR

http://www.lyricstage.com/uploads/presskit/MSH_1548%20cropped.jpg

Photo by Mark S. Howard.

presented by The Lyric Stage Company
by Steven Dietz
Directed by Larry Coen
Production sponsored by Tim & Linda Holiner

November 29th – December 22nd
140 Clarendon Street
Boston, MA
Lyric Stage on Facebook

Review by Craig Idlebrook

(Boston) Film, literature and theater are filled with midlife crises.  The plotlines for men offer them the chance to break away from office meetings and drudgery to lead a life of adventure and get the girl (The Secret Life of Walter Mitty).  For women, the midlife crisis plotline offers a chance to break free from the ties that bind, to take a vacation from a family, and to have some great sex (The Bridges of Madison County).  Too often, things either resolve too well or too tragically, but always too neatly.  The explosion.  The choice.  The last goodbye.  Fade out. Continue reading

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Oct 28

Nuanced Heartbreak: “Water By The Spoonful”

Photo credit: Mark S. Howard

Presented by The Lyric Stage Company of Boston
By Quiara Alegria Hudes
Directed by Scott Edmiston

Oct. 18th – Nov. 16th, 2013
140 Clarendon Street
Boston, MA 02116
Lyric Stage on Facebook

Review by Craig Idlebrook

(Boston) Behind the People Magazine covers of smiling celebrities announcing sobriety, there is a more jagged and complex tale behind every junkie’s recovery.  Physiologically, the junkie’s brain has been re-wired to seek out new, chemical heights of pleasure, and going clean means settling for a life of just okay.  Psychologically, the task is much harder, as the junkie in recovery must confront the human wreckage of his or her addiction and attempt to make amends, which can be a Sisyphean task. Continue reading

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May 14

“Mad Men” Set to Song and Dance: ON THE TOWN

Photo by Mark S. Howard

Presented by Lyric Stage Company of Boston

Book and lyrics by Betty Comden & Adolph Green
Music by Leonard Bernstein
Based on an idea by Jerome Robbins
Directed by Spiro Veloudos
Music direction by Jonathan Goldberg
(kick-ass) Choreography & musical staging by Ilyse Robbins

May 10 – June 8, 2013
The Lyric Stage
Boston
, MA
Lyric Stage Facebook Page

Review by Kitty Drexel

(Boston) On the Town is a sweet little musical about what happens when three horny US Navy men seeking adventure visit NYC for 24 hours. As the plot thickens, they meet their equally horny female counterparts, do some healthy snogging, see some sights and return to duty. It’s mostly romantic. The  Lyric Stage delicately wraps these adult themes in saccharine sweet nostalgia, excellent choreography and Bernstein’s music. Although this could be for mature audiences only, it is presented as tasteful family-friendly material. Continue reading

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Apr 02

Beautiful & Grotesque Misrepresentations: BY THE WAY, MEET VERA STARK

Photo Credit: Mark S. Howard; Hannah Husband, Kami Rushell Smith, Kelby T. Akin, Gregory Balla

by Lynn Nottage
Directed by Summer L. Williams

The Lyric Stage Company
Boston, MA
March 29, 2013 – April 27, 2013
The Lyric Stage Facebook Page
Running time: Approximately 2 hours & 15 minutes, includes one intermission

Review by Kitty Drexel

(Boston) The events of By the Way, Meet Vera Stark appear to be comedic. In truth, viewed with the perspective of historical racial prejudice, it is more like a tragedy. Vera Stark is a Black actress living in Los Angeles and nursing a dream of appearing on the big screen as more than an anonymous face in a club scene. She dreams of being a character that isn’t a slave and definitely isn’t a “Mammy” role. Determined to make her mark in Hollywood, Stark rallies her friends and boss Gloria, and manages to slightly alter bureaucratic race relations at the same time. It was one small step for woman and a held breath for the rest of mankind. 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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