25 July - 28 August '04
25 jul [ WIVES TALES Margaret Broucek BOSTON PLAYWRIGHTS' THEATRE ]
5 aug THE PRICE Stanley B Theatre DEVANAUGHN THEATRE
6 aug RIDING THE WAVE.COM The Piti Theatre Company BOSTON PLAYWRIGHTS' THEATRE
10 aug [ GOD-STRUCK Rhombus Readings SUFFOLK UNIVERSITY ]
12 aug [ GOOD BLOOD AND HIGH STANDARDS reading CENTRAL SQUARE PUBLIC LIBRARY ]
13 aug ROPE Baker Street Productions THE ACTORS' WORKSHOP
14 aug GODS & GODDESSES Boston Theatrics & WEST END THEATER (Gloucester) 82
15 aug [ NONPROFIT Out of The Blue Theater Company BOSTON PLAYWRIGHTS' THEATER ]
20 aug THE MUSIC MAN Reagle Players ROBSHAM THEATRE WALTHAM
26 aug SUMMER SHORTS Part A Hovey Players TURTLE LANE PLAYHOUSE
27 aug SUMMER SHORTS Part 3 Hovey Players TURTLE LANE PLAYHOUSE
27 aug SUMMER SHORTS Part A Hovey Players TURTLE LANE PLAYHOUSE 86
4 sep [ SUMMER SHORTS Part A Hovey Players TURTLE LANE PLAYHOUSE ]
"Yes, this is ridiculously late and embarrassingly sparse."
That was the first sentence of this "weekly" column last time, right? Well, it's such a nice sentence that sucinctly and accurately describes the situation that I'm using it again! The "week that was" stretched into a month full of empty lacunae, and I'm waiting till next Monday to talk about the Hovey Players/Turtle Lane Playhouse SUMMER SHORTS, so though I took more time, I have relatively fewer shows to talk about here. And so I want first to explain some of the times --- in one case one full week --- when I saw no plays at all. In two words:
Yeah, plural. Over thirty years ago, I went to Beth Israel's Emergency Ward with what I thought was a burst appendix, and was triaged as passing a stone. I can remember, after succeeding to give her a urine sample, the attending nurse leaning over me to say "Go ahead and yell, there's nothing else you can do!" A sentence that still glows in my memory with angelic compassion!
Okay, cut to the present: about two or three months ago the same symptoms had me ambulanced to B.I. for the same thing.
Then a month and a half later, I did it for a second time.
Only a week later, Reprise! Only this time, taking one of the Roxicet tablets I'd gone home with, I got there by MBTA.
And, less than a day later came the fourth...this one twice as big as the previous...and a CATT Scan assured me that a fifth lurked still inside the kidney like a Damoclean Sword. (I put a vial with a couple of Roxies into my book-bag, in case it decides to wander down the tube during some act-break or other.)
I'm told the pain is comparable to birth pangs, but the good news is that once the meteorite-size jagged rock gets through the thin-as-a-hair tube the pain disappears, and right now I feel fine. Slightly apprehensive, but fine.
So much for irrelevant details. And so, "Aside from that, Mrs. Lincoln, let's talk about the plays."
Let's reverse the Boston GLOBE's inflexible forula, and talk about the Good Shows first!
Topping the list was the Reagle Players' production of THE MUSIC MAN, directed lovingly by Bob Eagle. He let local star Scott Wahle find new, honest readings for lines we have all heard too often, to the point that they sounded as though he were actually thinking them for the very first time. (For me, his late-in-act-two heartfelt confession that "I Always think there'll BE a band!" became the fulcrum around which his turn from cynical charlatan to redeemed penitent became believable.) And the role of Eulalie MacKecknie-Shinn, usually handled as a ridiculously unreal old harridan, was similarly humanized by Cheryl McMahon --- to the point where she seemed the young wife of Harold W. Walker's Mayor Shinn. Eagle also seeded the cast with a whole ballet-school of young men for Susan M. Chebookjian to plug into Onna White's original choreography. (There's talk of reprising this show as the first production next summer, and people who missed it this year would certainly like the opportunity to see this classic. I, of course, would much rather see them do PAL JOEY or MACK AND MABEL --- but I am a strange old man...)
And in a year when solo performances have been hard to find, RIDING THE WAVE.COM came along. Tall, stringy, athletic Jonathan Mirin wrote and performed this saga of addiction to the Stock Market in competition with spiritual insights found on the slopes of the Himalayas. He used circles and words and stock-quotations chalked on the floor of the tall little back theatre at Boston Playwrights' and hopped and skipped through an admitted journey from purchase of ten shares to paper-profits to margins to --- bankruptcy. Mirin wisely had Jason Grossman direct him, and that outside eye (and Haddon Kime's subtle sound-track)made the financial and spiritual mountains scaled certainly worth the journey. They call themselves The Piti Theatre Company, and were either trying-out or touring, before or after The New York International Fringe Festival 2004 --- which means small theatres in The Apple are beginning to think of Boston as a Theatre Town once more!
13 aug ROPE Baker Street Productions THE ACTORS' WORKSHOP
5 aug THE PRICE Stanley B Theatre DEVANAUGHN THEATRE
Now,a totally irrelevent note:
In the list above I left in two numbers: 82 and 86. And you will note that between these numbers I list Four, not three productions, one of them between [ square brackets ].
That's because I try to List everything of significance I see --- but if it's a staged-reading, or a StageSource event, or The IRNE Bash, I put it in [ square brackets ] and I DON'T count it when I suavely let fall the fact that "I've only seen 86 plays so far this year... "
What I count is Full Productions of Plays, instead of Nights In Theatres for that number. (THAT number, so far, is only 97.) Clear? Fine!
Now for all the stuff in [ square brackets ] in the past month:
That list consists mostly of staged-readings of new scripts --- mostly with very good, sometimes Equity actors, done with minimal rehearsals script-in-hand. They are a workout for the actors, who have to rely on "raw" characterizations, and often for the playwright it's the first opportunity to let go of the work and commit it to the cast and the audience. Most playwrights look forward to seeing what impresses or escapes notice, what doesn't get laughs that should, or does that shouldn't.
Margaret Broucek isn't, technically, a playwright, but she noticed that several of her short-stories lately came out as monologues, and so she went with the flow, added some others, and ended up with a program of nine, only three of which were dialogues (well, one was a trialogue), and all of them dealing with lesbian situations, mostly with sharp good humor.
The playwright herself acted in four of them --- not always a good idea, since you can't really study the audience while trying to stay in character --- but she had Karen MacDonald and Sheila Stasack to work with, and Larry Coen to direct, and though the words were from an admitted new playwright they were solidly entertaining!
The next, "God-Struck" was part of a whole series of RHOMBUS READINGS by members of a playwrights' group called Rhumbus, and given at the Suffolk University Studio Theatre. The play was by Joe Byers, and involved an irrepressible pre-teen named Tommy trying to make his ho-hum parents send him to a drama camp instead of some cheaper local day-camp. Bill Mootos and Maureen Keiller were the parents, Lisa Tucker the favorite elder sister, and Will McGarrahan everyone else (Six quick cameos!) and a pleasantly ubiquitous Larry Coen played Tommy. The whole thing had the sort of blandly larger-than-life feel of a t-v sit-com, where slightly unbelievable things happen to not-quite-real people.
But that's part of the play writing process. The director, the actors, and the audience usually get to talk-back after, giving the author some ideas to take back to the typewriter.
The next reading was at the Central Square Public Library, just down the street from The Middle East Cafe, where full-evening plays rather than one-acts get a hearing. In this case it was Geralyn Horton's "Good Blood and High Standards" --- but I didn't get a program and thus can only talk about the words.
What I remember of it featured a man and his eager new wife being grilled as to whether they're worthy of inheriting his mother's mansion, with his black-sheep sister crashing the party to put in her two cents. Mom, of course, was a pompously manipulative autocrat begging for comeuppence and blithely indifferent to anyone's Real desires. The hidden motivations and self-revelations got revealed by the plots and alliances of those scheming to get, or not to get, the prize.
The next one qualified as a "real Play" since the playwright/director Eliza Wyatt paid six out of eight actors their Equity due to do a finished production of "Gods & Goddesses" at the lovely little West End Theater in the center of Gloucester. And since Wyatt lives and works in London now, this could be conceived as a FAR-out-of-town try-out for a very English comedy slated for, say the Theatre Upstairs at London't Theatre Royal.
To start, Rena Baskin and Andrea Lyman played reformed prostitutes trying the cleaning-lady scam, this time for Alisha Jansky whose character is priming herself for a shot at Prime Minister, though her mother (Jennifer Barton Jones) is not quite that class. As the show goes along, other characters more or less fall out of the woodwork: Gershon Eigner played an overly passionate chef trying to marry the Baskin character in the family church, where R.C.Jacobs played a self-absorbed pastor. The Eigner character can't keep help, so a teen-age rocker played by Nitzan Halperin (the only applicant)gets the job by default, after being picked up (She fainted, you see) by a militant cross-dresser --- hetero despite the skirt and the charming blonde wig.
I'm not making any of this up. I did think it under-rehearsed and, frankly under-directed, but the production and the performances --- all of which seemed to be faced in different directions from one another --- were excellent. I saw nothing but the will of the playwright holding these unlikely people together, and I can only hope that, by the time it gets the The Theatre Upstairs, Wyatt will find them all a much needed reason to talk to one another.
Then, back at Boston Playwrights' Theater, the OUT OF THE BLUE Theater Company staged another, this time a back-stage expose by Ginger Lazarus directed by Karen Woodward Massey and featuring Dorothy Dwyer, Kippy Goldfarb, Ayana Morse, Evan O'Sullivan, Michele Proud, and Joseph Zamparelli Jr.
"Nonprofit: A Farce" saw the Diector of Development for an Urban Arts Center suavely playing for power over the bruised ego's of everyone working with her. Obviously her definition of success doesn't include any of the artists getting a shot at pleasing audences, but it does include selling out the group's ideals to a "helpful" local corporation with intentions of paving paradise to put up a parking-lot. The show trades on performers' loyalties even to sinking ships and manipulative producers. My feeling was that the show needed a re-write, but definitely Deserved a re-write --- and the actors obviously had as much fun as the audience.
All these plays are in limbo right now. The number of play-writing groups and readings-series has risen since a time when Playwrights' Platform and Shadow Boxing seemed the only enduring examples, and the "anthology" programs of short-plays like SUMMER SHORTS and THE Boston Marathon have proliferated as well. Boston is a playwrighting town --- where no one living and writing here can seem to interest any local companies in doing a Full Length Play.
Hell, maybe it's time for someone to start a company To Do Just That!
( a k a larry stark )