ArtsImpulse Must See: May 2015

People throw around the term “Must See” pretty loosely.  Everywhere from the excited audience member to the desperate theatre company, even to a simple reviewing site like ArtsImpulse, seem to use “Must See” as a blanket stamp of approval.  However, sometimes “Must See” is not synonymous with “the best” or “award-winning.”  Often, these plays touch us as humans and artists.  These are the stories that yearn to be told and heard in our Greater Boston community.  In short, they are the plays that you are required to see to feel like a more fulfilled human and community member, at least for this month.  Are we always right in our assumptions?  No.  Sometimes, we assume a production’s potential is greater than its worth.  Sometimes, we find that a play’s script is not matched in the production’s performance.  Sometimes, however, we’re right, and we couldn’t be more pleased to see a “Must See” become a “Wow! See.”   

So, this month, let’s call these productions “Please, See.”  The list is impossibly long, and you probably won’t see all of these productions.  But it’s a starting point.  It’s a list of productions that run the gamut of theatrical storytelling – from the most epic of musicals to the newest of plays, from reimagined classics to Shakespeare performed by some of the greatest minds.  Choose what whets your palette, but join us for a “Please, See” production.  Find what moves or inspires you.  ArtsImpulse is meant to drive your appreciation and understanding of the arts, specifically, Greater Boston theatre.  We can find no greater motivation than some of these brilliant May productions.  Maybe, instead of “Please, See,” one of these productions will become one of your 2015 “Wow, See.”  I know that I’ve waited for some of them all year.  

If one of your productions made the list, or if you’re excited to attend them too, use the hashtag #PleaseSee; if you find one of these productions moves or inspires you, use the hashtag #WowSee!  (You can also always tweet us @ArtsImpulse).

To be considered for June’s entry, please email us at brian@artsimpulse.com by May 22, 2015, with information on your production, including company name, production title, director, location, production dates, and a brief reason why your production should be considered.  June’s entry will be posted at the very beginning of the month.

This month, we feature:

  • THE SUBMISSION by Zeitgeist Stage Company
  • JULIUS CAESAR by Bridge Repertory Theatre of Boston
  • MOTHERS AND SONS by SpeakEasy Stage Company
  • DON GIOVANNI by Boston Lyric Opera
  • HENRY VI, PART 2 by Actors’ Shakespeare Project
  • HOW TO SUCCEED IN BUSINESS WITHOUT REALLY TRYING by Stoneham Theatre
  • TITANIC: THE MUSICAL by Woodland Theatre Company
The Submission

THE SUBMISSION

By Jeff Talbott

Directed by David J. Miller

Zeitgeist Stage Company

Boston Center for the Arts

Black Box Theatre

539 Tremont Street, Boston, MA 02116

About the Production

Buy Tickets

May 8 – 30, 2015 

I found The Submission on Dramatists Publishing about six months ago.  I ordered the play to read because I found the plot addressed some developing questions that I had about being a millennial who is struggling to develop my voice and place in the arts.  The most compelling tag line for me is: “The lies we tell to get what we want.”  The Submission is described as a raw and unsentimental play about race and gender, but I guarantee that you have never seen young people debate prejudice and assumptions, stereotypes and theatricality, in such a convincing way.  The Submission is the kind of play that you want to relax into, but it will rock your world that leave you running to the bar next door to debate with your friends.

Julius Caesar

JULIUS CAESAR

By William Shakespeare

Directed by Olivia D’Ambrosio

Bridge Repertory Theatre of Boston

Boston Center for the Arts

Calderwood Pavilion, Hall A

527 Tremont Street, Boston, MA 02116

About the Production

Buy Tickets

May 8 – 30, 2015

Bridge Rep brings some of the most intelligent fringe theatre performances to the Greater Boston area.  They return with Shakespeare’s play of honor, patriotism, and friendship.  Olivia D’Ambrosio brings her spark to the directing chair while assembling an attractive cast of talent and charm, especially Joe Short as Brutus and John Tracey as Cassius.  They promise West-Wing-meets-Homeland type dialogue and suspense, and I expect something less from this company and cast.  With our obsession with political dramas, let’s see one of the best played in a stripped-down, actor-drive timely and timeless exploration of the state versus the individual.

Mothers and Sons

MOTHERS & SONS

By Terrence McNally

Directed by Paul Daigneault

SpeakEasy Stage Company

Boston Center for the Arts

Calderwood Pavilion, Roberts Studio Theatre

527 Tremont Street, Boston, MA 02116

About the Production

Buy Tickets

May 8 – June 6, 2015

When I heard that Terrence McNally wrote a new play, I had to read Mothers and Sons (especially since I couldn’t go to New York City for the Broadway premiere).  Luckily, barely a year later, the SpeakEasy Stage Company has brought the New England premiere to Boston.  The play centers on a mother (played by Boston legend Nancy E. Carroll) visiting her son’s former lover, this lover’s husband, and their son.  What transpires in this 100-minute production is nothing short of a mesmerizing character study into how we lose, how we move on, and how we form and love our families.  What makes this play so special is how it moves beyond the trope of gay plays and begins to dissect what it means to be gay in the 21st century – and what it means to truly move on.  You won’t want to miss the power that Nancy E. Carroll can pack in this 2014 Tony Nominee for Best Play.

Photo by Charles Erickson for Boston Lyric Opera. Set Design by Laura Jellinek. Costume Design by Tilly Grimes.

Photo by Charles Erickson for Boston Lyric Opera. Set Design by Laura Jellinek. Costume Design by Tilly Grimes.

DON GIOVANNI

Music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Libretto by Lorenzo Da Ponte

Conducted by David Angus

Stage Directed by Emma Griffin

Boston Lyric Opera

Citi Performing Arts Center

Shubert Theatre

265 Tremont Street, Boston, MA 02116

About the Production

Buy Tickets

May 1 – 10, 2015

If the picture didn’t convince you that opera is sexy, then you need your eyes checked.  The women are fierce to tangle in and out of the bed sheets with this playboy, and they are going to charm you into falling in love with them with their superb vocals and musicality.  Don Giovanni is a showcase for strong females, and Boston Lyric Opera does not disappoint.  But, more importantly, this is a production for today, complete with Hollywood glamour and glitz.  Now, more than ever, we are acutely aware of the disparate treatment of women by men, the media, and society.  In Boston Lyric Opera’s Don Giovanni, these women are out for revenge, and they never sounded (or looked) so good doing it.

Henry VI, Part 2

HENRY VI, PART 2

By William Shakespeare

Directed by Tina Packer

Actors’ Shakespeare Project

The Modern Theatre of Suffolk University

525 Washington Street, Boston, MA 02111

About the Production

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May 13 – June 7, 2015

Director Tina Packer just released a new book: The Women of Will.  And here she is in Boston with the obscure best play of the Henry VI trilogy.  You would expect her to pick a show that would feature her pontifications on women in Shakespeare plays.  Yet, here, we have a Shakespeare play with very few female characters (like most of his history plays).  The play is rife with political struggles, leading to the inevitable Wars of the Roses.  Packer’s current fascination with violence in Shakespeare makes this an obvious choice; the additional strength of the talents of Steven Barkhimer, Allyn Burrows, and Jesse Hinson, among others, makes this not to be missed.  Now, will Jennie Israel and Marya Lowry bring Packer’s new insight on female characters in Shakespeare, and will their influence shape the political upheaval and tension of this history play?

How to Succeed

HOW TO SUCCEED IN BUSINESS WITHOUT REALLY TRYING

Book by Abe Burrows, Jack Weinstock and Willie Gilbert

Music and Lyrics by Frank Loesser

Based upon the book by Shepherd Mead

Directed by Ilyse Robbins

Stoneham Theatre

395 Main Street, Stoneham, MA 02180

About the Production

Buy Tickets

May 14 – June 7, 2015

This musical received a recent revival on Broadway starring Daniel Radcliffe (post-Equus and Harry Potter fame), and a rejuvenated interest in this musical of office politics and corporate mayhem.  What people fail to realize is how timely and timeless this satire is of big business and our world and value systems.  Young, ambitious J. Pierrepont rises from lowly window-washer to the head of World Wide Wicket Company in the course of this musical (the delicious puns of WWW and the use of wickets is not lost on this business-savvy reviewer).  More importantly, this is a romp-filled, dance-heavy musical to feature the talents of award-winning Director/Choreography Ilyse Robbins and her star-studded cast.  As Ilyse says, “[T]he characters are not always likable, smart, or competent, but we do want to laugh at and with them. And you fall in love with them despite yourself.”  With a packed cast of Boston and New York City favorites, this musical promises to be toe-tapping, hummable treat for the whole family.

Titanic The Musical

TITANIC: THE MUSICAL

Music and Lyrics by Maury Yeston

Book by Peter Stone

Directed by Doug Hodge

Music Directed by Chris Holownia

Woodland Theatre Company

Lowell Mason Theatre

88R South Street, Medfield, MA 02052

About the Production

Buy Tickets

May 8 – 17, 2015

Woodland Theatre Company sets sail with one of its most impressive productions with its Titanic: The Musical this May.  Like a ship of dreams, they have assembled a diverse mix of actors from the Greater Boston area.  This epic musical is not like the 1997 romantic James Cameron movie; here, we are privy to multiple lives and stories as we explore the first, second, and third classes, along with the ship’s crew and builders.  The result is a richer, more powerful tale of dreams left unfulfilled and the hope that remains, as we re-live this historic voyage with the mix of real and fictional characters.  As Director Doug Hodge says, “With its sweeping score, and tragic overtones, Titanic: The Musical has so much warmth and hope.  Each character is onboard for a specific reason. Most are searching for a better life.  I think it is that sense of hope, promise, and tragic loss that continues to connect us to a disaster that happened over 100 years ago.”  We continue to connect with our past while moving towards our future; I couldn’t think of a better way to be reminded of this memorable tragedy than seeing Woodland’s Titanic: The Musical.