ArtsImpulse Must See: August 2015

The summer months are waning, and, with the imminent colder weather, comes a new theatrical season.  Before the students and the Equity actors return from summer stock, we have a full plate of new and old works to escape the sweltering Boston heat.  The summer months provide repose for many, and I have appreciated the lessened theatre schedule in order to reflect on the past seven months and the busy fall to start.  I traveled to New Hampshire to see the Weathervane Theatre, and I will be traveling to Provincetown to review theatre on the Cape.  I have talked with many directors, designers, actors, and producers about their success in 2015 so far, and I have appreciated the time to read old and new plays in anticipation of the coming season. However, I’m ready for the excitement and fresh start of the fall and the opening doors of many of my favorite Boston theatre companies for another exciting season. 

Before September and Boston traffic are upon us again (including the imminent snow), we have a full slate of Must See productions.  Cassie Seinuk pens another new play, Eyes Shut. Door Open, continuing her impressive streak of smart new plays.  Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston brings the synergy of Katie Anne Clark, Jennifer Ellis, and David Hugo to its Waltham stage to close its summer musical season with Wonderful Town.  A newer fringe theatre company, Maiden Phoenix Theatre Company, emerges with the late romance The Winter’s Tale with an all-female, outdoors production.  And, finally, but certainly not least, the American Repertory Theatre continues its success of bringing new musicals to Cambridge by adapting Sara Bareilles’ music and a modern motion picture to the stage with its Waitress, a world premiere musical, about taking chances and finding love and acceptance.  These four productions offer something for everyone, from family-friendly to thought-provoking, from old classics to new favorites, from fringe stars to Tony-award winning talent.  Go taste the last dregs of summer with a Boston treat, and tell us about your favorite summer hit!

This month, we feature:

  • EYES SHUT. DOOR OPEN by Wax Wings Productions
  • WONDERFUL TOWN by Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston
  • THE WINTER’S TALE by Maiden Phoenix Theatre Company
  • WAITRESS by American Repertory Theatre (A.R.T.)
EyesShutDoorOpen

EYES SHUT. DOOR OPEN

By Cassie M. Seinuk

Directed by Christopher Randolph

Wax Wings Productions

The Inner Sanctum Gallery

Dudley Square

Roxbury, MA

About the Production

Buy Tickets

August 6 – 15, 2015

Described as a modern Cain and Abel story, the new play EYES SHUT, DOOR OPEN, by Cassie M. Seinuk, promises to be a late summer sleeper, and not in any boring sense. With Michael Underhill and Victor L. Shopov as brothers, one of whom is one-eyed and pill-popping, you know that it’s going to be an amazing show. Wax Wing Production has prided itself on its smart material which emphasizes meaty roles for talented actors. Their synergy of dramaturgy, directing, and producing make them the perfect company to tackle Seinuk’s newest play about haunting family secrets, success, and art.  In an area of Boston which rarely sees live theatre, let alone a new play, The Inner Sanctum Gallery in Roxbury could be the hot new venue as many fringe theatre companies search for access to affordable and unique locales to host their performances.  The unique variables of eye-candy actors, hot new play, and emerging venue, all cultivated by an intelligent team and production company make this a Must See production.

WonderfulTown

WONDERFUL TOWN

By Book by Joseph Fields and Jerome Chodorov (Based upon the play MY SISTER EILEEN by Joseph Fields and Jerome Chodorov, and the stories of Ruth McKenney)

Music by Leonard Bernstein

Lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolf Green

Sketches for What A Waste by Betty Comden and Adolph Green

Directed by David Hugo

Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston

617 Lexington Street

Waltham, MA

About the Production

Buy Tickets

August 6 – 16, 2015

Acclaimed regional actresses Katie Anne Clark and Jennifer Ellis take the stage as sisters, Ruth Sherwood and Eileen Sherwood, respectively, in Wonderful Town, a rarely-done, hilarious classic musical about finding and fulfilling your dreams.  Clark performs in her Equity debut, but she is no stranger to the Boston or Reagle stage; her credit as Nellie Forbush in last summer’s South Pacific is still lauded among the community for her brassy but heartwarming style.  I expect her Ruth will have similar, if not more appeal, as Clark has grown into herself and her strengths as a performer over the past few years. Ellis’ star turns continue, having previously impressed for her emerging versatility, tackling Lilly in The Secret Garden; Cathy Whitaker in Far From Heaven; Gabby/Bobbi in City of Angels; and, most recently, Zena in Out of Sterno.  The two of their rising star talents would be enough to make this production a Must See production, however, Reagle has outdone itself by inviting David Hugo back to direct another production this summer.  Award-winning for his 2014 production of Les Miserables and equally praiseworthy for his recent Guys and Dolls, Hugo should be given permanent residency at Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston for his ability to transform the large stage into a tapestry of fine acting, singing, and dancing, distilling some of the musical theatre canon’s most challenging works into enjoyable and impressive flair.  While you might not know Wonderful Town, under the skill and experience of this talented cast, you won’t find a better production of it in the near future.

TheWintersTale

THE WINTER'S TALE

By William Shakespeare

Directed by Sarah Gazdowicz

Maiden Phoenix Theatre Company

Nathan Tufts Park (aka Powderhouse Park)

Somerville, MA

About the Production

FREE

August 14 – 30, 2015

Maiden Phoenix Theatre Company is one of the newer fringe theatre companies, but don’t confuse youth with inexperience.  This company was founded with the intent to provide gender parity in our cast and crews while sacrificing nothing in production quality or the depth of the selected plays.  Shakespeare might be known for writing roles for a company of men, but Maiden Phoenix Theatre Company has reclaimed the bard’s text and made a brilliant reimagining of the gorgeous late romance play.  Centered around the jealous King Leontes; his best friend, King Polixenes; and Leontes’ wife, Queen Hermione, The Winter’s Tale focuses on jealousy, betrayal, and forgiveness.  It’s extreme in its plot, but its relatable in its heart.  By casting all females, Gazdowicz has structured the play as not only questioning our truths and sexual and platonic relationships, but focusing on the domestic violence and familial relationships. This outdoor production should be one of the best Shakespeare plays available this summer because of its unique take on a rarely done and challenging Shakespeare play.  And did I mention that it’s free?  Bring a picnic, bring a friend, bring your love for Maiden Phoenix Theatre Company.

Waitress

WAITRESS (A World Premiere Musical)

Book by Jessie Nelson

Music & lyrics by Sara Bareilles

Based upon the motion picture written by Adrienne Shelly

Directed by Diane Paulus

Choreographed by Chase Brock

American Repertory Theatre

Loeb Drama Center

64 Brattle Street

Cambridge, MA 02138

About the Production

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August 2 – September 27, 2015

I can’t omit the much talked-about new musical, Waitress, opening at the American Repertory Theatre this month.  While I will not be reviewing this production because I disagree with their treatment of press reviewers, I can’t deny that this musical should be ground-breaking and more than worthy of accolades and discussion.  Based upon the motion picture movie, Waitress tells the story of Jenna (played by Tony Award winner Jessie Mueller, a waitress and expert pie maker.  When she is offered a chance to enter a baking contest, she finally has the opportunity to escape her small town and loveless marriage.  This musical is described as a “poignant and uplifting new musical [that] celebrates friendship, motherhood, and courage.”  Diane Paulus returns to direct, having a solid reputation for baking new musicals into recipes for success on Broadway (Finding Neverland excluded).  There is something exciting about new work being workshopped in Boston before it tackles Broadway in New York; once a tryout city, Boston has a long history of providing the necessary feedback for future financial, commercial, and award-winning success.  However, we lack the critical reviews that once turned humble pie into a prize-winning dessert.