“Oleanna” Stirs a Disturbing Debate

 

By Michele Markarian

 

‘Oleanna’ – Written by David Mamet.  Directed by Elaine Vaan Hogue. Presented by New Repertory Theatre, Arsenal Center for the Arts, 321 Arsenal Street, Watertown, MA through November 5

 

I feel like I need to start this review off by saying that I am – absolutely – a feminist.  Keep reading, and you’ll see why.

 

“Oleanna” takes place in the office of John (Johnny Lee Davenport), a professor at a college whose impending tenure has just been announced. The subsequent raise in pay is allowing him to purchase a new home. A series of phone calls negotiating the details of this real estate transaction is interrupted by the arrival of Carol (Obehi Janice), a student who claims to be having difficulty with his class and in particular, his textbook. The textbook, one that he has authored himself, refers to higher education as “systematic hazing”. As someone who has worked hard to get herself to college, Carol is deeply offended by this. As she despairs at being too “stupid” to understand what is going on in his classroom, John offers to give her an A, if she agrees to meet with him for tutoring sessions. This decision will ultimately be John’s downfall.

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Trinity Rep’s “DEATH OF A SALESMAN” is a Masterpiece

 

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

 

The opening show of Trinity Repertory Company’s 54th season is “Death of a Salesman”, a 1949 play by Arthur Miller. It was the 1949 recipient of the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and the Tony Award for Best Play. The play premiered on Broadway in February, 1949 and ran for 742 performances, and has been revived on Broadway four times, winning three Tony Awards for Best Revival. It is widely considered to be one of the greatest plays of the 20th Century. It explodes with poignancy and relevance. In 1947 Brooklyn, Willy Loman desperately craves success for himself and his two sons, but stark reality cannot live up to his dreams.The wall of delusions that he has constructed quietly crumbles around him while a devastated and demoralized man searches in vain for a hidden path to greatness. Director Brian McEleney takes this masterpiece of a show and makes it relevant to contemporary audiences so they can see each person’s struggle to achieve their ambitions and dreams is universal and not confined to the 1940’s. They can apply lessons learned from the past into their own lives during these uncertain and turbulent times. Beware of the past for if you don’t learn from it, it will come back and bite you on the butt. Brian not only blocks the show brilliantly but with his keen eye and insight into these characters brings out the best in his very talented cast, too. This show is electrifying and is the must see show of this season.

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Gloucester Stage’s “To Kill a Mockingbird” Brilliantly Evokes the Bad Old Days

 

By Sheila Barth

 

Some things never change.

We say they do. Over the years, we claim, there have been sweeping, amazing, changes.
But people don’t change. Sadly, there’s a stagnancy in human nature and conditions. Such is the case with Christopher Sergel’s striking stage adaptation of Harper Lee’s classic 1960 novel, “To Kill a Mockingbird,”  with Gloucester Stage’s blended cast of outstanding professional and local actors, skillfully directed by award-winning Boston director-Boston University educator, Judy Braha.

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Ogunquit Playhouse’s ‘FROM HERE TO ETERNITY a Powerful, Dramatic Musical

By Sheila Barth

 

Okay- straight out – Ogunquit Playhouse’s production of new musical “From Here to Eternity” is so overwhelming, realistic, and gut-wrenching, it’s the hardest-hitting musical I’ve seen in a while. Some of you remember the dramatic movie that won Frank Sinatra an Academy Award and took several other Oscars. The movie was superlative, and this new musical seems slated for success.

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MARY POPPINS (Uncommon Theatre, Foxboro)

MARY POPPINS
Reviewed by Tony Annicone

 

Welcome to the wonderful world of Walt Disney with “Mary Poppins” and the opening musical of Uncommon Theatre’s 38th season. This musical opened on Broadway on November 16, 2006, closed on March 3, 2013 and ran for 2619 performances. It is now a full Broadway musical with 44 major awards worldwide. The story of Mary Poppins, the magical nanny who flies into the troubled lives of the Banks children will dazzle and delight audiences of all ages. Bert, the chimney sweep welcomes the audience into the world of “Mary Poppins” with “Chim Chim Cher-ee.” We then follow Mary’s exploits throughout all of London where she charms each person she comes in contact with. The talent of this cast captures the hearts of all members of the audience by propelling them to their feet at curtain call. Director Meg Dussault, music director Linda Barbieri, orchestra director Esther Zabinski and choreographer, Anna Pietal  definitely out do themselves with this spectacular musical.

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LEGALLY BLONDE – (Dean College)

LEGALLY BLONDE
Reviewed by Tony Annicone

 

The School of Arts at Dean College’s fall musical is “Legally Blonde, the Musical” which is based on the Amanda Brown novel and the 2001 movie which starred Reese Witherspoon. It tells the story of Elle Woods, a sorority girl from Delta Nu who is the college sweetheart and home coming queen who doesn’t take no for an answer. So when her boyfriend, Warner dumps her for someone more “serious”, she puts down the books, heads to Harvard Law School to win him back. Along the way Elle proves that being true to yourself never goes out of style. She also discovers how her knowledge of the law can help others and defends fitness guru, Brooke Windham from murder charges. Director Ali Angelone creates a high energy contemporary musical with her keen insight into these comic characters while musical director taught them all these musical numbers does so while playing lead keyboards and conducting a seven piece orchestra. Ali who is also the choreographer, supplies the dance numbers that stop the show with their power and execution. Their combined expertise wins the cast a standing ovation at the curtain call.

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A Daughter Forsaken in “Alligator Road”

 

by Michele Markarian

 

“Alligator Road” – Written by Camille Kimball. Directed by Weylin Symes. Presented by Greater Boston Stage Company, 395 Main Street, Stoneham, through October 29.

 

Recently widowed Kathy (Brianne Beatrice) is stuck with a hardware store she doesn’t want to run. Her feminist daughter, the angry Candace (Sarah Bendell) has just learned that her mother is literally giving away the store to Lavinia (Victoria George), a black woman Kathy perceives to be homeless. This is in order to make what she feels are “reparations”, despite never having slave owners in her family tree. Candace wants the store, Lavinia and her husband Scott (Avery Bargar) want the store, and Kathy just wants to be free from a life and a marriage she was long bored with. The stakes are high all around, which makes for interesting drama.

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Gloucester Stage Closes Season with Poignant, Powerful “Mockingbird”

 

By Mike Hoban

 

“To Kill A Mockingbird” – From the novel by Harper Lee; Stage adaptation by Christopher Sergel; Directed by Judy Braha; Set Design by Jon Savage; Lighting Design by John Malinowski; Costume Design by Chelsea Kerl; Sound Design by David Wilson. Presented by the Gloucester Stage Company at 267 East Main Street, Gloucester, through October 28.

 

During a pre-trial scene in To Kill A Mockingbird, the stage version of Harper Lee’s semi-autobiographical novel about racial injustice and the loss of innocence, there’s this defining exchange between defense attorney Atticus Finch and Scout, his 10-year old daughter.

 

“Atticus, are we going to win it?”

“No, honey.”

“Then why –”

“Simply because we were licked a hundred years before we started is no reason for us not to try to win,” says Atticus.

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“Lost Tempo” Hits All the Right Notes

 

Review by James Wilkinson

 

‘Lost Tempo’ – Written by Cliff Odle; Directed by Diego Arciniegas; Scenic Design by Jeffrey Petersen; Costume Design by Rachel Padula-Shufelt; Lighting Design by Evey Connerty-Marin; Sound Design by J Jumbelic. Presented by Boston Playwrights’ Theatre at 949 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston through October 22.

 

I’m a sucker for a truly immersive theater set. There’s something about the way it envelops you, inviting you in. You’re allowed to let everything outside of the theater fade away. Forget about where you parked the car, what you had for dinner, the work at home you’ve been putting off. The curtain hasn’t even risen and already you’ve been dropped into the world of the play. Read more ““Lost Tempo” Hits All the Right Notes”

THE SAVANNAH SIPPING SOCIETY

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

 

Walpole Footlighters’ first show of their 94th season is “Savannah Sipping Society” by Jessie Jones, Nicholas Hope and Jamie Wooton. Four unique Southern women, all needing to escape the sameness of their day to day routines are drawn together by fate. At an impromptu happy hour, they decide it’s high time to reclaim the enthusiasm for life they’ve lost throughout the years. Randa, a perfectionist and workaholic, is struggling to cope with a surprise career derailment. Dot, still reeling from her husband’s recent demise and the loss of their plans for idyllic retirement, faces the unsettling prospect of starting a new life from scratch. Earthy and boisterous Marlafaye, a good ole Texas gal, has blasted into Savannah in the wake of losing her tom-catting husband to a twenty three year old dental hygienist. Finally, Jinx, a spunky ball of fire, offers her services as a much needed life coach for these women. Directed by Wendy Stuart who gives these actresses the insight into these comic characters but also makes them deliver the goods in a poignant moment to give the show a nice mixture of comic and dramatic moments. This creates a well rounded show that the audience can savor and thoroughly enjoy.

Wendy gives each actress their moment to shine in this show. All four actresses do a superb job in this high energy show. This whole season is dedicated to Barbara Pettis, a 45 year member, who originally was to direct this show and had cast it before her unexpected passing away in July. I first met Barbara back in 2004 when I reviewed “She Loves Me” which she directed. The gorgeous set 2nd story verandah of a home is by Dan Sheehan while Kate Smith supplied the comic costumes which reflect the characters personalities. Cindy Bell shines as Randa, who goes from uptight to friendly during the course of the show. She’s lost her job and has a bitter rivalry with her lawyer brother, Alden and a contentious relationship with her rich shrewish grandmother. (There is a hilarious scene with this crotchety old woman at the end of Act 1 that has to be seen to be believed.) Cindy’s character hasn’t had a date in 30 years and on Valentine’s Day finally does with surprising results. Randa, Dot and Marlafaye first meet after a failed yoga class and then meet again at Randa’s home. The first meeting has a lot of cheese brought by the women. Cindy’s interactions with the other characters are excellent especially her first meeting with Jinx when she recognizes her as the one from the express line in the market. Evie Rayburg does a terrific job as Dot, a lovable grandmother type more concerned about others. Evie stepped into this role seven days before the show due to an accident that Kay Carter Blaha had. She does an amazing job with the enormous amount of dialogue. Some of her funniest bits include smacking a doll on the table because she was upset that her husband died so suddenly on her, takes her bra off in a very comic scene and reads dirty books from the library.

Barbara Pettis’ real life daughter, Cynthia Wegel plays Marlafaye, the funniest character in the show. She has the best one liners including cutting the crotches out of her husband’s pants. Cynthia is dynamite with her larger than life charm and the anger directed at a cheating hubby.  Barbara Schapiro is marvelous as Jinx, a sympathetic busybody who moves from place to place constantly and has come to Savannah to take care of her sister who has dementia. Barbara looks like Shirley Maclaine with her blonde wig. She has many funny lines and also a serious monologue later in the show which hits home with the audience. They teach us life lessons while entertaining us. So for a marvelous new show from the writers of “Golden Girls” TV series, be sure to catch “The Savannah Sipping Society” at Footlighters before time runs out. A show that I am sure Barbara would be very proud of indeed. Brava!

THE SAVANNAH SIPPING SOCIETY (20 October to 5 November)

Walpole Footlighters, 2 Scout Road, East Walpole, MA

1(508)668-8446 or www.footlighers.com