Walking into the theater the richly colored set, designed by Cristina Todesco, instantly brought the audience into a more modern Illyria than one they may have seen before.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
It was not a perfect performance, but live theatre is rarely all together perfect and that is one reason why people love it so much. It’s fresh, exciting and anything can happen; just like life. The audience couldn’t get enough and stood loudly applauding not only during curtain call, but again through and to the end of the encore. Direct quotes from the audience after the show: “Wow”, “Excellent”, “So much fun”, “I loved it” and many more positive comments. If you need a break from a reality of stress and strife, go see this immensely enjoyable production.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
The outlandish farce Boeing Boeing now plays on The Winnipesaukee Playhouse stage in Meredith, New Hampshire. Originally written by Marc Camoletti and translated by Beverley Cross and Francis Evans, it is the story of Bernard, a Parisian bachelor played by William Wilder, who has, through meticulous calculations, gotten himself intertwined with three fiancés. There’s Gloria, an American air hostess played by Rebecca Tucker, Gabriella, an Italian air hostess played by Molly Parker Myers, and Gretchen, a German air hostess played by Suzanne Kimball. The essential factor that keeps all his fiancés from ending up in their Paris flat at one time is the fact that they all work for different airlines and have different routes around the world.Read More
Directed by Matt Cahoon, this US Premiere production of Howard Brenton’s new adaptation of August Strindberg’s 1888 play Miss Julie invites the audience into the kitchen of a home in Sweden. It tells the story of Julie, lady of the house, Jean, her father’s valet, and Kristin, the house cook and Jean’s fiancé. It is a story of lust, ambition and a desire to break through the barriers of class. When Julie and Jean give in to the building sexual tension between them, the unforeseen consequences are catastrophic.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/
‘True West’ was written by Sam Shepard in 1980, and yet his understanding of family dynamics and the volatility of stage and screen producers, allows this play to burst from the page decades later when his characters are portrayed with boundless energy and charisma. What makes them all the more believable is when passionate, seasoned actors are partnered with a visionary director to present a realistic look at a tumultuous relationship. That is what I have found with Hub Theatre Company of Boston’s production of ‘True West’.Read More
- OnStage Boston Critic
Boston Ballet opens their 2017-2018 season with two exciting premieres by two master choreographers. ‘Obsidian Tear’, by Wayne McGregor, is a co-production between The Royal Ballet and Boston Ballet. The Royal Ballet performed the world premiere in 2016 at the Royal Opera House. The second ballet entitled ‘Fifth Symphony of Jean Sibelius’ is world premiering right here at the Boston Opera House and was choreographed by their resident choreographer Jorma Elo. While these pieces are both stunning and wonderfully danced by the artists of Boston Ballet, each has its own unique way of captivating the audience’s attention through variations of classical and contemporary ballet. In the case of ‘Obsidian Tear’ its mix of ballet and multiple modern techniques is what caught my attention and kept me fascinated throughout.
Interestingly, the performance does not start out with one of these aforementioned ballets, but with the beautiful tone poem “Finlandia”, composed by Jean Sibelius and performed by the Boston Ballet Orchestra led by guest conductor Daniel Stewart. A smart choice on the part of Artistic Director Mikko Nissinen, the piece allowed the audience to settle, quiet their racing thoughts and just listen. Musically, it transitioned nicely into Esa-Pekka Salonen’s “Lachen verlernt” and “Nyx” which were the melodious foundation for ‘Obsidian Tear’.
‘Obsidian Tear’ begins with two male dancers, one in red pants and one in black pants. At times, they move in unison, other times they shadow each other. They mostly danced individually, contrasting one another’s movements all while each keeping a close eye on the other. It didn’t take long for the audience to start wondering where their relationship would go; would they be friend or foe? Irlan Silva, who danced in the red pants, danced with graceful fluidity. His movements were all connected to one another, whether they were slow and drawn out or quick and distinct. Paulo Arrais, wearing the black pants, moved with intensity and precision. They each exhibited an emotional connection to the music, their characters and each other.
The piece is powerfully rounded out by seven additional male dancers including Paul Craig, Roddy Doble, Lasha Khozashvili, Patric Palkens, Lawrence Rines, Matthew Slattery and Patrick Yocum. They, like Arrais, wore various black garments leading the audience to believe that Silva, in red, was the outsider to their group. The athleticism, seemingly boundless stamina and ferocious strength exhibited by this group was truly incredible to watch and is unlike any other ballet I have seen. They continuously pushed the intensity of their performance while at the same time guiding the audience through an exploration of the darker side of humanity. By the end, the audience seemed to be in a mixed state of awestruck and amazement, taking a few moments after the blackout before they began their applause.
Following the intermission, the mood lightened as the music of Jean Sibelius, “Symphony No. 5 in E-flat major, Op. 82”, filled the theater and thirty-five company members sprang onto the stage. With a desire to honor the centennial of Finland’s independence, Finnish choreographer Jorma Elo created his newest piece based on the music of Finnish composer Jean Sibelius. Elo was inspired by the Finnish landscape and the changing of the seasons. The dancers, separated into pairs and smaller groups, wore pastel colored costumes designed by Yumiko Takeshima. Ashley Ellis, the singular dancer dressed in pale blue, was charming and joyfully portrayed her youthful character. Overall, this ballet was gracefully danced and pleasing to watch. ©
Unfortunately, ‘Obsidian Tear’ only runs from November 3rd to November 12th, but hopefully now that the company has added these two ballets to their repertoire we will see them back on stage sometime in the not so distant future. For more information about Boston Ballet’s 2017-2018 season visit www.bostonballet.org
For more of my reviews and theatrical thoughts check out: http://intheatresome1isalwayswatching.blogspot.com/
Photo Credit- Boston Ballet in Wayne McGregor's Obsidian Tear; photo by Rosalie O'Connor, courtesy Boston Ballet
- OnStage Massachusetts Critic
Opening up the 2016-2017 season on the Merrimack Repertory Theatre stage is a unique and very funny production of “45 Plays for 45 Presidents”. It has been written, rewritten and added to by Andy Bayiates, Sean Benjamin, Genevra Gallo-Bayiates, Chloe Johnston, and Karen Weinberg since it was first created as “43 Plays for 43 Presidents”. Each play is about 2 minutes long and each focuses on a different president. The show begins with George Washington and ends with a play about the next president: either Hilary Clinton or Donald Trump; as elected by the audience. Five fantastically versatile and wonderfully comedic actors play not only the presidents, but other historical figures during each time period. This show is a fast-paced look at the past leaders of our country, their presidency, what they’re remembered for and a few unknown facts about them.
The set featured square boxes with quotation marks, the word “quote” or a comic strip-like talking bubble. These boxes lit up red when an actual quote from one of the presidents was said. There was also a large oval picture frame at center stage where projections were seen throughout the show. On either side of the frame were pieces of a very large dollar bill. This very cool and unique scenic design was created by Michael B. Raiford with projections designed by Ido Levran. Throughout the production props and costume pieces are used to bring each president and their term(s) in office to life. One costume piece that was passed from president to president was a suit jacket with a sequined American flag on the back. Costumes were designed by A. Lee Viliesis and were simple, yet able to transcend time. The lighting was designed by Brian J. Lilienthal and the sound was designed by Stowe Nelson.
Imaginatively directed by Sean Daniels, this cast features Celina Dean, Veronika Duerr, Aaron Muñoz, Nael Nacer and Terrell Donnell Sledge. In just over two hours they use dozens of props, costume pieces, and many story-telling devices to show the audience our greatest and worst moments as a country. We learn new things about presidents that may not have been covered in our history classes. Ultimately, we further realize that the story of our country is written by us when we vote. It is a story that we can effect this November when we choose our 45th president.
A few highlights from act one include Aaron Muñoz as Benjamin Franklin “roasting” Thomas Jefferson, played by Veronika Duerr. Nael Nacer and Terrell Donnell Sledge got the majority of the audience chuckling during their interaction as Andrew Jackson and Martin Van Buren. Veronika Duerr was intense when stabbing red balloons with a knife as she portrayed William Henry Harrison and his killing Indians to take over their lands. Terrell Donnell Sledge, as Abraham Lincoln, led the group in a captivating song about one of the most well-known presidents.
Act two also featured a number of memorable plays including the group portraying Theodore Roosevelt, complete with mustaches, as Duerr, portraying his daughter, narrated. Nael Nacer, as Woodrow Wilson, gave a short but informative lecture on the only president to have earned his PhD. The group, donned in sparkly flag vests, sang a song about Richard Nixon, led by Aaron Muñoz. Veronika Duerr was hilarious as Bill Clinton (when you see it you’ll see why). The election controversy between George W. Bush and Al Gore was hysterically done by Aaron Muñoz and Celina Dean. Terrell Donnell Sledge displayed some great jump rope skills as he portrayed current president Barack Obama. The last play, as chosen by the audience, was a nicely done rap by Celina Dean as Hilary Clinton.
If you, like many others, need a break from the current political battle taking place, I suggest you check out this intelligent, non-partisan production. It may give you fresh perspective on our past, remind you of what we’ve accomplished, and recharge your American spirit to go out and urge those around you to vote this November. As we’ve learned from the past every vote counts, and as we look towards the future, this amusing, but thought-provoking production is just what we need to remind us that we are writing our history. © “45 Plays For 45 Presidents” is on stage at Merrimack Repertory Theatre until October 2nd and tickets range from $70-$26. To purchase tickets or find more information visit www.mrt.org or call 978-654-4678.
45Playsfor45Presidents----A splashy musical number for Richard Nixon. Terrell Donnell Sledge, Veronika Duerr, Aaron Munoz, Celina Dean, Nael Nacer. Photo by Meghan Moore
For more of my reviews and theatrical thoughts check out: http://intheatresome1isalwayswatching.blogspot.com/
- OnStage Massachusetts Columnist
Cry ‘Havoc!’ is a captivating and powerful one-man show written and performed by Stephan Wolfert and directed by Eric Tucker. Stephan Wolfert served as an Infantry Officer and Medic in the US Army from 1986 to 1993. It was then, after seeing a production of Richard III that he left his military career and went to graduate school to pursue acting and the theatre. In Shakespeare’s plays he saw veterans. He related to their speeches and could see himself, his comrades and his friends in those scenes. In performing these characters he has found catharsis. He is now working with other veterans and using Shakespeare to help them deal with the effects of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and start to recover from it. As noted by Wolfert, havoc is alive and well in every war around the world. Even when veterans come home the havoc they’ve endured does not end.
Five bare, greyish white trees, on an otherwise empty stage, are lined up across upstage. This simple design choice by Gus Kaikkonen artistically represents our inner wiring. Until this production, Wolfert had been performing without a set; just him physically and emotionally taking the audience on a journey using an empty space. The brilliance of this design and how it connects to the core message of the play is absolutely incredible: the military is wired for war, but they are not unwired when war is over. Thus trauma haunts their lives and they often cannot escape it.
Those that serve in the military are recruited and then wired for war. Their humanity is taken away. They are taught to respond to orders without thought and to respond to a threat with violence just like the Berzerkers centuries before them. Berzerkers were warriors and fighters from ancient Norway who used huge swords and battle axes to take out their enemy. These fighters, like soldiers today, distanced themselves from humanity. Wolfert goes on to share stories about trench warfare, the roll of camaraderie in PTSD and Henry Lincoln Johnson, an African-American infantryman from World War I who, after suffering twenty-three gunshot and stab wounds, saved his comrade from torture and execution by the German enemy. When they had recovered from their injuries they went back to the front lines and fought together once again for their country. Unfortunately, Johnson ended his life penniless and homeless; drinking himself to death.
