Monday, June 4, 2018


Shana Dirik is a force of nature. Any production she’s in is enhanced by her presence. Now she’s her own theater company! Last evening her brand new enterprise, THEATER UNCORKED, staged a staggering, one-time-only event in Harvard Square, a rip roaring presentation of Stephen Sondheim’s SWEENEY TODD. Far more than a staged reading but less than a full production, this TODD featured Dirik and her former Sweeney from the award winning Metro Stage production, Ben Discipio. That production earned them a passel of IRNE certificates. This “pop up” event will have theater fans who missed it, beside themselves, and the rest of us, endlessly talking about it. If only they could do it again. Please. Please.
I’m reminded of the (one performance only) concert productions of operas performed in the many cathedrals in England and France. These sanctuaries come with an organ, lots of space and pews to seat several hundred. THEATER UNCORKED’s choice of The First Church Cambridge afforded them enough room for a full, seventeen piece orchestra and an exquisite organ which did indeed pull out all the stops for those earth shattering chords which usher in the Grand Guignol  musical.
While music director Gina Naggar conducted the sonorous orchestra, director Allison Olivia Choat maneuvered almost three dozen performers on and off the platform (which I wish had been raked so we could see better). Discipio broke my heart again, as he did at Metro years ago, when Sweeney remembers his infant daughter, singing his sorrowful “I’ll never see my girl again.” Dirik makes your blood run cold when Mrs. Lovett answers her shop boy’s tender pledge of protection with his own words, even as she contemplates his demise. Dirik pulls Alex Boyle’s sweet, innocent “[Nothing’s Gonna Harm You] Not While I’m Around” inside out, with gut wrenching precision.
Jordan Reynolds, as the naïve sailor who falls in love with Sweeney’s daughter (Audrey Clark), wins us over with his clear, ringing tenor, swearing earnestly “to steal” her from the wicked Judge. Matthew Zahnzinger is magnificent as the loathsome, leering, self-flagellating magistrate and Christopher Porth has a delightful scene, infuriating Mrs. Lovett with interminable parlor songs. What an undertaking. What an evening. But one SWEENEY TODD is never enough.