Wednesday, November 14, 2018

QUICK TAKE REVIEW By Beverly Creasey PANdemonium at Hub

As the variegated pirates and wildly weird inhabitants of PETER AND THE STARCATHER are wont to say in the Hub Theatre extravaganza (@ The First Church downtown through Nov. 17th) :T T F N (Ta Ta For Now)… which means they’ll be back, again and again, swanning and swashbuckling to the delight of children, parents and ordinarily crusty reviewers. What’s not to like in Hub’s madcap mash-up of the tightly wound original PETER PAN.

Director Sarah Gazdowicz makes the production look like the inmates have taken over the asylum. The (barely) controlled hysteria reminded me of Imaginary Beasts’ free wheeling Pantomimes. Gazdowicz and several others in the Hub cast are stellar IB alumni, where imagination leaves no stone unturned. The best part of the PAN prequel is watching the characters wind up and then spin out all over the stage. Chief among them is Joey C. Pelletier’s nefarious Black Stache, arch-enemy of Peter. You know him as Captain Hook from the J.M. Barrie version. The clever children in the audience knew at once and said so out loud. (This version, imagined by comedian Dave Barry takes place before the other Barrie story. If this is confusing to you, just wait for the wacky exposition, which I still haven’t fully grasped)

Pelletier is a whirling dervish whose manic quips and quotes fly so fast, you can hardly keep up. He’s aided and abetted by Michael John Ciszewski as his right hand man who’s always right at hand, although the captain doesn’t notice him, thereby cementing his name. Pelletier bellows and Ciczewski answers frenetically “It’s me.” (Say this a few dozen times and you’ll see.)

Ciszewski specializes in running the best amok you’ll see all season. What’s more, you can’t wait to see Bob Mussett return as the elderly lady who thinks she might like to try romance again… even better still, she (in full beard, mind you) catches the eye of a gentlemanly seaman portrayed in marvelous deadpan by Lindsay Eagle! More delicious turns from Robert Orzalli as a Cosa Nostra chef with a menu you can’t refuse, from Jon Vellante as one of the lost, so hungry boys that he faints at the mention of sticky pudding, from David Makransky as the other lost boy who wants to be “leader” and from Molly Kimmerling as a nasty villain of a captain.

The plot is hung on the (mostly serious) characters… who don’t get to be funny but they do get to deliver some very touching moments. Claire Koenig as Peter is a wonder. We believe she’s the boy who doesn’t want to grow up (because grown-ups lie and cheat). Smart fellow! Lauren Elias as the Wendy stand-in (Please don’t ask me why she’s not actually named Wendy), does have some sport, challenging and besting the “lost boys” and some heartache when she leaves them. Liz Adams as her stalwart father oozes good breeding and fair play. Valera Bamgala, likewise, is the stand up captain of the ship with the wrong cargo. (Again, don’t ask me about the cargo. I completely lost track of the second treasure chest and I’ve seen the play before.)

Here’s the deal. The brilliant ensemble cast keeps you on your toes, expecting another surprise around the next corner. And the surprises keep coming. You’re laughing so hard, you’re afraid you’ll laugh over the dialogue so you try to squeal quietly, using your inside voice so you won’t miss anything. It’s exhausting, having such a grand time. Who cares about the silly plot anyway.



Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Capsule Review By Beverly Creasey ACCOMODATION COMPLICATION

One of the best performances of the season is Paula Plum’s as a lonely, timid soul who opens up to a ROOMMATE (@ Lyric Stage through Nov. 18th). The play turns on a very thin, implausible dime about half way through but director Spiro Veloudos picks up the pace and pulls it off, even as you shake your head in disbelief that it could work. The best line in the play is Adrianne Krstansky’s about children: “They don’t have to like us. They just have to live long enough to become us.”




American Classics’ revue, YIP! YIP! YAPHANK (Irving Berlin’s World War I Soldier Show) pulls out all the stops. Berlin became a citizen, became famous for his popular songs, got drafted into the Army and convinced the Brass he’d be more useful writing them a show. Everyone, not just the doughboys, knows Oh, How I Hate to Get Up in the Morning (Someday I’m going to murder the bugler…) The American Classics’ combo, led by Joe Della Penna, included drums (Dean Groves), and of course, a bugler (Jason Huffman)!

Since 2018 is the 100th anniversary of the “War to End All Wars” you’ll be seeing a lot of historical footage but American Classics’ effort, for my vote, hits just the right notes. It seemed like a cast of thousands (really only 17) but they packed the Longy Stage in Cambridge with precision marching, not to mention an impressive precision tambourine drill from one of Berlin’s Minstrel Shows.

Just like the boys at boot camp (near Yaphank in Long Island) donned wigs and pearls, the American Classics ensemble dressed up as the famous Floradora Girls, led by AC founder Brad Conner as Ethan Sagin’s sweetie in Sterling Silver Moon. Ben Sears kicked off the bittersweet songs Berlin wrote to buck up his fellow infantrymen, with the charming Smile and Show Your Dimple (Light your face up and brace up).

Narrated by Peter A. Carey, AC found delightful parodies and more than a few show stopping sentimental songs like Joel Edwards’ gorgeous (Dream on, Little) Soldier Boy, sung with a humming chorus. If Brian DeLorenzo’s letter home to mother, (I Can Always Find a Little Sunshine in) The YMCA, didn’t already have us in tears, the barbershop harmony sold it, sliding into a heart-wrenching finish. Then the soldier boys trooped off the stage with the sobering We’re On Our Way to France. They returned for an encore of the original 1918 version (two decades before Kate Smith’s smash hit) of God Bless America, written to a slightly different tune. For an hour or so, you felt hopeful for a world dedicated to peace and prosperity.

Saturday, November 3, 2018


Theatre on Fire has a gift for finding cheeky, boisterous British comedies like Lucy Kirkwood’s naughty, savagely funny NSFW (playing @ CWT through Nov. 17th). NOT SAFE FOR WORK debuted in 2012 at the Royal Court Theatre in London and it couldn’t be more current now.

You know, of course, that the British are obsessed with sex… not just those cringe-worthy BENNY HILL comedies. Their daily rags sport titillating front page headlines like “House of Lords entangled in sex ring” and worse on line. It’s the way we’re obsessed with political conspiracies here (although thanks to this president, you’re hard pressed to find a respected daily that doesn’t reference his sexual assaults). We’re at last becoming British! Two wars couldn’t do it but this pathological narcissist has accomplished it without even trying.

Here’s the set-up for NSFW. A British version of PENTHOUSE named DOGHOUSE may have published something clearly illegal and we get to see A) How they try to wriggle out of it and B) How everyone, it seems, will compromise their morals when there’s a substantial payoff involved and C) We get to observe the inner workings of a creepy, sexist enterprise. In point of fact, we see it twice, when C) reverses itself in Act II, with turnabout/fair play except that nothing is fair in Kirkwood’s dog eat dog publishing world.

The dialogue is clever and heady, referencing everything from the latest endocrine research to Nancy Mitford’s code words to identify class. Director Darren Evans’ cast is spot on. The physical comedy is inspired, with one character’s humiliating journey from pillar to post (the hilarious Isaiah Plovnick) to another’s battle to the death (metaphorically speaking, of course) with Spanx. Anna Wintour can’t hold a candle to Becca Lewis’ man-eating managing director.

David Anderson turns in another tour de force (you may recall his dazzling work for Zeitgeist), this time as the sleazy head of DOGHOUSE magazine. He knows every dog whistle in a journalist’s lexicon, reducing each and every one of his employees to rubble. There’s Ivy Ryan in a nicely nuanced performance as his willing assistant (whose face and body language register “unwilling”) and Padraig Sullivan, utterly charming as a poor, benighted, Argyle (sweatered and souled) homebody totally unsuited for this kind of work.

Best of all, to my mind, is Dale J. Young as a wronged citizen, a father who just wants to bounce his little girl on his knee again, a wretched creature with no family now, no hope ahead of him and no way to prevail against Anderson’s cold-hearted, manipulating bastard.