Wolfert says when he was first leading his company of soldiers, he thought he would be the kind of leader that was part Rambo and part John Wayne, but when they got to the front lines and the bullets started flying he knew he had to be the kind of leader that did what he had to do to keep his men alive. Quoting Shakespeare’s Henry V he says, “Once more unto the breach dear friends” and “We few, we happy few, we band of brothers; / For he today that sheds his blood with me / Shall be my brother…”.
Henry V was not the only play of Shakespeare’s he gathered lines from to intersperse with his stories. Wolfert disperses lines and monologues from many of Shakespeare’s plays including Julius Caesar, Richard III, Hamlet, Macbeth, Coriolanus, Henry IV, Henry V and more. The war stories he tells add astounding depth and more profound meaning when paired with these lines from Shakespeare. He performs “Now is the winter of our discontent…” from Richard III, the play that inspired him to pursue theatre. From Macbeth he says, “So foul and fair a day I have not seen” when describing the night his vehicle took on friendly fire and his best friend was shot in the face. He shares how he held his friend’s head as he lay there barely breathing as they waited for medical assistance and a helicopter to come and pick him up. He gut-wrenchingly recalls details of the day, a week later, when he had the task of handing a folded flag to his friends’ wife and daughters at his funeral.
Wolfert shares how when soldiers leave the military they are not “decruited” and unwired from war. They are not given their humanity back and wired for life in civilian society. In using Hamlet’s famous “To be or not to be” speech, he describes the suicidal moments he has faced in his own life. Developing, rehearsing and performing this play has been therapy of sorts for Wolfert, who after years of alcoholism and PTSD, is using his talents as a writer and well-rounded performer to share not only his story, but the stories of other veterans spanning hundreds of years.
While much of this play is heavy with turmoil, Wolfert does add humor to break up the emotional rollercoaster he is taking the audience on. These real-life stories of war and its aftereffects are vividly told, and with seemingly boundless energy, physically acted out by Wolfert in a way that no other actor could do with the same authenticity and passion. This play is unique, honest, compelling and poignantly relevant to today’s world.
The production concluded with a robust, extensive, and very well deserved standing ovation. After every performance Stephan Wolfert does a talk-back with the audience to recognize the veterans there and give the audience a chance to share their thoughts on the production.
Cry ‘Havoc!’ is a must see! Whether you see it in Peterborough, NH in the next few days, or the next location Stephan Wolfert performs it, this is a powerfully raw and riveting production that needs to be witnessed. © This production is rated PG-13 due to strong language and adult situations. Cry ‘Havoc!’ is only being performed on the Peterborough Players stage, 55 Hadley Road, Peterborough, NH, until September 18th. For tickets call the box office at 603-924-7585 or check out www.PeterboroughPlayers.org.
For additional information about the play and the organizations Stephan Wolfert is involved with visit: www.ShakespeareAndVeterans.org , www.govcpa.org , www.decruit.org , and www.theatrebedlam.org. Photo: Stephan Wolfert in Cry 'Havoc!'. Courtesy Peterborough Players.
- OnStage Massachusetts Critic
Director Neil Pankhurst has brought us the stunning World Premiere production of The Waltz, written by Broadway veteran Carolyn Kirsch. It is the untold story of a French sculptress named Camille Claudel, who spent her later years in a mental asylum near Avignon, France. This historically based, yet contemporarily relevant, memory play shows us Camille in three stages of her life: young, middle-age and old. Her oldest self begins the play as she talks to the audience and introduces them to her younger selves and a few other crucial characters who all live in her vibrant memory. She interacts with and talks to them as if they were really in the room with her at the asylum.
The set, designed by Inseung Park, was minimalistic, sharp and angular, featuring white blocks as furniture pieces with only a sheer white curtain as a softer element. Each of the Camille costumes, designed by Lori McGinley, were monochromatic white, gray or black with long flowing skirts, which were a nice contrast to the set. The color choices accentuated the asylum location, while also allowing Camille to transport us in her mind to different times and places. Vivid colors came from the lighting, designed by Thom Beaulieu, which further exemplified the contrasts presented. The music that was played, both live on a piano on stage and from recordings played through the sound system, were all composed by Claude Debussy. Their flowing melodies and the dances they inspired from Camille, juxtaposed the fractured nature of Camille’s memory and the set in a beautiful way.
At times, the play was a bit hard to follow, as it moved through time and space in a non-linear fashion, nonetheless, it was captivating to watch. Through the fourth wall, the audience was consistently engaged by the three Camilles and made to feel a part of the story. Carolyn Kirsch, the author, also portrayed Old Camille, Sebastian Ryder portrayed Middle Camille, and Kelley Davies portrayed Young Camille. These three, seamlessly, synchronized actors guided the audience through the story; moving from one moment, one event or one memory to another in a way that wonderfully exhibited the different parts of Camille’s personality and how, at each time in her life, she often remembered events slightly differently. For example, they all remember, a bit differently, the first meeting with Auguste Rodin, the French Sculptor, who became Camille’s mentor and lover. This scene exquisitely portrays humankind as a whole and realistically shows us how we ourselves remember events in our own lives differently, as time goes by.
Young Camille, as portrayed by Davies, is full of life, passion, optimism and artistic joy. Middle Camille, as portrayed by Ryder, becomes disillusioned and jaded by the world around her. She is angry because her work is not as appreciated or accepted by others in the art world all because she is a woman. People see her work and think things like ‘Oh, well Rodin is her mentor, so his hand is in her art and she only has an exhibit because of him’. Old Camille, as portrayed by Carolyn Kirsch, is confused by her past, upset with her family at being unjustly institutionalized and still believes she has a chance to be a great artist that people will remember. She displays both the passion and the jadedness of her younger selves. All three actors deliver incredible performances of one person, over time, in a way I have never seen done before. The quality and authenticity to which they portray Camille is outstanding.
The play also includes Rose Beuret, the wife of Auguste Rodin, portrayed by Debra Walsh, who comes in and out of Camille’s memory and often times antagonizes her younger selves. The conflicts that arise between the three Camille’s and Rose are fascinating to watch. What I find interesting is that Rose is a living character within Camille’s memory, but Rodin himself, though he is extensively discussed, is not physically present. This could be because of Camille’s diverse feelings for him over the course of the play. Rodin is remembered in many different ways both lovingly and not, while Rose is disliked by Camille in all three stages as an irritant and, at times, a harsh reality slap to Camille: in that Rodin will never leave Rose to marry her. Another character in this play is composer Claude Debussy, probably best known for his elegant musical movement “Clair de Lune”. Portrayed by John-Michael Breen, Debussy is a close companion to Camille, who is unable to get over her love for Rodin. In Debussy, she finds an artistic counterpart who deeply cares for and artistically challenges her. Breen, who, at the last minute, took on the role of the composer, portrayed him admirably.
Carolyn Kirsch says that in writing this play and sharing it with the world she hopes to shed light on the life and art of Camille Claudel, who many have not heard of before now. Though The Waltz only plays at the Winnipesaukee Playhouse until September 10th, it is a powerful story that needs to be witnessed. © For additional information and tickets to The Waltz visit www.winnipesaukeeplayhouse.org.
From L to R: Carolyn Kirsch, Kelley Davies & Sebastian Ryder (all as Camille Claudel). Courtesy The Winnipesaukee Playhouse.
- OnStage Massachusetts Critic
Peterborough NH - The lights come up and in literally less than 60 seconds; the audience is laughing and continues laughing for another eighty minutes. When that happens, you know you’re doing something right. Peterborough Players is doing it right with their production of the sharply written God of Carnage by Yasmina Reza. The 2009 Tony Award Winner for Best Play focuses on an afternoon meeting of two sets of parents as they try to come to terms with an altercation between their eleven year old boys. One boy, for reasons yet to be discovered, hit the other with a stick causing him to lose two teeth. While this isn’t the only topic the foursome discusses, it is the one that they continue to come back to with growing insinuation, frustration and exasperation felt by all.
Reza’s wonderful writing of this script is evident as she is so connected to each of the four characters that their lines fit seamlessly with their personalities, their changing moods, their core beliefs and the unique state of mind they are each in during the course of the play. Pleasantries and politeness don’t last long in this modern, relatable drama about relationships, parenting and social interaction. Insults are slung, lines are drawn and crossed, and sides are chosen and comically changed many times throughout. The couples are so different at the start, but end up realizing how similar they are and how not one of them is perfect. Not one knows how to be the perfect parent and as adults they are all still learning how to play nice and get along with others. They all know violence is frowned upon in polite society and with that, I wondered: If the parents can’t behave properly, how do they expect their children to?
Director Gus Kaikkonen and actors Tom Frey, Susan Riley Stevens, David Breitbarth and Kate Hampton supremely paced the show, allowing for awkward pauses, spot-on facial expressions and character moments to keep the audience engaged and entertained. Especially in the beginning, the longer pauses and facial expressions were just long enough to establish the uncomfortable and tense feeling of the characters, yet still be funny to the audience without being so long that it would seem like someone dropped a line or made a mistake.
Tom Frey plays Alan Raleigh, Susan Riley Stevens plays his wife Annette Raleigh, David Breitbarth plays Michael Novak and Kate Hampton plays his wife Veronica Novak. The cast portrayed their characters with realism and all had superb comedic timing. They had great chemistry with each other and were so fully absorbed in their characters and story that the 4th wall was never broken. It was as if the audience didn’t exist. Our reactions to the hilarity and antics on stage didn’t faze them at all. Though all four actors were in the previous production at Peterborough Players, I much preferred their characterizations, character development, and performances that, in my opinion, felt more strongly delivered in this show.
The creative team behind this production blended all the technical and design elements in a way that nothing seemed out of place. For example, the set featured clean, angled lines and unique artifacts that paired well with the smart and snappy script. Director Gus Kaikkonen also served as set designer, while John Eckert designed lighting, Kevin Frazier designed perfectly timed sound, Jessica Ayala designed props and Stephanie Fisher designed costumes.©
This production is rated PG-13 due to strong language and adult situations and runs about 80 minutes with no intermission. God of Carnage plays on the Peterborough Players’ stage, 55 Hadley Road, Peterborough, NH, until September 11th, 2016. For tickets and more information call the box office at 603-924-7585 or check out www.PeterboroughPlayers.org
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- OnStage Massachusetts Critic
Meredith NH - Cabaret features music by John Kander, lyrics by Fred Ebb and book by Joe Masteroff. It is based on the play I am a Camera by John Van Druten and Christopher Isherwood’s The Berlin Stories. It opened on Broadway in 1966, and many may recall seeing the 1972 film version with Liza Minnelli and Joel Gray that was directed by the great Bob Fosse. This production, however, is quite different from the film according to director Clayton Phillips who was inspired by the 1998 revival production. It still tells the story of Sally Bowles, Clifford Bradshaw, The Kit Kat Klub, and the various people of Berlin in 1931, but with a fresh perspective that invites the audience to not just enjoy the performance, but really listen and think about the story being told.
Sally Bowles is a nightclub singer who meets Clifford Bradshaw, an American writer from Pennsylvania, at The Kit Kat Klub on New Year’s Eve. Romance sparks between them and it’s not long until they are planning a future together. Another romance between the owner of the boarding house where Cliff and Sally live, Frӓulein Schneider, and another tenant Herr Schultz also begins. From beginning to end the Master of Ceremonies (Emcee) guides the audience along and gives them insight to stories unfolding. While there is plenty of dancing, singing and merriment in this musical, the historically based story, at its core, is much less joyous and reminds us of the tragic past.
The musical takes place in The Kit Kat Klub that features two iron sets of stairs on either side of the thrust stage that lead to the upper level where the band is seated and a lit Cabaret sign is hung. Upstage, under the upper platform, there are three doors across a tracked wall. The set design by Melissa Shakun along with lighting design by Graham Edmondson, sound design by Thom Beaulieu and costume design by Daneé Rose Grillo all blended seamlessly together to create the world of the show. The creative team, that also included director Clayton Phillips, music director Judy Hayward, and choreographer Bryan Knowlton, did a fantastic job of bringing this entertaining and reflective show to life.
A major highlight of this production was the choreography by Bryan Knowlton. It was fantastically danced by the cast; especially the Emcee (Michael Luongo) and Kit Kat girls and boys including: Rebecca Tucker, Kelsey Andrae, Monica Rodrigues, Irene Schultz, Kristin Guerin, Leigh Martha Klinger, John-Michael Breen, Sean Burns, Wayne Shuker, and Nicholas Berke. From the cast’s behavior in the pre-show stretching, the audience could tell this show was going to be very risqué. The movement was stylistically Jazz, with flourishes of Fosse. It was sharp, provocative and very well executed. “Willkommen” as performed by the Emcee and Kit Kat boys and girls was characteristically performed: in that each person danced as their character and not necessarily as a dancer in a musical. They each had their own personality in their movement and showed various emotions as if it was just another night at the club. Some were happy to be there making money, while others didn’t want to be there or were tired. It made the performance more interesting to watch. The classic “Money” song, later in act one, was superbly done. In the show it occurs right after Cliff has agreed to make a trip to Paris for Ernst for which he will be well paid. I loved that the briefcase he was to use for this trip was the focus of the Emcee and dancers, who were dressed in skirts, bows and bowties made of money. It tied the storyline and this number together in a way I’ve never seen done before.
Michael Luongo delivered an outstanding performance as the Master of Ceremonies (Emcee). He was engaging, humorous and charismatic. He made solid and consistent character choices and sang strongly throughout. His rendition of “I Don’t Care Much” was heartfelt and beautifully done. He is easily one of the best Emcee’s I have seen. Sally Bowles was incredibly played by Mallory Newbrough. Her English accent was steady, she made great character choices, and had wonderful facial expressions. Her vocals were beautiful both in her rich lower range and light higher range. When she belted her heart out in “Cabaret” in act two the audience erupted in applause. It was emotionally raw as if she was saving some of her power for that number and it certainly paid off. Clifford Bradshaw was nicely played by Phil Sloves. His young face suited his character well, as Cliff was at times naïve. Cliff’s journey from a young man seeing the world, to a grown man with morals and firm beliefs was clear in Sloves’ portrayal. His chemistry with Newbrough was sweet and believable. Frӓulein Schneider, as played by Sebastian Ryder was soft and sweet, but also strong. She was not one to let her emotions show, especially in front of Herr Schultz, played by Fred Frabotta. The pair was lovingly affectionate towards each other. They played the relationship tenderly and playfully; particularly in “It Couldn’t Please Me More”. Playhouse favorite Rebecca Tucker, who also played Kit Kat girl Fritzie, portrayed the fierce and sometimes spiteful Frӓulein Kost, a tenant in Frӓulein Schneider’s home. She beautifully sang a section of “Married” in German that was clear and nicely accented. It made watching Schneider and Schultz dance together even more sweet. Ernst Ludwig, as played by Jason Plourde, was kind and seemingly a good friend to Clifford. That is until his political associations are made apparent and he tried to force his beliefs on others at the end of act one. Plourde’s acting was strong throughout. He even shared his commanding voice in “Tomorrow Belongs to Me”.
The emotional mood and overall tone of the show changes quickly at the end of act one and the cast made this change clear as they moved through the darker act two. Tensions were heightened, emotions were heavier and lines were sharper. Everyone was more on edge as the realization of the Nazi’s power and reach sunk in and it became apparent that even at the Kit Kat Klub they were in danger. The final moments of the show were simplistic, yet powerful, leaving the audience in awe as they applauded this talented cast. ©
Due to the explicit and mature content of this musical, it is a show best appreciated by adults. So find yourself a babysitter, gather your friends and go see this exciting, emotional, and powerful production. Cabaret plays at the Winnipesaukee Playhouse until September 3rd. For additional information and tickets to Cabaret visit www.winnipesaukeeplayhouse.org.