Unlike many of William Shakespeare's plays, the audience didn't need to know much about "The Merry Wives of Windsor" or read the script prior to attending in order to fully enjoy the performance. The cast, directed by Kevin G. Coleman, had the audience chuckling within minutes of starting the show making it clear that the next two hours of this outlandish farce would be nothing short of entertaining.Read More
Fresh Ink Theatre Company, an organization known in Boston for producing new works by New England playwrights, recently closed their contemporary play “Girlish,” by Alexa Derman. This show, which ran from February 1st through the 16th at the Boston Center for the Arts Plaza Blackbox Theatre, tells the story of Windy (Atlee Jensen), a teenage girl who, despite her age, finds herself deep in the American Girl Doll fandom. The story follows Windy as she navigates how to balance her love of her dolls with the natural trials of growing up, including dating, makeup, and meeting the expectations of her trendy longtime best friend, Marti (Willa Eigo.) When Windy eventually strikes up a new and exciting relationship with a fellow American Girl Doll fanatic online, AGBOI97 (Dylan C. Wack), she begins to pull away from Marti and, in doing so, discovers a new array of truths about herself and her passion that cause her to step away from playing pretend and face her reality head on.Read More
Greater Boston Stage Company provides a theatrical take on a classic Christmas story with its production of “It’s A Wonderful Life.” Similar to the beloved film, the stage version, which has been adapted from Frank Capra’s original screenplay by Weylin Symes, features many of the same famous characters, themes, and morals, with a couple unique elements that turn this well-known tale into something fresh and new.Read More
Kicking off Greater Boston Stage Company’s 19th season is new musical “Being Earnest.” Based on Oscar Wilde’s 1894 play “The Importance of Being Earnest,” this show successfully takes the themes, plot, and characters from the well-known farce and layers in a 1960s vibe and a plethora of upbeat musical numbers to fill out the story. And while “Being Earnest” is not the first musical re-telling of Wilde’s comedy—some will consider “Who’s Earnest” or “Earnest in Love” among the originals of this kind—it is certainly a much more creative and conceptual take on the piece, handled masterfully in this production by director/choreographer Ilyse Robbins.Read More
Having premiered on Broadway in 2014, Terrence McNally’s incredible drama Mothers and Sons is now playing on the Elayne P. Bernstein Theatre stage at Shakespeare and Company in the Berkshires. It is a timely play about the complexity of the relationship between a mother and her son. McNally skillfully crafts characters that seem all too familiar and yet we in the audience don’t see how events will unfold as we become engrossed in each scene. We laugh at the uncomfortable jokes they make in their effort to ease the tension that is building. We gasp at the harshness and bluntness of the things they say. We tear up when they break down in unbearable pain. We see our family members, our friends and our coworkers in the various facets of these characters. In this play about change, personal growth, acceptance of others and, without a doubt, love, we see a glimmer of hope and compassion come from the youngest character; who in his innocence and kindness, shows us that good can come from bad and love can be shown in the smallest of ways.Read More
Written by Simon Stephens this two-person play features talented actors Tamara Hickey as the talkative Georgie Burns and Malcolm Ingram as the mature and compassionate Alex Priest. Set in present-day London, we watch as the relationship between two unlikely companions changes over the course of six scenes. A common thread that connects them is the loneliness they feel because they have lost the people who meant the most to them. Georgie is a vibrant, spirited woman in her forties who mistakenly kisses the neck of Alex in a busy train station thinking he was someone else. Alex, poised, quiet, and seventy-five, becomes entangled in Georgie’s life, but it might just be the excitement his solitary life needed.Read More
William Shakespeare’s comedy As You Like It is a story of love and the adventurous journey towards new beginnings. Duke Senior has been banished from court by his younger brother Duke Frederick. Frederick then banishes his niece Rosalind who has grown close with his daughter Celia. The pair attend a wrestling match where Rosalind first lays eyes on Orlando whom she quickly becomes enamored with. Orlando flees from his older brother Oliver who is threatening his life and withholding his rightful inheritance from their father Sir Rowland. He ends up in the Forest of Arden, where Duke Senior, Rosalind and Celia have also found sanctuary. But as we see in the play, when characters take on a foreign persona and live in disguise happily ever after doesn’t come as quickly as they’d like.Read More
With showstopping dance numbers and a true ensemble overflowing with talent, Reagle Music Theatre’s production of “The Music Man” provides a spirited and heartfelt end to the theater’s 50th anniversary summer season.Read More
August Strindberg’s tragic comedy Creditors is a fast-paced, psychologically intense look at life and the cost of relationships. In this adaptation by playwright David Greig, three characters must face their past choices, and in doing so come to the realization that their present state is a result of those choices. Through deception they come to realize the debts they owe others and the unfathomable cost of love. Strindberg, in his naturalistic style, is a master of balancing the darkness of a dramatic psychological thriller and an authentic, unapologetic comedy. The three veteran actors (Jonathan Epstein, Ryan Winkles and Kristin Wold) who have taken on this play under the incredible direction of Nicole Ricciardi have expertly captured each facet of their multidimensional characters. In doing so, they grabbed the audience’s attention from the onset and held it to the end.Read More
Henrik Ibsen's A Doll's House premiered in Denmark in 1879. Over one hundred and thirty years later, A Doll's House Part 2 by writer Lucas Hnath, brings us back to Norway and the Helmer house where Nora slammed the door and left her family and life behind her. Premiering on Broadway in 2017, this play begins fifteen years Nora left her family. Directed by Joe Calarco, this emotional roller coaster of a play is performed by four talented actors who are so deeply invested in their characters it is easy for the audience to get wrapped up in the story.Read More
Written by William Shakespeare, Macbeth, or as most theatre folks refer to it, The Scottish Play, is a psychological and tragic tale of blind ambition and destructive, consuming power. It is a play full of malicious intentions and gruesome murders. Fantastically directed by the Obie Award-winning Melia Bensussen, who was inspired by the ghost stories of Edgar Allen Poe, this production with its intriguing artistic choices made it unique, unlike many of the others I have seen. In this rendition, Macbeth’s ambition and belief in his imagination lead to his destruction more-so than the witches and supernatural forces who, in other productions, are so often blamed. He mercilessly pursues his dreams and desires.Read More
“A Chorus Line” opened at Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston last weekend, providing a fantastic start to the theater’s 50th Anniversary Summer Season. With book by James Kirkwood and Nicholas Dante, Music by Marvin Hamlisch, and Lyrics by Edward Kleban, this musical tells the story of a group of seventeen inspiring performers auditioning for a place in a Broadway show’s chorus line. The roughly two-hour piece is conducted like a legitimate audition during which the audience gets to witness these individuals share their fears and motivations with the directing team and one another, all while dancing their hearts out for a chance at one of eight coveted roles.Read More
“Calendar Girls,” by Juliette Towhidi and Tim Firth, marks Greater Boston Stage Company’s last show of their eighteenth season, and is quite the uplifting note to go out on. Based on a true story, this show has been adapted to the stage from the Miramax motion picture of the same name, and tells the story of a group of ladies in a Women’s Institute organization in Yorkshire, England who decide to raise money for leukemia research through the selling of a nude calendar. The catch? The calendar features these women themselves, who are by no means the young model-types that one may come to expect in such calendars, as the art. Soon the project, which starts in memoriam to one of the women, Annie’s, late husband, turns into an opportunity for her best friend Chris, a failing florist, to finally find her place in the spotlight. Yet as the powerful impact this small act of charity has made becomes clear to these women, they are suddenly forced to evaluate their own actions and their place in one another’s lives, leaving them as exposed emotionally as they are on each calendar page.Read More
Now playing at Central Square Theater (Cambridge, MA) is Les Liaisons Dangereuses presented by The Nora Theatre Company. The novel, of the same name, was written in 1782 by Pierre-Ambroise François Choderlos de Laclos. Two hundred years later Christopher Hampton penned the play that would go on to premiere at The Royal Shakespeare Company in 1985. While the story is familiar and has been produced a myriad of ways, in this version all ten characters, including six women, are portrayed by an all-male cast. Director Lee Mikeska Gardner first did this play with an all-male cast when she directed a production in Washington, D.C. in 2005 and wanted to direct a similar production here in Boston over a decade later. This concept is a new, intriguing way to tell an old story and I’m sure while some are confused by it, others are curious to see how it would play out on stage.Read More
Shakespeare & Company begins its season with the New England Premiere of Morning After Grace by Cary Crim. Directed by Regge Life, this new comedy explores the themes of loss, of love and of second chances. Crim carefully constructs a play that tackles some heavy subjects displaying the full extent of human emotions and the need for acceptance and love. What makes this play enjoyable to audiences is how Crim pairs very raw and intense moments with those of realistic and relatable humor. Life and his cast authentically invite the audience to journey with them on the path to recovery and to discover how to be truthful to themselves.Read More
- Boston Theatre Critic
Opening the show is the Boston Ballet Premiere of choreographer August Bournonville's Bournonville Divertissements. It features three selections from his vast work. Following intermission is the full length production of La Sylphide.
It all begins with an ethereal Pas de Deux from Flower Festival in Genzano danced by Seo Hye Han and Junxiong Zhao. They are a well matched pair who danced to the music of Edvard Helsted with ease. The upbeat Jockey Dance from From Siberia to Moscow featured fast footwork from soloists Isaac Akiba and Irlan Silva. The pair was playful and comedic in their interactions with one another as they portrayed jockeys at a horse race. While their piece was fun and engaging for the audience to watch, it was also sharply danced by the pair to the music of C.C. Møller.
Thirdly came Pas de Six and Tarantella from Napoli. Both were stylistically very similar to the earlier Pas de Deux with light, elevating movement. The upbeat group sections were reminiscent of the local Italian folk dancing Bournonville was inspired by. This selection featured Kathleen Breen Combes, Ji Young Chae, Lia Cirio, Ashley Ellis, Paul Craig, Patric Palkens and Lawrence Rines. The talent of the individual dancers was highlighted throughout the piece with each having their own solo moments. It was seamlessly performed with the dancers switching partners and various small group combinations throughout. They all seemed to be thoroughly enjoying themselves. Even more so when tambourines were brought on and the dancers added percussion to the music of Holger Simon Paulli being played by the orchestra. This fun addition brought youthful energy and exuberance to the dancing. It was less “dancers performing on stage for an audience of hundreds” and more “a group of young people dancing with their friends, keeping tempo by hitting their tambourines.”
Following intermission the curtain rises on an immensely striking stone home where the tale begins. A story ballet from start to finish, La Sylphide is full of romance, sorcery and tragedy. Set in the Scottish Highlands, the scenic and costume design by Peter Cazalet and lighting design by John Cuff quickly transported the audience back in time and amplified the atmosphere surrounding the story. Bournonville's La Sylphide is one of the world's oldest surviving ballets. It is the story of James, a young Scotsman, who is set to marry Effie, but on the eve of their wedding he dreams of a beautiful sylph whom he, upon awakening, briefly sees before she mysteriously disappears. His friend Gurn has also fallen for Effie, but believes he'll never have the chance to be with her. That is until the village sorceress Madge tells Effie that it is Gurn she'll marry, not James. James is outraged and sends Madge away, but his outrage is quickly diminished when he sees the sylph playfully dancing around the room, apparently unseen by his other guests. When she leaves, James follows her, leaving Effie confused and crushed. Act two takes place in the forest, where witches dance around a cauldron, sylph's float through the trees and tragedy befalls James and his beautiful woodland fairy.
Patrick Yocum dances the role of James while Misa Kuranaga dances the role of the Sylph. He is strong and adventurous throughout with hints of boyish innocence. She, as always, is stunning and graceful. She’s the perfect embodiment of the playful fairy. When tragedy strikes, her body language completely changes and she crumbles as if merely standing is torture. The contrast between how she danced at the start and how she moved at the end was fantastic.
Derek Dunn portrayed Gurn, friend of James, and seemingly the comedic character within the ballet. The humorous elements of his role were strongly and clearly executed and received numerous chuckles from the audience. His soaring jumps make him a dancer to keep our eyes on in future Boston Ballet productions. The sorceress Madge is cunningly portrayed by Maria Alvarez who, from the way she walks to her facial expressions, fully embodies the darkness and conniving evil within her character.
This ballet features intricate footwork as well as dreamy and flowing romantic movement. It is playful and flirty with extensive character and acting moments. My one critique is that there were moments when certain hand gestures were barely visible and could have been easily missed had an audience member not been watching carefully. While we don’t want the acting and hand or arm motions to come across as forced, we also want them to be big enough and sustained long enough for the audience to see them.
Beautiful dancing and charismatic characters make this production an enjoyable evening of classical ballet. © Boston Ballet's La Sylphide plays at the Boston Opera House from May 24th- June 10th. The Boston Ballet Orchestra is conducted by Beatrice Jona Affron. Though the production runs 2 and a half hours including 2 intermissions, time flies just as quickly as the dancers fly across the stage. For tickets and more information visit www.bostonballet.org
For more of my reviews and theatrical thoughts check out: http://intheatresome1isalwayswatching.blogspot.com/
Contemporary comedies are commonplace in theater, but very rarely does a production surface that manages to produce the sought-after balance of humor and heart needed to make an impact that lasts longer than a well earned laugh.
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