A Chamber Musical of Much "Importance"

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

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"Albert Herring" is Accessible Opera for All

Boston Opera Collaborative expands its repertoire by performing Benjamin Britten’s rarely-performed three-act opera Albert Herring at Dorchester’s Strand Theatre as a part of the Free for All Concert Fund. Directed and orchestrated by 2013 My Theatre (Boston) Award-winning Stage Director Katherine Carter, and Music Director and Conductor Andrew Altenbach, the accessible production is a treat for all ages, expertly sung in English and also including English supertitles. With clever staging and gorgeous vocal flourishes, Albert Herring was a charming chap for an afternoon at the theatre.

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Who Really Ends Up on Top?

Who Really Ends Up on Top?

Caryl Churchill is one of my favorite female playwrights to read. I find her work almost unmanageable onstage because of her feminist tilt and unforgiveable agenda. With that lens, I attended Bad Habit Production’s Top Girls, Churchill’s most iconic and arguably best work, featuring a strong ensemble of Boston’s top female actresses. While the play’s opening act is burdened with a lack of purpose and conflict, the second act sizzles with the perfect heat of passionate performances, incited conflict, and diverse performances. Director Liz Fenstermaker offers some subtle touches, but, for the most part, she allows her actors to bring Churchill’s (“dated”) work to stunning climax as a continuing dialogue of women’s place and dynamic in the home, in the workforce, and in society.

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Understanding "Translations"

Brian Friel’s Translations is a tough code to crack. The 1980 three-act play by the Irish playwright is a piece about language, and while it has many other themes and ideas, it’s ultimately about how we communicate. However, Friel communicates in such heavy-handed tones that you can’t help feeling like you’re a child listening to your big brother’s class in linguistics, or, even worse, a college English class with an infusion of commentary on Irish oppression. Nothing feels subtle, nothing feels like it lacks purpose. Understanding Translations is annoying at best, and painful at worst. Thankfully, Bad Habit Productions assembles a top-notch cast and outstanding crew to salvage a dated script and an odd production choice for this emerging, talented company.

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Catching Keiller’s "White Rabbit, Red Rabbit"

It’s hard to articulate exactly what I saw when I witnessed Maureen Keiller’s remarkable performance in the emerging hit White Rabbit, Red Rabbitby Nassim Soleimanpour. The one-man (or woman) play, produced as limited one-night engagements featuring other popular Boston actors such as Victor Shopov and John Kuntz, is a treat for anyone interested in the powerful quality of seeing art and story be created before your eyes. Zeitgeist Stage Company is known for taking risks, some of them successful and some less so, but always with an eye and ear for shaking up the Boston theatre scene. White Rabbit, Red Rabbit may be their most unique treat to date.

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Flying On Directorial Wings: "Angels in America, Part 1"

Angels in America: Part 1 – Millennium Approaches is an ambitious piece of theatre. The play demands outstanding performers, technical innovation and precision, and a strong directorial concept and eye for detail. The Umbrella (formerly the Emerson Umbrella) in Concord, Massachusetts astounds and surprises with its professional delivery of Tony Kushner’s epic play. This performance marks the first of a two-part series, the second play being performed in the Fall 2014 with the cast reprising their roles to finish the saga. I can only say that I cannot wait to see this rarely-performed, beautiful story continuing with the same heart-breaking emotion, truthful portrayals, and searching truth found in Part 1.

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No One Puts Happy Medium’s Baby in a Corner

Many people underestimate how difficult Christopher Durang is to perform. With a snarky and dark sense of humor, bordering on the macabre, Durang leaves nothing uncommented in his plays. Happy Medium Theatre’s Baby with the Bathwater performs the play with a sensitivity and awareness of the biting ultra-realism of one of Durang’s most famous and crowd-favourite work. Directed by 2013 My Theatre Award Nominee Lizette M. Morris, the play is a highlight of Happy Medium’s work. The production performs as a testament to the strong acting, outstanding vision, and smart directing inherent in the company.

