In Gloucester Stage’s “The Effect”, Love is the Drug

 

by Mike Hoban

 

‘The Effect’ – Written by Lucy Prebble; Directed by Sam Weisman; Set & Projection Design by J. Michael Griggs; Costume Design by Miranda Kau Giurleo; Lighting Design by Russ Swift; Sound Design by David Remedios; Composer, Claudio Ragazzi; Choreography by Maurice Emmanuel Parent. Presented by the Gloucester Stage Company through July 8

 

Oh Oh, catch that buzz
Love is the drug I’m thinking of
Oh Oh, can’t you see
Love is the drug for me

“Love is the Drug” – 1975 single by Roxy Music

 

Is true love something that can be prescribed?

 

The Effect, now making its New England premiere at Gloucester Stage, asks that question, as Big Pharma guy Dr. Toby Sealey of Rauschen Pharmaceuticals hopes to create “a Viagra for the heart” as clinical trials for the experimental antidepressant with the unsexy name of RLU37 get underway. But as we soon find out, results are not always predictable whenever there’s a human element in the experiment, even in a sterile clinical setting.

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Delicious Storytelling Dished Up in “I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti”

 

By Michele Markarian

 

“I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti.” Adapted by Jacques LaMarre from the memoir by Giulia Melucci. Directed by Ilyse Robbins . Presented by Stoneham Theatre, 395 Main Street, Stoneham, through June 25.

 

“I can count on my breasts the number of times I’ve missed a meal”, Giulia (Kerri Jill Garbis) tells us. For Giulia, food is love, as she demonstrates by actually cooking dinner for eight guests onstage while telling us unfortunate stories from her love life.  If you have an interest in food and a colorful romantic past, this is the show for you.

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Flat Earth’s “Fat Pig” Artfully Combines Pain, Laughter

 

by Mike Hoban

 

“Fat Pig” Written by Neil LaBute. Directed by Juliet Bowler. Presented by The Flat Earth Theatre at the Mosesian Center for the Arts, Watertown, through June 24.

 

Flat Earth Theatre follows up their luminous (and Elliot Norton Award–winning) Silent Sky with another first-rate production, Neil LaBute’s Fat Pig, playing through next weekend (June 24). This dark dramedy details the unlikely romance between plus-sized librarian Helen, and Tom, a handsome (and thin) up-and-coming corporate guy. The two meet by chance in a crowded restaurant and the mutual attraction is evident early on, as Helen’s disarming and sexually-tinged wit draws Tom in, and he quickly finds himself smitten.

 

Unfortunately for Tom and Helen, just because the world in which we live theoretically celebrates diversity in couples, real life acceptance of non-traditional pairings may be another story, particularly in Tom’s status-conscious job. When Tom’s corporate lackey pal Carter (an appropriately slimy Dustin Teuber), gets wind of the romance, the relationship is exposed to the harsh light of public opinion (and ridicule) and it becomes a different kind of love story. Making matters worse is Tom’s on-again off-again relationship with the conventionally beautiful office mate Jeannie (Kristen Heider), who is stunned and hurt to be dumped for someone she considers to be inferior.

 

This disquieting but frequently hilarious examination of how we look at “fat” people in our society never pulls its punches, and despite using a corporate setting as a backdrop, doesn’t resort to the all-too-convenient (but mostly well-deserved) demonization of corporate culture. Tuber’s Carter is as smarmily punchable as either of the Trump kids (Eric and young Donald), and as the office babe, Heider follows up her brilliant performance as the android Rex from last year’s campy space opera, Citizens of the Empire, with another standout performance as Jeannie, capped by a heartfelt monologue about her inability to find a genuine relationship.

 

But it is the performances of its star-crossed lovers, Tom (Jordan Lindley) and Helen (Lindsay Eagle) that really drives this piece. The scenes involving the pair feel genuine, and you can feel the real bonding between them from the early flirtations to the later love scenes. Lindley effectively portrays the struggle of being torn between his shallow but secure life grounded in traditional success metrics, and a much more fulfilling one with someone who doesn’t fit the mold. Eagle has stepped away from her directing chores of the last few years to take on the role, and is perfectly cast as Helen. She convincingly plays her as someone who is perfectly comfortable with her body until her insecurity begins to bleed through as the pressure from outside influences on Tom to stay within the confines of conformity mount. Anyone who has been plagued by that deep-rooted less-than feeling will surely identify with this painful characterization.

 

Although “Fat Pig” is billed as a dark comedy (and it is very funny, particularly in its send up of corporate fratboy culture), it’s also deeply thought provoking. See it. For more info, go to: https://www.flatearththeatre.com/

Broadway Fire in Reagle’s “Technicolor Dreamcoat”

 

By CJ Williams

 

Directed and Choreographed by Susan M. Chebookjian, based on original Choreography by Anthony Van Laast. Lighting Design by David Wilson. Set Design by Peter Colao and Richard Schreiber. Music Direction by Dan Rodriguez. Presented by Reagle Music Theatre at 617 Lexington St, Waltham through June 18.

 

“Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” is Broadway-theater fare in unexpectedly Beantown-local affordability – and the Broadway musical is put on to amazing effect at the Reagle Music Theatre in Waltham. For all its crowd-pleasing choruses, and a cast that could sing and dance down Carnegie Hall, “Dreamcoat” nonetheless pulls a nice undercurrent of depth as well.

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NSMT Serves Up A Delicious Slice of White Bread with Delightful ‘Music Man’

 

by Mike Hoban

 

‘Music Man’ – Book, Music, and Lyrics by Meredith Willson. Story by Willson and Franklin Lacey. Directed by Bob Richard. Choreography, Diane Laurenson. Music Direction by Milton Granger; Scenic Design by Kyle Dixon; Lighting Design by Franklin Meissner; Sound Design by Danny Erdberg; Costume Coordinator and Additional Costume Design by Paula Peasley-Ninestein. Presented by North Shore Music Theatre, Beverly, through June 18.

“I’m as corny as Kansas in August” may be a line from a song from another classic musical, (South Pacific, “A Wonderful Guy”) but it could certainly double as a description of Music Man, the delightful 1957 musical now being given an inspired revival at the North Shore Music Theatre. Set in 1912 Iowa, birthplace of Meredith Willson, writer of the book, music, and lyrics for the Broadway hit, Music Man may be the quintessential white bread musical, but damn – er, darn – is it good.

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Drama Abounds in “Days of Atonement”

 

By Michele Markarian

 

Days of Atonement. Written by Hanna Azoulay-Hasfari, translated by Shir Freibach. Directed by Guy Ben-Aharon. Presented by Review,, 527 Tremont Street, Boston through June 25.

 

It is the eve of Yom Kippur.  Amira (Dana Stern), a student filmmaker, calls her three estranged sisters to their mother’s apartment in Netivot, to try and locate their elderly Moroccan/Israeli mother, who has disappeared without a note. Malka (Jackie Davis) the oldest sister, is in her own state of perpetual crisis, convinced that her husband David is cheating on her. Evelyn (Adrianne Krstansky), the second oldest, is deeply Orthodox. Pregnant again, in an advanced age and already with eight daughters, she refuses to have an abortion, even though her doctor is recommending it – Evelyn has diabetes. Fanny (Ramona Lisa Alexander), whom Malka suspects has slept with David, had been thrown out of the house as a teenager, her mother jealous of her developing body. Although a successful realtor, Fanny still has emotional wounds that make her reunion difficult and bitter. Amira, the youngest, born after their father has died, is suffering from mental health issues. Each sister feels like she had it the worst growing up.  It’s a play fraught with tension, resentment and, appropriately set on Yom Kippur, forgiveness and repentance.

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Nora Theatre’s ‘Midvale High School Fiftieth Reunion’ Is A Charmer

 

by Mike Hoban

 

The Midvale High School Fiftieth ReunionWritten by Alan Brody, Directed by Lee Mikeska Gardner; Scenic Design by Steven Royal; Costume Design by Chelsea Kerl; Lighting Design by John Malinowski; Sound Design by Nathan Leigh; Choreography by Marlena Yanetti and Felton Sparks. Presented by The Nora Theatre Company at Central Square Theater, 450 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge through July 2.

 

Is it possible to fall in love for the first time long after AARP has begun mailing you membership offers? That’s the question that Midvale High School Fiftieth Reunion, the superb comic drama now having its world premiere at the Central Square Theater, seems to be asking. This thoughtful and very funny play takes one of life’s ridiculously emotionally trying rituals and uses it as a springboard for an unlikely but utterly charming love story. It also sends up all the awkward moments one encounters at the oft-dreaded high school reunion (crushes revealed, not remembering friend’s names, feigned interest in other’s lives) while cleverly inserting backstory for the characters via a series of revealing flashbacks.

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Huntington’s ‘Ripcord’ Delivers Laughs Alongside Odd Couple’s Darker Side

 

by Mike Hoban

 

‘Ripcord’ – Written by David Lindsay-Abaire. Directed by Jessica Stone. Scenic Design by Tobin Ost; Costume Design by Gabriel Berry; Lighting Design by David J. Weiner; Sound Design and Composition by Mark Bennett; Projection Design by Lucy Mackinnon. Presented by the Huntington Theatre Company at the Calderwood Pavilion, Boston Center for the Arts, 527 Tremont St. Boston through July 2

 

There probably aren’t many plays – even comedies – that could include a scene as implausible as having a septuagenarian drugged, kidnapped, and tricked into jumping out of an airplane without straining its credibility to the point of snapping, but David Lindsay-Abaire manages to not only pull it off but make it convincing in his very funny and ultimately touching Ripcord, now running at the Huntington Theatre through July 2. That scene is just one of the many horrors that two female roommates inflict upon one another to great comic effect as they each try to win the bet to settle a turf battle set in an assisted living facility.

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“Blood on the Snow” a Surefire Hit

 

By Michele Markarian

 

“Blood on the Snow” – Written by Patrick Gabridge.  Directed by Courtney O’Connor.  Presented by The Bostonian Society at the Old State House, 206 Washington Street, Boston, through August 20.

 

Through a side entrance in the Old State House, you make your way up a winding, wooden staircase to be ushered into The Council Chamber. Two sets of chair rows face each other, flanking a long, elegant table. Dr. Nathaniel Sheidley, Executive Director of the Bostonian Society enters – he’s modern day, by the way – and explains to us that the real-life drama that “Blood on the Snow” is based on took place in this very room, the violence having taken place outside the actual window. Wow. This adds a level of authenticity to what we are about to witness that makes this not just a play, but an experience.

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NSMT’s “THE MUSIC MAN”

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

The opening show of Bill Hanney’s North Shore Music Theatre’s 62nd season is “The Music Man” by Meredith Willson. This musical first opened on Broadway on December 19, 1957 and ran for 1,375 performances. Robert Preston played the leading role of Harold Hill who cons the good citizens of River City, Iowa into buying musical instruments and band uniforms by promising to create a boy’s band in the town. Not knowing a clarinet from a saxophone, Hill expects to skip town with cash in hand, only to be caught by the arms of the beautiful Marian Paroo, the librarian, who transforms him into a reformed rouge and respectable citizen by the close of the show.

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