Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Boston Directors' Lab"

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"What Happened in Boston, Willie"

Reviews of Current Productions

note: entire contents copyright 2000 by Larry Stark


The Boston Directors' Lab

Producer Dyan Kimball

Scenic Designs by Stefan Barnas
Sound Designs by Peter Nabut
Lighting Design by Greg Jutkiewicz

"The Transfiguration of Benno Blimpie"

by Albert Inaurrato
Directed by Dyan Kimball
Stage Manager Tammy Wiseman

Benno........................................Mark Sickler
Girl....................Bronwen Prosser Armstrong
Old Man...............................Kevin McCarthy
Father........................................Robert Fuller
Mother........................Melissa Anne Williams

"The Apollo of Bellac"

by Jean Giraudoux
Adapted by Maurice Valency
Directed by Dani Snyder
Additional Choreography by Marc Pearson
Stage Manager Hans Schroder

Agnes...............................................Stacy Fischer
Man.........................................Nathaniel McIntyre
President..............................................Paul Sarkis
Chevredent.....................................Courtney Graff
Clerk.................................................John Carozza
Vice President...................................Matthew Ellis
Mr. Lepedura/Mr. Schultz.....................Sam Young
Mr. Gracheton/Mr. Rassemutte......... Marc Pearson

"Collected Stories"

by Donald Margulies
Directed by Diana Dresser

Lisa......................................Rebecca Carey
Ruth.......................................Joyce Lazarus

The high, unfinished-brick walls of the Threshold Theatre were a perfect setting for these three Boston Directors' Lab productions. Each play offered its director a different set of problems, but obviously the volunteer actors co-operated wholeheartedly with these three young directors, allowing them, free from commercial or critical constraints, both a showcase of their work, and a chance to experiment. The small "screening-room" audiences who were lucky enough to find seats had a chance to see good work and plays they'd probably never see in the normal commercial theater world. I hope these laboratory experiments continue.

Albert Inaurrato's "The Transfiguration of Benno Blimpie" was a surreal expressionist examination of the effects of selfish cruelties on a sensitively artistic soul trapped into a grossly obese body. Jean Giraudoux' "The Appollo of Bellac" was a surreal comic fantasy full of slyly satirical commentary on human frailty. Donald Margulies' "Collected Stories" was a realistic contemporary examination of the changing relationship between an established short-story writer teaching a growing protégé. The last, with the most elaborately realistic set, had only two characters but followed them over several years in the longest play on the card. Obviously, each director stretched a different set of artistic muscles during this exercize.

In the play with his name Benno, while his retired grandfather is being seduced (or is it seducing?) a 13-year-old, masturbates to orgasm shouting the names of his beloved Renaissance painters; and he insists that, at 22, he will eat himself to death because of the hatred, insults and degradations his body has called forth, most painfully from the self-absorbed family he attempts to love. This was a play few commercial companies would revive, and it demanded a lot from the five fearless actors under Director Dyan Kimball.

Dani Snyder directing the single short comedy had eight actors playing a total of ten parts, most brief cameo walk-ons, with a dizzying whirl of "busy-ness" early on characterizing the business world that a young girl upsets with Apollo's mantra: "How handsome you are, sir!" The subtext in every man's response is "How perceptive of you to notice, my dear!" A comedy, yes, but funny since the human truth on display allowed its audience to smile at themselves.

Diana Dresser, directing "Collected Stories" had to balance the story --- of teacher and student gradually exchanging places --- with supposedly realistic details and comments on today's literary world. In the two-character play, she also had to be at pains not to seem to load the dice in favor of either character. I thought her best work went into a toe-to-toe shouting-match throughout the final act, where all that went before came together.

The Boston Directors' Lab invited no critics, and judging such experiments would miss the point. The directors were testing themselves, and the more important judgements should have been their own: what did they learn? what didn't work? was there ever enough time? could bits have been done differently? how much can you demand of your cast? how can you get different actors to see what should be concentrated on?
These are the things a "Laboratory" could test, for each director. The freedom from economic necessities that Dyan Kimball's underwriting of the Lab provided, the absence of critical pressures, and the care everyone including the technical crew invested in these experiments all combined to make several days of excellent theater. The next step, obviously, is to find enlightened funding so that the Boston Directors' Lab can become a needed institution in which new directors can show what they know, and experienced directors can try to learn what they have never yet tried to do.
Tell your rich friends there's an opportunity here...

Love,
===Anon.


Boston Directors' Lab (till 10 December)
BOSTON DIRECTORS' LAB
Threshold Theatre, 791 Tremont Street, BOSTON
1(617)469-9339
Check their website


THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide

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