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Taming Molière’s "Lovers’ Quarrels"

imaginary beasts offers some of the best ensemble work in Boston. Under the smart guidance of veteran Director Matthew Woods and the extremely capable Stage Manager Deidre Benson, imaginary beasts consistently offer quality entertainment at the Boston fringe level. Molière’sLovers’ Quarrels is both a logical and puzzling choice for the company. The theatre company is well-accustomed to its modern and innovative re-telling and mastery of classic works. Molière’s beast cannot be tamed, however. “Translated” into English verse by Richard Wilbur, the play is burdened with enough battles to make even the most enthusiastic young lover run away with fear. One of Molière’s earlier plays, Lovers’ Quarrels is a described as a “complex comedy,” and that might be the understatement of the century. Plagued with deception, misunderstanding, and missed opportunities, Molière’s text is a dizzying array of characters and plots (and subplots and loose knots and tight knots and lovers’ knots and so on). I can attempt to describe what I believe is a synopsis of the play, but I may miss or misinterpret details (reader beware):

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Jack is Back, But Ripped Apart

Jack the Ripper is not a new tale; tracing back to the 19th century, Jack the Ripper has haunted and plagued the media and bedtime stories as an unsolved “murder of the century.” In fact, Jack the Ripper (can he ever be “Just Jack”?) was selected by theBBC History magazine as the worst Briton in history. That’s quite a feat. Why is he the worst? Because he killed no less than eleven women? Because he sexually assaulted his victims? No, but because he is a fear which is spoken but rarely named and never caught. Jack the Ripper represents the unknown, but, more than that, he holds a special place in history because of the many sociopolitical effects of his “Whitecapel murders.” So why the exposition? The F.U.D.G.E Theatre Company premieres Jack the Ripper: The Whitechapel Musical at the Boston Playwrights’ Theatre, book and lyrics by Christopher-Michael DiGrazia and Steven Bergman, and music by Steven Bergman. While the musical dates back to the 1990s, this musical has been revised such that it feels like a new piece. The musical, however, falls into bad habits and, like Jack the Ripper, commits some disturbing murders of otherwise talented performers.

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Sort of a Different F***ing Fowl

Like Chekhov, the Apollinaire Theatre Company’s Stupid F***ing Bird may not be everyone’s  bird of choice, but it flies with its own grace and charm that make it a fowl with its own coloring. Resembling its cousin The SeagullStupid F***ing Bird isn’t stupid as much as misunderstood and, under Jacques’ careful direction, the cast, especially Osborn-Lief, bring the stories to life for a new generation of stupid f***ing people.

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Bye, Felicia

Bridge Repertory Theater of Boston was a My Theatre favourite in 2013. With a strong introduction to the Boston scene with The Libertine, Bridge Rep has quickly made itself known as one of the more professional fringe theatres in Boston. Though I missed their Not Jenny, I had high expectations for this season. Their talent is outstanding, their season is diverse, and their executive board is unmatched. And then they produced Hello Again.

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A Requiem for a Dance

Difficult material often makes for the best theatre. With the constant barrage of stories about public shootings throughout the country, you cannot turn on a major news station without confronting the unspeakable terror of hatred and uncertainty. From this despair comes the provocative and timely Bully Dance written by Huntington Playwriting Fellow David Yaldes Greenwood. Under the creative and empathetic guidance of exciting director Sarah GazdowiczArgos Productions creates a moving and memorable piece about what it means to forgive, even in the face of darkness and confusion. There are no easy answers, either in the play or in real life, and Greenwood and Gazdowicz with the help of some truly outstanding and diverse female actresses help lead us onto a path of understanding.

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Wanting More From "Company"

Company features one of my favourite openings to a musical; the haunting tones of the “Bobby” (and the many variations on this name) echo throughout the theatre, the mythical and almost fantastical element of storytelling about turning the dreaded thirty-five years old, and the overwhelming introduction to the many fast-talking, always-moving supporting characters offer so much life and anticipation for the introduction to this iconic musical. So, there’s that. In just a ten-minute opening, I feel like Sondheim has told me everything that I need to know to understand these characters, their stories, and their lives. It’s beautiful playwriting and composing.

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Porpentine Players Seek to Fill Boston Niche Theatre

I desperately want to like new, emerging fringe theatre in Boston. While we have a vibrant fringe scene, such scene can always use support from patrons and reviewers, especially if it’s good. Porpentine Players offers rarely-produced classic and period pieces for Boston audiences. However, their inaugural production of the terribly difficult A Man for All Seasons by Robert Bolt is just not good. I hate to be too critical of an emerging theatre company, but I also can’t mislead audience members in their experiences. Therefore, I plunge ahead in my review for what turned out to be a painful night at the theatre.

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Argos Dresses Finely for "The Haberdasher"

Those people who know me as a theatre reviewer know that I have a list. This list includes some of my favourite theatre artists (directors, actors, designers), but they also include my list of “If I only had enough time to see their work” artists. Luckily, I had time to review not one but two artists on this list.The Haberdasher!: A Tale of Derring-Do is an exciting new play by Boston’s always-clever, never-safe playwright Walt McGough. McGough is one of those playwright about whom you hear Boston theatre professionals whisper in hushed tones; he has quickly made a name for himself as a prolific playwright in the Boston theatre scene. Needless to say, I needed to see his work, and I was not disappointed.

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Zeitgeist’s "The Normal Heart" Beats With Greatness

I believe that one point of theatre is to recognize the power of discussion and the poignancy of learning from watching others. Such discourse allows communities to react with knowledge, motivation, and purpose. To that end, Zeitgeist Stage Company performed a smart and heart-wrenching production of Larry Kramer’s The Normal Heart. Helmed by veteran director David Miller, the cast performs the iconic show with such raw emotion, making the show come alive for a new generation of audience members and creating the perfect journey for their characters and the audience.

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"The Libertine" Introduces a New Boston Company as Top Shelf

I didn’t know what to expect when I agreed to review Bridge Repertory Theater of Boston’sThe Libertine. I rarely review new companies, after making that mistake much earlier in my reviewing career; now, I wait until they have established themselves for a season or at least I know a few reputable actors. Here, I knew neither company nor actors. I didn’t even know the show! Oh how I was surprised and amazed at what Boston theatre could be!

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"Rooms: A Rock Romance" Stood on Rocky Ground

Bad Habit Productions has proven to produce some of My Theatre staff’s favorites (Arcadia and Much Ado . . . With a Twist just to name a few). They are known for their willingness to take chances and succeed. Rooms: A Rock Romance fell a little flat for me, and I am still struggling to discover why I feel that way. Directed by one of my favorite Boston directors and theatre artists, Daniel Morris, Rooms is a two-person journey through the ways and extremes that we are willing to attempt to connect with others. Moreover, it’s an excellent commentary on the things we give up as we pursue our goals. I am unfamiliar with the musical, so perhaps my complaints and hesitations are directed not at this production but at Paul Scott Goodman’s show.

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"Psycho Beach Party" Feels Like a Drunk Mess

Sigh. It’s never a good sign when I sigh. I really wanted to love this production. Hell, I wanted to love it. I am a huge fan of the movie, having found it one day while surfing channels in my young adolescence. However, the play produced by the joint efforts of Happy Medium Theatre and Heart & Dagger Productions does not live up to its source material. In fact, the production feels completely new. Now, for many people, especially those unfamiliar with the movie, the change may be unnoticeable, enjoyable, or even welcomed. Therefore, take my criticism with a grain of salt for someone who came to the production with clear expectations.

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Wanting To Hop on "A Streetcar Named Desire"

I am not a Tennessee Williams fan. I just cannot appreciate his style or his place in the American theatre canon. Perhaps I think he’s a tad too fixated (as part of his times) on gender and sexuality binaries. That said, I knew that I had to catch Wax Wings Productions’ A Streetcar Named Desire. The company has made a splash on the Boston fringe theatre scene, and the production featured one of my favorite Boston actors, Jesse Wood. Surprisingly (and unsurprisingly, at the same time), I was not disappointed.

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