Tuesday, November 26, 2013


If you haven’t been to the Arsenal Arts Center in Watertown, you’re missing out: Two theater spaces, one downstairs, one up, two floors of gallery space for art exhibits with studios for quilters, painters, sculptors etc., a resident children’s theater, the resident New Repertory company, an arts and crafts shop and an eatery with reasonable prices just next door. (And I should add, a free parking garage.)

This month two striking productions (one upstairs on the main stage and one in the black box downstairs) center around Kings, one British, one Scottish, one with a noble heart and one with base ambition.

New Repertory’s joyous production of Lerner and Loewe’s CAMELOT (playing through Dec. 22nd) celebrates the age of chivalry and pomp, when the King of the Brittons brought law and heroics to medieval England. (According to the 9th century writer Nennius, a king named Arthur defeated the Saxons in the year 500.) The Arthurian legend is made accessible in CAMELOT by humanizing the mythology in a love story…two love stories, in fact.

CAMELOT resonates at this particular time, not just because of the 50th anniversary of the “Kennedy Camelot,” but because of its overarching message of peace. Arthur despairs that “we have battles for no reason” other than artificial boundaries, something he learned when the magician Merlin turned him into a hawk as a boy and he soared over the vast, open land.

For CAMELOT to soar, you need crackerjack acting and inspired singing. Director Russell Garrett’s lovely production has both. Benjamin Evett triumphs as the “ideal” king, keenly aware of his obligation to everyman since he himself was a commoner before drawing the famous sword from the stone. You see Evett grow from hopeful bridegroom to heavy-hearted monarch, graying with the years and the strain of knowing he’s lost his Guenevere (a resplendent and luminous Erica Spyres) to Lancelot.

Marc Koeck makes a dashing Lancelot, whose declarations of purity inspire jealousy in his fellow knights. Knockabout, swaggering performances from Kevin Cirone, Michael J. Borges and Maurice Emmanuel Parent add delightful humor to the story, as do Robert D. Murphy’s two (!) star turns, first as the “youthening” Merlin and then as a magnificent, blustery King Pellinore.

Nick Sulfaro as the sleazy, scheming Mordred leads the knights away from Arthur in the deliciously naughty “Fie on Goodness.” Except for Guenevere, CAMELOT is a male dominated vehicle but Shonna Cirone as Guenevere’s chief lady-in-waiting, Katie Clark as Morgan Le Fey and all the women who cavort in the “Lusty Month of May” make the distaff presence count. Every number is full of spirit. Even a treacherous trumpet on opening night couldn’t dampen my delight.

Downstairs from the musical, a darker world unfolds in director Joey DeMita’s gloomy, atmospheric MACBETH, presented by F.U.D.G.E. and playing through Nov. 30th. DeMita’s compelling “weird sisters” (‘wyrd’ being old Anglo-Saxon for ‘fate’) come equipped with crimson bands which can ensnare their prey… create a witching triangle… or seem to form the dagger Macbeth sees before his eyes. These witches choose when to be seen but they’re present throughout, profaning the “blessed heath,” on or around a stylized bridge which spans the stage.

DeMita’s clever imagining sets a deep pool of water (James Petty’s dynamic set) in a wooden island which can become a table for the banquet scene or a stream for washing away blood or a wading pool for Banquo’s ghost. DeMita is fortunate to have two strong leads in Dave Rich and Linda Goetz. Rich has a fiery intensity which reminded me of Al Pacino and Goetz seemed to embody Lady Macbeth’s wish to be a man. She will do anything to achieve her goal, including humiliating her husband. Her “give me the daggers” was truly chilling. I haven’t seen such power in a Macbeth and Lady Macbeth in years.


Oscar Wilde holds an “irresistible fascination” for me so off I went to Moonbox Productions’ THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST (playing @ BCA through Dec. 14th). I’m still giggling. Wilde’s incomparable comedy of manners is exquisitely staged by Allison Olivia Choat, with a jewel of a (convertible) Victorian set by John Paul Devlin and a Lady Bracknell of infinite pleasure.

Ed Peed is deliciously imperious as the Grande Dame who assumes she can control her daughter---and everyone else’s. Of course she can’t. The headstrong (like mother, like daughter) Gwendolen will marry whomever she pleases (but only if he’s Earnest). Peed is perfection, from his/her withering glances to his/her preposterous pronouncements.

The two bachelors in the story are no match for the wily women they think they’ve chosen (ha!). Watching their self confidence crumble is part of the joy of Moonbox’s EARNEST. Everything from “polite” society to religious pomposity is skewered in Wilde’s [hand]bag of tricks. Choat adds a few of her own, including a nifty G&S refrain and a clever [re]turn of phrase for an impudent Cecily. If you’re a Wilde fan, you’ll rejoice that Moonbox masters that arch, stylized tone to a (I can not resist) “tea.”

Andrew Winson is a game Jack with just a touch of nobility. (This is the second time I’ve seen him in the role and he’s wonderful.) His best friend, Algernon, cheekily played by Glen Moore, is a definite bounder and most certainly a bad influence on his chum. Poormina Kirby makes the Cecily role just cagey enough that she’s not the flibbertigibbet one usually encounters. Cat Claus gives Gwendolen a bit of a steely streak, justifying Jack’s fear that “all women become their mothers.”

Gabriel Graetz is a charming Rev. Chasuble, he of embarrassed pauses and florid metaphors. Alas, Catherine Lee Christie’s “shortsighted” Miss Prism was under the weather with laryngitis the night I saw the show…obviously, as Lady Bracknell counsels, the victim of shoddy medical advice. The two butlers, Matthew Zanzinger and Ray O’Hare, have a grand time being in charge, deciding where rugs should reside and plants should recline. We’re even treated to some jaunty music composed by Dan Rodriguez.

If you love the play, don’t miss Moonbox’s gem of a production. If you’ve (gasp) never seen EARNEST, now is the time.

Sunday, November 24, 2013


Last night Fiddlehead Theatre opened the Boston area premiere of the new musical, A LITTLE PRINCESS, (playing through Dec. 8th) at the historic Strand Theatre. You have to give producer/director Meg Fofonoff credit for trying to remedy the sound system which almost sank her production of RAGTIME at the Strand last year. This year two enormous eight foot speakers flank the stage, aimed squarely at the audience.

We (two reviewers) were seated, alas, directly in front of the stage right speaker (I presume the stage left section had the same problem), where a wall of sound which would have daunted even Phil Spector, almost deafened us. Why the reviewers weren’t all seated in the center section is beyond me! Where we were, you couldn’t make out dialogue, let alone lyrics. And the orchestra merely sounded bombastic.

We’re no dopes. At intermission we moved to the back of the center section, which was quite an improvement, although not perfect by any means. Fuzzy reverb still hampered the dialogue but your ears got used to it. This got me to thinking. I recently saw the Actors’ Shakespeare production of Romeo and Juliet at the Strand and none of the actors wore mics. If you could hear them, why not have singers without microphones?

I’ve read the Frances Hodgson Burnett book and seen the non-musical A LITTLE PRINCESS numerous times at Wheelock Family Theatre, so I’m pretty familiar with the story. The Brian Crawley/ Andrew Lippa musical naturally expands on certain elements but to my surprise, a good deal of the story is completely changed, including substituting Africa for India (so they can capitalize on Lion King dancing and chanting, no doubt).

The headmistress role (of the English school where Sara Crewe is sent while father is away) has been enlarged so she can become an ersatz Miss Hannigan and some of the less fortunate girls can experience the “hard knock life.” Later on at a lavish party (where she’s dressed in voluminous green) she gets her comeuppance via a writhing “African” trance, and I thought surely she would scream “I’m melting” and fall to the ground.

Captain Crewe’s travails have been completely altered, not to mention that Crawley’s book for the musical has jettisoned the heart rending conclusion of the original when Sara finds her father alive but broken in a military hospital. In this version, their faithful servant warns Sara that imprisonment has changed him, then up he pops out of nowhere in fine fettle, looking just as spiffy as when he left, decked out in his smart Major General garb! (Crawley and Lippa throw in a funny Gilbert & Sullivan number with father as the very model of you-know-who!) I’m a pushover for G&S and when you bring on Queen Victoria, I’m in heaven!

The pleasant music will remind you of Les Miz and Sweeney Todd and Annie with a touch of Christmas cheer thrown in which isn’t bad, mind you….but the lyrics are another matter. This is a show of easy rhymes: “Savor it” rhymes with “favorite,” and “able” rhymes with “table” but if you didn’t have the formidable Shana Dirik to make the “Lucky” song work (twice yet!) you’d be up the creek: “I’m unlucky..[but] …She’s lucky…Worse than that, she’s plucky.”

Lucky, as well, for Fiddlehead was casting Sirena Abalian in the title role. She’s a pro. She sings beautifully and she holds the show together, not an easy proposition when scenes in Africa and England are staged simultaneously (in Sara Crewe’s imagination) but it looks to us like everyone is incongruously in the same place. The two worlds are not well enough differentiated for an audience to grasp the dramatic concept. I know the story and I was confused.

An opening night gremlin may account for the cringe worthy piccolo and horn in Balint Varga’s orchestra and the clumsy dancing, but not for the uninspired choreography. Anthony Phelps’ evocative set (especially the rooftops for Sara’s escape) gives the show character and several performances supply much needed polish: In addition to Abalian and Dirik, Jared Dixon radiates nobility as faithful servant/friend to father (Jared Triolo), Aubin Wise adds mystery as the priestess, Bridget Bierne provides whimsy as the headmistress’ flighty sister and Liliane Klein as Queen Victoria is a treat.

Friday, November 22, 2013

QUICK TAKE REVIEW By Beverly Creasey Simple Machine TURNS THE SCREW with Precision

Simple Machine Theatre’s elegant production of Henry James’ eerie THE TURN OF THE SCREW (in a lovely adaptation by Jeffrey Hatcher) has been extended to November 27th. As ghost stories go, James’ psychological thriller is considered to be the pinnacle. His vaunted literary career lasted for fifty years. His brother made inroads into the field of psychology and his sister dabbled in the occult. THE TURN OF THE SCREW has been made into at least three movies, several stage adaptations and an opera.

What Simple Machine has done to ratchet up the suspense of the story (a governess in a remote estate who senses the presence of supernatural forces) is to set the play in two period houses in Boston which overflow with historical significance. The first is Gibson House Museum, built in 1859, one of the earliest residences in Back Bay equipped with gas light. The stairs creek and the air reeks of musty history. The dining table is set with the best china, awaiting the master and mistress of the house. Formal portraits and finely chiseled, bronze statuary attest to the family’s wealth.

When we arrive, we’re ushered down a flight of stairs to a kitchen with the most enormous, charcoal black iron stove I’ve ever seen. As we sit waiting for the play to begin, a carved wooden panel on the back wall behind my chair moves slightly, giving me chills even before it starts. Then we meet the gentleman who engages the eager governess, without telling her what happened to her predecessor, to look after his orphaned niece and nephew. He instructs her not to involve him in matters of their care, nor to “trouble” him, actually, with anything. Then we proceed, following the governess, back up the steep, uneven old stairs to the front room, where we sit with a view of the dining area, the central curved staircase and a glimpse of the upstairs landing.

Anna Waldron is the impressionable governess who dreams that her employer, like Mr. Rochester for Jane Eyre, may come to value and even love her. Waldron embodies the contradiction of strength (from a belief in goodness and God, learned from her pastor/father) and weakness (from inexperience and fear of the very devil, probably from her father as well). We are left to decide if the apparitions she sees are real or figments of her imagination. Some adaptations show us the ghosts but Hatcher’s does not, which is what makes this version even more powerful. Waldron manages seamlessly to covey both the governess’ terror and her dedication to the children.

All the other roles are played by Stephen Libby, from housekeeper to employer to the ten year old boy who certainly seems possessed. Libby masters the fine edge between humor and gothic gravity with aplomb. We laugh at the plodding housekeeper and we recoil at the ten year old’s willful defiance of authority.

Director M. Bevin O’Gara drives the story, as the screws tighten, like a speeding train headed off the track. We’re immensely frightened for the governess and for her small charges. Ian W. King’s dimly filtered lighting (or is it the museum dust that creates the haze) seems to cast a veil over the staircase scenes---or maybe it’s our own imagination run wild. We almost see the ghosts in the shadows on the walls at Gibson House.

The second locale, which I have not seen, is the 1850’s Taylor House, built at the height of Jamaica Plain’s golden age. Ticket information is available at w.w.w.simplemachinetheatre.com

Don’t miss the chance to see James’ masterpiece in a setting he himself might have visited when in town to see his friends, John Singer Sargent and Isabella Stewart Gardner. I think he’d be pleased.

Thursday, November 21, 2013


Kurt Vonnegut’s MAKE UP YOUR MIND (playing through Nov. 30th) was cobbled together by Nicky Silver from comic fragments Vonnegut never finished. The author, most famous for his novels, especially Slaughterhouse-Five, died in 2007 without revisiting the material. MAKE UP YOUR MIND marks the beginning of SpeakEasy Stage’s commitment to produce new works in addition to their regular season productions. Not many theaters are willing to take a chance on new plays so SpeakEasy is to be commended.

Director Cliff Fannin Baker’s production of MAKE UP YOUR MIND, alas, is paced so slowly and styled so realistically, that the outrageous humor mostly falls flat. As I watched, I wondered if a “Saturday Night Live” rapid, over the top delivery of the lines couldn’t have helped to punch it up, although the dialogue is peculiarly awkward and, I’m sorry to say, the female lead is miscast. She simply wasn’t funny—and she was up against two of the best comic actors in town, Richard Snee and Barlow Adamson.

The premise is amusing enough: Adamson’s character treats indecisive patients and employs an enforcer to keep them on track—or put them in traction if they veer off. Unfortunately MAKE UP YOUR MIND is so heavy handed that even Snee and Adamson, try as they might, couldn’t keep it afloat.

Sunday, November 17, 2013


Apollinaire Theatre in Chelsea has earned a reputation for embracing edgy scripts and playing the heck out of them! Michael Perlman’s FROM WHITE PLAINS (running through Dec. 14th) is no exception. The subject is bullying and the dramatic fallout is intense.

National Public Radio recently reported the shocking results of a study of integrated anti-bullying programs (which had been part of junior high and high school curricula for at least five years). The study concluded that these programs made bullies smarter and savvier. They learned what teachers look for and they learned how not to get caught!

I could hardly believe my ears. If education doesn’t work, what’s then to be done? Since seeing Apollinaire’s FROM WHITE PLAINS, I’ve decided theater is the answer. All parties suffer in Perlman’s scenario. In fact, on the ride home, three of us debated who was hurt more in the play. We debated whether or not the victim should become a bully to right the wrong. In the play, a filmmaker has won his first Oscar based on real events about bullying. He dedicates the statue to the victim who killed himself when they were in high school together. Then, on national television, he names the high school bully.

At first, the grown man who “teased” kids in high school can’t even remember his victim. He admits he was an “asshole” to everyone in high school but, he tells a friend, he’s moved on and matured. Unfortunately for him, the whole world now knows his history and what’s past is now present in the very public arena of the internet. Bad things start to happen to him.

Director Danielle Fauteux Jacques’ lovely production is unerringly fair to both sides. The performances are so finely wrought that you find yourself, despite yourself, having sympathy for everyone involved. Brooks Reeves, as the filmmaker who ignites the firestorm by naming the bully, has an achingly beautiful, sorrowful speech about the power of a bully’s voice which every student in every school in the nation ought to hear. Reeves draws you in to his pain and you understand why he has to pursue the bully (Steven DeMarco in a tour de force), even to the detriment of his own happiness.

Diego Buscaglia gives a sweet, beatific performance as the man who wants to “save” the filmmaker from his obsession with the bully and Mauro Canepa as the bully’s estranged best friend shows us his distress over his ambivalence. Some of the early scenes seem repetitive but once the plot kicks in, FROM WHITE PLAINS works like gangbusters.


Whistler in the Dark’s THE AFTER-DINNER JOKE (running through Nov. 24th) is a treat for Caryl Churchill fans. Her comic revue of sardonic skits and sketches (originally a teleplay from 1978) royally sends up our priggish notions about charity. Since Churchill is English, her most savage satire is aimed at the Brits. Witness one character’s convoluted logic on the subject of giving: If you don’t give to them (substitute India, Africa, any needy former colony), he reasons, they’ll be angry and come here to shoot you. “If you do give, they’ll be grateful and stay where they belong, wishing they were still part of the British Empire.”

Churchill utilizes a Monty Python-esque style of humor to hammer home the utter ridiculousness of accepted (especially in the U.S.) theories like “charitable economics,” wherein poor countries are given financial aid so they can turn around and spend it on American imports, thus increasing our GNP. Churchill has us laughing at the absurdity of big charity enterprises which spend millions on ad campaigns and operating costs. We’re amused by the comic exaggeration but it’s the resigned laughter of knowing, sadly, that this theater of the absurd is very real.

Marvelous gambits, like “Hoola hooping for the Hungry” or “Pacifist Kidnappers” give ample opportunity for director Meg Taintor’s talented cast to show off its versatility. The gender bending characterization has chameleon Lorna Nogueira as a greedy, elderly captain of industry and the hilarious Bob Mussett as a harried mom with a non-complying baby. Meredith Stypinski is wonderfully dense as the naïve fundraiser, while Melissa Barker natters on about snakes. Joseph D. Freeman has a nifty quick change from crackpot little old lady to Mission Impossible operative, not to mention his musical skills with several instruments.

Kelly Leigh David provides the delightful movies/projections, especially the “Pie a politician in the Face” bit and the old time silent movie (with Freeman delivering the requisite “tied to the train track” piano accompaniment and PJ Strachman supplying the fading light).

Monday, November 11, 2013

QUICK TAKE REVIEW By Beverly Creasey ACTING UP at Zeitgeist

In the 1980’s a life in the theater meant death in the theater…in all the arts, the sciences, everywhere. Imagine how many Einsteins, how many Picassos, how many Gandhis, were lost to AIDS. Zeitgeist Stage’s revival of Larry Kramer’s THE NORMAL HEART (running through Nov.23rd) recounts the history of a nation’s criminal neglect and it pays homage to the extraordinary struggle of the men and women who stepped up to help.

For younger generations who don’t regard the disease as a death sentence anymore (although it still is), the name, Larry Kramer, may not be so familiar. For those of us who lived through the plague, Kramer became the warrior who would not accept defeat. He would not tolerate indifference. He stood up to Mayor Koch, even to President Reagan. He held leaders to account. He rallied activists throughout the U.S. and he refused to go away. He was angry then and he’s still angry. He’ll die angry because of the waste.

How often can you see an exceptional play about a time in history written by an actual participant? THE NORMAL HEART is that play. Kramer details the sorrows and the triumphs of a group of friends who never intended to become activists… and who never could have imagined the death and destruction visited on them.

Director David Miller has a spirited troupe of actors to play out the joy, affection, betrayal and tragedy of a time not very long ago, in New York City. Victor Shopov, although not quite as acerbic as Kramer in real life, manages to show his character’s heart as well as his colossal drive. (He reminded me of Kramer from the get-go). Mikey DiLoreto, too, plumbs the depths of his soul for a searing scene brought on by “bereavement overload.”

Kramer’s play has lovely, touching scenes (like Peter Brown’s turnaround when Joey C. Pelletier, as his brother’s sweet lover, pays him a visit) as well as instances of palpable cruelty (when Mario DaRosa Jr. as Ned’s comrade in arms delivers the news that he’s no longer welcome in the very organization they founded). Perhaps the most difficult role is Maureen Adduci’s as the no nonsense Dr. Krim (Dr. Brookner in the play). Adduci breaks the veneer for one fleeting moment to show the pain never visible in any of her public appeals.

Every member of the ensemble contributes solid work: from Kyle Cherry’s eager office go-fer to David Lutheran’s unyielding bureaucrat to Mike Meadors’ cheery, charming Southern worker bee. Miller adds to the impact of the script with projections of actual photos which transport you (with your heart in your stomach) right back then. Michael Flowers’ black and white images are overlaid with names, only a few at first…then paragraphs of names which become an avalanche of names. Names which must never be forgotten.


The Next Door Theatre Company in Winchester thinks SWEENEY TODD ought to have his head examined so they’ve referred the whole production (playing through Nov. 16th) to a mental hospital. Director Brian Milauskas’ concept confines the whole cast there. Now I prefer my SWEENEY straight, not straight jacketed but I have an open mind. If the concept works, I’ll happily go along.

If Cervantes’ fellow prisoners can act out the MAN OF LA MANCHA, then maybe the inmates at Next Door’s psych ward can tackle Sondheim. The cast certainly can sing. With Dan Rodriguez music directing, SWEENEY sounds just fine. Peter S. Adams as the demon barber and Jackie Coco as Mrs. Lovett dovetail beautifully. Their duets are heaven sent. Brandon Grimes is a strong Anthony to Erin Anderson’s sweet Joanna. Paul Soper as the Judge and Jared Walsh as Tobias add to the solid leads but the inconsistencies in the concept will have you pulling out your hair.

You can’t give a minor character a knife and not give Sweeney a blade. (When he raises his arm to say it’s at last “complete,” a flask just doesn’t cut it, as it were.) AND you can’t have Sweeney’s victims slump, then walk off stage without a scratch like they’re coming back soon. (A couple seated near me had no idea anyone had been killed.)

I’ve seen death easily dramatized by unfurling a red scarf at one’s throat…or by placing a sheet over the departed. Even a sign that said “dead” would have helped out. If you didn’t know the story, you wouldn’t have a clue and the absence of a barber’s chair didn’t help. Making Sweeney thrust that flask at his intended quarry merely made you think he was an alcoholic, proffering them a drink.

I really, really wanted it to work for the sake of the singers but alas, it did not.

Friday, November 8, 2013


Bad Habit Productions’ SOMEONE WHO’LL WATCH OVER ME (playing through Nov. 16th) is a must see. When you hear it’s a play about three hostages held by Arab captors, you assume it’s another harrowing, ripped-from-the-headlines account of torture and inhumanity. There are so many television programs about kidnappings in the Middle East, that you could watch one every evening. I can’t.

SOMEONE WHO’LL WATCH OVER ME isn’t one of them…any more than THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION is just another prison movie. Frank McGuiness’ extraordinary play confirms the beauty and power of the mind to cope with the unthinkable…the resiliency of the spirit to bear the unbearable and the indomitability of the will to survive. Most of all, SOMEONE is a shining testament to the strength of friendship.

Director A. Nora Long’s remarkable production celebrates the humanity which cannot be broken as easily as the body. We never see the violence outside the clanking metal door because McGuiness is more concerned with how someone thinks, what someone does to keep his sanity…his humor…his resolve when hope wears paper thin. Long adds connective tissue to the play by having one long chain run through all their manacles. With one yank of that chain, the Irishman can annoy the American doctor by impeding his perfectly executed push-ups.

Sheldon Brown gives an elegant, heartbreaking performance as the cool American with the most accumulated time in captivity. Greg Balla is sensational as the feisty Irish photojournalist who almost gives up and Jeff Mahoney radiates kindness as the unassuming Brit, newly arrived in Lebanon to teach English. Mahoney’s tour de force as the seemingly helpless Chaucer professor lifts their spirits and gives them the courage to persevere. You won’t find better ensemble work anywhere around. Bad Habit Productions does it again!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

QUICK TAKE REVIEW By Beverly Creasey The Dualists

Stoneham’s Theatre’s dark and brooding DR. JEKYLL & MR. HYDE (playing through Nov.10th) is based on the classic story by Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson. Legends of men turning into monsters (usually during a full moon) pepper Scottish folk tales but Stevenson lifted the story into the “modern age” by suggesting that good and evil exists in everyone.

This particular adaptation by Jeffrey Hatcher features one actor as Dr. Jekyll (a somber, tortured Benjamin Evett) and the rest of the company taking turns as Hyde. The rapid changes (from business man or butler to monster) hammer home the lesson than given the right (or rather, wrong) circumstances, any of us might choose criminality over civility…not to mention that the theatrical effect of multiple Hydes, in director Caitlin Lowans’ stylish production, is certainly powerful. But what is sacrificed to the multiplicity is the thrill of one actor transforming himself into the fiend before our eyes.

The charismatic Alexander Platt (in several roles) provides a hefty dose of suspense to the story. Will his seemingly invincible Hyde triumph over the weak willed doctor? Will blackmail out? Platt as Hyde possesses that dangerous magnetism which seems to draw women (in particular, Esme Allen as his fearless lover) to the “bad boy” instead of the good guy.

Cheryl McMahon plays several “pants” roles in JEKYLL & HYDE but her vile, sadistic anatomy professor cries out for comeuppance, he’s so nasty. Nick Sulfaro, too, impresses in several roles but his nervous butler supplies much needed amusement. Dale Place is a force to be reckoned with as Hyde but, as Jekyll’s thoughtful friend, Utterson, he gets to speculate about man’s subconscious instincts and drive home the cautionary message of the piece.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

QUICK TAKE REVIEW By Beverly Creasey So Sweet!

John O’Neil was top of his game this past weekend, performing ‘SO KAYE, his delightful cabaret tribute to Danny Kaye, at American Classics. He’s been doing the show for thirteen years and rumor has it, this may be the last time. (Then again Richard Kiley did more than a few “last ever” MAN OF LA MANCHAs so who knows?)

O’Neil inhabits each song as if it were a story, throwing his imaginary hat happily into the air in “Breezin’ Along With the Breeze” or caressing each shimmering note in an especially poignant, sorrowful “Molly Malone.” An evening of cabaret from O’Neil is a master class on how to sell a song.

 He whistles a lively duet with Zachary Chadwick’s flute in “The Fairy Pipers” and tears down the house with “Minnie the Moocher.” Jim Rice’s small, tight orchestra has a big sound, with Mick Lewander on drums, John Styklunas on bass and Dave Burdett on trumpet, making the rousing Cab Calloway showstopper the hit of the performance.

O’Neil was joined by the chipper Meg O’Brien for a lovely, jazzy, syncopated “Lullaby in Ragtime” (composed by Kaye’s wife, Sylvia Fine) and she played “straight man” in the pièce de résistance for Kaye fans, the “Chalice with the Palace” tongue twister from THE COURT JESTER.

Sunday, November 3, 2013


Steven Barkhimer’s hilarious WINDOWMEN debuts this week at the Boston Playwrights’ Theatre (and runs through Nov. 24th). Like Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross with its ruthless real estate salesmen, Barkhimer gives us a glimpse into the shady fish business. Like Mamet, he experienced it first hand, working at a wholesale fish market right out of college. Unlike Mamet, Barkhimer’s characters have heart.

Director Brett Marks finds just the right tone for the piece, balancing the outrageous humor with the very real moral dilemma faced by the new guy, played to nervous perfection by Alex Pollock. Poor Kenny, he has a degree in philosophy but here he is in the middle of the night, shoulder to shoulder with thugs, fishermen and haulers. Their day begins at 4:30 A.M. to sell what’s been loaded off the boats to retail stores, restaurants and the occasional hustler (Nael Nacer in top form).

Barkhimer’s set-up is ingenious: As Kenny learns the ropes (and the codes), so do we. Just about the time Kenny catches on, so do we. What a coup, to keep us on our toes…then make us invested in the machinery of the plot. Kenny’s mentor/cheerleader is a rough, raw veteran of the fish game who advances the plot by introducing Kenny’s moral dilemma. Brandon Whitehead is sensational as the irascible, street smart wheeler dealer behind the window, in sole charge of sales, receipts and accounting.

Daniel Berger-Jones supplies laughs for his constant advice and his uninvited visits to the office. Will Lyman gives a nicely nuanced performance as the savvy owner of the operation, a tough boss with a soft spot for the college kid (and an eye for sloppy bookkeeping). He gets a kick out of quoting Socrates to the philosophy major (not to mention a half quote from G.B Shaw about youth being wasted on the young) and he pulls of the unexpected ending.

Saturday, November 2, 2013


It’s no secret that the LUMINARIUM DANCE COMPANY is one of the most intelligent and innovative dance troupes in Boston. Their current effort, SECRETS AND MOTION (playing through Nov. 2nd @ B.U. Dance Theater) is a marvel of light, shadow, motion and emotion.

Artistic directors Merli V. Guerra and Kimberleigh A. Holman move the art to a new level, utilizing the written (and spoken) word not just as inspiration but as an integral part of the dance. Witness Holman’s Neck- Deep (and then some) in which Amy Mastrangelo conjures despair, while the heavy burden of words surrounds her. She eloquently struggles to push down her depression but she can only surrender to the sadness.

Guerra, too, takes literary inspiration for Left is Loss (or “The Prelude”). Guerra gives a tour de force (both performing and choreographing), inhabiting the language of the poem, “burning” and “falling through the floorboards” so that we truly listen to the verse, not just the rhythm of the poetry, absorbing every word.

Both choreographers infuse light (after all, that’s the name of the company) into the very shape and contours of their work: Holman with tiny balls of light for the gossip which passes from dancer to dancer in whisper, rumor, rot and Guerra in Hush with translucent cubes which reveal shadow dancers inside.

My favorite (If only I could come back to see it again) is Holman’s A Secret in Three Phases. Rose Abramoff, Melanie Diarbekirian and Mark Kranz are hilarious usurpers, happily displacing one another, tumbling over each other and leapfrogging to gain position—all performed to a Mozart Piano Sonata (No. 13 in B-Flat Major, Kv. 333). Who knew! The delicious, romping choreography fits so perfectly with the music that I wonder if Mozart had it in mind as he composed those glorious runs!

Special mention, too, should be made of Guerra’s ingenious video (The One I Keep) of Jess Chang awash in tiny bits of paper, snippets of sentences which fall like snow, then fly up like a swarm of insects, ending in a joyous coup de theatre with Chang savoring the last fragment….

And of Larry Pratt’s compelling projections which appear as you wait for the evening to begin, ethereal images of dancers caught by a camera in double exposure, with ribbons of words swirling around them like skywriting, hinting at the supple, palpable language we are about to experience in Luminarium’s triumphant SECRETS AND MOTION.