Cricket's Notebook "Monday, 2 January, 2012 4:50 p m "RePLAY 2011!"

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide

| MARQUEE | USHER | SEATS | INTERMISSION | CURTAIN |


Cricket's Notebook
Monday, 2 January, 2011 4:50 p m +

"RePLAY 2011!"

'Nutha Year Done Gone......
And What a WONderful year it was!
I only saw 242 plays this year --- the same as last year --- but the list of "Memorable Shows" I noted totalled 144, and each and every one of them had a unique claim to memory --- just like always. The level of excellent work done here is astonishing, in all styles, on all levels, in so many different kinds of places. I think any "critic" claiming it easy to pick only One stand-out "best" show or person, frankly, probably saw too few plays this year!

Of course, I riffled through the deck, and there were a handfull of Blockbuster Beautiful BESTs --- shows so good that everyone connected with them deserves a standout Gold Star. If you saw any of them, you'll know why every single one of them is, in my mind, THE Best; if you weren't there, ... nothing I can say can compensate.

Call them the SUPERbests; and I want each one of them to stand alone, with a little space between them.
The really important thing here, though, is the spread of styles and the variety of spaces and economies represented here. Great theater can show up ANYwhere; these did:

30 dec UNCLE VANYA Apollinaire Theatre Company CHELSEA THEATRE WORKS 242

13 nov IN THE RED AND BROWN WATER Company One BCA 218
13 nov THE BROTHERS SIZE Company One BCA 219
13 nov MARCUS; Or THE SECRET OF SWEET Company One BCA 219

26 nov ARABIAN NIGHTS Nora Theatre Company/Underground Railway Theatre CENTRAL SQUARE THEATER 226

16 sep THE MISUNDERSTANDING Boston Experimental Theatre BCA 173

10 dec THE MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR Actors'Shakespeare Project DAVIS SQUARE THEATRE 234

15 nov ANGEL REAPERS Martha Clarke/Alfred Uhry EMERSON ARTS Cutler Majestic 220

31 mar PAUL Sandra Feinstein GAMM Theatre PAWTUCKET RI 68

2 oct HIS GIRL FRIDAY Trinity Repertory Company PROVIDENCE 188

Those are The Biggies --- at least for me.

Now, locally, particularly in the field of musicals, there are companies whose work Always stands out. They are almost "Brand-Name" reliable; and of course, they came through this year. How about one each:

21 sep CANDIDE Huntington Theatre Company 177
4 sep BIG RIVER Lyric Stage of Boston Inc 165
8 jun MY FAIR LADY North Shore Music Theatre BEVERLY 117
27 oct DIVINE SISTER SpeakEasy Stage Company BCA 204

Then there are lesser-known groups who turned in especially excellent or innovative shows --- some actually surprising:

34 jul CAROUSEL f.u.d.g.e. BLACK BOX New Rep 144
23 jan NINE SpeakEasy BCA 15
3 jul THE MOST HAPPY FELLA Gloucester Stage Company 129
8 apr RENT Footlight Club 73
8 jul SISTERS OF SWING Stoneham Theatre 131

Some plays, besides just being excellently executed and good, broke compelling fresh ground with Subject Matter:

27 mar 9 CIRCLES Publick Theatre BCA 65
23 jul OUTSIDE THE WIRE Cornerstone Stage Company BCA 140

These two plays dealt, brutally and compassionately, with returning veterans of our most recent wars.
Sometimes, coming home in one piece doesn't quite add up to survival.

25 jun SMUDGE Ghostlight Theatre SALEM THEATRE COMPANY 125

What if, through no one's fault, a newborn baby's mind never grows?

15 may A PICASSO Merrimack Repertory Theatre LOWELL 105

This excellent exploration of why a painting is "worth" anything is going to get produced a little closer to home. Great!

28 may THE BIBLE: COMPLETE WORD OF GOD (ABRIDGED) Zero Point Theater NEW REP BLACK BOX 114

Zero Point is a labor of love by its artistic-director and rarely has enough money or artistic oomph; but this trio of inspired zanies really warmed my giggly Atheist's heart!

The next two plays bring bittersweet memories of Krista D'Agostino, who directed the first, and acted (okay, "starred") in the second. She's off in Chicago doing something irrelevent like getting married, and pretty much took Holland Productions with her. Maybe I should have quoted what Charley Kane said to Jed Leland --- "That wind's pretty cold off the lake out there, and I don't know if they've ever heard of Lobster Newburg" --- but it probably wouldn't help. I'll just have to miss her till she decided to come back.

9 jul HIDEOUS PROGENY Holland Productions BOSTON PLAYWRIGHTS' THEATRE 132
27 may THE COUNTRY CLUB Happy Medium Theatre THE FACTORY THEATRE 113

Boston is full of playwrights worthy of attention, but I found the name of this young man (he did a talk-back) on two new and highly original plays I adored --- plays almost as different from each other as possible. The name is Walt McGough; I'll be looking for it in the future!

6 oct THE FARM Boston Playwrights' Theatre 189
16 dec PRISCILLA DREAMS THE ANSWER Fresh Ink Theatre THE FACTORY 238

Sometimes it's a little surprising to see two old friends come together and give off collaborative sparks! That was exactly what happened when Bobbie Steinbach and Liz Hayes filed in every loving detail of this great classic:
10 oct COLLECTED STORIES New Repertory Theatre WATERTOWN 192

But such surprises aren't unique. An actor you think you know gets a play in his teeth and simply rattles the walls down, and I sit there wondering "Where the hell did That come from!"
That's how I felt watching Dale Place in Walt McGough's eerily shocking portrait of an old, ready-to-retire CIA agent, called:
6 oct THE FARM Boston Playwrights' Theatre 189
Then there was a stand-out performance in a good, integrated ensemble: Diego Arciniegas managed to inject compassion and concern into what is essentially the villain-character in this new old classic:
28 feb DOLL HOUSE New Repertory Theatre ARSENAL CENTER FOR THE ARTS 43
I have for some years been bugging the great Will McGarrahan find himself a starring vehicle. Well, this year he pretty much did it --- three times! And each one different.
He played all the male roles in "9 Circles", all of them unique and fully rounded characters. Then instead of singing or playing the piano he did a classic sit-down bravura performance as the narrator of "The Drowsy Chaperone"; then followed it with the real central character of the taut, unrelenting exploration of gay life "Next Fall"; so I guess I can't bug him anymore...
27 mar 9 CIRCLES Publick Theatre BCA 65
12 may THE DROWSY CHAPERONE SpeakEasy Stage Company BCA 101
18 sep NEXT FALL SpeakEasy Stage Company BCA 176
I was a little surprised seeing a neatly honed little Irish family-play in the upstairs dance-studio at the BCA when Sally Nutt walked in playing a ghost only one other character could see or talk to. I've seen her up in Lowell, and at Boston Playwrights', but this was by one of my favorite "fringies". I was damn glad to see her here in Boston, though!
6 nov AND NEITHER HAVE I WINGS TO FLY Bad Habit Productions BCA-Upstairs 213
Then, who should show up over in Chelsea but Bill Salem, filling the role of Professor Serebriakov with such spite and dynamite it was a whole new character! Bill only goes for pithy roles for good companies, but I don't think I've ever seen him so great --- and in such an obviously generous, loving ensemble.
30 dec UNCLE VANYA Apollinaire Theatre Company CHELSEA THEATRE WORKS 242
Okay, maybe it's odd, but I can't remember if I've ever seen Johnny Lee Davenport play a Black Man before. Lots of Shakespeare; but this was an old guy watching his body and maybe his mind ageing out from under him. A beautiful, human, nuanced portrayal.
6 apr BROKE-OLOGY Lyric Stage of Boston Inc. 72
And here let me trumpet a ghlorious tour-de-force performance by a lady I have loved for years, Lorna Noriega. She's an actress adores taking risks. In this movement-piece she made every entrance doing a flip of some sort from un-even parallel-bars she constructed herself. It was pure, abstract theater stretching barriers, and of course I loved it.
16 sep THE MISUNDERSTANDING Boston Experimental Theatre BCA 173

But a theatrical year brings new faces as well as old friends!
I first noticed Joelle Kross in a minor support-role, where she seemed the only one who really understood "the commedia del'arte life" that was a motor to the show. Then she showed up playing a boy in a FringeFest show, and finally as the major role in "Lucky Stiff"; lucky me!
5 may THE GLORIOUS ONES F.U.D.G.E. New Rep Black Box 96
6 nov LUCKY STIFF Moonbox Productions SOMERVILLE THEATRE Davis Square 212
You never really know what B.U. is liable to throw at you in Studio 210 next door to The Huntington, but frequently there are collaborations between theater-students and faculty that are unearthly good. But this turned out to be a solo turn by Tim Spears that shook every assumption of what theater is or could be, and then some. Apparently he teaches something at the theater-school, so I can hope to see im on stage again some time. Soon.....!
17 nov HOUSE Boston Center for American Performance STUDIO 210 222
This was a new play, done by a new company, with a "leading lady" I'd never seen before --- and Walt McGough's script made every one of the characters completely Unbelievable. But the cast didn't. They turned the unlikely crew of extra-terrestrials and 0odd-balls into charming, delightful individuals. Chief among them was a newcomer named Caroline L. Price who made me believe every syllable her Priscilla uttered. She promised to stick around, and tell me if she got a gig; but you can't always trust actresses, can you?
16 dec PRISCILLA DREAMS THE ANSWER Fresh Ink Theatre THE FACTORY 238
This show gives us Two "newcomers" for the price of one!
Actually, I'd seen Lydia Barnett-Mulligan before, in "Hideous Progeny" and "Steel Magnolias" --- but once they take the make-up off you have to learn actors' names all over again, right? Well, here she was becoming at least three characters (I really loved the red-ball nose she wore as Bardolf!), and obviously Having a Ball as she fit in with the nonsense and with the Equity gang.
And when I ran into Steven Barkhimer before the show I thought he was in the cast; turns out he directed the show! What Hasn't he done, theatrically, I wonder?
10 dec THE MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR Actors'Shakespeare Project DAVIS SQUARE THEATRE 234
Lastly, another two-for-one, with Ronald Lacey playing the morosely drunken doctor, and Erin Eva Butcher as the girl he refuses to admit loves him.
Read my review, because you have only till 22 January to see them in maybe the best play I've seen all year!
30 dec UNCLE VANYA Apollinaire Theatre Company CHELSEA THEATRE WORKS 242
But not only performers or directors can be old friends, Companies can too!
I think of The Hovey Players as, pound-for-pound, the best damn theatre in Boston --- even if they Are in Waltham! --- and this year they did two plays I'd seen before, but neither of them done this well.
12 mar BENT Hovey Players ABBOTT MEMORIAL Waltham 51
12 nov NOVEMBER Hovey Players ABBOTT MEMORIAL THEATRE Waltham 217
In Plymouth a tiny group called The Theatre at Hollywood & Vine has been doing ultra-intimate one-acts in a local bar. GOOD little one-acts, directed by Pamela Lambert, or Jeff Gill, and often starring one or both as well. I hope they're still in business!
22 mar VIVIEN; BRICKLAYERS POET; BEDTIME Hollywood & Vine PLYMOUTH 60
And then, let's not ignore sets!
When Hovey did this gut-turning examination of the cruelties Hitler's Nazis visited on gays, their teacup-stage had a mustard-yellow set covered with the laws under which people were imprisoned and degraded and tried to survive. The set was as good as the acting!
12 mar BENT Hovey Players ABBOTT MEMORIAL Waltham 51
But, in the middle of a serious musical-spoof, what if your car has to Talk? Well, Wesley Savick and his gang made it do exacltly that, and more besides. And now I hear it's going to have an after-life at the Central Square soon. Goody!!!!
3 apr CAR TALK THE MUSICAL Suffolk University Theatre Department MODERN THEATRE 71
It's a little unfair to single out One production's set, since Matt Woods' Imaginary Beasts always wrap their shows in interesting sets. But a locomotive that morphs into other things you do not see every day!
Catch their newest "Panto" for a taste of their style.
9 apr THE CRAZY LOCOMOTIVE Imaginary Beasts BCA 74
71
But where is the new generation of theater-makers going to come from?
Well, maybe Fitchburg?
At Fitchburg State University they don't have a Theatre Department, but they Do have Richard McIlvaine. The English and Technical departments co-operate making plays, and the kids do it with serious attention to detail. I've been out there to see two --- an imaginative original by an undergraduate, and a lovingly detailed re-creation of an old classic. Participants are learning Something, and taking theater Seriously. What more can you wish for?
24 feb THE PLAYWRIGHT Fitchburg State University 38
14 apr YOU CAN'T TAKE IT WITH YOU English & Tech Dept. FITCHBURG STATE UNIVERSITY 78
I saw a production of this play, a multilevel examination of the high school massacre, done by the high-school kids in the Young Company at Stoneham Theatre. It worked.
However, when the kids in Lexington were about to open their own production, the school board pulled the plug --- probably claiming profanity and violence. SpeakEasy Stage loaned them their stage for a couple Excellent performances, and I was lucky enough to see one of them.
15 apr COLUMBINUS Lexington High School BCA 79
Okay there are new actors in town. Well, there are new Companies as well:
One new group has elected to take over playing-spaces in movie-houses to do well-detailed musical productions:
10 apr GODSPELL Moonbox Productions THE BRATTLE THEATRE 76
6 nov LUCKY STIFF Moonbox Productions SOMERVILLE THEATRE Davis Square 212
Up in Salem, the Salem Theatre Company will rent their small proscenium-style space for all sorts of acts. One of them though, The Ghostlight Theatre, can play that space like a violin...
25 jun SMUDGE Ghostlight Theatre SALEM THEATRE COMPANY 125
A founder of the new Science Fiction Theatre Company writes originals, but they're experience theatre "professionals" who take the work seriously, and it shows.
11 nov DARK MATTERS Science Fiction Theatre Company FACTORY THEATRE 216
The Oberon Bar at zero Arrow Street was built as a flexible Big Black Box theater-space, but is an awkward, airless, unforgiving space. Still, Stickball used all possible playing areas to make a swift, cinematic retelling of this underworld story. And it runs for another two weeks!
15 dec THE FRIENDS OF EDDIE COYLE Stickball Productions ZERO ARROW STREET 237
Fresh Ink is committed to new plays, and they started off with a dandy!
16 dec PRISCILLA DREAMS THE ANSWER Fresh Ink Theatre THE FACTORY 238
But maybe old friends are the best friends after all:
The "Whistlers" have been the cornerstone of The Small Theatre Alliance of Boston, and a dependably memorable producer of anything they turn their hands to; lately they have often left their original home in The Factory, but wherever they play they're worth seeking out!
9 feb THE EUROPEANS Whistler in The Dark THE FACTORY 25
15 sep THE BACCHAE Whistler in The Dark Theatre CHARLESTOWN WORKING THEATRE 172
28 oct DOGGS HAMLET/CAHOOTS' MACBETH Whistler in The Dark BCA 205
Theatre On Fire is "in residence" in The Charlestown Working Theatre, which means they can take risks. In this case, the only reason they couldn't make a huge profit was they couldn't extend their show when sold-out business developed!
20 apr BLACK ADDER II PART B Theatre on Fire Charlestown Working Theater 85
21 apr BLACK ADDER II PART A Theatre on Fire Charlestown Working Theater 86
The Beasts specialize in movement and imagination over realism, and their delightful manipulations of theatrical truth are an acquired taste well worth acquiring!
9 apr THE CRAZY LOCOMOTIVE Imaginary Beasts BCA 74
4 nov MACBETT (Ionesco) IMAGINARY BEASTS @ BCA 210
But maybe it would be best to end recognizing old, true friends.
Take Tommy Derrah, who can do anything on stage --- and does!
21 jan R. BUCKMINSTER FULLER: HIST.(& MYSTERY)OF THE UNIVERSE A.R.T. Loeb 13
12 may THE DROWSY CHAPERONE SpeakEasy Stage Company BCA 101
And so we end where we began, with John Kuntz. He has done So Much here in Boston, writing, acting, now teaching and directing. Maybe it was his name that persuaded major Boston reviewers to look for theater in Chelsea --- ten minutes away by bus. He'll be there till the 22nd, in case YOU haven't crossed the river yet.
If you go, it Will be worth the trip!
30 dec UNCLE VANYA Apollinaire Theatre Company CHELSEA THEATRE WORKS 242

And is that all?
Hell no!
But this should suffice to scratch the surface at least, of a Memorable year of Theater!

Break a leg all!
Love,
===Anon.
( a k a larry stark )


THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide

| MARQUEE | USHER | SEATS | INTERMISSION | CURTAIN |