"Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike" are Colorful but Safe Additions to the Neighborhood

Huntington Theatre Company starts the 2015 theatre season off on a strong note by introducing Boston to the wonderfully zany world of Christopher Durang’s unapologetic love note to Chekhov in his Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike.  Durang is an aging playwright who gained considerable respect with his many off-kilter plays with underlying scathing analyses of our contemporary lives.  However, Vanya and Masha and Sonia and Spike is a more sophisticated play than its predecessors, relying as much on Durang’s rants as the common variations on larger-than-life characters of his prior works.  The play is a fulfilling but hollow example of appealing to the masses under the safe disguise of modern theatre.

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"The Seagull" Lands Gracefully

Chekhov wrote The Seagull over a hundred years ago for a Russian audience longing to laugh in the misery of their daily lives. This month, the Huntington Theatre Company brings this classic to their stage with a keen sensitivity to Chekhov’s purpose. While some reviewers and audience members may disagree, I found the play wonderfully hilarious as people searching, yearning, and fighting for their dreams, despite the hopeless limitations of their daily lives. It’s some of the original modern “dark comedy,” and it’s not everyone’s tastes. However, the Huntington makes the play so deliciously good with nuanced performers from some very talented performers and a gorgeous set (yes, I recognize that most of Russia should not be this picturesque) that you can’t help but long to live in a world long ago and far away. With sharp reminders of our pursuit of art for art’s sake, the deep longing for dreams unachieved, and the conflict between the old and young, the Huntington’s The Seagull soars as some sharp commentary as timely as when Chekhov wrote the piece.

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The Huntington Practices Safe Sex with "Venus in Fur"

Venus in fur. Ven-us in fur. These words are purred by our gorgeous leading lady, Vanda, played by the seductive and mysterious Andrea Syglowski, with growing anticipation. Syglowski expertly casts a spell over Chris Kipiniak’s stuffy Thomas and audience alike during a spell-binding performance of David Ives’ Venus in Fur. David Ives, known for his incredibly witty plays, took Broadway by storm with this alluring and sexy play. Based on Leopold von Sacher-Masoch’s novel, the story of Severin and Vanda tells of two buttoned-up lovers who resist, evade, challenge, and submit to each other; in fact, the work may have coined the term “masochism” for its “submissive erotic entanglement.” Beneath this “porn,” Ives found a delicious story of gender roles, expectations, and power plays that make for an electric night at the theatre.

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"Rapture, Blister, Burn" Ignites Thought-Provoking Discourse

It’s hard to forget a company like the Huntington Theatre Company in Boston. It surprises audiences continuously with its award-winning seasons. Their late spring production of Rapture, Blister, Burn was no exception. Peter DuBois led a charming cast of talent in this biting new comedy by Gina Gionfriddo. While Gionfriddo is not a household name, she should be on every theatre-goers’ list. This play was a 2013 Pulitzer Prize finalist, and no surprise. The comedy centers around the awkward time when one wonders, “Where am I now, and what have I left behind?” Sidled with guilt and doubt about one’s choices, one is left with the burden of re-identifying oneself while re-affirming one’s life decisions. This philosophical and introspective discussion is a lot more fun on-stage, thanks to the wonderful cast and script, I promise.

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Not the Town I Remember, or the Town You Forget

I’m going to be in the minority; I don’t like it. I had a tough time sitting down to write this review because I was uncertain how to articulate exactly how I felt walking out of the Huntington Theatre Company’s Our Town a few weeks ago. This iconic show is magical and dazzling. In my defense  I was not the show’s biggest fan from an early age, mocking its simplicity, its awkward staging (honestly, who can mime churning butter and deliver anything remotely worthy of a character—Melinda Lopez and Stacy Fisher, that’s who), and its dated relevance. Fortunately, I revisited the play shortly after graduating high school and I found new depth, new character, and new charm. And I thought I was done with the play until I was called upon in my middle age to play Dr. Gibbs in a community theatre production.

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Bowing Down To The "God of Carnage"

Sometimes you see those shows where everything clicks from the script to the acting to the production elements. Everything works as an integrated whole to create a visceral experience. My night at the Huntington’s God of Carnage was one of these experiences. I wasn’t familiar with Yasmina Reza, the playwright, or her work, but I’ll definitely become familiar with her. Her simple story of four couples meeting to discuss a schoolyard incident between their two sons is ingenious. The simplicity leaves room for the gigantic personalities to emerge as colossal gods and goddesses in this play about our attempts to control our world and our failure to overcome our primitive urges.

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The Huntington Delights and Inspires with A New "Candide"

The rarely-produced Candide is a literary torment to stage; not only does the musical feature an impressive and daunting score, but there is a large ensemble of characters, numerous set changes through magical worlds, and a distinct comedic style that borders on the macabre. I can think of few companies other than the Huntington Theatre Company with the talent, resources and ambition to accomplish such a stunning production of this glorious musical. With the broad strokes of her delightful new adaptation of the classic Voltaire satire, Mary Zimmerman adds an artful eye to the minutiae in her staging and directing of the musical numbers, fluid scene changes, and ingenious relationships between the many featured characters and ensemble members.
 

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