ArtsImpulse Must See: November 2015

Winter is coming, or so they say.  Boston becomes an isolated and lonely place in the winter.  How many times have you tried to get a friend to leave his or her house or apartment, only to be reminded that it’s better to drink wine while bingeing on Netflix because “it’s too cold” or “isn’t it supposed to snow”?  Yes, the opportunities for social interaction seem to wane after Daylight Saving Time, and we’ll emerge again from hibernation in early Spring. 

However, this month, we have seven new and classic plays and musicals, which should excite you to leave behind the newest episode of Scandal or Empire, and head to the theatre. Theatre is one of our few remaining social and cultural experiences, an opportunity to engage as a community around a common topic in the same venue.  This chance to meet like-minded people, or even people from different perspectives and experience but with a common appreciation, creates an opportunity for engagement.  These productions address our needs for connection, the potential for relationships, and the results of seeking companionship.  Telling tales about people throughout history and around the world, using fictional and based-on-real stories, and featuring realistic and magical communities, these productions offer us the chance to look within ourselves to find our potential for love, friendship, success, and happiness through our connections.  Or perhaps find the folly of it all?  Is it folly or is it fun?  Are we a giant experiment or have we found the magic in it all?  Either way, watching the stories unfold is half of the fun, and the conversations after the production is all of the magic.

This month, we feature:

LAB RATS (A World Premiere Production) by Brown Box Theatre Project

SIX DEGREES OF SEPARATION by Bad Habit Productions

BONNIE & CLYDE: A NEW MUSICAL (New England Premiere) by The Umbrella

A CONFEDERACY OF DUNCES by Huntington Theater Company

THE SNOW QUEEN by New Repertory Theatre

UCARMEN / A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM by ArtsEmerson

FOLLIES by The Concord Players

LabRats

LAB RATS (A World Premiere Production)

By Patrick Gabridge

Directed by Kyler Taustin

Brown Box Theatre Project

Atlantic Wharf

290 Congress Street, Boston, MA

About the Production

Buy Tickets - FREE, but RSVP Required and Donations Accepted

November 6 – 15, 2015

No month in Boston would be complete without an original play with its world premiere production by a local Boston theatre company.  Boston is becoming a strong hub for playwrights to experiment with their new works, and Patrick Gabridge’s Lab Rats promises to be an excellent experiment.  Described as a “sharply comic love story,” Lab Rats stars Marc Pierre (Gloucester Stage Company’s The Flick) and Breena Fitzgerald (Company One’s The Flick) as Jake and Mika, two twenty-somethings who earn a living as test subjects in medical experiments. Their alliances, trust, and perceptions are tested as they navigate their own treacherous maze of friendship and relationships.  With so many twenty-somethings in Boston feeling lost, looking for an escape, and desperately seeking some connection, this play offers these stories a voice and a presence that is worth observing. The production runs in both Boston and Maryland.  They continue their history and commitment to offering high-quality theatre for all audiences for FREE!

SixDegreesOfSeparation

SIX DEGREES OF SEPARATION

By John Guare

Directed by Liz Fenstermaker

Bad Habit Productions

Calderwood Pavilion

Boston Center for the Arts

539 Tremont Street, Boston, MA

About the Production

Buy Tickets

November 7 – 22, 2015

Having studied and performed parts of this play in college, I am quite ecstatic to see a Boston theatre company like Bad Habit Productions tackle Guare’s work.  Winner of the 1993 Olivier Award for Best Play and the New York Drama Critics Circle Award, Six Degrees of Separation explores the threads of chance and experience that connect us to one another.  The quick-paced play begins with an unexpected arrival of a mysterious guest, and ends with a shattering discovery. In a city as big as Boston, we are often confronted with the feeling of loneliness, disconnection, and isolation; Guare’s play is both comforting and frightening, a modern day horror story of deception and lies.  This play feels even more palpable considering our use and abuse of technology, to hide and to discover, to seek and to be sought.  Featuring Christine Power (Off the Grid’s Equus and Fresh Ink’s Chalk) as Ouisa, Steven L. Emanuelson (Bad Habit Production’s The Goat, Or Who Is Sylvia?) as Flan, and Elyas Deen Harris (who is returning to the Boston stages) as Paul, Six Degrees of Separation promises to startle and expose us all for the secrets, the connections, and the prejudices we hold most dear.

Bonnie&Clyde

BONNIE & CLYDE: A NEW MUSICAL (A New England Premiere Production)

Music by Frank Wildhorn

Lyrics by Don Black

Book by Ivan Menchell

Directed by Nancy Curran Willis

Music directed by Ben Discipio

The Umbrella

40 Stow Street, Concord, MA

About the Production

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November 6 – 22, 2015

When Wildhorn’s musical hit Broadway in 2011, the production could be called anything but a success, opening to mixed to negative reviews.  Yet this criticism seems to be a reflection of New York City’s critics’ contempt for Wildhorn rather than a true commentary on the work. The musical received rave reviews regionally, and it is now available for local production and it comes to the award-winning Umbrella in Concord.  Under the bright and imaginative direction of Nancy Curran Willis (The Umbrella’s Angels in America, Part I and II), the musical about the infamous daredevil duo promises to keep you on the edge of your seats with gunshots, chases, love stories, and a few bank robberies.  The excitement, however, is in Wildhorn’s “undeniably impressive” score.  Wildhorn is perhaps best known for his Jekyll & Hyde and The Scarlet Pimpernel, but here, his music has a bolder, more contemporary feel.  Americana seems to parade through each song, but, underneath, we feel Bonnie and Clyde’s desires to make something for themselves.  The American Dream is very much alive in this fresh musical, and I can’t wait to see their gun-filled pursuit of this Dream.

AConfederacyofDunces

A CONFEDERACY OF DUNCES

By Jeffrey Hatcher

Based on the novel by John Kennedy Toole

Directed by David Esbjornson

Huntington Theater Company

Boston University Theatre

264 Huntington Avenue, Boston, MA

About the Production

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November 11 – December 13, 2015

Nick Offerman (Parks and Recreation) has enough claim-to-fame in himself.  But the Huntington Theater Company also bring American novelist John Kennedy Toole’s novel to the stage.  Described as a picturesque novel, A Confederacy of Dunces tells the tales of Ignatius J. Reilly, a modern-day Don Quixote in the French Quarters, who lives with his mother and has various adventures in his pursuit for employment in the 1960s. The novel varies in form, which should make for interesting work for Offerman.  The novel has been slated for a film adaptation since the 1980s and its publication, but the epic comedy has now been adapted for the stage by Jeffrey Hatcher.  The play’s history seems oddly guarded with an industry read in New York in 2014 and a potential Broadway run in the works. Could this Huntington production be an out-of-town try-out for Offerman and Director David Esbjornson’s cast. You’d have to be as crazy as Reilly to miss the play while it’s here.

TheSnowQueen

THE SNOW QUEEN

Book by Kirsten Brandt and Rick Lombardo

Music by Haddon Kime

Lyrics by Kirsten Brandt, Haddon Kime, and Rick Lombardo

Directed and choreographed by Rick Lombardo

Musical directed by Emily Intersimone

New Repertory Theatre

Arsenal Center for the Arts

321 Arsenal Street, Watertown, MA

About the Production

Buy Tickets

November 28 – December 20, 2015

Anyone need more information than Aimee Doherty (Far From Heaven, Big Fish, Into the Woods, Hairspray) is starring as The Snow Queen?  We have a queenly presence among us, and she finally has the role worthy of her talents.  She is joined by the imaginative cast, featuring Maureen Keiller (Come Back, Little Sheba; Into the Woods; 33 Variations), Nick Sulfaro (The Little Prince), Jackie Theoharis (Hairspray, Into the Woods, Spring Awakening), Maurice Emmanuel Parent (Far From Heaven, Into the Woods, Shrek the Musical), and returning Victoria Britt from New York City.  Co-written and directed by former New Rep Artistic Director, Rick Lombardo, the musical features a pop/rock score, which will enchant the entire family.  Given the company’s success in its dazzling The Little Prince last season, I am willing to journey along with Gerda and Kai to the palace of the Snow Queen. I think that this will be a holiday treat to remember.

uCarmenAMidsummerNightsDream

UCARMEN / A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM

Composed by George Bizet

Book by Henri Meilhac and Ludovic Halévy

Isango Ensemble

ArtsEmerson

Emerson/Cutler Majestic Theatre

219 Tremont Street, Boston, MA

About the Production

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November 10 – 22, 2015

I missed last season’s The Magic Flute brought by the world-renowned South African company, Isango Ensemble, but they return with two re-imagined operas this month. uCarmen and A Midsummer Night’s Dream promise to be just as magical and unforgettable.  uCarmen is re-imagined in modern South African with the famous femme fatale, Carmen, “a strong and independent woman who will not be tamed.” A Midsummer Night’s Dream uses the magical original to create a faithful adaptation akin to its original spirit.  ArtsEmerson has a powerful mission of bringing world talent to our Boston community, and few theatre companies present as unusual, important, spell-binding work as Isango Ensemble.  The Ensemble continues to blend expressive voices with African folklore within our classical operas.  These double-billed operas promise to bring excitement and passion unlike anything else this season.

Follies

FOLLIES

Book by James Goldman

Music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim

Directed by Donnie Baillargeon

Music directed by Don Boroson

Choreographed by Jen Condon

The Concord Players

51 Walden Street, Concord, MA

About the Production

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November 6 – 21, 2015

Boston has a Sondheim problem, and few people are complaining. With other productions of Into the Woods, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, A Little Night Music, Assassins, Merrily We Roll Along, and Sweeney Todd, among others, Boston has seen its share of the genius songwriter/composer.  But no theatre companies in recent memory have produced Follies, perhaps just as forgotten as its story feels. Nominated for eleven Tony Awards in 1971 when it opened on Broadway, the musical focuses on the reunion of the past performers of the Weismann's Follies (based on the Ziegfeld Follies) in a crumbling Broadway theatre.  The musical is a form of theatre nostalgia, an off-kilter love story, and a little neurosis.  The hollowness and unveiled falsity of the characters’ dreams reveals how lost the characters (and we) feel when we look back with 20/20 vision.  The musical is each character’s folly, told through song, featuring some famously haunting musical numbers such as “Beautiful Girls,” “I’m Still Here,” “You’re Gonna Love Tomorrow,” and “Losing My Mind.”  Brava to The Concord Players for tackling this rarely-done, emotional musical. I can’t wait to feel the raw intensity of this award-winning community theatre and its wealth of talent.