7 may THE HISTORY BOYS SpeakEasy Stage Company BCA 59
I cannot say enough about this show, so I will say very little.
Some 25 years ago, I ran into Robert Colonna as we were both buying Sunday New York TIMESes, since I was living in Providence at the time. Can't remember what we talked about. In any case, I had first seen him as, I think, the "everyman" figure in an excellent Trinity Rep production of "A Man for All Seasons"; but when I saw him in their next play I said to myself "He's playing the same person!" and my admiration of him as an actor cooled considerably.
But 25 years can do wonders for an actor, and I wouldn't recognize him at the BCA at all.
The show is splendid! Cast and direction are sublime. Janie E. Howland's set is literally made out of Books (columns of them supposedly support a second-floor playing area!), the eight "kids" playing kids skip and bounce and sing with abandon, fake each other out, enjoy foul language and sexual innuendo, and create an ensemble yet take their own moments. And Scott Edmiston handles everything with a smooth, invisible hand.
The show is a run-away best-seller already extending its run, and is a perfect example of the excellence of Boston theater and Boston's theater people. I cannot say enough...
10 may THE DRAWER BOY Vokes Players 62
Some 26 years ago or so I was in Toronto too terrified to interview for work at the local papers, and I happened to see something called "The Farm Show" at a place called The Passe-Murail Theatre. I don't know if I've spelled it correctly, but in English it means "thrugh the wall" and that defined the way they worked. The company spent a summer working on farms and asking questions, then put their researches into theatrical form with narrations and mime. An actor played a rather young, rather naive actor boyishly telling an amused farmer "We think farmers are sort of Heroic", breaking blisters on his hands and his knee bucking bales of hay; another ran up and down and around a map of the town as a farm-wife trying to get things accomplished; and I remember someone holding "reins" in one hand and hat in the other while trying to talk from horseback about the annual parade (I Saw the horse, even though there was no horse.)
Anyway, Michael Healy must have been part of that summer.
In his play two old men (John Small and Brad Walters), settled in their ritual roles for one another --- one with no short-term memory because of a W.W.II head-wound --- talk with a like-a-look for that naive farm-show actor, and endure a sudden, temporary flood of memory, and of guilt.
The intimate Vokes Playhouse was the perfect setting for Healey's intimate, harrowingly human play, and Director JulieAnn Charest Govang and her cast found every nuance, every pause, and every climax. I couldn't tell whether I was in Wayland watching reality, or back in Toronto at a footnote to "The Farm Show". What I knew, though, was that this was excellent theater!
13 may MY CUP RANNETH OVER & THE GOLDEN FLEECE TheTheaterAtHollywoodAndVine PLYMOTH 63
This theater is within sight of Plymouth Rock, it's not even as big as my apartment, and half of it is a wine bar. In front of three rows of 25 seats, the playing-space is no deeper than my two outstretched arms, but Artistic Director (and bus-boy) Jeff Gill picked plays that Worked in that space. Robert Patrick's "My Cup RANneth Over" saw two room-mate artists --- Stephanie Gallagher as a writer collecting only rejection-slips, Kristin Shoaf as a folk-singer/songwriter of similar un-success --- struggle with a sudden blast of unexpected and swiftly growing, glowing fame for only One of them. Then Pamela Lambert and Jeff Gill, in A. R. Gurney Jr.'s "The Golden Fleece" took over as Bill and Betty --- a minor Argo-naut and his wife expecting THE Jason and Medea to drop by and mingle with the little people, and maybe to show them that famous Golden Fleece!
What I found was a standing-room-only crowd, many of whom are regulars if not subscribers who, in this age of boob-tubes and You-Tubes, felt a hunger for Live Theater and liked what they saw. So did I. And when the weather means they can take their merlot's and chabli's and their plays out on the patio, I'll be one of them.
14 may ENNIO! Glynis Henderson Productions Ltd BCA 64
Ennio Marchetti has been touring for years with this cartoon-show, miming along with dozens of pop recordings, bringing familiarity and originality to a satiric height. Most of the time he appeared wearing a flat cartoon, but his hands then crept out to pick bits from the facade and turn them upside-down, turning one half the "costume" over to reveal a whole new facade, dropping skirts or raising skirts, and capering across the big Wimberly stage on rubber black-clad legs.
The Huntington Theatre invited this innovative "experimental" act. Glynis Henderson Productions and Jonathan Reinis Productions are listed as Presenters, and Marchetti's Lighting and Sound Designer Sosthen Hennekam was listed under "Design and Direction". The act was fun, and fast, and continually inventive.
17 may THE PORCH Stoneham Theatre 66
Jack Neary said this show has been ten years in the making, beginning with three old Catholic ladies on lawn-chairs watching a Nun with little else to deal sternly and swiftly with people illegally parking in the Parochial School lot across the street. In this incarnation, it was Sheriden Thomas and Cheryl McMahon on both sides of a decidedly UNworldly Ellen Colton, with John Davin and Richard Snee as long-suffering hubbies. Neary acted as his own director --- and who understands his humor better? The pauses and takes and faces here are as hysterical as the finely honed lines, and this cast seems to take full advantage of five (or is it six?) entire lives of making theater work. Bravo.
18 may KING JOHN Actors' Shakespeare Project 67
Even with the best theatrical company in Boston doing it, this is a complicated play. Director Benjamin Evett puts it in modern clothes, and concentrates on the back-room deals and backbiting betrayals of national politics. In a three-sided square in the cellar of Tremont Street's Cathedral Church of Saint Paul, with Cameron Willard's ominous sound/music and John Malinowski's often murky or single-spot lights, France and England twist and wrangle, promising cannon-thunder and blood if not placated. There is a child the French say is Englands real king but John says is a bastard, and a brash, outspoken knight the playwright himself calls "Bastard". It's the kind of production in which the king dubs a knight with the little plastic "sword" out of the olive in his martini, the kind of play in which the English and French armies trying to lay siege to Anjou suddenly join hands and threaten to flood its streets with blood if it resists either one. There are delightful performances by Michael Forden Walker (King John), John Kuntz (Cardinal Pandulph), Bill Barclay (Bastard,) Sarah Newhouse (Hubert), Janey Morrison (Queen Eleanor), Maurice Emmanuel Parent (Louis) and countless others. Poroughly enjoyable it is, but "King John" is, at bottom, a complicated play!
As for these last three plays, I had difficulties with all of them --- which I realize had nothing to do with them, or the productions or casts of them, but with myself. I have seen two of them before, each two or three times. There's no surprise possible in a third production; there's often (in the mind of the reviewer) expectations that former productions raise that new ones can't (Nor Should!) re-create. It's for that reason that reviewers should try to find fresh eyes to cover fresh productions.
8 may FUDDY MEERS f.u.d.g.e. Theatre Company FACTORY 60
I really like this company, full of fresh youngsters boldly attacking big-cast shows in The Factory's tea-cup space. David Lindsay-Abaire's play constantly contradicts itself, revealing whatever the audience had been led to believe was really a fraud. The first time, this had be on my feet and cheering. But third time out, I failed this play.
9 may TRUE WEST Quannapowitt Playhouse 61
Again, with every line more or less familiar and no hint of out-of-hand mayhem possible, I realized that, under the crackling dialogue, this Sam Shepard play is two angry brothers destroying a typewriter rather than each other. I must say, though, that Director Nancy Curran Willis had exactly the right approach here: two grown brothers still working their playpen animosities out on one another while Mom's on vacation. Her chiding comment on her return --- "You're not killing your brother, are you? Well, don't do it in here! Go on outside where you have more room if you're going to behave like this!" --- is the real clue to how to take this often heavily over-seriously played play. I wish I had been seeing this fresh new take for the first time.
15 may A SHAYNA MAIDEL Hovey Players ABBOTT MEMORIAL WALTHAM 65
This Was my first time seeing this play; and I saw it with someone who admitted he learned to speak Yiddish from grandparents before he learned English. He understood the snippits in this play, set among Polish immigrants in a 1946 dominated by awareness of so many family members among the Six Million. But I --- well, though I was nine when that war began I'm not even Jewish, and so all the buttons the play tends to push are simply absent in my make-up.
I ended up feeling that the production expected its audience to know things I really didn't, and thus the man seated next to me and I saw, actually, two different plays.