Cricket's Notebook "Sunday, 5 August, 2012 8:09 a m: <BR>"The [Plays] of Summer..."

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide


"Sunday, 5 August, 2012 8:09 a m:
"The [Plays] of Summer..."

That's a reference to a lovely, lyrical, heartbreaking poem by Thomas Hardy ["I have seen the boys of summer, in their ruin"] that talked of athletes who hadn't the good luck to die young (There are no thirty-year-old gymnasts on the uneven parallel-bars, and I remember Cathy Rigby's first and then last tours of "Peter Pan".....). But I am MIS-using it here. Older minds sometimes muse, when seeing me, that "you must be resting" because "The Season" is over --- not realizing that there IS No "OFF-Season" for theater in this city anymore (even The Opera House opened a show in the Summer this year!); and now, right now, some of THE Best ghoddamned plays of the Y E A R are Up and Running and playing to tragically sparse houses (and TWO of them by Brand New Theater Companies!!).

First there is:

"The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity" (27 July - 25 August)
@ Boston Center for The Arts, 539 Tremont Street, BOSTON MA
Company One has Never done anything by halves. Since the very first show by them I saw --- a set of one-acts in the old little Leland Center of the BCA --- I have thrilled to the "finish" the glow of subtly detailed perfection they give, almost always to new plays and playwrights I've never heard of.
For this show they needed to trade-up from the Plaza-space that's been their home for a decade into the bigger Roberts (where SpeakEasy usually works) --- at perhaps a bigger rent, but (Thank Thespis!) it's turned to the city's hot-ticket sell-out, so the bigger audience and longer run may cement the company's reputation and budget.
Kristoffer Diaz' play deals with the falseness of professional wrestling As An ART FORM, and as a passionately Believed "sport" followed, like a religion, by kids who graduated from Marvel Comics in their late teens.
Director Shawn LaCount is thrilled to have cast this show, in Boston, without having to go to New York. That cast features a professionally-trained wrestler (Michael Webb, who is from Framingham State University); Chris Leon (fresh from Company One's BROTHER/SISTER PLAYS); Ricardo Engermann (who explodes on stage); Peter Brown (one of the mainstays of the Zeitgeist Stage Company); and a Journalism/Theatre major at Suffolk University in his first professional appearance (Jake Athyal). And this is, proudly, an Historic Ensemble.

"Passion Play" (28 July - 12 August)
28 & 29 July @ Davis Square Theatre, 255 Elm Street, SOMERVILLE MA
1 - 3 August @ Central Square YMCA Theatre, 820 Massachusetts Avenue, CAMBRIDGE MA
10 & 11 August @ Gordon Chapel, Old South Church, 645 Boylston Street, BOSTON MA
12 August ONLY, @ Oberon, Zero Arrow Street, CAMBRIDGE MA
Sarah Ruhl's name may be familiar to some theater-junkies, but this long run off-Broadway show is new, the Circuit Theatre is a Company new to those same junkies, and they've "gone a-progress" into four different spaces each week-end, almost guaranteeing that even word-of-mouth advertising will be problematical.
Actually, their peripatetic wandering fits Ruhl's play. It's actually three plays, background-glimpses of the people who perform the passion of Jesus in three different countries and even three different ages: in Elizabethan England; in Brechtian pre-Hitler Germany; and in Oklahoma at the dregs of Vietnam. The cast (though it doesn't seem so) are the same dozen actors, and each play has resonances and even quotes from each other --- but after each of the two intermissions it's a whole new ballgame.
The ensemble for the company boiled out of Newton where, after playing together, they decided after graduating and splitting to different (usually theater) schools, that they'd reunite each summer to bring Boston the results of their youth and enthusiasm and training. I caught them doing an excellent play called "Enron" last summer, love their work and applaud their serious, youthful enthusiasm.

