Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Love's Fire"

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"What Happened in Boston, Willie"

Reviews of Current Productions

note: entire contents copyright 2001 by Larry Stark


"Love's Fire"

Stage Manager Medina Mahfuz
Costume Design by Dan Bluestein
D-J Symmetry by Jenni Oman
Lobby Design by Lisa Shampnois
Photographs by Joe Picard
Set Design by David LaCount
Sonnet Director Nicole Imbracsio
House Manager Sasha Abby
Lighting Technician Brian Kenny
Master Carpenter John Adey
Lighting Design by Chris Murphy
Video Director Matt Gianino
Poster Design by Adam Doyle
Rehearsal manager Julie Fulton
Video Technician Danny Ng

"Terminating
or
"Lass Meine Schmerzen Nicht Verloren Sein"
or
"Ambivalence"

by Tony Kushner
Directed by Shawn LaCount
Rehearsal Manager Medina Mahfuz

Hendryk.......................................................Mason Sand
Esther........................................................Monica Hiller
Dymphna.............................................Meghan Snowdon
Billygoat.........................................................Shay Sayer

"Hydraulics Phat Like Mean"

by Ntozake Shange
Directed by Monique Douglas
Assistant Director Sumner L. Williams

Female Player........................................................Ilca Andrade
Male Player............................................................Abens Maurice

"140"

by Marsha Norman
Directed by Shawn LaCount
Rehearsal Manager Medina Mahfuz

Wife..................................Sarah Shampnois
David................................Mark VanDerzee
Jackie........................................Orit Ditman
Roland........................................Shay Sayer
Roland's New Lover.....Summer L. Williams
Roland's Lover's New Lover....Ilca Andrade
Lover.........................................Tricia Yang

"Painting You"

by William Finn
Directed by Monique Douglas
Assistant Director Summer L. Williams

Painter............................................Michael Walker
Model............................................................Bart Grieb

"The General of Hot Desire"

by John Guare
Directed by Mark VanDerzee
Rehearsal Manager Julie Fulton

Seth................................................Michael Walker
Michael................................................Mason Sand
Cain/Seth's Child..................................Orit Ditman
Sheba....................................................Tricia Yang
God.........................................Summer L. Williams
Abel.............................................Sarah Shampnois
Adam/Solomon..............................Shawn LaCount
Eve.............................................Julia Wackenheim
Seth's Child........................................Ilca Andrade
READERS
Dick Tate
James Spruill
Eric Bogosian
Corey Strobis
Ellie Lee
James Sanders
Tomoharu Tamaki
Tom Williams
Jesse Westwerman
Steve Kelly

With this huge, ambitious production Company One seems bent on elbowing itself into the front ranks of BCA regulars, where I hope they stay. They tackled these six theatrical pieces --- only one of which looks like a "real play" --- with gusto, treating each with careful attention to detail, and knitting them together with music, film, and lushly colorful sets and costumes. Three different directors worked with sixteen actors (10 of them twice, as well as two directors acting as well) and three Rehearsal Managers, a 10-member technical crew including a video director, plus ten different readers who put seven of Shakespeare's sonnets onto film. The six playwrights wrote in reaction to these sonnets, some tangentially, some metaphorically, all originally and experimentally, and the result was an ever-changing explosion of theatrical excellence.

A kind of skewer through the theatrical shishkebab is a hypnotic and often deafening techno-rhythm beat, expressively massaged and varied subtly by a D-J with headphones in a radio-booth stage-left. The loud, repetitious music both isolates and sets the mind free as the beat undulates between events. Each piece is preceded by film --- much of it of trains and subways and little human details --- in which one of the sonnets is read, somewhat incomprehensibly with so much else going on. (All of them however are printed in the program) The sets are ... set efficiently by a horde of precise stagehands so that all opening tableaux are a surprise, and a visual delight.

Tony Kushner's triply-titled extravaganza opens the string with a sort of stream-of-UNconscious in which a somehow frightening terminated patient (Mason Sand)breaks into his psychiatrist's (Monica Hiller's) office for a last, intense, circular confrontation, demanding she take him back, demanding she sleep with him (even though he's gay and she a lesbian). Framed inside a window above them are two figures that may be figments who join the intense but flitting conversation. One (Meghan Snowdon in a sumptuous green and white wrap) may be the shrink's lover Dymphna (St. Dymphna is the Catholic patron of the insane); the other (Shay Sayar) is the abstractly gorgeous lover (or ideal lover) of the patient, called Billygoat. The conversation may be all in their minds, or all in one's mind; but it's fascinating to watch.

Ntozake Shange, a dance-poet, takes off from Shakespeare's "..when thou, my music, music play'st..." and turns a love-at-first-sight fascination into a metaphor in which first the lady (Ilca Adrade) and then her fascinated swain (Abens Maurice) play (or is it become?) saxophones to express their glowing, growing love.

Eric Bogosian's play takes "...being full of your ne'er cloying sweetness, to bitter sauces did I frame my feeding..." literally, giving two sweeter-than-real lovers on the eve of their wedding, when the lady (Julia Wackenheim) confesses that, feeling all to be too good to be true, she's been secretly giving herself to a gruff, tattooed biker (Theodore Schubert) who uses her as his whore. The audience here is as astonished as the groom (Shawn LaCount) when "Red" barges in for his weekly fix --- but there is honor to be defended and a lady to be won here, isn't there?

Marsha Norman has presented a series of seven sharp monologues, each speaker in turn upbraiding a husband, lover, partner in turn for rumored faithlessnesses. All seven are caught, frozen in a series of twisted, dancing, intertwined tableaux as though caught (Thump) in a series of still photographs --- everyone clothed in lush black and bird-masked --- with always only one raging individual moving, speaking freely.

William Finn's dialogue has a painter (Mark Walker) posing and painting his model (Bart Greib), who then returns the favor doing a charcoal sketch. The back-and-forth of paint and sketch each repeat the other's words, insisting finally that, though their loving gazes create one another, each insists the perfection of the other is beyond his art to picture.

The final extravaganza is by John Guare, who assembles nine squabbling actors all bickering on how to approach two near-identical yet different sonnets --- each one championing the notes in Signet, Monarch, Cliff's, or Helen Vendler's at-odds glosses for clues. Finally they toss away authorities and launch into a swiftly, passionately mimed re-creation of humanity's historical yearning for the love of an indifferent, unforgiving God.

Does it work? Do any of them work? Are any of them their originating sonnets explicated, bodied forth, or made clear? Are any of them, really, "plays"?
Maybe not.
Who cares!
With such a big box stuffed to bursting with theatrical excellences, who has time to ask any questions?

Love,
===Anon.


"Love's Fire" (11 July - 12 August)
COMPANY 1
Boston Center for The Arts, 539 Tremont Street, BOSTON
1 (617)426-2787


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