Tag Archives: Huntington Theatre

Broadway Legend Chita Rivera To Appear At  Huntington Theater’s  Calderwood Pavillon 

One Night Only

October 13

Chita Rivera

Three-time Tony Award-winning actress, singer, and dancer Chita Rivera performs for one night only alongside music director and host Seth Rudetsky on Saturday, October 13 at the Calderwood Pavilion at the BCA at 5pm and 8pm.  Produced by Mark Cortale Productions, the performance is the first in the new “Broadway @ the Huntington” series.

The show is an unscripted mixture of music and intimate, behind-the-scenes tales of Ms. Rivera’s career, prompted by questions from Mr. Rudetsky, who hosts “Seth’s Big Fat Broadway” and “Seth Speaks” on Sirius/XM Satellite Radio’s “On Broadway” channel.

Ms. Rivera will perform hits from her vast musical theatre repertoire, which includes originating the roles of Anita in West Side Story (prem. 1957), Rose Grant in Bye Bye Birdie (1960), and Velma Kelly in Chicago (1975).  She also has appeared in Broadway productions of Can-Can (1953), Bajour (1964), Merlin (1983), Jerry’s Girls (1985), and Nine (2003), as well as her autobiographical show Chita Rivera: The Dancer’s Life (2005).  Ms. Rivera earned 10 Tony Award nominations and won Tony Awards for her performances in The Rink (prem. 1984) and Kiss of the Spider Woman (1993).  She most recently originated the role of Claire and was nominated for a Tony Award in the Kander-Ebb-McNally musical The Visit, which premiered on Broadway in 2015.  Ms. Rivera received the Lifetime Achievement Tony Award in 2018 and the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama in 2009.

Chita Rivera and Seth Rudetsky

“I’m delighted to welcome Chita Rivera, a true Broadway legend, to the Huntington,” says Artistic Director Peter DuBois. “Her career spans the modern Broadway history, and she has created so many iconic roles in the musical canon. This show is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to hear theatre history from a woman who, quite literally, helped make it.”

Saturday, October 13, 2018 at 5pm and 8pm

The Huntington’s Calderwood Pavilion at the Boston Center for the Arts , 527 Tremont Street, Boston


 617 266 0800

Huntington Theatre Box Office, 264 Huntington Ave. and the Calderwood Pavilion at the BCA Box Office, 527 Tremont St.

Mala Opens At Huntington Theatre January 6th


The Huntington Theatre Company is pleased to present the ArtsEmerson production of Mala. This moving drama is written and performed by Huntington Playwright-in-Residence Melinda Lopez (Sonia Flew, Becoming Cuba) and directed by David Dower (Mala and Mr. Joy, Breath & Imagination at ArtsEmerson). Performances run from January 6 through January 28, 2018 at the South End / Calderwood Pavilion.

Melinda Lopez
Photo Credit: Paul Marotta

Set during the epic winter of 2015, Mala is inspired by text messages frantically typed on an iPhone by Lopez, while she cared for her increasingly frail and consistently fierce mother. These short missives ultimately create a moving and generous portrait of the way taking care of family tests, deepens, and changes our bonds to the ones we love. Lopez, a regular on Boston stages, also performs the play.

Mala won the 2016 Elliot Norton Award for Best New Script, and it was named one of the best plays of 2016 by The Boston Globe, WBUR’s ARTery, and DigBoston. This return engagement of Mala, back by popular demand, is funny, brutally honest, and ultimately cathartic. Mala puts a sharp focus on what it means to put our loved ones first, right to the very end, and what happens when we strive to be good but don’t always succeed.

“When I saw the sold-out performances of Mala at ArtsEmerson last year, I knew we had to bring this homegrown hit to the Huntington,” says Artistic Director Peter DuBois. “Melinda Lopez has a frank and funny approach to writing about life and family that is a gift to audiences. In Mala, she’s captured something so honest about what it is to be a daughter. This is a show to share with someone you love.”

“I am thrilled to bring Mala back to Boston,” says Melinda Lopez. “The Huntington has provided me the time and space to continue to create new work as their playwright-in-residence, and I am grateful to them for remounting the original production, as this play is extremely close to my heart.”
“It was a true joy collaborating with Melinda on the premiere of her play Mala,” director David Dower says. “The humor, intelligence, and courage that Melinda brought to her writing immediately resonated and provided a great foundation to tell her important story, universal to so many.”


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.

The Huntington Theatre
Through December 10
264 Huntington Ave., Boston



Friends To The Beginning

Merrily We Roll Along
The Huntington Theatre

Through October 15

Reviewed by Bobby Franklin

The Huntington Theatre Company plans to produce all fifteen of Stephen Sondheim’s musicals. This year they have begun their season with Merrily We Roll Along, the Sondheim play with book by George Furth that had a very rocky beginning in 1981, closing on Broadway after just 16 performances. Sondheim and Furth revised the play in 1992, but not on Broadway. Twenty years after that Maria Friedman, who played Mary in the 1992 production, directed a new production that became a hit in London’s West End.

And now, thanks to Huntington’s artistic director Peter DuBois, Boston audiences have a chance to see this wonderful production with Maria Freidman directing. For a play that had such a rough beginning it has grown into a solid work.

Mark Umbers and Aimee Doherty
Photo; T. Charles Erickson

The story about three friends, Frank, Charley, and Mary is told in reverse. The play begins as their friendship is coming apart in 1976 and works it way back to when they first got together in 1957. It is a story of the challenges facing friends as they move ahead in life and begin to define their values, which can often turn out to be much different as they experience life. There is no doubt audience members will find much that is familiar in the play.

As the play opens we learn of the tension between Frank and Charley who’s friendship had also turned into them becoming a song writing team and playwrights. Creatively they worked well together. The two had become quite successful, but each measures success in a different way, and this has caused much tension between them.

…a stage that is overflowing with talent giving us theatre that is a joy to watch.

Frank and Charley are played by Mark Umbers and Damian Humbley respectively. They are reprising their roles from the West End production and are marvelous together. Mary is played by Eden Espinosa who brings an honesty as well as a tenderness and wit to the role of Frank and Charley’s novelist friend who sees the destructive effects success is having on the friendship but is not able to do anything to stop it. She is also in love with Frank but never lets on to him.

Damian Humbley, Mark Umbers, and Rebecca Gibel
Photo: T. Charles Erickson

In what is one of the musical highlights, Mr Humbley as Charley is positively superb when he encapsulates all of his misgivings about what Frank is doing wth the direction of their career. The number, Franklin Shepard, Inc, takes place during an interview at NBC studios and is a high octane piece that is a show stopper. The audience at the performance I attended loved it, as did I.

There is so much to enjoy about this show. The score has to be structured in an unconventional manner as the story is moving backwards. I would imagine Sondheim enjoyed playing with this musical timeline.  Music Director Matthew Stern is in top form in his treatment of it. The Choreography by Tim Jackson is fantastic. Watching the company moving about the stage during “The Blob” set in 1962 is both very funny and brilliantly done. Other numbers include the touching but upbeat Old Friends, Not A Day Goes By performed beautifully by Jennifer Ellis, and the Vaughn Meader influenced Bobby And Jackie And Jack a comic musical takeoff of the Kennedy’s.

Eden Espinosa, Mark Umbers, and Damian Humbley
Photo: T. Charles Erickson

Taking this ride back to where it all began is a fascinating journey. Along the way we go from the judgements we make of the characters having seen them after so much occurred to learning how they got that way. It is so interesting to observe as it reminds us how fragile friendships can be, and how what we value as individuals can create conflicts with those we love. It also reminds us of how hard it can be to frame our values when we are not sure of what it means to be successful.

Umbers, Humbley, and Espinosa are just fantastic. Add the remarkable Jennifer Ellis as Beth and Aimee Doherty as Gussie and you have a stage that is overflowing with talent giving us theatre that is a joy to watch.

Jennifer Ellis and Mark Umbers
Photo: T. Charles Erickson

Many years ago a very successful man gave me a piece of advice. he told me not to chase success but to chase the idea. Success will follow. I believe by success he meant happiness is seeing your idea blossom. Charley understands this,  while deep inside Frank does too, but just can’t allow himself to accept it. Mary feels the pain for both of them.

