Monday, March 30, 2015

QUICK TAKE REVIEW By Beverly Creasey EXTRA EXTRA HEAR ALL ABOUT IT



The three British zanies (Adam Long, Reed Martin and Austin Tichenor), who brought THE COMPLETE WORKS OF WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE (Abridged) to the colonies, have lucked into a nifty cottage industry, abridging stuff. They’ve even had the audacity to abridge our whole, long two hundred year history!

THE COMPLETE HISTORY OF AMERICA (Abridged) is tearing up the joint at ARTS AFTER HOURS through April 4th. It’s an irreverent send up of our love affair with “manifest destiny,” invading the Middle East and conspiracy theories…and I should point out, it’s being directed by James Tallach, who is a Scot! Talk about conspiracies.

What’s more, I think there’s a definite link to another show… and I don’t mind telling you it’s Hub Theatre’s LOOT (also written by a Brit). In point of fact, one of the AFTER HOURS performers is married to someone in the Hub production. The same mustache appears in both plays and both employ chocolate money to bribe the audience. Coincidence? I think not.

Tallach’s wild and wooly production has three game actors to lead us in stitches (well, mostly in groans) through the Revolutionary “shot heard round the world” War (which they link cleverly to the lone gunman theory), through the Civil War, the French and Indian War, the War of 1812, two World Wars, the Korean Conflict, the Vietnam War (which wasn’t a declared war) to the Gulf fiascos…and beyond. I can hardly keep up with our military actions. (If it’s Tuesday, we must be invading another -Stan.) It’s beyond me how the play’s authors can keep up.

Cameron Gosselin, Dan Prior and Casey Tucker maneuver with aplomb in and out of costumes, accents, genders even, in service of the deliriously lame humor. And they sing terrific triple harmony à la The Andrews Sisters in The Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy! It’s a romp. Well, some of it is a crawl but mostly it’s just plain silly…Oh, and you’ll learn something about history, to boot!

QUICK TAKE REVIEW By Beverly Creasey Enormous Undertaking



Joe Orton’s LOOT (playing at Hub Theatre Company’s First and Second Church digs through April 12th) was wildly subversive in its dayOrton based the corrupt British policeman on a real caseand it was wildly funny, to boot. I was afraid it might have lost some of its teeth but it actually delivers a bite Orton couldn’t have anticipated fifty years ago.

John Geoffrion, Hub’s artistic director, it turns out, is a consummate comedian. He plays the brutal copper who gains illegal entry into a house, claiming to be from the Water Board. No warrant needed, you see, if there’s a leak! Orton couldn’t have imagined the twenty-first century definition of “water board” back in the day. What makes the farce even creepier is that Geoffrion makes him hilarious, looking, for all the world, like a mild mannered James Joyce, channeling Monty Python and his own performance in Blackadder.

While we’re laughing at the absurdities on stage involving a funeral, the law and a whole lot of purloined cash which needs to be hidden, Orton makes his nifty, sardonic point: If we think this is so bloody funny (AND WE DO) then we’re complicit. Everyone is corrupt, even us…especially us (the Brits and the U.S.), using torture to gain information in the name of “Homeland Security.”

Timing is everything in farce and director Daniel Bourque is fortunate to have Geoffrion, whose every move is a treat, Kevin Paquette as a shady undertaker, more concerned with the sexy nurse than the deceased and Meredith Stypinski as that naughty nurse who’s eyeing the dearly departed’s bereaved husband. They play off each other like fine Swiss clockwork.

Poor grieving man, that widower, (Thomas Grenon nailing vague innocence), he doesn’t stand a chance once Stypinski’s bombshell “angel of mercy” sets her sights on him. C.J. David makes the son an ineffectual narcissist. He’s the cog that makes the wheel turn in the beginning and Sean Cooper is the Bobby who halts the momentum at play’s end. If only there were a coda where Geoffrion could come back and intimidate us.

Friday, March 27, 2015

QUICK TAKE REVIEW By Beverly Creasey Another Night in Paradise



There are, I think, only a handful of restaurant plays which serve up memorable characters and genuinely funny dialogue. Add Maureen Cornell and John Shea’s hilarious slice of life comedy (running through April 4th) to the list. The LIFERS of the title are the veteran cooks, waiters and waitresses who toil under the radar for minimum wage and the promise of big tips.

First, let me testify, having waited tables throughout college, that every word in LIFERS is gospel. In point of fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if the actors in the show had done hard time at a diner somewhere. Customs, culture and food may change, but not the folks in the trenches.

Cornell and Shea pepper the play with a rookie, a crusty cook, plenty of jaded staff, a snotty hostess and just the right amount of turmoil to keep them all busy. The only thing missing is a waiter who’s an out of work actor. What is truly remarkable about director Brett Marks’ production is the intricate timing: The interwoven exits and entrances, not to mention the cross currents of conversation are executed flawlessly. And it looks effortless.

The performers are first rate. Marks gets lovely, quirky performances: from Maureen Adduci as the well seasoned waitress with a sharp tongue, from Peter Brown as the feisty, unflappable cook, from Mikey DiLoreto as the stand up friend to Lisette Marie Morris’ overwhelmed single mother, from David D’Andrea as the poor greenhorn and from Audrey Lynn Sylvia as the universal irritant (who mellows a bit toward the end).

Marc Ewart’s set should be Zagat rated, it looks so authentic. Here’s my tip. Without reservation. See it before the kitchen closes.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

QUICK TAKE REVIEW By Beverly Creasey The Ghastly Crunk Tinies



If you’re a fan of Edward Gorey’s wee alphabetical assassinations, then Company One and Suffolk University’s SHOCKHEADED PETER should be on your calendar. The original SHOCKHEADED PETER was a children’s book of verses written in 1845 by German Psychiatrist Heinrich Hoffmann to encourage (read ‘scare’) children into behaving themselves. A mere 150 years later, PETER is turned into a Grand Guignol theater piece for the London stagewith the band The Tiger Lillies signing on to compose a score which makes Hoffmann’s punishments even harsher, immensely creepier and quite Teutonic with their dark Brecht/Weil brand of music.



The current version of SHOCKHEADED PETER (at the Modern Theater through April 4th) is the brainchild of wunderkind Walter Sickert (and his rock band, The Army of Broken Toys). Sickert’s jaunty, sardonic vocals and playful personality reminded me of Dr. John’s cheeky, laid back keyboard style. (That’s high praise from this Dr. John fan.) Sickert’s orchestrations are the perfect setting for the lethal little vignettes. (And he’s a gifted artist: His intricate, fanciful illustrations take form in SHOCKHEADED PETER as props and puppets.)

The Army of Broken Toys musicians become a vital part of the drama, punctuating the gruesome stories with bells, whistles, toy piano and concertina. They’re a Greek chorus, cheerleaders and a crowd when needed. Imagine Tim Burton’s THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS: Now that’s the spirit of SHOCKHEADED PETER, where horrors seem whimsical, even funny.

Director Steven Bogart’s remarkable actors exaggerate their movements (and their faces) so they, as well as the stories, seem surreal. A powerful, maniacal emcee (Alexandria King), channeling Joel Gray from CABARET, leads us through “the darkest recesses of human imagination” where we meet very naughty children--and Jade Guerra and Brooks Reeves as disappointed parents (when the stork brings them a strange Shockheaded baby with long nails borrowed from Edward Scissorhands. They put him out of sight in the basement). You know that every so often, we will hear scratching from below.

 The artistry involved in each little story is what elevates the production: The girl who disobeys her parents and plays with matches wears a costume (by Miranda Giurleo) which cleverly converts to disaster via her petticoats. Flying Robert is whisked into the stratosphere with a wire and pulley system. Letting us see the magic doesn’t detract at all from our enjoyment. Of course, being a vegetarian, I was delighted to see a rabbit get the better of a hunter. And the troupe even gives us a moral to the story. The emcee asks us what’s beneath our floorboards!

Sunday, March 15, 2015

QUICK TAKE REVIEW By Beverly Creasey MISADVENTURES ARE THE BEST KIND



THE MISADVENTURES OF SPY MATTHIAS (skulking through April 4th) is a heartwarming, thigh slapping, eye rolling love story. Scrap that. It’s a flagrantly naughty cautionary tale…Nah. Not unless you are inclined to heed voices from another dimension. I shall try again.

Joe Byers’ hilarious sexual (not to mention ontological) romp is hitched to the perfect production at Theatre on Fire. Terry Torres and director Darren Evans’ satirical projections (engineered by Deirdre Benson) play on three screens above the actors, punctuating and enhancing the madness beneath. Torres and Evans match every demented idea Byers throws at the play with equally absurd animations.

Greg Maraio is simply irresistible as the spy/guy who finds love in all the wrong places. Better make that ‘lust’ (until at long last, love). I laughed and laughed: Mind you, I wanted to stop, for fear of missing the next funny line, but I couldn’t despite myself. (I suspect Nitrous Oxide was somehow involved.)

Each of Byers’ characters seems to have a delightfully preposterous world to inhabit apart from any interaction with Matthias, making you yearn to see them again, rather like the caterpillar or the Cheshire cat in Alice’s Wonderland. I’m still giggling over R. Nelson Lacey’s yodeling, karaoke-loving, marvelously unprofessional physician….or Steve Auger’s brilliantly brazen, foot-whispering shoe salesman.

And I haven’t even touched on Janelle Mills’ two tour de force(s) as Matthias’ crazy, missing mother and his belligerent, gravel-voiced father…or Adam Siladi’s creepy disabled veteran or Michael Ryan’s chronically depressed actor. (Is there any other kind?)

Because Theatre on Fire has burned successfully through ten years, tix are $10 and the laughter is free. Who could resist such a deal?

Monday, March 9, 2015

QUICK TAKE REVIEW By Beverly Creasey NEITHER LIQUID NOR SOLID



My history book says that the first European to set eyes on the Greenland ice cap was Norwegian Fridtjof Nansen in l889. He designed a ship strong and flexible enough to bend under the pressure of moving ice. His revolutionary contribution to scientific exploration is the concept of drifting with the ice instead of trying to break it apart and resist its flow.

Metaphors of ice and water figure starkly in Canadian Nicolas Billon’s enigmatic play, GREENLAND (at Apollinaire Theater Company through March 15th). Director Meg Taintor’s austere production utilizes three separate actors to tell three distinct—and yet connected—stories about people who fail to communicate, either with nature or with each other. There’s the restless young girl (Charlotte Kinder) whose twin has drowned, leaving her “at sea” wherever she turns. There’s an explorer (Dale J. Young) with frostbite, haunted by waking dreams, whose wife (Christine Power) finds him cold as ice. (Ironically, it’s Power whose story has fire.)

The actors hardly move from their triangulated positions, as if it’s all frozen in place. Billon doesn’t give up his secrets easily so I was drawn to the scenery for meaning: Hanging over the actors is Mattheus Fiuza’s gorgeous sculptural frieze which seemed to undulate like waves of icy water. I thought my eyes were playing tricks on me, as it shimmered in pale blues and greens.

The “sculpture” isn’t at all what it seems to be. It’s not one solid piece, but three or four singular gauzy layers with scalloped edges which “float” in space in front of each other and come to three dimensional life under Danielle Fauteux Jacques’ ingenious lighting. The shapes change as the air in the theater catches them—just like the icecap transforms itself in warming temperatures, leaving its solid form to liquefy into water which will then submerge our land masses, they predict, in record time. Apollinaire is offering several talkbacks on the vital subject of global warming. The next one will be Friday, the 13th.

Monday, February 23, 2015

QUICK TAKE REVIEW By Beverly Creasey TERRA FIRMA



Ted Tally’s TERRA NOVA (presented by the Flat Earth Theatre @ Arsenal Arts Center through Feb. 28th) is one of those dark plays of substance, wherein white men prove their mettle by invading or climbing or discovering someplace where “no one has been before.” (Of course they mean no one with pale skin.) The “new territory” in Tally’s play is Antarctica. Poor Captain Scott of the British Royal Navy: He thought the frozen landscape could be claimed for England. Then a Norwegian beat him to it.

That’s all you need to know. The rest is soul searching, some flashback scenes and a great deal of hallucination. I can clearly see why a company of men would love to get their game on with TERRA NOVA. It has lots of juicy parts and oodles of hazards for the actors to negotiate. And the company delivers. National pride, moral rectitude and colonialism all take a righteous hit from Tally: Dying for what you believe in isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Captain Scott (Chris Chiampa) thinks, dreams and breathes his competition, so much so that Amundsen (Samuel Frank) appears to him in his imagination, taunting him each step of the way. Believe it or not, Scott’s men marched on foot for 1600 grueling miles where Amundsen took along dogs to haul his sleds (and then be slaughtered for food when provisions ran out). Amundsen dismisses Scott’s contention that the Norwegians have engaged in unsportsmanlike behavior: “There’s nothing more dangerous, Amundsen says, “than a man of good intentions.”

The one female role in TERRA NOVA is Scott’s wife, deftly portrayed by Kamela Dolinova. When he turns his thoughts to her, Scott softens and we see his restless, vulnerable side. Chiampa summons bouts of bluster to cover up his fears, where Frank as his rival towers over the Brits, physically and metaphorically.

Director Jake Scaltreto gets lovely ensemble work from his cast. Each man in Scott’s expedition is fully drawn so that we feel we know them individually. James Hayward is the principled physician on the team. Kevin Kordis is the hothead. Robin Gabrielli is so loyal to Scott and England that he makes a foolish sacrifice to keep them on track and an impish Matt Arnold always has a quip to ease another’s suffering. If only there were more evocative plays like TERRA NOVA for a company of women! (Please don’t recommend ON THE VERGE to me. I’m afraid I think it’s deadly.)