Theatre Mirror Reviews - "How Do You Spell Hope?"

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"What Happened in Boston, Willie"

Reviews of Current Productions

note: entire contents copyright 2009 by Larry Stark

"How Do You Spell Hope?"

by Melinda Lopez
Directed by Debra Wise

Scenic & Puppet Design by David Fichter
Painting by David Fichter, Steve Lewontin, Marie Christine Ritz
Lighting Design by Taylor Hansen
Music & Sound Design by Claudio Ragazzi
Stage Manager Lorraine Gilman

Vincent Siders as

Frederick Douglas, Peter Hammill, Mr. Washington
Ramona Alexander as
Marta Gonzales, Ms. DiPietro, Sophia Auld
Penny Benson

Now that The Underground Railway Theater has a home at the Central Square Theater, they can begin to show Cambridge and Boston what they do. For years they have toured, doing shows that use every aspect of theater arts to teach ideas. For instance, in "How Do You Spell Hope?" Vincent Siders in black robes is a mature, thoughtful Frederick Douglass talking about his own biography --- then he re-appers in a Bruins sweat-shirt and he's a highschool kid so good at hockey he might get a scholarship, except that dislexia means he still can't read. Ramona Alexander is first a waitress pushing reading because "I could not read till I was Thirty!" then an understanding teacher, then she and Siders take the roles of the slave-masters who first taught then refused to teach young Fredreick Douglass his A-B-Cs. Books turn into pop-up classrooms, books open to reveal several scenes in Douglass' life, there are puppets of Douglass as a child and of the English teacher (an ivory-skinned witch dressed in Books!) who is the high-school kid's nemesis. Talk about conflicts!

The show was originally written ten years ago by Melinda Lopez, and has had other actors while evolving and adapting. This pair --- plus Penny Benson who handles puppets --- makes certain that the show's advocacy of books and reading never strays from the human problem of shame at Not reading which is a major component of dislexia. And the graphic fact that here books become, literally, windows on new worlds adds David Fichter's stage-crafts to Debra Wise's clean, clear direction. And, though it will continue to tour and to teach, it's only here for two more week-ends.

( a k a larry stark )

"How Do You Spell Hope?" (13 February - 1 March)
@ Central Square Theater, 150 Massachusetts Avenue, CAMBRIDGE MA
1 (617)576-9278

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide