Huntington Theatre Company Presents The Hit Broadway Comedy
A Doll’s House, Part 2
The 2017 Tony Award nominee for Best Play and the most-produced play of the 2018-2019 season, A Doll’s House, Part 2 makes its Boston debut at the Huntington Theatre Company at the Avenue of the Arts / Huntington Avenue Theatre (264 Huntington Avenue, Boston) in a co-production with Berkeley Repertory Theatre. Written by Tony Award nominee Lucas Hnath and directed by Obie Award winner Les Waters, performances will run January 4 through February 3.
Nora famously slammed the door on her marriage, leaving her husband and children behind in Ibsen’s groundbreaking classic, but what happened to the iconic heroine next? Named one of TIME Magazine’s Top 10 of 2017, A Doll’s House, Part 2 imagines her 15 years later as a successful writer and independent woman. Nora is urgently seeking to finalize her divorce, but first her estranged family has grievances to air.
This smart and sophisticated new comedy raises fascinating questions about marriage and the ways the roles of women have – and haven’t – changed. Audiences will enjoy this “smart, funny, and utterly engrossing play” (The New York Times) regardless of their familiarity with Ibsen’s play and the undeniable legacy Nora’s exit left behind.
Thanks to his “audacious Broadway debut” (The Hollywood Reporter) with A Doll’s House, Part 2,Lucas Hnath has become the most produced playwright in the country this season. Next for Hnath is his highly anticipated return to Broadway with Hillary and Clinton which opens this spring.
“We are thrilled to bring this hilariously eloquent play to Boston – a playful debate on marriage, gender roles, and what makes up the modern mating dance,” says Peter DuBois, Huntington Artistic Director. “Somehow Lucas Hnath has made it possible to take one of the most familiar pieces of dramatic literature in history and breathe new and exciting life into its iconic characters. Under the skillful direction of Les Waters, this company brilliantly highlights the relevance of this play in our society today with a stealth balance of humor and empathy.”
Hailed as a “classic for our time and for the ages” by The San Francisco Chronicle, this production of A Doll’s House, Part 2 features frequent Huntington favorite Nancy E. Carroll (Ripcord, Present Laughter at the Huntington) as Anne Marie, Mary Beth Fisher as Nora (How Shakespeare Won the West and The Birthday Party at the Huntington), John Judd as Torvald (Shining City at the Huntington), and Nikki Massoud (Huntington debut) as Emmy.
I was apprehensive when going to see Man In The Ring. The play by Michael Cristofer recounts the life of six time world boxing champion Emile Griffith. Mr. Cristofer had not even heard of Griffith until being asked to write the libretto for an opera about the former champ. That experience led to him writing the play. Given that, I thought this could turn out to be a real mess.
I felt there was so much he would get wrong.Boxing is a complicated, dark, and emotional sport. Emile Griffith’s life story is a complex one that is filled with many contradictions along with much success and terrible tragedy. There are a number of different parts of his life that could have dominated this work, but Mr. Cristofer has done a masterful job of giving us a complete and honest portrait of Griffith’s life.
The fact that Mr. Cristofer did not have previous knowledge of Emile Griffith has proven to be an asset when it comes to telling the story. He comes to it with a blank slate and gets all of it right. Along with writing theatre reviews, I have also been a boxing writer for a number of years, as well as having spent a lifetime around the sport. If anyone would be sitting in a theatre looking for flaws in the story it would be me. It turns out I would have to dig pretty deep to point out any mistakes here. I was very impressed, and I am not easily impressed by boxing dramatizations.
Emile Griffith is played by two actors. Kyle Vincent Terry is the young Emile while John Douglas Thompson is Griffith in his later years, when the effects of the punches he took have begun to appear in what was known as Dementia Pugilistica, today as CTE (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy). Both actors appear on the stage together throughout most of the play, with the older Emile looking back on his youthful self while reflecting on the choices he made. It is fascinating watching the story unfold in this manner. There are times when the two have exchanges.
John Douglas Thompson is among the finest stage actors performing today, and it is uncanny how he captures Griffith in the years when his mind is beginning to fade. In scenes that are both funny and tragic the effects of the dementia as it progresses are brought to the audience. One such moment occurs when Luis (Victor Almanzar), Emile’s lover and now caretaker brings him his shoe which ended up in the refrigerator. The exchange between the two is quite funny but also very sad.
Kyle Vincent Terry’s young Emile is filled with the positivity and optimism that was Griffith (“Always hang your hat higher than you can reach”). The magnificently built immigrant from St.Thomas arrived in New York City to join his mother. He decided to come to the States to make it as a baseball player and/or singer. He also had quite a knack for making lady’s hats. This led him to a job with a fellow named Howie Albert (Gordon Clapp), a once aspiring boxer who now runs a millenary business. He was immediately taken by Griffith’s physique and talked him into taking up boxing. Mr. Terry really impressed me as Emile. As they would say in boxing “You got what it takes kid’, and he sure does.
Boxing fans will notice the absence of Emile’s trainer Gil Clancy in the play. This is not an oversight, the author has rolled Clancy and Albert into one character. It works very well. Mr. Cristofer also, and I am not sure if this is intentional, shows how poorly Griffith was managed at the beginning of his career. Emile is what is known as a “survivor” in boxing. His was repeatedly thrown in with opponents who were far ahead of him in experience yet still managed to win. Albert didn’t develop a great fighter, he got lucky. Emile had incredible natural talent and a head for boxing. He was mostly self taught.
Griffith’s bisexuality was always an open secret in boxing and could have dominated this play. It certainly and rightly is a major part of the story, and Emile’s ambiguity about it is shown. His lifestyle was rarely if ever publicly discussed, that is until the weigh-in for his third fight with Welterweight Champion Benny “Kid” Paret (Sean Boyce Johnson). The scene is staged with an emotional intensity that reaches out to the back rows of the theater. Paret’s shouting “Maricon” (a Spanish slur for a gay man) at Emile caused the lighthearted challenger to lose his temper.
What occurs next is seared into the memories of older boxing fans. In the fight which was broadcast live on nationwide television, Griffith unleashed a vicious beating on Paret while knocking him senseless. Paret would die ten days later. I have read that an earlier production of this play had trouble staging this scene. Director Michael Grief along with fight directors Rick Sordelet and Christian Kelly-Sordelet pull it off brilliantly. Using a revolving boxing ring, a tall projection screen showing footage from the actual fight, as well as using stop action effects with flash bulbs going off brings that terrible event vividly to life. Paret’s wife Lucia (Carla Martina), standing above and to the side of the action tells us what was going on with Benny before the fight. Lucia is joined by Emile’s mother Emelda (Krystal Joy Brown) and Paret’s manager Manuel Alfaro (Eliseo Gatta) in giving all the background that led up to this tragic outcome. They make it clear Paret never should have been in the ring that night. It is very, very powerful. Whether or not you are a boxing fan, you do not want to miss this.
There is music throughout the play. Caribbean children’s songs are sung by the actors accompanied by two musicians. It is not a musical, but the music is an integral part of the play, and just wonderful.
Man In The Ring is a complex work about a paradoxical man. Emile was a fun loving gentle man in the most violent of professions. A man who spent much time at gay bars while participating in the manliest of sports (this was at a time when being gay was equated with being a “sissie”). He was deeply effected by the death of Paret yet kept fighting for years after, though it was apparent he no longer fought with the same intensity.
As the play nears its conclusion we see Emile, now deeply suffering the effects of CTE, being brought to meet with Benny Paret’s son in a park. Emile is confused but the moment is touching. Young Paret, Luis, and Griffith are all involved in trying to make sense out of what happened.
As a boxing historian I found so much in this play. The accuracy is just stunning. Mr. Cristofer not only did incredible research, but he also understands the subject.This is very impressive for a boxing “civilian”.
As a play reviewer, I saw an amazing work of theatre. This can be called a boxing play, and boxing fans should definitely see it. It is an important piece of work that should be added to the great literature on boxing.
Beyond being a great boxing play, Man In The Ring is amazing theatre. It is impressive how much is covered in just 110 minutes. The entire cast and production team are nothing short of outstanding. It would be foolish to miss any work with John Douglas Thompson in it, but this work is solid from top to bottom.
You might think I am giving this high praise because of my boxing background. If anything, my knowledge of the subject would have been more likely to have caused me to go negative. The fact that Mr. Cristofer was able to impress me speaks very well to this play. I brought an extra critical eye to the Huntington on the evening I saw Man In The Ring. I can assure you, you will not be disappointed in this play. It is a great boxing story, it is a great human story, it is great theatre. I highly recommend Man In The Ring.
In exciting news for both boxing and theatre fans, the Huntington Theatre Company production of Man In The Ring will be opening at the Calderwood Pavilion at the Boston Center for the Arts on November 16. The play, written by Pulitzer Prize winner Michael Cristofer, will run through December 22. Man In The Ring chronicles the life of former Welterweight and Middleweight Champion Emile Griffith.
Griffith’s story will span the time of his humble beginnings in the Virgin Islands, his love affairs, and the tragedy in the ring that forever changed his life. It its a complex story that is both touching and tragic.
I am very excited to hear that John Douglas Thompson has been cast in the role Emile Griffith as an older man. Mr. Douglas is one of the best actors on stage today, and I had the pleasure of seeing him in the world premiere of Terry Teachout’s Satchmo at the Waldorf n 2012. He was simply phenomenal that night. Most recently, he played Starkeeper in the Broadway production of Carousel. It will be interesting to see him play Griffith as an older man who if suffering from the effects of his years in the ring as well as the emotional turmoil from the Benny Paret fight.
Kyle Vincent Terry will be playing the younger Griffith. Mr. Terry served as fight choreographer for The Royale which I saw last year at the Merrimack Repertory Theatre. The fight scenes in that production were very creative and well done. It is a challenge to create what happens in a boxing ring onto a stage, and Mr. Terry work was quite impressive.
Playwright Michael Cristofer won the Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize for his 1977 play The Shadow Box. In his script for Man In The Ring, Mr. Cristofer explores Emile Griffith’s struggle with his homosexuality which was an open secret in the boxing world during his career. Benny Paret’s taunts of Griffith before their tragic fight have always been thought to have contributed to Emile’s fire in the ring that night.
“Emile Griffith was a true hero in my book”, says Cristofer. “He was a young immigrant form the Virgin Islands and a man struggling with his identity while in a brutal sport who, as an older man slipping into dementia, worked to find peace amid the love, pain, and joy that was his life.”
Huntington Artistic Director Peter DuBois says “One of the hardest things to do in theatre is to tell the full story of a complex person’s life. Michael Cristofer beautifully captures the excessive, eccentric, and emotional parts of Emile’s amazing story by mixing the champ’s easy charm with the raw and traumatic things he experienced.”
The cast also includes Victor Almanzer as Luis, Griffith’s lover and later his caretaker, Starla Benford as Griffith’s mother Emelda, Krystal Joy Brown as his wife Sadie, Gordon Clapp as manager Howie Albert. Sean Boyce Johnson is cast as Benny “Kid” Paret with Carla Martinez playing his wife Lucia. Eliseo Sosa will play Paret’s manager Manuel Alfaro.
Man In The Ring will be directed by multiple Tony Awardnominee Michael Greif. Michael McElroy is the music director and composer of incidental music.
Man In The Ring
Huntington Theater Company
Playing at the Calderwood Pavilion, Boston Center For The Arts
(Note: This play had an emotional impact on me, and because of that I have decided to focus more on the story than in writing an in-depth review of the production.)
Watching a recent performance of Bernard Weinraub’s Fall at the Calderwood Pavillon was an emotional experience. The play about Arthur Miller, his wife Inge Morath, and their son Daniel who was born with Down Syndrome is not a happy story. It certainly stirred up a lot of anger in me. Before I get into the story I want to say a few words about the production so as not to confuse my feelings about the play with the my opinion of how fine a production this was.
The cast is led by Josh Stamberg as the great playwright Arthur Miller, with Joanne Kelly as his third and last wife. John Hickok plays theatrical producer Robert Whitehead,Joanna Glushak as Dr. Wise. Nolan James Tierce, an actor with Down Syndrome, takes on the role of Daniel, and while Mr. Tierce does not have a lot of lines, I found his words to be the most moving of any uttered by the rest of the cast.
This was a superb production from top to bottom with each cast member giving strong performances, a tight script, incredible sets and lighting, along with the usual excellent direction of Peter DuBois.
The difficulty I had with it had nothing to do with the production, it had to do with the subject matter, and Arthur Miller in particular. I know author Bernard Weinraub did not want to portray him as a villain, but after watching Josh Stamberg’s solid performance as Mller I felt nothing but disgust for that self-centered hypocrite. Joanne Kelly’s Inge comes across a bit more sympathetically, but in the end I even felt the pangs of loathing for her.
Early in the play we witness Miller and Morath after she has given birth to their son Daniel. They are in the hospital and are given the news that there is a problem with their son. When they are told he has been born with Down Syndrome they are devastated, as just about any parents would be. They have to make some decisions about how to care for Daniel. It is 1966 and at that time doctors were advising parents that the best course was to have “these children” institutionalized as that would ensure they would get the best care. Inge wants to keep her son, Arthur can barely look at him. The decision is made to send him to an institution. It is all quite heartbreaking.
For the almost two hours that follow we witness the story of how Arthur and Inge went on with their lives. Of how Miller refused to even see his son, or as it is said “deleted” him from his life. The great moralizer continued to speak out about social justice causes, preaching on how we should treat each other all the while neglecting his own son. He continued living life fully in the public eye while keeping Daniel hidden away.
We hear of how his creative abilities diminished after Daniel was born. I am not sure if that is supposed to elicit some sympathy for the man, but I could not muster any. Now, I am fully aware that at the time of Daniel’s birth things were different. Many parents were only trying to do the right things when following the advice of the doctors who recommended institutionalization. However, in Miller’s case it is clear he wanted Daniel “erased” from his life. He saw this as “a life sentence”. Why? Was it shame? Was it fear he would not be able to be a good father to his son? Or was it merely that Daniel was going to be an imposition on his and Inge’s lives? Whatever it was, I saw no sign that he felt any love at all for Daniel. It was that coldness that struck me deeply and made me unable to find any sympathy for the man. In fact, by the time the play was concluded I was filled with disgust for him.
Fall gives us much to think about. It is easy to say “it was different then,” that today we understand people better and are more compassionate, but is that really true? Today, more likely than not Arthur and Inge would have known about Daniel’s condition before he was born. They most likely would have “deleted” him before he came into the world. Miller would have been able to continue moralizing with a clear conscience. The latest figures I could find say 67% to 90% of unborn babies diagnosed with Down Syndrome are not brought to term. It has to be a heart wrenching decision for parents to make, and I can’t imagine being in that postion. I doubt very much that the parents who make such a decision feel they are erasing a child from their lives. They must suffer greatly. I doubt very much Miller would have agonized for even a moment over the decision, and that is what I found so disturbing. It is and should be, a very difficult and heart breaking decision.
We find out at the end of the play that Daniel is still alive, and he has lived a very happy and fulfilling life eventually living with a foster family who loved him. He did go to meet his father once but was not greeted warmly. Daniel’s words spoken by Nolan James Tierce at the end of the play show what a truly remarkable man Daniel has become. How he came to know the true meaning of family. And, how lucky the world is that he was not deleted.
On a personal note. I grew up in a neighborhood where there were a number of children with Down Syndrome. This was not long before Daniel was born. I never heard about having such children sent off to institutions. They were part of our community and were well loved. Maybe, people in my area could not afford to send their children away. I believe they kept them because they could not imagine life without them. With the advances in science that now allows us to know before birth if a child will be born with Down Syndrome I can’t help but wonder if we really have changed all that much. Some questions haunt me. Is a child with Down Syndrome less worthy of being brought into the world? If so, what does that say about the children who are living? Are they less worthy than others? These are hard questions.
As I was leaving the theater I was thinking how nice it would have been to see the story told from Daniel’s side. This was still all about Arthur Miller and his egotism. Attention must be paid, and it should be paid: to Daniel. When you see Fall listen closely to the words spoken from the heart by Nolan James Tierce at the end. Pay close attention to those words as they are so much more important than trying to figure out why Arthur Miller behaved so terribly.
May 18-June 16, 2018 at Huntington’s South End/Calderwood Pavilion at the BCA
The Huntington Theatre Company presents the World Premiere of Fall,which tells the true story of Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Arthur Miller’s secret son Daniel, his child with third wife, Inge Morath. Born with Down syndrome, Daniel was institutionalized, and his existence was never acknowledged by his parents. Written by playwright and renowned journalist Bernard Weinraub (The Accomplices, Above the Fold), and directed by Huntington Artistic Director Peter DuBois, Fall runs May 18 – June 16, 2018 at the Huntington’s Stanford Calderwood Pavilion at the Boston Center for the Arts.
The cast includes Josh Stamberg (Showtime’s “The Affair,” NBC’s “Parenthood,” and The Power of Duff and Female of the Species at Geffen Playhouse) as Arthur Miller. Joanne Kelly (The House of Yes at the Storefront Theatre, Proof at Red One Theatre Collective) plays Inge Morath, a photographer and Miller’s third wife. Joanna Glushak (Sullivan and Gilbert and The American Clock at the Huntington, War Paint on Broadway) plays Dr. Wise. Nolan James Tierce (Harvey at Newton Country Players), a local actor with Down syndrome, plays Daniel. John Hickok (Parade, Little Women, and Aida on Broadway) plays Broadway producer Robert Whitehead.
Arthur Miller was perhaps the most celebrated American playwright of the 20th century, with masterful plays, Death of a Salesman, All My Sons, A View from the Bridge, and The Crucible, capturing the darker side of the American Dream, the political zeitgeist of the day and, somewhat ironically, the bonds of the American family — particularly fathers and sons. His life and career was threaded through the culture of the country in the mid-20th century: he divorced his first wife to marry Marilyn Monroe; he was subpoenaed by the House Un-American Activities Committee; he won the Pulitzer Prize and numerous Tony Awards; and he spoke out against the Vietnam War. Miller was seen by many as a moral conscience for the nation.
But despite chronicling the “common man” and the American Family, Miller did not acknowledge his own son. Daniel was not mentioned in Miller’s autobiography, Timebends, or in either of his parents’ obituaries in The New York Times.Playwright and former Times reporter, Bernard Weinraub became engrossed with the Millers’ story after reading a Vanity Fair article about them in 2007. He took a journalist’s approach to translating the story for the stage, interviewing social workers and others who knew and worked with the family. Fall explores the fascinating dichotomy of Miller’s life with Morath (the couple also had a daughter, Rebecca) and the divide between their public personae and their private lives.
“Arthur Miller was one of our greatest playwrights. His best dramas dealt with fathers and sons, guilt and betrayal, and essentially, our responsibility towards each other,” says Weinraub. “He dealt with the paradoxes and tensions of our lives. What interested me here was the contradiction between the man and the artist. And the impact of his actions on his art.”
“Miller wrote many plays about the sins of a father being visited on a son, and as a writer he provided a moral compass for a generation,” says DuBois. “Bernie’s exploration of this iconic man is a story that remained with me since the first time I read the script a few years ago. I’m proud Boston audiences will be the first to see this show and discover more about a playwright they thought they knew.”
Watching the Huntington Theatre’s production of Mala, written and performed by Melinda Lopez, was a very emotionally stirring experience. The one actor play about Ms Lopez’s experiences dealing with the failing health and impending death of her 92 year old mother is an honest depiction of what many of us have, or will have to face with an aging parent. It is also a stark reminder of what awaits us as we age. It is not a pretty picture, and fortunately, this play does not romanticize dying. If this sounds pretty bleak it is, but the play is not.
Oh, it is tough stuff to have to think about, and as Ms Lopez points out so well throughout the play, we don’t pick up great wisdom from the dying. They are usually very angry and the caregivers are exhausted. The endless calls to 911, the verbal nastiness, the hard decisions, and feelings of guilt are all real and put in front of us. The play also has much humor in it. I wouldn’t call it gallows humor, but rather the laughter people break into at times when it seems all has gone wrong and helplessness has set in. You know, it is okay to laugh when bad things are happening. We are reminded of that while watching Mala.
Melinda Lopez is simply wonderful. Her work is wonderful. Her acting is wonderful.
The events in the play took place during the terrible Boston winter of 2015, the year of Snowmageddon. As her mother began to deteriorate physically and mentally Ms Lopez kept notes in an App on her iPhone. She did not do this with the thought of writing a play, but rather as a way to let off steam. When she later read the notes she was inspired to write this story. It is so good she did.
Mala is not Ms Lopez’s mother’s name, rather it is a Spanish word that means a person is bad. Not just bad but bad deep down in her soul. Her mother would shout that at her when she was upset. It is not uncommon for an ailing parent to lash out at a son or daughter when they are nearing the end. It is very unpleasant and hurtful, but understandable when you think about how helpless and hopeless we become at that stage in our existence. Never the less, it is awful to deal with.
Along the way Ms Lopez also touches on her father’s dying as well as sharing brief stories of other’s who have gone through similar experiences. As she moves about the stage relating her story I felt as if she was talking directly to me, and I am sure the other audience members felt the same way. Her honesty and straightforwardness come through clearly while never turning to self pity. The anger, the guilt, the second guessing are all brought out.
Near the end of the performance Ms Lopez talks about having her mother put under Hospice care. This touched me as it is a hard reality to face when you know the person you love is not going to get better. There is now a time frame. Of course, as Melinda Lopez points out, we have all started dying, but when you can begin to measure the time that is left it becomes very different.
In one very funny part of the play Ms Lopez talks about one of the times her nerves were frazzled from dealing with her mother. She started thinking about how she heard that Eskimos, or was it Inuits?, would set their elderly parents adrift on an iceberg to be rid of them. It is quite humorous as she tells it, but it also is a reminder of the terrible guilt a person can feel as the thought of wanting the suffering to end gets tied into the wish to see your parent die. Those thoughts are so painful.
I hope I haven’t painted too bleak a picture of this wonderful performance. You will not be sitting in the theater crying. In fact, you will spend quite a bit of time laughing. But, you will leave the theater thinking about what it means to get old and what lies ahead for many of us. It is something we should be as honest about as Melinda Lopez is.
It is so often I read about how courageously a person has faced illness and death, and we like to think of it happening that way. The reality is different. I know that as I was leaving the theater I was thinking of some of the words Ms Lopez spoke. She spoke of how dying does not make us wise. You don’t learn from the dying. They are angry, they can be mean. And most importantly “Nobody teaches you how to do the big stuff.”
Do not be afraid to see this play. Melinda Lopez is simply wonderful. Her work is wonderful. Her acting is wonderful. Her honesty and openness about this subject is welcomed and you will appreciate it. Mala touched me deeply. It stirred my emotions and brought back difficult memories, but I am so glad I got to experience this fine work. While it is true nobody teaches you the big stuff, it is nice to know we are not alone in going though such events. Thank you Melinda Lopez for sharing experiences.
Extended through February 4
The Huntington Theatre Company
At The Calderwood Pavillon
Boston’s South End
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
Abby is living in an assisted living facility. She is cranky, miserable, and has driven out every roommate that has been paired with her. Marilyn, always upbeat with a sunny disposition, is her latest roommate. Abby wants her out and Marilyn will not leave. The two make a bet with the winner to get her way. This leads to the two of them doing some pretty nasty things to each other. Sounds like pretty depressing stuff? Well, it turns out this is one of the funniest plays you will ever see.
You will love this play!
Nancy E. Carroll is perfect as the cantankerous, miserable, and at times cruel Abby who rarely betrays even a hint of a smile. She is also extremely funny. Annie Golden plays Marilyn who is a Pollyanna, always smiling and seeing the good in everything. Oh, she can play hard when it comes to fighting back against Abby. Both actors play off of each other perfectly. Add to the mix Scotty (Ugo Chukawa) a health aid and also an aspiring actor, who has to deal with these two terrors. Marilyn’s daughter Colleen (Laura Latreille) and son-in-law Derek (Richard Prioleau) are apples that haven’t fallen far from the tree and you end up with a fast paced work with impeccable comedic timing.
This production has added incidental music along with some very fun dance numbers during set changes. I have not seen Ripcord before but I am sure these additions only enhance it. At the performance I attended the audience loved these additions.
I don’t want to go on too much about what happens here as it will spoil the fun for those of you who decide to see it, and you definitely should head over to the Calderwood for this one. I will tease you a bit with a brief list of things that occur. There is a mugging by a very tall rabbit, a trip through a house of horrors, a skydiving adventure, and much, much more. It is amazing how these situations are staged. The set design, effects, and lighting are all incredible. By intermission youl will be wondering how much more could be left to surprise you. Believe me, there is plenty.
Ripcord, by David Lindsay-Abaire,and directed by the wonderful Jessica Stone, as well as being funny is also a deeply moving story about two women who are facing the challenges of growing old and dealing with their pasts. Under all of the laughter we are given much to ponder. There is a touching, sad, and even cruel scene where Abby meets her estranged son Benjamin (Eric T. Miller). Marilyn is also a much deeper character than she seems at first glance. There is pain under her happy exterior. It turns out the two women have a lot in common. Even with all of the laughter you will be deeply moved by this work. This really is, in the end, a very provocative piece that has us deal with what it is like to age and look back on our lives. It is told with, as I have said, much humor. But, it is a work filled with respect and understanding of these very difficult issues.
This has been a great theatre season in Boston. The Huntington, Lyric, and SpeakEasy have all treated us to some wonderful work these past months. Ripcord is a great way to cap this season. You will love this play! Don’t miss it.
Huntington Theatre Company
Calderwood Pavilion, South End
Through May 7th
Reviewed by Bobby Franklin
There is something special happening on the stage of the Calderwood Pavilion. The Who & The What, by Ayad Akhtar and directed by M. Bevin O’Gara, is the story of Afzal (Rom Barkhordar) and his two daughters Mahwish (Turna Mete) and Zarina (Aila Peck). Afzai is from Pakistan and has made his home in the United States where he has raised Mahwish and Zarina. He lost his wife to cancer a few years earlier and misses her deeply but has an upbeat outlook on life. He has worked hard and become successful moving from driving a cab to owning 30% of the taxis in Atlanta. Wth his success he has provided his family with a good life. He is a loving father and wants only the best for his offspring. Afzai is also a conservative Muslim who has raised his daughters in the faith.
Mahwish is studying nursing and Zarina has graduated from Harvard and is now writing a novel about “women and Islam”. Afzal is taking a rather unique approach in the culture of arranged marriages by opening an account on muslimlove.com with Zarina’s profile and meets with prospective suitors for his daughter. This results in a very funny meeting at the local coffee shop wth Eli (Joseph Marrella) an American convert to Islam. While this certainly is a great intrusion into the life of Zarina you can’t help but be taken by the devotion Afzai has for both his daughter and his religion.
The Who & The What is a must see play.
While Zarina is devoted to her religion she is also questioning it. Her reading of the Koran is at odds with Afzai’s and this results in some heated, and quite humorous discussions on the subject. Compromises are made and Zarina does fall in love with Eli. All seems well until her novel entitled The Who & The What is published. In it Zarina questions many of the interpretations particularly the requirement by many that women wear a veil. This creates a conflict between Zarina and her father who is unable to accept these views and feels it reflects negatively on the family and may result in a loss of faith as well as exposing them to danger.
Zarina and Mahwish are devoted to each other and their father, which makes it painful to watch as this rupture occurs in the family as well as the strain placed on Eli and his relationship with Zarina.
Rom Barkhordar is simply outstanding as Afzai.
This is a play that very easily could have slipped into political correctness and sermonizing, but it certainly does not. It is an honest look at the conflicts, sometimes very deep, that can drive wedges between family members. Yes, this is a funny play, but it is also deep and moving. It is also very human. Rom Barkhordar is simply outstanding as Afzai. His rich voice and emotion fill the stage. His humor is natural and wonderfully delivered. And while audience members may cringe at some of Afzai’s views about the roles of men and women, Mr. Barkhordar leaves us with no doubt about the decency and love this man possesses.
The Who & The What is not a play that preaches to the audience. Ayad Akhtar does not give us the Ozzie and Harriet version of a Muslim family. He is honest and open about the conflicts that take place in a modern Muslim family that has assimilated into American culture without losing their identity. It is something people of all religions can be touched by. I know I certainly was.
In Boston, a city rich in good theatre, The Who & The What is a must see play. You will leave the theater happy that you spent time with this at times crazy but very interesting, warm, and touching family. Don’t miss it.
THE 2017-2018 SEASON INCLUDES THE DEFINITIVE PRODUCTION OF AN ACCLAIMED SONDHEIM REVIVAL, A RE-INVIGORATED 17th CENTURY COMEDY, A MAJOR REVIVAL OF A CARYL CHURCHILL CONTEMPORARY CLASSIC, AND MORE, TO BE PERFORMED AT THE HUNTINGTON AVENUE THEATRE AND CALDERWOOD PAVILION AT THE BCA
(BOSTON) – Huntington Theatre Company, Boston’s leading professional theatre, announces its 2017-2018 season. The Huntington has long been an anchor cultural institution of Huntington Avenue, the Avenue of the Arts, and will remain so on a permanent basis. The Huntington’s upcoming season will include productions in the Huntington Avenue Theatre (known as the BU Theatre through June 30), and plans are underway to convert the theatre into a first-rate, modern venue with expanded services to audiences, artists, and the community. The 36th season will include four plays at the Huntington Avenue Theatre, as well as three plays at the Wimberly Theatre and one special event in the Roberts Studio Theatre, both located in the Calderwood Pavilion at the BCA in the South End.
The season will comprise of world-class productions of classics made current and exciting new work created by the finest local and national talent. The lineup features a definitive production of a legendary Stephen Sondheim musical, directed by the acclaimed actor-director Maria Friedman; a new play by Huntington Playwriting Fellow Ken Urban about chance encounters and redemption; a brilliant classic by Molière directed by Huntington Artistic Director Peter DuBois; a revival of one of 2016’s Best Plays of the Year by Huntington Playwright-in-Residence Melinda Lopez; a riveting and timely new play from Dominque Morisseau; Liesl Tommy’s fresh interpretation of a Caryl Churchill contemporary classic; and from a renowned Hollywood reporter, the world premiere play about famed playwright Arthur Miller and the son he refused to acknowledge; plus one show to be announced soon.
“I woke up the morning after the election and knew the 2017-2018 season needed to be full of theatrically bold, smart, and politically-minded work. I also knew we would all need several laughs and to be reminded of our common humanity,” says Huntington Artistic Director Peter DuBois. “The world-class artists we have assembled to tell these timely, human stories are some of the best in the country and beyond, and as always the Huntington experience will leave audiences equal parts inspired, transported, and entertained.”
THE 2017-2018 SEASON LINEUP
· Merrily We Roll Along: Director Maria Friedman recreates her stunning London production of Stephen Sondheim’s legendary musical for Boston audiences; winner of the Olivier Award for Best Musical; at the Huntington Avenue Theatre, September 8 – October 15, 2017
· A Guide for the Homesick: a powerful chance encounter between two strangers offers the possibility of connection and redemption in this arresting new drama by Huntington Playwriting Fellow Ken Urban; directed by Colman Domingo; at the Wimberly Theatre in the Calderwood Pavilion at the BCA, October 6 – November 5, 2017
· Tartuffe: devious Tartuffe charms Orgon and his household – will they see through the con in time? Molière spins hypocrisy into high comedy in this hilarious and biting satire, one of the world’s great plays; directed by Huntington Artistic Director Peter DuBois; at the Huntington Avenue Theatre, November 10 – December 10, 2017
· Skeleton Crew: a makeshift family of auto workers gather in the breakroom of the last small auto plant in Detroit in this riveting and timely new play from Dominque Morisseau; at the Huntington Avenue Theatre, March 2 – March 31, 2018
· Top Girls: career-driven Marlene has just landed the top job at a London employment agency in Caryl Churchill’s dazzling contemporary classic about the sacrifices required to be a “top girl” in a man’s world; directed by Huntington favorite Liesl Tommy (A Raisin in the Sun, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, Ruined); at the Huntington Avenue Theatre, April 20 – May 20, 2018
· Fall: renowned Hollywood reporter Bernard Weinraub explores the fascinating untold story of celebrated American playwright Arthur Miller and the son he refused to acknowledge; directed by Huntington Artistic Director Peter DuBois; at the Wimberly Theatre in the Calderwood Pavilion at the BCA, May 18 – June 17, 2018
PLUS A SPECIAL EVENT:
Mala, a powerful personal drama written and performed by Huntington Playwright-in-Residence Melinda Lopez (Becoming Cuba, Sonia Flew) and named the Best of 2016 by The Boston Globe and WBUR’s The ARTery when it premiered at ArtsEmerson; directed by David Dower; at the Roberts Studio Theatre in the Calderwood Pavilion at the BCA, January 6 – January 28, 2018
One more show in the 2017-2018 season will be announced soon.