Theatre Mirror Reviews - "The Boston Plays"

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"What Happened in Boston, Willie"

Reviews of Current Productions

note: entire contents copyright 2000 by Beverly Creasey

New Play Bonanza
at CentaStage

Reviewed by Beverly Creasey

Some people love "Hello Dolly" and little else. Some people get a thrill from seeing new plays. For the latter, CentaStage is presenting six new scripts they call "The Boston Plays."

The first is a hilarious exercise in subtext by Bill Lattanzi. A young man stands amidst the rubble of laundry and old pizza boxes insisting to his silent girlfriend that he does his best thinking (the "associational kind") surrounded by clutter .... all the while proceeding to clean it up. Chris Chew is marvellously manic as the guy "with the rock 'n' roll heart" and SerahRose Roth's deadpan speaks volumes in "My Way".

Mary Kearney gives a heart breaking performance as an alcoholic mother in Janet Kenney's "What Mother Knows". Roth paints an indelible portrait of a conflicted teenager and her oblivious mother in this searing yet simple story of broken lives.

Michael Bettencourt goes British for the compelling, brutal "Click" in which a Joe Orton-esque punk describes to his lover how he vented his rage in murder. Bettencourt gets the "reason of insanity" just right, articulating the moment a person "clicks" into destructive action. This powerful play gets two electric performances from Joseph Pearlman as the cocky perpetrator and from Chris Chew as his fascinated, mesmerized mate.

Ginger Lazarus' "Arrhythmia" gets a sweeter, more touching production at CentaStage than it did at the Playwrights' Theatre Marathon last April. Mary Kearney and Joe Siriani mine the despair and hurt in a relationship --- between a married man and his disillusioned lover --- which is doomed from the start. You can feel the sadness they both embrace. Siriani moves with ease from the inner grief of "Arrhythmia" to the outward machismo of a bloodthirsty collection agent in Dean O'Donnell's "Legwork". Siriani's shark of a collector is showing the new guy (Pearlman) the ropes. Two hundred or two thousand dollars, the chase is the same to this nasty veteran of of the repo game. Then the green guy turns the tables. But O'Donnell isn't satisfied until the flips them again, a la "Deathtrap" which may be one turn too many; but the actors make "Legwork" great fun to watch.

Joe Byers' "The Piney Boy" seems to have been borrowed from an HBO movie of the week, which isn't bad, but it isn't very theatrical, either. Loann West's tree/poles make it work and Chew and Roth give wonderfully desperate performances as potential hit and run drivers weighing their options.

Greg Smucker gets first rate performances from his cast. Each play packs a wallop and you leave the theatre energized by the fine ensemble work. Bravo, CentaStage. More, please

"The Boston Plays" (till 28 October)
Boston Center for the Arts, 539 Tremont Street, BOSTON
1(617) 426-2787

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide