18 - 29 September '04
17 sep APPROACHING MOOMTAJ... New Repertory Theatre NEWTON 89
18 sep THE TAMING OF THE SHREW Hovey Players ABBOTT MEMORIAL
19 sep ANTIGONE nora stage company BOSTON PLAYWRIGHTS' THEATRE
20 sep [ August Wilson appearance ROXBURY COMMUNITY COLLEGE ]
23 sep THE MEMORY OF SALT Animus Ensemble BCA 92
The date NOT on this list is yesterday, 28 September, when Dr. Saltzman shoved a catheter upstream and exclaimed "Your bladder's full of sludge!" He told me a significant increase in water intake every day would result in the urological equivalent of --- well, of an oil-change! That, I hope, will keep these little summaries free of any mention of kidney stones for the forseeable future.
Now to the other problem:
Monday night (or probably Tuesday morning) 20 September, the VeriZon DSL connection blinked, and my computer was so outraged it refused to have Any relations with them for six ghoddam days during which all I could do with it was --- play solitaire. No glimpses at the current state of The Mirror; no uploading of anything at all into The Mirror, and No New E-Mail going out or going in.
I did read a book (THE HUMMINGBIRD AND THE HAWK, R.C.Padden's refreshing new assessment of the Aztec empire and the Conquistadors), and some serious comic-books (PROMETHIA and parts of Dave Sim's 300-issue epic CEREBUS) and I caught a cold. And I sulked a lot....
But I had managed to write reviews of the two blockbuster plays (APPROACHING MOOMTAJ & ANTIGONE) that blasted the new theater season wide open, and I'll see the third (The Lyric Stage's A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC) tomorrow. And, in a sense, though I haven't yet managed to see The Huntington's Broadway-tryout production of GEM OF THE OCEAN (since I hear a major actor quit over "artistic differences" with the playwright, maybe late in the run will be better!), I did get a seat in the SRO Roxbury Community College playhouse to hear August Wilson read from his plays.
What A Season!!!
And it's hardly gotten started yet!
So that leaves only two plays to talk about.
And THE MEMORY OF SALT by Lisa Maurizio is already "a contender" in what may be the IRNE Olympics come January. Director John Ambrosino has worked closely with the author on several updated Greek plays, of which this is the first I've seen. The company ANIMUS ENSEMBLE is new to me, but arrived at the BCA full-blown and thoroughly professional --- yet still young and small enough to be human and friendly.
The play was a very disciplined free improvisation on a Greek tragedy about Hecuba, queen of Troy, after the war asking permission from Odysseus to search for and bury her dead son. While Richard McElvain's ANTIGONE emphasized the aspect of current political commentary reverberating in Greek tragedies, Lisa Maurizio emphasized their poetry, formal structure, and movement. She set her scene (Scenic Design by Kenneth Jewell) on a seaside beachfront where three Salt Maidens (borrowed from Japanese theater) began the show with their bare feet sinking into wave-raked sand, their dance and chant/songs backed by minimal eastern music (drums, shamisen, flute & chimes). Movement was slow, deliberate, and felt other-worldly.
Mia Anderson's Black skin and Gus Kelly's White subtly underscored their dialogues. In contrast, Robert Bonotto as a Trojan boatman and Khalil Flemming as his son emphasized the free choices possible to unimportant workmen, however needed by autocrats. The boy's toy boat was also reflected in shadow-puppets which enacted the huge Greek fleet's arrival the Greek horse, and the eventual burning of Troy across the back cyclorama.
All in all, an eloquent, engrossing piece of theater effectively directed by John Ambrosino.
Their next production will be the poetic dance-piece FOR COLORED GIRLS WHO CONSIDERED SUICIDE/WHEN THE RAINBOW IS ENUF by Ntozake Shange --- in itself a modern classic.
The other play I saw was a romp by The Hovey Players called THE TAMING OF THE SHREW and directed by Wayne Vargas. It's my opinion that, in an age when women fight effectively for equality, this is an essentially unplayable historical artifact out of Shagsberd's earliest years in London. Here the cast tried to stay in a 1500s knockabout approach, while enjoying flamboyant asides and line-readings and posturings from the present. Josh Bartok buckled every possible swash, till his Petruchio became a disinterested sneer. Michelle M. Aguillon --- perhaps in self-defense? --- gave Kate an indignantly un-liberated woman, while upstaging much of the action by her desperate snatching at the food her new husband keeps away from her.
In such a production, it was the gimmicks and asides and parody-voices that actually upstaged the play. Quick, minimal costume-changes had eight of the company playing eighteen people; players stepped out of the mass of servants pulling a joke on the drunkard Christopher Sly to become characters; an on-stage map of Italy became a prop every time locations were mentioned; and no one ever missed an opportunity to milk a line with gesture or expression.
And can any play that ends with a round Dozen verses from Cole Porter's "Brush Up Your Shaxpy" fail to please?
The Hovey Players can indeed do memorable Shakespeare on their tiny 52-seat stage --- John MacKenzie proved that with a lovely "12th Night" --- but in choosing this hard-nut of a play, I think they stumbled. Once he got the hang, Wilm Shakesper turned out much better plays than this --- and some of them are even funnier. Please, Hovey Players --- try again?
On a completely different note, two brothers calling themselves "All Dunn Design & Print Broker" donated an excellent example of their program design for the show. Over a jug of ale at The Mermaid Tavern after the show, they outlined their hope of serving a selection of small theatres with program-centerpages wrapped by several standard pages of theater magazine --- with the ads in the magazine paying for the whole package. If they can do it they plan to charge all participating companies a symbolic minimum while providing slick-paper programs. (To me, it sounds like they want to re-invent PROSCENiUM, and I intend to do anything I can to see that they succeed. You can phone ALL DUNN DESIGN for details at 1(978)549-6149; I think I'll do that Right Now!)
( a k a larry stark )