That Was The Week That Was --- 1 - 7 November '06"

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide


That Was The Week That Was

1 - 7 November

1 nov MAURITIUS Huntington Theatre Company BCA
2 nov URINETOWN Vokes Players
5 nov STUFF HAPPENS Zeitgeist BCA 95
6 nov [ LADDERS OF GOD Another Country BOSTON PLAYWRIGHTS' Reading ]

First of all, let me admit I'm writing this at 9:47 a m the morning after the election. And since I have been a "Yella-Dawg" Democrat since Harry Truman's 1948 win, I am both glowing at the House and Massachusetts results, and still hoping Virginia and Montana will give us the Senate. But what moved me most last night was Deval Patrick's victory speech.

It was preceded by Ted Kennedy's ringing declaration of war on the Republican establishment, but it didn't sound like the sentiments of a newly elected Governor.
It sounded ... Presidential.

I won't elaborate because the past week --- although it wasn't atypical in this Very Busy season! --- was a dizzying spread of kinds of theater that I had to juggle and bump in order to co-ordinate performances with transportation. The spread went from a Huntington show to an acting-student "recital" to a brand new Boston company to a reading. In other words, in one week here I could see just about every kind of theater on every level of experience and expertise that Boston has to offer.

1 nov MAURITIUS Huntington Theatre Company BCA

After seeing "After Ashley" at the BCA the previous Friday, I had dessert with a group that included Laura Latreille --- apparently the only member of the "Huntington Theatre Company" cast proud of working here in Boston in the past --- and so I lunged for my only free night of the week to see her in "Mauritius". After the show, which I found excellently and energetically acted, I decided not to wait to talk to her about a show that was, for me a big disappointment.

Rebecca Bayla Taichman directed the cast to fill Theresa Rebeck's clever, cute, narrow little play with as much physical activity as possible. It got so that Michael Aronov went leaping about like a Celtic forward shooting slam-dunks. I think the physicalizing was an attempt to make a comedy out of a simple scam-show in which people double- and double-double-cross each other hoping to get control of a rare stamp last valued at six million beans. She had difficulty because Rebeck kept making her characters Talk About their motivations instead of Showing them. The two half-sisters arguing about which owns the stamps say they're arguing over which one loved parents most, and the two warring stamp-dealers allude to past sins, but none of this ever gets fully explained or catches fire. The argument shakes down to what makes stamps "valuable" --- their rarity, or their collectors' emotional attachments to them.
I kept waiting for something interesting to happen --- as I usually have at Hunting Theatre "Company" productions.

2 nov URINETOWN Vokes Players

What a pleasure to turn from "Equity" to "professional" !
Everyone seems to be doing warring productions of this irreverent, infectious little musical satire. (Two more coming up!) This Vokes production had to extend its run to get all the audience in, and Mario Cruz (Music), Donnie Baillargeon (Stage) and Jennifer Condon (Dance) turned out a smartly precise and sandpapered production on a crisp, imaginative set by Stephen McGonagle. This is the sort of production in which an entire stage-full of people move in total unison, in which every syllable is nailed, and the show's serious refusal to take itself seriously comes across every secod of playing-time.

This is my third "Urinetown" and so I had the leisure and the joy of watching old friends deliver stand-out performances. For instance, I had to read the program to find that Mark W. Soucy played the short-lived Old Man Strong, because he re-appeared for a star-turn as the ultra-energetic Hot Blades Harry. I was very glad to see again Kristen Palson as both a prim secretary and a scruffy Little Becky Two-Shoes. And in every aspect of his two roles (Tiny Tom & Dr. Billeaux) I found Max Bisantz perfect in everything he does. Of course, I expect regulars like David Berti, Peri Chouteau, Robert Mackie or Bill Stambaugh to shine; but this entire cast, in solo-moments or as a group, "stood out"!

I had sceduled today for the first of two performances of "The Dinner Party" but switched when Will Stackman called offering a ride on the only night he had free. It's been that sort of week!
Actually, I'd expected to see "Urinetown" on Saturday the 4th, and the Hovey Players' "The House of Yes" on the 3rd. I bumped that one, and juggled the rest. Until we got there, I knew that Bernice and Andy Sim were driving me to a show on the 4th, but didn't know what it was.
Since I don't drive, to get to any show that I can't reach by MBTA or CommuteRail I must depend on the kindnes of friends --- or strangers. But that often makes hash of firm commitments...


Despite the fact that Neil Simon wrote it, this play sounded like a playwrighting-student's exercize: throw three people into a setting and let them figure out why they're there. The author gradually teased out the fact that the person inviting them to a formal dinner was the lawyer overseeing each of their divorces --- and then Simon added their three ex-wives, provoked a sort of "truth or dare" game between pairs that, apparently, had rushed to judgement without sufficient talk. Clearly designed as a bittersweet comedy, the play looked pure manipulation, rarely realistic.

