entire contents copyright 1997 by Larry Stark
Ever pick up the phone and mis-dial a RIGHT number?
This afternoon I looked up in our listings what I thought was the number for a new group called The Firedog Theatre, Inc., who are doing plays only a few blocks from me over in Allston. I live about three long blocks into Brookline from the B line tracks, and they set up shop in The Old Firehouse about four blocks down Harvard Avenue the other side of the tracks roughly a month ago. I had the evening free, my head-cold is in remission, and I figured even if it's nearly their last night I should review any new theatre that springs up. Besides, they're only three blocks farther than my bank, and I needed an ATM transfusion.
But I read the wrong listing, so when I dialed who should answer but Frank Annese, who is himself opening a new playspace called The New Neighborhood Theatre, at 20 Parminter Street in Boston's North End.
Oddly enough, however, he recognized the name Larry Stark from a review I write of his production of "The Mousetrap" which ended up not in the intimate theater where he hoped it would run forever, but at Ye Wilbur Theatre, where it still ran several months, and became entwined with the early, eager days of The Theater Mirror and the birth of The Few.
It is odd to dial what is, objectively, a wrong number and find youself speaking to an old friend you've never met, but that's exactly what happened. Frank is doing "Krapp's Last Tape" and "The Zoo Story" in his new Parminter Street 170-seat house (The New Neighborhood Theatre) and I'll review it next Thursday, after which we will probably meet face to face for the very first time, and talk.
But the tale of today didn't stop there. I dialed the right right-number, and this time talked to Rebecca Saunders who, along with Lynne Haire-Sargent, is running a program of staged- readings and complete productions, plus poetry and work-in- progress readings, informal creativity discussions, and perhaps a playwrighting-competition with readings and finished-productions as "prizes". They did the same sort of thing in Central Square at the Middle East Club, under the title Outland.
The Middle East just bought The Old Firehouse, 14 Harvard Street, which houses an antiques shop and a coffee-house, and asked Outland to come back to do essentially the same things they had done at the old space in this new space.
And the operation looked quite familiar when I walked over. It's in a space the size of a big, high-ceilinged living- room, with half a dozen photofloods, one or two with colored gels masking-taped over them, doing stage lighting before three short rows of folding-chairs, minimal props and sets, and a friendly ambiguity about who was, or would later be, actors or audience. The ambiance throughout the evening remained happily unpretentious.
The finished production, in turned out, was a monolog --- "Two Strange Things" --- written and performed by Rebecca Saunders, telling family secrets through the eyes of a bouncy southern schoolgirl with a newly invented imaginary playmate. Full of quick shifts in posture and voice to evoke parents, two aunts, one uncle, and the invisible pookah, the playlet managed to project a serious conflict among the grown-ups through the perky misunderstandings of the innocent child, with subtle throw-away lines studding the surface.
There were no programs, but Frank Ridley who directed the two script-in-hand readings took parts, and I'll assume that Joe Montagna who wrote "No Piece, No Justice" and Meredith Hale Baker, who wrote "Please Don't Argue with Mr. Peale" took parts in the plays.
Both scripts were quick vignettes, but with bright, economical dialog. The actors attacked them with gusto, and each one seemed a seed from which theater could sprout.
They will be doing another pair of readings plus a full- performance one-act next week-end, and I'll make it a point to show up at their new curtain-time of 7:30. That will mean I'll get to see shows at TWO new theatres here in Boston.
The more the merrier!