Zeitgeist’s “Faceless” Artfully Melds Current, Timeless Themes

 

by Mike Hoban

 

‘Faceless’ – Written by Selina Fillinger; Directed by David Miller; Set Design by David Miller; Lighting Design by Michael Clark Wonson; Sound Design by Jay Mobley; and Costume Design by Elizabeth Cole Sheehan. Presented by the Zeitgeist Stage Company at Plaza Black Box Theater at the Boston Center for the Arts, 539 Tremont St. Boston through October 7.

 

There’s a lot going on in ‘Faceless’, the riveting new courtroom drama now making its New England premiere at the BCA’s Black Box Theater. For starters, there’s the specter of Islamic terrorism, the religious intolerance it has spawned, and the effect of social media on our decision-making process from the current topic file, along with the time-tested themes of screwed-up family dynamics, dealing with grief, and blind political ambition lurking in the background. If it sounds like Faceless covers a whole lot of territory in 90-minutes, it does – but director David Miller and his talented cast take the ambitious material and deliver an emotionally charged production that succeeds on most levels.

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The Aliens – Theatre on Fire (Charlestown Working Theater)

 

by James Wilkinson

 

‘The Aliens’ – Written by Annie Baker; Directed by Darren Evans; Costumes by Maureen Festa. Presented by Theatre on Fire at the Charlestown Working Theater, 442 Bunker Hill Street, Charlestown through October 7.

 

For the longest time, I avoided reading any of Annie Baker’s plays, though not because of any skepticism about their quality. What held me back was what I had heard about Baker’s naturalistic style. It seemed as though sitting in a chair and reading the words on the page could never compare to the performance experience. (Plays aren’t meant to be read anyway, but sometimes you take what you can get.)

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‘Or,’ Brings Real Wit to Restoration Era Farce

 

by Mike Hoban

 

‘Or,’ Written by Liz Duffy Adams; Directed by Adrienne Boris; Scenic Design by Ryan Bates;Costume Design by Erin Eva Butcher; Lighting Design by Emily Bearce; Sound Design by Julianne Mason. Presented by Maiden Phoenix Theatre Company and Simple Machine at Chelsea Theatre Works at 189 Winnisimmet St, Chelsea through September 23.

 

Maiden Phoenix Theatre Company and Simple Machine have combined forces to deliver a terrific adaptation of Liz Duffy Adams Or, a 17th century backstage sex farce loosely based on what could have been a single night in the life of Aphra Behn, the English poet and playwright who was one of the first English women to earn a living as a writer. Fueled by solid performances from its three member cast (in multiple roles), Or, is not only wickedly funny, but shows women (and men) in an astonishingly different light than one would expect in Restoration-era England, while paying homage to the life of a literary pioneer.

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“Dames at Sea” a Rollicking Ride

 

by Michele Markarian

 

“Dames at Sea”. Book and Lyrics by George Haimsohn and Robin Miller, Music by Jim Wise.  Directed and Choreographed by Ilyse Robbins; Music Director, Steven Jones.  Presented by Greater Boston Stage Company, 395 Main Street, Stoneham, through September 24.

 

As two pianists, flanking the stage, play the opening song of “Dames at Sea”, sung by a funny dancing vamp, Mona (the expressive Shana Dirik) a bored, gum-chewing chorus girl, the statuesque Joan (Sara Coombs) taps out the same dance routine in the corner. It’s an offbeat, charming opener, one where you know that what’s going to follow is going to be delightfully unexpected – after all, what is charm but the ability to deliver the unexpected? And like all of the musicals I have seen at this theater over the years, the characters onstage are not just singing and dancing, but have inner lives that make the action that much more exciting and real.

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ON GOLDEN POND, (The Arctic Playhouse)

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

 

The current show at the Arctic Playhouse is “On Golden Pond” by Ernest Thompson. It is the love story of 80 year old Norman Thayer and his wife, Ethel. They are returning to their summer home for their 48th year. It not only shows their relationship but the plot revolves around their 42 year old daughter, Chelsea, her dentist fiancee, his 13 year old smart mouth son and Chelsea’s former boyfriend from high school now a mailman. Directors Sandy Cerel and Chris Margadonna take this well written script and cast some wonderful performers which wins them a thunderous standing ovation at the close of the show.

Jim Belanger and Lloyd Felix designed and built the gorgeous rustic set for the show. It looks so realistic that you feel as if you could live in it. Terry Simpson plays the role of the lovable curmudgeon excellently. His role has many one liners which leave the audience in stitches. Some of the funniest include the slang learning scene with Billy and the illicit sex talk with Bill. He does a terrific job in this role. Sandy Cerel does double duty in the show, also playing Ethel, the doting and loving wife of Norman. She also has some comic moments while talking about the loons, arguing with Norman and a comic with Chelsea and Charlie while reminiscing about camp days of yore. Sandy’s best dramatic moments come when she argues with Chelsea about letting go of the past and when she thinks “her old poop” is dying on her.

The couple’s estranged daughter, Chelsea is well played by Cherylee Dumas. She handles the moments of growing up with a cold distant father who always wanted a son but finally accepts her at this late moment in his life. Cherylee handles the comic and dramatic moments of the character beautifully. Her scene with Sandy is electrifying and when she admits she loves Norman during the phone scene is poignant, too. Steve Dulude plays Bill, the dentist who is Chelsea’s boyfriend. Steve does a topnotch job especially when he puts Norman in his place after all his barbs that he flings at him. He tells him that he and Chelsea will be sleeping together in the cabin. Steve also has a comic one running away from the bear scene, too.

The smart aleck boy is excellently played by 13 year old, Ethan Clarke. His comic moments include the bull shitting and the suck face scenes and the fishing scene where he is bogged down with all the fishing gear. Ethan has a bright future in show business. Chris Verleger plays the constantly laughing and eating mailman wonderfully. He wins many laughs with Ethel in the first act and with Chelsea and Ethel in the second act while talking about delivering the mail at the camp. So for a superb comic show with some excellent dramatic moments entwined in it, be sure to catch “On Golden Pond” at the Arctic Playhouse. Tell them Tony sent you.

ON GOLDEN POND (29 September to 14 October)

The Arctic Playhouse, 117 Washington St, West Warwick, RI

1(401)573-3443 or www.thearcticplayhouse.com

‘Constellations’ Diagrams Love’s Infinite Possibilities

 

by Mike Hoban

 

‘Constellations’ – Written by Nick Payne  Directed by Scott Edmiston; Susan Zeeman Rogers, Scenic Designer; Jeff Adelberg, Lighting Designer; Charles Schoonmaker, Costume Designer; Dewey Dellay, Sound Design & Composition. Presented by the Underground Railway Theatre at the Central Square Theater, 450 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge through October 8.

 

In 1998, Miramax released Sliding Doors, a “parallel universe” themed film starring Gwyneth Paltrow, about a woman whose life takes two completely different paths based on whether or not she makes it onto a subway train before said doors close. As it turns out, it wasn’t much of a movie, but the idea of exploring how the direction that one’s life takes based on the outcomes of seemingly random situations was really intriguing. Constellations, the brilliantly conceived two-hander now being staged at Central Square by the Underground Railway Theatre, takes that concept, puts in on steroids and produces a work that is enormously clever as well as touching – thanks in large part to its gifted leads, Marianna Bassham and Nael Nacer.

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I HATE MUSICALS, THE MUSICAL (Ivoryton Playhouse)

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

 

Ivoryton Playhouse’s latest musical is the world premiere of “I Hate Musicals.” “I Hate Musicals” features a script by Mike Reiss and new music by Walter Murphy who wrote the classic 1970’s song “A Fifth of Beethoven” which was used in “Saturday Night Fever” soundtrack. Mike Reiss, who hails from Bristol, Connecticut and won an Emmy for the Simpsons creates a masterful script that leaves you laughing in the aisles.

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ANNIE

ANNIE

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

 

The current show at Little Theatre of Fall River is “Annie”, the 1977 hit musical. Based on Harold Gray’s comic strip “Little Orphan Annie”, it won seven Tony Awards and ran for 2,377 performances. This high energy show is a hit again with this audience. This heart warming musical is the rags-to-riches story of plucky young Annie’s journey from a hard knock orphanage to the luxurious home of billionaire businessman Oliver Warbucks. It has insightful direction by Paula Arruda, topnotch musical direction by Eli Bigelow and wonderful choreography by Jennifer Bellanti, Nina Calvo, Jill Goulet, Loralee Levesque and Raylin Medina. This show is what is needed in today’s society, a brighter future and the optimism of the title character.

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Lyric, Barrett Open Season With Winning “Gypsy”

 

by Mike Hoban

 

‘Gypsy’ – Music by Jules Styne, Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, Book by Arthur Laurents. Directed and Choreographed by Rachel Bertone; Music Direction by Dan Rodriguez; Scenic Design by Janie E. Howland; Costume Design by Rafael Jaen; Lighting Design by Franklin Meissner, Jr. ; Sound Design by Andrew Duncan Will. Presented by Lyric Stage Company at 140 Clarendon St. through October 8.

The Lyric Stage opens its 2017-2018 season with a bang, tackling the (stage) mother of all musicals, Gypsy – widely regarded as one of musical theater’s greatest works – and delivering one of the year’s best musical productions. Fueled by a powerhouse performance by Boston favorite Leigh Barrett, Gypsy paints the seriocomic portrait of Rose Hovick, the fame-seeking mother of renowned Depression-era exotic dancer Gypsy Rose Lee, who wisecracked (and stripped) her way into the hearts of adoring burlesque house audiences across the nation.

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New Rep’s ‘Ideation’ a Win-Win

 

 

By Michele Markarian

 

‘Ideation’ – Written by Aaron Loeb. Directed by Jim Petosa. Presented by New Repertory Theatre, and Co-produced with Boston Center for American Performance at 321 Arsenal Street, Watertown through September 24.

 

“Ideation”, the Boston-area premiere of Aaron Loeb’s funny and terrifying play, has at its heartbeat the center of American, indeed, world, personhood – the corporation.  An international consulting group has tasked its team of A-list high flyers to come up with a solution for a multi-layered situation that has troubling implications.

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