The Quixotic, Passionate Drive of Golda Meir

 

By Michele Markarian

 

‘Golda’s Balcony’ – Written by William Gibson. Directed by Judy Braha. Presented by the New Repertory Theatre, 321 Arsenal Street, Watertown through April 16.

 

Golda Meir was a fascinating character – passionate, driven, with a sense of personal destiny that was tied in to the “paradise” that she believed to be the State of Israel.  Her early childhood was spent in Kiev, where she remembered her father boarding the door with wooden planks to keep out the pogroms. The family emigrated to Milwaukee, where the young Golda heard Ben Gurion speak, which marked the beginning of her life as a warrior and champion for the burgeoning State of Israel.

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Bridge Rep/Playhouse Creatures’ “Mrs. Packard” A Nightmarish Journey Into the Bad Old Days

 

by Mike Hoban

 

Mrs. Packard – Written by Emily Mann; Directed by Emily Ranii; Scenic Design by Jon Savage; Lighting Design by Ed Intemann; Costume Design by Chelsea Kerl; Sound Design by Don Tindall. Presented by Bridge Repertory Theatre in a co-production with Playhouse Creatures Theatre Co. of NYC at the Multicultural Arts Center, 41 Second St., Cambridge through April 9

 

When I was a boy in middle school, I was a huge fan of the B horror films that ran on Saturday afternoon showcases like Creature Double Feature. There weren’t many classics in the “Dracula” or “Frankenstein” vein, but there was plenty of silly dreck like “Attack of the Giant Leeches” and “The Thing That Wouldn’t Die” that were more laughable than frightening. But there was one film that truly did horrify me, and that was “Bedlam”, a low rent Boris Karloff vehicle that told the story of a woman wrongly committed to an insane asylum in Victorian England known as Bedlam – which was depicted as a Hollywood backlot version of Hell on Earth. What made it so terrifying was that while there no traditional movie monsters, Bedlam was a real place, and the monsters were the evil men running the asylum.

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Huntington’s Dark Comedy “Topdog/Underdog” Examines Life as Rigged Game

 

by Mike Hoban

 

‘Topdog/Underdog’ – Written by Suzan-Lori Parks; Directed by Billy Porter; Scenic and Costume Design by Clint Ramos; Lighting Design by Driscoll Otto; Sound Design by Leon Rothenberg. Presented by The Huntington Theatre Company, 264 Huntington Ave, Boston through April 9.

 

In “Topdog/Underdog” the Pulitzer Prize-winning tragicomic drama now being staged by the Huntington Theatre, playwright Suzan-Lori Parks gives us a front row seat into the lives of two damaged brothers alternately chasing/escaping a warped version of the American dream – one that is exclusively reserved for those on the lower rungs of society’s ladder. The vehicle for that dream happens to be “Three-card Monte”, a sucker’s game played by street hustlers in large American cities, but the allure of the fast-money-for-little-work scheme could be applied to any number of similar cons (drug-dealing, prostitution) embraced by those growing up in economically-distressed urban environments. And while the play focuses solely on the interplay between the troubled pair in this intense two-hander, the parents who abandoned them, as well as the love interest of one of the men, loom as large players in this raw and explosive work.

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Flat Earth Delivers Luminous ‘Silent Sky’

 

by Mike Hoban

 

‘Silent Sky’ – Written by Lauren Gunderson; Directed by Dori A. Robinson; Set Design by Debra Reich; Costume Design by Cara Chiaramonte; Lighting Design by PJ Strachman; Props Design by E. Rosser; and Sound Design by Kyle Lampe. Presented by Flat Earth Theatre at the Mosesian Center for the Arts (formerly known as the Arsenal Center for the Arts), 321 Arsenal Street in Watertown, MA through March 26.

 

If the thought of spending an evening watching a play about the life of Henrietta Swan Leavitt – the groundbreaking astronomer who discovered “the relationship between period and luminosity in Cepheid variables” – has you reaching for your appointment calendar to schedule some dental work, try and fight the urge. Dental hygiene can wait, at least until you’ve seen Flat Earth Theatre’s “Silent Sky”, quite possibly the most enjoyable production I’ve seen so far in 2017, a year that has already delivered a plethora of terrific shows.

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Heart Challenges Mind in Nora’s ‘Precious Little’

 

By Michele Markarian

 

Precious Little, by Madeleine George. Directed by Melia Bensusen. Presented by The Nora Theatre Company, Central Square Theater, 450 Massachusetts Avenue in Cambridge through March 26.

 

Brodie, a single lesbian linguistics professor, is pregnant by a sperm donor. Brodie, quite honestly, is probably the least maternal person out there – she actively cringes when her beaming ultrasound technician urges her to say hello to her baby. Brodie is also having an affair with one of her young grad students, who urges her to come to the zoo and witness a gorilla who is being taught to speak by its trainers. Brodie is offended by this; it’s not real science. She is more concerned with preserving the dying language of Kari, for which she’s found a native speaker to record some sounds. But the ambiguous results of her ultrasound rock the bedrock of her intellectually safe and verbal world.

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Lyric’s ‘Stage Kiss’ A Comic Gem

 

By Mike Hoban

 

‘Stage Kiss’ – Written by Sarah Ruhl; Directed by Courtney O’Connor; Scenic Design by Matt Whiton; Costume Design by Amanda Mujica; Lighting Design by Chris Hudacs; Sound Design and Original Music by Arshan Gailus. Presented by the Lyric Stage Company, 140 Clarendon St., Boston through March 26.

 

Let’s cut right to the chase. There aren’t likely to be many theatrical productions this year that are as flat-out funny as “Stage Kiss”, now playing at the Lyric. Fueled by yet another terrific comic performance by Celeste Oliva (who also killed in the Lyric’s charming production of “Becky’s New Car” a few seasons back), “Stage Kiss” is a comic gem. And while there’s nothing overly clever or original about the play’s premise, playwright Sarah Ruhl blends slapstick, parody, and a brilliant talent for one liners into a riotous comedy that works great for those who have worked in the theater – and just as well for those who just enjoy watching it.

 

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Speakeasy Delivers a Riveting ‘Grand Concourse’

 

By Michele Markarian

 

‘Grand Concourse’ – Written by Heidi Schrek. Directed by Bridget Kathleen O’Leary. Presented by Speakeasy Stage Company at the Stanford Calderwood Pavilion, 527 Tremont Street, Boston, through April 1.

 

For starters, I haven’t been this engaged with a play since seeing a production of Annie Baker’s “The Flick” at Playwrights Horizons in 2013. Speakeasy hits all the right notes with “Grand Concourse”, from Bridget Kathleen O’Leary’s flawless direction to Jenna McFarland’s Lord’s super realistic set to the excellent cast of four. Judging from the audience, who never once displayed any signs of restlessness, we were all engrossed in the small drama that was unfolding.

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“The Nether” at the Gamm Theatre

 

By Richard Pacheco

 

The Jennifer Haley play, “The Nether” currently at the Gamm is an excursion into the dark side of the virtual worlds of the Internet. It is not lasting literature but more like a lurid side trip that leaves you disgusted by the virtual haven for pedophiles and its seamier aspects of murder in an interpretation and invention of polices procedurals. It is a sci-fi serpentine crime thriller that lingers in the darker side of private dreams. Read more ““The Nether” at the Gamm Theatre”

‘Sister Anonymous’ Adds New AA Chapter with Compassion, Humor

 

By Mike Hoban

 

Sister Anonymous – Written by Catherine M. O’Neill; Directed by Kelly E. Smith; Presented by Second Act Productions at the Black Box Theater at the Boston Center for the Arts, 539 Tremont St., Boston  through March 18.

 

Ever since Alcoholics Anonymous emerged from the shadows with the publication of Jack Alexander’s Saturday Evening Post article in 1941, any account of the formation of the fellowship that would transform the lives of millions of “drunks” and their families has always focused on its founders, Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith. But as Wilson and Smith readily admitted, they received a lot of help – divine and otherwise – in launching and building upon their ideas.

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“Little Women” (Ocean State Theatre)

 

By Richard Pacheco

 

Little Women: The Musical”, which takes on the novel of the same name by Louisa May Alcott, is a pleasant enough look at novel which seems to lack full, deeper characters, instead content to dwell more on the surface of traits and events while lacking the nuance and details that makes that vivid onstage. If it has a saving grace, it lies in the talented cast who manage to bring some of the lacking qualities to the fore.

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