“Inherit the Wind” at Ocean State Theatre

 

By Richard Pacheco

 

“The current production of “Inherit the Wind” at Ocean State Theatre sparkled with dazzling performances, propelled by energy, sincerity and conviction. The play by Jerome Lawrence and Robert Edwin Lee, which debuted in 1955. The story fictionalizes the 1925 Scopes “Monkey” Trial as a means to discuss the then-contemporary McCarthy trials.

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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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“INHERIT THE WIND” (Ocean State Theatre)

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

 

The current show at Ocean State Theatre Company is one of the outstanding dramas of our time “Inherit the Wind” by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee. While this Tony Award winning play debuted in 1955, its story is as relevant today as it was then. It is a fictionalized account based on the Scopes monkey trial of 1925, when a Tennessee teacher was arraigned for reading passages from “On the Origins of Species” to his pupils. The teacher, Bertram Cates is a callow Darwinian. The real battle in this show is between the two counsels.

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Essays In Idelness

by Larry Stark

 

(Essays in Idleness is a feature that periodically runs –  uneditied –  that expresses the thoughts of our founder Larry Stark)

 

THERE’S A NEW COMPANY IN BOSTON!

 

 

“THE FRONT PORCH ARTS COLLECTIVE” (https://www.centralsquaretheater.org/about/front-porch-arts-collective/) will be in residence at The Central Square Theatre for a year, and next weekend their first production will be a staged reading of  Marcus Gardley’s play “The House That Will Not Stand” —as first in “The God’s Closet Reading Series” of at least six. The date is 26 March, at 7:00 p m., and reservations for this reading are recommended.

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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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“COMMUNICATING DOORS” (Renaissance City Theatre Inc, Granite Theatre)

 

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

 

The Renaissance City Theatre Inc., the producing entity at the Granite Theatre’s opening show of their 17th season is Alan Ayckbourn’s “Communicating Doors”, which is an intricate time-traveling comic thriller. A sex specialist from the future stumbles into a murder confession scenario with an addled old man and business partner. When she tries to escape from the hotel room via a closet door, she is transported back in time from 2037.

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“INTO THE WOODS” (Providence College’s Theatre Department)

“INTO THE WOODS”
Reviewed by Tony Annicone

 

Providence College’s Theatre Department’s closing musical at Angell’s Blackfriar’s Theatre is “Into the Woods” with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and a book by James Lapine. It opened on Broadway on November 5, 1987 and ran for 764 performances, starring Bernadette Peters as the Witch and Joanna Gleason as the Baker’s Wife. In Sondheim and Lapine’s fractured fairy tale musical , a baker and his wife embark on a quest to reverse a curse put on them by the witch next door. Along the way they meet the ambivalent Cinderella, an aggressive Red Riding Hood, a rebellious Rapunzel, a too-trusting Jack, and a pair of not-so-princely Princes. But when everyone’s wishes are granted their self centered wishes come back to haunt them. Eventually they learn a poignant lesson about working together, the stories we tell children and the real meaning of “happily ever after.” Director Jim Calitri infuses new life into this music with his keen insight with topnotch musical direction by Lila Kane and inventive choreography by Katrina Pavao. Their combined efforts produce a strong musical with the first act being light and fluffy while the second act reaches out and grabs you with its power and poignancy.

Jim not only directs the show but blocks and stages the numbers wonderfully. He obtains the comedy and pathos these roles demand. Lila brings out the best vocals from these students. She plays lead keyboards and directs a 7 piece orchestra. Katrina’s dance numbers include the movement of the whole cast during the opening “Into the Woods” sequence, the 2 wolves dance with Red Riding Hood, Cinderella’s mother dance and the finale of both Acts. The scenic design is by Trevor Elliott while the multitude of gorgeous costumes are by David Costa Cabral. The main character running in and out of the Cinderella, Jack in the Beanstalk and Baker and his wife scenes is the witch played splendidly with high energy by gorgeoous blonde, Joey Michelle Macari. She brings a lot of depth to the role not only with the comic moments but in the dramatic ones, too. Her first number is about the vegetables the Baker’s father stole in her garden. Joey handles the tongue twisting lyrics with ease, annunciating everyone of them with ease. The Witch only shows warmth to her adopted or rather stolen daughter, Rapunzel. Joey’s songs include “Our Little World” where she sings of life in the tower, “Stay With Me” where she wants Rapunzel to stay in the tower and “Witch’s Lament” after the Giant kills her daughter. However it is her eleventh hour number which stops the show with power and punch called “Last Midnight” with her stirring rendition which doesn’t leave a dry eye in the theatre. Joey delivers a tour-de-force performance in the role of the Witch.

Teddy Kiritsy and Courtney Olenzak as the Baker and the Baker’s wife perform many comic bits in the first act where they must find four things to break the witch’s spell including a white cow. “Maybe They’re Magic” and “It Takes Two” are their lighthearted numbers in Act 1. They have many clever antics to enliven the proceedings but the depth of their acting comes through in the dramatic moments in the second act. Teddy’s dramatic songs are “No More” with his father and “No One is Alone” quartet where he comforts Jack about his mother’s tragic death. Courtney’s are “Moments in the Woods” after her tryst with Cinderella’s Prince and “No One is Alone” at the end of the show. The audience is left in tears at their heartfelt renditions of these numbers.

Playing the role of Cinderella is pretty brunette, Jennifer Dorn who has a strong soprano voice. She is excellent as she yearns to go to the ball throne by the King. Some of her numbers include “On the Steps of the Palace” where the prince snagged her slipper to find her at last and in the poignant “No One is Alone” as she comforts Red on the death of her grandmother and mother by explaining their spirits will always be with her. Red Riding Hood is well played by Elizabeth Jancsy. She buys bread and sweets for her granny but devours them before she gets there. Her encounter with the wolves turns into a dynamic dance number in “Hello Little Girl” and she shines in her solo “I Know Things Now.” She becomes more blood thirsty after she and granny skin the wolf and she carries a knife with her the rest of the show. The lesson she learns is that you must be careful what you wish for. Bryan Sabbag plays the dimwitted Jack wonderfully. His comic quips are hilarious including “I have a harp and cow for a friend now.” Bryan displays his voice in “I Guess this is Goodbye” when he sells his beloved Milky White and in “Giants in the Sky” when he learns you shouldn’t steal from others because there will be consequences for your actions.

Jonathan Coppe commands the stage as the Narrator. Thomas Edwards as the Mysterious man who is hiding a secret from the Baker and the audience, too.  Daniel Carroll as Cinderella’s Prince and Steven Sawan as Rupunzel’s Prince steal many a scene as these pompous, royal siblings. They both look so much alike you’d swear they were related to each other. They stop the show with my favorite song “Agony” where they are suffering in Act 1 by not getting the girl and in Act 2 because they are married to these same women. Their acting is terrific as they explain “Royalty can’t make up its mind.” William Oser is a hoot as Cinderella’s constantly drinking father as well as one of the hungry dancing wolves. Michael Izzo, a marvelous dancer is the other wolf who stalks Red and dances up a storm while doing so. Crystal clear voiced soprano Gabriella Sanchez is excellent as Rupunzel who is trapped in the tower by her evil adopted mother. Her voice is perfect in “Our Little World” and does a great job as she has a major meltdown in Act 2. Catherine Capolongo is a hoot as Jack’s cantankerous mother. So for a thoroughly enjoyable rendition of this difficult Sondheim musical, be sure to catch “Into the Woods” at Blackfriar’s Theatre before they leave the woods for good. Tell them Tony sent you.

INTO THE WOODS (7 to 23 April)

Providence College, Blackfriars Theatre, Eaton St., Providence, RI

1(401)865-2218 or www.providence.edu/theatre

 

LES MISERABLES (7 – 9 April) Uncommon Theatre

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

 

Uncommon Theatre’s spring musical is “Les Miserables”, the 8-time Tony Award winning musical. This musical version was composed in 1980 by French composer Claude Michel Schonberg with a libretto by Alain Boublil. Through-sung, it is probably the most famous of all French musicals and is one of the most performed musicals around. Set against the backdrop of 19th Century France, “Les Miserables” tells an enthralling epic story of broken dreams, unrequited love, passion, sacrifice and redemption. The world’s most popular musical examines the metamorphosis of ex-prisoner Jean Valjean who agrees to care for a dying factory worker’s young daughter, all the while being hunted for decades for stealing a loaf of bread, by the ruthless policeman, Javert. Director Maggie Dowd and musical director Danielle Clougher lead their talented cast with fantastic voices in this thoroughly enjoyable epic adventure of hope and redemption in the face of despair which leads you to laughter and tears in all the right places. A thunderous and spontaneous standing ovation is their well earned and deserved reward. Bravo!

Maggie blocks this enormous show excellently especially impressive is the last death scene of Valjean and the end of Act 1 blocking for “One More Day.” Many tears are shed at this splendid and heart rending presentation. I have been reviewing Maggie in shows since she was a little girl and now she is a fifth grade teacher in Westwood. Danielle conducts a ten piece orchestra and they enhance the harmonic balance of the voices in the solos, duets, trios and quartets and group numbers of this show. The diction is topnotch as is the strong vocals. High school junior Ben Reingold leads the cast as Jean Valjean. He is fabulous in this role. Ben brings great depth to this multidimensional character with a checkered past who finds redemption by living a life of virtue. Ben’s strong tenor voice soars off the charts especially in “Bring Him Home” when he prays over Marius at the siege at the barricade and in “Who Am I?” when he confesses who he really is to save another man’s life. His falsetto is magnificent. Another one of Ben’s terrific songs is his final solo when he asks God to bring him home during “To love another person is to see the face of God” which ensures there isn’t a dry eye in the house. I last reviewed Ben in the title role of “Shrek” for Uncommon Theatre in December of 2015. He has a splendid future in show business ahead of him.

Valjean’s nemesis, Javert is well played by Nate April. He has a strong singing voice in which he is able to sing bass notes and then high baritone notes later on in the song. Nate’s two solos are “Stars” where he compares his hunt of the convict to discovering the order of the stars in the constellation and in “Javert’s Suicide” where he kills himself after discovering that Valjean wasn’t pure evil like he thought he was all these years. This realization shatters his lifelong view of the world. The confrontations between Nate and Ben are splendid to behold in this topnotch version of the show. Lorie Simonian is marvelous as the sympathetic Fantine. She wins the hearts of the audience with her acting and singing prowess in “I Dreamed a Dream” where she describes her troubled past and in “Come to Me” when she begs Valjean to care for her daughter, Cosette. This latter number is performed as she lay dying in a hospital bed and evokes many tears with her strong delivery. This melody is later used in “On My Own” in Act 2. Lorie’s gut wrenching version of “I Dreamed a Dream” also leaves you in tears. She is one of the best Fantine’s I have seen.Young Cosette is played by Stella Scire who sings “Castle on a Cloud”.

Marius is excellently played by Matt Neary. He has a strong tenor voice which he displays in his solo, “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables”, a poignant ballad that he sings about his dead companions. It is also heard in the romantic love song with Cosette and Eponine, “A Heart Full of Love”, the quartet “In My Life” and in “A Little Fall of Rain” as Eponine dies in his arms. Another tear jerker number that is marvelous to behold. Matt also sings in the group numbers “Red and Black”, “Do You Hear the People Sing?” and “One Day More.”  His acting in this role is spot on. I last reviewed him as Prince Eric in “Little Mermaid” last December.The pretty ingenue Cosette is excellently played by gorgeous brunette, Jade April who has a fabulous beautiful soprano voice that soars off the charts in her duets with Matt. The harmonic blend in the reprise of “A Heart Full of Love” with Ben and Matt is astounding. Her last scene with her dying father is also wonderfully portrayed.

The heroic Eponine is marvelously played by Maya Blodgett. Her fantastic voice is heard in “On My Own” where she decides to stand by Marius even though he is in love with Cosette and in “A Little Fall of Rain” after she is fatally shot. This latter song is gut wrenching and emotionally draining. Maya gives Eponine a backbone to stand up to her horrible and vile parents but an endearing quality which makes the audience root for her at the same time. Her comic but despicable parents, Monsieur and Madame Thenardier are well played by Zeke Solis and Sarah Seaberg. They both have strong singing voices and are hilarious as they swindle their customers out of the belongings in “Master of the House.” He becomes even more loathsome in “Dog Eat Dog” as he robs the dead bodies in the sewers after the siege at the barricade. They once again become comic when they try to swindle Marius at his wedding in “Beggars at the Feast” where they are dressed up to the nines. Sarah is hilarious in her verse of “Master of the House” describing her husband’s small love making prowess and is an absolute shrew as she mistreats Young Cosette in Act 1.

Another dynamic presence is Nick Levine as Enjolras who has a powerful tenor voice as he sells his many anthems with Marius and his fellow students including “Red and Black”, “Do You Hear the People Sing?”, “One Day More” and “Drink to Me of Days Gone By.” This last song is done before the students are killed at the barricade and it moves you to tears at its tender and poignant rendition. One of the biggest scene stealers is Gabriel Corey as Gavorche. He displays his strong voice in “ABC Cafe” with the street people and in his solo “Little People” where he exposes Javert as a spy and again when he is shot by a sniper while gathering ammunition. Gabriel tugs at your heartstrings in this role. I last reviewed him as Scuttle in “Little Mermaid.” Kudos to the entire chorus in all their numbers, too. So for a powerful presentation of this well known musical, be sure to catch “Les Miserables” by Uncommon Theatre. Tell them Tony sent you. Make sure you bring a lot of Kleenex with you.

LES MISERABLES (7 – 9 April)

Uncommon Theatre, Orpheum Theatre, 1 School St., Foxboro, MA

1(508)698-3098 or www.uncommontheatre.org