For the beginning of their 10th Anniversary season, Bad Habit Productions (“BHP”) opened with a lovely and charming chamber musical, A Man of No Importance. Walking through a side corridor in the Wimberley Theater, and onto the stage, I felt as if I was wandering into somewhere I wasn’t supposed to be. The stage and audience were arranged on the mainstage itself, with the curtain drawn, blocking out the normal house seats. This setting, coupled with set designer/director Daniel Morris’ simple, rustic set, was intimate and made one feel as if she was in the "rec room" of a church in dreary Dublin
Featuring the longest scene without a musical number in the history of musical theater (over 30 minutes), 1776 is in many ways a theatrical oddity. Not only does it go for long stretches without musical numbers, a keen dramaturgical ear has difficulty in the narrative and song structure as it exists in the stage version. Act I goes from the large ensemble number “Cool, Cool, Considerate Men” right into the devastatingly haunting “Mama Look Sharp” with barely a breath in between. Likewise, the end of Act II is also peculiar in that there is no real finale number (even though the song title is “Finale”) it feels more as if the piece just begins to fade like a flickering candle as the roll is called to sign the Declaration of Independence
O.W.I.’s mission is to subvert expectations through the premiere of new plays or the reimagining of old stories. David Henry Hwang’s Yellow Face is a prime example of reimagining stories since it is in itself semi-autobiographical, blurring the lines between truth and fiction. The play also explores the uncomfortable, and still very important, theme of race and its representation in the arts.
Amidst tragedy in our world, Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston shines with its bright and hopeful production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Carousel. Under the skillful and innovative direction of Director-Choreographer Rachel Bertone, and a heavenly cast of Boston-favorite performers, Carousel becomes a “can’t be missed” production about missed opportunities, second chances, and the power of love and hope from within the darkness.
The Boston Lyric Opera (the “BLO”) finished its season – and its tenure at the Shubert Theatre – with Franz Lehar’s The Merry Widow. This closing of one chapter and moving onto another was emphasized by the directorial choice of setting the production on the Eve of World War I – New Year’s Eve, to be precise – rather than its original 1905 setting. Clever to emphasize the progression from one place or time to another; that is, until it became apparent that the only directorial vision was “to be clever.”
In gorgeous strokes of empathy and intimacy, Brown Box Theatre Project presents the poetic and deeply personal Brilliant Traces at the Atlantic Wharf in Boston before continuing its run on its tour to Maryland (Oxford, Salisbury, and Ocean City). Driven by the strength of Cindy Lou Johnson’s tight script, Director Kyler Taustin and his talented cast of Laura Menzie and Spencer Parli Tew perform a surprisingly invigorating production in its tenderness, questioning, and thought-provoking story of how we face our scars that leave brilliant traces and the cathartic ways that we move on with the help of others.
Flying into the Boston Center for the Arts, the Sleeping Weazel soars with three original plays, as part of its “The Birds and the Bees: A Festival of New Plays” tackling mortality, conformity, and camaraderie, and myriad of other issues and ideas with originality and charm.
Boston theatre does not usually get the luxury of seeing original plays get a second draft and production. Playwright and Producer Cassie M. Seinuk revives her award-winning Eyes Shut. Door Open. to critical success, sharpening the play’s focus, expanding key moments, and re-defining our understanding of this Cain-and-Abel story. The production boasts many of the same delights, especially the thrilling cast, as the original production. The trimmed script and additional technical resources allow the play to be seen with new eyes; the key, however, is for the play to be seen and appreciated for all of its spectacle and thrills.
Boston Opera Collaborative mounted a lean but impressive production of "Family Feuds" at Central Square Theater last weekend. Raked seating surrounded the modest but thoughtful set on three sides, giving immediate access to the performers -- not a bad seat in the house. This unique program brought together three one-act operas, each with its own cast, director, and pianist (no orchestra or other instruments present). As implied by the title, the three stand-alone stories had similar themes: family we love, family we choose, and family we are stuck with. Three stories, one wild ride.
I’m not sure that I will ever again bear witness to a local theatrical production that has a more suitable setting than the Great House at the Crane Estate is for The Trustees/Castle Hill Productions of Lettuce and Lovage, an engaging and often humorous character study given a unique presentation where its venue itself actually gets listed in the program as part of the cast.