These Were The Weeks That Was --- 15 - 30 September '06"

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide


Too Many Good Plays! ! ! !

18 February - 30 March

I have been dithering over choosing which of half a dozen or more Good Shows to try to review!
I've gotten to some, but when it comes to the others, the time I'd spend Reviewing plays is gobbled up by New Plays to See!
What I'm going to do is spend most of today and (I hope!) tomorrow skipping through the list of shows I've been seeing. The ones I Have already reviewed will be highlighted, and you can click straight to those reviews. The others will probably get short shrift. I'm going back now to see where I fell down in reviewing Everything, and it may take a bit to find all the URLs for the reviews. Then, as best I caqn, there will be BRIEF Reviews intermingled. Wish me luck!
Here's the list of plays seen so far:

18 feb CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF Lyric Stage of Boston Inc. 28
19 feb BEST LITTLE WHORERHOUSE IN TEXAS Turtle Lane Playhouse 29

What I remember most of this show was, deep in the second act, David DeCosta playing the Sherrif forced to close the whorehouse, walking into his office (a room stage-right) and quietly putting his gun and his badge on the desk. This silent scene showed his emotional state, and set up a happy end wherein he married the whorehouse's Madame. (But I still don't like this play much.)
20 feb DARK PLAY or STORIES FOR BOYS Apollinaire Theatre Company CHELSEA 30
21 feb THE RAINMAKER Foothills Theatre Company WORCESTER 31
22 feb A TIME OF FIRE Providence Black Repertory Company 32
This American Premiere by Ugandan Charles Mulekwa was a try at showing the awful state of things in a ruined, war-torn land. Neither the play nor a talk-back with the playwright clarified anything, at least not for me. Less a play than an illustrating show-and-tell exercize, it seemed to have no playwriting-craft whatever.
22 feb A RAISIN IN THE SUN Trinit Repertory Company PROVIDENCE RI 33
26 feb THE RANDOM CARUSO CentAstage BCA 35
27 feb CABARET The Concord Players 36
I wish I could have had fresher eyes for this production. The unique touch was making the EmCee a ring-master whose finger-snaps called scenes into existence. For a "mere" community theatre, Concord does polished, professional work --- and Nancy Curran Willis is a director I admire. But this production came too soon for me to be objective about it.
28 feb THE SECRET RAPTURE Trinity Repertory Company PROVIDENCE RI 37
The halls outside Trinity's performance space were lined with political-cartoons from the England under which David Hare wrote this play. But without a Mag Thatcher in office to bounce against, this long, limp saga of a family business bloated then abandoned by a conglomerate made no sense to me at all.
28 feb THE MAIDS Trinity Rep Consortium PROVIDENCE RI 38
6 mar A YEAR WITH FROG AND TOAD Stoneham Theatre 40
7 mar PLAYBOY OF THE WESTERN WORLD Wellesley Summer Theatre 41
8 mar 42ND STREET Boston Conservatory 42
9 mar OF MICE AND MEN New Rep School Version NEW REP 43
This cut-to-the-bone Steinbeck classic was designed to tour to schools. All the props were carefully laid out at the edges of the playing-space. When not in scenes, the cast retired and sat on the side-lines watching the action. Most important though was a sort of physical economy in everyone's actions. These workers, after all, buck bales or run rigs all day in the hot sun, so they are deliberate in action, and exhausted when at rest. So the students who saw this play saw deeply into the life lived by the protagonists. Great!
11 mar BLACKBIRD SpeakEasy Stage Company bca 44
The press-packet asked that reviewers restrain themselves and not give away some surprises in the show. I think that either bewildered or offended some critics who didn't know how to "understand" the play. I got to it, unfortunately, at the end of the run in a busy week.
What I must say is that Bates Wilder and Marianna Basham did landmark work here. The play is literally about garbage --- about tragically unforgotten damage to both these lives that, even sixteen years later, dominates their thinking. The incident in question was a sexual seduction of a child --- involving "love", pain, and conviction and disgrace, none of which have healed. Playwright David Harrower unleashed every ambivalent emotion in this unsettling, unsettled situation, and it took guts and professionalism for these two actors to re-create them every night on stage.
Oh, the play included the appearance of a child-actress, proving that the molester is not, at least emotionally, reformed. And the vindictive victim at one point breaks into a sexual advance, proving that her "victimization" may not have been so innocent.
As I said, the play is about garbage continuing to ruin the landscape for both participants.
12 mar THE QUIET INFINITE 11:11 Theatre Company bca 45
Brian Tuttle's newst play had people out of the past all showing up expecting to crash on the couch for a few days. Once everyone introduced themselves to one another, it turned into a party where a variation of the game of charades had teams trying to identify a list of phrases fastest --- though the few items that were revealed didn't have much to do with the substance of the plot, which turned on which of several candidates would end up staying with the owner of the apartment at play's end. (I do wish I could remember a little more of this somewhat rambling play.)
13 mar SEX, DRUGS, & ROCK-AND-ROLL Boston Actors' Theatre THE FACTORY 46
Danielle Leeber's Boston Actors Theater came elegantly to life in the intimate Factory space, with three actors taking on as many as six of Eric Bogosian's edgy and varied monologues each. Leeber plays a shoestring like a violin, finding fine actors who can fill a stage empty of sets. Bogosian's pieces flip from social commentary to recognition-laughs, and the cast of chamelians hit every button.
14 mar THE PAIN & THE ITCH Company One BCA 47
14 mar ENDGAME American Repetory Theatre 48
I liked it.
You're surprised, right?
I have used A.R.T. (and Broadway in Boston too) as a whipping-boy for What Is WRONG With Theater In Boston, but in this case Director Marcus Stern didn't festoon the show with bells and whistles and furbelows; he let the actors do the play. And since the actors were Will Lebow, Thomas Derrah, Remo Airaldi and Karen MacDonald he got an excellent show --- set in a little oblong box that narrowed the Loeb's enormous stage and further concentrated attention on the people and their interactions. Derrah took a lot of his physical quirks from Beckett's fascination with clowns --- and it worked.
The only "A.R.T.-ism" was that, instead of leaving the stage as the script says for the end, Derrah hung on to the stage-left edge of the box ... which slowly carried him farther and farther stage-left as the lights went out.
I liked it.
Ginger Lazarus may turn out to be the great hope of Boston playwrighting, if she keeps up like this. Her subject tends to be motherhood --- like in the second of these two big one-act plays, in which a modern Mary argues with an angel promising her a virgin birth --- until the vision of the future turns from the indignities and pains and thanklessness of parenthood to the positives of it all. The argument seemed a slight bit artificial to this militantly anti-Christian atheist, but the play worked.
Much more my cup of tea was the one called "Benny & Serena's High School Graduation" which accentuated the negative. Serena's a single mom raising a genius math-whiz and soccor star with no help and not even alimony and child-support to help. Everyone focuses on the Needs of The Child in this quick-and-dirty recreation of their life together, and Mom gets no respect nor any points for self-sacrifice --- until the last few minutes of the graduation ceremony.
I saw this in a workshop, or the Marathon. It was good then, but it got better. That means Lazarus can tinker and tweak and re-write --- none of which I ever could --- and that means she has a real shot at being the great hope of Boston playwrighting. Bravo!
18 mar TWO MEN OF FLORENCE The Huntington Theater Company 50
19 mar [ Company One TEN YEAR Bash! BCA ]
20 mar FOOL FOR LOVE New Rep Downstage WATERTOWN 51
Do Sam Shepard's later plays look like fantasies in order to protect their audiences from the horrors (in this case of incest) --- or has he just made up all that ugly stuff? I have no idea.
The fact is, though, that Stacy Fischer and Timothy John Smith throw one another around a good deal as "gene-crossed" lovers in the Downstage space at New Rep, before the reason for their hate/love relationship comes out. They're running after each other, and from each other. That makes it difficult for Andrew Dufresne --- who comes by hoping for a date to see a movie --- to keep his innocent curiosity from ugly facts.
But the real unreality is Joseph Finneral, sitting mostly silently stage-right, with a glass and a bottle of whiskey. He could be a memory --- except when he comments on what's going on --- and except when Smith crosses a line between present and past, memory and reality, to give the old man a shot from his bottle of tequila. Fantasy or truth, this is a grippingly acted little play, and it won't close till the 5th of April, so get there if you can.
21 mar PERICLES @ MIT Shakespeare Ensemble SALA DE PUETRO RICO 52
There is no joy in reviewing an amateur group of actors wrestling with one of the most difficult of all Will Shakespeare's plays. Their intentions are honorable, their technique forgiveable, their aspiration admirable -- but this sprawling collection of continual coincidences and romantic extremes simply evaded their grasp.
There's a ship-board birth in the midst of a storm here, then a leap of years to have the grown child sold into white-slavery. There's a despotic king setting unanswerable riddles and killing unsuccessful suiters because he's in incestuous love with his own daughter --- and there's a virgin whore so pure she converts her clients, one of whom is her own father, and retains her chastity.
For a director, this is a nightmare of unbelievable contradictions that makes the end of "The Winter's Tale" look like Naturalism. The only recourse the MIT crew could try was, periodically, to treat things as a comedy. That rarely worked, and the whole was further hampered for this reviewer by the show I saw the very next day.
22 mar CORIOLANUS Actors' Shakespeare Project SOMERVILLE ARMORY 53

I'm going to try to review three of the shows I saw after the 22nd in the next 48 hours. That will set everything back to Zero again. I realize no one "reviewed" here will be, or should be, satisfied with so many quick-fixes. These are full-length shows and most of them deserved lengthier, deeper examination.
But I am reminded of a delightful Flanders & Swann song begining

"A platypus or sloth am I..."
and ending:
"...I could be another Caesar!
I could paint a Mona Lisa!
Or write an o-rato-rio that's just sublime!
The door's not shut
On my genius, but....
I just
Don't have
The time!

Break a leg all!


THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide