That Was The Week That Was 13 April - 28 May '06"

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide


That Was The Knee That Was

Thursday 13 April - Sunday, 28 May

Remember when I said:


Well, I seem to have been in a sort of useless Limbo every since.
Whenever I've managed to get out to see anything, I've found it impossible to Write anything about it. I've tried to keep my promises, but I've disappointed a lot of people (Not the least of whom is myself), and must apologize. All my concentration seems lately to be sucked into my increasingly painful left knee.

The most disappointing experience came after I spent a Sunday at The Boston Marathon, enjoyed myself thoroughly, marvelled at the generally high levels of achievement of everyone involved, but found it impossible, this year, to review more than half (if that) of the shows I had seen.
( A good friend confessed there that every year she waited with interest to see which of the fifty productions I saw that day would be the one I could remember Nothing about when it came to keypad-time --- something that turned into a ritual every year. Well, the morning that I glanced at the open, marked-up program as I readied myself not to finish my reviews but instead to keep a doctor's appointment, I realized that we were Both going to be disappointed this year.)
I'll put the "harvest" at the end of this note, to let you all know I Did indeed Try, but failed miserably this year...

But I also want to explain that my behavior with The Mirror will become even more erratic in the next couple weeks than it has been so far!
There will be another operation on my damned left knee, and so next Tuesday (30 May) at 12:15 I'll have a pre-operation test --- probably an MRI --- and then the next day the Orthopod doing the surgery wants to talk with me in Brookline at 11:30 A.M.; the Surgeon will then want me at 10:30 A.M. on Monday, 12 June for the event itself, and I may be confined to quarters for a time thereafter,

On 31 May, Our Mr. Finn leaves for a "Film Noir Festival" in Palm Springs, and he'll be away from then till the 4th of June.
I will spend most of that time in His apartment rather than mine. In the past I've done this to sit with Finn's ferret --- and, though the most recent of his three pets has indeed gone to the burrow in the sky, I will check his mail and, even more important, over-indulge shamelessly in television and DVD-films. We are of the opinion that unless his VCR runs for at least an hour every day it will Rust!)

SO, that's what will be happening to Larry Stark in the next few weeks. That may mean that e-mail will be answered a bit erratically until I am once more here at home --- I trust walking a little more like normally than I am right now.

Now, here's at least as much of the MARATHON Review as I managed to write:

"The Boston THEATER Marathon #8"

Reviewed by Larry Stark

The Marathon is, every year, is a sprawling showcase of theater in and around Boston. The emphasis for The Boston Playwrights' Theatre, which hosts and administers the extravaganza every year, is on new short plays, by familiar veteran names as well as unheralded new voices. In that area, the general level of plays was high and consistent this year --- but what impressed me most was the display of great acting talent from a long list of heavy-hitting performers, so let me concentrate on them first:


And the logical place to start would be with Richard Snee and Paula Plum, doing a neat comedy sketch in which Plum played a Human Resources Director blindly congratulating an applicant as "our first Young Black Woman executive --- even though Snee said he's 54, Irish, and male. Apparently for her, folders full of forms lied less often than her own eyes!
Snee wrote the script himself, and Rick Lombardo directed for The New Repertory Theatre --- though I wonder how much these married actors needed him. But I found it a chance to contrast the pair's acting strengths: Snee's Reactions are flawlessly timed, and he became the backstop against which Plum could bounce into outlandish new misunderstandings. Snee defined the through-line of reality which Plum insisted on denying, and a good time was had by all.


Plum also starred in another comedy-skit by Robert Brustein, playing a harried and bewildered passenger handed on from one airlines' ticketer (all of them played by Tamara Hickey). The send-up documented everyone's awful experience with glib burocrats and, director by David Wheeler for American Repertory Theatre, the skit showcased rather than stretched Plum's talents.


The final script --- Jack Neary's cherry atop this bounteous Sundy sundae --- featured Ellen Colton and Bobbie Steinbach as a pair of side-by-side actresses commenting in the act-break on the performance of a fellow actress, apparently in "Death of A Salesman" --- even though both of them auditioned but were passed-over for the part. Neary himself directed, and squeezed every two-faced driblet of praise/vitriol out of these veteran actresses. The audience, of course, rolled in the aisles with recognition-reactions!


There was another "family pair" in deck, perhaps over looked by most of the audience. In Patrick Gabridge's play (directed by Judy Braha for Underground Railway Theater) Eliza Rose Fichter played the wayward young mother while Debra Wise played the woman who had adopted her now four-year-old son. The conflict was over whether seeing his real mom every month could benefit or hurt the child, whether refusing her visitation would destroy her. The pair defined an ugly situation to which ther could be no "right" answers.
The nice thing about seeing them work together is that Fichter, now sixteen, was for a time the youngest and most impressive young actress of her age --- and Wise, lately getting more roles than she here in Boston --- is really her mother. They played well together......


The busiest actor, though, was Nathaniel McIntyre --- who says he's going back to school, although the expertise and talent he demonstrated in four short plays this Sunday makes me wonder exactly what he has yet to learn. The most powerful was this, by Andrea Kennedy: an intense capsule of "post traumatic stress" centered on our current war. In it McIntyre (under Patricia Riggin's direction for The Publick Theatre Inc.) played a morosely moody veteran flatly, matter-of-factly re-creating his experience of war slaughter when two kids (Greg O'Kane and Matthew Cullinan) demanded to hear his war-stories. The kids, hyped on video-games and bad-mouthing "the enemy", were ill-prepared for the bitter truth that the quietly withdrawn soldier "lit up" civilians not much older than themselves. The re-enactments, with fight choreography by Shepard Barnett, was a grim, shocking surprise --- after which the soldier, who had rejected all help originally from a girlfriend played by Jackie Arko, calmly returned to a moody blues on his harmonica.


In this different confrontation on current affairs, McIntyre lent his newly-shaved head to one of two FBI agents (Paul D'Agostino the other) --- under the peremptory control of Robert Najarian --- who rushed pompously in to investigate a boy (Andrew Durand) who had decided to strap dynamite to his body and blow up President Bush. The irony in this bitingly bitter comedy is that his aim is simply to restore America's supremacy by becoming the best, most famous terrorist in the world. Chloe Leamon and Robert Murphy as his parents underlined the helpless indifference grown-ups have toward adolescents.
These two plays, brief enough to make it into a short-show festival, were two textbook examples of how theater can react to current events.


For this fascinating fantasy by David Rabinow McIntyre was the bewildered boyfriend of Valerie Madden, playing an overly excitable liberal transformed by radiation into a sort of Incredible Hulk like-a-look who, we were told, stomped half of downtown into flinders, and dealt gruffly with Rick Park's Dick Cheney! Fran Weinberg directed this romp for The Shadow Boxing Theatre Workshop --- and if this is the sort of thing they workshop into final form, Long may they prosper!


And Nate played the title role in this delicately tuned quick slice of serious life by Jim Gordon, which Justin Waldman directed for The Huntington Theatre Company. The play began with four buddies in a rec-room drowning their sorrows in beers and sports on t-v. McIntyre's Vinny suddenly revealed that he'd heard from a metaphysical clerk/angel at the DMV Office that "Mike shouldn't worry, his wife will be alright." And the suddenly shocked Mike was, of course, Richard McElvain who handled both his drunkenness and his departing internal war between disbelief and hope flawlessly.
Thomas Keating and Joseph Siriani not su much swelled the scene, but made it work by their intent awareness and reactions at every point. The vision, they noted once a gratefully hopeful Mike left, was a well-meaning fake, but the tightly crafted production may have been the best performance of the day.


In Vanessa David's play, which he directed for The Nora Theatre, Richard McElvain did a walk-on as an Aide at a day-care center where Stephanie Clayman and Faith Justice played parents come early to pick up not their children but, surprisingly, Their second-childhood parents: Alice Duffy and Mary Klug, who get cast these days as people My Age for some reason. The surprise-ending script needed, and got, carefully wrought performances all round.


Another powerful and familiar actress, Melinda Lopez, appeared in two plays within an hour --- oddly without having any scripts of her own on display.
In this, Israel Horovitz' meditation on a mother's suicide in the form of several brief confrontations out of temporal sequence --- almost like notes for a future play --- she brought more presence to the Mother's role than Horovitz did, in my opinion. Emma MacLean as her daughter and Dave DeBeck as her husband wrestled, differently, with their central problem. But I found this play an interesting, unfinished beginning. But Eric Engel directed.


Lopez had a much better chance in this script by Jon Lipsky, in which she and Will Lyman played a pair of serious, long-term lovers in a New Year's Eve conversation that turned into a serious break-up over the woman's need for the security only marriage could provide, but the boat-buildng adventurer was unwilling to provide. M.J. Munafo directed this serious Gem for The Vineyard Playhouse.


Another two-play actress, working with companies she's a stalwart member of, is Irene Daly. This play, by David Ervin, was a classic "put two mismatched people in an unusual situation and make them talk" play. She and Greg Raposa were, it was revealed, the only two graduates of a grade-school who actually reconvened twenty-years after their class planted a tree. The gradual opening to one another, and the promise at the climax, had a sweetly subtle flow. It was directed by John O'Brien for Mill 6 Theatre Collaborative, who have done excellent work at The Devanaughn for several years.


This was an excerpt from the Rough & Tumble Theatre Company's currently-running show --- which I plan to see on Saturday of this closing week. The Company includes George Saulnier III, Kristin Baker, Harry LaCoste, Bonnie Duncan, Tim Gallagher and David Krinitt, and R&T pianist Fred Harrington improvises incidental music. The show concerns a touring-company's adventures bumbling across the landscape, and includes a unicyclist, a juggler, and who knows what else? I'll be able to answer Saturday night or Sunday morning, won't I? You coming too???


Then there were some plays with more than one of my favorite actors present. In this one, directed by M. Bevin O'Gara for 3 Monkeys Theatrical Productions, had Robert Bonotto and William Young at the edge of a lake at the rising of the full moon, intending to snap a picture of Aphrodite as she striped out of her shift to bathe --- except that first Young and then Bonotto, mesmerized by the truth of the myth, moved off-stage dropping clothing at the end, in an effort to join the lady!
Steven Bogart's script looked like a typical "take two people" formula, but carefully crafted and Brilliantly acted. It was quick, efficient, and a delight.


Robert Bonotto as director gave himself a small part in this, the first show and the only musical on the bill, which he wrote himself. Sara DeLima played a singer giving her Farewell Concert, with Robert Saoud playing a Critic encouraging her to Make it her last, while Bonotto scrambled up out of the audience to expire at the (as the title suggests) bad singing. Robert pointed out to me later that the lyrics were actually limericks, which he discovered worked excellently in three-quarter-time! What a romp.....


This was another play featuring a pair of favorites, and presented by old friends The Hovey Players. Brody Lipton's playlet had three siblings lingering after the interment of their father, exhorting one another to "Say something Nice about him," but not finding a lot to say. Sara Jones was the advocate of kindness, Jason Beals, the one who tried. The uncompromising brother unwilling even to pretend kindness was Mark Sickler, a man of many talents on and behind stage whose work I have admired for many years, while Jason is a relative newcomer, and Sara even newer to me. The director was Michelle Aguillon, another favorite actress who's fast becoming a favorite director.


In Ed Bullins' play, directed by Jacqui Parker for Our Place Theatre Project, a Black cabaret owner discovered that the famous Dutch Schultz had made himself a "partner" and was dictating policy --- including the firing of all the Black dancers who were the main draw for the audience. The cast included Claude Del, Christian De Jesus, Danny Matta, Jackie Davis, and Frank Shefton. Shefton is as good an actor as he is a playwright, and I always look forward to his work. Again, though, this didn't seem to me a finished play, but a good beginning needing more work.


Ted Reinstein's play, directed by Spiro Veloudos for The Lyric Stage of Boston, Inc., featured Sean McGuirk, Ilyse Robbins, and Barlow Adamson. Adamson has been directing lately, though not here. The comedy featured him as a candidate for Senate trying to create an "Image" before accepting an interviewer. His aim here was to devise a "signature gesture" with which to emphasize his points, with McGuirk an ascerbic adviser commenting dryly but scathingly on his every attempt. The peek backstage of that show-business called politics proved a fine, bubbling boil of satirical commentary.


This excellent little play by Jami Brandli was carefully directed by Luke Dennis for The Alarm Clock Theatre Company and beautifully acted by Keven LaVelle as a father and Joey Del Ponte as his son --- who spent most of it up a tree (Okay, on a ladder; suspend your damn disbelief, okay!). Dad thought his son called down the taunts of classmates and concern of teachers by wearing half a dozen of his recently-dead mother's scarves. Bobby Jr. in his turn pointed out that it didn't seem "normal" to him for dad to keep insisting that Mom would take her son's abnormalities badly. LaVelle is an excellently honest actor, and the solution to the problem had Dad finally admitted that the smell of his wife still in the scarves was, to him as well, a balm to help Both of them recover and become "Normal". A fine bit of work by all involved!


This character-study monologue by John Kuntz had Kermit Dunkelberg as the ex-Tattooed Man named in the title, probably trying to make friends in a bar by attracting people with his picture-covered skin.. This was presented by The Pilgrim Theatre & Performance Collaborative, with Kim Mancuso directing --- and this continually risk-taking company has been a favorite of mine for many years now.


This little play by David Krugh starred Ken Baltin as God, with Jen Alison Lewis complaining that, if He was allowing a person nearly every day to come back from the dead, why did He overlook the husband who sat in the car with her during the accident. Turned out it was She not he that died, and God was, out of the goodness of his heart, sending Her back with him. Why was He doing it? To remind a growingly powerful humanity that there were still Some Things they have no control over. Eve Muson directed for The Boston Playwrights' Theatre.


Bill Mootos who, after a stint as nearly every play's Young Man, has been proving to me lately that he has a flair for comedy (witness his turn in Huntington's "Love's Labours Lost!)> Here, with Laura DeGiacomo, he played a man fascinated by the young in the Monkey House while trying unsuccessfully to convince his girl that having a baby might be a good idea. Emily Dendinger wrote it, and Shelley Bolman directed for The Village Theatre Project. The play flowed beautifully from small suggestion to confrontation to its inevitable, sad conclusion.


Two of my favorlie actors are Mal ("Karen") Malme and Cheryl Singleton, one of my favorite (if often zaney) playwrights Jess Martin, and one of my favorite groups The Queer Soup Theater Company --- all of which, plus Becca A. Lewis and Josh Pritchard and director Renee C. Faster, got in on this roaring revelation of the serious Professional Sport of miniature golf and the players who take it seriously and make money in tournaments. Those first two named actresses really got into venting their professional and sexual jealousies, with Lewis playing the miniature-golf caddy for Mal's reigning champion. I laughed myself silly....


Vincent Ernest Siders has been trying to make it down in The Apple, but keeps getting drawn back up here to demonstrate his talents. Jeff Gill, on the other hand, has almost made a career of playing the White character in Black plays. For Jon Shanahan's play, Gill became a tuxedo'd connoisseur demanding of a painter that he put what he insists is the last, needed brush-stroke on the best painting of his career. Why hesitate? Because if it really is his best work, everything after it's finished will be the anti-climactic gestures of a hasbeen.
Shanahan's may be a play made even more interesting than it should be by the excellence of its players. Directed by GrandPummy for TYG Productions, it was a fine vehicle for both actors.


As well as actors, the Marathon gave me the work of a number of favorite directors --- many of them mentioned already. For example, Nora Hussey








And that's where I ran out of steam....


THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide