Year In Review 2009
The Orestia: Agamemnon, Choephori, and The Eumenides
Enough acts of murder—matricide, patricide, genocide, and
one relatively simple homicide—mutilations, curses, cannibalism,
invocations, revenges, prophecies, and startlingly vivid bloodshedding
to satiate devotees of The Lord of the Ring trilogy
and the Saw franchise. The use of multimedia, the changing
of the very physical form of the stage, and the clarity of
the stage pictures all supported the action of the play—a
rarer area theatrical occurrence than you’d suppose. The acting
by the English cast of 10 actors was peerless: diction, action
and focus all made Aeschylus’ ancient plays clear.
Judging from the results of this unique collection of three
seemingly disparate one-act plays—“A Slight Ache,” “Family
Voices,” and “Victoria Station”—Shakespeare & Company’s
Harold Pinter production shouldn’t be their last of his plays.
Director Eric Tucker, in his debut effort at S&Co., had
his three actor cast smartly attuned to Pinter’s poetic prose,
static animation, and other similar “Pinteresque” contradictions.
My Fair Lady
Maggie Mancinelli-Cahill’s My Fair Lady was an intimate,
enticing affair. Instead of bloated spectacle and the “chuck
a cast up onstage to fill it and the audience with relatives
and friends,” Mancinell-Cahill’s smart aesthetic allowed the
words and the notes of this well-known musical chestnut to
be not just heard, but felt.
Theatre Festival, Unicorn Theatre
The sounds, syntax, and words of the Irish “Faith Healer,”
Frank (Colin Lane), his upper-class English mistress (a former
barrister) Grace (Keira Naughton, one of the busiest actresses
in the Berkshires), and his elder Cockney barker, Teddy (David
Adkins), fascinated or, to use one of Frank’s favorite words,
“mesmerized” the audience. It was in their aural distinctions,
their very different accents, movements, and stillness, the
variations, prevarications, and epiphanies in their storytelling
that made Eric Hill’s Faith Healer memorable.
A Streetcar Named Desire
Director Julianne Boyd’s Streetcar was more than a
match for playwright Williams’ poetry and his stage direction.
With a set that was perfection by scenic designer Brian Prather,
Boyd and company wrestled and caressed Williams’ Pulitzer
Prize-winning masterpiece to full liquid life: full of beer,
bourbon, sweat, tears, blood, and those more intimate emanations
life is full of and stage productions too often aren’t. Barrington
Stage Company’s production depended not “on the kindness of
strangers,” as Blanche fluttered at play’s end, but on the
talents of an excellent cast and Boyd’s firm, exacting hand
to create a powerful A Streetcar Named Desire.
Alfred Hitchcock’s The 39 Steps
Pure comic gold, this two-time 2008 Tony Award-winning pastiche,
Alfred Hitchcock’s The 39 Steps, was dashing good fun
for film aficionados and fans of Monty Python’s manic glee.
But the play’s “Macguffin” turned out really to be
all of Hitchcock’s films; fans groaningly laughed at all the
references to Psycho, The Birds, The Lady Vanishes, The
Man Who Knew Too Much, Rear Window, etc. Given enough
rope, the play has been notorious for keeping audiences spellbound
through its Hitchcockian contortions, but I confess that I
am the wrong man to sabotage this lifeboat of young and innocent
fun. It’s all a pretense for a 95-minute comedic frenzy of
four actors playing 100 (give or take an accent or dropped
hat) characters, on a stage filled with dry ice, fog, gunshots,
train travel, the Scottish highlands, and London’s Palladium
Picking and choosing the juiciest bits of the various versions
of this operetta, BTF conceived a fast-paced, “quite bawdy”
and totally arch production that amuses, pleases and, occasionally,
touches an audience with the excellence of the voices, the
acting aesthetic best embodied by McCaela Donovan as Cunegonde.
Flipping fully from deadpan to emotional then back to deadpan,
Donovan had that Kristen Chenoweth quality of presenting sweet,
naivety one second and full-bore horniness the next, all in
a diminutive package.
Drolly: the cast of Stageworks/Hudson’s Forbidden Broadway.
Forbidden Broadway: Greatest Hits, Vol. 1
Broadway was full of love—for musical theater, for entertainment,
for the craft of acting, the talent for dancing, and the art
of singing. People who truly love musical theater were smitten
by this 90-minute valentine to musical theater. People who
love to be entertained were thrilled with this 25-year off-Broadway
veteran, honored in the past with a Tony Award, an Obie Award,
and a Drama Desk Award. People who admire ensemble acting,
deft dancing and eclectic singing exalted the talents of Forbidden
Broadway’s four-person cast. This pastiche parody was
like a beautiful love affair that ended without a nasty divorce.
The Hound of the Baskervilles
Most of the elements of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s original
1901 novel were here, but the quick pace, the zany Marx Brothers-begat-Monty
Python-begat-Complete Works of Shakespeare quirkiness,
and the tongue-in-cheekiness of the trio—if your kids, students,
or grandparents don’t like a S&Co. comedy, they just don’t
have a sense of humor—made this The Hound of the Baskervilles
a delight and the best of the troupe’s fall offerings.
Funny, arresting, engrossing, and repelling as only an Irish
master playwright can be, the five person cast of Capital
Rep’s production kept all the adjectives in the air and their
cards close to their vests during this Christmas Eve poker
game literally with the devil. Edward James Hyland, as “Mr.
Lockhart,” the aptly named devil in Conor McPherson’s play,
leads the tight ensemble acting with a mind-expanding monologue
that opens the second half of the play, making the devil not
just oddly empathetic, but kin to mankind.