"Be A Good Little Widow" (2 - 12 August)
@ Davis Square Theatre, 255 Elm Street, SOMERVILLE MA
I was blessed to be at the opening night of this brand new Equity Members' Project company's first production. Apparently Chelsea Cipolla saw an off-Broadway production of Bekah Brunstetter's play and wanted to do it, and everything came together. Since only two of this crew (Grant MacDermot, actor, and Anne Sherer an Emerson grasduate who designed the realistic set) are not Equity performers, their bio's are more from the macro-theatrical world than local Boston track-records. But quality professionalism is the watch-word in this intermissionless gem.
Brunstetter's play centers on a young wife (Chelsea Cipolla) imprisoned in a Connecticut bedroom-village passionately in love with a young-executive (Jason Powers) more on intercontiental jets than his own home couch, and silently criticized by a haughty and widowed mother-in-law (Lisa Tucker).
SPOILER! What happens when mom arrives to "help" this wife through the shock and unreality of a funeral in which, after a plane-crash, there isn't even enough body to bury? When a young co-worker/friend (Grant MacDermott) tries to say comforting things? When her dead husband (Jason Powers) keeps walking in for memory-flashbacks? When the "rules" for widowhood she's never been allowed to learn are at war with her spontaneous emotions? Those are what make this beautifully intense play sing!

"Master Harold And The Boys" (26 July - 12 August)
@ Gorton's Theatre, 267 East Main Street, GLOUCESTER MA
Okay, I must say something here about "artistic size":
No matter how long they are, some plays (Macbeth) are really short-stories and some (Hamlet) are novels --- depending on how much "life" is implied by the happenings in the play. And Athol Fugard's masterpiece, though a one-act, is definitely a novel --- and magnificently brought fully to life in this unearthly good production.
The scene here is South Africa in Apartheid-times, when a school-boy (Peter Mark Kendall) can "fraternize" with the two employees of his mother's tea-shop --- whom he has known and loved all his life --- across the Black/White barrier that, eventually, disastrously, intrudes.
Under Benny Sato Ambush's flawless direction, the play takes the shape of life itself, as Willie (Anthony Wills, Jr.) and Sam (Johnny Lee Davenport) ready the rain-soaked shop for non-existent customers, and dream of Willie winning a ballroom-competition. When "Hallie" arrives, he and Sam engage in a ritual argument, naming and criticizing man's greatest "heroes"; here the boy is teacher and man a willing pupil.
But a world outside intervenes: Hallie learns through phone-calls that his loved/hated crippled alcoholic father will be coming home from hospital --- and the news frustrates and infuriates the boy into a frenzy of authoritarian racist patricide against his beloved Sam.
Metaphors and memories swim out of this emotional stew in this, what may be the last "naive" day of these people's lives. Dignity, respect, and love are suddenly at war with one another, and things no one wants to say spill across the floor. The emotional carnage is riveting.
At last, though, one beautiful metaphoric image binds up the wounds: it is of a ballroom in which all the stately, whirling, entranced couples never bump into one another, and all is etherially serene.
Needless to say, the performances of this intense ensemble are textbook examples of perfection.

"Coriolanus" (25 July - 12 August)
@ Boston Common, BOSTON MA
It didn't rain last night, and in a production as different as night and day from "Master Harold" Steven Maler's free gift to Boston turned out to be priceless.
There are 19 named roles in this "Coriolanus" and twenty more in an "apprentice company" playing soldiers or brangling citizens. Local stars, like Remo Airaldi, Jacqui Parker, Fred Sullivan Jr., Michael Knowlton, Robert Walsh, Maurice Emmanuel Parent, John Porell, and Karen MacDonald are working with both young students and seasoned veterans, and with Nicholas Carriere up from The Apple in the title role --- and this is a no-quarter ensemble deserving of the huge loudspeakers that let the emotions reverberate off Boston buildings.
Carriere plays a soldier, gloriously swathed in battle-smoke and aristocratic pride, yet petulently unwilling to beg the common rabble for approval when proposed for consul. Stung by their class hatred he takes his arms to the traditional enemy --- whome he had defeated a dozen times --- and then tries to retrace his steps. And of course, it says somewhere that tragedies end in death.
Steven Maler has set this show in the uzi-brandishing present, with citizenry brandishing crowbars and "occupying" Rome.
In the last two years, Steven Maler and The Commonwealth Shakespeare Company have come of age, with "stars" worthy of the name working with the cream of local talents. This is a "BIG" play in every sense of the word, and spectacle, sense, and emotion are all amplified and not diminished by the loudspeakers. Bravo.

And the beauty of it all is, Every One of these shows is STILL RUNNING!
Go, get tickets! You won't regret it no matter which you choose!


THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide