ArtsImpulse Must See: July 2015

While I had hoped for a quieter summer to enjoy the many other entertainment and outdoor activities in the Greater Boston area, I found a few full months of outstanding summer theatre.  From new plays to fringe theatre to professional summer stock musicals, the Greater Boston theatre scene is not taking a break for a minute.  Choosing just six Must See productions proved to be more of a challenge than expected.  In honor of the recent Supreme Court decision regarding marriage, I am honoring this month’s Must See feature as an acknowledgement of love, in its many forms, on our stage.  Starting with Saving Kitty about a mother’s love for her child and family and the entrance of a fiancé who threatens to destroy that with his beliefs, to the hit musical Shrek about self-love and acceptance for all, and Merrily We Roll Along about the love we have for our friends and our dreams. Then, we have King Lear about a father’s love for his family and legacy, and continuing with Colossal about a young man’s love for his dreams and his father, and, finally, Blood Wedding, a gorgeous play about love and our community.  This July, we should remember about the power of theatre to project the love and acceptance that we wish for our society and community.  We should engage in meaningful conversation about the variety of stories about the ways that we love and the struggles that we continue to face as we pursue and secure that love.  If you like any of these plays, consider tweeting #BosTheatreLove.

This month, we feature:

  • SAVING KITTY by Central Square Theatre and The Nora Theatre Company
  • SHREK by North Shore Music Theatre
  • MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG by The F.U.D.G.E. Theatre Company
  • KING LEAR by Commonwealth Shakespeare Company
  • COLOSSAL by Company One
  • BLOOD WEDDING by Apollinaire Theatre Company
Saving Kitty

SAVING KITTY

By Marisa Smith

Directed by Lee Mikeska Gardner

Central Square Theatre and The Nora Theatre Company

450 Massachusetts Avenue

Cambridge, MA 02139

About the Production

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July 9 – Aug. 2, 2015

I will confess my admiration for Jennifer Coolidge and her talents.  She creates strong characters that, while hilarious in their campiness, are heartfelt in their restless pursuit of their goals.  The blending of realism with the ridiculous make Coolidge’s characters into memorable treats (American Pie, Best in Show, Legally Blonde, and, my personal favorite, A Cinderella Story).  She is coming to Boston stages to star as a “ruthless, unfiltered, and politically matriarch” in this hilarious new comedy about sex, politics, and religion, which is tied together as a love story about relationships and family.  She is joined by Lydia Barnett-Mulligan (who made a strong impression in Actors’ Shakespeare Project’s Measure for Measure) and Lewis D. Wheeler (who delivered an equally strong performance in New Rep’s recent Muckrakers).  I anticipate that this production will not need saving; it survives on its talented cast alone.

Shrek(NSMT)

SHREK

Music by Jeanine Tesori 

Book and lyrics by David Lindsay-Abaire

Based on the DreamWorks Animation Motion Picture and the book by William Steig

Directed by Michael Heitzman

Choreographed by Mara Greer

Music directed by Michael Gacetta

North Shore Music Theatre

62 Dunham Road

Beverly, MA 01915

About the Production

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July 7 – 19, 2015

I grew up on the DreamWorks animated movie Shrek, appreciating the sophisticated mix of adult and kid humor, a mix of social commentary and juvenile jokes.  However, the Broadway musical failed to achieve the accolades or critical success of its hit film predecessor.  Blame it on the waning Disney influence on Broadway (yes, Shrek is DreamWorks’ masterpiece, not Disney’s).  Perhaps some magic couldn’t translate to the stage.  North Shore Music Theatre with its innovative staging and re-interpretation of popular musicals to its “theatre-in-the-round” stage may be the one to cast a magic spell over this musical.  Part of North Shore Music Theatre’s success is its immersive and family friendly quality in its marketing, presentation, and production.  And they have the technical skills to make sure that the translation to its stage is as seamless and magical as the original Broadway productions.  Last season, their The Little Mermaid brought “Under the Sea” beauty to the Beverly and North Shore community – but, here, we have potential for an even strong production, filled with fart jokes; exciting musical numbers about “letting your freak flag fly;” and a wealth of fairy tale creatures on a journey towards love, tolerance, acceptance, and community.  In the wake of the Supreme Court decisions and in a world that needs a little more compassion, I can’t think of a better musical to treat yourself to a gentle reminder of what us different makes us stronger.

MerrilyWeRollAlong

MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG

Music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim

Book by George Furth

Directed by Joey DeMita

Music directed by Steven Bergman

The F.U.D.G.E. Theatre Company

Arsenal Center for the Arts

321 Arsenal Street

Watertown, M 02472

About the Production

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July 10 – 18, 2015

It is with deep sadness and regret that The F.U.D.G.E. Theatre Company (FUDGE) will close its doors this summer.  FUDGE represents a special place in the Greater Boston theatre community; few other fringe theatre companies performed and succeeded at musicals like FUDGE throughout its rich history.  Even more important, FUDGE performed musicals for which the director and company were passionate, disregarding the technical, vocal, and other challenges associated with each production.  Most notable examples have included staging Carousel in a black box, finding the male actors and singers to perform Assassins, and, now, performing Sondheim’s “rarely done” Merrily We Roll Along.  While other theatre companies continue to stage The Last Five Years or other small cast, low budget musicals, FUDGE took artistic risks and succeeded more often than not.

They end their fourteen year run with a return of the musical about friendships, expectations, and stage business, Sondheim and Furth’s Merrily We Roll Along.  A challenging musical told in reverse chronological order, the musical is carried on the backs of three friends, Franklin Shepard, Charley Kringas, and Mary Flynn.  And Director Joey DeMita has assembled a more than capable cast.  Jared Walsh as Frank has the natural charm to tackle this rarely likeable character, Adam Schuler as Charley is the perfect blend of struggling sidekick and anxious best friend, and Andrea Giangreco as Mary will bring the raw struggle to keep her love and disappointment to the stage.  Do not miss Katie Preisig’s turn as Beth Spencer who delivers one of the show’s most moving numbers, “Not a Day Goes By.”  Saying goodbye to FUDGE is an arduous task for the theatre community, but sharing this treasure of a musical with this talented cast and crew makes the experience that much more special with “Old Friends.”

KingLear

KING LEAR

By William Shakespeare

Directed by Steven Maler

Commonwealth Shakespeare Company

Shakespeare on the Common

About the Production

FREE

July 22 – Aug. 9, 2015

Shakespeare on the Common is a city-wide treat each summer.  Assembled on the lawn in the center of Boston, talented and passionate actors perform Shakespeare’s more accessible plays for a wide audience of Boston locals and tourists.  (Sometimes) rain or shine, the company performs in broad strokes.  While the performances have not demonstrated the depth of Shakespeare’s work or language, the productions always provide free and accessible entertainment, appreciated by all.  This year, they perform King Lear, one of Shakespeare’s dark and tragic play with one of the more coveted roles in theatre for a male actor.  Will Lyman performs the titular role, a Boston favorite with over 45 years of experience and a host of awards to his name and credit.  His supporting cast, including Jeremiah Kissel, as the Earl of Kent (impressing recently in the Israeli Stage’s Ulysses on Bottles); Ed Hoopman, as Edgar (coming off his respectable turn in The Lyric Stage Company of Boston’s City of Angels); and Commonwealth Shakespeare Company favorites, Fred Sullivan, Jr. (as Gloucester) and Mimi Bilinski (as Regan), among many others.  With an aging theatre audience, questions of legacy, humanity, love, and loyalty become even more important in this iconic Shakespeare play, worthy of our time and thought.

Colossal

COLOSSAL

A National New Play Network Rolling World Premiere

By Andrew Hinderaker

Directed by Summer L. Williams

Company One

Boston Center for the Arts

Roberts Theatre, Calderwood Pavilion

527 Tremont Street

Boston, MA 02116

About the Production

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July 17 – Aug. 15, 2015 

Fresh off their acclaimed success for Edith Can Shoot Things and Hit Them, Company One returns with a very different, exhilarating experience.  Company One is known in Boston for its perfect blend of artistic risk-taking, professional productions, and fringe and welcoming community.  Its next production, Colossal, is an epic play of theatrical storytelling and full-contact physicality about football, dreams, and real life. 

What makes this production even more noteworthy is Company One’s collaboration with four other theatre companies through the National New Play Network.  This new organization is ripe to be a catalyst in theatre-making and production, as now, like never before, new plays and their playwrights are even more accessible for companies to consider and produce.  While other fringe companies, like Boston Public Works, Fresh Ink Theatre, Boston Playwrights’ Theatre, and Alley Cat Theatre, strive to bring new plays to the Greater Boston theatre community, few theatre companies are using theatre resources like Company One to revolutionize the Greater Boston theatre scene.  And, come on, who doesn’t like a bunch of guys dressed (and hopefully built) like football players, tackling each other and participating in a heartfelt love story?

BloodWedding

BLOOD WEDDING (BODAS DE SANGRE)

By Federico Garcia Lorca

Directed by Danielle Fauteux Jacques (English)

Directed by Juan Pedro Paniagua (Spanish with Escena Latina Teatro)

Apollinaire Theatre Company

Port Park

99 Marginal Street

Chelsea, MA 02150

About the Production

FREE

July 8 – 26, 2015

I’ve been waiting for a theatre company to produce Lorca, a famous Spanish poet, playwright, and theatre director.  His plays have an inherently musical feel about them, in no small part to his experience and expertise as a poet.  His play, Blood Wedding, is a play with music, emphasizing the progression of life, nature, and fate.  It’s a tragedy, inherently at odds with its chief dramatic focus, a wedding.  It is a fantastical play with characters such as Death, the Moon, and a Greek chorus of Woodcutters.  It is beautiful in its simplicity and poetic balance.  Apollinaire Theatre Company is the perfect theatre company to perform this play, especially as part of its Summer in the Park series.  This series’ ties to the Spanish and Latino community in Chelsea through its collaboration with Escena Latina Teatro is brilliant.  By performing this play outdoors and free to the public, Lorca’s beauty is accessible to communities that might not know of his work, its applicability to their lives, and the wonders of live theatre.  You should appreciate this work in both English and Spanish, so consider attending two nights (including one of the Friday performances in July).