Sunday, April 29, 2018

QUICK TAKE REVIEW By Beverly Creasey The Best Part of VALOUR

LOVE! VALOUR! COMPASSION! is Terrence McNally’s valentine to old friends, their pleasant company and above all, their resilience. Director David Miller’s jaunty production for Zeitgeist (playing through May 19th) makes the Tony Award winner seem as fresh as it did in 1995. The bitchy banter is still amusing, the quirky characters are still fascinating and the presence of AIDS is still … always …. heart wrenching.

The friends spend holidays together reminiscing, skinny dipping and occasionally wandering. Miller has a lovely cast with engaging performances from Brooks Reeves (as a know-it-all troublemaker AND his polar-opposite twin); From Jeremy Johnson as the wisecracking but always considerate “mother hen;” from David Anderson as the melancholy host whose dancing days are numbered and from Cody Sloan as the dancer’s blind young lover; From Joey C. Pelletier and Keith Foster, totally charming as the loving, stable married couple; with Michael J. Blunt as the brash interloper, happy to be the catnip in the garden of Eden.


Friday, April 27, 2018


Sam Shepard burst on the scene in the mid ‘60s with a raw intensity that reconfigured the “family drama.” Betrayal was mother’s milk ... Rage almost always fueled romance … Secrets were buried deep in the ground … Brothers and sisters exploded taboos and the quintessential American male was a cowboy racing demons across the desert.

Shepard died much too young last year which is perhaps why his plays are now experiencing a resurgence. You won’t find a smarter or a funnier TRUE WEST than Daniel Bourque’s savagely jocular production for HUB Theatre (playing through April 28th). Bourque’s juggernaut pits brother against brother, cleverly allowing us to see the shifting balance the very moment the scales are tipped. If you haven’t encountered TRUE WEST before, you’ll be struck by its visceral energy and dark humor. If you have, you’ll be mightily impressed by Bourque’s shrewd intuition.

Of course, there’s a certain subtext to the conversation when a movie producer arrives to discuss a screenplay (with Bob Mussett’s smoldering brother). Of course, the scary brother (a fiercely wild Victor Shopov) steals his thunder with talk of golf, sweaty locker room showers and suggestive towel snapping … but no one has ever played the producer scene that way before in the many, many productions I’ve seen. Robert Orzalli is delightfully sleazy as the Hollywood power broker bedecked with the requisite gold chains and white shoes. Add in Maureen Adduci as the oblivious mom, and you have a hit, a palpable hit as the Bard would say.

Ben Lieberson’s kitschy, middle class crescent set gives the siblings lots of room to spar (with a kitchen sink for Shopov’s loping, furtive brother to lounge in), while Jay Mobley’s original, evocative spaghetti western music prepares us for the showdown at the OK Coral. Do not miss Hub’s TRUE WEST. All performances are pay-what-you-can!

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

QUICK TAKE REVIEW By Beverly Creasey Two and Two Equals 2018

Remember when the president claimed he drew the biggest crowd in history for his inauguration? He stole that page from George Orwell. The novelist predicted the rise of an alt-right, “Big Brother” party in his groundbreaking 1984 (@ BCA through the weekend). “Lock her up” is just history repeating itself. Thugs practice violence at will in 1984, no, that’s 2018 urged on by the president. Loudspeakers blare fake news 24/7 in Orwell’s dystopia. In Burgess Clark’s visceral production for Boston Children’s Theatre (@BCA through the weekend), the news is disseminated by a glamorous talking head (a riveting Dylan Kerr) on huge LED TV screens and violence is everywhere.

BCT’s cast is truly remarkable, holding their own against any professional company in town. Clark gets lovely, nuanced performances from Brendan Callahan and Alexandra Upton as the Romeo and Juliet of the future, where romance is forbidden; and a truly frightening performance from Keith Robinson as the embodiment of evil, rooting out resistance and disappearing citizens without notice. Betrayal is mother’s milk to this henchman. He reminded me of Robert Shaw’s blond villain in “From Russia with Love.” And he reminded me that our president would gladly welcome immigrants from Norway, but not Mexico.  BCT opens our eyes to a bleak future of newspeak and cognitive dissonance.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

QUICK TAKE REVIEW By Beverly Creasey Making America German Again

You can’t experience Moonbox’s stunning version of Kander & Ebb’s CABARET (@ BCA through April 29th) without thinking of the neo-nazis who marched in Charlottesville. The current president and his nationalist (that’s nazionalist auf Deutsch) followers are fanning the flames of white supremacy with every other tweet. CABARET was shocking in 1966 for its dark eroticism but director/choreographer Rachel Bertone creates a chilling resonance in the Moonbox production which is “take-your-breath-away” devastating.

Bertone’s juggernaut marries action and dance so seamlessly that the choreography becomes tactical in her taut reimagining of Christopher Isherwood’s Berlin stories. Even ze costumes (Marian Bertone) and “zey are beautiful” reveal the storyline, to paraphrase the master of ceremonies.

A palpable desperation introduces the Moonbox version, as the emcee (a formidable, alarming Phil Tayler) enters, running, terrified (by what we don’t know), to find safety (perhaps) behind a jagged, distorted triangular door. Janie E. Howland’s off kilter sightlines for the Kit Kat Klub are repeated even in the kick line number. Every element of Bertone’s production suggests despair: It dogs the characters and we, watching, can’t shake it off.

Dan Rodriguez’ perceptive musical direction makes the wildly jazzy entr’acte overture pop and his singers make this CABARET downright unstoppable. Tayler’s frightening “Willkommen” sets the tone for the show. If you haven’t been shaken to your boots by the time “Tomorrow Belongs to Me” comes around again, then Dan Prior’s gorgeous tenor, soaring over Joy Clark and company’s horrifyingly affecting aryan anthem, will put you away.

Aimee Doherty makes Sally Bowles as tragic as any operatic heroine. Doherty shows Sally’s doubts and needs through the manic delivery of a lyric as well as through her canny portrayal of urgency. Jared Troilo, too, as her deluded promise of salvation, carries the weight of conflict on his shoulders. Maryann Zschau deftly delivers the conscience of the musical as the temporarily happy bride-to-be “of a certain age” when the Jewish greengrocer (Ray O’Hare) proposes. Can she marry him and risk certain arrest if the nationalists take over the government? Zschau’s “What Would You Do” is directed, of course, in this production, at us.

Two more performances must be noted: ASL interpreters Rachel Judson and Michael Herschberg bring grace and emotional intensity to the drama through their gestural sign language, depicting what is transpiring behind them on stage. Lucky me, I was seated near the section where they were signing. I could see them and the actors on stage, simultaneously. I don’t understand ASL, but their performances added immensely to my theatrical experience.

Bertone ramps up the energy for everyone on stage, especially in the production numbers: They’re erotic, still, but raw and macabre, with the dancers brazenly inviting us in to a sordid world where a president can grab a woman … by the crotch, perhaps? Most of Isherwood’s characters, like the greengrocer, think the nationalists will go away … that the “unpleasantness” against non-aryans “will pass.” Well, it didn’t then and it’s here now. And our very own supremacist wants immigrants from Norway, not Mexico. How did this happen?