Written By Jen Silverman and Directed By Spiro Veloudos
Runs Through November 18
Sharon, middle-aged and recently divorced, needs a roommate to share her Iowa home. Robyn needs a place to hide and a chance to start over. But as Sharon begins to uncover Robyn’s secrets while sharing music, books, and an occasional toke, she discovers a deep-seated desire to transform her own life completely.
It’s a subversive, absorbing comedy about what it takes to re-route your life –and what happens when the wheels come off.
Written by Jen Silverman, this production is directed by Spiro Veloudos.
The Roommate runs from October 19 through November 4.
Lyric stage, 140 Clarendon Street, Copley Square, Boston
The Lyric Stage Company in Boston has kicked off its 44th season with the rarely produced Kander and Ebb musical Kiss Of The Spider Woman. The play, with book by Terence McNally, is based on Manuel Puig’s 1976 novel and the movie that followed. The Tony Award winning musical first appeared in 1993. This production is directed by Rachel Bertone who helmed last years wonderful Gypsy at the Lyric.
The story, which takes place in an Argentine prison, revolves around Molina (Eddy Cavazos), a gay window dresser who has been imprisoned for “corrupting a minor”, and Valentin (Taavon Gamble), a Marxist revolutionary, who has been sent to jail for his political activities. Valentin is initially tortured and then tossed into a cell with Molina who nurses him back to health. Upon regaining consciousness, Valentin draws a line down the center of their shared cell marking of each’s territory (I Draw The Line). He clearly is not comfortable with the gay Molina.
Molina has learned to cope with the horrific conditions of being in prison by escaping in his mind to the movies he used to see when he would accompany his mother (Johanna Carlisle-Zepeda) to the cinema she worked in. One actress occupies his mind, Aurora (Lisa Yuen), whose movies he replays over and over in his head. We meet Aurora in the opening number Aurora.The one role she played that terrifies him is when she played a spider woman who kills with her kiss. As we see Molina and Aurora, through his imagination reenacting scenes from her movies, the character of the spider woman reappears over again as the haunting kiss of death that the prisoners live with everyday.
While Molina is apolitical, Valentin sees in his life a mission to change society. The two learn from one another, with Valentin it is begrudgingly, and eventually form a bond that turns into love.
The set is provocative as it reaches out to the audience giving a feeling of bringing everyone into the prison. Lighting and shadows on the floor alternate between a spider web and the outline of prison bars. It is subtle yet effective.The off stage screams of prisoners being tortured is unsettling, as it should be, and adds to the feeling of hopelessness Molina and Valentin feel.
This was my first time seeing a production of Kiss Of The Spider Woman, and my take away is it is a work that is very dependent on having the right people in the roles in order for it to work. Eddy Cavazos is superb as Molina. His body language speaks as much to the audience as do his lines. He moves about the stage with a patience that proves very effective for conveying the depth of the character of Molina. Watching Molina as he copes with the misery and suffering around him, and that is inflicted on him, we also see how he learns to understand his value as a human being. This is a role that could easily be overplayed, but Mr. Cavazos resists that temptation.
Of course, this is not a one person show, and Taavon Gamble has his work cut out for him as Valentin, the angry young man who feels he will never get the chance to save the world. Valentin, who wants equal rights for all is confronted with having to face his own problems, now is having to share a cell with a gay man. Can he retain his masculinity while at the same time having feelings and caring for a gay man? It is where he learns we are defined not by what we are but rather by who we are. Mr. Gamble has done a marvelous job in bringing so many conflicting emotions to the stage in a way that we can understand them and share in his growing affection for Molina.
Lisa Yen is Aurora and she sparkles in numbers such as Aurora and Let’s Make Love. She is also haunting as the spider woman who is the ever present shadow of death. Ms Yen is joined by Katrina Zofia, who plays Valentin’s girlfriend Marta, on the song I Do Miracles.
Molina’s mother is played by Johanna Carlisle-Zepeda. Her rendition of You Could Never Shame Me is a touching and moving love song showing a mother’s unconditional love for her son.
While Kiss Of The Spider Woman is a story with much darkness and horrific situations, the tension is broken in the same way Molina has learned to escape from his misery; through the imagining of Aurora’s performances and show tunes, which are excellent. These breaks are much needed and make the story bearable. It is also much in the tradition of Kander and Ebb to take such dark stories and make them palatable. We can witness the suffering and misery while not being overwhelmed by it. That enables us to try to understand it and find ways to prevent it, or at least get through the suffering in life.
Today, almost everything is viewed through a political lens, particularly in theatre, and this play is political. While many will look to find comparisons with what happens in the play with what is happening in our society, it might be a good idea to look a bit further away and a bit closer to where the play is set. In Argentina there is some good news, three decades of Kirchener rule may be coming to an end, while in Venezuela the Marxist government has left the once prosperous country in a state where people are now starving to death. Cuba is still very much a prison island lacking basic human rights. Perhaps Valentin will reconsider his Marxist views in light of all this. I hope so, as he has the drive to do much good.
Kiss Of The Spider Woman, written by Terence McNally with music by John Kander and Fred Ebb, well run at the Lyric Stage, 140 Clarendon Street, Boston from August 31 to October 7. The hit Broadway musical won 7 Tony Awards including Best Musical and Best Score.
Fantasy and reality become tangled in a dark web in this smash musical by the songwriting team that penned Chicago and Cabaret. Kiss of the Spider Woman revamps a harrowing tale of persecution into a dazzling spectacle that juxtaposes gritty realities with liberating fantasies. Cellmates in a Latin American prison, Valentin is a tough Argentine revolutionary and Molina is an unapologetic homosexual serving eight years for deviant behavior. Molina escapes from the terrifying reality of prison life by sharing his fantasies about a mysterious 1940s movie star who takes on the role of a Spider Woman who can kill with a kiss.
The cast includes: Bernie Baldassaro, Johanna Carlisle-Zepeda, Eddy Cavazos, Arthur Cuadros, Taavon Gamble, Arthur Gomez, Ricardo Holguin, Diego Klock-Pérez, Davron S. Monroe, Luis Negron, Felton Sparks, Lance-Patrick Strickland, Lisa Yuen, Katrina Zofia.
Rachel Bertone returns to the Lyric to direct and choreographKiss Of The Spider Woman. Last season she directed and choreographed the Lyric’s hit production of Gypsy.
As Camelot ends King Arthur tells Tom of Warick to run from the battle so he may live and “Ask every person if he’s heard the story, and tell him strong and clear if he has not.” And that story, the legend of Camelot, is what is given to us in the Lyric Stage’s current production of the Lerner and Loewe classic.
On a beautiful multi-level set that gives the feel of a haunted forest with serpent like trees that appear to be watching the events that unfold, we are treated to a story, the story, that young Tom has passed down through the years. We, the audience, feel as if we are seated by a campfire while the tale is related to us by Arthur, Guenevere, Lancelot, Mordred, and the Knights and Ladies of the Court of King Arthur.
This has been called a “stripped down production”, but I would call it an enhanced work. It is no secret the original Camelot was too long. Shortening it was a challenge from the beginning, and this adaptation by David Lee finally meets that challenge. All of the songs are here, the story is complete, and it moves along seamlessly. Director Spiro Veloudos adds his magic touch to bring it all together for an evening of theatre that will not be forgotten.
Don’t let this brief shining moment pass you by.
The cast led by Ed Hoopman as Arthur speaks in naturalistic voices, so don’t plan on hearing imitations of Burton and Andrews. Hoopman’s voice is rich and smooth connoting the kindness and humanity of the King who wished for a society that was just and fair. Maritza Bostic as Guenevere is lovely and warm with a voice that captivates. It is hard to lose with this score, but with so many people familiar with the original cast album ears may be programmed to hear something else. What is great is how the actor’s make this their own version, and it is a great one.
Jared Troilo, who is a familiar face to Boston theatre goers, takes on the part of the brash Lancelot. Troilo’s rendition of If Ever I Would Leave You is positively wonderful. It had to be a challenge.
I have to say that Rory Boyd’s Mordred is truly amazing. His name alone cues us to expect an evil character, but Boyd manages to move him into more of a grey area. He certainly brings a great energy and just enough ambiguity to the role to make one possibly feel a bit of sympathy for him Mordred, and that is something I doubt has been seen before.
What makes this production so special is the intimacy. Not only is it warm because it is set in a small theater, but it feels the players have invited us to sit by the campfire and hear their stories. It is oh so captivating.
What makes this production so special is the intimacy.
Accompanied by an eight piece orchestra, the cast, who work without amplification, fill the theatre with beautiful sounds. There is not a bad seat in the house, and in this age of an over reliance on electronics it is a pleasure to hear such lovely voices going directly to our ears. It is one of the many things that makes the Lyric Stage so special.
I am sure tickets for this run will sell fast, so don’t wait. Don’t let this brief shining moment pass you by.
Camelot Through June 25th
The Lyric Stage, Copley Square, Boston
The Lyric Stage has announced the cast for Camelot which plays May 19th through June 25th. This fresh new adaptation directed by Spiro Veloudas will feature Ed Hoopman as Arthur, along with Maritza Bostic as Guenevere, and Jared Troilo in the part of Lancelot.
Rory Boyd, Jordan Clark, Garrett Inman, Jeff Marcus, Margarita Bamaris Martinez, Davron S. Monroe, Brad Foster Reinking, and Kira Troilo round out the cast.
This is Spiro’s first work since his recent health issues and we are all looking forward to seeing the Master in action again.
Sarah Ruhl’s Stage Kiss now playing at the Lyric Stage is two plays within a play that centers on the problems that arise when former lovers are cast opposite each other in a revival of a 1930s melodrama, The Last Kiss, which is also about two former lovers.
Make no mistake, this play is very funny.
He (Alexander Platt) and She (Celeste Oliva) the former lovers who haven’t seen each other in over ten years are brought together when trying out for roles in a revival of a 1930s Noel Coward style play The Last Kiss. Sexual tension immediately arises as old passions become inflamed. She, who is now married and has a daughter while He is in a relationship with a woman from either Iowa or Illinois (you’ll understand when you see it), don’t take long to act on their desires.
Make no mistake, this play is very funny. Ms Oliva, as She, is a positive riot as she reads for the part in front of director Adrian Schwalbach (Will McGarrahan). It is her first time trying out for a production in years and Oliva plays the part with a frenetic humor that conveys She’s self doubt. I couldn’t help but think this might not be much of an exaggeration of what many actors have been through. Mr. McGarrahan as Schwalbach is the perfect straight man. His timing is excellent as he knows just when to deliver a line or a look to allow the lines to sink in. I have seen him in a number of productions and he as yet to disappoint.
He is played by Alexander Platt. He, shallow and self centered, lives just in the moment. He seems not at all concerned with the fact that She is married and has a child. At first this doesn’t seem important as the laughs keep coming and it is amazing to see the set for The Last Kiss come together as the action moves along. The play begins with an almost bare stage that evolves into a beautiful setting with lovely costumes. It is magical to see as it happens bit by bit while the lights are dimmed.
Director Courtney O’Connor also plays a bit with the audience on when intermission is about to start. It is all fun and a nice touch.
In Act II things begin to falter a bit. The Last Kiss has been a flop and now He and She are teaming up with Adrian in a new play he has written and is producing in Detroit. She has left her husband Harrison (Craig Matthers) and her daughter Angela (Theresa Nguyen) to be with He. He’s former girlfriend Laurie (Gillian Mackay-Smith) and Harrison have taken up with each other. Angela’s reaction to all of this is not hurt but anger that doesn’t seem all that real. She also seems quite self centered.
And this is why things don’t quite work in the second act. While there are plenty of funny situations, we are still seeing a marriage torn apart and a child whose mother has walked out on her. I never got the sense anybody really was feeling much pain about all that had happened. Towards the end Craig Mathers gives a very moving and well done monologue about marriage that feels out of place as he appears to be the only one who grasps what has really happened. The lines he delivers include “Marriage is about repetition. Every night the sun goes down and the moon comes up and you have another chance to be good. Romance is not about repetition.” Beautiful words, and while She does go back with him, I don’t believe it is the words that have moved her. Her shallowness still rings through. Without an emotional investment in the characters it is hard to feel much even when listening to these lovely words so well delivered by Mr. Mathers.
Now, I do have to say something here about Michael Hisamoto who plays a number of parts including the Kevin the understudy in The Last Kiss and a pimp in the play in Detroit. Mr. Hisamoto almost steals this production. He is positively hilarious in his scenes with Ms Oliva in Act 1. Their kissing scene is side splitting funny. Every time he steps onto the stage you can feel his energy. His presence is subtle but very strong. He can elicit laughter with just a sidewards glance. He is a very talented young actor and I hope we get to see more of him soon.
Mr. Hisamoto almost steals this production
Stage Kiss may have some flaws, but it is still a production worth seeing. It is refreshing to sit in a theater and laugh. It is nice in this very heated political era to be able to step away from all the arguing and be able to escape for a couple of hours. Theatre plays many roles in our society. Some of it is political. But it is also important that it gives us a break from the anxieties that creep into our lives. Stage Kiss does that.
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 Concoursewhich 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 CONCOURSEexplores 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 9was 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.
To Play At the Lyric Stage January 13 Through February 12
The Lyric Stage has announced the cast for Edward Albee’s classic play Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf set to run from January 1st through February 12th.
Directed by Scott Edmiston who’s My Fair Lady at the Lyric was named among “The Best Theatre of 2015” by the Wall Street Journal, the very strong cast will include Steven Barkhimer (Warrior Class) playing George. He will be joined by the award winning Paula Plum who will portray Martha. Erica Spyres (Company) and Dan Whelton (One Man, Two Guvnors) will play Honey and Nick.
The Lyric Stage is located at 140 Clarendon Street, Boston.
Kenneth Linn’s New Play Opens October 21 And Runs Through November 13
Playwright Kenneth Lin (TV’s House of Cards) delivers “an absorbing, incisive new play that crackles with authenticity” (NY Times), just in time for the climax of a surprising election season. Michael Tow (Chinglish) plays a New York assemblyman who’s been dubbed “The Republican Obama.” The son of Chinese immigrants and a decorated war veteran, he looks forward to a seemingly limitless political career. When someone from his past threatens to reveal a college transgression, he must decide how far he’ll go to keep the incident out of the public eye. Whatever his decision, the consequences may be costly.
For more information: lyricstage.com Box Office: 617-585-5678