Theatre Mirror Reviews - "The Skriker"

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note: entire contents copyright 1999 by Larry Stark

"The Skriker"

by Caryl Churchill
Directed by Beth Manspeizer

Costume Design by Briget Devine
Lights and Sound by Alyson Miller
Mural Design by Drew Schwartz
Text Analysis by Alyson Miller
Stage Manager Kevin Kidd

The Skriker.................................Gina McMahon
Josie - A Teenager...........................Lisa Hurlbutt
Lily - A Teenager.........................Melissa Klayton
Underworld Fairy - Hag....................Ashley Ayers
Underworld Fairy - Girl..............Danielle L. DiDio
Underworld Fairy - Spirit.........Rachel Cunningham

You can't see "The Skriker"; I caught its closing performance. You might not have liked it if you had --- Caryl Churchill's prickly, in-your-face abstract cataract of words and scenes was provocatively enigmatic despite Director's Notes --- but you couldn't help admiring the energy and precision of the cast, the iron-willed inventiveness of the director Beth Manspeizer, and the split-second timing of Alyson Miller's blackout-cues. Read over the list of actErs and crew for this mostly-female production, and make it a point, whenever any of those names are associated with a local production, to take it in. These are already "brand-names" for me, worthy of attention wherever they work, for the levels of intensity, honesty, and care they displayed in this production. Work like theirs doesn't disappear when a show closes; it moves on. And, though "The Skriker" will resonate in my memory, my mind must move on to a week's worth of observations, such as:

[] Beth Manspeizer is moving on. She's going to New York, to direct plays. And Boston will be smaller for her absence. She came out of Skidmore College into the Guilty Children improv group, and gathered a couple of excellent actors to this project while acting in the Breakthrough Company's production of "Top Girls" at The Actors' Workshop. In any community that recognized "The Arts" as important as "Living" this would have ensured her of a creative career working and growing as an artist here in Boston. Instead, if she is not eaten by the bigger fish in the bigger pond, we will all have to wait until she returns, in disdainful triumph, to be able to say we knew her when. Break a leg, lady.

[] My week began when Mike Mayzel [ ] insisted I show up at a luncheon at The Wang Center "for the Performing Arts" designed to commemorate a donation of hardwear from Dell and softwear from Microsoft and cosmetics from Hill-Holliday-Connors-Cosmopolos intended to make The Wang an internet presence. I showed up --- one of only three people not wearing suit and tie (and one of us had on his t-shirted shoulder a Channel 7 t-v camera) --- and was largely ignored while everyone congratulated themselves on moving money from handle to hand. I asked the only question: "What is your URL?" and the only person in the room who knew what URL meant gave me what he later admitted was the Wrong Answer! He said they'd bought a Domain Name and some day HHCC would make a website to be reckoned with, but at present they're part of the Globe's "" scam at --- which I immediately added to our links-list. (Why had I never heard of it before???) The one significant thing I heard was when Josiah Spaulding admitted he sought the upgrade when he noticed how many tickets were sold through the internet. (Could he be hoping to dispense with live ticket-sellers altogether this way, so that whatever ice accrues flows directly into his own pockets?) In any case, I thought the best coverage Channel 7's cameras could have made of this whole event would be pictures of all that money changing hands.

[] That was Wednesday, and Thursday I made an effort to show up at a hearing at the SwissOtel about possible expansion of The Opera House stage-house, even though I couldn't stay. Turned out that I was a day late! The hearing was not on the 3rd but the 2nd, and Terry Byrne's coverage in The Herald suggested the project met violent opposition from Tremont On The Common residents about the loss of their backdoor alley. Since I've heard that the sight-lines in this old vaudeville house would make expansion of the stage inadvisable, this apparently means Boston will lose yet another existing stagespace within a few years.

[] I couldn't have stayed at a Wednesday hearing because I had to see The Bridge Theatre Company's BCA production of "Troilus And Cressida". I called this a shoestring production, and I wonder what Director Todd Hearon could have done had he had the budget that the A.R.T. squanders every year on egotistical claptrap. His take on this difficult play was more honest, more reasoned, more inventively sincere than any of the extravaganzas I have sat through at Loeb, and they were financed largely by the willingness of the participants to donate their commitments. This I take as a tragic metaphor for the thankless devotion of Boston's artists to the creative collaboration of their craft.

[] And so we come at last to the final production if my week, the collaboration of Caryl Churchill, Playwright, with Beth Manspeizer, Director, and a bunch of crazy Boston women who want to do theater. One of their number has committed to doing a play in the Playwrights' Platform Festival next week, and thus I can include in this ramble an account of a conversation I had with Boston playwright Geralyn Horton. You see, I'm fairly sure that Caryl Churchill's plays were written largely because she was granted access to The Theatre Upstairs at The Theater Royal in London. It's about as big and as technically bless't as The Actors' Workshop, but people in London take it seriously and reviewers from The Financial Times are there every opening night. I mention this because Ms. Horton's recent news was that her friend Liza Wyatt will have a reading, and perhaps a full production, in just such a tiny theatre as this in London soon, after only a year in residence. During her years in Boston she never could get noticed.

[] And Beth Manspeizer, whose work deserves notice, will be deserting Boston to find it down in New York.

And you wonder why I drink?


"The Skriker" (till 5 June)
The Actors' Workshop, 40 Boylston Street, BOSTON

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide