Sunday, November 15, 2015

QUICK TAKE REVIEW By Beverly Creasey Powerful, Disturbing NIGHTINGALE

Hub Theatre Company’s THE LOVE OF THE NIGHTINGALE (playing through Nov. 21st) is their most ambitious project to date. The good news is that director Rebecca Bradshaw has pulled together a crackerjack ensemble and enlisted an impressive support system behind the scenes.

From Megan Kinneen’s simple but elegant set (a starry firmament overhanging crossed silk shears which serve as an entryway as well as a ship’s sails) to Bahar Royaee’s haunting sound design (three musicians on stage supply sweet music of the spheres or great cracks in the universe by banging on piano legs or eliciting eerie squeals from a cello) to Tyler Catanella’s otherworldly undulating, foreboding choreography to Christopher Bocchiaro’s evocative, shadowy lighting to Jess Rassp’s smart, neoclassical costumes, you can clearly observe the thought and care which went into Hub’s production.

The myths in Ovid’s METAMORPHOSES inspired playwright Timberlake Wertenbaker (as well as Shakespeare for his TITUS ANDRONICUS) but Wertenbaker makes the story resonate for contemporary audiences for its scathing indictment of warand the men who wage it so they can feel “alive.” (The play was written in 1989 but here we are again in the midst of two declared wars and an amorphous third with the Islamic State. Why? So the USA can regain its standing as the most powerful nation in the world?)

Even more resonance leaps off the stage when the villain of the piece justifies his criminal actions, assuming he, like the gods, is “above the law.” He can suppress “outsiders” at will and even deny them the right to speak. He can consume the spoils of war and perpetrate rape with impunity. Then he will suggest that the woman in question enticed him. Even more damaging is her self doubt, that she may have caused the rape in some way.

Hub has engaged several organizations (like the Boston Rape Crisis Center) to speak after the performance. An insert in the program lists info and phone numbers. Bravo to Hub for using this opportunity to link theater and community.

Kudos to the actors who make the story crystal clear, even as they perform a play within the play and even as they reference many an all but forgotten classical allusion. Lauren Elias and Bridgette Hayes are the two sisters who fall prey to Jeff Marcus’ conquering “hero”…and who exact horrific justice as payback. (This is not a play for the squeamish.) Elias gets to play the righteous victim where Hayes’ transformation takes longer to materialize but when it does, she’s in her element.

Liz Adams, too, gives a forceful performance as Elias’ world weary servant, having experienced first hand the destruction invaders wreak. The males of the chorus become soldiers who keep watch and sailors who handle the (cleverly devised) rigging and rowing when Elias sets sail for Thrace. Ryan McPherson is a standout as the kind captain of the ship (and of Elias’ heart). The females in the chorus, led by a fearsome Aina Adler, become the women of Thrace who, except for a sympathetic Blyss Cleveland, keep their distance from the King’s foreign wife.

Every member of the ensemble contributes seamlessly to Wertenbaker’s remarkable, bone chilling cautionary tale. What’s even more astounding is that all tickets for all shows are Pay-What-You-Can!