Imaginary Beasts Invite You Under the Sea

 

 

 

by James Wilkinson

 

20,000 Leagues Under the SeaStory by Matthew Woods. Written by the ensemble. Costume Design: Cotton Talbot-Minkin. Lighting Design: Christopher Bocchiaro. Set Concept and Sound Design: Matthew Woods. Scenic Design: Rebecca Lehrhoff. Puppet Design: Sophia Giordano and Rebecca Lehrhoff. Steampunk Consultant: Isaiah Plovnic. Choreography Kiki Samko. Presented by imaginary Beasts at the Charlestown Working Theater, 442 Bunker Hill St, Charlestown, through February 4

 

It can be a wonderful thing to have all of your theatrical expectations totally upended. Having seen Imaginary Beasts’ Winter Panto, 20,000 Leagues under the Sea, let me start by admitting how ashamed I am that I have never been to one of their previous Winter Pantos, an annual event since 2009. In fact, when I walked into this production I really had no understanding of what a pantomime was. Back in elementary school I read a Great Illustrated Classic’s version of Jules Verne’s classic novel, so I had a vague idea of what the plot of the show would be, but that was it. About thirty seconds into the show, I realized that it wasn’t at all going to be what I thought it would be. Five minutes in, I had a giant smile plastered on my face that didn’t leave for the entire run time of the show. If you’re looking for an activity to make you forget about the freezing temperatures outside, then I can’t recommend this inspired bit of theatrical lunacy enough.

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Wellesley Repertory Theatre’s “The Liar” Still a Comic Gem – 400 Years Later

 

By Evan McKenna

 

“The Liar”- Written by David Ives, adapted from the comedy by Pierre Corneille. Directed by Marta Rainer. Producing Artistic Director, Nora Hussey. Stage Management by Lindsay Garofalo. Set Design/Production Manager, David Towlun. Costume Design by Chelsea Kerl. Sound Design by George Cooke. Lighting Design by Bailey Costa. Vocal Coach, Paul Michael Valley. Photography by David Brooks Andrews. Fight Director, Ted Hewlett. Presented by Wellesley Repertory Theatre at the Diana Chapman Walsh Alumnae Hall, 106 Central Street, Wellesley through February 4th

 

Considering the volume of outrageously funny comedies written for stage and film today, it should be noted when a work from the 1600s has enough comedic value to remain as vibrant as any of them. Wellesley Repertory Theatre’s presentation of “The Liar”, the David Ives adaptation of the Pierre Corneille comedy (directed by Marta Rainer) which premiered last Friday, proves to be a must-see, thanks to the outstanding execution by the cast of this hilarious story.

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Speakeasy’s ‘Shakespeare in Love’ An Absolute Charmer

(Nile Hawver/Nile Scott Shots)

 

by Mike Hoban

 

‘Shakespeare in Love’ – Based on the screenplay by Marc Norman & Tom Stoppard; Adapted for the stage by Lee Hall; Directed by Scott Edmiston; Original Music/Music Direction/Sound Design by David Reiffel; Choreography/Movement by Judith Chaffee; Scenic Design by Jenna McFarland Lord; Costume Design by Rachel Padula-Shufelt; Lighting Design by Karen Perlow. Presented by Speakeasy Stage Company at the Calderwood Pavilion at the Boston Center for the Arts, 527 Tremont Street in Boston through February 10

 

You don’t have to know and/or love Shakespeare to be utterly charmed by Shakespeare in Love, the stage adaptation of the Academy Award-winning film now being given a spirited New England premiere by Speakeasy Stage. In fact, since this is a comedy about young Will Shakespeare rather than one by William Shakespeare, the laughter comes a lot more spontaneously than when one needs to run the jokes through the Olde English Google translator of the mind. But whether you’re a Shakespearean scholar or only know his work from the “Gilligan’s Island” episode where Harold Hecuba stages Hamlet, this production is a comic delight.

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Take Your Pick’s “Lost Girls” Delivers Laughs, Healing

 

LOST GIRLS – Written by John Pollono; Direction and Stage Design by Melanie Garber; Lighting Designer: Michael Clark Wonson; Sound Designer: Audrey Seraphin; Costume Coordinator: Mikey DiLoreto. Presented by Take Your Pick Productions at Deane Hall in the Calderwood Pavilion at the Boston Center for the Arts, 527 Tremont St., Boston through January 21.

 

There’s a Nor’easter preparing to slam New England, but in the city of Manchester, New Hampshire, there’s an everyday storm of bitterness that has raged for decades that’s about to come to a head in John Pollono’s engaging comic drama, Lost Girls. Take Your Pick Productions is giving this terrific slice-of-lifer it’s New England premiere with a three-dimensional staging that is alternately hilarious and painful.

 

Maggie is a retail clerk who lives with her 50ish mother Linda and 16 year-old daughter Erica. The women have all been raised by mothers who gave birth to them as teens, so the deck has been stacked against them from the get-go.  Maggie is striving to provide a better life for her daughter, having managed to buy the condo they live in, but is struggling to keep up with the mortgage and is just scraping by. Mom sleeps in, appears to have no job, and may have a fondness for the drink, a characteristic that seems to be woven into the tapestry of the extended family dynamic.

 

When the play opens, Maggie has just had her car stolen, and is trying frantically to get a ride to work while simultaneously trying to report the theft to police – all while she and her Mom snipe at each other like feral cats. Maggie’s ex-husband Lou, a New Hampshire State cop whom she kicked out because of his drinking five years ago, learns of her dilemma and arrives to help out.

 

Now sober, Lou also brings along his new young wife Penny, who despite being dealt a similarly lousy hand in life as Linda and Maggie, benefitted from having a mother that fought her way out of poverty to give her a stable upbringing. Penny combines a social worker mentality with a church upbringing, something completely at odds with the slash-and-burn coping skills of Maggie and Linda, who do their best to marginalize her. When the group finds out that the car was actually taken by Erica (who unbeknownst to them is being driven by a straight arrow student/athlete to meet her new boyfriend in Florida), the gloves come off between Linda and Maggie and Lou, and the old wounds are ripped open.

 

Pollono has a great ear for dialogue, and the harsh exchanges between the characters are enlivened with the kind of blistering colloquial wit that you hear in blue collar bars and kitchen tables from New Hampshire to Charlestown to Cape Cod. You never feel as if you’re watching a play but instead it’s like sitting in the very uncomfortable living room of your screwed up relatives during the holidays after a few cocktails. Much of that is due to the skilled direction of Melanie Garber (who also designed the spare but effective set) who elicits uniformly solid performances from this talented cast.

 

It’s a treat to see Christine Power playing a lower status character like Linda, and she gives her “tough broad” character real depth, spewing out her misguided principles and philosophy. Audrey Lynn Sylvia is every bit her match as Maggie, and the sparring between the two provide the best dramatic moments in the play, along with a moving exchange between Maggie and Lou (a thoroughly convincing Terrence Haddad). Lauren Foster gives perhaps her best performance to date, never letting her character drift into caricature, while Zach Winston and Lesley Anne Moreau shine as the damaged teens.

 

This is the second effort by the fledgling company, Take Your Pick Productions, which rose from the ashes of Happy Medium Theatre. Last year’s production of Little Dog Laughed was one of my favorite shows by a fringe company last year, and Lost Girls is every bit it’s equal. It is being given an all too short run, closing this weekend, so do yourselves a favor and go out and see this remarkable (and very funny) work. For more information about the show dates/times and to purchase tickets, please visit bostontheatrescene.com

 

Apollinaire Theatre Company Journeys to the Russian Empire with “Three Sisters”

 

by James Wilkinson

 

Three Sisters – Written by Anton Chekhov, adapted by Tracey Letts. Presented by Apollinaire Theatre Company. Directed, Sets and Lights by Danielle Fauteux Jacques. Costume Design by Elizabeth Rocha. Sound Design by Camilo Atehortua. Musical Direction by Demetrius Fuller & Robert Orzalli. Dialect Coach, Christopher Sherwood Davis. Presented by the Apollinaire Theatre Company at 189 Winnisimmet St, Chelsea through January 21

 

I have found that there’s a very odd phenomena in the theater community where the plays of Anton Chekhov are concerned. Everyone sort of assumes that everyone loves Chekhov (his work, that is). Personally, I’ve always run hot and cold with his plays, though I would be hard pressed to be able to put my finger on exactly why. I enjoy Uncle Vanya and a number of his comic sketches, but I haven’t been able to stomach getting through even a reading of either The Seagull or The Cherry Orchard since college. Three Sisters, however, has always stood apart in my mind. For some reason, that’s the play of his where all of the elements click together and the genius of Chekhov becomes apparent to me. I adore the play. When I walked into Apollinaire Theatre Company’s production of Three Sisters, now playing at Chelsea Theatre Works, I went with high expectations and can joyfully report back that the production more than met them. If you’ve never before encountered the work of the great Russian master, then Apollinaire Theatre Company’s production is a fantastic introduction.

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Manual Cinema’s ‘Ada/Ava’ Uses Old School Technology to Present Haunting Tale at ArtsEmerson

 

by Mike Hoban

 

Ada/AvaCreated by Manual Theater; Directed by Drew Dir; Sound Design and Original Score by Kyle Vegter and Ben Kauffman; Designed by Drew Dir, Sarah Fornace, and Julia Miller. Presented by Manual Cinema and ArtsEmerson at the Paramount Theatre, 559 Washington Street, Boston through January14th.

 

One of the great pleasures of being a theater reviewer in Boston is getting to see productions that push the boundaries of traditional theater, and nobody serves up such a mind-blowing amalgamation of cool stuff as ArtsEmerson, which continues to amaze with its latest offering, Ava/Ada. You’re not likely to see an overhead projector used as anything but a prop in any theatrical production these days, but Chicago-based Manual Cinema employs four of them as the primary technology to create a kind animated silent film that is alternately touching and unsettling. The projectors are used in conjunction with hundreds of shadow puppets and live action silhouettes, and the “movie” is supported by a killer live band (with a quadraphonic sound system) that establishes the haunting tone for this provocative work.

 

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