That Was The Week That Was, 5 - 23 January 2005"

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide


That Was
The Head-Cold
From Hell

5 - 23 January '05

16 jan THE TEMPEST Boston Theatre Works CYCLORAMA @ BCA
20 jan THE PROMISE Basement on the Hill BCA
21 jan QUILLS New Rep 5


This may have been the only important event of the entire year.
It turned out to be a meeting of people from some of those struggling young hermit-crab companies --- The (As Yet To Be) Theatre Company,11:11 Productions Yellow Taxi Productions --- some of which have come to Boston after working elsewhere or with college shows in their bio's. There are often playwrights involved who take a hands-on approach to putting plays on stages, but they all express an interest in presenting original plays and doing classics with new eyes.
I was encouraged, though, by the fact that those in attendance emphasized administrative duties more than their acting or directing. They spoke of building core companies of regular participants who would work backstage as well as onstage, and tapping the general Boston talent pool when necessary to seek new members or to do bigger-cast productions.
What I saw was people recognizing each other's clear-eyed enthusiasm and determination to brave the difficulties, a willingness to start small, and an acceptance of the possibility that warm cooperation would not dilute the individulaity of each company involved.
I didn't take notes, but I got the impression that this was an open-armed and unstructured collection of like-minded "Fringe Companies" come together to support one another and to share solutions for mutual problems.
One healthy development in the group effort is the fact that their next meeting will be in Chelsea, using space offered by THEATREzONE. The group has reached out to The Devanaughn Theatre, and I'm told that Art Hennessey of Essayons Theatre Company will be at the next meeting. The experience of these "older" Boston Fringe organizations can benefit both the new and the old.
Another healthy note is that the group looked around and re-christened itself The THEATRE Fellowship of Greater Boston
The next meeting will explore a physical, dance-oriented approach to theatrical improvisation called Viewpoints, so they will need more space than provided by Julie Levene's friendly living-room.
I'll be there --- if it ever stop's snowing!

It was on a Tuesday --- and at this late date I hope I identified it correctly as the 5th in this new year --- that I woke up determined to re-institute The Theater Mirror's on-line list of every play I can find anywhere on stage in all six of the New England states.
What that means is taking the January issue of The NEW ENGLAND ENTERTAINMENT DIGEST and re-typing four pages of close, small type into a form (with HaTeMaiL-code added) that The Mirror can use. I thought I could do it in about three or four days of work during that odd time of the year when almost every theatre was dark after the holidays.
I had typed the first two of four columns of one page when I noticed the wetness in my eyes & nose, and before midnight I was in the grip of a head/chest cold so severe that for three days I snuffled and coughed and fought for breath, unable to sleep, unable to think of anything at all beyond my next breath. (Yes, I'd had a flu-shot --- and after I had had it I had already caught another, previous cold!)
What happened was, I had to cancel four plays in a row I had expected to attend. A lot of clever self-medication later, still prone to cough at inopportune times, I pulled myself together enough to get back to seeing some plays and talking with theater people --- and I truly believe it was that which finally got me back on a road to recovery.
The problem, of course, was that cancelling my attendance at several blockbuster plays meant first, that I had to scurry to keep my finger on the local theater pulse; second that those plays conflicted with other openings; and third, that the rest I needed for recovery not only interfered with writing about what I Did see, but made work on those listings impossible.
Enter "The Blizzard of '05" ! !!!
I have yet to see the Lyric's "Glass Menagerie" and my dance-card continues to fill. However, I'll try tonight to cover what I've managed to see; then, tomorrow, it's nose-to-the-grindstone time: I'll get back to the drudgery of typing all those listings of COMING ATTRACTIONS from JulieAnne Charest's magnificent monthly newspaper. I think, for a while, that making The Mirror's listings the best on the internet ought to be my major priority for at least the next three months.

