Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Mill City Minutes 2006"

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note: entire contents copyright 2006 by Larry Stark

"Mill City Minutes 2006"


Sound and Light Design by Alex Savitzky
Set Construction Steve Gilbane & Dan Cormier
Light Execution by Alex Savitzky or Linda Sughrue
Producer Jerry Bisantz
Graphic Design by Karla Sorenson
Stage Manager Ann Garvin

The Image Theater is all about what's new. They do Lowell premiers, Massachusetts premiers, New England premiers, world premiers.
And you won't see the show I did last week, if you go down to McDonough Freshman Academy Theatre in Lowell to see "Mill City Minutes" --- a whole different set of seven plays and a dance performance will flood the stage instead. And perhaps backstage they call it "Mill City MiNutes": the plays are all succinct theater snapshots. All the pieces are short; the totality is immense.

"Happy Daughter"

by Greg Lam
Directed by Jerry Bisantz

Carol...........Ratani Khan
Mother...Bernice Liuson Sim
Boyfriend......Neal Merbaum
Waitress...Kirsten McKinney

Carol's young, widowed mother has a boy-friend ... twice her age! And they act unashamedly in love In Public! And in IOWA yet! What's a Chinese-American daughter to think?
Well, this little vignette of embarrassment growing into understanding and affection --- with daughter explaining directly to the audience --- was a neat little journey, with an identical "waitress" in three different restaurants.

"New Digs"

by Kelly DuMar
Directed by Moira McCarthy

Tick...Ratani Khan
Kip....Josh Linden
Cort...Max Bisantz

How can you handle, how live past, the sudden death of a friend? The three here are adolescents, trying to make their own shrine of objects and records, but so overwhelmed by the hugeness of the cemetery (of death itself?) that quarrels break up a network of e-mail interactions.

"Designated Sitter"

by George Sauer
Directed by Joseph DeGuglielmo

Susan.......Heather Hardy
Jake...........Mark Leahy
Steve...James A. Sullivan

George Sauer habitually snaps off these vignettes of literal misunderstandings. Here someone insists he is paid to sit on abandoned beach-blankets, saving the seat for someone looking for food. But is he really a clever con-man trying to steal a temporarily isolated girl? Is he a designated sitter, or just a clever Hitter?

"Rooms (excerpts)"

SOKOLOW NOW! Dance Troupe

Choreography by Anna Sokolow
Music by Kenyon Hopkins
Reconstruction by Lorry May
Assistant Rehearsal Director Suellen Haag

Dancer: Kirsten McKinney
Dancers: Kirsten McKinney, Courtney Peix, Celsa Cutillo
Dancer: Celsa Cutillo

"Mill City Minutes" has been reaching past the narrow definition of "theater" to include songs, and now dance. These dances --- created originally by Anna Sokolow in 1936 --- were about bodies in motion,and what emotions can be involved. The bodies in every case were trained and controlled, extending a vocabulary of moves to artistic extremes where the merest details are important. The introduction of dance and song back into a theater vocabulary is one thing that makes The Image unique.

"Meds on Speck"

by Jerry Bisantz
Directed by Lauren Osornio
with help from Kim Novick

Dr. Richard Speck....Ted Englander
Mrs. Brazelton......Lauren Osornio
Nurse Ratched........Jane Benjamin

The story of this presentation is almost as interesting as the little comedy itself. The playwright caught a performance of his skit, and invited the crew to Lowell as part of this year's Minutes.
The situation is pure Graucho Marx: a pill-popping psychiatrist questions an empty-nester abouther son, who thinks and acts as though he's a dog. The story slips more and more into outlandish chaos surprise by surprise --- with everyone taking the most ridiculous twists in stride.


by Joe Byers
Directed by Ann Garvin

Embalmer..........Jack Dacy
Mrs. Dockery...Donna DeWitt
Young Man........Mark Leahy

Who might be most devastated by a boy's sudden death in an auto mishap --- the boy's mother? Or the guy that drive the car? As a counterpoint to these two viewing the body, and bearing their emotions to one another and to the audience, a lecture on embalming calmly anchors these emotions in reality. On one level, those emotions can never be "embalmed" for good and all.


by Susan Leonard
Directed by Linda C. Sughrue

Dianna.........Becki Dennis
Georgie....Thomasine Chapin
Young Man...Robert L. Bryan

The young cast here tackled the problem of how a young woman should act so as to attract and fascinate men. Older sister insists girls must "need lessons" in how to play sports --- in this case, how to make a successful break at pool. Younger sister refuses to hide the expertise her dad taught them both --- she gives lessons instead. And, guess what......!

"Mrs. McAllister's Plot"

by Leslie Powell & Ron Pullins
Directed by Jerry Bisantz

Mrs. McAllister...Andrea Grande
Dwight.........Christopher Mack

Christopher Mack has been a mainstay singer-dancer at the Turtle Lane Playhouse, but this little play proved that, with no music to hide behind, his raw talent as a young actor shines just as much. He and Andrea Grande turned this clever situation into a commentary on contemporary stereotyping. The lady reluctantly insists her daughter --- living with a lower-class punk but needing custody of her children --- would be happier married to this honest and loving man if the right divorce could be arranged from a vindictive ne'er-do-well. Her short-cut is to hand the young man a pistol and suggest murder. Again, the expected twists, the truth about each character's integrity forces re-assessments. All in all a fascinating look at contemporary mores, this cast turned in outstanding performances in a thoroughly enjoyable evening of theater.


Trust the Image Theater, and buy a seat at this week-end's entirely new program of New plays and dances. Then write your own review and send it to The Theater Mirror!

(a k a larry stark)

"Mill City Minutes 2006" (15 - 23 September)
McDonough Freshman Academy Theatre, 40 Paige Street, LOWELL MA

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide