That Was The Week That Was, 19 - 27 April '05"

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide


That Was
The Week
That Was

19 - 27 April '05

19 apr I AM MY OWN WIFE Broadway In Boston YE WILBUR THEATRE 41
22 apr LA CAGE AUX FOLLES The longwood Players YMCA FAMILY THEATRE 43
23 apr SPIN As Yet To Be Theatre TOWER AUDITORIUM 44
25 apr [ IMAGE THEATRE Fundraising "Rent Party" ]
26 apr SUPER SLAMBOSTON Another Country Productions DEVANAUGHN 45

Date: Tue, 19 Apr 2005 17:15:28 -0400
Subject: are you OK?
Did you know those three words are in EVERY movie (almost) ever made?? -
Haven't recieved any smut jokes (let alone your thoughts on VIOLET) so just checking in -
hope all's well!
Bill doscher

Date: Tue, 05 Apr 2005 18:20:57 -0400
From: Bailey & Mort Kaplan
Subject: re: on time reviews
In reference to "There may be good reasons why I have been late with nearly every review I've managed to write in the past couple of weeks --- and so late with this column that in tw--, no in THREE cases now good plays closed before I could write a word." here's a suggestion:
don't write any reviews. Before you get to the theatre formulate some pertinent questions about the play and the performance. Canvas the audience during intermission and after the performance, asking them to respond to your questions; write down as many quotes as you have time for and publish them verbatim. Afterall, a performance should succeed or fail on how it affects its paying audience not an individual person who entered on a complimentary ticket and who, because of his/her access to print, is afforded the honorific title of critic. And that way, everybody is a critic because isn't everybody anyway?

Thank you for the concern and the advice.
I started this little exercize about four hours ago, and have done just about Anything I could think of to Avoid it. This time, though, I may have a clue as to why.
First, the "ideal reader" I speak to is someone like Barry Andelman: a person who loves theater, sees a lot of plays, has opinions of his own, but can't see everything but nevertheless would like to know something about shows not yet seen. And since I happen to like theater, I've recently begun explaining that my job is to help other people Like plays --- not to "improve" plays with my words.
But even I don't like ALL shows, and in the past I've glibly admitted that in the cases when I Don't like a show, I don't have to say anything about it at all, at least not in The Mirror. Instead, I've often written the director a review-long letter explaining why I had nothing to say Publically.
And that means that when I do see a show and yet there is no review, the people who made it conclude I hated the show. That's often Not the case, so the recurring writer's-blocks damage my friends. I'm doing my best to cope with that...

This week, though, I did run into a whole string of shows that in their own special ways under-whelmed me --- not totally, but enough to put comments into the equivocal column. And of course, each play is unique, in both it's successes and in my reservations about it. (But there IS a happy ending!)

19 apr I AM MY OWN WIFE Broadway In Boston YE WILBUR THEATRE 41

Everyone (including the individual who sneeked me past the P/R people who find me "unprofessional" and would rather I not review shows at Ye Wilbur Theatre) adored Jefferson Mays' performance of Doug Wright's docu-drama monologue bringing to life a furniture-collector wearing women's clothes who survived life in both Nazi Germany and Communist Germany. The performance was rivetingly good, the cameo-characters of an American researcher and many other brief people were clear and useful, the story salted with just enough wit and never too much pain --- and yet I felt distant from both the story and the standing-o enthusiasm of a sold-out first-night Wilbur crowd. Instead of finding him (her?) heroic, I thought the person quaint. I was gladly enthusiastic about the performer, but surprisingly unmoved by the show.
And I have no idea whether it was "just me" or whether the hundreds of other theater-lovers in the house were wrong. I prefer to think the former, and so no review.


Again, the crowded Kresge Little Theatre crowd was wildly enthusiastic about a production that moved me only to boredom and irritation.
Jay Scheib it's director said in the program that Tennessee Williams' play "..predicted that the desperate materialism of the United States would be its downfall. In this production, the problem is revealed as not only an American problem but one that has spread on a global scale."
The production revealed the problem in a series of athletic exercizes --- many of them repeated six or eight times --- and with two large t-v screens that live on-stage cameras (some slaves, some active) under the charge of an "invisible" techie.
One repeated action was for a protagonist to crouch close to a camera so that his face filled the screen while he dripped spittle on the floor.
For another sequence a woman ran around a couch to do a ballet-arabesque into the arms of an actor, wrapping her legs about his waist as he rolled her over onto the couch then the floor where they crouched, panting a moment before finding their original positions and repeating the entire sequence six to eight times.
Another saw a actress first fling herself at a wall, then scamper for the door where an actor halted her by in one case a double-embrace, in another by lifting her rigid body into the air. Again, repeated and repeated and...well, you get the idea.
I might have found these anti-verbal activities intriguing, had I not seen Scheib's previous t-v enhanced extravaganza called "In This Is The End of Sleeping" --- a more complicated but no less opaque commentary on something or other, though for that one I had no program to tell me what I shuld have been thinking. The activities in each show --- and some of the casts --- were similar though irrelevantly unique.
I wonder if the protagonist's impressively karate-kicking four metal chairs across the room was a way of spreading desperate materialism on a globar scale, or if it had anything whatever to do with Tennessee Williams' laconic and incredibly up-staged text.


Here's where things begin to pick up. When I saw this show in a gaudily expensive production out at North Shore Music Theatre I marvelled at the imitation of "Auntie Mame" in Act II of Harvey Feirstein's book --- a kid brought up by two gay parents insults them by trying to hide their homosexuality from the parents of the doll he's marrying. North Shore put the emphasis on the gay dancers from the nightclub named in the title.
The Longwood Players turned this upside-down,emphasizing the gay parents (Christopher Hagberg & Bradford Morse) as delightfully, securely married squabblers who almost love their son enough to compromise their "I Am What I Am" convictions. The fiancee's parents (Linda Monchik & Jeffrey B. Phillips) were also excellently cast and believably acted --- until the silliness of the finale.
In general, Carl A. Rossi agree on the strengths and weaknesses of this production, though he leans toward positive while I lean toward negative, and each of us for different reasons.
A while ago, a gay friend who had thrilled to this show initially told me it was now "politically incorrect" in gay circles to praise the show. No doubt it has something to do with the song "Mascara" which implies a Retreat into drag rather than the gay-pride conviction of "I Am etc." In this production, however, with Hagberg's comfortable performer and Morse's aging husband weathering every crisis in their bumbily settled married life, such quibbles were irrelevant.

23 apr SPIN As Yet To Be Theatre TOWER AUDITORIUM

There's nothing at all wrong with this show a Real Audience wouldn't cure. The Mass College of Art's Tower Auditorium may put any show under its curse of sparse attendance, but a slickly hip social comedy like this one looks like a rehearsal playing to so many empty seats.
Jared Raimer's "Spin" is a monologue with illustrating scenes. Braden Weeks plays an ageing punk-rock addict of "sex and drugs and rockandroll" trotting out the five "loves of his life" and deciding that only one is Just Right. The focus zigs and zags from present to past and back, and hats off to Director Jennifer Lee Williams for making these time-jumps clear and comprehensible, as the narrator jumps easily into a scene then back into narrator-mode again and again.
Rainer's script is punchy and quick, but for me the ground was already covered by Neil Simon and I saw no fresh ground broken.
The As Yet To Be Theatre is one of a few new young "fringe" companies committed to new plays. Their next season will feature another Jared Raimer script, and that will be worth waiting for.

25 apr [ IMAGE THEATRE Fundraising "Rent Party" ]

The Image Theatre is part of that movement of new companies toward new plays. Jerry Bisantz its spark-plug is interested both in new plays and new songs. The theater will open soon in Jerry's home town --- Lowell --- but in amongst gems from new the mini-musicals he'll open with, he did suggest that any successful "out-of-town-tryout" would be sneaked into Beantown for a reprise.
Go Jerry!!!

26 apr SUPER SLAMBOSTON Another Country Productions DEVANAUGHN

This night turned out to be the real Hit of the week. Eight brand new plays, none of them over fourteen-minutes long, were given the Olympic-Judging treatment, with five judges giving 9.3 - 8.95 scores and Lyralen Kaye acting as breakneck ringmaster for the evening. Casts and directors had only a few weeks of pick-up rehearsals, but on all levels --- scripts, direction, performances --- there was solid work everywhere. The competition aspect borrowed from t-v --- as did the fast pace of the evening (I was out by 10:15). And I even agreed with the cumulative-scores winner!
Lyralen explained the origin of the Slams thusly: as a playwright, she noticed that gay plays and inter-racial plays never made it into "anthology nights" --- and she resolved to change things. And her Another Country Productions company has managed to make these into Must-See evenings of high-voltage theatrics.
Don't miss their next one. (I won't!)

Okay, it's about 2:30, and I promised myself that if I could write this column, I could have dinner.

Bon Apetite!


THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide