Friday, July 24, 2015

QUICK TAKE REVIEW By Beverly Creasey Severe LAUGHTER at Hub Theatre



Director Margaret Ann Brady’s LAUGHING WILD (@ Club CafĂ© through August 1st) is just the wild and wooly production you need for Christopher Durang’s off the wall mono- and dialogues. Hub Theatre’s roller coaster ride is indeed a summer treat.

Durang’s l980s comedy is surprisingly prescient: for his predictions about global warming and handgun violence, right down to his utter disdain for teenagers from the Jersey Shore! Lauren Elias is a hoot as the beleaguered young woman for whom life is endlessly fraught. She just wants to get through the day without incident but trouble seeks her out (or she seeks it out if it’s late in arriving) even in the tuna fish aisle.

Robert Orzalli is hilarious, you guessed it, as the unfortunate man standing in front of the tuna section when she goes shopping. Elias gets lots of laughs as she shrieks and wails over the “severest of woes” that assail her at every turnwhile Orzalli’s character tries his best to center himself (zen style), extracting bad thoughts with patient hands, only to have them snap back into his brain. Poor man, none of his affirmations succeed in ridding him of his negativity. (Thank heavens because that’s the grist for Orzalli’s comic tour de force.)

All Hub shows are Pay-What-You-Can. If they charged by the laugh, only The Donald could afford a ticket. As it stands, they’re priceless!

Monday, July 13, 2015

QUICK TAKE REVIEW By Beverly Creasey Simply WUNDERBAR!



If the Reagle Music Theatre sponsored a baseball club, they’d be two for two. Last month’s GUYS AND DOLLS turned out to be a sure bet and this month’s hilarious KISS ME KATE (through July 19th) is a must see for its smart staging and its incomparable performances. One more thing the two musicals have in common, a floating crap game to move the plot along.

The Porter/Spewack musical based on Shakespeare’s THE TAMING OF THE SHREW offers an embarrassment of riches in Cole Porter’s glorious songs: From “Another Op’nin,’ Another Show” (brilliantly jazzed up by Lovely Hoffman) to leading lady Sarah Pfisterer’s gorgeous “So in Love” to leading man Rick Hilsabeck’s deliciously naughty “Where is the Life that Late I Led” and so many more…right down to the star struck thugs (Aaron Dore & Daniel Forest Sullivan) who run away with the show in their riotous “Brush Up Your Shakespeare.”

Director Cynthia Thole and music director Dan Rodriguez reinvigorate both the story and the music and choreographer Susan M. Chebookjian pays tribute to all the great Broadway choreographers in Darren Bunch and company’s sizzling “Too Darn Hot.” Every member of the ensemble (or “pomping folk” as they were known in Shakespeare’s day) makes this production pop!

Monday, June 22, 2015

QUICK TAKE REVIEW By Beverly Creasey Wildly INVENTIVE History



A play by Aaron Sorkin is a thing of joy. I’ve been a fan of his (TV) scripts since his spunky, outrageous SPORTS NIGHT. Who better to write about the invention of television than its best writer today! Director Sarah Gazdowicz’ fluid, downright exhilarating production of THE FARNSWORTH INVENTION for Flat Earth Theatre (through June 27th) is a must see: For Sorkin’s smart, sardonic dialogue, for the lively ensemble work and for the two performances that keep this speeding train on track.

What’s remarkable about the script is that we know the outcome and yet we’re riveted nevertheless. (I saw a sharp witted play about Edison and Tesla years ago and you still rooted for the underdog even though you knew who won that fight. Same deal for a lovely Edward G. Robinson movie about the telegraph supplanting Robinson’s beloved homing pigeons. It’s a delightful way to learn history.)

You can’t take your eyes off Michael Fisher as the ruthless David Sarnoff, the founder of NBC and you can’t stop your heart from breaking when you know the much nicer Farnsworth (Chris Larson) will be run over by Sarnoff’s machinations. Where Fisher has electricity in his veins, Larson has that Jimmy Stewart “Aw Shucks” inner glow working for him.

The ensemble acts the heck out of the scriptwhich is especially difficult for the women in the company who play the supportive mother, sister and wives roles. They manage to give these usually thankless parts their best shot, adding considerable personality. Of course it’s the male wheelers and dealers who are the most fun to watch, like Dale J. Young in several unforgettable turns (as villains and heroes).

Kudos to Rebecca Lehrhoff for an ingenious blackboard set where you actually learn and understand the cathode ray! I haven’t been so excited about a production since a play about Alan Turing and his enigma machine.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

QUICK TAKE REVIEW By Beverly Creasey CITY on Fire



The Happy Medium Theatre should be living Large and feeling Ecstatic about their strong production of Christopher Shinn’s DYING CITY (running through end of July). Shinn’s puzzling political-or is it personal drama (inspired by 9-11 and the Bush-Cheney invasion of Iraq) follows the tortured relationship of a soldier about to leave for Baghdad, his unhappy therapist wife and his needy twin brother.

The action moves forward and back in time, adding more and more negative information about the three with each scene. The trick is that one actor portrays both brothers, a tour de force for Michael Underhill. Kiki Samko, too, gives a powerful, emotional performance as someone suffering unspeakable pain. Thank heaven for director Cameron Cronin who manages to infuse the script with flashes of sardonic humor. Otherwise you’d be drawn into the profound sadness of the piece.

When the Happy Medium folks discovered their plans to perform Shinn’s play at the (now closed) Factory space had to be scuttled, they looked for other digs. Samko and Underhill’s condo in Jamaica Plain, it turns out, can accommodate an audience of twenty or so in their living room, and their open floor plan lends itself easily to the show’s set design. With rental costs on the rise, many theater companies may not be able to afford a traditional space anymore. Kudos to Happy Medium for its intimate “Home-Grown” solution.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

QUICK TAKE REVIEW By Beverly Creasey LIVE ACTION PERSONALITIES



Emily Kaye Lazzaro’s THREE (playing through June 20th) is a naughty little comedy in the “Sex and the City” mold. Lazzaro writes lovely, sharp dialogue for three college roommates who experiment (none too successfully) with sex, alcohol and life.

The dramedy is divided into three parts (and a coda), each surrounding a life changing event, like graduation or marriage. The search for love and a place in the world yields lots of laughter and a few surprises. Director A. Nora Long’s smart production features a star turn by Sarah Elizabeth Bedard as the loud, randy roommate who uses liquor and sex to obliterate her loneliness; the charismatic Kelly Chick as the roommate who wonders if she’s a lesbian and can’t wait to reveal a secret; and the pert Tasia Jones whose wedding plans bring the three together again.

Lazzaro mines clever humor around the concept of a “wedding industrial complex” and she creates funny, sympathetic characters who stumble and get back up againbut the sexual subtext about consent in the play doesn’t really gel because we can’t believe it’s in that character’s make-up, at least the way she’s portrayed in Long’s production. (I don’t want to reveal plot points so I’ll just leave it there.)

QUICK TAKE REVIEW By Beverly Creasey BET THE FARM



Reagle Music Theatre kicks off its 47th season with a rock solid production of GUYS AND DOLLS (playing through June 21st). This is the kind of high energy show Reagle does best. With crisp music direction by Dan Rodriguez, dazzling choreography by Rachel Bertone and smart stage direction from David Hugo, each character adds its own spark to Damon Runyan’s colorful world of high stakes gamblers and their gullible “dolls.”

Frank Loesser’s songs are “back to back aces” with stellar performances from Lori L’Italien as the coughing, wheezing Miss Adelaide, from Brad Peloquin as an especially endearing Nicely-Nicely (whose “Sit Down” number rocks that boat like gangbusters) and from Brent Barrett as the dashing high roller who puts all his money on “Lady Luck” but loses his heart to Mara Bonde’s Salvation Army doll.

Scott Wahle gets laughs as a frenetic Nathan Detroit and Rick McDermod scores extra points as Big Julie but it’s the ensemble who light up the stage in the incomparable production numbers: The high flying dancers behind Barrett in the sewer scene make the whole number pop with crowded excitement. Don’t miss your chance to see GUYS AND DOLLS the way it ought to be done!

Sunday, June 7, 2015

QUICK TAKE REVIEW By Beverly Creasey BARREL FULL OF STARDUS



Moss Hart’s LIGHT UP THE SKY (@ Lyric Stage through June 13th.). is a creaky spoof of wacky theatrical folk, all of whom function in hyperbole. That “barrel” of a play is a bit worn and leaky by contemporary standards but what Lyric Stage puts in it is pure magic.

Director Scott Edmiston’s delightful production has a cast of comedians who seem to have walked right off a 1930s movie lot. Will McGarrahan as the effusive director of Alejandro Simoes dubious script even looks like Billy DeWolfe, the stalwart comic from those old screwball films. And when McGarrahan sits down at a piano, it’s as if Cole Porter or Noel Coward wrote their songs just for him. (Oops! I may have caught the hyperbolic flu myself!)

Just when you think no one could possibly upstage McGarrahan, enter Paula Plum as the highly strung leading lady (Is there any other kind?)and ten minutes of hysterical sobbing becomes a virtuoso performance. The very thin plot, if you even can call it a plot, involves a play (which may flop pre-Broadway in its Boston tryout) and a mass exit from the sinking ship.

Add Will LeBow’s loud, opportunistic producer and Kathy St. George as his shopaholic wife and every line becomes a show stopping soliloquy. Bobbie Steinbach, too, has a field day as Plum’s scene stealing, opinionated mother. Richard Snee as our commiserating stand-in, gets to comment like a Greek chorus on the bizarre behavior on stage and Terrence O’Malley, as the real outsider, connected to the stage only by marriage, is struck dumbfounded by the outrageous goings onand he gets laughs just by standing still.

The music (McGarrahan) adds immeasurably to the spirit of the production. Coward’s “Why Must the Show Go On” is the perfect punctuation to the abundance of laughter from a truly remarkable ensemble.