This Is The YEAR ThatIs (so far!) --- 9 January - 14 February 2008

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide

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This Is The YEAR That Is (so far!)

9 January - 14 February 2008

In a recent letter (see Mere Opinions" Jon Myers wrote:
"I'm sure you're busy as usual, but would you mind posting a little something about my play Little Red Hen? ...Unfortunately, there were no professional reviews of the play during its run through early February."

Every time I hear that "If a play opens in the forest and Larry Stark doesn't review it, no one even notices" I feel both guilty and angry. Guilty because, well, it may be true (It certainly is in this case), and a litany of the reasons that I did NOT write a review cuts no ice with the overlooked. But angry because apparently, ever since I quit trying to review Every Opening in BOSTON AFTER DARK (and that was in 1972!!!) no one in this city has even tried to do the same. Lip-service and excuses are all those "professional" reviewers offer for seeing only One Play A Week. Makes me wonder why they ever got involved in the critic-game in the first place. Is it Really because, deep down, they really Hate live theater???

But I happen to have tonight free, and guilt enough to want to Try --- so let's get crackin'!

9 jan THIRD Huntington Theatre
I don't think I'd review this play --- I don't write about plays I didn't like, and this one felt thin and unfinished to me. I felt the playwright never decided which of the characters the play was really about, and the only one I had any interest in was an intuitively empathetic friend of the supposedly starring theacher --- a woman who died of cancer before the audience got to know her at all. But then, of course, the author did the same, I believe before this, her last play, was really finished.

12 jan RidingTheWave.COM The Piti Company BOSTON PLAYWRIGHTS' THEATRE 4
The problem here was that I saw the play a couple years ago, and couldn't remember it well enough to comment on what differences there might have been. In both, the solo actor in his autobiographical study covered the black stage with chalked, repeatedly updated figures about stock prices and increasing debts. They show was gripping yet amusing both times --- but this year the masseuse/dancer he mentions in his play appeared with him, doing three short, expressive modern-dance pieces and admitting she is now his wife.
Who says there are no happy endings anymore?

16 jan COPENHAGEN American Repertory Theatre 5
This was apparently a show that broke all sorts of A.R.T.'s rules: For one, there WAS an intermission! Second, except for a recreation, behind an apparent glass back wall, of the Ground Zero destruction at Hiroshima, the three actors stood or occasionally sat on a totally bare stage talking to one another about truly momentous events. They may have been dead and trying to remember things right; they may have had individual axes to grind that led to conflicts about what had been real. In any case, it was nice to notice that the Lighting Director frequently isolated characters in their personal lights, and the "footprints" of their spotlights on the floor were neatly square as a subtle underscore to this isolation. Throwing spectacle away and concentrating on three actors and what they said to one another is, unfortunately, not an A.R.T. hallmark.

18 jan THIS IS OUR YOUTH Gurnet Theatre Project BCA 7
Again I'd seen the show, and loved the show, before, but that usually makes one look like a Whole New Play to me, and that was true here. The three college-dropout druggies in this incarnation spoke so incredibly fast and excitedly they sounded terminally high on Coke. Set in the middle of the Reagan rule, all clung to one another out of devastating contempt for their own parents in particular, but any authority figure of any sort. This is the second highly effective production of a play carefully chosen by this young company. Next time Gurnet crosses your awareness, GO!

19 jan THE MISANTHROPE New Rep WATERTOWN 8
20 jan TARTUFFE The Footlight Club Downstairs 9
Two shows by Moliere, back-to-back and night-and-day different.
The New Rep set the play in the bicycle-years of the 1960's, with sumptuous set and costumes; the Footlight Club Downstairs found classic costumes somewhere, minimal props, and worked on a shoestring. Both were certainly fun, enjoyed by actors and audience alike --- though the author's single-minded people are always thin characters that may get comeuppance, but never really change. And these two are arguably the "best" of this playwright's huge utput. I felt the sameamusement but reservations about both very different productions.
Let me here pause to mention that the Footlight Club show re-acquainted me with someone I feel may be the most under-used actress in town. She's Brashani Reece, a round, compact blonde who may be too pretty for her own good. Her stated and laudable goal is to become a Character Actress, and she has played The Maid often --- she was The Maid here, but in Tartuffe Dorine is a busybody powerhouse that really runs the family and pushes the plot though never losing her sardonic wit. Brashani is a good, intelligent actress ready for good, meaty roles in which to display more than her obvious beauty. {End of sermon.}

23 jan THE LITTLE DOG LAUGHED SpeakEasy Stage BCA 10
9 feb BLOWING WHISTLES Zeitgeist Stage Company BCA 20
This is a pair of essentially Gay plays featuring brief full-frontal nudity. Both featured supposedly BI-sexual prostitutes (one, I forget in which show, cited four tricks-for-money in One Day!) insisting that each's "real" love is a GIRLfriend, though finding a more-than-financial interest in the most recent customer. Both attracted audiences full of fortyish men of course, but offered more than skin. LITTLE DOG turned on the conceit that a supposedly STRAIGHT actor may play a homosexual no matter the sex of his real Significant Other --- and what that means to an about-to break big movie-actor falling truly in love with a man. WHISTLES plowed the familiar ground of sexual honesty in a ten-year couple whose "open" relationship turns on honesty. Or 'supposed" honesty. I didn't find either show as new or enlightening as their hype suggested. But then, I'm not really Gay so what do I know?

24 jan ANTOINE FEVAL Stoneham Theatre 11
29 jan SHAKESPEARE'S ACTRESSES IN AMERICA Huntington Theatre BCA 12
Two one-man shows, one an extended stand-up routine, the other an excellently illustrated lecture on styles of acting. I apparently slept through the first, and neglected to take notes on the second.

30 jan ZOOMAN AND THE SIGN African American Theatre Festival BCA 13
3 feb CAMP LOGAN African American Theatre Festival BCA 17
Jacqui Parker's OUR PLACE THEATRE PROJECT does an AFRICAN AMERICAN THEATRE FESTIVAL every year. They specialize in plays about Black History or everyday Black life, and these are two perfect examples.
ZOOMAN grew out of a real incident here in Boston when a child on her own front porch was killed by a stray-bullet from a gang-fight, yet none of the neighbors on either side of the street would tell the police Anything about what they saw. Her angry, frustrated father put a sign on his porch complaining about this silence and asking help --- only to be spit upon as "degrading the neighborhood"! The young cast did a fine, creditable job of bringing the family and the ideas to life. Oddly enough, though, what I would call an "un-professional audience" greeted the rap-singing murderer, Zooman, as an anti-authoritarian role-model and missed the message entirely.
CAMP LOGAN, though, was a really powerful and successful experience. A small eight-member cast that has been working on the play hoping for an off-Broadway New York gig came up for only a few blazing performances. They all played soldiers in a Black regement back from "chasing Mexican revolutionaries" and eager to fight in the trenches of World War One to demonstrate their bravery and racial equality. In between they were guarding stores and policing a construction-site in a lily-white redneck town in Texas, where "Nigra" was the kindest of the townsmen's epithets. Told entirely in quick, terse exchanges in barracks, or the office of their White captain, and told in the outraged tones of men forced to endure outrage and insult not only from townsmen but from their own officers, this tale of an eventual "mutiny" hit everyone in it's audience where they lived --- including me.

31 jan THE LITTLE RED HEN Useless Theatre BOSTON PLAYWRIGHTS' 14
[Here I'm actually going to get up and cross the room to check a couple of those second programs I always ask for, so I can actually mention a couple actors' names.]
Jon Myers' play is a metaphor/parable on pride and politics set in "A patriotic American chicken-coop." Four named-characters plus a chorus of four clasped their hands up behind the small of their backs and became ... Chickens. In essence, the Red Hen envisioned a machine (even drew plans) that would divide and distribute food equally to everyone. The coop's leader, Wooster Rooster, saw this first as a possibly UNequal distributor, then as a threat to his power as leader. In the remembered narration of Wise Old Chicken everyone in the coop got involved and upset until the plans --- and Red Hen herself --- "disappeared." So much for radical upstarts!
Director Jennifer MacMurdo had everyone bent at waist and knees speeding about with "wings" aflutter and heads jerked about at nearly every step, their attention quickly flitting from subject to subject, remembering little. And it's easy to laugh at chickens when, in their narrow and quicksilver lives, they are easily spooked and rarely united behind any idea. Nothing at all like People, right? Right???
Amongst the other residents of this coop was a flighty, impulsive, excitable Chicken Little who was prey to fantasies (The sky falling, hah!) and ready to run off in all directions. The character is outside the real plot, but Stephanie Garrett became the ultimate chicken in a well-rehearsed flock. She'll be in school in Carbondale Illinois till May, but I hope her experience of Boston (and mine of her) brings her back some day soon.

2 feb ANGELS IN AMERICA I Boston Theatre Works BCA 15
2 feb ANGELS IN AMERICA II Boston Theatre Works BCA 16
This was, of course, the sold-out triumph of the season, and I count myself lucky to have seen it, when other theater-lovers were being turned away and extra chairs were popping up in all possible spaces. I can't possibly praise this production and everyone who worked on it enough. Despite the in-all-directions chaos that Tony Kushner's script embraced, Co-Directors Nancy Curran Willis and Jason Southerland pulled everything together into one exhilarating package. All eight exceptional actors played two to eight characters each, and I can't praise them enough either. I did notice that lovely Suzanne Nitter opened each half playing an old and garrulous man, and she looked as good in Both different beards as she did and does in dresses. I think everyone in this production stretched themselves as artists, and Boston should be justly proud of their work.

7 feb I LOVE YOU BECAUSE f.u.d.g.e. THE FACTORY THEATRE 18
The F.U.D.G.E. Theatre Company is a bunch of theater-dizzy kids boiling out of Community Theater into the shoestring-excitement of The Factory. They did both "Bat Boy" and this musical with lightning character-changes and unflagging energy. They seem to have created two vest-pocket musicals using mostly the same people, the same intensity, the same enjoyment of performance. I look forward to seeing whatever they do next, since their intention seems to be Making Things NEW.

8 feb A BODY OF WATER Molasses Tank Productions CHARLESTOWN WORKING 19
This enigmatic little gem opens with two people trying to figure out why they woke up naked in bed with one another, and who they are, or might be. They're alone in a mansion with a view of what might be a surrounding lake or sea --- and things get no clearer when a younger woman barges in saying first she's their daughter, then that she's actually their defense lawyer trying to help them. The company is Molasses Tank Productions, the Director Rob Bettencourt, the actors Elizabeth Brunette, Anthony Dangerfield, and Judith Kalaora --- and Lee Blessing's play is delightfully enigmatic, with a kind of quiet acceptance of everything at its heart. And what a never-comprehensible romp it is!

Okay, that's at least a quick-and-dirty rundown. Theater in Boston has never been better and the entire city is filled with eagerly enthusiastic companies too busy making plays to look around and realize that this is a grass-roots Renaissance making Big shows in Big theatres less and less important to the theatrical heartbeat of the city.

I wonder when the "Professional Reviewers " themselves will look around themselves and smell the damned coffee....???

I mean, here's a list of what I have managed to see so far --- and I'm pushing seventy-six!

9 jan THIRD Huntington Theatre
10 jan ADRIFT IN MACAO The Lyric Stage of Boston Inc.
11 jan STONES IN HIS POCKETS Hovey Players Abbott Memorial WALTHAM 3
12 jan RidingTheWave.COM The Piti Company BOSTON PLAYWRIGHTS' THEATRE 4
16 jan COPENHAGEN American Repertory Theatre 5
17 jan HENRY V Actors' Shakespeare Project THE GARAGE 6
18 jan THIS IS OUR YOUTH Gurnet Theatre Project BCA 7
19 jan THE MISANTHROPE New Rep WATERTOWN 8
20 jan TARTUFFE The Footlight Club Downstairs 9
23 jan THE LITTLE DOG LAUGHED SpeakEasy Stage BCA 10
24 jan ANTOINE FEVAL Stoneham Theatre 11
29 jan SHAKESPEARE'S ACTRESSES IN AMERICA Huntington Theatre BCA 12
30 jan ZOOMAN AND THE SIGN African American Theatre Festival BCA 13
31 jan THE LITTLE RED HEN Useless Theatre BOSTON PLAYWRIGHTS' 14
2 feb ANGELS IN AMERICA I SpeakEasy Stage BCA 15
2 feb ANGELS IN AMERICA II SpeakEasy Stage BCA 16
3 feb CAMP LOGAN African American Theatre Festival BCA 17
7 feb I LOVE YOU BECAUSE f.u.d.g.e. THE FACTORY THEATRE 18
8 feb BODY OF WATER Molasses Tank Productions CHARLESTOWN WORKING 19
9 feb BLOWING WHISTLES Zeitgeist Stage Company BCA 20
13 feb "JULIUS CAESAR American Repertory Theatre LOEB 21

Love,
===Anon.


THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide

| MARQUEE | USHER | SEATS | INTERMISSION | CURTAIN |