Saturday, August 22, 2015


The first time I saw Edward Albee’s THE GOAT (OR WHO IS SYLVIA?) I was convinced it was a comedy… or an absurdist allegory at the least. The Lyric Stage had two of Boston’s best comic actors wrestling with Albee’s beastly conundrum. Can a man fall head over heels in love with a four legged creature? And what will his wife have to say about it! As I recall, the audience laughed almost all the way through.

Then I saw Bad Habit Productions’ deadly serious version this week (ending August 23rd) and I’m convinced it’s an out and out tragedy. THE GOAT won the Tony for best play in 2002 and boy is it prescient a decade or more later. When the wife finds out about her architect/husband’s bizarre paramour, she imagines she could cope with a human rival or a husband who likes to “try on her dresses” but this she cannot withstand.

Albee offers up everyone’s point of view (i.e. the friend, the wife, the husband, the son) except the title character. Why not? The wife suggests in one of her magnificent tirades, that it’s rape. If we’re to take the story as gospel and not as metaphor (Evangelicals still denounce homosexuality as “unnatural,” never mind sex with another species!), then someone has to worry about the sentient being who literally becomes the scapegoat.

So rather than proceed with my own tirade on animal rights, I shall opt for the symbolism in THE GOAT. The wife proclaims that her husband’s behavior is “outside the rules,” territory Albee traversed more than a few times. His plays were denounced. His homosexuality was condemned and rather than celebrate his work, no Pulitzer was awarded the year he was the finalist (for WHO’S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF?). Talk about scapegoats.

Director Daniel Morris’ shattering production has at its core the remarkable performance of Veronica Anastasio Wiseman as the profoundly wounded wife. First you watch her heart bleed out through her pores; Then yours begins to break. Luke Murtha, also, as the completely overwhelmed son, wins our affection and our most tender sympathies, as his world slips into “a hole we’ll never be able to dig our way out of.” Morris and company have crafted an exquisite catastrophe from Albee’s sorrowful, penetrating script.

Saturday, August 15, 2015


Wax Wings Productions is one of the few theater companies in town that develop and produce original plays. It’s quite a risk and we’re indebted to WW for its dedication to new work and for its high production values. Bravo.

Cassie M. Seinuk’s EYES SHUT DOOR OPEN is finishing its run at the Inner Sanctum Visual Arts building this weekend, through August 16th. Seinuk has written enough material for three intriguing plays (and one horror movie) with EYES. There’s the rub. Her first plot idea is a keeper: Victor Shopov portrays a savvy painter who’s basking in the glow of stardom at a reception for his latest show. He smugly tells us he could have any of the tony women giving him the eye. Instead he’s set his sights on the gorgeous cater/waiter who seems impervious to his charms. The two trade barbs and sparks are ignited. It’s a nifty setup.

Melissa M. DeJesus as the aloof butterfly is counting on the testosterone that sends males of the species tearing after the one female who isn’t interested. Of course she’s interested and she knows just how to lure him in. There have been a spate of stories over the years about bright young women (and men, too, I’m sure) who have insinuated themselves into the lives of luminaries, especially the reclusive kind. (For example, years ago a college freshman wrote a fan letter to J.D. Salinger and parlayed it into a live in relationship and plenty of fame for her... albeit most of it negative.) Is this what the stunning woman is after? She certainly seems to have an agenda.

This clever butterfly is in fact a journalist who lies to the painter to get details for a story about him. Seinuk makes her publication Vanity Fair, which has had its share of lawsuits on the subject of exploitation. Comeuppance is a nifty kernel for a plot but Seinuk complicates the story with what appeared to me to be some terrible organic affliction for the painter. He has blinding, recurring headaches with a frightening, burning aura accompanied by distorted, crackling noise: All the earmarks of a brain tumor or an aneurysm or a seizure disorder perhaps.

 But No. This is where the play veers off into pseudo psycho-Freudian territory. Evidently deep emotional scars are causing the headaches and menacing voices. (In the not too distant past, the very real “Son of Sam” killer thought voices were telling him to commit mass murder.) In the artist’s case, it’s the “Son of Sandman” calling but the “psycho” diagnosis doesn’t really fit because he’s able to function apart from the headaches… and function extremely well, becoming the toast of SoHo. He may have a ton of guilt to deal with but guilt doesn’t manifest itself in hallucinations, horror movie style with faceless bogeymen popping out from behind closed doors.

Of course, you can drive anywhere with a literary license. I just can’t go with you if it doesn’t make sense. Director Christopher Randolph has a field day scaring us with deafening sound and blood red lights. And if headaches, voices and two characters working at cross purposes aren’t enough, Seinuk introduces a third character, portrayed by Michael James Underhill, adding even more creepiness as the artist’s mentally and physically damaged younger brother. When he arrives, the fur (not to mention the visual metaphors) really starts to fly.

The crackerjack acting is what keeps up the intensity of the piece, even while we’re trying to make the bizarre puzzle fit. Violence makes me squeamish. I would have preferred more psychological give and take and less “slasher” activity but that’s just me.