4 These Were Two Weeks That Were, 19 - 28November '05"

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide


This Was
The Week
That Was

19 - 28 November '05


19 nov COLLECTED STORIES Theater Cooperative 117
20 nov STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE Emerson &/@ Roxbury Community Coll. 118
25 nov CINDERELLA ROCKS Ryan Landry & Gold Dust Orphans MACHINE 120
26 nov CROWNS Lyric Stage of Boston Inc. 121

Again, this has been a topsy-turvey time of missed shows and re-scheduling shows, of dwindling head-cold and mid-winter lethargy set in way, way too early.
I simply blew it for COLLECTED STORIES on 13 November (but re-scheduled, thank Thespis!) and PRELUDE TO A KISS at Hovey on the 17th. On the 16th, the Musical Theatre Group at MIT refused to give reviewers' comps on anything but their opening night --- when I was accepting that NETC Award and couldn't attend --- and I didn't have money enough to buy a ticket. So that Wednesday night I trudged again back across the bridge to Mass Station and home. A farewell party on the 18th made me bump STREETCAR to its closing performance on Sunday.
So I got the SEEING Plays part back on track, but after so many Closing Nights the WRITING About Plays simply evaporated into Midwinter Lethargy all over again.
What I propose to do over the next three days --- though I hope it doesn't take that long! --- is to use a CRICKET'S NOTEBOOK entry to look at three very intriguing and very different productions in as much backward-glance depth as I can muster. So here, I'll "cover" merely the last two in this turvied week.

Before I do, though, glance at these two notations:
1 dec Meet with Orthopod to schedule knee surgery
8 dec Meet with Laryngology doctors about sleep apnea
Part of that "mid-winter lethargy" might be due to anxiety about having both knees chopped into some day soon. I am overly aware that I have knees these days, including occasional Twinges in one or the other that impress upon me my real age. And part of that anxiety is simply over the obvious fact that both the Seeing and the Writing About plays will have to stop until I'm released from re-hab on crutches and can get back to business.
I met Spiro Veloudos on crutched after his foot-surgery yesterday, and almost accused him of upstaging me!
But, until I know more, The Mirror comes first!

25 nov CINDERELLA ROCKS Ryan Landry & Gold Dust Orphans MACHINE

I was not as enthusiastic in response to this drag-act parody as the nearly sell-out audience --- and this then will be a critique of myself rather than of the show.
First of all, I never understood rock. When others were following the pied-pipers Presley & The Beatles, I veered into serious appreciation of Bix Beiderbecke & The Original Dixieland Jass Band. So, since most of the songs here are themselves parodies in rock style, I found myself a cool puddle in a roomfull of heated enthusiasts. The amplification in a low-ceilinged concrete basement was so loud I couldn't always understand the words --- which I assumed were as wittily with-it and irreverent as the rest of the show.
Then again, and maybe more to the point, I'm not Gay and the Camp sensibility is, for me, an acquired taste. Drag performances, especially by Ryan Landry's Gold Dust Orphans, tend to be very presentational and given to preening, over-acting, and indicating. I wasn't a part of the audience for which this was enough.
Still, who the hell am I to chill an enthusiastic house because of my own admitted shortcomings?
What was there for me was the irresistible energy of everyone, the confidence of a creator and a cast who understood their genre better than I ever will. And, if Windsor Newton is not a mere pseudonymn, the sets he designed were truly astonishing. Everything was done in cartoon-style flat exaggeration, but what impressed me most was the Wealth of settings stored backstage and trotted out so quickly and effortlessly.
This was a huge cast --- eleven principals and eight chorus! --- on a teacup stage grooving in front of an enthusiastic audience, and Director James P. Byrne kept them working at a breakneck pace. One in particular impressed me: Meaghan Ludlow, playing Cinderella, was continually thrown violently about the stage by Landry as her Stepmother or Olive Another & Penny Champayne as Stepsisters. Her addled eyes and bewildered recoveries proved there was no damage, but I wondered how she survived this extended run without breaking a leg --- or something.
So, this is an ebullient crowd-pleasing romp that, more's the pity, never fully pleased me. See it yourself and make up your own mind.

26 nov CROWNS Lyric Stage of Boston Inc.

Well, admittedly I'm not Black either am I?
But I don't think that's relevent here, because CROWNS is essentially a teaching-play in which an uppity, street-smart adolescent from gangland Brooklyn (Heather Fry) takes a crash-course in Sothron church-mores and folklore, ending up baptised and born-again Black. There's a preacher/man figure (Darius Omar Williams) and five of Boston's best known Black Stars, all telling stories and singing Gospel and Spiritual songs and preaching-by-example.(They are Fulani Haynes, Mikelyn Roderick, Jacqui Parker, Merle Perkins and Michelle Dowd.)
Oh yes, those hats. Well, despite Stephen Sondheim's question (in "Company"):

"Does Anyone
Still wear
A hat?"
this show admits that southern as well as northern ladies often take exaggerated pride in their crowning glories as they adorn themselves on their way to church to "meet The King". And Susie Smith the Costumer has provided this cast with a snowstorm of examples --- none wider than the shoulders, but eloquently adorned.
Director Lois Roach, who made her mark with teaching-plays, has kept all the many brief monologues fluidly linked, and throughout it's the inquisitive little face of Heather Fry, grudgingly learning about her heritage, that keeps everything from becoming a lecture with illustrating song.
Since I am not Black, but more importantly a militantly unreconstructed atheist, I was again not as enthusiastic as my peers. But there may be one highly personal aside that put me off:
The cast-list calls the six teachers by such names as "Mother Shaw/Obatala, Orisha of Wisdom" and "Mabel/Shango, Orisha of Fire" --- referring pointedly to figures out of the world of Santeria and Voudun. I had hoped that aspect would be explored, but Regina Taylor (who adapted the show from the book "Crowns" by Michael Cunningham and Craig Marberry) merely used these to give the ladies emotional cues.
And, as a worshipper of Thespis, I came away from the show thinking it a pale imitation of "For Colored Girls Who HAve Tried Suicide When The Rainbow Is Enuf".
But I am a strange old man...


This is, to date, a preview of

29 nov Coumadin Blood Check 1 dec Meet with Orthopod to schedule knee surgery
2 dec Midway Studios SOFTLY UNSAID The 11:11 Company
3 dec B U Dance Theatre THE EGO SHOW Nicole Pierce & EgoArt Inc.
4 dec Monthly dinner with "My Lawyer"
8 dec Meet with Laryngology doctors about sleep apnea
9 dec Cambridge Y Family Theatre ARCADIA The Longwood Players
10 dec Devanaughn A DOLL'S HOUSE
11 dec Calderwood BCA - PROMISES, PROMISES Animus Ensemble
22 dec Devanaughn A BUCKET FULL O'XMAS CHEER Deveney Productions
28 jan Boston Playwrights' Th THEY NAMED US MARY Another Country Prod.

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

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide