Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Marathon # 9"

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"What Happened in Boston, Willie"

Reviews of Current Productions

note: entire contents copyright 2007 by Caroline Burlingham Ellis
Special to Theater Mirror

Short takes
Boston Theater Marathon, May 20, 2007

A Minority Report by Caroline Burlingham Ellis

Here are some highlights from the first three hours of ten-minute plays.

Georgia Lyman, as a recent immigrant in Ronan Noone’s fast-paced “Sheeet,” captured the humorous aspects of learning a new language and dealing with an inconsiderate neighbor at the same time. The relish with which Lyman pounced on American slang and used it as a weapon was charming. The New Repertory Theatre sponsored the production, and M. Bevin O’Gara directed.

Gary Garrison’s script, “Storm on Storm,” for the Out of the Blue Theater Company (Melissa Wentworth directing) dragged a bit during the performance but stayed in the memory afterward. The character who was hit twice by lightning (Robert Murphy as Norton) may have been a metaphor for a man hit by a stroke or some other un-manning trauma. The pleading of his wife (Kelly Lawman as Chicky) that he once again look at her with his pre-lightning affection was moving.

“A Modern Romance,” by Michele Markarian, was about match-making get-togethers that allow couples eight minutes to converse before changing tables. Directed by Jackie Davis for Our Place Theatre Project, the story was satisfying and the acting very good. Emily (Amanda J. Collins) finds so much in common with James (Christopher Michael Borphy) that they soon progress to talking about marriage. Before they know it, they are naming their children. Emily insists their son should be called Andrew after a beloved Scottie that died, and James resists. The ensuing fight leaves them emotional rags. The eight-minute bell rings, and a baffled Tim (Keith Mascoll) moves to Emily’s table, but she is too fragile after her last relationship to talk to him.

The Rough & Tumble Theatre Company, a personal favorite, shone with its interactive style, its inventive staging, and its trademark deadpan humor. Directed by Dan Milstein, with music by Fred Harrington, “Firedrill” begins with an invitation to the audience to read aloud the lines on a flip chart and remind Katie (Irene Daly) that today is the day she promised to speak to the new guy in the office (George Saulnier III as Lewis). Kristin Baker is Lila, the office worker who never works but hides in trash cans and other unlikely places. Kevin LaVelle plays the Boss. The collaborative script has a clever, lively plot. These folks really know life at the bottom of the office totem pole!

Nora Hussey directed the Wellesley Summer Theatre in a tight production of John Kerns’s “Birthday Wishes.” Four people who once loved a deceased man come to his grave at a time he appointed to sing “Happy Birthday” to him. Here Barbara (Lisa Foley), Naomi (Kelly Galvin), Peaches (Alicia Kahn), and a singer (Dan Bolton) learn about one another for the first time. The Wellesley crew are comfortable playing together and didn’t miss a beat.

The Way Theatre Artists, directed by Julie Levene, delivered a near-perfect gem. In “Twenty Years,” Candace Perry, telescopes the action to permit surprisingly rich character and plot development in ten minutes. Gerald (Greg Maraio) and Ralph (Brian Quint) are life partners who place an ad for a lesbian to bear a child and share the child’s upbringing for 20 years. Ruth (Melissa Baroni) and Angie (Julie Levene) answer the ad. In each couple, one person is reluctant, and we learn why before the happy ending. Perry’s approach is to have one couple converse, leave the stage, and another couple enter. Each time, the entering couple is discussing action that has happened offstage in meetings with the other couple—a clever technique for having a lot happen in a short time while keeping up the pace.

Jeremy Goldstein’s “Bugspray,” sponsored by TheatreZone and directed by Atissa Banuazizi, was high-energy. Becca A. Lewis as Maggie and Stephen Libby as her brother Rich gradually reveal that the bedbugs she is swatting so hard with a baseball bat are perhaps the result of drugs Maggie’s colleague at work gave her. A play that starts out comic ends on a serious note as Rich telephones Maggie’s workplace pusher and says, “You don’t know me, but you are my sister’s NA sponsor.”

A word of praise for the smoothness of the changeovers between shows this year is needed. Also for the Marathon staff, including production administrator Michael Duncan Smith, lighting designer Marc Olivere, and master electrician Steve McIntosh. Sound designer Haddon Kime was pretty consistently on top of his game—an impressive feat, given that many plays called for complicated sound effects.

The Marathon #9 (20 May only)
@ the Boston Center for The Arts, 527 -551 Tremont Street, BOSTON MA

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