Sunday, December 29, 2013

QUICK TAKE REVIEW By Beverly Creasey “Language is the Dress of Thought” (Samuel Johnson)

SONGS OF THE DRAGON FLYING TO HEAVEN by Young Jean Lee (@ Apollinaire Theatre through Jan. 11th) is performed in four languages — which means if you don’t speak Japanese, Chinese or Korean, you’re missing ¾ of the play. Even though I recognized one of the four languages as my own, it wasn’t enough to understand the thoughts in the extended narrative.

The English portion afforded me a limited idea of what was going on: Asian women are plenty resentful about the subservient role assigned to them by white men…and white people in love act like idiots. Any more than that was lost on me. (Lee has been lauded for her cutting edge scripts but I couldn’t find the edge in this one.)

However, in the spirit of the play, I offer the rest of my review in three languages:

Es tut mir leid, aber ohne das Verständnis, sind wir unter Wasser während den grössten Teil des Theaterstücks.

Je crois que l’auteur jouet un tour a toute la salle. (Je comprendre la plaisanterie mais le tour marche rapidement mal.)

Scherzacci non fanno una buona commedia.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

QUICK TAKE REVIEW By Beverly Creasey Chaos and Holidays at Lyric

The Lyric Stage rings in the holidays this year with a comedy by Steven Dietz. BECKY’S NEW CAR (running through Dec. 22nd) is a road show of sorts. Becky (Celeste Oliva) is unfulfilled at work, at home (and in her ho hum marriage) when a small mistake leads to a big chance for escape. As she explains to us in her opening monologue, if a woman says she wants new shoes, it means she wants a new job. If she says she wants a new house, what she wants is a new husband. And if she wants a new car, she really wants a new life.

I’m a fan of Dietz’s charming SHOOTING STAR (about a couple snowed in at an airport) but I don’t think he sustains the comedy in BECKY’S NEW CAR. Act I is over the top, with audience participation and actors flying down a playground slide but Act II changes direction completely and threads of the story seem to have been dropped, leaving me flummoxed. To be fair, a friend of mine thoroughly enjoyed the ride. She says the play is all about the “road not taken.” I think the dramatic chaos just got to me.

Director Larry Coen’s cast work like mad to get all the laughs they can from the material. With crackerjack actors like Will McGarrahan and Kortney Adams on stage, there’s always hope—but for me, Becky’s car just sputtered along.

Thursday, December 12, 2013


It may seem like there are a hundred A CHRISTMAS CAROLs out there to choose from but once in a while there will be a different take on the classic. A number of years back, Charles Dickens’ great-great nephew read the story for audiences here in Boston, just as his famous great uncle had over a century before. Now you have a solo performance by Neil McGarry (for Bay Colony Shakespeare through Dec. 23rd) to add to the list of extraordinary productions of the beloved ghost story.

Lest you think McGarry recites the text, I’m happy to tell you it’s fully produced, dancing and all. The trick is that McGarry portrays everyone, even so far as helping himself on with a coat as someone else! He slips seamlessly from one character to the next—and you are not confused even for a moment in his remarkable tour de force.

If anything, Dickens’ gorgeous language is enhanced because of the singular focus. In director Ross MacDonald’s distinct version of the tale, your attention is drawn to Dickens’ rich imagery, like his hot, “singing pudding” or his stirring cry for justice for those who die alone, “unwashed, unwept and uncared for.” (You lose some of those descriptive gems in large scale production.)

McGarry’s “jolly giant” of a Ghost of Christmas Present seems to fill the stage with his reverberating laugh. His Fezziwig whirls about the auditorium in joyous spasms of dance and his Scrooge transforms himself with happy abandon.

Sound effects play a large role in the Bay Colony production. Erica Simpson supplies the bells, gongs and eerie echoes which enlarge a scene, stirring our imagination to conjure a “glimpse of the invisible world.” Indeed, I saw the ghosts heavy with chains, hovering about Marley in my mind’s eye…and I saw the “ubiquitous young Crachits” running under foot as McGarry held Tiny Tim on his shoulder.

McGarry and MacDonald have achieved a magical alchemy which absorbs and involves the audience and holds them spellbound. Small children sat transfixed without moving. Large children, otherwise known as adults, smiled with grins to rival Mrs. Fezziwig’s “vast substantial smile.” In short, you must see their CHRISTMAS CAROL, as the Ghost of Christmas Past informs Scrooge, for your very welfare!

Friday, December 6, 2013


Tracy Letts’ KILLER JOE (@ Arsenal Arts Center through Dec. 28th) is definitely not a holiday show. It’s considered a “dark comedy,” a very dark comedy but in actuality it’s a tragedy with a humorous (to a point) undercurrent. You see, Joe is indeed a killer and a sexual sadist, to boot. (The latter is what’s undercuts the humor, in my opinion. Otherwise, KILLER JOE would be a cautionary tale where bad things happen to bad people—with a surprising twist at the end.)

Letts is the celebrated author of AUGUST OSAGE COUNTY, recently made into a film (about to be released) with Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts. KILLER JOE’s only resemblance to AUGUST OSAGE COUNTY is that both concern wildly dysfunctional families.

Emile Kreymer’s solid production for Zero Point Theater features Sean Stenco as the merciless hit man who doesn’t take kindly to being stiffed. (Stenco will make your blood run cold he’s so good.) Of course, a couple of trailer park losers have done just that. Since Joe fulfilled his part of the bargain, you know there will be payback. (Alas, we get to see that sexually violent, explicit payback up close in the small downstairs Arsenal theater space.)

On the lighter side, Letts has created a wonderfully quirky character in the “sleep walking, sleep talking” sister whom the family surrenders to Joe as a “retainer.” Kelley Feltham gives a deftly daft performance as the sister everyone thinks isn’t smart enough to figure out what’s going on. She shows them a thing or two!

If it weren’t for the on stage, gratuitous sexual violence, Letts might have had a satirical crime spoof on his hands but in my opinion, the creep factor overwhelms the comedy.