But these were neither Equity or Community professionals, but Zero Point acting students showing what they had learned from a set of Advanced Class sessions. In most cases, those whose bio's mentioned past stage experience look most settled and sure. What surprised me most, though, was that none of these students seemed to have had even an introductory hour of Stage Technique or Breath Control --- things I was drilled on back in high school, like simply pointing-up the ends of lines. If Zero Point is willing, I'm ready to provide an hour's instruction to curious students --- for free.


Tinderbox Stage Company is the brand newest company in Boston, and their young cast of ten performed in the Black Box space under The New Rep in Watertown Arsenal's Arts Center. The audience surrounded the playing-space, and when not involved in the action the cast usually crouched or lounged at its edges intently, silently involved. Eight sections of wire fencing had been hung from two cables forming a cross, and could be moved in many directions to surround the space, or form labyrinths or rooms or alley-ways within it.

Naomi Iizuka's script involves various re-tellings or paraphrases of the myths in Ovid's "Metamorphoses" --- but told by and about young street-people where life is mostly nasty, brutish, and short. The stories and characterizations are as fluid as the set, and there are fleeting allusions to gods or myths: Narcissus for instance uses a hand-mirror; Eurydice follows Orpheus with a knife and, when he turns to speak, stabs him. A repeated line "how about I tell you a little story about love" introduces several very different stories.

The show, featuring intense relationships, everyday props, grungy clothes, and realistic language, blossomed and was gone almost before I could get to see it and write a review ... like a beautiful, frightening fireworks rocket. Brent Cheatham designed and directed, Zane Birdwell added subtle but effective sound, and Cheatham and Christina Burchard were Producers. I hope they tell me Early about their next show. I hope they stick around. I hope they like Boston

5 nov STUFF HAPPENS Zeitgeist BCA

When I begged a ticket to see David Hare's docu-drama I thought this would be the final performance, but that Sunday afternoon the Zeitgeist Director David J. Miller announced an extension of this sell-out production for another month, into the beginning of December.

And no wonder. The play is made up of scenes and quotations in the Washington run up to America's second and disasterous invasion of Iraq. It is studded with stand-out performances --- Robert Bonotto as a compliant and betrayed Tony Blair; Peter Brown as arrogance personified in Donald Rumsfeld; James Bodge as Dick Cheney; Steven M. Key as the reluctant Secretary of State Colin Powell; Charyl D. Singleton as National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice; and, as the brooding, quiet George W. Bush, Harold Whitee. The rest of this 16-member cast shift in and out of roles, swell scenes and move furniture.

There are bits of background photography on two t-v screens, but the quick, fluid flow of events here brings discussions and decisions alive only inches before audience packed on two sides of the space. A pair of tables and a crowd of desk-chairs, all on wheels, make the cast into now a press-corps, now the Congress listening to the President's addresses, now an inner-circle Cabinet meeting on national security affairs. And, again and again, the "leaders of the Free World" stumble forthrightly into actions designed to teach the world a lesson about American strength and resolve --- that only ends with three coffins onstage wrapped in British, Iraqui, and American flags, while "Amazing Grace" plays, slowly, mournfully in the fading light.

The play is a tensely realized portrait of the American soul, and Quick-Takes have come to The Mirror recommending insistently that people take it in before it closes. It's probably a little easier now that the run is extended, but a show that sells out every seat for a 5 p.m. performance on a Sunday afternoon is a hot-ticket production.
It's also a shatteringly brilliant experience no one should miss.

6 nov [ LADDERS OF GOD Another Country BOSTON PLAYWRIGHTS' Reading ]

Lyralin Kay has been honing this sharply expressionistic memory play for some time, and in this script-in-hand reading it appeared, to my eyes, ready. The three protagonists are an eldest daughter running the family of children even as she is awakening sexually; her deserted mother re-entering the job market to make ends meet; and a teacher/nun trying to help her new secretary cope. The fourth character, mostly observing intently or speaking selected lines along with others, is that same daughter --- older, wiser, self-aware --- remembering this chaotic, inhibited, saint-drenched Catholic upbringing. You see, all three women are unadmitted lesbians struggling through Catholic guilt. Each one is represented by a Saint, and by a ladder which is her individual route to God.

I have seen scenes and another reading. The next step, I hope, is full production. And I hope it happens soon....

Okay, that's only one week of theater here in Boston --- and other reviewers prove I missed other shows in order to see these.
But this week I won't see six plays.
I'll see seven.

Break a leg all!


THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide