Audiences, like art critics, want to believe, but the New Repertory Theatre production of Bakersfield Mist doesn’t give theatergoers a chance. Instead, the audience must suspend disbelief the moment we spot a central character’s obviously-fake tattoo. For a play intent on debating what is real, Bakersfield Mist provides a poor facsimile of real life.
The play centers on a plausible and chewy scenario: A trailer-park loser, Maude (Paula Langton), has summoned a renowned art critic, Lionel (Ken Cheeseman), to authenticate a Jackson Pollack painting bought at a thrift shop. Some $50 million to $100 million is riding on Lionel’s opinion. The answer, the play suggests, is much messier than checking “yes” or “no”, and both Maude and Lionel must wrestle with their pasts and their notions of art to view the painting. Continue reading →
(Watertown, MA) Art is…well, about art–the styles, philosophies, the impact on the individual. When a person creates a work of art, using quality tools always helps in creating a quality piece (although that’s not to say that there aren’t some interesting works of art made from found objects). Antonio Ocampo-Guzman starts with some of the finest: a brilliant script and a trio of Boston talent. Without any deeper analysis, those are two reasons to see the show. The problem with art, as the play postulates, is that art is subjective and will not necessarily be seen the same through the same lens by each person. Continue reading →
(Watertown, MA) Like the film it’s adapted from, the stage version of A Christmas Story paints a childhood spent during the holidays in a golden glow. Yes, the flustered family of Ralphie (Andrew Cekala) meet nothing but frustrations as they try to pull Christmas together against mean-spirited neighborhood dogs, hideous bunny suits, and intimidating department store Santas, but their holiday is ultimately a nostalgic one. Continue reading →
(Watertown, MA) Three Viewings is the kind of theatrical outing that I cannot recommend highly enough, a play where writer Jeffrey Hatcher deftly and comically attempts to capture the variation and nuance of human nature. Continue reading →
(Watertown, MA) Spring Awakening is not a show I would recommend; instead, it is a show I would require audiences to see. Despite the early-20th century backdrop of Germany, the pop-rock musical is a thinly veiled indictment of contemporary repression of teenage sexuality. Members of the cast occasionally wear anachronistic clothing: goggles, fingerless gloves, and sneakers. If not for the pervasive nature of the Internet in our modern times and the sometimes salacious information it provides, the play would be perfectly suited for a contemporary adaptation in Middle America.
Instead, we follow our main character, Melchior Gabor, passionately played by Jared Walsh, as he deals with the puberty, lust, and lack of information plaguing his age group. The adults in his community, varied roles all played fantastically by Linda Goetz and Jim Fitzpatrick, refuse to give their children and charges any information that would make their transitions into adulthood easier. 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 →
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 →