Cricket's Notebook by Larry Stark - "Three plays, no reviews"

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide


Monday, 14 December, 1998: Three plays, no reviews.

I am going to play hooky tomorrow, and spend the afternoon with the Monets at the MFA. But there are three interesting shows --- two of them already closed --- that deserve some attention from me. I refer to The New Rep's "Having Our Say," The Reagle Players' "Christmas Time " revue, and an excellent production of Chekhov's "Three Sisters" at the Boston Conservatory. I won't review them, but I'm very glad I saw all three.

Actually, I needn't review "Having Our Say" because I'd just iterate exactly what Beverly Creasey said in her review. I was fascinated by the interplay between these two ladies who project convincing ages two or three times their real ones. Kathryn Woods, straight and tall and large, contrasted perfectly with small, bent, determined Jacqui Parker. Woods has the rhythmic, sing-song repeated melody of an old Black woman's speech-pattern down perfectly; it never changes throughout the show, even though it registers joy, surprise, anger, and sadness with moving eloquence --- as though she were a great blues-singer using the same form to convey varied emotions.

It occurred to me while watching these ladies chopping and preparing real vegetables on Janie E. Howland's realistic set --- complete with real water in the sink --- that in the past couple years I've seen real meals being prepared on that same stage before. I'm not calling this a cliché; on the contrary, the fact that Howland and Lombardo are willing to go that far with realistic detail only makes me admire their style all the more.

[ Aside: ]

I toyed for a while with an essay editing the bored dismissal of this excellent show by Ann Marie Donahue in The PHOENIX On-line, but why bother dissing the second banana of a third-rate newspaper no one takes seriously --- except, of course, the wounded actors and actresses who cannot ever complain about being fish in a barrel because it only adds undeserved cubits of stature to people who yearn to be Boston's John Simon without first doing the hard work of learning how to write blindingly brilliantly so that it never matters that their opinions are wrong. (Enter my incredibly convoluted sentence in the contest for a "Most impenetrable Prose of the entire year" Award, please!)

On to the Reagle Players!
Fifteen annual productions in the past certainly makes this "Christmas Time" revue a tradition, but I'm told it was changed this year. The huge teddybears did their truncated "Nutcracker" --- Black Russian Bears, Chinese Panda Bears, cute Koala Bears, a Pooh or two, and one uncredited kid who has a future on the ballet stage. Sixty-some kids in red vests were Santa's elves, and then dashed back in pyjamas to let sugarplums dance in their heads. There were precision-dancing by a huge line of toy-soldier Rockettes, and a crew of about thirty boys all playing xylophones in unison neatly enough to make Busby Berkley green with envy. Regulars may have found things familiar, but to my new eyes there wasn't a cliché in the entire afternoon, and the act-break ice-cream was delicious!

The real surprise was the student-acted "Three Sisters" directed by Steve McConnell, with an eloquently spare set by the team of Maureen Lilla and Margo Zdravkovic, expressively detailed period costumes by David Cabral, and the usual stunning lighting of John R. Malinowski. Everyone, onstage or backstage, deserved a gold star, and my one regret was that it didn't repeat for a second week-end so all my friends could see the show.

There was a lightness about this production, and places where the foibles of the characters, their pauses or their rushed outbursts, provoked genuine laughs. Steve McConnell obviously knew the show cold, thought about every detail, and shaped a stunning performance with an iron hand.

The student cast never quite looked the right ages, but they acted the right ages. Far and away the stand-out star in that regard was Graham Fulmer as old, deaf Ferapont. His sudden, loud, unexpected shouts of "What?!" and bewildered scowl of intent, uncomprehending attention erased the youth beneath his makeup totally. And Jaimie Kelton's bustling, creaky stage-crosses as old Anfisa contrasted beautifully with the quick, attentive, unobtrusive young maid of Miki Arima. Edwin Juvier in greying hair and beard gave Vershinin, the former "love-sick major" an air of fading fervor, while Kimberly Dimasi's Masha, who falls in love with him, could be eloquent in silence as well as violently emotional. Emily Rozek's Natasha shifted smoothly and unhesitatingly from nervous fiancee to thoughtlessly autocratic wife, while as her husband Chad Kimball kept everyone aware of his inner state as Andrei slid slowly into this small town's quicksand. I cannot pin adjectives and adverbs on everyone, but this was a production in which there were truly no small actors, and actually no small parts.

There. I didn't want anyone connected with these shows to think my silence --- as would usually be the case --- signalled displeasure. Quite the contrary, in fact. And so now, having paid for my comps with at least some comments, I hope I may run off to frolic through the Fine Arts tomorrow without a twinge of conscience over any unfinished business. Love,

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide