It was the best of theater; it was the worst of theater ---
You can usually say that about fifty short plays played out in a single day. You might say it of this first hour of five plays as well. And about this single example itself:
In the gloom a flicker of faint lights, then a sweeping spotlight broke the gloom. Steven Barkhimer seated on a single chair mimed driving, consternation, pulling to a nervous stop, when Will Lebow strode in as an armor-plated policeman demanding license and registration and doing a quick pat-down. The charge? "You're mixing milk with meat (a hamburger) and (Fach!) the flesh of an unclean beast (bacon)!" A cute skit, overlong and overdone, and certainly unworthy of its author. Great lights and costume, but a waste of everyone's talents, including Director Wesley Savick's. No cigar.
The right script for the right company!
A man was described as falling through the air --- slowly, as in a dream. He called a friend on the way down, who complained that there was a rush of wind making him hard to understand, then she recounted a dream in which she saw him falling, and somewhat inexplicably a joyous chorus of Indigo Girl fans danced in, singing one of their famous hits. The very sort of thing Pilgrim Theatre likes to do.
A woman (Leigh Barrett) looked for an excellent new dress to give her enough confidence to break off from her married-with-children girl-friend. The nervous first-day sales-advisor (Grant MacDermott) turned out to be solidly convincing about the emotional effects of color. She left with a little black dress, and a feeling of personal power. A better show than my description suggests.
This was a swift and searing slice of theatrical poetry. Dan Krysten played Adam, home from a soiree with the head of his law-firm, telling his wife (Jenny Richards) he thinks he has it all: the offer of partnership, great D.C. home, the perfect wife, money, power --- but suddenly, on the eve of acquiring the position he was reared to want, he saw through it all. Instead of hearing the footsteps of God in The Garden he's consumed by guilt, suddenly seeing his life, his prizes, the entire world as nothing but dry bones!
At that point, with her young husband collapsed into despair, his wife laid her body against his, reminding him that God used one of Adam's bones to make Woman --- to cover the naked bones of the universe with the soft flesh of understanding.
Solidly and expressively acted, too!
A truly delightful, silly romp!
Mom (Mary Callanan) told someone on her cell that her daughter (Santina Umbach) had been sent home with "something in her hair" --- and, poking in the tresses she concluded that it was a minimalist composer, head buried in her scalp, sucking the life force out of her delicate capillaries. Daughter said she probably "got it" in music class where she was "riffin'" on "The Wheels of The Bus Go Round An' Round". Enter Will McGarrahan as dad, wanting to interrupt the crisis to announce that he was leaving her for another woman. Before long the entire trio ended up riffin' on "The Wheels" to riotously rhythmic music by Nick Connell.
Obviously, you had to be there, but the trio and the audience had a ball!
Robert Mussett and Kate DeLima played a pair that had tried living together, which meant mixing their dogs --- and his attacked and killed her little Rosie and had to be put away. It began with him trying to sneak past a motion-sensitive yard-light to leave a bag of Rosie's things, and the story slowly unfolded. Of course, despite residual attraction, there couldn't be a fadeout-kiss.
A playwright sits while a company's Artistic Director finishes a phone-call instead of discussing the new play on his desk. Familiar? We're talkin Real Life here!
Robert Pemberton suggested he loved the play, wanted to produce it, wondered if there might be a little tweaking, then "But do they have to be Jews?"
Richard Arum replied that, since it was a Holocaust play, he thought....
At one point a cast of Gay, Retarded Gypsys --- for the sake of historical verisimilitude --- was suggested.
(What makes playwrights so resistent to a little critical suggestion or two, anyway!)
Cait Fergus' set here consisted of a blanket-hung bower decorated with pinned-up greeting-cards, and opened with a pair of pre-adolescent girls practicing soul-kisses. One of them has dreams of, any day now, confessing her love to their dishy art-teacher. The other, it became obvious, has other, unexpressed interest in this "practicing". Alex Highsmith and Lily Narbonne handled subtleties and subtexts beautifully.
You run to a serious, trusted adult about moral dilemmas, right?
Here Eric Sirakian played a kid trying to ask advice --- to confess actually --- to a grandfather-figure (Michael Fennimore). His hope of pressing autumn leaves between waxed-paper as he did as a child was just an excuse for conversation. He had seen a drunken friend, a girl, gang-raped at a party and did nothing to help her --- actually, it turns out, participated rather than helped --- and couldn't live with his guilt.
I felt the confessor's advice ("You can't cure all the ills of the world") quite shallow , but I don't know what else I might say myself, in the man's place.
Rick Park has his finger on the pulse of the slacker generation. Here three guys (Jeff Mahoney, Greg Maraio & Jonathan Popp) toked-up to ponder a serious philosophical problem:
Would you rather have a mere kiss from a gorgeous sex-star --- or go all the way with a character-actress?
And the bottom-line resolution? "Go to Hell 'n' Hunt for It!"
(Maybe if y'took a hit off this doobie it'd make more sense, y'think?)
"If you loved me, you'd let me go to the bathroom by myself!" That was the battleground for this married wrestling-match. I should have guessed, when slender Penny Benson insisted "I'm fat!" that among the emotions, the real subject was Bulimia --- but I had to be told later on.
g She and Vincent Ernest Siders made it a very physical contest.
Job interviews like this one have a tendency toward exageration, don't they?
Here Jeanine Hegarty's secretary tossed Emily Hall the applicant to an "interviewer from hell" --- though the excellent actor was not listed in the program. The gentleman obviously enjoyed power, "trying to ascertain how you take my orders." The kicker of course was Hegarty's discovery that not the boss but an interloper stole the desk and the role.
Zoey Michaels, Kyle McAdam and Nick McGrath of Stoneham's Young Company here talked of those killers --- but, as many young actors do, everyone swallowed the ends of their lines, instead of "pointing-up". That made every line sound pretty much alike, and I had difficulty concentrating on the story.
This dinner turned into a beautifully crafted hilarious romp. Peter E. Haydo (Dad) had his first meeting with daughter (Marie Polizzano)'s fiance --- a mime! Scott Sweatt danced about, with his girl interpreting, and of course Karl Baker Olson's waiter understood his every silent word.
The play was even more amazing in that the suspenders this Marcel-Marceau look-a-like wore kept popping off his pants, yet yet Sweatt seemed not even to notice. That's Acting!
John Porell played a brutal, brutalized prison guard trying to get "the truth" as he sees it from a woman he "protected" from a prisoner he thought was attacking her. But the "victim" (Kate Donnelly) insisted she was offering a shy boy facing parole a chance to touch a woman's flesh. The idea that "they're all animals" warred with "you just don't understand!" here.
This was a beautifully economical tour-de-force. Father and mother (Peter Crafts and Meagan Hawkes) began every short, sharp, peremptory sentence with "Don't..." Kevin Paquette started sitting with his back to the audience like a kid in a high-chair, gradually grew and began by stance or quick minimal mime to do or stop doing what the next order demanded. As parents, still "don't-ing," aged, the son began talking to Rosie Cerulli as his own child.
Every one of His sentences started with "Don't".........
Two guys in a motel-room: one of them (Gabe Kuttner) stands with binoculars trained through a window. The other (Rick Park) lounged on the bed, and they talked --- bantered actually --- while waiting for something. They talked about dreams of being famous as photographers until "Here he comes, lock and load!" They each pulled out not guns, but cameras, but their quarry --- was it a philandering husband, or a papparazzo's quarry? --- got away.
Something more important must have happened, right? I just can't remember.
Here Amanda Collins played a mercurial modern woman, first small-talking and complaining with a friend (Brenda Withers), then distracted into having a drink with another (Jonathan Fielding). The silent yet very aware waiter was Lewis D. Wheeler.
This was a scene from another Rough & Tumble "Bla bla-bla" story. Kristin Baker was a screenwriter without an end to her script. At one point, when she wrote and re-wrote a scene, Irene Daly and Jason Myatt "enacted" it, and went back and re-edited it, again and again. Kevin LaVelle was a grumpy producer, and James Barton and Barlow Adamson played characters such as "Other Assistant, Angel, Some Bedding" or "The Devil, Pillow, Assistant, 1/2 Menacing Deadline". If you've ever seen a Rough & Tumble show everything I say will make perfect sense. And if not..... Well, you should!
What happens at work when a boss and an assistant fall for each other? Well here the guy (David Hansen) eventually confessed that he was transferring her to another office because his yen was so strong --- when she confessedthat she hated to go because she had felt the same! But marriage and kids made consummation impossible, so they decided to settle for one memorable, passionate kiss and tried, as the title says, to make it a good one!
Sometimes librarians read books --- sometimes, even, books they might want to keep on an "Adults Only" shelf. But even when living vicariously, this Miss Denton (Dana Harrison) got calls from a mysterious man suggesting a date. Erin Butcher as a teen-age assistant thought him romantic, and cute. Then, just at closing-time, a man burst into the library insisting an escaped circus-lion was At The Door! Consternation ensued! But I'll bet you guessed who he really was. I'll bet you guessed he caught Miss Denton trying to hide a "bodice-ripper" and began calling her by the heroine's name. you're a damn good guesser.
This is a favorite SLAMboston staple. On a crowded subway-car a guy (Keith Mascoll) began talking to an empty seat as though his imaginary friend is there, talking about the children's books they've written, arguing, then insisting they Change Roles: "I'm the imaginary one now; nobody can see or hear Me!" Up jumps one of the passengers, saying to the invisible one she knows the books, would like to have lunch with the creator behind them, and leaving her phone number. And at that point the other passenger (a Real friend) pays him the bet he had that such a crazy scheme would get the woman he'd seen on the train every day to give him a tumble.
This one had Pauley (Robin J. Smith) and Corinna (Melissa Baroni) cutting up on the subway, enjoying life, when Corninna suddenly looks around saying "Hey were's you're father!" and looking in other cars. Turned out he's an alzheimer victim. Pauley insisteds she wasn't worried; that he can't remember his name or address, but people take care of him. She turned really cold about constantly putting His needs before her own. What started out so happily had a dark, harsh ending.
This was an exchange between the mother of a missing boy and the "computer artist" trying to "age" some photographs so they can be distributed to the police nationwide. He tried to stay impersonal, then admitted that his older brother had disappeared and his parents couldn't stand the loss. The waiting and the not-knowing became real.
That's was exactly what it was: One royal-blue yellow-toe and one black gold-toe --- the owner was too color-blind or indifferent to see they really didn't match, threw them together when their "others" disappeared. They avoided contact. They finished each other's thoughts, if not their sentences. They talked about darkness in the drawer and, eventually, of the cozy comfort of waiting, wrapped in each other. Cute.
Kevin LaVelle's Jeff took his invisible boy to the playground in the park, and Irene Daly's Debra her daughter. They shared a bench while trying to have a conversation interrupted every sentence or two by shouted instructions to their progeny about social behavior. The strain of keeping an eye cocked was obvious, the feeling of being shackled to a child creating occasional irrational rages. "But you can't hit your kid," both agreed, "you'd be arrested!" Of course, if Someone Else did it, the woman mused, leaving her sympathetic male counterpart alone a while with both of 'em......
This felt and sounded like part of an oratorio or cantata --- as much sung as spoken --- and all of it heavy with Pronouncements on the history of race-relations from Kennedy to Obama.
Pools of bright light and richly colorful costumes, solemn attitudes and great, clear voices. But for me everything felt familiar, serious yet uninspired, as though the excellent performances were simply spread across the surface of things.
Perhaps this would have made more sense and more impact as part of a longer work; perhaps it would get a better response from a Black audience. I felt impressed and yet unmoved both at the same time. To me, the piece had no shape at all.
Can a play exist without conflict?
Here sat Chris Heatherington as the inventor of a "Cheeky Bastard" doll programmed to tell people what they probably should hear, though no one will have the courage to be so cruelly truthful. James Tallach as a passing person shared a bar-stool, gave him the number of a p/r genius who might make the doll famous, and they parted.
End of play.
For me this play just didn't jell. Eboni Baptiste and Jorge Lopes met, apparently in the old neighborhood, spoke of basketball and dreams, and drifted apart again. I felt sure of nothing concrete here, neither relationship between the characters, nor the possibility or impossibility of dreams.
It was the top floor of a building, Stan (David Lucas) the immigrant maintenance-man was trying to close up when he discovered a poet (Joey Pelletier) outside on the ledge. "I'm gonna be home late because I gotta clean up," he complained: "I gotta clean You up when you jump!" And of course he spilled Wild Turkey over the eight-page-sonnet farewell note the poet tried to leave "...And that was My Only Copy!" Rarely has contemplated suicide seemed so hilarious.
Yet another job interview!
In this case, it was Penny Benson interviewing a man (Jonathan Michael Anderson) dressed in a cardboard-box big enough for him to hide in while poking a rubber chicken over the top like a hand-puppet. He insisted he was a marketing expert, despite his unique approach to landing the job.
Jeff Mahoney was a landscape architect here --- not a very lucrative job in today's economy. Shelley Brown was a gardening widow determined to have the "koi pool" (I think it's for fish) that her late husband always wanted installed. But was she also in the market for a new husband?
Ah, subtext, subtext!
Sometimes people just cannot accept the truth. Here Rachel hunt played a distraught woman insisting her body was created to make babies --- though a doctor (Eliza Fichter), looking through her records, tried to explain that a pregnancy would destroy hormone balances and she would bleed to death. Some truth is really hard to face...
This is a dialogue early in which Ed Hoopman's Victor asks "Would you be my best-man when I get married?" And Rick Park's Tony answers "Sure, I suppose so, if you ever do!" Tony insists Victor ain't the marrying type, too much a wild man with then ladies. Come to find out, he's got his eyes set on Tony's own sister, got a ring and everything --- and she's already pregnant.
Sometimes, even friends don't know everything about each another, right?
Ever seen an Ivory-Billed Woodpecker? Maureen Keiller and Kippy Goldfarb did in this little gem --- and the poorly-educated Sothron gal (Maureen) got a digital-picture that proves it! Of course the ornithologist (Kippy) wants --- Needs! --- that picture; she could build a career around it! Once sectional and class and educational animosities flared and flamed away, it was actually on a human, personal level that things got resolved.
This another SLAMboston gem!
Agnes (Donna Sorbello) and Claudia (M. Lynda Robinson) --- in enormous hats and wearing black --- sat in a corner of the funeral parlor dishing the young wife of their dear, departed old friend. Every comment carried its own bite. Agnes was the expert in societal strata, insisting she would attend both wake And funeral only for the most intimate of friends --- and that Claudia, regrettably, rated only a wake! Enter the bereaved widow (Stacy Fischer) thanking them for support and trying to comfort a Claudia overcome with grief and weeping.
Of course, it was herself she was most sorry for. Sometimes the finer points of funerary society can be cruel, can't they?
When you dig out a parking-space on the narrow streets of Boston it's customary to fill it with something like lawn-furniture while the car's away --- to prevent anyone else stealing it. Here Will Lyman, shovel on his shoulder, was defending that turf from a younger Grant MacDermott who defied the rule. Again, what started as a comedy of contemporary lack-of-manners escalated when a knife appeared, wielded with all the deadliness of a veteran with PTSD. Suddenly it was Vietnam vs. WWII, each recognizing in the other a war within that could not be left behind.
The setting here was the waiting-room of a clinic where someone with no short-term memory awaited an appointment. The fishbowl, Aimee Doherty remarked, was to calm nerves. Then Richard Arum left, re-appeared with bandages, ran through the identical exchange of pleasantries, left and re-appeared with an eye bandaged.... Apparently the surgeons were harvesting organs and tissue at the evil lady's direction.
Here Gary Ryan, Shana Dirik, Ann Carpenter, and Bobby Trask played memebrs of a play-selection committee trying to decide in favor of a play they all had read --- though they couldn't agree on any of the details, lines, or substance of the show. (Another of what I think of as "The Vengeance Plays"!)
This was a quiet little gem, with an elderly man sitting in what looked like sunset on a quiet beach. Joel Colodner seemed bundled in warm clothing, while Georgia Lyman in a short green summer dress capered bare-footed about him talking of memories. He had married her despite being older, but their genuine love persisted. By subtle degrees this piece of theatrical poetry made it clear that she "has been waiting for" him, having died still young, and he now faces imminent death, and their final reunion.
A quiet little gem!
This play Defined the Gray Zone: Ken Baltin played a man old enough to miss a wife "taken from him" because she needed a nursing-home environment; and a man whose son (Michael Forden Walker) may soon die of cancer. Time does awful things to people, and making them face those things suddenly and finally really alone may be the worst. As a nation we are living longer, and plays like this one may help us all solve new problems.
Wasn't the all-seeing gift-giver Santa Claus the model for God all children were given? Isn't God always making a list & checking it twice --- and doling out a lot more coal than presents? Obviously, in this fantasy, the one of these two long-white-bearded ones that wears a red suit has a lot to answer for!
In this case, Vincent Ernest Sanders, tall and Black, took the role, while the co-playwright Maxine Lopez-Keough played prosecutor. Luckily, they agreed to share a few cookies by final curtain.
This play --- which I saw before but I'm not sure where --- was a slice of backstage-life, in this case not at a theatre but before a symphony-orchestra concert. The cellist (Clarice E. Mazanec) faced a secure role in the rhythm-section, while her sister (Aidan Koehler) the 2nd-violinist was nervously going again and again over a tricky passage in her first public solo --- which her nerves refused to let her get right. The conductor (Kenneth King) briefly slathered love over the violinist (ignoring her sister totally) because (as sis points out) if She looks good, HE looks good. And the stage-manager (Paul Romanello) called "places" predictably at exactly the moment the girl stood in lingerie perparing to dress for the show.
Was this a metaphor for theater? No --- because in music the soloist IS alone, and with an unhealthy tendency to swear at herself when she flubs that crucial note!
"My cell" can do amazing things these days.
Here Bobbie Steinbach and Ellen Colton could not only talk to each other, they could put each other "on hold" to talk --- one with Israel Horovitz about a play, the other with Jack Neary about another Marathon slot. And "Horovitz trumps Neary; I'll get back to you!" The nuanced difference between "are you available for" and "I'm offering a role" was as important to these gals as the differing lengths of the run, and they were continually putting Israel and Jack on hold to confer and to dicker --- only to lose both parts by their indecision.
Heigh-ho the Glamourous Life!
Break a leg all!
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ORGANIZATION OR AFFILIATION:
THE THEATER MIRROR
125 Amory Street #501
Roxbury MA 02130
"The Art of Writing (and READING) Reviews"
(A)Lecture/talk on How I Write Reviews (1/2 Hour plus or minus) (B)Questions from the audience (1/2 hour plus or minus)
Larry Stark/The Theater Mirror
TYPE OF ACTIVITY
Anyone who really loves theater
THIS PRESENTATION IS APPROPRIATE FOR SECONDARY SCHOOL STUDENTS?
Probably. I Will try to restrain my language when talking about Kevin Kelly and The Boston GLOBE .......
KIND OF SPACE NEEDED
A room with seats for people; probably like a theatre
A chair facing them, for me.
The only equipment will be some notes