That Was The Week That Was, 3 - 20 June 2004"

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide


That Was
The Week
That Was

3 - 20 June '04

I know, I know, the last edition of this "Weekly" Journal was not June but January. I'm using this edition, however, to signal my friends that, despite the fact that a lot of worried people have expressed concern after reading my last (OOPS! I want to re-write that as my LATEST! Scotch those rumors Early!!!) CRICKET'S NOTEBOOK entry, I am not in danger of demise, or disinterest in theater! As a matter of fact, today* was an incredibly refreshing summer's day and I thus feel I have the FREEDOM to try making this a weekly ritual once more. We shall see...

[* Okay, a few minutes ago the BBC (over WBUR=90.9fm) just did a live broadcast of
Sunrise on the Heelstone at The Stonehenge, and as I type my clock says it is
2:26 a m Monday morning. However, I maintain that "It isn't really 'tomorrow' until
You Wake UP In It" and I haven't done that yet. So sue me...]

Let me say about "Today" that, after too little sleep the clock-radio woke me for WEEKEND EDITION, I had a lengthy phone conversation with a needy friend and then a briefer Visit from another, and then the alarm (The radio wakes me; the alarm reminds me I have an hour to get presentable before leaving for a play) got me more or less in gear to get to The Devanaughn Theatre (a k a Threshold Theatre, nee Beau Jest Moving Theatre) to see two new plays produced by The Mill 6 Collaborative, and to talk briefly with Devanaughn's Rose Carlson and then with Mill 6's John Edward O'Brien. More on the show later.

Unlike yesterday, during which walking a mere block left me dripping perspiration from every pore, today was full of blue skies and puffy-white clouds, and the air was uncharacteristically dry.
I have a rule of thumb, fashioned back in the days when I thought I could write haiku: you can tell the dryness or wetness of the air by the sharpness (or fuzziness) of shadows. Humidity scatters and blurrs the edges of shadows, making everything gray. Today the sunlight on a maple-tree crested the topmost leaves with a golden sheen, while only a few leaves below they were starkly dark, and the breeze left even my arm-pits free of damp --- a rare gift in these latitudes. So, after the three p m performance I decided not to run home and try to decide Where in The Mirror I should put Will Stackman's Summer Shakespeare Rundown.
Instead I went over to Quincy Market, bought lunch (Yes, I rise late and so lunch around 5 p m; I made and ate "dinner" after 1 a m before starting this Journal entry. I Said I was a Strange Old Man, didn't I!), and then pushed on to the Columbus Park where I could watch, in the narrow little inlet there, that "Conversation of The Wind with The Sea" that Ravel immortalized in his lovely "La Mer".
I have spent a lot of time watching water-waves on the Charles, or Jamaica Pond, at Halibut Point, and at this close-to-Quincy fragment of sea. It can be mesmerizing, or feel like meditation. The slower tides and the faster seacoast waves make a kind of figured base; then every passing powerboat (or single skiff for that matter) plows a temporary trombone or trumpet phrase across it, and over all those layers the quick, close patches of windy footprints scratch the surface. When you can stare down from a sheer concrete wall to watch the wake of a boat reflect back into still incoming waves, can Satori be far behind?
Then, when I turned into this building's parking-lot, I saw in the still-blue twilight the sickle-sliver of a Very New Moon! I imagine the Druids assembling for their Midsummer-Morning folderolls must have mumbled much on the confluence of that new moon on this particular day. For me, I have noticed that a young moon is usually accompanied with energy and surprises. Today, those were mine before that finger-clip of semicircular light even identified itself!

But I bet You want to read about the plays I've seen lately, don't you! Here's the list:
3 jun PLAYWRIGHTS' PLATFORM FESTIVAL [Part A] Boston Playwrights' Theatre
8 jun AFTER MRS. ROCHESTER Wellesley Summer Theatre Company
10 jun PLAYWRIGHTS' PLATFORM FESTIVAL [Part II] Boston Playwrights' Theatre
17 jun THE LAST SUNDAY IN JUNE SpeakEasy Stage Company BCA
18 jun WEST SIDE STORY Reagle Players
19 jun INHERIT THE WIND The Footlight Club
20 jun THE SAVING/INGULF Mill 6 Collaborative DEVANAUGHN THEATRE 72*

* [ Okay, I keep these lists (and piles of programs) because I'd forget otherwise, and
because they still let me vote for and nominate for IRNE Awards. When I get home after
seeing a good show, I enter it also in a separate list called MEMORABLE SHOWS, which
is invaluabe every "IRNE January"...
* Oh, and though I keep track of such non-show events as The StageSource Party,
I do like to be able to dazzle people by confessing in an act-break that
"I've only seen seventy-two plays so far this year..." so that's why That number's there.

