Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Titus Andronicus"

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"What Happened in Boston, Willie"

Reviews of Current Productions

note: entire contents copyright 2007 by Carl A. Rossi


"Titus Andronicus"

by William Shakespeare
directed by David R. Gammons

Saturninus, son to the late Emperor of Rome; afterwards Emperor ... Doug Lockwood
Bassianus, his brother … Daniel Berger-Jones
Titus Andronicus, a noble Roman ... Robert Walsh
Lucius, son to Titus ... Michael Forden Walker
Quintus, son to Titus ... Alejandro Simoes
Mutius, son to Titus ... Corbitt Williams
Martius, son to Titus ... Risher Reddick
Marcus Andronicus, Tribune of the people and brother to Titus ... Joel Colodner
Young Lucius, son to Lucius … Blake McCarren
Caius, kinsmen to Titus ... Alejandro Simoes
Valentine, kinsmen to Titus … Risher Reddick
Aemilius, a noble Roman ... Corbitt Williams
Alarbus, son to Tamora ... Paul Melendy
Chiron, son to Tamora ... Dan Beaulieu
Demetrius, son to Tamora ... Bill Barclay
Aaron, a Moor, beloved of Tamora ... Dmetrius Conley-Williams
Tamora, Queen of the Goths ... John Kuntz
Lavinia, daughter to Titus ... Paul Melendy
Messenger ... Risher Reddick
Nurse ... Corbitt Williams
Clown ... Risher Reddick
First Goth ... Alejandro Simoes
Second Goth ... Risher Reddick
Third Goth ... Daniel Berger-Jones

The curiosity, to some, and the excitement, for others, that the Actors’ Shakespeare Project generates with each production revolves not so much around the chosen play or who will perform it but, rather, where it is performed: to the ASP, the space seems to be the thing. But which is the chicken and which, the egg? Does the ASP select the play and then find a home for it, or t’other way around? I ponder this because, overall, its TITUS ANDRONICUS is its most satisfying union of Bard and environment to date, played out in the Garage at Harvard Square by an all-male ensemble. Everything is appropriately grey, stark and primitive --- the Roman world as a totalitarian society --- and even the cinderblock pillars become part of the action; the actors playing Tamora and Lavinia wear dresses yet have their heads shaved to signify Otherness; such female stylization bolsters the stylization of TITUS’ horror set-pieces where directorial cleverness, inevitably, blunts their full bloody impact. I sat fascinated, throughout --- my pen never touched paper, once --- yet now I conclude that apart from Robert Walsh’s brilliant Titus which would flourish anywhere, on any stage, that basement-in-the-round and the absence of actresses are what make this evening a triumph. (With apologies to actresses, some of Shakespeare’s plays work better without them; there is no energy-flow wasted on being politically correct, for starters, plus most actresses do not have the lung power needed for the purple passages --- what a shriek-fest this TITUS might have been!) Would this TITUS have worked as well in another space and, in turn, would a MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING thrive in the same Garage with pastel paints on its walls and with the correct genders? (Chicken-and-egg, again.)

But enough --- David R. Gammons has staged TITUS in appropriate rough-and-tumble and I was amazed at the straightforward body contact, throughout: just about everyone gets to kiss, nuzzle or grope someone else --- in character, of course --- yet, oddly, Mr. Gammons doesn’t free the black comedy below TITUS’ surface until Act Two which culminates in the banquet sequence where a deadpan Titus is made to sample his own pie, first. Again I make mention of Mr. Walsh’s brilliance: a Titus, if need be, can coast on bellowing, alone, but the true test lies in the bravura sequence where Titus, faced with Lavinia’s rape and mutilation and his sons’ doom, must display a parent’s concern, wax on about stones and the sea, cut off his hand, and suffer a near-breakdown which he then draws upon to simulate madness --- Mr. Walsh does all of this, beautifully, effortlessly, and lifts TITUS several notches above its blood-and-guts reputation; happily, he is enough of an ASP company member, onstage and off --- its TWELFTH NIGHT, thanks to Mr. Walsh’s direction, was a lovely Yuletide present, two winters ago --- that I am hopeful he will help steer the ASP towards a true Elizabethan ideal (i.e. gimmick-free).

John Kuntz plays Tamora --- oddly, his own stage-nastiness is neutralized when mouthing someone else’s lines; his Richard III was another dilution yet he, too, is priceless at the banquet, munching away, and when shushing Saturninus for disturbing baby in its carriage with his over-emoting; Dmetrius Conley-Williams, the Aaron, all serpentine grace and sibilants, might have been a better Tamora though such casting would make nonsense of that couple’s parenthood. Ideally, Lavinia should be a typical ingénue so that her fate becomes all the more gruesome; instead, Paul Melendy is gawky, coy and primed to play a Grotesque --- the Messrs. Kuntz and Melendy are eclipsed by Corbitt Williams’ brief turn as the Nurse, believable as part of the plot than as a drag-impersonation. Joel Colodner, the most Shakespearean presence in the recent WINTER'S TALE, smoothly downplays the fact that Marcus is but a noble fifth wheel; Doug Lockwood, now blond and goateed, is an all-too-adorable Saturninus --- Molière, rather than Shakespeare, may be more his métier --- Mr. Lockwood is well-contrasted by the bass-tones of Daniel Berger-Jones’ Bassianus; I pray the latter will not be confined to future Tybalts and Don Johns, alone. But, enough, again: the ASP has a hit, on its own terms, and the Garage was packed on the night I attended, still early in its run, so you’d best attend as soon as possible for this TITUS is here today but gone Tamora.

"Titus Andronicus" (29 March - 22 April)
ACTORS’ SHAKESPEARE PROJECT
The Garage, 38 JFK Street, CAMBRIDGE, MA
1 (866) 811-4111

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Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Well"

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England’s LIVE Theater Guide

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"What Happened in Boston, Willie"

Reviews of Current Productions

note: entire contents copyright 2007 by Carl A. Rossi


"WELL"

by Lisa Kron
directed by Leigh Silverman

Lisa … Lisa Kron
Ann … Mary Pat Gleason
Howard, and others … John McAdams
Jim, and others … Colman Domingo
Kay, and others … Donnetta Lavinia Grays
Joy, and others … Barbara Pitts

Lisa Kron’s acclaimed comedy WELL is now playing at the Huntington but feels like an A.R.T. evening for it is too cerebral for its own good, is forever reminding you of its Pirandellian cleverness and is performed without an intermission: an old woman, dressed in nightgown and sweater-jacket, sleeps on a recliner chair in a room lined with collectables; Ms. Kron enters and introduces herself, introduces the sleeping woman as her mother Ann, and assures us that for almost two hours we will not be seeing a play but, rather, an exploration of illness and well-ness, and that she will be drawing on her relationship with Ann to merely justify why some (like Ms. Kron) can be ill for years but get well whereas others (like Ann, who “healed” their neighborhood by helping to racially integrate it) remain ill yet do nothing about it. Ann awakens, is surprised at finding herself before an audience and proceeds to sweetly undermine Ms. Kron’s running commentary with her well-intentioned own. WELL could have made an engrossing drama but Ms. Kron insists on being cute and changes her own rules, often: thus, WELL is a one-woman show written for an ensemble of six; the sleeping woman is not Ann Kron but is portrayed by the excellent Mary Pat Gleason (who breaks character at the end); the Exploration becomes a play, after all, with all of its stage-tricks carefully orchestrated to hold one’s interest; despite the insights into the nature of illness, everything can be settled in a pinch if you simply talk to your mother (but, then, there would be no WELL). Add numerous turns from childhood and in an allergy clinic and you reap a pile of jigsaw pieces in your lap; some of the pieces are quite funny, in and of themselves, but it is up to you to assemble them, if so inclined.

Judging by the decibels of audience-laughter on the night I attended, WELL is a hit whenever Ms. Gleason opens her mouth (she plays Ann as a loveable old badger) and whenever Donnetta Lavinia Grays pops up as a nine-year-old bully from yesteryear. WELL would indeed have been something had Ms. Kron plopped her real mum onstage to muddle about, unscripted, but, then, such insights would have “worked” only once; thus, WELL, for all its daringness, boils down to being a faux-Event.

"Well" (9 March-8 April)
HUNTINGTON THEATRE COMPANY
264 Huntington Avenue, BOSTON, MA
1 (617) 266-0800

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