I recommend this play as it is not only so well done, but it will also leave you reflecting on your own definition of success and the value of friendship. You could do worse than to ponder such things. And, you couldn’t do better than to see this production of Merrily We Roll Along at the Huntington.

Merrily We Roll Along
Through October 15
Huntington Theatre Company
Boston 617.266.0800 huntingtontheatre.org



The Huntington Theatre Company will present the uproarious comedy Ripcord by Pulitzer Prize winner and Boston native David Lindsay-Abaire (Good People, Rabbit Hole) and directed by Jessica Stone (Vanya and Sonya and Masha and Spike). Performances begin Friday, May 26 at the South End / Calderwood Pavilion at the BCA.

“With Ripcord, we welcome back two comedic geniuses to the Huntington: Boston native David Lindsay-Abaire and Jessica Stone,” says Huntington Artistic Director Peter DuBois. “David is among the greatest playwrights ever to come out of the City of Boston and the author of our smash-hit about Southie, Good People. Jessica Stone is a lauded actress and the director of Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike. With this kind of genius at work, it is no surprise that this play is laugh-out-loud funny with a truly moving underbelly. It’s The Odd Couple with old women, nursing home shenanigans, and skydiving – what’s not to love?”

In this deliciously inappropriate new comedy, cantankerous Abby is forced to share her room in assisted living with endlessly chipper Marilyn. The two women make a seemingly harmless bet that quickly escalates into a dangerous and hilarious game of one-upmanship, revealing hidden truths that neither wants exposed.

“I’m thrilled to be back in my hometown, and back at the Huntington which has been my theatrical home in Boston,” says playwright David Lindsay-Abaire. “I’m especially excited that Huntington audiences are going to get to see Ripcord, which is another kind of homecoming for me, as it’s a return to my earlier style of playwriting – more overtly comic, outrageous, whimsical, and a little vicious. But most importantly, of all my plays, Ripcord is my mother’s favorite, so I’m happy that she’ll only have to travel a few T stops to see it.”

“I’m so excited to be jumping into the absurd and moving world of David Lindsay-Abaire,” says director Jessica Stone. “The Huntington and Boston both have ties to this artist and his unique perspective. I look forward to creating my own and to the discoveries that follow and to being back at the Huntington where some of my favorite theatrical experiences have taken shape.”

The cast includes Nancy E. Carroll (I Was Most Alive with You; Rapture, Blister, Burn; and Good People at the Huntington) as Abby, a short-tempered woman who is determined not to share a room at her assisted living facility. Despite her efforts, she is paired with the gregarious and optimistic Marilyn played by Annie Golden (“Orange is the New Black” and the film Hair). Marilyn’s daughter Colleen is played by Laura Latreille (Ryan Landry’s “M” and Mauritius at the Huntington) and her son-in-law Derek is played by Richard Prioleau (A Raisin in the Sun at Seattle Repertory Theatre). Eric T. Miller (Awake and Sing! at the Huntington) appears as a figure from one of the women’s past, and the young resident aid Scotty is played by Ugo Chukwu (The Bad and the Better at The Amoralists).

David Lindsay-Abaire (Playwright) is a Pulitzer-Prize winning playwright, screenwriter, lyricist, and librettist. His plays Good People and Rabbit Hole have both been produced at the Huntington. Rabbit Hole was honored with the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, five Tony Award nominations, and the Spirit of America Award. Good People premiered on Broadway and received two Tony Award nominations and the 2011 New York Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Play of the Year. Most recently, his production of Ripcord was produced at Manhattan Theatre Club. Other plays include Fuddy Meers, Kimberly Akimbo, Wonder of the World, and A Devil Inside. Mr. Lindsay-Abaire is also a screenwriter, lyricist, and librettist. He has been nominated for a Grammy Award and two Tony Awards (Best Score and Best Book of a Musical) for his work on Shrek the Musical and the Kleban Award as America’s most promising musical theatre lyricist. Mr. Lindsay-Abaire’s screen credits include the film adaptation of Rabbit Hole (starring Nicole Kidman, Academy Award nomination), Rise of the Guardians (Dreamworks), and Oz: The Great and Powerful (Disney).

Jessica Stone (Director) returns to the Huntington after directing Vanya and Sonya and Masha and Spike, based on Nicholas Martin’s Broadway direction. She has worked as an actress on Broadway and Off Broadway, and in television and film, for the last 25 years. She performed in the Huntington’s productions of She Loves Me, Betty’s Summer Vacation, and Springtime for Henry (director Nicholas Martin). Ms. Stone’s directing credits include A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (Two River Theater, Williamstown Theatre Festival), 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee (Bucks County Playhouse), Arms and the Man (The Old Globe), Absurd Person Singular (Two River Theater), Charlotte’s Web (TheatreWorksUSA), and June Moon and Last of the Red Hot Lovers (Williamstown Theatre Festival).

The Huntington’s production of Ripcord features scenic design by Tobin Ost (Newsies on Broadway); costume design by Gabriel Berry (Vanya and Sonya and Masha and Spike at the Huntington); lighting design by David J. Weiner (Vanya and Sonya and Masha and Spike, Butley, and Springtime for Henry at the Huntington); sound design and composition by Mark Bennett (A Confederacy of Dunces and Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike at the Huntington); and projection design by Lucy Mackinnon (I Was Most Alive with You at the Huntington). Production stage manager is Emily F. McMullen and stage manager is Kevin Schlagle.

The Huntington’s 2016-2017 season is sponsored through the generosity of Sheryl and Gerard Cohen, Carol G. Deane, and J. David Wimberly. The production sponsors for Ripcord are Bette and John Cohen.

www.huntingtontheatre.org  Phone: 617.266.0800

Theatre Openings

Another Round Of Theatre Productions Is Coming Up And There Is No Shortage Of Productions To Fill  Your Calendars.

The SpeakEasy Stage will be kicking things off with Grand Concourse which will run from March 5th to April 1st Calderwood Pavillion located in Boston’s South End.

GRAND CONCOURSE tells the story of Shelley, a Catholic nun and former high school basketball star, who now struggles to find meaning in her work as the manager of a Bronx soup kitchen. With the help of Oscar, a former Dominican dentist now making a living as a security guard, Shelley tends to her flock, a colorful crew that includes Frog, a homeless former intellectual who now passes time writing joke books. The arrival of Emma, a college dropout looking for a sense of purpose, is at first a welcome addition to the team, but the girl’s erratic behavior soon takes its toll. With gentle humor and great heart, GRAND CONCOURSE explores the mysteries of faith, forgiveness, and compassion.

The cast includes Ally Dawson, Thomas Derrah, Melinda Lopez, and Alejandro Simoes.

From March 10th though April 7th the Huntington Theatre Company will be presenting Top Dog/Underdog at the BU Theater on Huntington Avenue in Boston.

Topdog/Underdog is a darkly comic, deeply theatrical fable about family wounds and healing bonds. Lincoln and Booth are brothers: best friends and bitter rivals. Lincoln, a former 3-card monte hustler, works as a Lincoln impersonator in a shooting gallery; Booth is an aspiring grifter. He tempts his brother to get back in the game, but the consequences could be deadly.

Suzan-Lori Parks made history as the first African American woman to win a Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 2002 with Topdog/Underdog. Additionally, she is named among Time magazine’s “100 Innovators for the Next Wave” and is also the recipient of two Obie Awards and a MacArthur “Genius” Grant.

Over at the Lyric Stage on Clarendon Street in Boston you will be able to see Stage Kiss running from February 24th through March 26th.

Life imitates Art. Art imitates Life — and Love. In Stage Kiss, two squabbling long-lost loves are cast as long-lost lovers, and quickly lose touch with reality in this comic, romantic, and revealing play-within-a-play. Playwright Sarah Ruhl and Director Courtney O’Connor (Red Hot Patriot, Buyer & Cellar) take us on-stage, back-stage, and right out the stage door in this charming tale about what happens when lovers share a stage kiss and when actors share a real one.

Caryl Churchill’s Cloud 9 will run at the Hartford Stage from February 23rd through March 19th in, where else?, Hartford, CT.

The world of Cloud 9 contains unexpected trysts, gender swaps, role reversals and power plays. Victorian repression clashes with liberal expression as the play follows a British family from colonial Africa to London in the 1970s. The tantalizing comedy explores the ever-changing world of sexual politics as it asks what it takes for each of us to reach our own Cloud 9.

Cloud 9 was Caryl Churchill’s first international hit. The playwright’s other works include Top Girls, Mad Forest, Love and Information, A Number and Serious Money. The Guardian recently wrote that Churchill “now shares with Tom Stoppard the title of Britain’s most significant living dramatist.”

There is plenty to see, many fine theatre companies producing excellent work, and so much great talent performing. The weather is improving and there is no better way to spend an afternoon or evening than enjoying a play. The folks at all of these theaters work hard to give us first class productions and they rarely fail. We are lucky to have so many theatre companies near by. Take in a show or two, or three. You won’t be disappointed.







A Doll’s House Worthy Of A Visit

A Doll’s House

by Henrik Ibsen

Andrea Syglowski and Sekou Laidlaw
Photo: T. Charles Erickson

Adapted by Bryony Lavery
Directed by Melian Bensussen
At The Huntington Theatre Company
Through February 5th

Reviewed by Bobby Franklin

The other night I saw the Huntington Theatre Company production of A Doll’s House. It was an evening of terrific theatre. The Ibsen classic about marriage, blackmail, unrequited love, and finding one’s self is a timeless work. This version has been updated by Bryony Lavery and the language flows beautifully while the story never skips a beat. The beautiful staging also makes this a visual treat.

…the language flows beautifully while the story never skips a beat.

The fine cast is led by Andrea Syglowski as Nora who plays opposite Sekou Laidlow as her husband Torvald. Mr. Laidlow plays his part subtly at first in the way he treats Nora as a child, but eventually it becomes clear just how demeaning he is to her. Nora is content with her life, as Torvald has received a promotion which means more money and a better life. However, when a secret from Nora’s past arises that threatens to destroy their marriage Nora begins to see things in a different light, though it isn’t untill the final scene that she fully understands what her life is about.

Ms Syglowski is an absolute joy to watch.

This is a first rate production, and Ms Syglowski is an absolute joy to watch. She shows great humor in the first act. Her timing is impeccable, with a full range of emotions. She moves from a wife who is being treated as a plaything by her husband to a woman who realizes she must find out for herself what life truly means.

Sekou Laidlow as Torvald plays his part subtly at first but then we see just how demeaning his treatment of Nora is. The progression works well.

It is an outstanding evening of theatre, one not to be missed.

Nael Nacer as Krogstad, the man who attempts to blackmail Nora does not illicit much sympathy, but Nacer conveys the pain his character is in and it is soon apparent that he is motivated by desperation and not cruelty.

Dr. Rank, the longtime family friend of the Helmer’s reveals he is dying. It is also revealed that he has been in love with Nora for years. Jeremy Webb does a fine job of portraying this unhappy man who always has a smile on his face.

Elise Rose Walker, Marinda Anderson, Gavin Daniel Walker, and Adrianne KrstanskyPhoto: T. Charles Erickson

And then there is Christine Linde. Mrs. Linde is played by Marinda Anderson. She and Krogstad were once lovers, and she tells Nora she will try to convince Krogstad to take back a letter he has left for Torvald that exposes Nora’s secret. In his joy at being back with Christine he agrees.  However, it is Christine who is able to see everything in perspective and decides to let things play out for the Helmers. She tells Krogsatd to leave the letter. Ms Anderson plays the part as much with her expressions as with her words, and she does it well.

Andrea Syglowski’s Nora will be remembered.

The final scene where Torvald reads the letter and explodes at Nora is just incredible. He tells her their marriage will now be just for show because she has brought shame on them. Then when he reads a second note from Torvald that includes the promissory note and says he is not going to pursue the matter, Torvald suddenly changes and is the happy husband again. At this point Nora fully comprehends that their marriage has always been for show and she lets all of her feelings out. Ms Syglowski is outstanding in this scene in which Nora describes how she has always been treated as a play doll, first by her father

Andrea Syglowski and Sekou Laidlow
Photo: T. Charles Erickson

and then by Torvald. She is not going to live her life that way any longer. It is a very powerful scene and one you will not forget. Andrea Syglowski’s Nora will be remembered.

