Tag Archives: SpeakEasy Stage

Review: “Small Mouth Sounds” SpeakEasy Stage Company

Silence Is Golden With

Small Mouth Sounds

At SpeakEasy Stage

Review by Bobby Franklin

Cast Of Small Mouth Sounds
(Photo Credit: Nile Scott Studios)

As Bess Wohl’s unique play Small Mouth Sounds now playing at the SpeakEasy Stage begins, six people arrive at a resort in the country for a “silence retreat”. The set is a yoga studio with a small platform toward the rear with six chairs. As each participant arrives they take a yoga mat and find some space on the floor. With the exception of two friends who arrived together, they have never met before. There is some dialog at first, but then the “Teacher”  who remains unseen throughout the play speaks to them via a speaker. They are given a list of rules that include no talking for the time they are there. This makes for an original, funny, and touching play. Her telling of the Frog Parable is a riot.

With few exceptions, the actors perform without speaking a word. They do not do mime, but rather resort to doing what we all would do; they improvise ways of communicating without speaking. At times this is like being in a country where you don’t speak the language and are asking for directions. Beyond that, they also convey emotions with body language and facial expressions, some are extremely funny, others very touching. 

Ned (Nael Nacer) and Rodney (Sam Simahk)
Photo Credit: Nile Scott Studios)

Watching as they struggle to at first overcome the awkwardness of sharing space with strangers, something that goes with gatherings such as this, while not being allowed to communicate is a bit uncomfortable. It is something we have all had to deal with at one time or another, though usually not with the restriction on speaking. Of course, awkwardness does make for funny moments. Angry, puzzled, and inquiring looks are exchanged. The personalities of the characters are quickly revealed, while the emotional suffering that brought each one there is not brought out until much later.

Ironically, the one character with  the most lines, the Teacher (Marianna Bassham) remains unseen. The tone of her voice moves from New Age guru to prison warden to frustration and emotional pain throughout the play. The one who is there to teach how to deal with inner turmoil has much of her own.

The name of only one of the six characters was revealed in the course of the play, but they are all named in the program. There is Ned (Nael Nacer) who never takes his hat off, there is a reason for this that is part of his story, Joan (Kerry A. Dowling) and Judy (Celeste Oliva) who have come together and are dealing with stress to their friendship/relationship. Jan (Barlow Anderson) who at first doesn’t appear to be suffering, Rodney (Sam Simahk) a Youtube yoga celebrity who is going through relationship issues, and Alicia (Gigi Watson) who is young and vulnerable while dealing with a breakup. It is quite remarkable to witness how each is able to convey so much about their character while not speaking. There is a particularly touching moment when Jan reveals to Judy the reason for his suffering. He does this with one simple gesture and yet it is incredibly moving. 

The entire cast is excellent while Nael Nacer is just wonderful with his many facial expressions and body movements. I would describe him as a clown in the best definition of the term in that he gives such a broad array of emotions while not speaking. His performance is top notch, and while not speaking, he is also the one character outside of the Teacher, who does have a scene where he speaks to some extent. It is a revealing talk about what brought him to the retreat. 

There is much that is funny in Small Mouth Sounds as well as much that gives reason to reflect.

There is much that is funny in Small Mouth Sounds as well as much that gives reason to reflect. The idea of taking an extended period of time away from distractions such as our electronic devices as well as not being allowed to communicate verbally is really quite a daunting thought in our 24/7 social media world. While there is much to laugh at in the play, I sense that to a certain degree the audience laughter comes from their own feelings of discomfort with the silence. 

While Small Mouth Sounds is somewhat of a parody of New Age style retreats, it is also a reminder that maybe we should spend more time in quiet thought and accept that we can be comfortable with ourselves while facing our inner pain.

Director M. Bevin O’Gara must have felt it a challenge to direct a work that relies almost entirely on body language, but she pulls it all together. Whether you are comfortable sitting in the lotus position on a yoga mat or think this sort of stuff is only for granola eating Cambridge types, you will enjoy this play. By the conclusion you will not be able to help yourself from doing some self reflection. You’ll also be smiling and glad you saw moving and thoughtful play. 

Small Mouth Sounds 

Through February 2

SpeakEasy Stage Company

Calderwood Pavillion

527 Tremont Street

Boston’s South End



SpeakEasy Stage To Present the Boston Regional Theatre Premiere of the 2015 Tony Award-winning Musical FUN HOME  

Runs October 19 Through November 24 At The Calderwood Pavilion

FUN HOME will run from October 19 through November 24 at the Calderwood Pavillon, 527 Tremont Street in Boston’s South End. Featuring music by Tony Award winner Jeanine Tesori and a book and lyrics by Tony Award winner Lisa Kron, FUN HOME is a landmark musical about seeing one’s parents through grown-up eyes. Based on Ms. Bechdel’s best-selling memoir of the same name, this groundbreaking musical introduces us to Alison at three different ages, revealing memories that celebrate the curiosity of childhood, the challenges of coming out, and the complexities of family.

     SpeakEasy Founder and Producing Artistic Director Paul Daigneault will direct this production of FUN HOME. Winner of three Elliot Norton Awards including the 2014 Norton Prize for Sustained Excellence, Mr. Daigneault had directed dozens of Boston premieres, including the company’s recent productions of The Scottsboro Boys, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, and Allegiance. 

     The artistic team also includes IRNE Award-winning Music Director Matthew Stern and Choreographer Sarah Crane. 

     Amy Jo Jackson (Alison), Ellie van Amerongen (Medium Alison) and Marisa Simeqi (Small Alison) will play Ms. Bechdel at different ages in this compelling musical.  Also in the cast are Laura Marie Duncan, Luke Gold, Desiré Graham, Cameron Levesque, Madi Shaer, Tyler Simahk, and Todd Yard.  

 FUN HOME will run for six weeks, from October 19 through November 24, 2018, 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.

617.933.8600 or visit www.SpeakEasyStage.com .                 

“Between Riverside and Crazy” Life As A Poker Game

At The SpeakEasy Stage

Reviewed by Bobby Franklin

Octavia Chavez-Richmond, Tyrees Allen, and Lewis D. Wheeler
Photo Credit: Nile Scott Studios

Walter “Pops” Washington (Tyrees Allen) is a former N.Y. City police officer who is living in a rent controlled apartment. He is no longer on the force because he was shot six times by a rookie cop. The shooting took place at an after hours bar when Pops was off duty. Pops is black, the cop who shot him is white.

Between Riverside and Crazy by Stephen Adly Guirgiis does not fit into a narrative of a racist white cop shooting a black man. It gets much more complicated as the story moves along. Pops is sharing his apartment with his son Junior (Stewart Evan Smith), an ex con who is trying to turn his life around, though it appears he may still be a bit stuck in his old ways. Along with Junior is his girlfriend Lulu (Octavia Chavez-Richmond), who is pregnant and might be working as a prostitute, and Oswaldo (Alejandro Simoes), a friend of Junior’s who has been doing his best to stay clean and sober. 

Alejandro Simoes, Stewart Evan Smith, and Tyrees Allen
Photo: Nile Scott Studios

While the relationship between Junior and Pops is strained, Oswaldo appears to understand the cantankerous Pops and the opening dialog between the two is both funny and revealing. The elder Washington displays a degree of bitterness as he spends most of his days sipping whiskey. He is not only angry about having been shot, but also over the loss of his wife who died after a long illness. He spends time sitting in her wheelchair and you can see that he’s also dealing with the guilt of not having been the ideal husband. 

He filed a law suit against the city eight years earlier and is seeking $5 million dollars in damages, but the city has not settled because of the circumstances of the shooting, which we learn more about as the play progresses. He is also receiving eviction notices.

As I said, this is not a play about police shootings. It is about how people play the game and play a bit fast with the truth to get what they want. While at times it seems underhanded, it never really goes over the top. How the rules are bent is in the eye of the beholder. 

It is also a play about relationships. Pops finds it difficult to show affection to Junior, while he is  more comfortable getting closer to Oswaldo and Lulu, both of whom he shows much empathy to.

Pops former partner Detective O’Connor (Maureen Keiller) and a Lieutenant Caro (Lewis D. Miller) visit Pops for dinner one evening. It doesn’t take long to realize there is an ulterior motive for the meeting as Caro attempts to get Pops to agree to a deal with the city. The smarmy Caro, the smarminess is overplayed here, is not so much looking out for Pops as he is advancing his own career by helping the city put this lawsuit behind them. Pops, as well as the audience, quickly sees through this game. 

There are a number of other stories playing around all of this including Junior’s relationship with Lulu as well as how he seeks to receive words of affection from Pops, Oswaldo’s own issues with his father and his set back with staying clean. All are interesting, but I found a certain depth lacking in the way these stories are portrayed. While good, I thought there was so much to work with here that was left not fully developed.

There are two scenes where things seemed to really catch fire. When tempers flare between Pops and Caro over settling the lawsuit, it appears things are really going to get moving. It is a powerful scene, but the action fades shortly thereafter.  It does regain steam later, but it felt to me like momentum was lost.

Celeste Oliva and Tyrees Allen
Photo: Nile Scott Studios

The other scene is when the Brazilian Church Lady (Celeste Oliva)  comes to visit Pops. She is filling in for another caregiver, and like many of the characters in the play, is looking to get something for herself. It is quite the perfomance, both steamy and funny, Ms Oliva plays it outstandingly. Its a scene you will not forget.

Towards the end of the play Pops finds out Lieutenant Caro likes to play poker, and this is when we see how much of what is going on is like a giant poker game, with each player looking at his cards and seeing just how much he can bluff.

The play ends on an interesting note as the characters are pretty much revealed and while we may be tempted to judge some, if not all of them, harshly, just think about how you may have acted if you were in any of their positions.

Yes, I think this play could have been better, but it is definitely worth seeing. Tyrees Allen’s portrayal of Pops is a pleasure to watch. His humor, his anger, his human weaknesses, and his quest to find what he considers justice is well served in the hands of Mr. Tyrees, who does a wonderful job in the role. You’ll feel much the way Junior does when watching him. He will aggravate you, frustrate you, anger you, but you won’t be able to resist liking him.

I would also like to say that Alejandro Simoes is touching as Oswaldo. It is heartbreaking to see how bad things engulf good people. You will be rooting for him to make it and overcome the demons in his life. People make bad choices, but that doesn’t mean they are bad people. Smith’s Oswaldo shows us that. 

I would recommend not approaching this play as a commentary on the ills of society, but rather to look at it through  more personal lens. I believe in doing so, you will develop a more sympathetic view of people who play life’s poker game while keeping a few cards up their sleeves.

 Just a note for those considering taking children to this play. It has much adult language and situations.

Between Riverside and Crazy

By Stephen Adly Gurgis, Directed by Tiffany Nichole Greene

At The SpeakEasy Stage Company, Calderwood Pavillon, 527 Tremont Street, South End, Boston.

Through October 13



“Allegiance” Opens At SpeakEasy May 4

East Coast Premiere Of A New Version Of The Broadway Musical 


Begins May 4 At The SpeakEasy Stage

From May 4 through June 2, 2018, SpeakEasy Stage will proudly present the East Coast Premiere of a new version of the acclaimed Broadway musical  Allegiance.  

 Inspired by the true childhood experience of TV/film actor and social media icon George Takei (Mr. Sulu on “Star Trek”), Allegiance tells the story of the Kimura family, whose lives are upended when they and 120,000 other Japanese-Americans are forced to leave their homes following the events at Pearl Harbor.  Sam Kimura seeks to prove his patriotism by fighting for his country in the war, but sister Kei fiercely protests the government’s treatment of her people.  An uplifting testament to the power of the human spirit, Allegiance follows the Kimuras as they fight between duty and defiance, custom and change, family bonds and forbidden loves.  

     This powerful and timely musical features a book by Marc Acito, Jay Kuo, and Lorenzo Thione,  and music and lyrics by Jay Kuo.

     SpeakEasy Founder and Producing Artistic Director Paul Daigneault will direct the New England premiere of Allegiance. The artistic team also includes Music Director Matthew Stern and Choreographer Ilyse Robbins.

   The cast for this New England Premiere production is Eymard Cabling, Paige Clark, Ron Domingo, Melissa Geerlof, Michael Hisamoto, Elaine Hom, Ryan Mardesich, Gary Thomas Ng, Ben Oehlkers, Isaac Phaman Reynolds, Tyler Simahk, Sam Tanabe, Rachel Wirtz, Micheline Wu, Kendyl Yokoyama, and Grace Yoo.

 Allegiance had its first reading at the Japanese American National Museum on July, 13, 2009, starring George Takei. That was quickly followed by two more readings in New York City in 2010, followed by a workshop in San Diego in 2011. The musical premiered in September, 2012 at San Diego’s Old Globe Theatre, where it broke box-office records.  The musical began previews on Broadway on October 6, 2015, and ran through February 14, 2016.  Allegiance was reworked a bit for its West Coast premiere at the East West Players in Los Angeles, where the show concluded a six-week run on April 1, 2018.  SpeakEasy Stage is presenting the East Coast Premiere of this new version of the show.  

Allegiance will run for five weeks, from May 4 through June 2, 2018, 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.

 617.933.8600 or visit www.SpeakEasyStage.com .                 

Shakespeare In Love Opens At The Speakeasy January 12th

Jennifer Ellis and George Olesky Lead Cast For New England Premiere

From January 12 to February 10, 2018, SpeakEasy Stage Company will proudly present the New England premiere of the hit London comedy SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE.

Based on the Academy Award-winning film, SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE tells the story of young Will Shakespeare, who is suffering a severe case of writer’s block as the deadline fast approaches to deliver his new play, Romeo and Ethel, the Pirate’s Daughter. Enter Viola, a headstrong noblewoman and admirer of Will’s, who disguises herself as a boy so she can skirt the law and appear (as a girl) in his play. But when the playwright and his muse fall in love, the plot undergoes some surprising rewrites. Mistaken identities, courtly intrigue, and backstage bickering are all part of the fun in this raucous romantic comedy of errors that reminds us that all the world’s a stage and love is unrehearsed.

Norton & IRNE Award-winner Scott Edmiston will direct the SpeakEasy Stage production of SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE. Mr. Edmiston’s previous SpeakEasy credits include Casa Valentina (2016 Elliot Norton Award for Outstanding Director), The History Boys, The Light in the Piazza, and Five by Tenn.

George Olesky and Jennifer Ellis

Newton native George Olesky and Norton Award-winner Jennifer Ellis headline a truly all-star Boston cast for the production, which includes Remo Airaldi, Ken Baltin, Nancy E. Carroll, Jesse Hinson, Omar Robinson, Carolyn Saxon, Eddie Shields, and Lewis D. Wheeler. Also in the cast are Paul Alperin, Steve Auger, Cameron Beaty Gosselin, Jade Guerra, Jeff Marcus, Zaven Ovian, Edward Rubenacker, and Damon Singletary.

SHAKESPEAERE IN LOVE will run for five weeks, from January 12 through February 10, 2018, in the Virginia Wimberly Theatre in the Stanford Calderwood Pavilion at the Boston Center for the Arts, 527 Tremont Street in Boston’s South End.

617.933.8600 www.SpeakEasyStage.com .

Simply Beautiful

The Bridges of Madison County
At The SpeakEasy Stage

Now through June 3rd

Reviewed by Bobby Franklin

By the end of this production of The Bridges of Madison County, produced by the SpeakEasy Stage and playing at the Calderwood Pavillon, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. This is not to say the audience is left feeling sad or unhappy. No, touched is the word that best describes the feeling one leaves the theater with after seeing this exquisite production.

Francesca and Robert
(Photo Credit: Glenn Perry Photography)

The story of the Italian war bride, Francesca, who married and settled in Iowa with her husband Bud where they are raising two children, and her four day affair with a photographer, Robert, is familiar to most people due to the popularity of the book and movie. This in no way diminishes the impact of this musical version of the story.

Jennifer Ellis as Francesca is nothing short of superb…

Jennifer Ellis as Francesca is nothing short of superb bringing one of the most beautiful voices you will hear on a theater stage today as well as the ability to reach the audience with her full range of emotions. Her perfectly underrated Italian accent is right on the mark. This will come as no surprise to those who had seen her in the SpeakEasy production of Far From Heaven or as Eliza Dolittle in The Lyric Stage’s My Fair Lady. Ms Ellis is a joy to behold.

The chemistry between Francesca and Robert, played with a slight ambiguity by the very talented Christiaan Smith, is strong both physically and emotionally. I mention ambiguity because as much as it appears these two star crossed lovers could run off and live happily ever after I was left with the feeling that the very thing that made Robert so exciting was also the thing that would not have made him a good fit for marriage and settling down.

Bud, Robert, Francesca
(Photo Credit: Glenn Perry Photography)

The affair which takes place while husband Bud (Christopher Chew) and children Carolyn (Katie Elinoff) and Michael (Nick Siccone) are off to the state fair could be seen as sordid, but the story is much more than that. Mr. Chew is wonderful in playing the hard working farmer who provides a good home for his family. There is no doubt Francesca loves all of them, but she also yearns for the life she never got to live in Naples. A yearning that is triggered by the emotional scene where Robert shows her the issue of National Geographic containing photos he took of the city she was raised in.

The emotional turmoil raised by this allows us to feel compassion for her even while we feel bad for Bud. In the phone calls to home while Bud and the kids are on the road, we know that Bud begins to suspect something but never digs for answers. Mr. Chew conveys a pain with his eyes that is touching and could easily have us turn on Francesca for what she is doing. But there is much to this story and much to be sympathetic about when it comes to all the characters.

Marge and Charlie
(Photo Credit: Glenn Perry Photography)

Nosey neighbor Marge (Kerry A. Dowling) and her husband Charlie (Will McGarrahan) are very funny while also showing a depth of understanding that coveys sincere kindness. Marge may appear to be a gossip but she knows how to keep a secret. She also begins to question her own marriage. Charlie who at first appears to be detached is actually quite understanding. McGarrahan and Dowling are a delight.

The score by Jason Robert Brown is wide ranging and beautiful. At times operatic, it is performed by a seven piece orchestra led by Matthew Stern. I am no musician, but I can assure you they are just great.

The lighting design by Annie Weigand plays a big part in this production. Stars, clouds, blue skies, and even streaks of light representing the bombing of Naples during the war projected onto the backdrop are both subtle and extremely effective. The set designed by Cameron Anderson is simple, tasteful, very pleasing and warm.

The chemistry between Francesca and Robert…is strong both physically and emotionally.

I highly recommend this very fine work directed by M. Bevin O’Gara. This is the last play of the 2016-2017 season at the SpeakEasy and they couldn’t have closed on a higher note. The Bridges of Madison County will leave you both happy and sad, but you will be very pleased to have seen such a solid work.

Now through June 3rd at the Calderwood Pavillon, Boston Center for the Arts, Boston’s South End. www.speakeasystage.com 617.933.8600

A Moving Look At The Challenges Of Being Kind

Grand Concourse

SpeakEasy Stage

Through April 1st

Reviewed by Bobby Franklin

You will be deeply moved by what you see.

The SpeakEasy production of Grand Concourse by Heidi Schreck now playing at the Calderwood Pavilion in Boston’s South End is one of those truly wonderful theatre experiences that touches on so many emotions.

Oscar, Shelly, Emma, and Frog.
Photo Credit: Glenn Perry

There are four characters in this play that takes place in the food preparation area of a soup kitchen in the Bronx. As the play progresses the depth and struggles of each of these individuals becomes more apparent. It is impossible to watch this work and not become emotionally invested in each one of them.

Shelly, played by Melinda Lopez, is the Catholic nun who runs the kitchen. She is committed to her work but is having doubts about her faith and purpose. She practices praying while using a microwave timer. Shelly is a kind and compassionate human being, but is that enough and  what does it mean to be compassionate? Melinda Lopez brings depth and warmth to Shelly. I felt I had known her for years.

One day Emma, a college drop out, stops by and offers to volunteer. At first she seems like a young person who wants to do something good, but as the play progresses we see there is much more going on with her. Played by the very talented Ally Dawson, Emma is very manipulative and makes things quite difficult for the others. She also accomplishes much good while pushing the others to the limits of their compassion. Ms Dawson handles this very complex character perfectly. It is an emotional roller coaster watching her, and I have to say I felt drained by her actions. However, it  me feel good in the sense that I was forced to look more deeply into someone whom it would have been very easy to write off as superficial and self absorbed.

Frog and Oscar
Photo Credit: Glenn Perry

Thomas Derrah plays Frog a homeless man who has been a regular at the soup kitchen for some time. In between telling and selling jokes to the others, he also spins his philosophy on life and insights into people and society. I have seen Mr. Derrah perform for more years than I would like to admit, and I have to say it would be a challenge to find an actor who can match him for how consistently good he is. He certainly does not disappoint here. He makes many entrances and exits in the course of this production and each one is fresh and outstanding.

Oscar, played by Alejandro Simoes, is the maintenance man. He is funny and kind. Oscar was a dental student in his native Dominican Republic and is now struggling to put a life together in the United States and marry his girlfriend Rosa. At first he appears to be a fairly light character, but Mr. Simoes treats us to a man who has weaknesses and conflict but is filled with decency. He truly touches us with his goodness.

Shelly and Emma
Photo Credit: Glenn Perry

Grand Concourse easily could have been a very predictable and formulaic work about people helping people and getting caught up with the conflicts in their own lives. At first I thought that’s where it was going. What author Heidi Schreck has given us is a play that goes much deeper than that. I was very moved by this play. It compelled me to ask  what it means to have compassion and what the limits are to it. The Catholic social activist Dorothy Day once said her purpose was to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. Well, it’s not always easy to tell who is afflicted and who is comfortable.

The SpeakEasy Stage has done it again and this is a play not to be missed.

I have to admit I left the theatre emotionally spent. It was an amazing afternoon watching terrific actors working with a fine script that was well directed and staged beautifully. I highly recommend Grand Concourse. The SpeakEasy Stage has done it again and this is a play not to be missed. You will be deeply moved by what you see.

Grand Concourse

Directed by Bridget Kathleen O’Leary

Through April 1st

The SpeakEasy Stage
At The Calderwood Pavillon
South End, Boston



Don’t Bring The Kids To This Puppet Show

Hand To God
SpeakEasy Stage
Calderwood Pavilion, Boston
Through February 4th

Reviewed by Bobby Franklin

Waiting for the curtain to rise for Hand To God I was listening to the usual pre theatre check list regarding shutting off cell phones and noting the exits. The speech was given in what “enlightened” people in the cities believe is a rural accent, with references to Jesus. I thought, oh here we go, another play that takes plenty of cheap shots at the “uneducated” working class that is motivated by a multitude of “isms” when they vote. You know, those hayseeds who cling to their guns and Bibles.

Tyrone Attacks Timothy
Photo: Glenn Perry Photography

My fears were not realized. While I could see that many believers would be offended by much of the humor in the play, it wasn’t gratuitous. This is a very dark and disturbing comedy that looks into the lives of five characters who are struggling to find answers and meaning in their lives. Primarily, Margery (Marianna Bassham), who has recently lost her husband, and her son Jason (Eliot Purcell) who is struggling with the loss of his father.

Eliot Purcell as Jason/Tyrone is superb.

Margery runs a Christian puppet theatre at the local church and Jason is one of the puppeteers. Things start to go off the rails when Tyrone, the sock puppet Jason manipulates starts to take on a life off his own. Tyrone does not mince words. He is vulgar, vicious, violent, blunt, and truthful. It appears to the other members of the church, as well as the audience, that demonic possession may be at play here. And that is what is at the core of this very funny and unsettling play; Should we listen to that dark side when it speaks to us? Though we say we want to hear the truth, do we often feel so uncomfortable with it that we write it off as something the devil has created?

Eliot Purcell as Jason/Tyrone is superb. In what must be a very difficult role that involves many scenes where he has to play opposite his hand, he nails it.

Marianna Bassham as Margery and David Ladani Sanchez as the unruly teen Timothy are hysterical in the scene where they lust after each other while tearing up the puppet theater. Bassham is also touching in conveying the hurt and loss Margery is suffering.

Tyrone, Jason, Pastor Greg.
Photo Credit: Glenn Perry Photography

Lewis D. Wheeler as Pastor Greg and Josephine Elwood as Jessica are also well cast.

Ironically, as the play concludes the author, Robert Askins, found the need to become a bit preachy himself. This was not needed and actually seemed to be a bit hypocritical.

This play is not for everyone. The language is quite vulgar and the fun made of “uneducated”believers who eat at Chick-fil-a, while not over the top, will offend many.

It would be interesting to attend a performance with a group of devout Christians and then have a talk back afterwards. The results of that conversation may be surprising. And, after all, isn’t theatre about getting people to think about things and then listen to each other’s views? I think it would be fun.

What Are Friends For

Significant Other”
SpeakEasy Stage
Now Through October 8th

reviewed by Bobby Franklin

Significant Other  by Joshua Harmon, who’s Bad Jews was a great hit last year, opens with Jordan Berman (Greg Maraio) celebrating the news of his friend Kiki’s (Sarah Elizabeth Bedard) engagement to be married. Kiki and Jordan are joined by two other long time friends Laura (Jordan Clark) and Vanessa (Kris Sidberry). They are sharing a scorpion bowl and Kiki is feeling no pain. Soon the conversation turns to Jordan, who is gay, and how it is time for him to find a significant other. We learn that Jordan tends to obsess over romantic interests and is now attracted to Will (Jared Troilo) from his office, who may or not be gay.

Vanessa, Jordan, and Laura (Photo: Justin Saglio)
Vanessa, Jordan, and Laura
(Photo: Justin Saglio)

As the play progresses we watch as Jordan pursues Will both in real life and in fantasy. It is very interesting to see how this is staged, having Jordan speak to his friends while also in the moment with Will. It is almost as if the action pauses so he can update his friends. The effect works very well.

As time goes on we see that Jordan has not been able to make a connection with Will or any other man. Meanwhile, Vanessa and Laura join Kiki in walking down the bridal path. This leads Jordan to feeling a bit of a loser. He also begins to feel he is losing his friends and his sadness turns to anger when he confronts Laura at her bachelorette party. it was at this point Jordan started to get under my skin. Sorry, I just cannot feel sorry for someone that selfish.

At first I felt sadness for for Jordan, but my sadness turned to anger at him for his selfishness and inability to understand that life moves on and people have changes in their lives.It does not mean friendships end, but they do change, and he just cannot accept that.

It does not mean friendships end, but they do change

Throughout the play he pays visits to his elderly grandmother Helene (Kathy St. George) and hears advice about life and aging, though nothing  really seems to resonate with him.

Vanessa, Jordan, and Kiki )Photo: Justin Seglio)
Vanessa, Jordan, and Kiki
)Photo: Justin Seglio)

As I was watching Significant Others I couldn’t help but think about Company which I had seen last week. Company had a similar theme about people moving on with their lives and dealing with how these changes effect friendships. What I found striking was, even though the characters in Company are only a few years older than those in Significant Others, they are much more mature than Jordan and his friends. Company was written in 1970, and I think by comparing the two we see how much longer it takes people to grow out of adolescence today. There were times during this play when I just wanted to shout out “Grow up, the world does not revolve around you!”

Okay, so this is not a group of people I would want to spend time with. Having said that, the production is well done, though I feel the play have been shorter. A number of points were made and did not have to be repeated.

It is very funny, and all of the players are quite good.

Greg Maraio has terrific talent

Greg Maraio has terrific talent which is why I disliked his character so much. Unless, of course, he was going for sympathy. If that was the case, I missed it. But i don’t think so. I believe Mr. Maraio captured the frustration and anger that too many young people feel when they realize life is a bumpy ride.

It’s funny, but the SpeakEasy Stage has a way of leaving me thinking about their productions for days after I have seen them. Leaving the theater I felt I really did not like this play. But, I think i could spend hours talking about it.

Significant Other
Directed by Paul Daigneault
SpeakEasy Stage Company
Calderwood Pavilion
527 Tremont Street In The South End

SpeakEasy Stage Presents “Significant Other”

From September 9 to October 8, 2016, SpeakEasy Stage Company will proudly present SIGNIFICANT OTHER, a sharply observed new comedy about the challenges of finding love and letting go, written by Bad Jews playwright Joshua Harmon.

so-website_bannerSlated to begin previews on Broadway in February, 2017, SIGNIFICANT OTHER tells the story of Jordan Berman, a 29 year old single gay man whose life up until now has revolved around BFF’s Kiki, Laura, and Vanessa. But as singles nights suddenly turn into bachelorette parties, Jordan starts to worry about his romantic prospects, and sets out on a journey to find his own Mr. Right.

SIGNIFICANT OTHER is the latest from playwright Joshua Harmon, whose play Bad Jews was the third most-produced play in the United States during the 14-15 theatre season. A recent graduate of Julliard, Mr. Harmon has received fellowships from MacDowell, Atlantic Center for the Arts, SPACE at Ryder Farm, and the Eudora Welty Foundation.  He is currently at work on commissions for Roundabout Theatre Company, Lincoln Center Theater, and Manhattan Theatre Club.

SpeakEasy Founder and Producing Artistic Director Paul Daigneault will direct this New England premiere production of SIGNIFICANT OTHER. Mr. Daigneault’s recent SpeakEasy directing credits include the acclaimed productions of Violet, Mothers & Sons, Big Fish, The Color Purple, In the Heights, and Next to Normal. Mr. Daigneault is the recipient of three Elliot Norton Awards, including the 2014 Norton Award for Sustained Excellence.

Norton Award nominee Greg Maraio and Norton Award winner Kathy St. George head the cast, which also includes Sarah Elizabeth Bedard, Jordan Clark, Eddie Shields, Kris Sidberry, and Jared Troilo.

The design team is Christopher & Justin Swader (scenic); Tyler Kinney (costumes); Daniel H. Jentzen (lighting) and Lee Schuna (sound).

SIGNIFICANT OTHER will run for five weeks, from September 9 through October 8, 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 .