Briefly, both the Playwrights' Platform and Shadow Boxing Festivals were top-drawer this year --- full of good little plays that let lots of excellent actors walk around inside sharply human characters facing intriguing situations.
I think, because of these and other New-Play Fests (and of course The Marathon), the typical BOSTON theatrical event is now The Ten-Minute Play rather than the Big Broadway Bus&Truck as it was in my early-middle-youth. It's come to the point that I am trying to get people behind a movement to find some local radio-station to donate an hour of air-time a week to a program called "The Ten-Minute Play" on which each of the many Festival producers would choose and arrange recording of three of their best, with talks in between with the playwright or director or producer. I'd volunteer to ask the questions if such a show could get started --- and the recordings could be used in other cities to publicize Boston as a THEATER Town, damnit, and maybe even "streamed" onto the Internet. (I talked to someone who might help, who said Emerson has someone teaching a course in Radio Drama who might get involved. Who is that, I wonder...)

I got a ride to The Wellesley Summer Theatre, and I can report that AFTER MRS. ROCHESTER is even better than it was last winter --- and it was damn good then! But, unless someone with a car wants to take me out to see their JANE EYRE (or maybe someone in the company would volunteer to ferry me from and then to the nearest MBTA Stop) on June 23rd, I won't be able to verify my suspicions that Nora Hussey's idea of doing both related plays in rep makes them both Must See.
Film at eleven on that....

SpeakEasy's THE LAST SUNDAY IN JUNE was (still is?) a good gay romp with sharp teeth, and its playwright Jonathan Tolins did a talk-back with the AIDS-Action benefit-production audience that had a lot to say about the reasoning behind a lot of his choices. [I wonder why Bill Marx didn't stay for the talk-back. (I know Barry Andleman did...)] I will mention that Tom Lawlor --- who still refers to himself as a geometry teacher and semi-pro runner and only a part-time actor --- created his biggest role I've seen him in to date and merely demonstrated again why we gave him an IRNE a while back. The cast was (is?) full of people like Bill Mootos who I think also has an IRNE and Will McGarrahan and Larry Coen who would have IRNEs already if I had been elected God. Tom Lawlor played an extroverted, Trey Burvant an introspective pair of men facing a seventh-year-itch with a bunch of UNstereotypical friends watching the Gay Pride March out an upstairs window. And if you want to know why the lovely Tori Davis is invited to this all-gay gathering you'll just have to hope it's still up at The BCA.

[ Ugly Note: I just checked NET411 to see if THE LAST SUNDAY IN JUNE was still up, and I had to go to SpeakEasy's website to find out this excellent show will be up till 3 July. Oh shame, Jim Torres, when will you, the very model of a marketing major-general, start Using NEW ENGLAND THEATER 411! (E-mail me when you see the light!!!)]

Sometimes, I wish some Boston bank would give Bob Eagle two weeks on Ye Wilbur Theatre's stage to show BROADWAY IN BOSTON and the showgoing Boston public how to do things Right. Other shows with less-than-Equity casts have played (badly) both the Wang and the Shubert in recent years, but the only way Eagle could get more people into his huge high school theatre out in Waltham would be to build a balcony ... and Ye Wilbur HAS a balcony!
I had some quibbles about their new WEST SIDE STORY, but they mean nothing alongside the eager enthusiasm of the crowd. Some of the dialogue is stilted, some dated, and the idea of four young gay men making a musical about macho turf-wars on New York streetcorners makes much of Jerome Robbins' ballet-based choreography a little ... well, let's say I find some of his steps a somewhat incongruous after Michael Bennett's A CHORUS LINE or Bob Fosse's movie ALL THAT JAZZ gave the musical stage a whole new vocabulary.
But I'm just a jaded old man, and the Reagle audience knows a great thing when it sees one. Ken Leigh Rogers who directed and Lori Leshner who choreographed filled that big stage (and Leo Meyer's space-filling sets) with action, bravado, and sincerity from every one in a big, brilliant cast. Stephen Brockway who plays Tony can sing soft and it DOES sound like praying; Brett Shellenberger who plays Action can get bopped in the "Officer Krupke" number and reel without ever hitting the floor; Amy Shure's Anybodys is so tiny a bundle of energy they throw her around with a one-handed toss; and Leshner's rumbles are so real it's a wonder half the cast aren't Wearing casts. There were empty seats opening night, but I bet they'll be filled to overflowing for this week's final four performances.
Then, Eagle should take it to "Boston's Theatre District" for a sell-out reprise!

I had never seen INHERIT THE WIND, so I'm glad I got to The Footlight Club for their final performance. It was an oddly sparse house for a Saturday night in Eliot Hall, but I don't think I've ever heard such a small house give such a huge ovation to Laura Schrader's production. They caught every ironic twist, every comment on today's political realities, and the very human lives at stake when a high school biology teacher confronts his class with Darwin in a God-Fearing community. I'm glad to say I had friends involved with this production.

The two plays by David L. Williams that Mill 6 Collaborative will do for one more weekend are so full of delicious surprises and carefully kept secrets that anything I say will spoil everything. I will say that THE SAVING is a beautifully constructed monologue full of pauses and unfinished sentences, swallowed phrases and asides --- and Adam Soule plays them like a virtuoso. And INGULF is an absurdist play with outlandishly unbelievable things forced on a "typical" modern American family. It's funnier than the first play, and bigger. I recommend them to any adventurous theatre-goer.

Now, I paid my way in for both those last productions, because I don't feel that brief notices here are in any sense reviews, or even quick takes. I was lucky enough to get a check for a number of Banner-Button ads in The Mirror at a point when I thought I'd have to borrow to make ends meet --- but I realize small companies need money at least as much as I do myself, and I hate to use a seat that someone could have bopught for much needed cash.

I do have an odd comment on The StageSource Party, which is a major theatrical social event every year here, bringing together as it does the entire theater community of Greater Boston to honor people, like Jacqui Parker, who change that community in important ways.
But every year at this party (and at The Marathon as well) I tend to meet people --- actresses mainly but not exclusively --- who I realize I get to see, throughout the year, at social events such as these, but not on stage, acting. This year I talked briefly with three people whose work I have admired in the past but, except for quick gigs in Marathon plays, haven't had work here in Boston all year long. And all three of them have Equity in common.
I saw Cyndi Geller there --- and she has apparently recovered from ankle surgery and is ready to go back to work. Cyndi told me a while back that she had "withdrawn" from Equity in order to take non-Equity roles. Birgit Huppuch told me that after a year as an Equity actress here in Boston she's going to try to get work in New York --- though she intends to maintain living-arrangements in both cities, just in case. And taking pictures at The Party was Kippy Goldfarb, whom I saw over a year ago at the BCA, and in Gloucester; she had to go to New Hampshire to do "Wit" --- and so, of course, I missed seeing how She played that part.
These are talented professional actors whose work I would love to see. Why does it seem that the very Equity cards that promise them so much apparently Prevent them from acting in the city where they'd like to live? Shouldn't the association that guarantees their working-conditions, decent salaries, and lack of non-professional competition see to it, somehow, that they get a chance to show me the professionalism that got them their Equity cards in the first place? If they must accept membership in Equity because of their talents, won't an obvious Lack of opportunities to use those talents mean they will Rust? Isn't Equity under some obligation to provide them, somehow, with opportunities, somehow, to stretch and grow as theatrical artists? Why, in a city with ninety or more places to act, are people like this waiting, idle, for work?
End of sermon.

And, finally, I'd like to tell you a litgtle about the "else" I've been doing with my new-found freedom from data-entry drudgery:
It's about fiction.

When Lee gave me a computer it was "An-IBM-Compatible-Clone" --- a "D.O.S." machine --- and I used it like an intelligent typewriter, filling a "WRITE" Program with short-stories and things and a novel or two that I turned into hard-copy with a dot-matrix printer.
But as technology progressed, it finally came about one day that this spiffy new WINDOWS XP setup had no way of reaching into that old DOS Hard Drive to let me do anything new with any of those old stories. In fact, it was several months before Lee could find a way to translate them into something Bill Gates could comprehend.
Everything from that old hard-drive is now available on this machine under a button labelled "WRITE" and I've been reading them over, and feeling vain enough to want to get them, somehow, published.
So I have invented a gimmick.
I am pretending I "found" these works (all signed merely "Anon.") on a used hard-drive I picked up in a yard sale. I have been going through stories, adding foot-notes, pretending to try to reconstruct the life of their writer from the clues in the fictions, and the themes and details that are repeated in them. I am, supposedly, "editing" the works of "Anon." for publication, in what I think may turn out to be an "interactive" collection of short and longer fiction, maybe in several short volumes. And so far I've worked on four of them. (I am starting with a series of "Dirty Stories" because I think they have the best chance with a wide audience.)
If any of you would like to read these stories, and perhaps encourage me to keep working on them, let me know and I'll send you their URLs.

I was going to toss off this episode of a weekly column and then work up a fifth story --- but it's 7:42 a m and I'm falling asleep.

Eleven hours or so from now, go out and look at that Beautiful New Moon....

But, right now wile you have it fresh in your mind, consider how you can make NET411 indispensible......
( a k a larry stark )

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide