Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Tales from The Tavern"

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"What Happened in Boston, Willie"

Reviews of Current Productions

note: entire contents copyright 2008 by Beverly Creasey

Tonya Times Two
She Finally Scores

Reviewed by Beverly Creasey

What are the odds that two different festivals would each produce a Tonya Harding show? Her star must be on the rise again because she even has a gig on COURT TV as a “crime” commentator, without her triple axels. George Sauer’s wonderfully cheeky revisionist history play (at Image Theater in Lowell) exonerates her of all blame in the Kerrigan affair and this weekend both she and Nancy skate on hilariously thin ice in Elizabeth Searle’s quirky Rock Musical (at the Blacksmith House in Harvard Square).

Organizations who commit to doing new material keep the arts alive. Image Theater has produced over forty local playwrights, often in off beat venues, in their short three year existence and their current TALES FROM THE TAVERN is performed, in fact, upstairs in a tavern in downtown Lowell. Seven short scripts, all set in restaurants and bars, run the gamut from dating disasters (Karla Sorenson’s hip little ode to the “pickup”) to “out of this world” mating possibilities (Peter Floyd writes a cool come-on) to Erik Sherman’s comic gem about wine tasting as erotic foreplay to Lonnie Farmer’s chilling cautionary tale about the consequences of road rage to Janet Kenney’s lovely, melancholy musing on the loss of a father.

Linda Sughrue and Jerry Bisantz make Kenney’s play soar (Anne Garvin directed) and Andrew Wetmore and Andrea DeFeo bring down the house sipping Merlot (directed by Bisantz). .

Back at the Blacksmith House, the Searle/Teoli Rock Opera has show stopping numbers like a hilarious lament for Tonya’ Ex (played to the hilt by Joe Berry) called “When You Wake up Sleeping in your Car in Estacater, (…that’s when you know they’re takin’ you down.”) Lynda D’Amour and Mary Catherine Ward are perfection as the Ice Queen and her Nemesis. The rock opera is part of BACA’s first annual SONGWRITER SHOWCASE, which features, among other composers, songs by Dennis Livingston (You may remember his musical about dinosaurs), including the bittersweet, highly visual, almost filmic “A Misty Day in Istanbul” gorgeously sung by Brian DeLorenzo.

Krisanthi Pappas writes elegant lyrics which seem so simple and accessible. That’s an art in itself, to make it all seem so easy. Her vocals, too, just pour out like liquid sunshine. It’s a mystery why a country western star like Bonnie Raitt hasn’t scooped up “My Back Yard.” (Pappas also stepped in for Zola and performed her plaintive “Right Now.”)

The highlights of the evening are the Harriet Goldberg jazzy “’40s” songs. She can channel that style and sophistication like no one else and put it over seamlessly, as if the lyrics had been there all along: “We Stole a Kiss on the Train (…We disembarked and discovered the moon.”) The lyricism and mood just about take your breath away. You know what they always say. They say they don’t write ‘em like that anymore but they’re wrong. Goldberg does.

There is something new under the sun and thanks to BACA and Image Theater, we can get in on it!

"Tales from The Tavern" (16 - 24 May)
@ The Old Court Pub, 29 Central Street, LOWELL MA

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide