(Watertown, MA) My charming date to New Rep’s Regular Singing described the show as “a play about white people having white feelings about JFK’s assassination” for two hours with no intermission. She continued, “this play isn’t discussing anything new or political.” It barely breaches JFK’s assassination, or singing, for that matter. My lovely, astute companion may have been harsh in her description but she’s not wrong. Continue reading →
(Stoneham) You can create memorable characters on stage and just let them be who they are, and they can be like fun guests at a cocktail party, hilarious and aimless. Or you can create wooden characters on stage and then let them come at least somewhat to life, which can win you points among theatergoers who are just happy not to fall asleep in the second act. But it’s awfully difficult to create memorable characters and then let them struggle, flounder, and grow on stage.
Seminar at the Stoneham Theatre is that rare production that both piques our interest and takes us on a romp of a ride. It’s as if the production set off to check all the boxes for the checklist of good theater. Continue reading →
(Stoneham) In an interview in Time Magazine, Spanish director Pedro Almodovar once quipped that every mistake he made in his first film became his signature “style” in subsequent ones. The holiday classic It’s a Wonderful Life doesn’t stand the test of time because it is perfect, but because of its many flaws. It is a holiday redemption story told by director Frank Capra at his most moody, and one can see why it bombed in its inaugural run at the movie houses. The script moves in a disjointed style, with a biblical fable serving as tacked-on bookends to a dark meditation on inequality in America. If not for Capra’s bold and technically-accomplished direction and the performance of a lifetime by Jimmy Stewart, the movie would be a laugher by now.
Stoneham Theatre’s staging of Weylin Symes’ theatrical adaption of Capra’s screenplay may have seemed like a safe end-of-year choice, and crowds have come in droves to see the spirited production, but this is as difficult a script as some of Shakespeare’s obscure works, and director Caitlin Lowans fails to navigate this production around many pitfalls. If not for Mark Linehan’s heart-on-sleeve performance as the desperate George Bailey and near-universal knowledge of the iconic storyline, this staging would have derailed. Continue reading →