That Was The Week That Was, 10 - 28 March '05"

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide


These Were
The Weeks
That Were

10 - 28 March '05

31 mar DEN OF THIEVES Company One BCA 33
1 apr THE TROJAN WHORE Mill 6 Theatre Co DEVANAUGHN 34
2 apr GAGARIN WAY Sugan BCA 35
3 apr ASSASSINS Metro Stage Company YMCA FAMILY THEATRE 36
3 apr [ TALK-WITH @ "Assassins" YMCA Family Theatre ]
7 apr BLINDERS OutOfTheBlue Theatre Company BOSTON PLAYWRIGHTS' 37
8 apr VIOLET Footlight Club 38
12 Apr [ NEWtv 2 Horton one-acts put on t-v tape ]
16 apr THREE DAYS OF RAIN Quannapowitt Playhouse READING MA 40

Date: Sun, 17 Apr 2005 12:23:15 -0400
From: Ann Carpenter
Subject: Grapes of Wrath
Larry, it was great to see you on opening night. I really appreciate
your support of my work. If there's any way you could write up a short
review or quick take for us, we would appreciate it. We had a full house
last night and would like to keep that up. If not, that's alright
too...I know you have time constraints. We are always happy to see you
in any case. Take care. Ann

Yes, "Complimentary Tickets" actually DO come with a price-tag, don't they?

And I'm apparently paying it with gobs of Guilt for seeing too many shows and writing about too few of them.


I feel guiltiest about this scintillating and continually surprising play in which nothing seemed to stay true for very long. First a simple hi-jacking was proposed. Then a young nerd just out of college got intellectually battered by a self-admitted yahoo who nevertheless delivered detailed critique of Jean-Paul Sartre's defense of Jean Genet's right to define himself as a thief. Then the third member of the gang arrived with a hostage who, we were told, had been imported by the Japanese computer-chip plant to recommend the downsizing of the staff. Suddenly the play became an argument over worker's rights to take homicidal poltical action versus human decency. The arguments were conducted in a thick contemporary Scots brogue, with the Celtic lilt and a spangling of frequent profanity encouraging pockets of the audience to ignite into uncontrollable giggles. But, down at the last few minutes --- just as the ultimate joke (The murder weapon has no bullets; they were too expensive!) rollicked everyone, the yobbo activist whipped out a switch-blade and quite bloodily slit the gizzard of the hostage, and then the nerd for good measure. Despite a final flip comment about mopping up and tossing bodies in the Firth, the entire audience froze in mid-guffaw, and were stunned into utter silence before curtain-calls.

It took a little thinking to come to terms with this peculiar play. Early on I was complimenting myself for seeing the intellectual jokes and recognizing all the old philosophers' names, and feeling glad when the rest of the audience seemed to catch up to my constant urge to guffaw --- but all that sudden blood seemed not so much a shock as an insult. The comedy had been going on so long and so nicely that I'd had no time to switch gears.

And, ultimately, I decided to blame Brendan Hughes' excellent direction of the comedy for its shock: Ciaran Crawford, playing the millitantly anti-intellectual yob, had become a sardonic and sophisticated hero demolishing sacred cows of all kinds. Actually, his verbal agressions were only the tip of a huge iceberg of angry violence waiting to burst forth --- but that seething subtext hadn't been felt (at least by me!) all night long. I think I should have been surprised by his murders --- not astonished. It's true that he threw the poor nerd around pretty brutally a time or two, and was always impatient about finding justifications for blood instead of just spilling it, but his frowning quips brought back pure laughter instead of mixing it with pre-figuring tensions.

And since it took a day or two to think such things, it's taken longer to articulate this review.

Along the way, I think I've figured out my mission in life:
I don't write, as many others do, in order to Improve plays; instead, I write reviews that I hope help people LIKE plays
I do like plays. I liked "Gagarin Way", liked it a lot, but I couldn't hit on a way of preparing the audience for those last four minutes of mayhem without spilling all the secrets the play held in store. And I haven't done it here, either.
Maybe that failure is one reason I've been unable to write Anything for at least several days now.

7 apr BLINDERS OutOfTheBlue Theatre Company BOSTON PLAYWRIGHTS'

I might have failed to review "Blinders" because I very carefully put myself on a "G" car instead of a "B" and missed the first ten minutes of the play. It was obvious that big, tall Joe Zamparelli and short, small Joshua Feldman were billed as somehow identical (down to their DNA apparently), with only Karen Wodward Massey seeing what was apparent to the audience. Patrick Gabridge's play was pure romp, with 31 cameo-characters played by only four actors, lots of presentational acting, and hyper-escalation of incident being exaggerated all the time.
But five of those actors had the asterisks of Equity beside their names, and this full-length, full-out OutOfTheBlue production proudly noted itself as a Project Code Presentation. In other words, actors I get to see all too rarely practicing their trade banded togeher, paid their own money (juas as most Community Theatre players must), did their own "producing", and spent as little money as possible on publicity.
The show was light and frothy, but the cast and the audience obviously had a ball. And, aside from at The Marathon, when will I get to see a crew of seasoned actors like these on a Boston stage again?

8 apr VIOLET Footlight Club

What impressed me, more than anything, about the Footlight Club production was really the excellent voices. I had seen the show some years back when SpeakEasy brought it to Boston, but had forgotten all but the outline. And perhaps the guilt of my NOT-writing began to build here, because I felt oddly distant from the story. It concerns a small-town Sothron girl so in need of a desperate miracle she's going on a pilgrimage from Carolina to Oklahoma to have a TelEvangelist remove the ugly scar runing her pretty left cheek. And meeting two soldier-friends (one White one Black) who fall, one in love, the other in lust with her.
I can't tell whether I was Expecting something I'd experienced in the SpeakEasy production, or was it that the Footlight cast seemed to know, all along, what the outcomes of this plot would be. I heard the lines articulating tensions and surprises, but I didn't hear the characters living them. And it could well have been merely Me; I learned a long time ago not to review a second production of a show I loved first time out. Maybe something inside me knew I just had nothing more useful to say.
But this, again, was a remarkable show for ANY Community Theatre to attempt: it's not a famous classic musical, it's never been filmed, it has more thinking than dnacing, and it demands an interracial cast dealing realistically with racial themes. But I'm glad The Footlight Club, which I could call My Neighborhood Community Theatre, took it on.


This is another show that's important for more than just the quality of the performance. TheatreZone embarked on an ambitious Festival they called "Actors' Revenge" for which actors rather than producer or director picked the play and the director, and cast themselves in the role of their dreams. In this case it was Ann Carpenter playing Ma in Frank Galati's adaptation of Steinbeck's classic --- which started at the Steppenwulf Theatre in Chicago.
It is a 21-member cast playing dozens of people each, with little side-plots hinted at out of the corners of your eyes, and a bare-stage exodus of the Joad family from their Oklahoma dust-bowl homesteads to crop-picking in California, with the bleak oppressions of Depression landlords and land-owners fueling "Red" rages against the lack of human dignity. Many characters get little but a line or two before the actor is off switching costumes. The scope of the show is immense, the message that everyone Must Get Along obvious. And it works.
And one great touch is David Wildman and Bob Pellegrino playing acoustic guitars both as accompaniment and a pre-play concert. (When was the last time You heard an acoustic guitar, or two of them played as excellently as these?)
Wanda Strukis directed, moving the actors and their old jalopy around the stage, but blocking the show to push the audience eye into now one place, now another. And the huge cast managed to keep up with Ann Carpenter as the Joad matriarch through thick, thin, and thinner.

16 apr THREE DAYS OF RAIN Quannapowitt Playhouse READING MA 40

This is a triumph. Richard Greenberg's play has a slippery, scintillating surface of glib New Yorkerish repartee under which a family-full of love and resentments burst forth like bubbles in a stew-pot. The cast must play the heirs of a famous architect speculating on why dad left his first and most famous house not to them but to the son of his dead-too-young partner; then they switch to playing those parents thirty years before at the point love directed their lives to come, and the first ideas for the most famous house of the 20th century came alive.
The play is spikey, Bob Williams, Susan Condit Rice and Bill Stambaugh are totally alive in both acts, the crew makes the between-acts metamorphosis from abandoned loft to 60's studio a total, gleaming surprise, and Director Nancy Curran Willis has dictated a swift tempo and machine-gun bursts of humor under which secrets lurk to be revealed.I had a ball...
But again, there extrinsic reasons why the play is important: Ms. Willis got involved in theatre in this very Community Theatre and despite finding important paying positions with serious professional companies in her transition from techie to director, she still finds it important to slip back into this NON-professional world now and again.
The Quannapowitt Players will take this show to the EMACT Festival/Competition later this spring. Her cast are all "professional amateurs" with loads of serious experience, and it shows.

Okay, maybe That will lift a little of the guilt --- though none of these shows was here given a tenth of the attention they deserve.
But, perhaps, I'm having difficulty writing reviews because of these other two things that I was involved in these weeks:

3 apr [ TALK-WITH @ "Assassins" YMCA Family Theatre ]
12 Apr [ NEWtv 2 Horton one-acts put on t-v tape ]

I have yet to feel Good about talking to audiences after shows, but I have done two and there are two more scheduled. I think I tend to spend hours thinking of what I'm going to say, and every bit of that thinking Evaporates at my first glimpse of the audience expecting me to say anything Intelligent. So my feelings about past performances and hopes for future ones tend to set up an anxiety that uses up all my brain-power.
At least that's what it feels like.
But Geralyn Horton and David Meyer are trying to put some of her plays on DVD so they can be played, or "streamed" on the Internet. I watched two of her one-acts being recorded on television-tape --- for inclusion on a t-v documentary on doing radio drama --- and interviewed the playwright, and babbled a bit on my own. It may be that my "reviewing" may evolve into my Talking them into David's microphones and presenting them, playable, on The Mirror.
The new technologies involve new thinking, different uses of personal time, and some uses of the mind on other themes than the past. It could be I'm so busy trying to learn now to do such things that I'm forgetting how to write those reviews.

I don't really know. I only know this has taken Days to write, some of them actually full of doing Nothing --- "very busily NOT-Writing!" I call it --- and stewing about not getting stuff written.

I don't Think this is the beginning of a breakdown, but you never know, do one?

Watch This Space!


THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide