Tag Archives: Boston Theatre

Reaching For The Light Without a Net

When Angels Fall

Directed and Choreographed By Raphaelle Boitel

Presented By ArtsEmerson

Emerson Cutler Majestic Theatre, Boston

Through February 24

https://artsemerson.org

Reviewed by Bobby Franklin

Raphaelle Boitel describes When Angels Fall as a dystopia. Set some time in the future, the performers emerge from darkness and never speak. Instead, we are left to interpret what is happening by witnessing a combination of aerial acrobatics, dance, and other expressive movements, some as simple as people walking across the stage. This is accompanied by original and very moving music composed by Arthur Bison. Add to all this,  lighting that is used sparsely but oh so effectively and a fog machine that at times gives the feeling that the aerialists are drifting through clouds makes this a captivating work that fascinates and intrigues. 

Ms Boitel’s future is cold. It is a place where human connection is frowned upon if not outright banned. As the work opens a performer is lowered from above to the song A Bicycle Built For Two (Daisy, Daisy). The old tune will be heard again, and in different versions, throughout the production. The reactions of the characters to this simple song of love and togetherness seems at first humorous, but as their confusion and fear shows it is apparent just how far removed they are from being able to understand and feel human connection, and that is where it becomes so very sad. It may be the future, but things have not moved forward. 

Throughout all of this there is one character, a noble savage type, who is looking for more. She is looking for conversation and is looking off stage toward someone or something as she reaches out for connection. 

The use of beams of light cutting through the fog and the darkness gives a feeling that all is not hopeless. The striving to reach up to the light that is expressed through the amazing aerial acrobatics is just astounding. The beauty and danger that are combined touch the emotions as the struggle to be allowed to feel is strongly conveyed. Can she escape and reach the light or will she fall?

In the 70 minutes it lasted, my eyes never left the stage. The movements, the music, the aerial feats were all spellbinding.  The seven performers were perfectly in sync while making it look effortless, which it certainly wasn’t. 

This is the first season I have covered ArtsEmerson, and I have been quite impressed. Artistic Director David Dower has made the unusual the usual under his direction. 

When Angels Fall is only playing until Sunday so don’t hesitate, you won’t want to miss this very original work. The Emerson Cutler Majestic is a beautiful theatre and this is a must see production. It is touching, enthralling, and deeply moving. And if you haven’t guessed by now, I really enjoyed it.

Photos by Sophian and Georges Ridel

“The Wiz” Opens At The Lyric Stage May 18

The Wiz

Book by William F. Brown

Music and Lyrics by Charlie Smalls

From the story “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” by L. Frank Baum

At The Lyric Stage May 18 through June 24

May 18 – June 24, 2018

Directed by Dawn M. Simmons, with musical direction by Allyssa Jones and choreography by Jean Appolon this is a soulful retelling of L. Frank Baum’s beloved The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. The Wiz combines fairy-tale glamour with street smarts to make a classic fantasy sparkle for today.  The Lyric Stage directors and choreographer will bring a blast of New Orleans Creole magic to this production. Winner of seven Tony Awards, including Best Musical and Best Score, The Wiz ingeniously mixes rock, gospel, soul, and jazz, and features hits like “Ease on Down the Road,” “A Brand New Day,” and “Home.”

The cast for The Wiz:

Soneka Anderson, Elle Borders*, Brandon G. Green*, Steven Martin, Davron S. Monroe*, Yewande O. Odetoyinbo*, Juanita Pearl, Pier Lamia Porter, Carolyn Saxon*, Damon Singletary, Salome Smith, Lance-Patrick Strickland.

The Lyric Stage, Copley Square, Boston

Box Office:  617-585-5678

website:  lyricstage.com

Opening The Door To Talking About Depression and Suicide

Every Brilliant Thing
SpeakEasy Stage Company, Boston

Reviewed by Bobby Franklin

Every Brilliant Thing is a one person play about depression and suicide, two subjects that undoubtedly make most people very uncomfortable when talked about. But talked about they should be, and author Duncan Macmillan has shown us the way to do this in this charming, caring, and quite funny work that also conveys so much of what we should be hearing in any conversation about this subject.

Adrianne Krstansky
(Photo Credit: Maggie Hall)

The production now playing at the SpeakEasy Stage is set in the round with the lights up throughout the entire performance. It is billed as a one person piece, that one person being played by Adrianne Krstansky, but it also involves a tremendous amount of audience participation. Ms Krstansky, whose character remains unnamed throughout, is in the theater meeting with audience members as they take their seats. She is giving many of them slips of paper with a number and words written on them. She is also making eye contact with others to see who would be comfortable with being a part of the show but is careful not to make anyone feel uncomfortable as the whole point of this is to put people at ease while talking about difficult things.

The numbered slips of paper contain  entries from a list called Every Brilliant Thing, thoughts Ms Krstansky’s character began compiling at the age of seven as a way of coping with her mother’s depression and attempts at suicide. The list is not about material things, but is rather quotidian with thoughts such as “People who can’t sing, but don’t know or don’t care”, “Ice cream”, “Christopher Walken’s hair”, and “The prospect of dressing up as a Mexican wrestler”. You’ll find yourself making your own list as the play moves along.

Adrianne Krstansky
(Photo Credit: Maggie Hall)

Adrianne Krstansky moves about the stage and through the audience with calm and grace as she interacts with and has members step in to play various people who come into her life; There is the vet who euthanizes her dog, Mrs. Patterson who uses a sock puppet, the lecturer at university who has his students read Goethe’s The Sorrows of Young Werther, and her first love and future husband Sam. At the performance I attended, the young man who assumed the role of Sam became quite emotional at one point. The spontaneity made for a very touching experience, something that makes this work so powerful.

In an interview with the author in the program notes, Duncan Macmillan tells us he wants the work to show us a way to talk about the most serious things in a way that isn’t serious. Now, while that may sound a bit oxymoronic it is just what he has accomplished. Every Brilliant Thing does not leave you emotionally drained, but it does get a very serious message across, and while this isn’t a group therapy session you will feel a bond with the people sitting around you and especially with Ms Krstansky who speaks to and touches all of us.

If you suffer from depression or know anyone who does you will find comfort in this play. And for those of you who have known someone who has fallen victim to suicide or if you have had such thoughts you will find there are those who understand you. There is so much to learn from attending a performance. I didn’t know that whenever a high profile person takes his or her own life it cause a spike in suicides, something known as the Werther Effect. With depression it is, as Mr. Macmillan says, either “treated as a taboo and ignored, or it is fetishized and glamorized”. It should be neither. We have to learn to discuss it with the understanding and caring that is conveyed in this play, and that is why I believe the people who most would benefit from seeing it is those who think depression is something you can just will away, it isn’t.

Do not be afraid to see Every Brilliant Thing as you will not be forced to speak or play a part in it unless you want to. You will not be made to feel uncomfortable. The treatment of the darkness that touches so many of us is dealt with in a way that allows us to talk about it in order to dispel the shame that causes so many to withdraw to an even darker place. Putting words to suffering is such an important step in dealing with it. Having people with empathy and openness listening allows sufferers to feel unafraid to talk.

As I was exiting the theater I couldn’t help but think how leaving the stage lit during the play was a metaphor for us shedding light on a subject that has remained hidden for too long. For all of our so-called understanding of and openness about mental illness we are still miles away from removing the stigma attached to it. The SpeakEasy Stage Company, Adrianne Krstansky, Duncan Macmillan, and director Marianna Bassham have done much to change how we view this illness. This message should be heard. Every Brilliant Thing could be the most important play performed this season. It very well may change your life, and that is a good thing.

Every Brilliant Thing
SpeakEasy Stage, Calderwood Pavillon, South End, Boston
Written by Duncan Macmillan with Jonny Donahoe
Directed by Marianna Bassham
Performed by Adrianne Krstansky
SpeakEasy Stage Company
Calderwood Pavillion, South End, Boston
Through March 31
speakeasystage.com 617.933.8600

Orlando At The Lyric Stage

The Lyric Stage

Presents

Virginia Woolf’s

Orlando

February 23rd through March 25th

 

Virginia Woolf’s Orlando adapted for the stage by Sarah Ruhl and directed by A. Nora Long will open at the Lyric Stage, Copley Square, Boston on February 23rd and run through March 25th.

In this joyful romance of gender roles and expectations, Orlando the man wakes up, after a particularly wild night in 17th century Constantinople, to find himself a woman. She abandons herself to three centuries of navigating love, desire, and the world from an entirely different perspective. Oft described as the most charming love letter in literature – written by Woolf to Vita Sackville-West – Sarah Ruhl brings the novel to life on stage in a grand, epic adventure that transcends time, place, and gender.

Caroline Lawton

The cast features Caroline Lawton as Orlando and includes Elise Arsenault, Michael Hisamoto, Rory Lambert-Wright, Jeff Marcus, and Hayley Spivey.

For more information: lyricstage.com

Box Office: 617.585.5678

 

 

Sondheim’s Roadshow Opens At The Lyric Stage January 12th

Spiro Veloudos Will Direct Sondheim’s Latest Work

On his continuing journey through the works of Stephen Sondheim, director Spiro Veloudos brings us Sondheim’s latest work, Road Show, the true boom-and-bust story of two of the most colorful and outrageous fortune-seekers in American history. From the Alaskan Gold Rush to the Florida real estate boom in the 1930s, entrepreneur Addison Mizner and his fast-talking brother Wilson were proof positive that the road to the American Dream is often a seductive, treacherous tightrope walk.

FEATURING: Neil A. Casey, Tony Castellanos, Jordan Clark, Shannon Lee Jones, Robin Long, David Makransky, Will McGarrahan, Sean McGuirk, Brandon Milardo, Vanessa J. Schukis, Patrick Varner.

617.585.5678 lyricstage.com

Words That Sparkle

Tartuffe At The Huntington

Reviewed by Bobby Franklin

You could sit through the current production of Moliere’s Tartuffe now playing at the Huntington Theater with your eyes closed and have a wonderful evening. Open your eyes and the experience is sublime.

…a fast paced feast of words that never lags, not for even moment.

Director Peter DuBois chose to use a new translation by Ranjit Bolt which is all in verse, done in octameter (eight syllables per line), with rhymed couplets. The result is a fast paced feast of words that never lags, not for even moment.

The play, set in a Manhattan style terraced apartment with Louis XVI furnishings, is about family patriarch Orgon (Frank Wood) who is conned by the religious charlatan Tartuffe (Brett Gelman). All around him are able to see through Tartuffe but none can convince him of what is happening. The opening scene sets the tone where Dorine (Jane Pfitsch), the outspoken servant and truth teller, is reporting to Orgon on what has happened at home while he was away. To Dorine’s frustration, all he wants to know about is Tartuffe. Ms Pfitsch is very strong in her role and never misses a beat.

Frank Wood (Orgon) and Brett Gelman (Tartuffe)
(Photo Credit: T. Charles Erickson)

While Tartuffe is often described as a hypocrite, preaching fealty to God while trying to bed down his follower’s wife and steal his fortune, he is “a rare trickster” who has no convictions to be unfaithful to. He is fully aware of all he is doing and has carefully planned out his plot. Orgon’s weakness is his own hypocrisy. He has supposedly become a man of the Lord while now turning his back on his family, so much so that he is giveing his home over to Tartuffe and even promises his daughter’s hand in marriage to him. He also remains blind to the advances his idol is making towards his wife Elmire (Melissa Miller).

Brett Gelman’s Tartuffe is barely seen until late in Act I, but when he does arrive he is impressive. Wearing a black fez, long coat, and with religious symbols hanging from his neck, he is the picture of phony piety. Though obviously sleazy, he is also very funny as he manipulates Orgon while fending off being exposed by those around him. Frank Wood conveys just enough weakness to be vulnerable to a con man, but at the same time is someone who certainly should know better.

A scene where Orgon is hiding under a table while Tartuffe is attempting to seduce Elmire is sidesplittingly funny. Melissa Miller and Brett Gelman show off their wonderful comedic talent, while Mr. Wood is a positive riot as he is peaking out from under the table.

There is never a dull moment.

The words, the movements, the glances all make this just a joy to watch. The verse keeps them all so well connected and everything just flows. There is never a dull moment.

This play is very, very funny. It is also ironic that with all of the wonderful language, one of the funniest scenes is when Orgon and Elmire’s daughter Mariane (Sarak Oakes Muirhead) is caught in the middle of an argument about her future. Ms Oakes is positively hysterical without saying a word. Her movement about the stage and her facial expressions are simply hilarious.

Paula Plum swings a mean walking stick in the role of Madame Pernelle, Orgon’s mother. Matthew Bretschneider as Orgon and Elmire’s son Damis is a riot as he is recording the madness on his IPhone. Kate Elinoff is not on stage for long, but she manages to get a couple of the biggest laughs in the role of Madame Pernelle’s maid. Again, ironically, she does this without saying a word, but her facial expressions are priceless. Matthew J. Harris is solid as Cleante, a voice of reason and calm. Gabriel Brown brings a charm to his role as Valere, Mariane’s fiancee. And be sure to pay attention as Steven Barkhimer’s Laurent ascends the stairs in his religious garb. As Tratuffe’s servant he brings a touch of Marty Feldman’s Igor from Young Frankenstein to the play. The entire cast is just wonderful.

Melissa Miller (Elmire) and Brett Gelman (Tartuffe)
(Photo Credit: T. Charles Erickson)

The Huntington’s Tartuffe is one not to be missed. While you will be tempted to make the comparisons with what is happening on stage with all of the madness going on the in world, just remember it is still okay to laugh. And, if this play does not have you laughing you have truly lost all sense of humor. It sparkles! I enjoyed every second of Tartuffe, and I am sure you will too. Don’t miss it.

Tartuffe
The Huntington Theatre
Through December 10
264 Huntington Ave., Boston
617.266.7900
huntingtontheatre.org


 

 

Opening At The Lyric Stage

Hold These Truths

by Jeanne Sakata
Directed by Benny Sato Ambush
Choreography by Jubilith Moore

December 1-31, 2017

Hold These Truths is the true story of Gordon Hirabayashi, the American son of Japanese immigrants, who resisted internment during World War II, a policy which continues to be cited and debated today.  Michael Hisamoto (Stage Kiss) plays Hirabayashi, a college student and a Quaker, whose hope and unquenchable patriotism over 50 years will leave audiences cheering.  The theatricality of this production will be enhanced by the addition of three kurogos, stage assistants/dancers who make magic happen in the Kabuki tradition.

FEATURING:    Michael Hisamoto with Khloe Alice Lin, Gary Thomas Ng, Samantha Richert

Lyric Stage, 140 Clarendon Street, Copley Square, Boston
boxoffice [at] lyricstage [dot] com or call 617-585-5678.

THE HUNTINGTON THEATRE PRESENTS

TARTUFFE  BY MOLIÈRE

November 10 through December 10

The Huntington Theatre Company presents the brilliant classic comedy Tartuffe by Molière, directed by Huntington Theatre Company Artistic Director Peter DuBois (Sunday in the Park with George), translated by Ranjit Bolt, and featuring actor and comedian Brett Gelman (Murray Bauman on the upcoming season of Netflix’s “Stranger Things” and “Dinner with Brett Gelman” specials on Adult Swim) as Tartuffe and Tony Award winner Frank Wood (Side Man and August Osage County on Broadway and HBO’s “Flight of the Conchords”) as Orgon. Performances run from November 10 through December 10, 2017 at the Avenue of the Arts / Huntington Avenue Theatre.

“This production of Tartuffe is going to be everything you expect from Molière,” says Huntington Artistic Director Peter DuBois, “complete with a spin on period fashion and the brilliantly comic possibilities of staging this classic play for a modern audience. Boston is going to see 2017 alive onstage within the framework of a 17th century farce, and the result will be satirical, smart, and a gut-buster.”

Ranjit Bolt’s translation of Tartuffe premiered at the National Theatre in London in 2002. Many English translations of Tartuffe discard the rhyming couplets, but Bolt’s translation remains faithful to the way Molière wrote the French verse. For Bolt, verse provides a vehicle for examining the ridiculous; his imaginative use of language contrasts with the formal structure of the verse to create an explosively witty text. Audiences can use verse to “escape through anarchy into a surreal world,” Bolt says. “The joy of the verse is the contrast between the discipline of the form and the ludicrous nature of what’s being described.”

DuBois chose the Bolt translation because he thought it captured the energy necessary for his direction: free and loose while still clever and sophisticated. “I knew I wanted a translation that sang in the mouths of actors — that had rhythm and speed,” DuBois says. “Bolt’s translation reads well, but it sounds even better. He captures everything that is joyful and fun about rhyming verse across languages, never becoming rigid or stuffy.”

huntingtontheatre.org, 617 266 0800, Huntington Theatre, 264 Huntington Ave., Boston

NEW REPERTORY THEATRE PRESENTS

MAN OF LA MANCHA

BY DALE WASSERMAN
DECEMBER 1-24, 2017


New Repertory Theatre presents Man of La Mancha, December 1-24, 2017 in the MainStage Theater at the Mosesian Center for the Arts, 321 Arsenal Street, Watertown, MA. Music by Mitch Leigh, Lyrics by Joe Darion, original production staged by Albert Marre. Originally produced by Albert W. Selden and Hal James. Directed by Antonio Ocampo-Guzman. Music direction by David Reiffel. Movement Direction by Judith Chaffee.

“It has become a New Rep tradition during the holiday season to present a play that invites audiences of all ages to revel in this celebratory time of year,” says Artistic Director Jim Petosa. “This year we dream the impossible dream as we present the Tony-award winning musical Man of La Mancha. This classic musical adventure recounts the boundlessly idealistic tale of Don Quixote, epitomizing our season’s theme of resilience. We’re thrilled to bring this spirited revival to New Rep this winter.”

“New Rep is pleased to welcome so many new faces to our stage for our holiday production of Man of La Mancha,“says Managing Director Harriet Sheets. “Besides those joining us for the first time, we welcome back director Antonio Ocampo-Guzman and long-time collaborator Maurice Emmanuel Parent in the role of Don Quixote. Maurice’s presence on our stage over the years has been a highlight of many seasons, so we’re excited that he’s able to join us once again in this starring role.”

Tickets may be purchased by calling the New Rep Box Office at 617-923-8487 or visiting newrep.org.

The Lyric Stage Finds Its Gypsy

A Theatre Experience To Remember 

Gypsy at the Lyric Stage, Boston Through October 8th

Reviewed by Bobby Franklin

Lyric Stage Artistic Director Spiro Veloudos has found his Gypsy. In Leigh Barrett he has found an actor who can step into the iconic role of Mama Rose. Ms Barrett makes this her Rose and we get to see one who fully embraces the part with a powerful performance. From her first number, Some People, you know she is going to be very special. It has to be a daunting role to step into, but she’s got what it takes.

Kirsten Salpini
(Photo Credit: Mark S. Howard)

He has found his Louise in the amazingly talented Kirsten Salpini who gives a perfectly measured Louise who goes from being the unsteady second fiddle to her sister and grows in confidence and the ability to stand up to her domineering, and it can be argued, abusive mother. With Ms Salpini we see that transformation occur seamlessly. It is not an easy part to play.

He has found his June in Kira Troilo who gives us the fair haired daughter who finally realizes she has to flee the smothering grip of her mother. She is the child who realizes that in order to become a woman she has to walk away from it all. At first her character seems very superficial, but Ms Troilo gives her a sensitivity and a humanity that allows us to respect June and leaves us knowing she will make a good life for herself.

And then there is Herbie. Spiro has found a marvelous Herbie for us in the ever so talented Steven Barkhimer. Mr. Barkhimer gives a character who could be taken for weak but has us see it is not weakness but kindness that inhabits this very decent man who has taken up with a very difficult woman. Having seen Mr. Barkhimer before I was not at all surprised to see how truly wonderful he is in this role, and it is such a pleasure seeing him practice his craft.

If you miss this production you are making a huge mistake.

Spiro has found all of this talent and more including the young June and Louise played by Margot Anderson-Song and Cate Galante who, accompanied by fabulous ensemble contribute so much to the very strong first act. They are very impressive.

Leigh Barrett
(Photo Credit: Mark S. Howard)

And finally, he has found Director and Choreographer Rachel Bertone who pulls it all together for an amazing Gypsy. Ms Bertone gets it all just right in this scaled down but amazing production of what has been called the greatest of all Broadway musicals.

The six piece orchestra led by Dan Rodriguez coupled with a simple but poignant set make this a first rate work capable of rivaling any huge stage production. I would go as far as to say it is better. Seeing this in the intimacy of the Lyric Stage Theatre brings us close not only physically but emotionally to the story. A story that has been described as Lear-like and while filled with some of the greatest numbers in the history of Broadway musicals, it can be searing and painful to watch.

Stephen Barkhimer, Leigh Barrett, Kirsten Salpini
(Photo Credit: Mark S. Howard

The score is timeless and simply great with music by Jule Style and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim. The songs are unforgettable, and it is all pulled together in the book by Arthur Laurents. Numbers such as Let Me Entertain You, Some People, Small World, If Mama Was Married, Everything Coming Up Roses, You Gotta Get A Gimmick, and my favorite Little Lamb, that Kirsten Salpini does with such tenderness speak for themselves. This is the stuff of legend.

Okay, so now I have to add something, and I know I am in a very tiny minority when I say this. I have seen productions of Gypsy before, and I have always enjoyed  Act I. It is Act II that would leave me flat, or rather with the feeling the story is left unresolved and with an unnecessary cruelty. I feel the dysfunction of Mama Rose has been taken too far. In truth, I was not looking forward to seeing it again, Act II that is. This time was the exception as Director Bertone brings it all together thoughtfully at the conclusion. Yes, Rose is still flawed but something special happens. It may not be a Kodak Family moment, but it is real and it works.

As I said at the beginning of my review, Spiro has found a great Gypsy, with Barrett, Salpini, Troilo, Barkhimer, and company lighting up the Lyric Stage. If you miss this production you are making a huge mistake.

Spiro Veloudos has kicked off his 20th year at the Lyric Stage in great fashion. He has found something very special and is sharing it with all of us. Accept this gift from this wonderful man. He knows how to Light the Lights!

Gypsy
The Lyric Stage, Boston through October 8th
lyricstage.com 617-585-5678