A Doll’s House has been called a feminist play, but it is a play that should appeal to all people as it shows how often we make compromises and sometimes make bad choices in order for our lives to have order and make sense. However, by doing so we often end  becoming very unhappy. Nora shows us we have choices.

When you leave the theatre after seeing this production of A Doll’s House you will have much to think about, and that is why I like it so much. You wonder what will become of Nora.

Once again, the Huntington has put on an outstanding production of a classic play. It is not to be missed.


Laugh And Learn With The Tiger

 Tiger Style

The Huntington Theatre Company At The Calderwood Pavillon

reviewed by Bobby Franklin

A few years ago the subject of Tiger Moms, a term used to describe the hard driving parenting style of many Asian American parents, became a hot topic of discussion. For many parents this method seemed harsh, but there was also some envy in seeing how much these children were able to accomplish. What wasn’t being discussed was the effect this type of parenting would have on them as they entered adulthood, the workplace, and while interacting with more diverse social groups.

Playwright Mike Lew takes on these issues and many more with great humor and depth in his original new play Tiger Style now presented by the Huntington Theatre Company.

Rubio Qian and Jon Norman Schneider Photo Credit: T. Charles Erickson
Rubio Qian and Jon Norman Schneider Photo Credit: T. Charles Erickson

Tiger Style focuses on siblings Albert (Jon Norman Schneider) and Jennifer (Ruibo Qian) who who have both excelled academically and artistically, but are struggling now that they have left the nest. They are living together along with Jennifer’s boyfriend Reggie (Bryan T. Donovan) who is ending the relationship as the play begins. Bryan is disappointed, to put it mildly, that Jennifer isn’t more dominant in bed and more submissive around the home, while Jennifer makes it clear how vastly superior she is to Bryan because of her academic accomplishments.

Mr. Lew has written a very funny and insightful play that is fast paced and filled with witty dialog

Albert is struggling at work; not because he isn’t competent, but because he has terrible people skills. Both brother and sister, while knowing they are highly skilled, are unable to function well when interacting with others. This is a failing they begin to see and decide to blame it, with some justification, on their parents.

Francis Jue, Ruibo Qian, Jon Norman Schneider, and Emily Kuroda. Photo Credit: T. Charles Erickson
Francis Jue, Ruibo Qian, Jon Norman Schneider, and Emily Kuroda. Photo Credit: T. Charles Erickson

This leads them on a journey that begins with a planned fight with their parents (Francis Jue and Emily Kuroda), then going “full Western” in a futile attempt to distance themselves from their culture resulting in Albert losing his job and Jennifer driving a therapist to the edge of insanity. Going “full Asian” with a move to China where they eventually end up in prison; it seems living under a totalitarian government is much like having a Tiger Mom only you never get your freedom. And finally returning home with many lessons learned and much to still deal with. As mom and dad explain, life is not easy. At some point you have to take responsibility for your own success and failure.

Mr. Lew has written a very funny and insightful play that is fast paced and filled with witty dialog, such as when Albert tries to curry favor with his manager at work who is also Asian by saying “Don’t be a self-hating Asian, be a self-nepotating Asian.” Or when Jennifer tells her therapist “I want to be the best at therapy”.

While the humor continues throughout the play there is also much that is very serious and important to be learned. When mom and dad talk about the sacrifices they and their parents had to make in order to succeed in their adopted country we get a better understanding of why they drive their children to be successful. Dad, in telling the story of the struggles of his parents says “I came from laundry people”. It is a line, coming on top of the narrative of their suffering and success that hits hard. Yes, it is up from the bootstraps talk, but it is also true.

…a finely crafted work we all can learn from.

love plays like Tiger Style for many reasons including the finely written humor, but mostly because the author is able to show us the struggles within a group of Americans that have to deal with their cultural heritage for both its strengths and its minuses as well. Mr. Lew does this without making victims out of his characters and without throwing a guilt trip on his audience, but at the same time not downplaying the racism and hatred that is much too often directed at those who are new to this country. It is a finely crafted work we all can learn from.

Presented by the Huntington Theatre Company at the Calderwood Pavillon, South End, Boston
Through November 13
Directed by Moritz von Stuelpnagel
Box Office 617.266.0800

It’s A Lovely Sunday At The Huntington

Sunday In The Park With George
At The Huntington Theatre Company

reviewed by Bobby Franklin

Company of Sunday in the Park with George (Photo: Paul Marotta)
Company of Sunday in the Park with George
(Photo: Paul Marotta)

This past Saturday I saw the matinee performance of the Huntington Theatre Company’s production of Sunday In The Park With George, Stephen Sondheim’s classic musical inspired by the George Seurat painting A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grand Jatte now playing at the BU Theatre. It was my first time seeing it and I had done some research before going. Reading background pieces about the play made it sound like it was going to be a complicated work and, perhaps, a bit difficult to understand, particularly the second act.

The Huntington has given Boston theatre goers a treat that is not to be missed.

This Sunday In The Park With George is a gift that is not to be missed.
It is complicated, but it certainly is not a difficult play to enjoy. Yes, it has many layers, and I can certainly see why so many people return to see productions of it over and over again. It is one of those works that can be viewed just on the surface or you can dig deeper and deeper and find much more you may not have known was there at first glance. And that is what makes it so wonderful.

I have come a bit late to Sondheim in my theatre going life, this being only the third work of his I have seen performed on stage, the second having just been last week when I saw the Lyric Stage production of Company. I am now hooked.

Adam Chanler-Berat and Jenni Barber (Photo: Paul Marotta)
Adam Chanler-Berat and Jenni Barber
(Photo: Paul Marotta)

As I settled into my seat just in time for the opening act I was already taken with the set. When Jenni Barber appeared as Dot modeling for the artist George, and sang the title song, I knew this was going to be something special. Jenni Barber has talent, not just talent, but that rare ability to convey so much with a nod, a glance, and a pause at just the right time. Add to this her lovely voice, and, well, you have to see her.

This is not, however a one person show. Adam Charnier-Berat as George is in command of his role as the artist obsessed with his work. He moves about the stage with his sketch book sneaking looks at the people in the park for his painting which they will appear in. The use of the stage as a canvas for his work is pleasing to the eye with scenic design by Derek McLane.

Josh Breckenridge, Adam Chanler-Berat, and Aimee Doherty (Photo: Paul Marotta)
Josh Breckenridge, Adam Chanler-Berat, and Aimee Doherty
(Photo: Paul Marotta)

The entire cast is very strong. I was particularly impressed with Aimee Doherty as Yvonne who underplayed her role just right. Josh Breckenridge as Jules and Bobbie Steinbach as Old Lady are a joy to watch.

The musical score by Sondheim is not one that has you leaving the theater humming the tunes. Rather, it is an integral part of the story. Sondheim writes the music in a way that complements Seurat’s pointillist style of having the eye connect the dots in a painting. The music does the same thing only for the ear. It is subtle but effective. It is played by an eleven piece orchestra conducted by Eric Stern.

As for that troublesome second act where the action moves from 1884 to 1984. I saw no problem at all with it. Under the direction of Peter DuBois it was very clear what Mr. Sondheim meant.

Sunday In The Park With George at the BU Theater is an experience theatre goers will not soon forget.

A delectable treat for the eyes and ears. This production connects the dots.

It is a delectable treat for the eyes and ears. This production connects the dots and is not to be missed. You will be sorry if you do.

The Huntington Theatre has promised to produce all of Stephen Sondheim’s plays over the next few years. This is wonderful news. If they come anywhere near the current work being performed on their stage we are in for a great ride.

It looks like I have come to Sondheim at just the right time. I encourage you to jump on board as well. Sunday In The Park With George at the BU Theater is not a bad place to start.

At the BU Theater through October 16th
Huntington Theatre Company
BU Theater, 264 Huntington Ave., Boston