Tag Archives: SpeakEasy Production Company

Review: “Admissions” At The SpeakEasy Production Company, Boston

Talking The Talk

Not Walking The Walk

Admissions 

At SpeakEasy Stage Explores Privilege, Values, Snobbery,

And Hypocrisy

Reviewed by Bobby Franklin

Nathan Malin Photo by Maggie Hall Photography

A few years ago I was watching a news program featuring a story about a successful inner city high school where most of the graduates were going on to college. It was an uplifting story, but one part stuck in my mind to this day. A young African American girl was asked why she wanted to go to college. She responded, “So I can be better than other people.” My heart sank when I heard those words.

In watching Joshua Harmon’s newest play Admissions, now at the SpeakEasy Stage Company in Boston, those words kept echoing in my head. The play which takes place far from the inner city, at a second tier, on the verge of being first tier, prep school in New Hampshire, deals with what happens when white liberals who are in a position of power, in this case expanding minority admissions to the school, talk the talk of making their school more inclusive and diverse and then have to face the reality of walking the walk when it turns out it means giving up their own privilege. 

Sherri Rosen-Mason is the Head of Admissions for Hillcrest Prep School. Her husband Bill is the Headmaster, and their son Charlie is a senior who’s dream has always been to attend Yale. He has worked hard toward that goal and has the grades and test scores to show for it. Things don’t work out as planned when Perry, Charlie’s close friend who is biracial is accepted at Yale while Charlie’s application is deferred. Charlie believes it is his skin color that has made the difference.

Cheryl McMahon and Maureen Keiller
Photo by Maggie Hall Photography

I have seen three of Joshua Harmon’s plays, and he is a master at writing dialog. In the opening scene of Admissions the back and forth between Sherri Rosen-Mason (Maureen Keiller) and Roberta (Cheryl McMahon) who works in development at the school is both funny and telling. Roberta is working on the school catalogue and Sherri is critiquing her work for not showing how racially diverse the school is. It becomes a numbers game about how many students of color attend the school and if they are properly represented in the catalogue. More so, are minority kids made to feel comfortable when perusing it. 

The conversation between the two on who qualifies as black enough becomes awkward for Sherri as Roberta cuts to the quick with just what Sherri is trying to say. While funny, the conversation can also make many in the audience feel uncomfortable as while the goal of being more inclusive is good, the discussion of putting people into boxes based on ethnicity has ugly overtones.

This combination of humor and questioning of values is also evident in Charlie’s diatribe when he confronts his parents about why he wasn’t accepted at Yale. Nathan Malin as Charlie is positively outstanding when he goes on about what he sees as the absurdity of figuring out who qualifies as a minority and who doesn’t.  Sherri and Bill (Michael Kaye) are stunned by what their son has said. Bill, “It looks like we successfully raised a Republican”. Oh! The horror! 

Marianna Bassham and Maureen Keiller
Photo by Maggie Hall Photography

Another awkward moment occurs when Perry’s mother Ginnie (Marianna Bassham) is sharing her joy over her son being accepted to Yale when she realizes Sherri is implying he only made it because of his skin color. Later in the play Ginnie captures the difficulty her son and so many others have to face because many people feel that way. Marianna Bassham is terrific as always.

The part of the play I found most revealing was where Charlie had decided to take things into his own hands and walk the walk that his parents talked, and made his own decision about where to attend college. Bill launches into a revealing screed about how his son will now have to do such low level jobs as “tossing pizzas and bussing tables”. He also can’t contain his disgust for community colleges. It really does all come down to being better than other people. 

While the play is meant to make people look at their own privilege, in this case white privilege, it is about much more than that. No matter how well intentioned people are, when it comes to getting ahead, or having their children get ahead, are they ever going to cede their connections and power to make things happen? 

White liberals will see this play and feel appropriately guilty. But how many of them will be willing to have a minority student take the seat at the table they reserved for their son or daughter? And is that really the solution?

Michael Kaye and Nathan Malin
Photo by Maggie Hall Photography

As with other Speakeasy Productions, I would love to see a more politically diverse audience attend and participate in a discussion. Joshua Harmon knows how to raise questions. He is not afraid to make people uncomfortable, and I would assume this includes himself. And, unlike so many of today’s authors, he does not preach. The audience has to grapple with these questions on their own. 

Sherri’s words are very telling, “If you don’t have a school like a Yale or Harvard on your resume, that actually puts a ceiling on what’s possible in your life. And our son is smart enough to see that. Going to Yale means your life contains all the possibility in the world. Not going there, or one of a handful of schools like it, means there are tables you will never get to sit at, tables whose existence you may never know about.” 

Keeping the table small means always putting limits on what people can achieve. Maybe it’s time to find new places to sit.

While it is easy when hearing about Admissions to put it in a box as a play by and for liberals, it should not be dismissed as such. This is an excellent work and a superb production. The talented cast is outstanding. The set which smoothly transitions from campus office to family kitchen is perfect. No matter your political beliefs, I would strongly urge you to pull up a chair to this table at the SpeakEasy.

Admissions

By Joshua Harmon

Directed by Paul Daigneault

Through November 30

SpeakEasy Stage Company

South End, Boston

speakeasystage.com

617.933.8600

SpeakEasy Stage Company Presents The Boston Regional Theatre Premiere Of The Tony Award-Winning Musical ONCE.

March 1 – 30, 2019, in the Roberts Studio Theatre in the Stanford Calderwood Pavilion at the Boston Center for the Arts, 527 Tremont St. in Boston’s South End.ONCE

 

Nile Scott Hawver and MacKenzie Lesser-Roy
Photo by Maggie Hall Photography

Based on the 2007 Irish film written and directed by John Carney, ONCE employs an exceptional ensemble of actor-musicians to tell the story of an unlikely romance between a down-on-his-luck Dublin street musician and a determined Czech immigrant who inspires him to dream.  Featuring a book by Enda Walsh, and music and lyrics by Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová, ONCE is a charming tale that reminds us of the importance of pursuing our dreams and the power music has to connect us all.  

SpeakEasy General Manager Paul Melone will direct this production of ONCE. Winner of two Elliot Norton Awards for his direction of the musicals Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson (2013) and Adding Machine: A Musical (2010), Mr. Melone also directed the company’s Boston premieres of  Carrie: The Musical; reasons to be pretty; The Little Dog Laughed; Fat Pig; The Moonlight Room; Our Lady of 121st Street; and The Shape of Things. 

Also on the artistic team are Steven Ladd Jones (music director) and Ilyse Robins (choreographer).

Nile Scott Hawver and Mackenzie Lesser-Roy will play the lead roles of Guy and Girl.  Jacob Brandt, Billy Butler, Clara Cochran, Chris Coffey, Reagan Gardiner, Billy Meleady, Robert X. Newman, Marta Rymer, Stephen Shore, Jeff Song, Kathy St. George, and Ellie van Amerongen make-up the ensemble of actor-musicians. 

ONCE got its start with a workshop production at the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, MA in April 2011. The show then transferred to the New York Theatre Workshop where it opened in December 2011. Steve Kazee and Cristin Milioti originated the roles of Guy and Girl for this Off-Broadway production, which was helmed by John Tiffany. This same team took the show to Broadway, where it opened on March 18, 2012, winning 8 Tony Awards including Best Musical. Since that time, audiences around the globe have had the opportunity to enjoy ONCE, which has played in Dublin, the West End, Australia, Seoul, South Korea, Toronto, and across the United States.  

ONCE will run for five weeks, from March 1 – 30, 2019, in the Roberts Studio Theatre in the Stanford Calderwood Pavilion at the Boston Center for the Arts, 527 Tremont St. in Boston’s South End.

For tickets or more information, the public is invited to call the box office at 617.933.8600 or visit www.SpeakEasyStage.com .                 

Small Mouth Sounds

                                           

SMALL MOUTH SOUNDS

Opens At SpeakEasy January 4

            From January 4 through February 2, 2019, SpeakEasy Stage will proudly present the Boston Premiere of the hit Off-Broadway comedy SMALL MOUTH SOUNDS by Bess Wohl. 

Heralded as one of the Top Ten Plays of 2015 by The New York Times, SMALL MOUTH SOUNDS follows six strangers on a spiritual retreat for what they hope will be a life-changing week.  In the overwhelming quiet of the woods, they struggle to abandon technology and embrace silence under the tutelage of an unseen guru, who is having her own challenges with inner peace.  Though it employs very little dialogue, there is definitely nothing quiet about SMALL MOUTH SOUNDS, a luminous and compassionate new play that asks how we address life’s biggest questions when words fail us. 

SMALL MOUTH SOUNDS is the work of playwright Bess Wohl, a graduate of Harvard and the Yale School Drama whose roster of plays includes American Hero; BarcelonaTouchedInCats Talk Back; and the original musical Pretty Filthy (in collaboration with Michael Friedman and The Civilians). Her work has been produced or developed at Second Stage, Ars Nova, The Williamstown Theatre Festival, The Geffen Playhouse, and others.  Bess also writes for film and television and has developed projects for HBO, ABC, USA, Disney, Paramount, and others.  

M. Bevin O’Gara will return to Boston to direct the Boston Premiere of SMALL MOUTH SOUNDS. A former Associate Producer for the Huntington Theatre, Ms. O’Gara is currently the Producing Artistic Director of the Kitchen Theatre Company in Ithaca, NY. Her many directing credits include: The Bridges of Madison County, appropriate, A Future Perfect, Tribes (Elliot Norton and IRNE Awards for Best Production), and Clybourne Park (SpeakEasy Stage);  GirlfriendIronbound, the world premiere of Brawler, and Brahman/i  (Kitchen Theatre); The Who and The What, Milk Like Sugar (Elliot Norton Award nomination for Best Production), and Becoming Cuba (Huntington Theatre); You for Me for You, Love Person, and The Pain and the Itch (Company One).  

Norton Award-winners Barlow Adamson, Marianna Bassham, and Nael Nacer headline an all-star Boston cast that also includes Kerry A. Dowling, Celeste Oliva, Sam Simahk, and Gigi Watson.  

SMALL MOUTH SOUNDS will run for five weeks, from January 4th through February 2, in the Roberts Studio Theatre in the Stanford Calderwood Pavilion at the Boston Center for the Arts, 527 Tremont Street in Boston’s South End.

For tickets or more information, the public is invited to call the box office at 617.933.8600 or visit www.SpeakEasyStage.com .                 

Review: “Fun Home” at SpeakEasy Stage

Fun Home

At SpeakEasy Stage

Is First Rate

Reviewed by Bobby Franklin

Three Alisons (Marissa Simeqi, Ellie van Amerongen, and Amy Jo Jackson)
Photo: Nile Scott Studios

The musical Fun Home now playing at the SpeakEasy Stage Company is deeply moving and complex. Based on the graphic memoir of the same title by Alison Bechdel, it tells the story of of Ms Bechdel’s childhood and her coming out as a lesbian while in college. However, this is not a story simply about a young woman coming to terms with her sexuality. It is much more complicated than that. In reality, her coming out is not the center of the story. 

The play opens in, what seems to be, the happy home of the Bechdels (Welcome To Our House on Maple Avenue). Alison’s father, Bruce (Todd Yard), is an English teacher as well as a director of a funeral home. The title of the play is taken from the shortened and more enjoyable name the Bechdel children use for the family business. Alison has two brothers, Christian (Cameron Levesque) and John (Luke Gold).

Alison is played by three actors depicting her at different ages. There is Small Alison (Marissa Simeqi), Medium Alison (Ellie van Amerongen), and present day Alison (Amy Jo Jackson). The play does not follow a chronological order, but rather follows the present day Alison as she looks back on events in her life while drawing cartoons as she relives the various times. Much of the time she is sitting at a writing desk or standing off to the side looking on and drawing as her memories are played out by the others. She makes comments as she observes. I found this very effective as it is common for people to look back on their lives as if they are witnessing a play or a movie. Trying to figure it all out can get complicated, and this story is no different when it comes to complications.

Marissa Simeqi (Small Alison)and Todd Yard (Bruce)Photo: Nile Scott Studios

Those complications are not so much in Alison’s coming to grips with her own sexual identity, she does quite well with that, but more with her father’s having to deal with his. It turns out Bruce is gay and has never come out. He has gotten into trouble for “procuring alcohol for underage boys”. Tyler Simahk, last seen at SpeakEasy in Allegiance plays multiple roles as the young men Bruce procures beer for. He is also somewhat controlling, not abusive, of his children, and it is easy to gather that controlling behavior is reflective of his attempts to control his own behavior. It is painful to watch him struggle. 

In the song Maps Alison talks about drawing maps of the neighborhood as a child. At one point she says about her father “I can draw a circle, his whole life fits inside”. That line had me thinking of how trapped Bruce must have felt. 

Bruce eventually killed himself by stepping in front of a truck. This was not long after Alison came out, and she says “My beginning would be your end”. These words are powerful as they so strongly convey the torment in not being able to live who you are openly. Alison was fortunate, though it still wasn’t easy, to have come of age in a time when she could find support and acceptance. Bruce had to live his life in the shadows and with guilt and anger that was turned within.

One of the most powerful moments in the play is when Alison’s mother Helen (Laura Marie Duncan) sings Days and Days:

Welcome to our house on Maple Avenue
See how we polish and we shine
We rearrange and realign
Everything is balanced and serene
Like chaos never happens if it’s never seen.”

In which she laments her life, feeling she wasted it in attempting to be the good wife.”

 She advises Alison: 

“Don’t you come back here

I didn’t raise you

To give away your days

Like me.”

The song is strong and delivers the message of how living lies is painful to all involved. Fortunately, Alison has learned that difficult lesson.

Helen (Laura Marie Duncan)Photo: Nile Scott Studios

While this story is one that involves much struggle and pain, it also has its happy moments. Although Bruce was in much pain and controlling, he was also a loving father. The children loved him and Helen, as well as each other. The song Come To Fun Home is a rousing number sung by the three siblings as they pretend to make a commercial for the funeral home. It is somewhat of a cross  between the Osmands and the Jackson Five, and all much fun. Marissa Simeqi, Cameron Levesque, and Luke Gold bring the house down while dancing around a casket, and taking turns singing into a can of Pledge used as a microphone. 

Desire Graham plays Joan, the understanding, though edgy, friend Alison makes on campus and who eventually becomes her lover. Joan may be a bit tough but she is kind, and just the supporting figure Alison needed 

Amy Jo Jackson in her role as present day Alison comes across as thoughtful and wise. It is interesting watch her expressions as she observes and begins to understand her life as it evolved  Often, when looking back we see ourselves with a more sympathetic eye. It is good when we can cast that view onto our present day selves. We can learn that from Alison Bechdel.

Fun Home

Music by Jeanine Tesori

Book and Lyrics by Lisa Kron

Directed by Paul Daigneault

Music Direction by Matthew Stern

Through November 24 at the Calderwood Pavillon

527 Tremont Street, South End, Boston

617.933.8600

speakeasystage.com 

Opening The Door To Talking About Depression and Suicide

Every Brilliant Thing
SpeakEasy Stage Company, Boston

Reviewed by Bobby Franklin

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

Adrianne Krstansky
(Photo Credit: Maggie Hall)

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

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

Adrianne Krstansky
(Photo Credit: Maggie Hall)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Every Brilliant Thing Opens At SpeakEasy Stage

The SpeakEasy Stage Presents Every Brilliant Thing

From March 2-31, 2018, SpeakEasy Stage Company will proudly present the Boston premiere of the charming and life-affirming solo show Every Brilliant Thing.

Written by British playwright Duncan MacMillan (Lungs; People, Places, and Things) , and originally performed by British comedian Jonny Donohoe, Every Brilliant Thing  explores depression, and looks at the lengths we will go to help those we love. The story begins when a young girl compiles a list of things worth living for in an effort to ease her mother’s sadness: things like ice cream, and water fights, and staying up past your bedtime to watch TV. Through adulthood, as the list grows, she comes to understand the deep significance the list has had on her own life, and the irrepressible resilience inside us all.

Adrianne Krstansky will star in this one person show, which explores this delicate topic with equal parts grace and humor. Ms. Krstansky recently won both an Elliot Norton and IRNE Award for her work as Lola in the Huntington Theatre Company’s production of Come Back, Little Sheba. Her SpeakEasy credits include lead roles in the Boston premieres of Tribes, Body Awareness, and Snakebit.

Marianna Bassham will be making her SpeakEasy directing debut with this production. Ms. Bassham received both an Elliot Norton and IRNE Award for her performance in SpeakEasy’s production of Blackbird. Her other SpeakEasy acting credits include In the Next Room (or The Vibrator Play); Reckless; and Hand to God. Ms. Bassham most recently appeared in as Marc Antony in an all-female production of Julius Caesar for Actors’ Shakespeare Project.

The design team for Every Brilliant Thing includes Eric Levenson (scenic and lighting); Amanda Ostrow Mason (costumes); Lee Schuna (sound), and Abby Shenker (props).

Becca Freifeld is the Production Stage Manager.

Every Brilliant Thing will run for five weeks, from March 2- 31, 2018 in the round in the Roberts Studio Theatre in the Stanford Calderwood Pavilion at the Boston Center for the Arts, 527 Tremont Street in Boston’s South End.

Ticket prices start at $25, with discounts for students, seniors, and persons age 25 and under.
For tickets or more information, the public is invited to call the box office at 617.933.8600 or visit www.SpeakEasyStage.com.

SpeakEasy Productions Presents The Bridges Of Madison County May 6 through June 3

 

In The Roberts Studio Theatre At The Stanford Calderwood Pavilion At The Boston Center For The Arts

 

From May 6 – June 3, 2017, SpeakEasy Stage Company will proudly present the Boston Premiere of THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY, a lush, lyrical musical by Tony Award-winners Marsha Norman (book) and Jason Robert Brown (music & lyrics), based on the best-selling novel by Robert James Waller.

Winner of two 2014 Tony Awards including Best Original Score, THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY tells the story of Francesca Johnson, a beautiful Italian woman who married an American soldier to escape the war, and now leads a simple but dispassionate life on an Iowa farm. On the day her family departs for a trip to the 1965 State Fair, she is surprised by Robert Kincaid, a ruggedly handsome National Geographic photographer who randomly pulls into her driveway seeking directions. A quick ride to photograph one of the famed covered bridges of Madison County sparks a soul-stirring affair for the couple, whose lives are forever altered by this chance meeting.

M. Bevin O’Gara returns to SpeakEasy to direct THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY. Her previous SpeakEasy credits include directing the New England Premieres of appropriate, A Future Perfect, Tribes (Elliot Norton and IRNE Awards for Best Production), and Clybourne Park.

Ms. O’Gara’s artistic team includes Music Director Matthew Stern, a recent IRNE nominee for his work on SpeakEasy’s productions of Violet (2016) and The Scottsboro Boys; and Choreographer Misha Shields, a Boston Conservatory graduate now working extensively in both New York and Boston.

Norton Award-winner Jennifer Ellis will play Francesca Johnson, and Wisconsin-native and Boston University alumnus Christiaan Smith will play Robert Kincaid.

Featured in the cast are Peter S. Adams, Rachel Belleman, Christopher Chew, Kerry A. Dowling, Katie Elinoff, Will McGarrahan, Taylor Okey, Ellen Peterson, Nicolas Siccone, Edward Simon, and Alessandra Valea.

The design team is Cameron Anderson (scenic); Mark Nagle (costumes); Annie Wiegand (lighting), David Reiffel (sound), and Garrett Herzig (projections).

THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY will run for five weeks, from May 6 through June 3, in the Roberts Studio Theatre in the Stanford Calderwood Pavilion at the Boston Center for the Arts, 527 Tremont Street in Boston’s South End.

Ticket prices start at $25, with discounts for students, seniors, and persons age 25 and under.

For tickets or more information, the public is invited to call the box office at 617.933.8600 or visit www.SpeakEasyStage.com .

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

SPEAKEASY STAGE TO BRING BACK “THE SCOTTSBORO BOYS” DEC. 30 – JAN. 22

Wakeem Jones and De'Lon Grant Photo credit: Nile Hawver/Nile Scott Shots
Wakeem Jones and De’Lon Grant
Photo credit: Nile Hawver/Nile Scott Shots

Due to unprecedented demand, SpeakEasy Stage will remount its acclaimed production of THE SCOTTSBORO BOYS for four additional weeks, December 30, 2016 – January 22, 2017.The entire original cast will return to the production, which has been hailed as “a powerful and vivid reminder of racial injustice both past and present.” Tickets for the added performances are now on sale.

“I am thrilled to have another opportunity to share THE SCOTTSBORO BOYS with Boston audiences,” said SpeakEasy Founder and Producing Artistic Director Paul Daigneault. “Rarely have I been more proud of a production, and rarely has a show seemed as timely and important as this one.”

Featuring music and lyrics by Broadway legends John Kander and Fred Ebb, and a book by David Thompson, THE SCOTTSBORO BOYS brings to light the shocking true story of nine African American teenagers jailed in Alabama in 1931 for a crime they did not commit. With an exhilarating and infectious score that mixes gospel, jazz, and vaudeville, the show flips the script on the classic minstrel construct to lay bare the fateful case that inspired the American civil rights movement. Nominated for 12 Tony Awards during it initial Broadway engagement, THE SCOTTSBORO BOYS is also notable as the final collaboration between Kander and Ebb, whose works include such musical theatre classics as Cabaret, Chicago, and Kiss of the Spider Woman.

The entire original cast will be back for these additional performances. They are:   Darren Bunch,Shalaye Camillo, Taavon Gamble, Russell Garrett, De’Lon Grant, Brandon G. Green,Sheldon Henry, Wakeem Jones, Steven Martin, Darrell Morris, Jr., Maurice Emmanuel Parent, Aaron Michael Ray, and Isaiah Reynolds.Ticket prices start at $25, with discounts for students, seniors, and persons age 25 and under.

The second installment of THE SCOTTSBORO BOYS will run for four weeks, December 30, 2016 through January 22, 2017, in the Roberts Studio Theatre in the Stanford Calderwood Pavilion at the Boston Center for the Arts, 527 Tremont Street in Boston’s South End.

For tickets or more information, the public is invited to call the box office at 617.933.8600 or visit www.SpeakEasyStage.com 

Uncomfortable and Very Good

The Scottsboro Boys

At The Calderwood

SpeakEasy Productions
Boston

Reviewed by Bobby Franklin

The SpeakEasy Stage’s production is as good a one as you will see.

The Scottsboro Boys was John Kander and Fred Ebb’s final collaboration. Mr. Ebb passed away in 2004 and Mr. Kander finished the play on his own. It debuted in 2010. It is a musical about nine young black men, actually boys (the youngest was only thirteen), who, in 1936, were falsely accused of raping two white women in Alabama. It is a tragic and heart wrenching story about a terrible miscarriage of justice and racism.

While the original production received 12 Tony Award nominations, it was greeted with mixed reviews and some protests when it appeared on Broadway.

Wakeem Jones and De'Lon Grant Photo credit: Nile Hawver/Nile Scott Shots
Wakeem Jones and De’Lon Grant
Photo credit: Nile Hawver/Nile Scott Shots

The SpeakEasy Stage’s production is as good a one as you will see. Staging a musical such as this that deals with a true story that is sure to make an audience very uncomfortable has to be difficult; however, everything about Paul Daigneault’s direction is excellent. The sets, the music, the lighting. And that is just what can make this awkward for the audience. A lively musical with many one liners that stings.

Kander and Ebb set this as a minstrel show with some of the roles reversed. You will see such mainstay minstrel characters as Mr. Tambo and Mr. Bones, only in this case they are black men playing grotesque and exaggerated depictions of white characters. Makes you see things from a bit different perspective to say the least.

At no time during the play do you lose sight of the tragic injustice that is taking place.

Yes, this is a musical, and a lively one too with many great tunes and lively dance numbers. This can also lead to much discomfit. I asked some of the cast members after the show if different audiences react in different ways (at the performance I attended most applauded after each number, though I felt it inappropriate to do so.). They told me that some remain silent until the end and applaud when the play is over. At other times they can feel a hesitation before getting a response. This all makes sense in a show such as this where the music is very good and the performers excellent. However, you don’t exactly want to walk out of the theatre humming Electric Chair or Minstrel March. At no time during the play do you lose sight of the tragic injustice that is taking place, and that took place not very far in our past. The solid cast never allows that to happen. All the players are deeply vested in their characters and it shows.

Darrell Morris Jr. and Isaiah Reynolds (Photo Credit:Nile Hawver/Nile Scott Shots)
Darrell Morris Jr. and Isaiah Reynolds (Photo Credit:Nile Hawver/Nile Scott Shots)

Don’t let any of this dissuade you from seeing this fine cast perform on the stage of the Calderwood Pavillon. As usual, the SpeakEasy has assembled a very talented cast that does not disappoint. This is a rare opportunity to see Kander and Ebb’s final work, and we are lucky to have the SpeakEasy that does not shy away from such productions.

Due to popular demand, performances have been extended through November 26.

speakeasystage.com
617.933.8600 At The Calderwood Pavillon, 527 Tremont Street, Boston’s South End