If your plans for this weekend are not already set, you may want to consider a trip to Stoneham Theatre to see one of the last performances of "That Hopey Changey Thing" by Richard Nelson. You may even want to enjoy a nice pre-theater dinner at Felicia's - just down the street. I had a terrific meal there last evening before seeing a show that I know you would enjoy.
I will give you details of why I enjoyed Mr. Nelson's opening salvo in what will be a four play cycle presented over the next two seasons jointly by the Stoneham Theatre and Gloucester Stage Company. But before I do that, allow me a brief detour to take you inside the mind of a theater reviewer (sometimes called a "critic") Since I was privileged to be invited to join the ranks of the IRNE Reviewers (Independent Reviewers of New England), I have been inundated with invitations to attend and to review shows in most of the greater Boston area theaters. I cannot possibly see all the shows I would like to see, so I am always making subjective choices. Here is a list of some of the factors that go into deciding whether I choose to attend and to review a show:
- How does the timing fit with my work and travel schedule?
- Do I know and respect the work of this theater company?
- Is the play one that I am familiar with?
- Is this the work of a playwright or a director that I know and respect?
- Does the cast include actors that I know and respect?
- Is the subject matter of the play of interest to me?
- Is the location easily accessible by T (I operate these days using only public transportation)
- As Uncle Ben, Joel Colodner is very believable. He toggles among several mental states - vacantly staring, mild irritability, and passionate engagement in reading a script he once knew by heart in his days as a stage actor in NYC. It is a subtly powerful performance.
- Laura Latreille is terrific as Jane, juggling complex relationships with her siblings, and stage managing Tim's integration into the family ecosystem. Her book may prove to provide some interesting lenses through which to see the family members in the future.
- Karen MacDonald is her usual impressive self, presenting a Barbara who is self-effacing and self-sacrificial in caring for Uncle Ben while quietly resenting her siblings for keeping their distance. Barbara seems to be the rock who will hold things together as the cracks begin to widen. We shall see.
- Paul Melendy is wonderfully awkward as Tim. Not knowing exactly how to fit in, he engages Uncle Ben in discussing issues of acting and theater. Ben sometimes responds with enthusiasm, and at other times barks: "Who are you and what are you doing here?" Mr. Melendy can convey more meaning with a sideways glance or a carefully placed gesture than many actors can pull off in an entire soliloquy.
- Bill Mootos as Richard is a bundle of contradictions, fending off questions about his recently returned wife, Pamela and his impending job change. A very telling and moving scene occurs near the end of the play when the three sisters re-enact a ritual that was obviously an important part of their collective childhoods - gang tickling Richard to the point of distraction and exasperation.
- Sarah Newhouse is a very serious Marian, whose off-stage husband is helping to run the local voting precinct in the library just down the street from the Apple homestead. One of the best moments in the play occurs when Richard succeeds in pushing Marian's buttons by blurting out "Sarah Palin!" Marian reacts as if she had been hit by a TASER, jumps and drops on the floor her plate of pie and ice cream. That bit of physical acting signals just how tightly wound Marian must be, and highlights the latent tension between Marian and Richard.
|Karen MacDonald as Barbara|
Sarah Newhouse as Marian
Laura Latreille as Jane
Paul Melendy as Tim
Bill Mootos as Richard
"That Hopey Changey Thing"
by Richard Nelson
Through March 15
That Hopey Changey Thing
February 26–March 15, 2015
Directed by Weylin Symes
Featuring Joel Colodner*, Laura Latreille*, Karen MacDonald*,
Paul Melendy*, Bill Mootos*, and Sarah Newhouse*
THE APPLE FAMILY PLAYS PRESENTED
IN COLLABORATION WITH GLOUCESTER STAGE
Please note: That Hopey Changey Thing contains adult language.