Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Zanna, Don’t! A Musical Fairy Tale" till 13 October and "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof"**** till 6 October

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"What Happened in Boston, Willie"

Reviews of Current Productions

note: entire contents copyright 2007 by Carl A. Rossi

I enjoyed ZANNA DON’T! as best I could, then fled to the arms of the closeted Mr. Williams.

"ZANNA, DON’T! A Musical Fairy Tale"

book, music and lyrics by Tim Acito

additional book and lyrics by Alexander Dinelaris

directed by Paul Daigneault

musical direction by Paul S. Katz

choreography by David Connolly

Zanna … Jordan Fife Hunt
Roberta … Anich D’Jae
Buck; Principal Cooper; Bronco … DJ Petrosino
Candi; Karla; Loretta … Gillian Goldberg
Mike … Jaime Cepero III
Tank; Officer Klotsky; Tex … Bud Weber
Kate … Stephanie Umoh
Steve … Andrew Durand

Conductor; Keyboard … Paul S. Katz
Percussion … Andrew Benson
Guitars … Eric Vincent
Bass … John Styklunas
Assistant Conductor; Keyboard … Daniel Rodriguez (at certain performances)

"CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF"

by Tennessee Williams

directed by Artie Leger

Brick … Peyton Pugmire
Maggie … Elissa Jordan
Big Daddy … Bill Doscher
Big Momma … Candace Hopkins
Gooper … Jesse Martin
Mae … Victorian Taylor
Reverend Tooker … Jamie Alley
Doctor Baugh … Kristopher Moreau
Sookey … F. Zandra Bennett
Brightie … Jasmine Andrews
Lacey … Anthony Medel
Polly … Meg Igarashi
Dixie … Taylor Wright
Trixie … Callie Wright
Sonny … Christopher Fidler
Buster … Aurora Fidler

There is a vast, gay gulf between Tim Acito’s ZANNA DON’T! at the SpeakEasy and Tennessee Williams’ CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF at the Footlight Club. Mr. Acito’s Musical Fairy Tale could well be a diversity class for straight audiences: in an all-gay high school in an all-gay town (presumably, in an all-gay society), Zanna, a Good Fairy with a magic wand, plays matchmaker to his classmates; when a boy and a girl fall in hetero-love during a class musical about allowing straights in the armed forces, chaos reigns before Zanna’s self-sacrificing switcheroo. Mr. Acito clearly wants to enlighten a majority on how it would feel to be a minority but, oh, imagine an all-gay world as a sunshiny dance club where all are cute and non-threatening and where gay puppy-love is the norm --- I enjoyed ZANNA DON’T! as best I could, feeling more babysitter than audience member, then fled to the arms of the closeted Mr. Williams.

If ZANNA DON’T! doesn’t want to think about unpleasant things, CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF is alive to all the wrinkles in the world as its family dynasty clashes over love, lust, betrayal, greed, what-have-you. Regarding its once-shocking question --- were Brick and his late buddy Skipper, lovers? --- I assume that the men shared a platonic love but that the jealous Maggie seduced Skipper who failed to score with his best friend’s wife, assumed he wasn’t a man and drank and drugged himself to death, leaving Brick to follow in his wake. But much of this Pulitzer winner is static and reflective: the minor characters’ frequent interruptions cannot keep Act One from becoming Maggie’s monologue nor Act Two being divided between Big Daddy and Brick --- only in Act Three when numerous characters go at it hammer and tong does CAT blaze up as drama. Artie Leger’s direction is alternately firm and slack; Elissa Jordan rattles through much of Maggie’s monologue facing front, downstage center and is easy to forget in her lengthy absence; on the other hand, Bill Doscher’s Big Daddy connects with everyone who crosses his path, almost directing them, himself, and he galvanizes Peyton Pugmire’s manikin Brick in their Act Two battle. Mr. Doscher roars magnificently --- he always did --- and just as impressively dwindles to a whimper over Big Daddy's death-pronouncement, and Candace Hopkins makes a touching, fluttering Big Momma. The supporting cast is generally wet but F. Zandra Bennett and Jasmine Andrews as two “colored” servants, silent and submissive, give Mr. Leger’s production some badly-needed atmosphere despite the sweltering September weather, barely relieved by the lazy ceiling fans.

"Zanna, Don’t! A Musical Fairy Tale" (14 September-13 October)
SPEAKEASY STAGE COMPANY
Boston Center for the Arts, 527 Tremont Street, BOSTON, MA
1 (617) 933-8600

"Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" (21 September-6 October)
THE FOOTLIGHT CLUB
Eliot Hall, 7A Eliot Street, JAMAICA PLAIN, MA
1 (617) 524-3200

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide

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