These Were Two Weeks That Were, 29 September - 10 October '05"

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide


This Was
The Week
That Was

13 - 17 October '05

13 oct [ KING LEAR Actors' Shakespeare Project B.U. DEPT. ReSee ]
14 oct THE RED LION Boston Playwrights' Theatre 104
15 oct [ CELEBRATING AUGUST WILSON Roxbury Community Coll & CCAE ]

13 oct [ KING LEAR Actors' Shakespeare Project B.U. DEPT. ReSee ]

Okay, I covered "King Lear" with a full review and seeing it a second time ... ALL of it this time! ... didn't change my opinion about its "star" or about the company or about the production.
However, amid a clutch of free weekly papers I picked up I found a criticism of "Lear" penned apparently by Mad Tom'o'Bedlam. I mean, just look at these bombastic assertions:

" (The show) .. has little of the power we expect from the one tragedy that routinely moves its audiences to tears."
" .. the production plays like Beckett re-written by Coward, and dressed by Edward Gorey."
"When Epstein cries out 'This is not Lear!' ... we're all too inclined to agree with him."
" ...Mr. Epstein ... simply lacks the ruined majesty upon which much of the play's impact depends.. "
" .. the famous storm scene ... is particularly anticlimactic."
"But the final moments ... again prove beyond his grasp."

To which I must respond:
What do you mean "WE expect" "WE agree" ?!?!?
Speak for YOURSELF Alone, Mad Tom; don't pretend your readers always see the show through your distorting eyes.
These are grand ASSERTI0NS, but all they really say is "I didn't like it, and I won't give you any concrete examples to justify my saying so."

And as antidote to your Royal WE, let me flatly state --- WE disagree.
In fact, Tommy, when you assert "The play has often been called Shakespeare's Everest.. " I must observe that anyone who Makes Theater knows that EVERY play can indeed be done better; directors and actors and playwrights are always shouting with St. Theresa "Not this! Not this! I blaspheme!" --- even when audiences are moved at how close to impossible perfection a production comes. So, to stand as you do Tommy at sea-level carping that the summit is not yet topped helps no one. Obviously, this play remains an unscaled Everest to its Critics as well.

Oddly enough, I nearly missed Poor Tom's carping; apparently the paper's editor buried the critique on page 15 with no other notice other than headlines declaring --- in contradiction to Poor Tom's rant --- "A NEW LEAR; The Actors' Shakespeare Project SCALES Shakespeare's Everest" (Emphasis mine). Could it be I wonder that the editor had seen the show, and attempted to preserve the integrity of his paper by hiding Poor Tommy's diatribe? WE hope this might be true.

14 oct THE RED LION Boston Playwrights' Theatre 104

The Mirror already has reviews of this by Carl A. Rossi and Will Stackman --- which I hope can be useful to the playwright and the actors. Stackman advises cuts, even though (I'm told) the script had been getting shorter and shorter before Will even saw it.
But shorter won't be enough unless attrition hones down toward the basic subject of the play --- which, for me, is simply Death. The only customer in this dying village bar dies off-stage in the act-break, and a small coalition of young and old with new ideas about resuscitating the pub are literally minutes too late. Apparently, this customer-starved pub is a metaphor for the village dying around it --- though this is mostly talked about or hinted about, never faced directly. Talk seems the only thing the play IS about, really --- with even more Thinking than talking implied by unfinished confrontations and pregnant pauses.
Frankly, I think despite the SRO crowd that saw it with me, this script was by no means ready for a full, a Reviewed production.

15 oct [ CELEBRATING AUGUST WILSON Roxbury Community Coll & CCAE ]

For a couple hours this afternoon, I was allowed to think myself Black.
The readings from two of August Wilson's plays, followed by a talk-back with each audience, had been done at the Cambridge Center for Adult Education the previous night, where an intent, respectful audience replied appreciatively to the vivid power of Wilson's words and world.
But this Black audience, perhaps imitating the raging downpour outside that could be seen behind the four eloquent actors (Mugisha Feruzi, Michael Nurse, Cliff Odle, Wesley Lawrence Taylor), began to respond, to urge and to "signify" as the readings unrolled. There were three scenes from "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom" then two more from "Fences". For one of the latter, the cast did a dialogue scene, then Cliff Odle repeated the lines of "Troy" as a single monologue outlining his uppity response to Death. Then that quartet was joined by Dosha Ellis Beard, and she and Odle practically tore each other apart with a scene in which his wife Rose responded to Troy's attempt to explain why he needed an affair with another woman even though he had the perfect wife. Luckily, after the last line the two could smile at one another, and the audience, through their ovation.
The readings had three different directors: Jeff Robinson (who himself does a one-man play called "Bird!" punctuated with solos on his saxophone) emphasized the musicality of Wilson's work; Robyn L. Rease (Director of Arts Ministry at Jubilee Christian Church) focused on Wilson's often pugnacious confrontations with God; and Akiba Abaka (founder of the Up You Mighty Race Performing Arts Company) recalled, at eighteen, working With August Wilson as Director's Assistant for the Huntington's production of "Jitney" here in Boston.
But, amazing as those actors were sitting in a row in a bare room filled with maybe a hundred folding-chairs, the real Stars of the show were the audience, whose questions and comments gave proof that Wilson's words echoed ideas and provoked thoughts that every Black heart in America could understand. The points and responses drew from the actors personal memories of what brought them to theater, and their experiences getting to know the raw power of street-speech and sincerity in these plays.
Someone eagerly suggested that this hour-long no-frills reading must tour Boston's inner-city schools, to inspire children with an experience of Black History that never gets taught. Another suggested that Up You Mighty Race arrange a "marathon reading" of all ten of Wilson's plays --- one set in every different decade of the 20th Century.
And, after a discussion that rushed on for longer than the performance itself, I heard Akiba Abaka cry "We Need A THEATRE In This Community!"
Right on, Lady! Make it happen! How can I help?


I managed a full review of this show already, but I must digress here a moment.
Most people know I am tethered to Boston by the MBTA because I haven't a car nor a license to use one, and frankly I think only Insane People actually drive in this city! But that means in order to get to West Acton or Maynard or Wayland or Wakefield or Beverly and back again, I have to depend on the kindness of others. Sometimes other reviewers make up a car-pool filled with what I laughingly call "a critical mass"; sometimes I invite a friend with wheels to accompany me.
For this week, the Directors of three different shows have offered to drive me to their productions.
And what happens (I hear you thinking) when you don't like the show???
Well yes, that Has happened, though rarely, and not with the director. I had an uneasy time, driven back to my train after seeing my first production of "Jekyll & Hyde", trying to admit to a car-full of enthusiasts that, perhaps the performances of their relatives were excellent, but they were in the service of a sow's-ear of a musical. Then later, when Jerry Bisantz directed it at Turtle Lane, we could talk on the way to and from the show about what he had done to improve his production of what I still thought a surprisingly poor "hit" show.
Yes, Of Course it's better when I've liked the show! But even then --- I always Learn a Lot in cars. Anyone who acts or directs or designs obviously knows more about theater than I ever will, and I don't mind asking silly questions. And when it's true people are usually interested in what I've Liked about their work ... and I am too.
However, since wherever I'm being taken I'm usually Talking, what I do NOT learn is the Route. Everyone who's taken me to The Reagle Players has used a different route from hither to yon, and I've paid attention to none of them. So when a helpful friend asks "Would 95 be be quicker?" or "Will Tremont or Columbus be best?" --- all I can do is shrug and look helpless.
But if I can't be useful, I hope some of my conversation can be entertaining, and when anyone offers to ferry me to any show, I always echo Azdak with "I Accept!"
I'm always eager to learn more from people who know how to make plays....


A week or so ago The Mirror ran a letter that suggested I announce my theatrical itinerary each week, so people would know how to see a show With me before reading whatever I might say about it.
And I can now report a huge groundswell of Total Indifference to such an idea has thundered in from everyone learning of it.
But let's try it, at least.
Not so much for all you readers, but more for me.
Maybe tipping everyone that there Should be something written will help insure that something Will be written --- thereby attempting to end-run around my persistent writing-block.
New invitations keep coming in, and I try to get everything into my Dance-Card, so this is, to date, a preview of WHERE WILL LARRY BE?

19 oct Newton High School THE LARAMIE PROJECT (in rehearsal)
20 oct The Devanaughn SPRING CHICKEN HiJinx Unlimited
21 oct The Orpheum Foxboro ONCE IN A LIFETIME
22 oct Actors' Workshop SEMMELWEIS (Reading) 7:30 !!
23 oct TheatreZone PROOF Chelsea Theatre
[ 24 oct SONGS FOR A NEW WORLD Benefit for NSMT (Not Sure Yet) ]
[ 26 oct BCA CAROL MULRONEY Huntington (Not Sure Yet) ]
27 oct Lyric Stage of Boston Inc. A NUMBER
28 oct Vokes Players MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG (Arranging A Ride) 29 oct Wheelock Family Theatre LORD OF THE FLIES 3:00 !!
3 nov North Shore Music Theatre THE FULL MONTY (Arranging A Ride)
4 nov The Devanaughn THE 4TH NAIL As Yet To Be Theatre Company
8 nov Devanaughn SLAMBoston Another Country Productions
9 nov Turtle Lane Playhouse PROMISES, PROMISES
12 nov New England Theatre Conference SESSION 10 (My Lecture!!!)
16 nov MIT Student Center STAR WARS TRILOGY MIT Musical Theatre
2 dec YMCA Family Theatre ARCADIA The Longwood Players

SONGS FOR A NEW WORLD is a Benefit, and a "concert"; and by that time of the month I usually can't afford to buy a ticket. I don't think it's fair to ask for Comps for a fund-raising event.
I'm not sure of the Press Night for CAROL MULRONEY.
I'm hoping to hitch a ride with some other reviewers out to see MERRILY at Vokes; I think it's my favorite Sondheim show.
And Lee VanderLaan usually meets the train when we go to NSMT shows, but I'm not sure yet when he'll be free.
And during the 10 - 13 November week-end of the NEW ENGLAND THEATRE CONFERENCE I will try to be in Wakefield as often and as long as possible.
On the 12th, I will do a talk and talk-back on the subject "The Art of Writing [AND READING] Reviews" whenever "Session 10" comes up. And then Lee and I will attend the annual banquet at which they will announce an Award for The Theater Mirror.

But, once that deeply appreciated honor has been acknowledged, I will confer with several doctors at Beth Israel Hospital about Replacement Surgery on both my knees --- and the days (or centuries) of ReHab in which they'll teach me to walk again will follow.
So, until "That Fat Old Man on The Crutches" can get back in business after "going under the skill-saws," the DanceCard dates will have to be approximate.

Break a leg in any case......
Break a leg ALL!

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide