May 10

Keeping the Bard on His Toes: MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING

Much Ado About Nothing…With A Twist adapted by Daniel Morris, Bad Habit Productions, Deane Hall at Boston Center for the Arts, 4/28/12-5/13/12, http://www.badhabitproductions.org/shows/season/MuchAdo.html.

Review by Craig Idlebrook

(Boston, MA) There’s a funny story the actor Charles Grodin shares about famed acting teacher Uta Hagen, where Hagen was dissecting the terribleness of a scene Grodin had just done.  She hated everything except for one moment when Grodin’s scene partner was slow to hand the actor a prop.  Because there was a delay, Grodin looked genuinely concerned, and that, Hagen announced, was true acting.

I’m not a big fan of the Method myself, but I’m starting to see her point, especially when it comes to Shakespeare.  Acting involves a weird combo of memorization and playful improvisation.  But when it comes to the Bard’s work, too many productions are populated with actors who know they are saying weighty words and making weighty gestures; every move is preordained and dripping with importance.  Such a style robs the lyrical and impish qualities of plays that once were performed for bawdy Elizabethans.

Luckily, there are productions like Bad Habit’s staging of Much Ado About Nothing to inject life into scripts that we have too long sanctified.   Continue reading

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May 01

Life Lessons in a Lull: TROILUS AND CRESSIDA

photo credit: Stratton McCrady

Troilus and Cressida by William Shakespeare, Actors’ Shakespeare Project, The Modern Theatre, 4/25/12-5/20/12, http://www.actorsshakespeareproject.org/events/troilus-and-cressida-0.

Reviewed by Craig Idlebrook

(Boston, MA) There are two major ways to connect audiences to Shakespeare, despite the tricky language: you can glitz up the production so theatergoers don’t realize their brains are doing heavy-lifting (a la Baz Luhrmann’s seizure-inducing Romeo and Juliet) or make sure you serve up quality and let the script speak for itself.  Tina Packer consistently has chosen the second option in her body of work.   Continue reading

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Dec 10

Great Acting While on a Treadmill: The Merry Wives of Windsor

Photo Credit: Stratton McCrady

The Merry Wives of Windsor by William Shakespeare, Actors’ Shakespeare Project, Davis Square Theatre, 12/7/11-1/1/12, http://www.actorsshakespeareproject.org/events/merry-wives-windsor-0.

Reviewed by Craig Idlebrook

(Somerville, MA) It’s one thing for a young theater troupe to be ambitious, but it’s something else to watch the troupe succeed in its ambition.

In its early history, the Actors’ Shakespeare Project has decided to skip the low-hanging fruit of the Bard’s body of work and reach for some of his more obscure works.  (Hands up for anyone who knows a single line from Troilus and Cressida, which the troupe performs in the spring.) Continue reading

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Oct 22

Well-Behaved Women Rarely Reach Old Age: WOMEN OF WILL

Nigel Gore and Tina Packer in Women of Will performing October 13 - November 6, 2011 at Central Square Theater, 450 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA. Photo: A.R. Sinclair Photography.

 

Women of Will, by Tina Packer, The Nora Theatre Company, Central Square Theatre, 10/13/11- 11/6/11.  http://www.centralsquaretheater.org/season/11-12/women-of-will.html

Reviewed by Craig Idlebrook

(Cambridge, MA) The female characters of Shakespeare’s plays are badly outnumbered by the males, sometimes fifteen to one, explains veteran thespian Tina Packer in Women of Will at the Central Square Theater.  In the Bard’s works, women often operate as others and also-rans, virgins and whores, rarely receiving the main focus.  But when they appear, their actions and emotions speak volumes, both about Shakespeare and society. Continue reading

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Oct 12

Twelfth Night: Foolish Games of Greatness

James Andreassi (Sir Toby), Steven Barkhimer (Feste) & Doug Lockwood (Sir Andrew). Photo by Stratton McCrady

 

Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare, Actors’ Shakespeare Project, Plaza Theatre at the Boston Center for the Arts, 9/27/11-10/22/11,  http://www.actorsshakespeareproject.org/season8/twelfth_night.html.

Reviewed by Becca Kidwell

(Boston, MA) With the help of the magical playground designed by Christina Todesco, Actors’ Shakespeare Project creates an entertaining evening of romance and folly.  The production touches the joy and pain of being.  And a fool shall lead them all…

Upon entering the theatre, the audience immediately encounters an abstract tempest upon a spacious performance area.  Something that seems to be a trademark of Christine Todesco’s designs, there is a ramp that ends up being used as a slide.  In addition, the columns on stage provide reflective surfaces for the characters to get lost in their own self-interest as imagined by the director, Melia Bensussen. Continue reading

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Sep 22

Where To Stand When You’re In ‘Mortal Terror’

Will Shakespeare, Ben Jonson and John Marston (Stafford Clark-Price, Jeremiah Kissel and John Kuntz) Photo by Boston Playwrights' Theatre

 

Mortal Terror by Robert Brustein, Suffolk University & Boston Playwrights’ Theatre, The Modern Theatre at Suffolk University, 9/15/11-10/2/11, http://www.bu.edu/bpt/.

Reviewed by Becca Kidwell

(Boston, MA) Each generation lives in fear of war, conflicts, pain, and death.  Each person has to choose how they are going to react to the conflict.  Mortal Terror addresses this puzzlement in Elizabethan garb.  Rowdy writers, absolute rulers, and crazy conspirators throw words back and forth until every character must face his own compass and decide on where he stands.

Will Shakespeare, the toast of Renaissance England’s theatre scene, gets the opportunity to write a play to legitimize King James’ rule. Continue reading

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May 02

Antony and Cleopatra (ASPBoston): To the mattresses

Antony & Cleopatra by William Shakespeare, Actors’ Shakespeare Project, The Modern Theatre at Suffolk University, 4/27/11-5/21/11.  http://www.actorsshakespeareproject.org/season7/antony_cleo.html.

Reviewed by Becca Kidwell

Photo by Stratton McCrady

Actors’ Shakespeare Project continues to bring intelligible Shakespeare to Boston.  One of Shakespeare’s most complicated plots of politics and passion, Antony and Cleopatra can leave Shakespeare neophytes confused and questioning.  This production provides a clear path for understanding and appreciation of the text.

The backdrop, designed by Jeff Adelberg, looks like a collection of mattress coils that make up a wall.  This suggestive detail reflects Antony’s decision-making processes.  Antony is caught up in his love and does not recognize the ever-present threat of his fellow triumvirate colleague, Octavius.  Octavius uses Antony’s distraction to destroy the triumvirate and become emperor of Rome. Continue reading

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Feb 13

CYMBELINE: such stuff as dreams are made on

Cymbeline by William Shakespeare, Actors’ Shakespeare Project, 2/9/11-2/20/11, part of THE WINTER FESTIVAL (also playing:  The Hotel Nepenthe by John Kuntz, 2/23/11-3/6/11; and Living in Exile by Jon Lipsky, 3/9/11-3/20/11)  http://www.actorsshakespeareproject.org/season7/winter_festival.html

Brooke Hardman as Imogen and De'Lon Grant as Posthumous; photo by Stratton McCrady, c 2011

Reviewed by Becca Kidwell

This is why I love theatre.  No sets. No real props (except musical instruments).  Plain white clothing.  All that is left is the artists and the words.  Cymbeline, one of Shakespeare’s final plays, is rarely staged because of its meandering plots and complicated relationships (for a detailed plot summary, go to SparkNotes—really, it’s not cheating); Actors’ Shakespeare Project not only takes on the challenge, but performs the play possibly better than even Shakespeare could have envisioned it.

This phenomenally talented cast of seven takes the multiple plot twists and numerous characters and creates a cohesive and pleasurable fable for adults.   Continue reading

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