Sunday, October 30, 2016

The Boston Ballet Sets Sail On Its New Season With "Le Corsaire" - A Dazzling Delight For The Eyes!


"Le Corsaire"
Ivan Liska, after Marius Petipa
Boston Ballet
Boston Opera House
Through November 6th
Photo by Liza Voll, courtesy of Boston Ballet

The Boston Ballet opened its season with a dazzling North American Premiere of "Le Corsaire" with Choreography by IVAN LIŠKA, after Marius Petipa. Opening Night held all of the wonder and splendor that one has come to expect from the Boston Opera House and Boston Ballet. The audience boasted some distinguished men in tuxedos, lovely ladies in designer gowns and sumptuous furs, and an electric buzz of anticipation in the air. Then Conductor Jonathan McPhee raised his baton to signal to orchestra to launch into the Overture, and we were off on an adventure at sea and on to Ottoman Empire Turkey.

This Premiere has historical significance, for the choreography is a carefully reconstructed version from the 1899 St. Petersburg production, which was notated using the Stepanov notation method. Doug Fullington carefully researched the original notes, some of which are housed in the Harvard University Theatre Collection.  The restored choreography was updated by Ivan Liska and this new production saw its World Premiere in 2007 at the Bavarian State Ballet. Boston Ballet presents this version of "Le Corsaire" in its North American Premiere.

The arc of the story involves Ottoman Turk noblemen, pirates, harems, arranged marriages and liaisons, kidnappings, damsels in need of rescue, double crossings, saber rattling and sabering clashing, and much swashbuckling. The result is a visual delight - the spectacular dancing enhanced by the gorgeous set and costumes by Roger Kirk. Lighting Design is by John Cuff.

The Opening Night cast and Corps de Ballet were performing in perfect synchronization, dancing to a score that is a pastiche of works by Adolphe Adam, Leo Delibes, Cesare Pugni, Riccardo Drigo, and Prinz von Oldenburg.
  • As Conrad, the head Corsaire, Lasha Khozashvili was as outstanding as he always is, his athleticism and grace combining to present a character of complexity and intrigue.
Seo Hye Han as Medora
Lasha Khozashvili as Conrad
"Le Corsaire"
Ivan Liska, after Marius Petipa
Boston Ballet
Boston Opera House
Through November 6th
Photo by Liza Voll, courtesy of Boston Ballet

  • Eris Nezha was Birbanto, another Corsaire who eventually becomes Conrad's rival.  His dance movements were appropriately menacing as the situation demanded.
  • Roddy Doble was regal and officious as Lankedem, a wealthy slave trader.
  • Irlan Silva was magnificent as the slave, Ali. I cannot decide what was the more impressive - his soaring leaps or the gentleness of his landings. He alit like an autumn leaf nestling onto a dewy lawn.
  • Seo Hye Han was gorgeous and gracious as Medora, the adopted daughter of Lankedem. As she appears on the balcony, she and Conrad see one another and fall instantly in love. Their forbidden love is an important thread in the story.
Seo Hye Han as Medora
Irlan Silvan as Ali
"Le Corsaire"
Ivan Liska, after Marius Petipa
Boston Ballet
Boston Opera House
Through November 6th
Photo by Liza Voll, courtesy of Boston Ballet
  • Lia Cirio captivated the audience as Gulnara, one of Lankedem's slaves. Her radiant smile and precise execution of the complex choreography explain why she is a perennial favorite among this company's Principal Dancers. The stunning"pas d'esclave" - a pas de deux between Gulnara and Ali, was a highlight of Act I.
Lia Cirio as Gulnara
"Le Corsaire"
Ivan Liska, after Marius Petipa
Boston Ballet
Boston Opera House
Through November 6th
Photo by Liza Voll, courtesy of Boston Ballet

  • Sabi Varga was a haughty Said Pasha, who purchases Gulnara from Lankedem.
  • Dalay Parrondo and Rachele Buriassi danced the roles of two lovers of Birbanto.
  • Sam Ainley was the Imam, Thomas Harrison was Muphti, and Elizabeth Olds was Chadidja, Pasha's elder Harem slave.
One of the highlights of the ballet was the extended "Jardin Animé" sequence in Act III. The scene features dances by Gulnara and Medora, supported by the Corps and supplemented with young dancers from The Boston Ballet School.

"Jardin Animé"
"Le Corsaire"
Ivan Liska, after Marius Petipa
Boston Ballet
Boston Opera House
Through November 6th
Photo by Liza Voll, courtesy of Boston Ballet


Another highlight in Act III was the "pas des Odalisque," which featured the lively and lovely dancing of Maria Baranova, Rachele Buriassi, and Ji Young Chae.


"Le Corsaire" will be presented at the Boston Opera House through November 6th. Move fast to make sure that you are able to secure one of the few remaining tickets to this rare production of a classic ballet.


Friday, October 28, 2016

SpeakEasy Stage Company Opens Its Season With The New England Premiere of "The Scottsboro Boys" - A MUST SEE


SpeakEasy Stage Company's Artistic Director, Paul Daigneault, has done it again.  He has led his talented crew of creative talent and actors through a minefield of potential hazards in staging the complicated and controversial musical "The Scottsboro Boys," and they have emerged without a scratch.  The only explosions detonated during this journey are those that explode in the minds and hearts of audience members who are gripped by the unspeakable tragedy of the true story unfolding on the stage.

In the 1930s, nine Negro men riding the rails on the Southern Railway Line were falsely accused of raping two white women when their train was stopped in Scottsboro, Alabama after a fight was reported.  In order to save themselves from being arrested, the two women claimed that they had been assaulted by the nine men.  A kangaroo court trial led to their conviction and sentencing to death by electric chair. Many appeals and re-trials followed, and the men languished for many years in Alabama jail cells. Eventually, four of the men were released - all to suffer early death or disappearance - and the others remained behind to live out their stolen lives behind bars.  Nine lives were wasted at the hands of a system of racial injustice and intimidation.

The talented writing team of John Kander & Fred Ebb ("Chicago," Cabaret," et al.) tackled the telling of this tawdry tale in a most creative fashion.  They chose to frame the telling of this story of the humiliation of black men in the form of a minstrel show - an art form that traditionally demeaned black folks through caricature and black face. It was a bold move that initially met with controversy and criticism, but the sardonic and ironic wit of these two artists carried the day. For as audience members cringe at the stereotypes and the stock characters, we are forced to look at the underlying racism and injustice that the story of the Scottsboro Boys elucidates in a such harsh light.

Standing on the shoulders of original direction and choreography by Susan Stroman, Mr. Daigneault and Choreographer Ilyse Robbins utilize almost constant motion to set a frenetic pace for the show in keeping with the fast pace of a minstrel show. Music Direction by Matthew Stern lays the foundation for traditional Ragtime, Gospel, and Dixieland styles, as well as ironic ballads like "Southern Days." Scenic Design is by Eric Levenson, Costume Design by Miranda Kau Giurleo, Lighting Design by Daisy Long, Sound Design by David Remedios.

The minstrel show is emceed by the only white actor on the stage, The Interlocutor (An excellent Russell Garrett). This character is part Kentucky Colonel, part ringmaster, part plantation owner. He has the nine Scottsboro Boys complacently going through their paces in telling their story through song, dance and narrative, helped out by two stock characters, Mr. Tambo (Brandon G. Green) and Mr. Bones (Maurice Emmanuel Parent). As needed, these two outstanding actors play additional roles - Sheriff, Lawyer, Guard, etc. They, along with the Interlocutor, are at the core of the minstrel show structure around which the tale of the years of injustice and incarceration are portrayed. The Interlocutor often commands the nine Scottsboro Boys to sit, and they comply in an almost Pavlovian way - until a tipping point is reached near the end of the play. At that point, they push back, refuse to sit, and change the lyrics of the traditional Southern ballad to reflect the realities of Black life in Alabama, including lines like "Daddy hangin' from a tree" and "Crosses burning in the sky."


Brandon G. Green as Mr. Tambo
Maurice Emmanuel Parent as Mr. Bones
"The Scottsboro Boys"
SpeakEasy Stage Company
Calderwood Pavilion
Boston Center for the Arts
Through November 26th
Photo by Nile Hawver/Nile Scott Shots

Each of the actors portraying the nine Scottsboro Boys creates a clearly individuated character.  They are all effective and engaging.  The one who gets the most songs and time in the spotlight is Haywood Patterson (De'Lon Grant), who kept a notebook chronicling their experiences over many years of trials and incarceration.  After he died in jail, his notebook became the basis for the telling of his story and those of his co-defendants. Mr. Grant's sonorous voice soars in songs like "Nothin'," "Make Friends With The Truth," and "You Can't Do Me."

Wakeem Jones as Eugene Williams
De'Lon Grant as Haywood Patterson
"The Scottsboro Boys"
SpeakEasy Stage Company
Calderwood Pavilion
Boston Center for the Arts
Through November 26th
Photo by Nile Hawver/Nile Scott Shots

Two of the Scottsboro Boys also portray the roles of the white women who had claimed to be raped. Isaiah Reynolds is moving as Ruby Bates, who eventually recants her testimony against the men - to no avail. His rendition of the song "Never Too Late" is a highlight. Darrell Morris, Jr. is impressive as Victoria Price, the accuser who hangs on to her trumped up charges over many years and many trials.

The other Scottsboro boys are:
  • Darren Bunch as Andy Wright
  • Taavon Gamble as Willie Roberson
  • Sheldon Henry as Roy Wright
  • Wakeem Jones as Eugene Williams, the youngest of the nine prisoners who was 12 years old when arrested
  • Steven Martin as Olen Montgomery
  • Aaron Michael Ray as Clarence Norris
Cast
"The Scottsboro Boys"
SpeakEasy Stage Company
Calderwood Pavilion
Boston Center for the Arts
Through November 26th
Photo by Nile Hawver/Nile Scott Shots
There is one additional member of the cast - the enigmatic Lady (Shalaye Camillo). The play opens and ends with this women, clad in gray, sitting on a bus seat holding a cake box in her lap.  As the minstrel show begins, she moves off the the side to observe, and occasionally intervenes to wipe a brow, or to join in a dance.  I kept asking myself: "Who is the woman, and what does she represent? Is she a muse for The Nine? Is she a silent one woman Greek Chorus? Is she a guardian angel?" But as the play concludes with a defiant act of non-compliance, it becomes perfectly clear who she is. It is a brilliant theatrical device.

This is a MUST SEE show. This is a story that must be told.  These black lives from long ago still matter. As uncomfortable as is the truth of the injustices visited upon the Scottsboro Boys, Ferguson, Missouri, Staten Island, and other locales scream that these are also contemporary problems that must be acknowledged and addressed.

The run of the show at the Calderwood Pavilion at the Boston Center for the Arts has been extended through November 26th by popular demand. Get your tickets now while they are still available.

Enjoy!

Al

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

En Garde Arts Presents The World Premiere of "Wilderness" by Seth Bockley & Anne Hamburger - At The Abrons Arts Center Through November 13th


There is a remarkable new play that has just opened at the Abrons Arts Center on Grand Street in the historic Henry Street Settlement in the Lower East Side. The play is the World Premiere of "Wilderness," a docudrama that tells the true stories of a handful of troubled teens whose parents arranged to send them against their will for weeks - or even months - of "Wilderness Therapy."

The play is brilliantly constructed by authors Seth Bockley, who also directs this production, and Anne Hamburger. The play is produced by En Garde Arts and is presented in association with Abrons Art Center. The structure of the play is that the role of the teenagers and their young counselors are played by actors. The real parents of the teenagers whose stories are being told have been filmed, and their interviews are interspersed with the live action and projected onto panels on the back wall of the stage. A brilliantly designed set by Carolyn Mraz consists of a wall, moveable chairs, and sliding panels that allow projections of parents to be isolated as needed. Costumes by Claudia Brown bring us into the wilderness, Lighting by Scott Bolman sets the mood and establish the time of day, Sound by Mikhail Fiksel, and Video, and Projections by Michael Tutaj tie together the world of the parents and the wilderness experience of their troubled children. The production values are extraordinarily high - at the level that one would expect from a production with a much larger budget and further up town.

Actors double in roles as Kids and Field staff.  They are:

Holly DeMorro, Caitlin Goldie, Taylor Noble, Riley Suter, Jake Williams and Luke Zimmerman. Equity Actress Welker White plays The Mom, a live stand-in for all of the parents.

Cast
"Wilderness"
by Seth Bockley & Anne Hamburger
En Garde Arts & Abrons Arts Center
Through November 13th
The acting on the part of each member of this ensemble is so convincing that on several occasions I forgot that I was watching actors, and felt as if the real troubled teens were standing before me. The writing and acting weave together seamlessly to show us at a visceral level the anger of the kids, their sense of betrayal at being spirited off in the middle of the night by strangers to an unknown destination in order to "get fixed." We watch them slowly begin to open up and trust one another and the staff.  We hear the parents chronicle their own emotional wilderness journeys in trying to figure out how to handle a violent son or a daughter who refuses to communicate.

Cast
"Wilderness"
by Seth Bockley & Anne Hamburger
En Garde Arts & Abrons Arts Center
Through November 13th

This is a play worthy of a wide audience.  It is deeply moving and thought provoking.  It will run at this location through November 13th.


En Garde Arts Website

En Garde Arts serves as a fierce advocate of both established and emerging voices employing theatre as a means through which to bring together people who are not normally in conversation — and catalyze social change.


Enjoy!

Al

En Garde Arts Presents The World Premiere of "Wilderness" by Seth Bockley & Anne Hamburger - At The Abrons Arts Center Through November 13th


There is a remarkable new play that has just opened at the Abrons Arts Center on Grand Street in the historic Henry Street Settlement in the Lower East Side. The play is the World Premiere of "Wilderness," a docudrama that tells the true stories of a handful of troubled teens whose parents arranged to send them against their will for weeks - or even months - of "Wilderness Therapy."

The play is brilliantly constructed by authors Seth Bockley, who also directs this production, and Anne Hamburger. The play is produced by En Garde Arts and is presented in association with Abrons Art Center. The structure of the play is that the role of the teenagers and their young counselors are played by actors. The real parents of the teenagers whose stories are being told have been filmed, and their interviews are interspersed with the live action and projected onto panels on the back wall of the stage. A brilliantly designed set by Carolyn Mraz consists of a wall, moveable chairs, and sliding panels that allow projections of parents to be isolated as needed. Costumes by Claudia Brown bring us into the wilderness, Lighting by Scott Bolman sets the mood and establish the time of day, and Sound, Video, and Projections by Mikhail Fiksel tie together the world of the parents and the wilderness experience of their troubled children. The production values are extraordinarily high - at the level that one would expect from a production with a much larger budget and further up town.

Actors double in roles as Kids and Field staff.  They are:

Holly DeMorro, Caitlin Goldie, Taylor Noble, Riley Suter, Jake Williams and Luke Zimmerman. Equity Actress Welker White plays The Mom, a live stand-in for all of the parents.

Cast
"Wilderness"
by Seth Bockley & Anne Hamburger
En Garde Arts & Abrons Arts Center
Through November 13th
The acting on the part of each member of this ensemble is so convincing that on several occasions I forgot that I was watching actors, and felt as if the real troubled teens were standing before me. The writing and acting weave together seamlessly to show us at a visceral level the anger of the kids, their sense of betrayal at being spirited off in the middle of the night by strangers to an unknown destination in order to "get fixed." We watch them slowly begin to open up and trust one another and the staff.  We hear the parents chronicle their own emotional wilderness journeys in trying to figure out how to handle a violent son or a daughter who refuses to communicate.

Cast
"Wilderness"
by Seth Bockley & Anne Hamburger
En Garde Arts & Abrons Arts Center
Through November 13th

This is a play worthy of a wide audience.  It is deeply moving and thought provoking.  It will run at this location through November 13th.


En Garde Arts Website

En Garde Arts serves as a fierce advocate of both established and emerging voices employing theatre as a means through which to bring together people who are not normally in conversation — and catalyze social change.


Enjoy!

Al

Friday, October 21, 2016

Review of "The Pigeon Tunnel" by John Le Carré - A Memoir


I have long been a fan of the novels of Jean Le Car.  I was thrilled to learn that he had penned this memoir that reveals many of the real world back stories that led to the writing of many of his novels. Not hiding his real name of David John Moore Cornwell, the acclaimed author is quite transparent in revealing aspects of his personal life -  during his brief time in the world of espionage and beyond into his long and successful literary career. The final pages of the book are devoted largely to the complex relationship he had with his enigmatic father, a man often in and out of prison for con games and scams.

The fact that this man took a only a handful years of working at a low level within the shadowy world of British espionage and conflated it into a literary career of almost fifty years is an astounding achievement.  It is clear from this memoir that hard work in research was wedded to vivid imagination in crafting the dozens of spy novels that have become best sellers. We learn about M15 and M16, the KGB, Yasser Arafat, Sir Alec Guinness as George Smiley, and much more.

This memoir made me appreciate the man behind the pen name, and made me want to re-read many of his best works.

Enjoy!

Al

New Rep Theatre Presents "Good" by C.P. Taylor - Through October 30th - A Cautionary Tale



It comes as no surprise that New Rep Artistic Director, Jim Petosa, has chosen "Good" by C.P. Taylor as a production to coincide with our troubled and troublesome Presidential election. The parallels between Germany leading up to the Holocaust and our present Trump-infested political season are obvious. In this play, a "good man," Professor John Halder (An excellent Michael Kaye), has penned a novel inspired by his struggle with his mother who has slipped into dementia.  In the novel, he proposes humane ways in which euthanasia may be beneficial for the enfeebled individual and for the beleaguered family try to cope with caring for this person. Adolph Eichmann (the always impressive Benjamin Evett) reads the novel and immediately grasps how this professor could be very useful to the Third Reich. Professor Halder is summoned, and takes the first step down the slippery slope that will lead him to supervise horrors at Auschwitz. As he continues his downward slide into eventually becoming a trusted officer in the SS, complications in his personal life intervene and interrupt the scenes in which he is being groomed to become a senior officer in the dreaded SS. We meet his unhappy wife (a chronically dishevelled and depressed Christine Power), his vivacious and ambitious mistress (an alluring Casey Tucker), his Jewish psychiatrist friend Maurice (the often hysteria prone Tim Spears, because he sees what the future holds for him and his ilk), and Halder's demented mother (the very convincing and unhinged Judith Chaffee). Rounding out the excellent cast are Jesse Garlick as Doctor/Dispatch Rider, Lily Linke as Elizabeth/Sister, Will Madden as Freddie, the SS officer who befriends Halder, and Alex Schneps who does a frighteningly accurate send-up of Hitler in full rant mode.
Benjamin Evett as Eichmann
Michael Kaye as Professor Halder
"Good" by C.P. Taylor
New Rep Theatre
Arsenal Center for the Arts
Through October 30th
Andrew Brilliant/Brilliant Pictures
The play is written in an expressionistic style with music.  The music is the sound track that plays in Halder's head in moments of stress - Wagner, Sigmund Romberg, Beethoven, Chopin, and even some Benny Goodman licks. Because of the disjointed expressionistic style, the playwright does not engage the emotions of the audience in terms of making us care about any of the characters. It is a political and polemical play that serves as a cautionary tale as we draw near to the voting booths across America."Are we having a nervous breakdown? Are we as a nation having a nervous breakdown?" And that, at the end of the day, is the question we must ask ourselves as this troubling election cycle reaches its denouement.

Directed by Jim Petosa, Scenic Design by Jyoung Han, Lighting Design by Bridget K. Doyle, Costume Design by Megan Mills and Theona White, Sound Design by Aubrey Dube. Co-produced by New Rep and Boston Center for American Performance. Staged at New Rep Theater, Watertown, MA. through October 30th.

New Rep Website

Enjoy!

Al

Review of "Mindset" by Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D. - How We Can Learn To Fulfill Our Potential


I have found Dr. Carol Dweck's book, "Mindset," to be so helpful that I have recommended it to dozens of individuals over the past few weeks. This psychologist begins with a simple premise that has arisen from her research and that of her colleagues.  Most individuals approach life with either a fixed mindset or a growth mindset. The book is filled with practical examples of how someone with a fixed mindset can sabotage himself and remain stuck in a static place. A child scores well on math exams and determines that she is very smart.  That identity as a "smart person" is reinforced with praise from teachers and parents.  But when she bumps up against more complex math challenges that she is not able to immediately master, she panics.  Instead of rising to the challenge and working to learn the new material, she retreats in fear that her identity as a math whiz is being challenged. She may withdraw from the field of math or begin cheating to maintain her self-image as a math superstar.

The author gives many examples of how a growth mindset allows a person to view challenges and difficulties as opportunities to grow and to be stretched.  Vignettes about of how individuals have developed a growth mindset and applied it in parenting, leading a business, deepening relationships.  The power of these examples is amplified by the author's transparency in sharing that she has had to teach herself to move beyond a fixed mindset to a growth mindset in several areas of her life - both personal and professional.

This book offers great value to anyone who values becoming comfortable with being a lifelong learner.

Enjoy!

Al

Maiden Phoenix Theatre Company Presents "Sense & Sensibility - At Hibernian Hall Through October 30th


The current fast-paced and rollicking production of "Sense & Sensibility" by the Maiden Phoenix Theatre Company makes Jane Austen seem like a contemporary writer opining about gossip, social graces, and the dilemma of women being objectified by men who treat them as frangible commodities that they can manipulate at will. Director Michael Underhill takes Kate Hamill's adaptation of the novel and sets his cast in motion in a way that delights and keeps the audience engaged from start to finish. Cast members occasionally roll about the performing space on boxes set on casters, sometimes miming coach trips through the countryside, sometimes comically sidling up to one another in a scene of bashfulness between two prospective lovers.

The cast is uniformly excellent and engaged in making this classic novel live and breathe. The two Dashwood sisters, Elinor (Anna Waldron) and Marianne (Erin Eva Butcher), are at the center of the swirling action.  Their father has died, leaving them and their widowed mother in financial straits. They must find proper husbands, but bump up against obstacles of the class system and of interpersonal complications. Each of their hearts are broken, and they struggle to maintain both sense and sensibility in the midst of the perpetual setbacks. Ms. Waldron and Ms. Butcher are excellent in portraying the yin and the yang of two sisters who are very different, yet are devoted to one another. As Mrs. Jennings, Kiki Samko raises doddering to an art form! Dan Prior is excellent as Mr. Edward Ferrars, a philandering suitor. William Schuller is perfect as the deceiving suitor, John Willoughby, and Cameron Beaty Gossel is appropriately martial as the superannuated suitor, Colonel Brandon. Cameron Cronin is magnificently unctuous as John Dashwood, and Marge Dunn is wonderfully haughty as his wife, Fanny, who behaves shamefully toward Elinor, Marianne and their mother, Mrs. Dashwood (an excellent Elizabeth Addison). Sarah Mass teams with Kiki Samko to portray the scheming Steele sisters. Michael Underhill offers an amusing cameo as Robert Ferrars.

Kiki Samko as Anne Steele
Sarah Mass as Lucy Steele
Cameron Cronin as John Middleton/John Dashwood
Anna Waldron as Elinor Dashwood
Erin Eva Butcher as Marianne Dashwood
"Sense & Sensibility" by Kate Hamill
Maiden Phoenix Theatre Company
Hibernian Hall
Through October 30th
Photo by Nile Hawver
Supporting the excellent cast are the following members of the creative team:

Director: Michael Underhill
Assistant Director/ Movement: Kiki Samko
Stage Manager: Corey Exline
Costume Designer: Erica Desautels
Scenic Designer: Marc Ewart
Lighting Designer: Emily Bearce
Sound Designer: Deirdre Benson

Cast
"Sense & Sensibility" by Kate Hamill
Maiden Phoenix Theatre Company
Hibernian Hall
Through October 30th
Photo by Nile Hawver

This production will run at Hibernian Hall in Dudley Square through Sunday, October 30th. It is a total delight.

Maiden Phoenix Website

Enjoy!

Al

Maiden Phoenix Theatre Company Presents "Sense & Sensibility - At Hibernian Hall Through October 30th


The current fast-paced and rollicking production of "Sense & Sensibility" by the Maiden Phoenix Theatre Company makes Jane Austen seem like a contemporary writer opining about gossip, social graces, and the dilemma of women being objectified by men who treat them as frangible commodities that they can manipulate at will. Director Michael Underhill takes Kate Hamill's adaptation of the novel and sets his cast in motion in a way that delights and keeps the audience engaged from start to finish. Cast members occasionally roll about the performing space on boxes set on casters, sometimes miming coach trips through the countryside, sometimes comically sidling up to one another in a scene of bashfulness between two prospective lovers.

The cast is uniformly excellent and engaged in making this classic novel live and breathe. The two Dashwood sisters, Elinor (Anna Waldron) and Marianne (Erin Eva Butcher), are at the center of the swirling action.  Their father has died, leaving them and their widowed mother in financial straits. They must find proper husbands, but bump up against obstacles of the class system and of interpersonal complications. Each of their hearts are broken, and they struggle to maintain both sense and sensibility in the midst of the perpetual setbacks. Ms. Waldron and Ms. Butcher are excellent in portraying the yin and the yang of two sisters who are very different, yet are devoted to one another. As Mrs. Jennings, Kiki Samko raises doddering to an art form! Dan Prior is excellent as Mr. Edward Ferrars, a philandering suitor. William Schuller is perfect as the deceiving suitor, John Willoughby, and Cameron Beaty Gossel is appropriately martial as the superannuated suitor, Colonel Brandon. Cameron Cronin is magnificently unctuous as John Dashwood, and Marge Dunn is wonderfully haughty as his wife, Fanny, who behaves shamefully toward Elinor, Marianne and their mother, Mrs. Dashwood (an excellent Elizabeth Addison). Sarah Mass teams with Kiki Samko to portray the scheming Steele sisters. Michael Underhill offers an amusing cameo as Robert Ferrars.

Kiki Samko as Anne Steele
Sarah Mass as Lucy Steele
Cameron Cronin as John Middleton/John Dashwood
Anna Waldron as Elinor Dashwood
Erin Eva Butcher as Marianne Dashwood
"Sense & Sensibility" by Kate Hamill
Maiden Phoenix Theatre Company
Hibernian Hall
Through October 30th
Photo by Nile Hawver
Supporting the excellent cast are the following members of the creative team:

Director: Michael Underhill
Assistant Director/ Movement: Kiki Samko
Stage Manager: Corey Exline
Costume Designer: Erica Desautels
Scenic Designer: Marc Ewart
Lighting Designer: Emily Bearce
Sound Designer: Deirdre Benson

Cast
"Sense & Sensibility" by Kate Hamill
Maiden Phoenix Theatre Company
Hibernian Hall
Through October 30th
Photo by Nile Hawver

This production will run at Hibernian Hall in Dudley Square through Sunday, October 30th. It is a total delight.

Maiden Phoenix Website

Enjoy!

Al

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

The Metropolitan Opera Presents Mozart's "Don Giovanni" - At Your Local Cinema - October 22nd and October 26th


Opera lovers, take heed.  If you can't get to NYC to the Met, the Met will come to you at a local movie theater.

DON GIOVANNI (Mozart)

Saturday, October 22 (LIVE) – 12:55 p.m. ET / 11:55 a.m. CT/ 10:55 a.m. MT/ 9:55 a.m. PT  
Wednesday, October 26 (ENCORE) – 6:30 p.m. local time


Simon Keenlyside makes his Met role debut as the unrepentant seducer in Tony Award-winner Michael Grandage’s staging of Mozart’s masterpiece. Met Principal Conductor Fabio Luisi leads a cast that includes Hibla Gerzmava as Donna Anna, Malin Byström as Donna Elvira, Serena Malfi as Zerlina, Adam Plachetka as Leporello, Matthew Rose as Masetto, Kwangchul Youn as the Commendatore and Rolando Villazón in his Live in HD debut as Don Ottavio.

Click on this link to learn details and earn a chance to win a pair of free tickets.


Enjoy!

Al

Here are local Boston area theaters that will be showing the operas

Regal Fenway Stadium 13 & RPX.
Boston
MA
AMC Burlington Cinema 10
Burlington
MA
Showcase Cinema de Lux Legacy Place
Dedham
MA
Showcase Cinemas Lowell
Lowell
MA
Showcase Cinema de Lux Revere
Revere
MA
AMC Assembly Row 12
Somerville
MA

So that you can plan ahead, here is the season that will be unfolding over the next months.

PHASE 1

DON GIOVANNI (Mozart)
Saturday, October 22 (LIVE) – 12:55 p.m. ET / 11:55 a.m. CT/ 10:55 a.m. MT/ 9:55 a.m. PT  
Wednesday, October 26 (ENCORE) – 6:30 p.m. local time

Simon Keenlyside makes his Met role debut as the unrepentant seducer in Tony Award-winner Michael Grandage’s staging of Mozart’s masterpiece. Met Principal Conductor Fabio Luisi leads a cast that includes Hibla Gerzmava as Donna Anna, Malin Byström as Donna Elvira, Serena Malfi as Zerlina, Adam Plachetka as Leporello, Matthew Rose as Masetto, Kwangchul Youn as the Commendatore and Rolando Villazón in his Live in HD debut as Don Ottavio.

L’AMOUR DE LOIN (Saariaho) – Met Premiere
Saturday, December 10 (LIVE) – 12:55 p.m. ET / 11:55 a.m. CT/ 10:55 a.m. MT/ 9:55 a.m. PT
Wednesday, December 21 (ENCORE) – 6:30 p.m. local time

One of the most highly-praised operas of recent years, which had its premiere at the Salzburg Festival in 2000, Kaija Saariaho’s yearning medieval romance L’Amour de Loin (Love from Afar), has its Met premiere this season. The production is by Robert Lepage, co-produced with L’Opéra de Québec, where it premiered to acclaim last summer, in collaboration with Ex Machina. Debuting Finnish conductor Susanna Mälkki leads the performance, which stars Susanna Phillips as Clémence, Eric Owens as Jaufré, and Tamara Mumford as the Pilgrim who carries messages of love between them.

NABUCCO (Verdi) – First time in HD & Starring Plácido Domingo
Saturday, January 7 (LIVE) – 12:55 p.m. ET / 11:55 a.m. CT/ 10:55 a.m. MT/ 9:55 a.m. PT
Wednesday, January 11 (ENCORE) – 6:30 p.m. local time

Met Music Director Emeritus James Levine conducts Verdi’s early drama of Ancient Babylon, Nabucco, with Plácido Domingo adding a new role to his repertory as the title character. Liudmyla Monastyrska sings the tour-de-force role of Abigaille, Nabucco’s willful daughter, with Jamie Barton as Fenena, Russell Thomas as Ismaele and Dmitri Belosselskiy as the prophet Zaccaria, the role of his 2011 Met debut.

ROMÉO ET JULIETTE (Gounod) – New production
Saturday, January 21 (LIVE) – 12:55 p.m. ET / 11:55 a.m. CT/ 10:55 a.m. MT/ 9:55 a.m. PT  
Wednesday, January 25 (ENCORE) – 6:30 p.m. local time

The electrifying team of Vittorio Grigolo and Diana Damrau reunites for a new production of Gounod’s opera based on the Shakespeare play. Damrau makes her role debut as Juliette in Bartlett Sher’s new production, conducted by Gianandrea Noseda. Elliot Madore sings Mercutio and Mikhail Petrenko sings Frère Laurent. Sher’s staging is a La Scala production, initially presented by the Salzburg Festival, where it premiered in 2008.
RUSALKA (Dvořák) – New production
Saturday, February 25 (LIVE) – 12:55 p.m. ET / 11:55 a.m. CT/ 10:55 a.m. MT/ 9:55 a.m. PT  
Wednesday, March 1 (ENCORE) – 6:30 p.m. local time

Kristine Opolais stars in a new production of the opera that first won her international acclaim, Dvořák’s fairy-tale opera about the tragic water nymph Rusalka. Sir Mark Elder conducts Mary Zimmerman’s new staging, which also stars Brandon Jovanovich as the human prince who captures Rusalka’s heart; Katarina Dalayman as Rusalka’s rival, the Foreign Princess; Eric Owens as the Water Sprite, Rusalka’s father and Jamie Barton as the duplicitous witch Ježibaba.

PHASE 2
LA TRAVIATA (Verdi)
Saturday, March 11 (LIVE) – 12:55 p.m. ET / 11:55 a.m. CT/ 10:55 a.m. MT/ 9:55 a.m. PT
Wednesday, March 15 (ENCORE) – 6:30 p.m. local time

Sonya Yoncheva brings her acclaimed interpretation of the doomed courtesan Violetta Valéry to Live in HD audiences for the first time, opposite rising American tenor Michael Fabiano as her lover, Alfredo. Thomas Hampson sings one of his most acclaimed Met roles as Giorgio Germont, Alfredo’s disapproving father, in a revival of Willy Decker’s staging conducted by San Francisco Opera Music Director Nicola Luisotti.

IDOMENEO (Mozart) – First time in HD
Saturday, March 25 (LIVE) – 12:55 p.m. ET / 11:55 a.m. CT/ 10:55 a.m. MT/ 9:55 a.m. PT  
Wednesday, March 29 (ENCORE) – 6:30 p.m. local time

James Levine conducts a rare Met revival of Mozart’s Idomeneo, set in the aftermath of the Trojan War. Jean-Pierre Ponnelle’s classic production, which has its first Met revival in over a decade this season, stars Matthew Polenzani in the title role. The cast also includes Elza van den Heever as Elettra, Nadine Sierra as Ilia, Alice Coote as Idamante and Alan Opie as Arbace.

EUGENE ONEGIN (Tchaikovsky) – Starring Anna Netrebko
Saturday, April 22 (LIVE) – 12:55 p.m. ET / 11:55 a.m. CT/ 10:55 a.m. MT/ 9:55 a.m. PT  
Wednesday, April 26 (ENCORE) – 6:30 p.m. local time

Anna Netrebko reprises one of her most acclaimed roles as Tatiana, the naïve heroine of Tchaikovsky’s opera, adapted from Pushkin’s classic novel. Dmitri Hvorostovsky stars as the title character, who rejects Tatiana’s love. Robin Ticciati, Music Director of Glyndebourne Festival Opera, conducts the revival of Deborah Warner’s staging, which opened the Met’s 2013-14 season. Alexey Dolgov sings the role of Onegin’s friend-turned-rival, Lenski, with Elena Maximova as Tatiana’s sister Olga and Štefan Kocán as Prince Gremin.

DER ROSENKAVALIER (R. Strauss) – New production
Saturday, May 13 (LIVE) – 12:30 p.m. ET / 11:30 a.m. CT/ 10:30 a.m. MT/ 9:30 a.m. PT  
Wednesday, May 17 (ENCORE) – 6:30 p.m. local time

The Met’s first new production since 1969 of Strauss’s rich romantic masterpiece is conducted by Sebastian Weigle and directed by Robert Carsen, whose most recent Met production was the hit 2013 staging of Falstaff. Renée Fleming sings one of her signature roles as the Marschallin, opposite Elīna Garanča in her first North American performances as Octavian, the impulsive young title character. The cast also includes Günther Groissböck as Baron Ochs, Erin Morley as Sophie, Marcus Brück in his Met debut as Faninal and Matthew Polenzani as the Italian Singer. Der Rosenkavalier is a co-production with the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden and Teatro Regio di Torino.




Monday, October 17, 2016

Boston Playwrights' Theatre Presents a Remarkable New Play - "Memorial" by Livian Yeh - An Absolute MUST SEE!


I just witnessed one of the finest new plays I have seen in many years.  "Memorial" will be playing for one more weekend at Boston Playwrights' Theatre, and it must be seen.  Playwright Livian Yeh is an MFA student in Boston University's Playwriting Program, and she is as precocious in the depth and breadth of her voice as are other award-winning members of the rising generation of young women and men who are writing for the stage: Branden Jacob-Jenkins, Ayad Akhtar, Annie Baker. Her story parallels in some ways the themes of this play.

Maya Lin was a 21-year-old Yale student of architecture when she submitted a design for a Vietnam veterans' memorial that was selected out of more than a thousand entries. Her simple and controversial design - a reflective granite wall containing the names of those who died in the Vietnam conflict - has become part of the fabric of the Mall in Washington, D.C., but the memorial was almost not constructed.  "Memorial" chronicles in a dramatized fashion the battles that raged behind the scenes and under the surface once the design had been awarded to Ms. Lin. Her innovative design concept was a simple black granite wall that would be reflective, causing those who visited the memorial to see themselves, to see the war, and to see the world in new ways.  In similar fashion, Ms. Yeh has constructed a work of art in "Memorial" that gives the audience ample opportunities to reflect - on the nature of war, its impact on victims and survivors, the proper role of memorials in a society, the tension between tradition and innovation, and the role of art in catalyzing conversation about important issues. This gifted playwright has erected a reflecting wall on the southern border of our consciousness and sensibilities.  And, unlike the wall being proposed by a candidate who shall remain nameless here, her wall unites rather than divides, includes rather then excludes. How timely and appropriate it is that in the current political climate in which racism, sexism, xenophobia are being etched onto the granite facade of our republic, along comes a young, female, Asian playwright who has crafted a play about another young, female, Asian artist who must overcome all of these prejudices to get her memorial built.

The inherent tensions in this story are established early in the play.  Maya (Amy Ward) is visited in her Yale dorm room by Wolf von Eckardt (Dale J. Young), an art and architecture critic who headed the memorial selection committee. Accompanying Mr. von Eckardt is Col. James Becker (John Kooi), a Vietnam veteran who headed the funding raising committee, and who vehemently opposes the selection of Ms. Lin's design. The other two characters in the play are esteemed architect, Hideo Sasaki (Jeff Song) and Maya's domineering mother, Julia Lin (Roxanne Morse).

Dale J. Young as Wolf von Eckardt
Amy Ward as Maya Lin
John Kooi as Colonel Becker
"Memorial" by Livian Yeh
A BU New Play Initiative Production
Through October 23rd
Boston Playwrights' Theatre
Photo by Kalman Zabarsky

As the action progresses, Ms. Lin finds herself at odds with each of the other characters at some point along the way. Should she compromise, or hold fast to the purity of her vision? She butts head with renowned architect, Hideo Sasaki, who offers a compromise that would break the deadlock between Congress and the Vietnam vets on the one side, and Maya's insistence that her design be built as she originally conceived it. Maya's mother interjects herself into the mix, wanting to protect her daughter. In a scene that is the emotional heart of this play, the action slows to a crawl as Colonel Becker makes an unannounced visit to Maya and her mother. The mother senses an opportunity to open a dialogue between the warring factions, and invites Col. Becker to join her and Maya for a traditional Chinese tea ceremony. The ceremony involves many complex steps of pouring and washing and pouring and steeping and smelling and sipping.  It cannot be rushed.  Maya is furious, but the slow pace of the ceremony allows each person to reflect.  This slow moving scene also gives the audience an opportunity to reflect on what they have been experiencing up to this point in the play - to let the ideas and images steep. The insertion of this scene at this point in the action is a brilliant structural device. And in the scene, Ms. Morse as Maya's mother is the perfect blend of elegance and grace and steel in pressing home her agenda.

Amy Ward as Maya Lin
Roxanne Morse as Lulia Lin
John Kooi as Colonel Becker
"Memorial" by Livian Yeh
A BU New Play Initiative Production
Through October 23rd
Boston Playwrights' Theatre
Photo by Kalman Zabarsky

The wall is eventually built, but with the compromise that a more traditional statue of three soldiers is also erected on the periphery.  Maya feels defeated and does not even want to see her compromised design.  Caving in to pressure from her mother to visit the finished site, she bumps into Col. Becker, who finds himself, despite his strongest expectations, to be deeply moved by the memorial. He becomes transparent in sharing why he really fought so hard against the reflective wall. Mr. Kooi and Ms. Ward are particularly effective in this cathartic scene.

This excellent cast is directed with a deft hand by Kelly Gavin.  Mary Sader's set suggests a gently curving wall, emblematic of the fact that the building of Maya's wall was not a simple linear process. Lighting by Aja M. Jackson, Sound by Oliver Seagle, Costumes by Theona H. White draw us into the period in which the play is set, and punctuate the changing scenes and developing action.

The Vietnam Veterans' Memorial
The Reflective Surface

In the course of this play, each character is compelled to reflect, and as a result, undergoes some sort of transformation. Isn't that the function of great art?

This is a play that should be seen while it is here in Boston through October 23rd, and also demands a further life for a broad audience. I am already in the process of alerting some of my New York friends that this is a show they should consider producing. Get your tickets now, for if you do not, it may reflect badly on you! And remember the name of playwright, Livien Yeh.  You will see it one day on a marquee on Broadway.

Boston Playwrights' Theatre website

Enjoy!

Al

Boston Playwrights' Theatre Presents a Remarkable New Play - "Memorial" by Livian Yeh - An Absolute MUST SEE!


I just witnessed one of the finest new plays I have seen in many years.  "Memorial" will be playing for one more weekend at Boston Playwrights' Theatre, and it must be seen.  Playwright Livian Yeh is an MFA student in Boston University's Playwriting Program, and she is as precocious in the depth and breadth of her voice as are other award-winning members of the rising generation of young women and men who are writing for the stage: Branden Jacob-Jenkins, Ayad Akhtar, Annie Baker. Her story parallels in some ways the themes of this play.

Maya Lin was a 21-year-old Yale student of architecture when she submitted a design for a Vietnam veterans' memorial that was selected out of more than a thousand entries. Her simple and controversial design - a reflective granite wall containing the names of those who died in the Vietnam conflict - has become part of the fabric of the Mall in Washington, D.C., but the memorial was almost not constructed.  "Memorial" chronicles in a dramatized fashion the battles that raged behind the scenes and under the surface once the design had been awarded to Ms. Lin. Her innovative design concept was a simple black granite wall that would be reflective, causing those who visited the memorial to see themselves, to see the war, and to see the world in new ways.  In similar fashion, Ms. Yeh has constructed a work of art in "Memorial" that gives the audience ample opportunities to reflect - on the nature of war, its impact on victims and survivors, the proper role of memorials in a society, the tension between tradition and innovation, and the role of art in catalyzing conversation about important issues. This gifted playwright has erected a reflecting wall on the southern border of our consciousness and sensibilities.  And, unlike the wall being proposed by a candidate who shall remain nameless here, her wall unites rather than divides, includes rather then excludes. How timely and appropriate it is that in the current political climate in which racism, sexism, xenophobia are being etched onto the granite facade of our republic, along comes a young, female, Asian playwright who has crafted a play about another young, female, Asian artist who must overcome all of these prejudices to get her memorial built.

The inherent tensions in this story are established early in the play.  Maya (Amy Ward) is visited in her Yale dorm room by Wolf von Eckardt (Dale J. Young), an art and architecture critic who headed the memorial selection committee. Accompanying Mr. von Eckardt is Col. James Becker (John Kooi), a Vietnam veteran who headed the funding raising committee, and who vehemently opposes the selection of Ms. Lin's design. The other two characters in the play are esteemed architect, Hideo Sasaki (Jeff Song) and Maya's domineering mother, Julia Lin (Roxanne Morse).

Dale J. Young as Wolf von Eckardt
Amy Ward as Maya Lin
John Kooi as Colonel Becker
"Memorial" by Livian Yeh
A BU New Play Initiative Production
Through October 23rd
Boston Playwrights' Theatre
Photo by Kalman Zabarsky

As the action progresses, Ms. Lin finds herself at odds with each of the other characters at some point along the way. Should she compromise, or hold fast to the purity of her vision? She butts head with renowned architect, Hideo Sasaki, who offers a compromise that would break the deadlock between Congress and the Vietnam vets on the one side, and Maya's insistence that her design be built as she originally conceived it. Maya's mother interjects herself into the mix, wanting to protect her daughter. In a scene that is the emotional heart of this play, the action slows to a crawl as Colonel Becker makes an unannounced visit to Maya and her mother. The mother senses an opportunity to open a dialogue between the warring factions, and invites Col. Becker to join her and Maya for a traditional Chinese tea ceremony. The ceremony involves many complex steps of pouring and washing and pouring and steeping and smelling and sipping.  It cannot be rushed.  Maya is furious, but the slow pace of the ceremony allows each person to reflect.  This slow moving scene also gives the audience an opportunity to reflect on what they have been experiencing up to this point in the play - to let the ideas and images steep. The insertion of this scene at this point in the action is a brilliant structural device. And in the scene, Ms. Morse as Maya's mother is the perfect blend of elegance and grace and steel in pressing home her agenda.

Amy Ward as Maya Lin
Roxanne Morse as Lulia Lin
John Kooi as Colonel Becker
"Memorial" by Livian Yeh
A BU New Play Initiative Production
Through October 23rd
Boston Playwrights' Theatre
Photo by Kalman Zabarsky

The wall is eventually built, but with the compromise that a more traditional statue of three soldiers is also erected on the periphery.  Maya feels defeated and does not even want to see her compromised design.  Caving in to pressure from her mother to visit the finished site, she bumps into Col. Becker, who finds himself, despite his strongest expectations, to be deeply moved by the memorial. He becomes transparent in sharing why he really fought so hard against the reflective wall. Mr. Kooi and Ms. Ward are particularly effective in this cathartic scene.

This excellent cast is directed with a deft hand by Kelly Gavin.  Mary Sader's set suggests a gently curving wall, emblematic of the fact that the building of Maya's wall was not a simple linear process. Lighting by Aja M. Jackson, Sound by Oliver Seagle, Costumes by Theona H. White draw us into the period in which the play is set, and punctuate the changing scenes and developing action.

The Vietnam Veterans' Memorial
The Reflective Surface

In the course of this play, each character is compelled to reflect, and as a result, undergoes some sort of transformation. Isn't that the function of great art?

This is a play that should be seen while it is here in Boston through October 23rd, and also demands a further life for a broad audience. I am already in the process of alerting some of my New York friends that this is a show they should consider producing. Get your tickets now, for if you do not, it may reflect badly on you! And remember the name of playwright, Livien Yeh.  You will see it one day on a marquee on Broadway.

Boston Playwrights' Theatre website

Enjoy!

Al

Boston Playwrights' Theatre Presents a Remarkable New Play - "Memorial" by Livian Yeh - An Absolute MUST SEE!


I just witnessed one of the finest new plays I have seen in many years.  "Memorial" will be playing for one more weekend at Boston Playwrights' Theatre, and it must be seen.  Playwright Livian Yeh is an MFA student in Boston University's Playwriting Program, and she is as precocious in the depth and breadth of her voice as are other award-winning members of the rising generation of young women and men who are writing for the stage: Branden Jacob-Jenkins, Ayad Akhtar, Annie Baker. Her story parallels in some ways the themes of this play.

Maya Lin was a 21-year-old Yale student of architecture when she submitted a design for a Vietnam veterans' memorial that was selected out of more than a thousand entries. Her simple and controversial design - a reflective granite wall containing the names of those who died in the Vietnam conflict - has become part of the fabric of the Mall in Washington, D.C., but the memorial was almost not constructed.  "Memorial" chronicles in a dramatized fashion the battles that raged behind the scenes and under the surface once the design had been awarded to Ms. Lin. Her innovative design concept was a simple black granite wall that would be reflective, causing those who visited the memorial to see themselves, to see the war, and to see the world in new ways.  In similar fashion, Ms. Yeh has constructed a work of art in "Memorial" that gives the audience ample opportunities to reflect - on the nature of war, its impact on victims and survivors, the proper role of memorials in a society, the tension between tradition and innovation, and the role of art in catalyzing conversation about important issues. This gifted playwright has erected a reflecting wall on the southern border of our consciousness and sensibilities.  And, unlike the wall being proposed by a candidate who shall remain nameless here, her wall unites rather than divides, includes rather then excludes. How timely and appropriate it is that in the current political climate in which racism, sexism, xenophobia are being etched onto the granite facade of our republic, along comes a young, female, Asian playwright who has crafted a play about another young, female, Asian artist who must overcome all of these prejudices to get her memorial built.

The inherent tensions in this story are established early in the play.  Maya (Amy Ward) is visited in her Yale dorm room by Wolf von Eckardt (Dale J. Young), an art and architecture critic who headed the memorial selection committee. Accompanying Mr. von Eckardt is Col. James Becker (John Kooi), a Vietnam veteran who headed the funding raising committee, and who vehemently opposes the selection of Ms. Lin's design. The other two characters in the play are esteemed architect, Hideo Sasaki (Jeff Song) and Maya's domineering mother, Julia Lin (Roxanne Morse).

Dale J. Young as Wolf von Eckardt
Amy Ward as Maya Lin
John Kooi as Colonel Becker
"Memorial" by Livian Yeh
A BU New Play Initiative Production
Through October 23rd
Boston Playwrights' Theatre
Photo by Kalman Zabarsky

As the action progresses, Ms. Lin finds herself at odds with each of the other characters at some point along the way. Should she compromise, or hold fast to the purity of her vision? She butts head with renowned architect, Hideo Sasaki, who offers a compromise that would break the deadlock between Congress and the Vietnam vets on the one side, and Maya's insistence that her design be built as she originally conceived it. Maya's mother interjects herself into the mix, wanting to protect her daughter. In a scene that is the emotional heart of this play, the action slows to a crawl as Colonel Becker makes an unannounced visit to Maya and her mother. The mother senses an opportunity to open a dialogue between the warring factions, and invites Col. Becker to join her and Maya for a traditional Chinese tea ceremony. The ceremony involves many complex steps of pouring and washing and pouring and steeping and smelling and sipping.  It cannot be rushed.  Maya is furious, but the slow pace of the ceremony allows each person to reflect.  This slow moving scene also gives the audience an opportunity to reflect on what they have been experiencing up to this point in the play - to let the ideas and images steep. The insertion of this scene at this point in the action is a brilliant structural device. And in the scene, Ms. Morse as Maya's mother is the perfect blend of elegance and grace and steel in pressing home her agenda.

Amy Ward as Maya Lin
Roxanne Morse as Lulia Lin
John Kooi as Colonel Becker
"Memorial" by Livian Yeh
A BU New Play Initiative Production
Through October 23rd
Boston Playwrights' Theatre
Photo by Kalman Zabarsky

The wall is eventually built, but with the compromise that a more traditional statue of three soldiers is also erected on the periphery.  Maya feels defeated and does not even want to see her compromised design.  Caving in to pressure from her mother to visit the finished site, she bumps into Col. Becker, who finds himself, despite his strongest expectations, to be deeply moved by the memorial. He becomes transparent in sharing why he really fought so hard against the reflective wall. Mr. Kooi and Ms. Ward are particularly effective in this cathartic scene.

This excellent cast is directed with a deft hand by Kelly Gavin.  Mary Sader's set suggests a gently curving wall, emblematic of the fact that the building of Maya's wall was not a simple linear process. Lighting by Aja M. Jackson, Sound by Oliver Seagle, Costumes by Theona H. White draw us into the period in which the play is set, and punctuate the changing scenes and developing action.

The Vietnam Veterans' Memorial
The Reflective Surface

In the course of this play, each character is compelled to reflect, and as a result, undergoes some sort of transformation. Isn't that the function of great art?

This is a play that should be seen while it is here in Boston through October 23rd, and also demands a further life for a broad audience. I am already in the process of alerting some of my New York friends that this is a show they should consider producing. Get your tickets now, for if you do not, it may reflect badly on you! And remember the name of playwright, Livien Yeh.  You will see it one day on a marquee on Broadway.

Boston Playwrights' Theatre website

Enjoy!

Al

Monday, October 10, 2016

Actors' Shakespeare Project Dazzles With A Majestic Production of "Hamlet" - Through November 6th at The Church of the Covenant


The Actors' Shakespeare Project has brilliantly chosen as the venue for their current production of "Hamlet" the majestic and beautiful sanctuary of the Church of the Covenant in Back Bay. This setting makes us feel as if we are in the royal court in Elsinore. Director Doug Lockwood also decided to make use of the pipe organ and grand piano that grace the sanctuary to provide background music during scene transitions and during the ghostly visitations of Hamlet's father. The overall effect is that I found this to be one of the most interesting and engaging productions I have seen of Shakespeare's iconic masterpiece.

Mr. Lockwood has assembled a gifted cast of actors who are supported by the very able creative team.  With minimal equipment, Lighting Designer Deb Sullivan changes moods and settings with subtle alteration of color and intensity of light. Likewise, Sound Designer Arshan Gailus provides background soundscape befitting the action of the play.   Costumes by Jessica Pribble are gorgeous and regal.  Set Designer Jenna McFarland Lord uses the inherent beauty of the sanctuary to suggested the royal court.

Omar Robinson as Hamlet
In the Majestic Sanctuary of
The Church of the Covenant
"Hamlet" by William Shakespeare
Actors' Shakespeare Project
Through November 6th
Photo by Nile Scott Shots
  • Omar Robinson brings an intensity and physicality to his interpretation of the troubled Prince of Denmark that is gripping. His rendering of the famous "To be or not to be" soliloquy is among the most effective I have ever witnessed.  This is not just familiar and flowery speech; this is real wrestling at the core of his being with life or death.
  • As King Claudius, Ross MacDonald runs the gamut of emotions between kingly command as he manipulates Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, and helpless resignation as he sees his plan to poison Hamlet go horribly wrong.
  • Marianna Bassham is a very convincing Queen Gertrude, caught between her love for her departed husband, her new husband and king, and her bereaved son.
  • Poornima Kirby is heart-rending as Ophelia, losing her wits in parallel with Hamlet's demise as she struggles to try to understand why he has withdrawn his love and now commits her "to a nunnery."
  • The role of her brother, Laertes, is rendered powerfully by Alexander Platt, who doubles as Guildenstern, as well. The final dueling scene between Laertes and Hamlet is a highlight of this production.
Alexander Platt as Laertes
Poornima Kirby as Ophelia
"Hamlet" by William Shakespeare
Actors' Shakespeare Project
Through November 6th
Photo by Nile Scott Shots
  • Their father, Polonius, is counselor to the king, and one of Shakespeare's most indelibly drawn fools. The formidable Richard Snee perfectly captures the ridiculousness of Polonius' posturings as he gives high sounding advice to Laertes as he prepares to embark on a journey, and then to Ophelia about how to handle affairs of the heart.  Mr. Snee portrays Polonius as a mouth-breather and a roller-of-the-eyes, and the effect is just as I think Shakespeare would have wished.  In a brilliant stroke of double casting, Mr. Snee doubles as The Ghost, pulling up a satin hood to cover his head to effect the transformation.
Richard Snee as Polonius
"Hamlet" by William Shakespeare
Actors' Shakespeare Project
Through November 6th
Photo by Nile Scott Shots
  • Peter G. Anderson plays the dual roles of Horatio, faithful friend to Hamlet, and Rosencrantz. He is equally effective in both roles.
  • Rory Boyd spends much of the play on the organ bench, occasionally offering a strident chord to signal a tense moment in the action, or using the pedals to activate the organ's sonorous 32 foot Diapason to suggest the haunting presence of The Ghost.  He also does able duty as the Player King and Priest.
Marianna Bassham as Gertrude
Ross MacDonald as Claudius
"Hamlet" by William Shakespeare

Actors' Shakespeare Project
Through November 6th
Photo by Nile Scott Shots
The actors utilize many different parts of the sanctuary - the nave, the elevated pulpit, the aisles, the altar - all to good effect. The play is well paced, and the time seemed to fly by. Whether or not you are a fan of Shakespeare, this is a production you will not want to miss.  This is one of the finest production of Shakespeare's greatest play. It will continue through November 6th. Do yourself a favor; order your tickets now. "To thine own self be true"!

Actors' Shakespeare Project Website

Omar Robinson as Hamlet
"Hamlet" by William Shakespeare
Actors' Shakespeare Project
Through November 6th
Photo by Nile Scott Shots
Enjoy!

Al