Wednesday, August 01, 2018

Review of "Leonardo Da Vinci" by Walter Isaacson - An insightful glimpse into the mind and life of the prototypical Renaissance Man



Before I opened the cover of Walter Isaacson's "Leonardo Da Vinci," I thought I was reasonably knowledgeable about the Renaissance and its artists. Yet as I journeyed through the 500 + pages of this fascinating biography, each chapter offered new vistas and levels of understanding into the unique genius of the prototypical Renaissance Man - his life, his research, his artistry.

A common thread that runs through the book is Isaacson's conviction that Da Vinci's penchant for not finishing projects- even commissions for which he had been paid - is a two-edged sword. On the one hand, he shows Leonardo as a flawed human being, not a god of extraordinary genius. On the other hand, he theorizes that it was the artist's perfectionism that prompted him to hang to works of art sometimes for decades, adding small modifications as his growing corpus of scientific research informed his artistic sensibilities and techniques. This was true of his growing awareness of the physiology of how light and shadow interact with the human eye.

As the narrative unfolds, the author intertwines insights into Leonardo's personal relationships, and how they may have impacted his work and career. We are offered views of the ruling Borgias and Medicis, Pope Leo X, King Francis I of France, writer and diplomat Machiavelli, and a stream of young assistants and lovers. These young associates both supported the artist in his work and his personal life, and drained him financially and emotionally. The most important of these young men was the impish Salai, whose relationship with Leonardo lasted for decades, beginning in 1490 when Salai was 10 years old. He evolved into Leonardo’s model, most trusted confidant, lover, ad surrogate son. Late in Da Vinci’s life, Salai’s role was evidently supplanted by younger associates, Melzi and Battista.

Another mixed blessing that the author points out was Da Vinci’s position as the bastard son of Piero, who was involved in Leonardo’s life, but never legitimized him. This fact meant that Leonardo was not eligible to follow the family profession of notary, nor to receive the classical education that most young sons of the Florence nobility and the merchant class received. This meant that Leonardo was forced – or enabled – to learn from experience and personal observation, rather than accept at face value the received knowledge that his peers were taught. He was free to explore new ways of seeing the world and thinking about the meaning. “Why is the sky blue?” “What is the anatomy of the woodpecker’s tongue?”

No matter the depth of one’s knowledge of the Renaissance, I guarantee that reading Isaacson’s masterpiece study of Leonardo and his era will lead to new levels of understanding and inspiration.

Enjoy!

Al

Tuesday, May 01, 2018

"Grant" by Ron Chernow - A Treasure Trove of Information and Insight


Like many readers, I became familiar with the work of Ron Chernow through the back door - through his association with Lin-Manuel Miranda and the Broadway musical "Hamilton." That revolutionary work of art is, of course, based on Chernow's excellent biography of Alexander Hamilton. Having seen the musical, I was prompted to go to the source and read the book. I was not disappointed. Chernow is unique among historians in that he combines meticulous research and scholarship with an engaging narrative style that draws the reader into the lives of the persons being described. Having enjoyed the Hamilton biography, I was eager to dive into "Grant." Chernow is consistent, for the same accolades I gave to "Hamilton" can be applied to "Grant."

I learned a great deal about Grant, about the Civil War, about Reconstruction, and the struggles of America to knit itself back together after the bloody War Between The States. Grant emerges in this book as a complex figure. He was a reluctant West Point cadet, a failed businessman, a frustrated junior officer, a brilliant strategist as a general, a passionate defender of former slaves, and a naive judge of character who was perpetually fooled and bamboozled by those he trusted too long and too deeply. Chernow addresses the issues of Grant's reputation as a heavy drinker, and gives praise to Mrs. Grant and General John Rawlins, Grant's personal conscience and Jiminy Cricket, for keeping him mostly sober during the Civil War and during his White House years.

Even for someone familiar with this turbulent period in American history, this book will prove instructive and illuminating.

Enjoy!

Al

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Review of "Insight Pitch" by Skip Lockwood - One of the best baseball books I have ever read - chock full of insight and intrigue


"Insight Pitch" is one of the finest baseball books I have ever read - and I have read plenty of them. Former Mets closer Skip Lockwood brings an unusual literary sensibility to the task of inviting the reader inside the mind of a major league pitcher, and ushering the reader onto the mound as Skip faces tough opponents hovering at home plate. His use of metaphor in describing baseball situations adds a depth of expression and style that is a rarity among sports books. The author wields language with the same finesse that was the hallmark of his years as a closer in having pinpoint control over where the baseball would go when it left his hand.

The saga begins with Skip's halcyon days growing up in Norwood, Massachusetts, and starring for Catholic Memorial High School's baseball team. He shares a fascinating account of the day when the representatives of five MLB teams made the pilgrimage to the Lockwood home in an attempt to sign the young baseball phenom to a professional contract as a "Bonus Baby." Skip's parents decided to leave the room while Skip was negotiating with the scout from the Kansas City Athletics. The account of how young Skip handled that negotiation is one of the most fascinating and insightful chapters of the book.

After struggling for several years in the minor leagues - unable to hit a professional curve ball with any consistency - Skip took the advice of those in the Athletics organization who had invested in him, and turned himself into a pitcher. He pitched for several teams, most notably the Mets. He finished his injury-plagued career signing as the first free agent inked by the Boston Red Sox.

Mr. Lockwood's intelligence is on full display as he shares deeply held convictions and astute observations about the game of baseball and the role it has played in his life. He earned an MBA from MIT as a Sloan Fellow. He shares in great detail the techniques he developed for visualizing a game and an encounter with a batter before they would ever happen in real time. He would visualize the situation once as if he were viewing it dispassionately from the stands. But then he would also visualize the same situation as if he were peering through his eyes from the pitcher's mound. That dual approach is exactly what Skip Lockwood the author offers to his readers here. We get to observe, as if in the stands, the life of a successful ballplayer. But we also get to see, hear, and feel what it was like inside his mind and heart as some of the ups and downs of his career played themselves out. The result is a thoroughly engaging and instructive window into America's game. Along the way, we get to experience Skip's encounters with the likes of Satchel Paige, Yogi Berra, Tom Seaver, and many other familiar baseball names.

The book is chock full of deep insights into baseball, handling both success and disappointment, balancing pursuit of excellence with a realistic assessment of strengths and weaknesses. If you love baseball, you will not want to miss reading this book. If you are lukewarm about baseball, reading this book may turn up the heat, and you may never watch a baseball game the same way ever again.

Enjoy!

Al

Wednesday, April 04, 2018

A Fitting Tribute To My Brother, David. L. Chase - 4/2/53 - 3/25/18

Dave and Phoebe Chase

Here is the full obituary notice for my brother, which contains a link to a gorgeous memorial video that wonderfully encapsulates Dave’s rich and full 65 years of a life well spent.

Details about services and memorial contributions are contained within.

I am heading back to Lynchburg, VA to lead the family and friends in a memorial service this Sunday evening.

Thank you for all of your loving expressions of support to me and the family.

Linked To Memorial Page

A Belated Commentary On A Triple Miracle Day

 Jacob Athyal and Harsh J. Gagoomal 
"Guards at the Taj" by Rajiv Joseph
Presented by Underground Railway Theater
Photo by Allan Sinclair

Wednesday two weeks ago was a day of Triple Miracles for me. I had planned to post this article and two reviews of the shows I saw, but those plans were overtaken by events. As many of you know, I received news of the sudden death of my brother while he and his wife were on a cruise in the Bahamas. Much of the past week and a half has been spent with the family in Virginia, so the reviews remain unwritten. But I wanted to acknowledge, at this late date, the two extraordinary plays that I saw on that day.

Miracle #1 - The much vaunted 4th Nor'easter of March delayed its entrance onto the Boston stage for about 12 hours, so that I was able to attend both a matinee and an evening performance of two plays I have been eagerly awaiting an opportunity to see.

Miracle #2 - The afternoon performance of the riveting the Huntington Theatre Company's "Skeleton Crew." The cast of Patricia R. Floyd, Jonathan Louis Dent, Toccara Cash, and Maurice Emmanuel Parent were outstanding in bringing us inside the minds and hearts of four Detroit residents whose jobs at an auto assembly plant are in jeopardy, and their lives are in chaos.

Jonathan Louis Dent, Toccarra Cash, Patricia R. Floyd, and Maurice E. Parent
in the Huntington Theatre Company's production of Skeleton Crew
Directed by Megan Sandberg-Zakian
© Photo: T. Charles Erickson.

Miracle #3 - The gripping drama "Guards at the Taj" Presented by Underground Railway Theater. Jacob Athyal and Harsh J. Gagoomal were memorable as childhood friends who grew to be guards at the public opening of the Taj Mahal. The play, written by Rajiv Joseph, is a deep philosophical reflection on the nature of beauty, especially when juxtaposed with mayhem and gore.

Harsh J. Gagoomal and  Jacob Athyal
"Guards at the Taj" by Rajiv Joseph
Presented by Underground Railway Theater
Photo by Allan Sinclair

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Greater Boston Stage Company Enchants With "The Irish And How They Got That Way" - Through March 25th


Sure and begorrah, 'tis a fine way to be spendin' an evenin' bein' enchanted by "The Irish And How They Got That Way" now running at The Boston Stage Company in Stoneham. Make your way to Stoneham Square between now  and March 25th to soak up the atmosphere of this celebration of Irish heritage in America.

Noted Irish American author Frank McCourt has put together this revue that combines stories and Irish music that goes back to traditional ballads from the Old Sod all the way to a familiar tune by U2 and Bono.

Director Dawn M. Simmons has assembled a very talented sextet of actors/musicians who not only regale us with tales and quips, but play instruments to accompany their singing. William Gardiner, Nile Hawver, Michael Levesque, Kirsten Salpini, Nicole Vander Laan, and Ceit Zweil each have their moments to shine individually, but it was their ensemble singing that I found most moving, especially with such songs as "Erie Canal," Danny Boy," and "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For."

Michael Levesque, Nicole Vander Laan, Kirsten Salpini, William Gardiner*, and Ceit Zweil*
"The Irish And How They Got That Way"
by Frank McCourt
Greater Boston Stage Company
Through March 25th

Scenic Design is by Shelley Barish, Costumes by Brittany Rolfs, Lighting by Karen Perlow, Sound Design by John Stone.

Sitting behind me were a couple whom I surmise may have been of Irish heritage, for they quietly sang along with some of the old ballads. One need not be Irish to be entertained and beguiled by this revue. This afternoon's matinee was a sellout, so I would not hesitate to book your tickets now.

William Gardiner*, Ceit Zweil*, Nile Hawver*, Michael Levesque, Kirsten Salpini, and Nicole Vander Laan"The Irish And How They Got That Way"
by Frank McCourt
Greater Boston Stage Company
Through March 25th
Greater Boston Stage Website

Enjoy! Erin Go Bragh

Al



by Frank McCourt
Original musical arrangements by Rusty Magee
Additional musical arrangements by Kirsten Salpini

The Irish And How They Got That Way is presented by special arrangement withThe Irish Repertory Theatre Company, Inc. 
Directed by Dawn M. Simmons
Music Direction by Kirsten Salpini

SpeakEasy Stage Company Presents "Every Brilliant Thing" by Duncan MacMillan - Featuring The Amazing Adrianne Krstansky


Every time I have seen Adrianne Krstansky on stage, I have marveled at the multi-faceted talents she brings to her craft and her art. In the deeply immersive, audience-participation One Act play that is "Every Brilliant Things," she leads us on a journey that is both sobering and inspiring. She portrays a woman whose mother was bipolar and suicidal. We get to hear about how a 7 year-old girl feels when she learns that her mother has been hospitalized because she can find no more reasons to live. And we follow her journey through college, courtship, early adulthood, her own bouts with depression, the dissolution of her marriage to Sam, and the eventual death by suicide of her mother. The thread that ties everything together, and that enlists audience members, is a list of "Brilliant Things" that the little girl began to accumulate when she was 7. #1: Ice Cream!

The list was her attempt to nudge her depressed mother into a place of positivity. That tactic did not work for her mother, but it provided the girl growing into womanhood with a lifeline of hope and affirmation of all the reasons she had to be alive. Playwright Duncan MacMillan, along with Jonny Donahue, developed this play from a short story he had written. Under the Direction of Marianna Bassham, Ms. Krstansky is a master story teller, careening around the corners of the Roberts Studio at the Calderwood Pavilion, engaging with audience members, weaving them into the saga and having them shout out items from the list of Brilliant Things.

Adrianne Krstansky
"Every Brilliant Thing"
by Duncan MacMillan with Jonny Donahoe
SpeakEasy Stage Company
Calderwood Pavilion
Through March 31st
Photo by Maggie Hall Photography

While frankly dealing with issues of mental illness, depression and suicide, this invigorating evening of theater is life-affirming in some very creative ways. Music plays an important role in remembering important milestones with her mother, father, Sam, and other key figures in her life. Scenic and Lighting Design is by Eric Levenson, Costume Design by Amanda Ostrow Mason, Sound Design by Abby Shenker.

Adrianne Krstansky
"Every Brilliant Thing"
by Duncan MacMillan with Jonny Donahoe
SpeakEasy Stage Company
Calderwood Pavilion
Through March 31st
Photo by Maggie Hall Photography


Audience members were encouraged to write Post-it notes at the end of the play to express their own personal "Brilliant Thing." This was mine: "That feeling sitting in the theatre when the lights dim and the orchestra strikes up the opening chords of a familiar Overture."

The play runs through March 31st.

SpeakEasy Stage Website

Enjoy!

Al

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Review of "Political Justice" by Dennis Carstens - A Marc Kadella Legal Mystery


"Political Justice" by Dennis Carstens is part of the author's Marc Kadella Legal Mystery Series. In this installment, the action follows a Machiavellian Presidential candidate whose randy desires led him into murky waters, and a plot to frame a naive young aide for the death of a young girl whom the candidate had bedded. The candidate's complicit wife takes advantage of the situation to boost her own ambitions. Attorney Marc Kadella is called upon to find justice for the innocent young man who has been framed. Complex plot twists and memorable characters make this a good read.

We see a sordid side of life in the underbelly of Washington political life that is all the more plausible given the undrained swap we all now observe in our nation's capital. Think "House of Cards" meets the Land of Trump, and you will have a feel for the craven ambiance of this novel's landscape.

Enjoy!

Al

Sunday, March 04, 2018

Zeitgeist Stage Company Presents "Steve" by Mark Gerrard - A Riveting Tragicomedy - Through March 24


Mark Gerrard's playwright voice sounds a bit like Terrence McNally with his acerbic wit. In Gerrard's tragicomedy "Steve," we met two gay couples who have been together for some time and the once red hot passion has cooled to a tepid state. Stephen (Alex Jacobs) and Steven (Victor Shopov) have an adopted son, Zach. Things are not going well. Zach seems to be a kleptomaniac with a speech impediment. Stephen supports the household as a lawyer, while former chorus boy and dancer Steven is a stay-at-home Mom to Zach. Steven has discovered on Stephen's iPhone that he has been sexting with their friend, Brian (Mike Nilsson), who is in a long term relationship with Matt (Mikey DiLoreto). Matt and Steven  used to wait tables and sing with Carrie (Jenny Reagan). Carrie is a listing ear for Steven, but she has just broken up with her girlfriend, and she has a terminal disease. Steven remains in denial.

Issues of infidelity, the inevitable fading of physical beauty and attractiveness, the nature of friendship, monogamy, and death are all explored with great care and cleverness by Mr. Gerrard, and acted out superbly by this strong ensemble - a sextet, if you will. Director David J. Miller skillfully directs the pace of this show that runs for 75 minutes in one act.The timing of the dialogue is crucial, for the playwright writes as people talk - stepping on one another's lines, interrupting each other mid sentence, and finishing one another's thoughts. In the case of Steven, Carrie, and Matt, they pepper each paragraph with Broadway musical allusions. I counted close to 100 of them as they went zinging past me. These quips and quotes from show tunes not only punctuate the conversations, they serve as the oxygen that these people breath, and function as a life line that keeps them from drifting away with the outgoing tide of approaching middle age and decrepitude. Matt and Brian try to hold the inevitable at bay by engaging Trainer Steve at their gym. Trainer Steve soon becomes part of their household and a third party to their relationship. In the meantime, Stephen and Steve cannot seem to get over the contretemps of the sexting episode, and things are falling apart as Carrie slips away. Then there is the handsome Argentine waiter, Esteban (Adam Boiselle), with whom Steven is smitten. Estaban is ubiquitous, offering distraction with every movement of his supple hips.

Mikey DiLoreto as Matt, Alex Jacobs as Stephen
Jenny Reagan as Carrie, Victor Shopov as Steven
Adam Boiselle as Estaban, Mike Nilsson as Brian
"Steve" by Mark Gerrard
Directed by David J. Miller
Zeitgeist Stage Company
Plaza Black Box Theatre at BCA
Through MArch 24
Photo by David 


Costue Design is by Elizabeth Cole Sheehan, Lighting Design is by Michael Clark Wonson, and Sound Design is by Jay Mobley.

The action and the dialogue are rife with humor, conflict, and pathos. Each character is well developed, and the arc of the story held my attention throughout. The writing is inspired, and the ensemble acting is flawless. This is a play you will not want to miss. It runs at the BCA through March 24th - Wednesdays and Thursdays at 7:30, Fridays at 8:00, Saturdays at 4:00 and 8:00, and Sundays at 4:00.

Zeitgeist Stage Website

Enjoy!

Al

Apollinaire Theatre Company Presents The U.S. Premiere of "Winter Solstice" by Roland Schimmelpfennig, Translated by David Tushingham


Roland Schimmelpfennig has written a very Germanic play to warn his fellow Germans of the insidious dangers of letting a wolf in sheep's clothing in the door. The elongated shadow of fascism still has this dysfunctional bourgeois German family adumbrated as they prepare to celebrate Christmas and the Winter Solstice. The feel and mood in the play is almost Expressionistic, as Albert (Brian McCarthy) and Bettina (Lindsay Beamish) await the arrival of Bettina's troublesome mother, Corinna (Maureen Adduci). The problematic mother surprises her hosts by inviting in a stranger she had just met on the train, Rudolph (Phil Thompson), an urbane doctor who has come from Paraguay. A fifth character, Konrad (Ambjorn Elder) plays an enigmatic role, reading stage directions that the playwright specified be read, and also functioning as a one man Greek chorus. It is only as the evening wears on that Albert becomes concerned about his guest, who spouts pietistic mottoes about racial purity and the importance of not mixing. The doctor's presence and philosophy has a toxic effect upon Albert.

While clearly meant as a cautionary tale for Germans to never forget how subtly evil can present itself and insinuate itself, this English translation comes at a time when Americans are sorely in need of a similar warning. The shadows that benighted Germany during the Third Reich have begun to creep across our borders, and no wall can keep the darkness from spreading into the very fabric of the life of our fragile republic.

Maureen Adduci as Corinna
Brian McCarthy as Albert
Ambjorn Elder as Konrad
Phil Thompson as Rudolph
Lindsay Beamish as Bettina
"Winter Solstice" by Roland Schimmelpfennig
Translated by David Tushingham
Directed by Brooks Reeves
Apollinaire Theatre Company
Through March 11

Director Brooks Reeves has cleverly apportioned the stage directions among several characters in addition to Konrad. He has his quintet of actors movingly well among the levels of the stylized set, designed and lit by Danielle Fauteux Jacques. Costume Design is by Elizabeth Rocha, and Sound Design is by David Reiffel.

The play will run through March 11 at Chelsea Theatre Works.

Apollinaire Website

Enjoy!

Al

AMIOS Presents "The Loneliest Number" by Lizzie Vieh at the Flamboyan Theater, Lower East Side - A World Premiere Through March 10th


Brooklyn-based playwright Lizzie Vieh has written a fascinating and compelling four-hander that addresses issues of boredom and loneliness within a marriage relationship. "The Loneliest Number" follows a husband and wife who decide to try a risky experiment to find a spark to reignite their faltering passion. Beginning in August, each partner will invite a third person to join them in a menage a trois. The following month, the other partner gets to chose whom to invite. Complications ensue when Wendy (Leigh Williams) finds that her work mate, Kevin (Justin Yorio), has secretly been in love with her, and he jumps at the invitation to jump into bed with her. Arianne (Cassandra Paras), part-time clerk at the dry cleaner and bartender, is John's (Maurice Jones) choice for the month of September, and even more labyrinthine complications ensue.

Director Maria Dizzia (Orange Is The New Black) directs this gifted ensemble with a steady hand, and with considerable help from the creative team of Sound Designer Nick Abel, Lighting Designer Ali Hall, Set Designer Frank J. Oliva, and Costume Designer Jocelyn Pierce. This World Premiere is the latest iteration of a project that began as a workshop as part of AMIOS' popular SHOTZ! short play series.

In addition to the loneliness made explicit in the title of the play, the playwright explores themes of risk, infertility, betrayal, forgiveness, and deep existential despair. Ms. Vieh has created four memorable characters, each of whom is unbalanced in unique ways, and each of whom harbors their own brand of loneliness. None of them is particularly likable, with the possible exception of tatted-up Arianne, who has no more fucks to give, but is charming nonetheless. The miracle of the writing and the acting here is that I found myself caring about what would happen to each of these four misfits. I suspect that you will care, as well, when you make your way to the Flamboyan Theater at 107 Suffolk Street in the Lower Eat Side, just off of Delancey near the entrance to the Williamsburg Bridge.

The plays will run until next Sunday, March 10th.

Amios Website

Enjoy!

Al

Saturday, March 03, 2018

Brown Box Theatre Project Astonishes With The Mind-Blowing "The Hotel Nepenthe" by John Kuntz - At Atlantic Wharf


Whatever genus of mushroom John Kuntz has access to that enables him regularly to transcend the gravitational bonds of quotidian logical discourse and linear narrative exposition, and to soar into the realm of magic and genius as a playwright - I want some of those mushrooms. "The Hotel Nepenthe," currently being presented by Brown Box Theatre Project at the Atlantic Wharf is an example of a play that inhabits several universes simultaneously. It has one foot in the world of Theatre of the Absurd. It has another foot firmly planted in the cosmos of Theater of the Ontological, in that this play invites us to examine the nature of being - in a multiverse, or in a dizzying array of parallel universes.

Margaret Clark and Michael Underhill
"The Hotel Nepenthe" by John Kuntz
Brown Box Theatre Project
At Atlantic Wharf
Through March 11
Photo by Maggie Hill Photography
The dramatist accomplishes this theatrical leger de main using four gifted actors who represent eighteen disparate (and often desperate) characters. Margaret Clark, Rebecca Schneebaum, Cam Torres, and Michael Underhill are more than equal to the task of keeping pace with the playwright's rapid grinding of the tectonic plates that under-gird the memorable characters and their shifting universes. Scenic Designer Abby Shenker has created a malleable playground for the actors, made up primarily of a series of cubes and frames of various sizes. The set pieces are forever being moved to different places on the stage, and reconfigured so that they are sometimes parallel, sometimes perpendicular to one another, sometimes lying flat on the floor. Actors sit on them, in them, lie atop them or atop one another. And each permutation serves to remind us that a slight variation of setting and character ushers us into a new universe. It is both mind-boggling, hilarious, sobering, and wildly entertaining. A character holding a Rubik's Cube serves as a visual metaphor for the underlying theme of this play that there are many ways in which our multi-colored facets can turn and interact.

Lighting by Keithlyn Parkman and Costumes by Lila West serve to abet the playwright and the actors in signaling shifts from one universe to the next.

Margaret Clark and Michael Underhill
Rebecca Schneebaum and Cam Torres
"The Hotel Nepenthe" by John Kuntz
Brown Box Theatre Project
At Atlantic Wharf
Through March 11
Photo by Maggie Hill Photography

The characters are as diverse as this sampling: a bellhop, a brother, a rent-a-car gal, a taxi driver, a bus driver, and Senator's wife with Presidential ambitions, a whore, a starlet, a baby, a fairy with wings, a sister, a mother. And the common thread that binds them together across space and time is the plaintive cry:"I wish my life mattered, somehow. That this pervading sense that this is just a bunch of random stuff happening would dissipate. And through all the chaos, everything would somehow make sense." There is the heart of this play, and it touches the hearts of each sentient audience member. Director Alex Lonati uses the talents of the actors and creative team with precision and vision.

Margaret Clark and Michael Underhill
Rebecca Schneebaum and Cam Torres
"The Hotel Nepenthe" by John Kuntz
Brown Box Theatre Project
At Atlantic Wharf
Through March 11
Photo by Maggie Hill Photography


A note on the term and concept of "nepenthe." Attributed to Homer around 700 B.C., it means "something capable of causing oblivion of grief or suffering," or to have the opposite effect. Nepenthe can offer comfort amidst grief and hardship, or it can cause discomfort and death - and it can be both at the same time. The universe - or multiverse - will decide.

You should decide to inhabit this multiverse and check into "The Hotel Nepenthe" - this evening at 7:30, or next weekend, Friday, Saturday and Sunday March 9-11 at 7:30 at Atlantic Wharf. Tickets are free, with an opportunity at the end of the show to give donations.

Brown Box Theatre


Enjoy!

Al




"The White Card" by Claudia Rankine Serves Up A Provocative and Dramatic Conversation about Race and White Privilege - A World Premiere


ArtsEmerson Presents the World Premiere of the American Repertory Theater Production of "The White Card" by Claudia Rankine, Directed by Diane Paulus.

On Wednesday of this week, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh proclaimed February 28, 2018 as "Claudia Rankine Day." There were many "Whereas" clauses explaining the reasoning behind such an honor. Poet Claudia Rankine, a Yale Professor, has been a MacArthur Grant recipient, and a bestselling author of a popular volume of poetry entitled "Citizen:An American Lyric." In "The White Card," she takes the themes explored poetically in "Citizen," and explodes them into dramatic conflict among five characters. She serves up challenging dialogue the way that the Williams sisters blister serves across a tennis net.

Karen Pittman as Charlotte
Daniel Gerroll as Charles
Arts Emerson Presents the American Repertory Production
and World Premiere of
"The White Card" by Claudia Rankine
Robert J. Orchard Stage
Emerson Paramount Center
Through April 1st
Photo by Gretjen Helene Photography

The audience climbs a flight of stairs to enter the re-configured Robert J. Orchard Stage at the Emerson Paramount Center. The sound of tennis balls being volleyed back and forth can be heard. We sit in opposing grandstands in an all-white windowless room that feels like a combination racquetball court, large holding cell, and isolation chamber. But it becomes clear through the brilliant projections by Peter Nigrini of the Venue and Serena Williams competing against each other that tennis will be a metaphor for the conflicts playing out on the stage/court in front of us. A bonus of the divided seating is that audience members get to watch one another squirm as inconvenient truthes of white privilege are bandied about across the gaping fault line of racism and tone deafness. The innovative scenic design by Riccardo Hernandez, Costumes by Emilio Sosa, Lighting by Stephen Strawbridge, and Sound by Will Pickens draw us into the lives and conflicts among the characters.

Well-heeled businessman and art collector, Charles (Daniel Gerroll), has developed a strange desire to collect the work of artists who capture images of violence against people of color. He and his well-coiffed wife, Virginia (Patricia Kalember) have invited to their home their art adviser, Eric (Jim Poulos) and flavor-of-the-month photographer Charlotte (Karen Pittman). In an effort to try to avoid any social awkwardness with a black guest in the home, they have given their black maid the night off. Charles hopes to persuade Charlotte to allow him to purchase her latest works. Stirring the pot is Alex (Colton Ryan), the angry, adolescent, activist son of Charles and Diane. He enters the fray, having just returned from a Black Lives Matter Rally. He resents his parents, particularly his father's means of earning money, and the hypocrisy of the artistic proclivities of the pater familias. We have all the makings of a contentious mixed-doubles match.

Karen Pittman as Charlotte
Arts Emerson Presents the American Repertory Production
and World Premiere of
"The White Card" by Claudia Rankine
Robert J. Orchard Stage
Emerson Paramount Center
Through April 1st
Photo by Gretjen Helene Photography
Tension mounts as it becomes clear that Charles harbors some ideas of racial justice that are framed and filtered through his position of white privilege. Charlotte becomes increasingly agitated as philosophy of art morphs into world view conversation. In a set of subplots, it becomes evident that while Charles hopes to change the world through his enlightened art collection and his foundation, he has failed miserably in making any meaningful connections with his wife or son. Chekhovian disaffection is in the air.

The playwright serves up many layers of thought-provoking themes, none of which are amenable to facile or simplistic solutions. What role do well-meaning, and well-endowed white liberals have in entering the arena (tennis court, if you will) of the struggle for racial justice? Is it even possible to open the aperture and see beyond the lens of white privilege? Does putting on display examples of violence against black men and women objectify them, or can it lead to healthy discussion of the mindset that made such violence possible? The playwright wants us to squirm, but simultaneously implores us to stay in the room to wrestle with these issues - as individuals and as members of communities that are willing to engage in tough conversations.

And Act II of this play presents just such an opportunity for frank conversation among audience members. We were invited to stay, and were led by facilitators who served as catalysts in posing  questions like: "What struck you most within this play? What made you most uncomfortable?" On opening night, a healthy mixture of diverse and inclusive audience members made for a lively beginning of a conversation that could lead to meaningful change. I guess the "ball is in our court" to ensure that the conversation continues to deepen and leads to meaningful action.

Jim Poulos as Eric
Karen Pittman as Charlotte
Daniel Gerroll as Charles
Colton Ryan as Alex
Arts Emerson Presents the American Repertory Production
and World Premiere of
"The White Card" by Claudia Rankine
Robert J. Orchard Stage
Emerson Paramount Center
Through April 1st
Photo by Gretjen Helene Photography
The actors' skill and passion to tell this story were equal to the exalted level of artistry of Ms. Rankine, Ms. Paulus, and the rest of their visionary creative team. At a pivotal moment near the end of the play, it becomes clear that Charlotte's words over time have flayed Charles, and have stripped him naked in an emotional and existential sense. We see clear evidence that he has been moved to action - and to change - when he strips to his waist, exposing his lily white skin - not only to Charlotte's scathing language, but to her searching lens. It is an indelible image that punctuates one of the multiple messages of this majestic work of art and social engineering.

The play runs through April 1st, and should not be missed.

Enjoy - and engage!

Al

Friday, March 02, 2018

Lyric Stage Presents "Virginia Woolf's Orlando" - Gender Fluidity Examined - Through March 25th


When I first saw a production of "Orlando" a few years ago, I found it long and tedious, so I was not sure what to expect with the current Lyric Stage production. Using an adaptation by Sarah Ruhl that pares the play down to a crisp 90 minutes, including a brief Intermission, Director A. Nora Long keeps the pace of the show going at a fast clip. The result was that I found myself engaged and entertained. The telling of this gender-bending and time-traveling tale is greatly enhanced by a simple and elegant monochromatic set design by Richard Wadsworth Chambers. Lighting Design by Steven McIntosh cleverly incorporates floor lighting that is used to suggest travel and movement as Orlando progresses from man to woman, and from century to century. Lush period Costumes are by Jessica Pribble. The production is presented in collaboration with the Suffolk University Theatre Department.

Caroline Lawton as Orlando
Rory Lambert-Wright and Jeff Marcus
"Virginia Woolf's Orlando"
Adapted by Sarah Ruhl
Directed by A. Nora Long
Lyric Stage Company of Boston
Through March 25th
Photo by Mark S. Howard

The cast of six are led by the impressive Caroline Lawton as Orlando. Playing multiple roles as Chorus members are Elise Arsenault, Michael Hisamoto, Rory Lambert-Wright, Jeff Marcus, and Hayley Spivey.

For those who know the backstory of the development of "Orlando," this play has been called "the longest and most charming love letter in literature." Virginia Woolf wrote the play as the embodiment of her love and friendship for Vita Sackville-West. Today, many of us often find ourselves as participants or listeners to conversation about "gender fluidity," But back in the Roaring 20s, when the play was born, issues of sexuality of any kind were not discussed in polite society. Virginia Woolf shattered that taboo with this play, and people have been buzzing about it ever since. Because during the course of the play Orlando experiences life both as a man and as a woman, the playwright is able to provide insights into both male and female sensibilities, proclivities, attractions, advantages, and challenges. The result is a play that challenges conventional thinking about gender, and leaves the audience to ruminate on many issues that are virtually imponderable.

Caroline Lawton as Orlando
Rory Lambert-Wright and Jeff Marcus
Elise Arsenault and Hayley Spivey
"Virginia Woolf's Orlando"
Adapted by Sarah Ruhl
Directed by A. Nora Long
Lyric Stage Company of Boston
Through March 25th
Photo by Mark S. Howard

This excellent drama is worthy of your consideration.

Through March 25th.

Lyric Stage Website

Enjoy!

Al

Monday, February 05, 2018

Reflecting On Liars & Believers Recent Event - "Irrestistible" coLab




Liars & Believers recently held a fascinating one night only event at Sonia at the Middle East in Central Square. The event, "Irresistible" was described as a "coLAB." It was an "immersive, artistic, wild ride." I experienced it almost as a classic 1960s "Happening." A team of collaborating artists wove together a 90 minute experience that included performance art, dance, movement, spoken word, original music, and recreated silent film action in front of a simulated movie screen. It felt a bit like an artistic buffet, with tastes, textures, and spices from a variety of genres.

The performers/collaborators were: Tess Degen, Jesse Garlick, Sarah Gazdowicz, M.I.C. King, Becca Lehrhoff, Nathan Leigh, Evan Lukash, Jay Mobley, Glen Moore, Jeff Pearlstein, Shaina Schwartz, Rachel Wiese,and MollyZenobia, with additional performances by Veronica Barron, Luke Paulino, and Ethan Rubin.



If a single theme could be deduced from the program, here is what the notes said: "In a time of turmoil, will resentment, anger, and fear tear us apart? Will our better selves triumph? Where will we and our nation end up? Deep inside, what irresistibly pulls us. . . and at what cost?From the Constitution to cake - from sex appeal to social construct - what is . . . irresistible?"
Rebecca Lehrhoff, Sarah Gazdowicz


An entire room full of people found the idea of this experimental theater piece irresistible, for the event was sold out. If you want to be able to choose to attend the next Liars & Believers event, I suggest you get on their mailing list and like their FB page.

Liars and Believers Website

Enjoy their next events.

Al

Commonwealth Shakespeare Company AT Babson Presents The Gripping Drama "Death and the Maiden" at Babson College - Through February 11th


Most Boston area residents are very familiar with Commonwealth Shakespeare Company's annual summer production of a Shakespeare play on Boston Common. You may be less familiar with the fact that CSC also maintains a vibrant residency on campus at Babson College in Wellesley, producing plays of the highest artistic caliber as Commonwealth Shakespeare Company AT Babson. The current production is the taut and gripping drama, "Death and the Maiden" by Chilean playwright Ariel Dorfman, and Directed by Steve Maler.

The action of the play is set in a generic Latin American nation, recently having replaced a violent military junta with a duly elected President. The new leader has appointed Gerardo Escobar (Mickey Solis) to a commission that is mandated to investigate abuses committed by the previous regime. His wife, Paulina Salas (Flora Diaz) had been a victim of abduction and violent abuse by the old regime 15 years earlier. She is still recovering. The tension mounts after Gerardo experiences car trouble, and is rescued by a "Good Samaritan," Dr. Roberto Miranda (Mark Torres). Even though Paulina had been blindfolded during her days of abduction and torture, she recognizes Dr. Miranda as one of her torturers, based on his voice, smell, texture of his skin, and his possession of a cassette tape of Schubert's classic string quartet, "Death and the Maiden."  Paulina manages to immobilize the good doctor, and coerces Gerardo into joining her in putting him on trial for his past sins against her. And the action escalates to the point where audience members have to remember to breathe.

Mark Torres as Dr. Miranda
Flora Diaz as Paulina
Mickey Solis as Gerardo
"Death and the Maiden"
by Ariel Dorfman
Directed by Steve Maler
Commonwealth Shakespeare Company AT Babson
Babson College
Through February 11th
Photo by Nile Hawver/Nile Scott Shots
As the tension mounts and Paulina becomes more and more strident in demanding a confession by Miranda, complicated issues are explored by the playwright. Justice vs, Vengeance. Individual pain and suffering vs. the need for collective Reconciliation and healing. The rule of law vs. vigilantism. This trio of troubled and "tortured" human beings struggle together - often violently - during 36 hours of house arrest in the living room of a beach house where Paulina and Gerardo have been staying. The playwright asks explicitly as he describes the struggle of a post-Pinochet Chile: "How can those who tortured and those who were tortured coexist in the same land?"

The writer wisely leaves the denouement of this collision ambiguous, forcing each audience  member to ask, at the end of the play: "What would I have done if I were in Paulina's shoes?"


Mark Torres as Dr. Miranda
Flora Diaz as Paulina
"Death and the Maiden"
by Ariel Dorfman
Directed by Steve Maler

Commonwealth Shakespeare Company AT Babson
Babson College
Through February 11th

Photo by Nile Hawver/Nile Scott Shots


A simple Set of raised platform and dining room table has been designed by Clint Ramos, who also designed the Costumes. Effective Lighting is by Jeff Adelberg, and stunningly effective Sound design is by Arshan Gailus.

Director Steve Maler has cast three gifted actors, who take us on a harrowing journey. Under his direction, they ratchet up the tension that feels as taut as an E string on the first violin in Shubert's eponymous string quartet. Each of the three actors have moments of quiet reflection, as well as bombastic outbursts. This play requires great physical stamina and emotional resilience on the part of the cast members. And they deliver with near perfection.

This is dark subject matter that delves into the blackest corners of the human spirit and collective soul. Come prepared to wrestle with deep issues. And come prepared to see theater at its best - brilliantly written, skillfully directed, and superbly well executed by three actors who play off of one another like members of a chamber orchestra interpreting Schubert.

February 8-10 at 7:30pm
February 11 at 3:00pm


At Babson College in Wellesley.

CSC Website

Enjoy!

Al


Huntington Theatre Company Presents "Bad Dates" by Theresa Rebeck- Irresistible and Near Perfect - Through February 25th

If you could use a thoroughly delightful evening at the theater, head to Huntington Theatre between now and February 25th for the delicious comedy "Bad Dates" by Theresa Rebeck and featuring the incredibly talented Haneefah Wood. Ms. Wood is familiar to Boston audiences. She won an IRNE Award for her performance in the Huntington's production of "Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike." This play will help you forget all about the Patriots loss in the Super Bowl, Red Line delays, slushy streets, and six more weeks of winter.

The plot is simple. In this one woman play, Haley Walker talks directly to the audience about her struggles trying to keep things together as the divorced mother of a teenage daughter. Haley has a shoe fetish that would make Imelda Marcos blush, and she spends considerable time, while talking about her life, trying on different pairs of shoes, and a dizzying array of ensembles before she finds just the right ensemble to launch her back into the world of "going on a date." She also spends an inordinate amount of time, also while soliloquizing to the audience, moisturizing most of the limbs of her body. By the time she is ready to met Mr. Right, she has the audience eating out of her supple and moist hand.

Haneefah Wood as Haley Walker
"Bad Dates" by Theresa Rebeck
Directed by Jessica Stone
Huntington Theatre Company
Through February 25th
Photo by T. Charles Ericson

To say that Ms. Wood is a master raconteuse would be an understatement. She punctuates her vignettes with facial expressions, tilts of her head, and looks in her eyes that draw the audience into her world, and make us sit on the edge of our seats wondering what is coming next. She patrols her bedroom, uncovering shoes, dresses, tops, pants, wrap-around skirts, sexy lingerie, and other treasures. The set by Alexander Dodge is a magnificent recreation of a Manhattan apartment, with surprises in store each time Haley opens of closes a closet door. Sarah Laux has provided Haley Walker with enough clothing and foot wear to dress a small Army. Lighting by David J. Weiner and Sound by Drew Levy complete the New York City ambiance.

The title of this play tells you that the dates did not go well. But the telling of these three disastrous meet-ups is both comical and poignant. This is not a mere puff piece, for the playwright injects some serious philosophical musings. Director Jessica Stone has Ms.Wood using every inch of the stage, and perfect comedic timing, to accentuate and animate the story telling.

I will leave the plot twists for you to discover. Expect to hear about the Romanian Mafia, a Buddhist fundraising event in the Hamptons, an "organ recital" by a hypochondriacal date, a closeted gay man who allows his mother to set him up on a blind date with Haley, the reappearance of an old flame, a meal at a fancy restaurant in Queens - Queens!! - and a dust-up with the law. Through it all, Haley is resilient, and Ms. Wood is magnificent in making us care about this quirky and unforgettable woman.

Haneefah Wood as Haley Walker
"Bad Dates" by Theresa Rebeck
Directed by Jessica Stone
Huntington Theatre Company
Through February 25th
Photo by T. Charles Ericson

You would be hard pressed to find a more more entertaining evening at the theater than a performance of "Bad Dates," Through February 25th.

Bring a date!

Enjoy!

Al

Huntington Theatre Website

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

York Theatre Celebrates The Music of Jule Styne with "Musicals in Mufti - Hallelujah, Baby!" - Through February 4th


For those old enough to remember, York Theatre Company's "Musicals in Mufti" series is a gift of nostalgia - bringing back forgotten musical theatre gems. For younger audience members, it is an opportunity to be introduced to some vintage musicals that are seldom performed today. This season's Mufti series of a wonderful collection of musicals that all have Jule Styne as the composer. The opening gem is "Hallelujah, Baby," that won the Tony for best musical in 1967, starring Leslie Uggams. Book is by Arthur Laurents, Lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green, with additional Lyrics by his daughter, Amanda Green. Those of us in the audience on Opening Night were thrice blessed, for joining in the festivities were Ms. Green, and her mother, Tony winner Phyllis Newman, Adolph Green's widow. Also in attendance was Mrs. Jule Styne. the distinguished composer's widow.

It was a special night, made even more special by the gifted cast who performed this staged reading of the musical. Under the Direction of Gerry McIntyre, the cast of nine sang, danced, and acted their way through the story of Georgina, who through the magic of theater, remains 25 years old as the action progresses through all of the decades of the 20th century - and beyond. Music Director, David Hancock Turner, conducts from the Steinway, accompanied on the Bass Viol by Richie Goods.

The triple threat cast is anchored by the luminous Stephanie Umoh, no stranger to the Mufti series. There may be no more pure a voice performing on NYC stages than that of Ms. Umoh, who leads us through Georgina's journey of loves won, loves lost, a bumpy career, and a growing awareness of her responsibility as a successful artist of color to add the weight of her voice to the ongoing struggle for equality and freedom for her people. The song, "My Own Morning," which reappears in several reprises, is her anthem of hopes and dreams. It is beautifully written and wondrously performed.

Stephanie Umoh as Georgina
"Hallelujah, Baby"
York Theatre Company
"Musicals in Mufti"
Through February 4th

The role of Georgina's Momma is played memorably by the venerable Vivian Reed. She takes this colorful character through an arc that begins with a servile "shuckin' and grinnin'" maid and evolves into a modern woman claiming her long-delayed rightful place in the world. Her song "I Don't Know Where She Got It"stops the show.

Vivian Reed as Momma
Stephanie Umoh as Georgina
"Hallelujah, Baby"
York Theatre Company
"Musicals in Mufti"
Through February 4th

Georgina loves two men, Clem (Jarran Muse), who becomes a radical activist as the action progresses, and Harvey (Tally Sessions), a white man whose attempts to support and protect Georgina are experienced as patronizing. These two rivals for Georgina's affection get to reveal themselves wonderfully through song. Clem and Georgina share a duet, "When The Weather's Better," looks forward metaphorically to the day when the clouds of Jim Crow will have lifted. These three principals share a trio in Act II, "Talking to Yourself," that highlights their respective struggles.

Reminding us of the day when the art form of tap was fully embraced are Randy Donaldson as Tap and Bernard Dotson as Tip. Rounding out the cast are Jennifer Cody as Mary, Michael Thomas Holmes as Hutchinson, and Latoya Edwards as Chloe.

Before I attended this revival, I was not familiar with this show or its music, but I left humming several of the gorgeous tunes. You have until this Sunday, February 4th, to replicate my memorable experience with "Hallelujah, Baby."

Upcoming shows in the "Musicals in Mufti" series include "Bar Mitzvah Boy," February 10-18, and "Subways Are for Sleeping," February 24-March .

Enjoy!

Al

York TheatreWebsite

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Nora Theatre Company Presents "Proof" by David Auburn - A Catalyst Collaborative @ MIT Production - Through February 18 - A Formula For Success


One of the many things I like about the ongoing Catalyst Collaborative @ MIT partnership between the university and Nora Theatre Company is that, as an audience member, I am required to use both hemispheres of my brain to fully access the message being presented in the play. Dramatic pieces are chosen by the merits of their intersection of art and science. Such is the case with the very satisfying production of "Proof" by David Auburn. The writing is brilliantly nuanced and multi-layered, with each character representing a complex equation with many factorials and few constants. They are a family of accomplished mathematicians - widowed father and two grown daughters. Throw in an ambitious graduate assistant as an x factor whose intentions are ambiguous, at best, and the audience is on the edge of their seats waiting to see if these are simultaneous equations that can be solved successfully.

Director Michelle M. Aguillon has assembled a gifted creative team. The impressive set by Janie E. Howland has created a humble single family home near the campus of the University of Chicago, where the father teaches when he is not incapacitated with mental illness. Both the humble home and the pater familias are in bad repair, both having lost some shingles off the roof. Much of the action takes place on the backporch and in the back yard. Costumes, including some lovely Asian robes, are by Leslie Held. Lighting is by Allison Schneider, Sound by Grant Furgiuele.

Ms. Aguillon and the playwright have the quadratic cast interacting in intriguing ways - sometimes drawing toward one another, and at other times, drawing away. They are:
  • Michael Tow is the father, Robert. The action of the play goes back and forth between present time and past, so even though he has died, he is much in evidence. Mr. Tow plays Robert as a very regulated and self-contained Asian man, emotionally distant from younger daughter, Catherine, who has sacrificed several years of her young life to care for him during his years of mental illness.
  • Lisa Nguyen is Catherine. Hers is an impressive and award-worthy performance as she struggles with wondering how much of her father's proclivity to mathematical genius she may have inherited. She also fears that she is also susceptible to the family mental illness propensity. She has a complex relationship with her older sister, Claire, as well as with her father's graduate assistant, Hal.
  • Cheryl Daro is Claire,who has fled Chicago for New York where she works as a currency analyst. She is engaged to be married, but feels a sense of responsibility to provide care and structure for Catherine, whom she considers unstable and possibly also mentally ill. Claire is unemotional and frigid in her interactions, until she gets hammered at the party following the father's funeral.
  • Avery Bargar is excellent as Hal, who appears to care for Catherine, but also wants things from her. Are his motives positive and honorable?
The title, "Proof," is brilliant. One the one hand, it refers to an arcane math proof that both Robert and Catherine have been working on. When a notebook surfaces that purports to show a solution to this difficult problem, there are doubts about who penned the solution. So, in a sense, each of the four characters find themselves in a situation of having to "prove" themselves to one another - and sometimes to themselves. The plot twists are brilliant and well timed. The acting is uniformly effective.



This play is thoroughly engaging at every level. It is a formula for success. Despite the seriousness of the subject matter, there are moments of hilarity. You will not want to miss this excellent drama. This production will run at Central Square Theater through February 18.  Get your tickets now. Last evening's house was completely full. Calculate just when you can make the trip, and make the call.

Central Square Theater Website

Enjoy!

Al





Friday, January 19, 2018

Take Your Pick Productions Presents "Lost Girls" by John Pollono - Through January 21st - A MUST SEE!

 

My busy January schedule meant that I was not able to see the amazing Take Your Pick Production's "Lost Girls" until near the end of the run, so I must instill a sense of urgency in readers of The White Rhino Report. See this show this weekend: Friday at 8:00, Saturday at 4:00 and 8:00, and Sunday at 2:00 at Calderwood Pavilion at the BCA.

This play is brilliantly written, and just as brilliantly produced and skillfully acted by this company of performers. The story is like Chekhov running on Dunkin'! The great Russian playwright tended to focus on the dysfunctions of members of the aristocracy in Russia, struggling with existential despair and ennui in the countryside in the days before the Revolution. John Pollono, on the other hand, focuses a harsh spotlight on the beleaguered denizens of the blue collar working class of the mill towns of Northern New England. In the case of "Lost Girls," we meet a struggling family of French Canadian heritage living on the edge of poverty and underemployment in Manchester, NH. Mr. Pollono writes with a precise voice that gives the audience a clear sense of place - beginning with the opening voice-over of a local FM radio station DJ, with full Granite State accent, talking about the wicked bad snow storm raging outside.

The playwright also artfully limns every character, each one uniquely flawed, but interesting enough that I found myself caring about the fate of each of them. The opening snowstorm stands as a metaphor for the forces that blow that bring misfortune and uncertainty to each of the principals. They are:

  • Audrey Lynn Sylvia as Maggie, a middle aged single Mom struggling to pay the mortgage and the electric each month, trying to care for her rebellious teenage daughter. She shares a home with her parasitic mother, Linda, who seems to have given up on life, except for the chance to berate her daughter and ex-son-in-law at every opportunity. Ms. Sylvia is marvelous in exuding the rage and panic that grips Maggie, who is hanging onto solvency and sanity by a jagged fingernail. If the storm and her stolen car cause her to miss her shift working minimum wage retail at the mall, she will be in default of her mortgage, and the electric will once again be shut off.
  • Christine Power is perfect as Linda, Maggie' mother and nemesis. She is part of a long line of strong, yet bedraggled women, who found themselves pregnant as teenagers, and who scrape and claw their way through life, surviving the ebb and flow of men who may make love to them, but never really love them or know them. Resignation and defeat oozes from every pore, until Linda sees a chance to get Penny to brave the storm with her and head out to buy some booze and pizza - on Penny's dime, of course.
  • Terrence P. Haddad is Lou, Maggie's ex-husband, now married to Born Again Penny. Lou is a cop who has a history of alcohol abuse. He stops by to fill out paperwork about Maggie's stolen car. Mr. Haddad is adept at conveying the complex nature of Lou. His cop's bravura is a thin patina that tries to camouflage the sensitive and broken man cowering beneath the surface.
  • Lauren Foster is just right as Penny, spewing religious cliches as she tries ham-handedly to play mediator among Maggie, Lou, and Linda. The scenes of conflict in the simple kitchen often resemble the chaotic set of a Jerry Spring episode.
  • Lesley Anne Moreau is both strong and vulnerable as Girl. This teenager has run away from home in New Hampshire to drive to Florida to meet up with a much older man who has seduced her. She has convinced one of her high school classmates to skip school to drive her all the way to Florida. They only make it as far as Connecticut, and have to hide out in a flea bag motel until they figure out what to do.
  • Zach Winston is Boy, Girl's classmate, chauffeur, and co-conspirator. Mr. Winston brings wondrous vulnerability to this complex teenage boy, full of the ambivalence of adolescence - cock-sure of himself one moment, and a scared puppy the next.
The writing is of such a high quality that low humor often gives way to pathos. I felt as if I were experiencing the positive and negative G forces of a finely engineered roller coaster ride. I laughed out loud several times, and then sighed with understanding and empathy as a character's pain was revealed. And there is a plot twist that took my breath away.

Melanie Garber Directs and is also Scenic Designer. Audrey Seraphin is Sound Designer and Assistant Director. Michael Clark Wonson is Lighting Designer. Mikey DiLoreto is Costume Coordinator.

Just as the quintessence of the film "Citizen Kane" is distilled in the name "Rosebud," this play is captured in the name "McSorley's"! Wait for it.

Consider this play a MUST SEE - if you can get there this weekend.

Enjoy!

Al

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Review of "The Compass Solution" by Tim Cole - A Guide To Winning Your Career


Author Tim Cole offers "The Compass Solution" as a way of sharing lessons he has learned in over three decades working as an executive and leader in the pharmaceutical industry. He uses many excellent examples and vignettes to bring to life the central theme of the book: that there are four major compass points in any successful career. They are:

  • Personal Accountability
  • People
  • Process
  • Perspective

Later in the book, he elaborates on three keys that will allow an individual to accelerate career growth and productivity. He calls these three elements the "Key Chain":

  • Leadership 
  • Communication
  • Learning


He writes, not as one sharing hypothetical concepts, but as one who has weathered the storm of numerous downsizings, mergers, and acquisitions in his thirty-seven years of building a career for himself.

Early in the book, he outlines his view of how this all comes together.

"Think of it this way. There will always be just you, the people around you, the world that surrounds you, and how you interpret each.  In the context of the opening of this book, there will always be - 
You - the hiker (Personal accountability)
Your fellow hikers (People)
The mountain and its nuances - weather,topography, etc. (Process)
How you choose to look at the above three points (Perspective)

Sounds simple, doesn't it?

It's not! "(page 7)

This book is valuable no matter where you may be on your journey to building a satisfying career.

In simple language and deep truth, "The Compass Solution" provides an important series of vantage points from which to view one's career and life outside of work.

Enjoy!

Al