But, until Monday morning, THIS Is The Week That Was:

I have written reviews of "Five Women Wearing The Same Dress" and "The Promise" and "Quills" and I will not cover the same material here.
However, there is one aspect of "Quills" that didn't get into the review. The premise of the play is that the Marquis deSade slyly insisted that his fantasies were all present, in some degree, in the subconscious of his readers --- and to prove it he writes a completely Innocent tale which his tormetors immediately take as Coded rather than Graphic pornography! And that reminded me of a limerick, most of the lines of which I never can remember; but it involved a man "whose mind was perversely unclean" the final line of which went "...And he snickered at words like 'Between'! " I also forgot to sugest that the Quills of the title could as easily be thought of as coming not from geese, but from porcupines.


The hall was filled for this choosing of a winning singer out of fifteen contestants --- almost any of which could have won with my approval. But the brackets are here because this was An Event rather than a play, and I'll move on without further comment.

16 jan THE TEMPEST Boston Theatre Works CYCLORAMA @ BCA

What can you say about an all-star cast doing a Shakespearean play in a cavernous space that makes it impossible to hear the WORDS?
All I can do is try to take note of the various ways in which actors tried to overcome the accoustics and echoes of the BCA's Cyclorama.
Neil Casey (Trinculo), Allyn Burrows (Stephano), and Sarah Hickler (Caliban) --- the comedy team --- took their bombast up fairly close to the audience. Elizabeth Hayes (Miranda) and Ben Lambert (Ferdinand) --- the love team --- did so also, adding facial expression to the intensity of their playing. Susanah Millonzi (Ariel) flew about the stage like an ice-skater in the competition, shouting her gleeful comments and perching repeatedly on the solid shoulders of her magical master. And Jonathan Epstein (Prospero) stood in regal power (whether or not entwined by his fantastic servent) breaking his speeches into short, solid phrases sent straight into the audience.
The rest ... blurred into echoing anonymity.
I wish the Boston Theatre Works' director Jason Slavick could pick this brilliant pack of performers out of so unforgiving a space to finish the run in a cozier environment, letting their brilliant work reach its audience. What came through, everywhere, was magnificent


Accoustics in the Virginia Wimberly Theatre, also in the BCA, made problems for Our Place Theatre Project's fifth annual African American Theatre Festival --- at least for their Boston premier of Cynthia Robinson's new play "Ascension" which needed all the help it could get.
It got lots of help from Director Robbie McCauley who moved the acting quartet about James P. Byrne's set (a slave cabin in the ante-bellum South) with sincerity and eloquence. What the play needed, however, was a lot more attention from the playwright. I found it heavy, familiar, predictable, and unfinished.
The best role here was that of "Massa" (Jeff Gill) --- a Bible-blinded hypocrit demanding his droit-de-seigneur from Jacqui Parker's kitchen-slave, even on the eve of her scripture-sanctified marriage to a farm-hand (David Curtis) who sincerely loved her. Massa was a sincere self-justifying widower who, visiting even after the nuptuals, insisted "I own you!" while demanding a bit read from Holy Writ before the act --- to prove he'd educated his chattel. Gill managed to give this randy equivocator more sympathetic complication than the author.
The farm-hand swain vowed to work twice as hard by trying to make money from a personal garden, and there was talk early in Act One of freedom, and of just walking off to follow the North Star to Canada, but the idea was quickly dropped --- and the predictable color of the pair's first child led to a predictable finale. There wasn't even any talk of the punnishment of returned escapees or of others (maybe from other plantations) who actually found freedom, nor was there an Act Three to show the repercussions from the murderous finale. These might add a little depth and originality to the whole.
Oh yes, there was a supposedly un-converted keeper of African traditions mid-wifing the birth. Played by Linda Starks, this character was so sketchily written as to shrink to a plot-device, or mere wallpaper.
Parker and Curtis made a luminously loving pair out of what the playwright gave them to work with, but Our Place Theatre Project deserves better material. (I'm hoping to see better work this coming week.)


THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide