Like the Tango Itself, "Arrabal" Raises You High and Drops You Low

Like the Tango Itself, "Arrabal" Raises You High and Drops You Low

Billed as a tango-infused dance theater piece, Arrabal is making its U.S. debut at the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, Massachusetts, running now through June 18, 2017.  

The theater space is converted to be semi-immersive, transporting the audience to a Buenos Aires nightclub in the 1990s, where the double-lettered seats of the Loeb Theater are replaced by an intimate set-up of tables and chairs, complete with in-house wine service. There are two levels on the stage. The fast, furious, 90-minute show is propelled forward by the virtuosic (if sometimes bordering on painfully loud) talent of the five piece band, Orquesta Bajofonderos.

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A.R.T’s "Finding Neverland" : Lost but Soaring

The American Repertory Theatre has introduced their next Boston-to-Broadway commercial hit, Finding Neverland.  Following the life and work of J. M. Barrie, playwright and author of Peter Pan, the musical is an emotional voyage of soaring highs and valley lows; bring the whole family, but also bring the tissues.  Despite the artistic success of the Miramax film of the same name (and mostly the same story), Diane Paulus’s latest directorial endeavor (combined with the efforts of successful Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein) is a mixed bag of pixie dust magic for the stage.  The musical combines the magical talents of Jeremy Jordan, Laura Michelle Kelly, and Carolee Carmello with the lackluster score of Gary Barlow and Eliot Kennedy, leaving the production feeling like a Wickedrip-off rather than a work flying on its own merits.

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O Brave New "Tempest," or The Beauty of Smoke and Mirrors

Full disclosure: I am not a Tempest fan. One of Shakespeare’s last plays, The Tempest is heralded as a farewell to the stage, a commentary on art and life, and a post-colonial exploration (though this last lens may be a later addition to the play’s analyses). The American Repertory Theater, in association with The Smith Center for the Performing Arts, present The Tempest in all of its spectacle and glory, and probably like nothing that you have seen onstage, let alone for a Shakespearean play. With fresh perspective and adaptation by Aaron Posner (famous for his directing as well as his playwriting—see Stupid F***ing Bird) and Teller (of the famous Comedy Central duo, Penn & Teller), the play is revived with the perfect amount of magic, excitement, and wonder to bring the 400-year-old play to the twenty-first century audiences. I couldn’t help wishing for something more from the famed A.R.T. that brought us the Broadway-running Pippin and Glass Menagerie, and I wonder if, behind the curtains and magic tricks, if we just see the smoke and mirrors, and wonder, “Doesn’t the Man Behind the Curtain have anything to say?”

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Mission Uganda Accomplished?

I’m waiting for the next American musical. I’m not sure exactly in which direction it is headed, but I expect a new genre is coming. Witness Uganda at the American Repertory Theatre could be it, but not in its current form. This bright and soulful journey of a musical is brought to life by the immensely talented (and acclaimed) Diane Paulus. With softer strokes and more clarity than I’ve found in her other works, Paulus brings the world of Uganda to life in sharp juxtaposition to our Western culture, especially the busy New York City, the other location for our main characters. Told by actor/playwright Griffin Matthews, Witness Uganda takes the audience into the unfamiliar world of missionary and aid work in Uganda. Matthews wrote the piece with the incredibly versatile composer Matt Gould, as a reflection on Matthews’ real-life experience as an aid worker in Uganda.

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