Mama is about to have a birthday bash no one will soon forget.
Prepared by Yewande Odetoyinbo as Beverly and Dominic Carter as Dayton who delivered playful and endearing chemistry previously seen in Lyric Stage Company’s production The Light, SpeakEasy Stage Company’s brilliant production of Fairview is an impactful and evolving show that has so much to say, but yet so little should be said before witnessing it. Its humor ranges from conventional to absurd to acerbic and should be watched, understood, and thought over.
SpeakEasy Stage Company presents Jackie Sibblies Drury’s Pulitzer prize-winning Fairview live and in person at Calderwood Pavilion in Boston, Massachusetts through Saturday, March 11. Powerfully directed by Pascale Florestal, Fairview boasts an excellent and dynamic cast. Fairview runs one hour and 45 minutes with no intermission and contains adult themes. Click here for more information and tickets.
Amid an Obama family portrait on the left and a Langston Hughes poem on the right with upscale furniture and a dangling crystal chandelier overhead by Erik D Diaz, the production opens to an inviting and seemingly affluent household as Beverly, attempting to quell her nerves, begins to dance while peeling a carrot for Mama’s birthday dinner. Soon joined by Dayton, Lyndsay Allyn Cox as Beverly’s sister Jasmine and Victoria Omoregie as Beverly and Dayton’s daughter Keisha, Fairview reveals a dysfunctional family gearing up for a big night for Mama. Beverly’s only wish is for everything to be perfect.
Fairview addresses the nature of observing and perspective in a unique, palpable and unpredictable manner and it is quite a wild ride to its astonishing conclusion, so be still and observe. This may be unlike anything witnessed before onstage and most assuredly worth the journey.
SpeakEasy Stage Company presents Jackie Sibblies Drury’s Pulitzer prize-winning Fairview live and in person at Calderwood Pavilion in Boston, Massachusetts through Saturday, March 11. Fairview runs one hour and 45 minutes with no intermission and has adult themes. Click here for more information and tickets.
In the aftermath of World War II, grief and death lingered like a shadow over the world’s existence. In the late 40s in the Pittsburgh Hill District of Pennsylvania, that shadow hovers over a close knit group of friends in August Wilson’s gripping mystery, Seven Guitars. Love, loneliness, grief, friendship, and the blues strike a chord as each character in Seven Guitars search for their share of happiness in an area nicknamed ‘The Crossroads of the World.’
Directed conscientiously by Maurice Emmanuel Parent, Actors’ Shakespeare Project presents August Wilson’s Seven Guitars through March 5 live and in person at Hibernian Hall in Boston, Massachusetts. Hibernian Hall provides an intimate theatre setting without a bad set in the house. Seven Guitars is intended for mature audiences and runs for two hours and 45 minutes with one 15 min intermission. Click here for more information and tickets.
Written after August Wilson’s Fences, it is easy to see a few of the earmarks of Wilson’s lauded work including Wilson’s rich and cadenced dialogue. Fences and Seven Guitars are set in Pittsburgh in a neighborhood backyard, and some of the characters in Seven Guitars and Fences share some loose similarities including the ill-advised, but unwavering loyalty from Rose Maxson in Fences and Vera Dotson in Seven Guitars.
Jon Savage’s inviting backyard scenic design features a multi-tiered set, colorful garden plot, mood setting hanging string lights, and an inhabited patio dining set. From lively to tense and shocking moments, Amanda E. Fallon’s affective lighting combined with Abe Joyner- Meyers’s mood induced sound design and Dewey Dellay’s haunting and carefully crafted music composition impressively maneuver this evolving and multi-layered production. Costume Designer Nia Safarr Banks utilizes classic colors and retro patterns to enhance each character’s distinct personality including vintage flowing dresses and plumed bowler hats.
However, one of greatest strengths of this particular production is Parent’s great care in the cast’s tight bond. Whether pondering their own mortality, listening to the radio, shooting the breeze or gripped by a suspenseful moment, the cast easily draws in the audience by their natural and captivating chemistry.
Following the funeral of Floyd ‘Schoolboy’ Barton (Anthony T Goss), Seven Guitars follows a group of friends that gather to honor a complicated man. Goss skillfully depicts Barton’s sass, swagger and charm, but also his admirable determination and dream to be among the haves than the have-nots. His resolution for success makes him sympathetic despite his egotistically justifiable wrongdoings. He has compelling chemistry with Maya Carter who delivers a moving performance as devoted, spiritual, and skeptical Vera. Carter’s intense opening monologue is relatable and heartrending and Carter only gets better from there. On a lighter note, Regina Vital’s fiercely independent, loyal, and charismatic Louise provides a wealth of humor and fun, especially when she goes toe to toe with Omar Robinson as Canewell, Dereks Thomas as Red Carter, or Valyn Lyric Turner as Louise’s seemingly impressionable niece Ruby. Robinson as talkative and good natured Canewell, Thomas as ladies man Red, Mack as Hedley and Goss as Floyd share some engrossing camaraderie whether it is for a spontaneous dance with makeshift instruments, playing pranks on each other, or sharing their riveting musings about the future. However, when they are enjoying themselves, it is a relaxed vibe that is a joy to watch.
Johnnie Mack delivers a searing and multi-dimensional performance as peculiar, lonely and hardworking dreamer Hedley. In overalls and an apron, Hedley has lofty dreams and supportive friends, but lives in a sad reality. Mack seamlessly navigates Hedley’s intermittent moods with rising tension weaved into some compassionate moments.
Visions of grandeur, ambition, and destiny play more than a medley in August Wilson’s Seven Guitars on a landscape that has experienced harsh realities. For August Wilson’s richly drawn and dynamic characters, one cannot help but share their hopes for a brighter future.
Actors’ Shakespeare Project presents August Wilson’s Seven Guitars through March 5 live and in person at Hibernian Hall in Boston, Massachusetts. Click here for more information and tickets.
Having witnessed Lin Manuel Miranda’s dynamite, hip hop improvisational event Freestyle Love Supreme live in Boston prior to seeing Hamilton, it is easy to see some of the inspiration and contemporary influences on the renowned historical rap musical, Hamilton which centers around one of America’s founding fathers, Alexander Hamilton. As an illegitimate orphan immigrant from the West Indies, Hamilton created a legacy and became one of the forefathers of the constitution, but not without making enemies and causing scandal along the way.
One of Hamilton’s most memorable lines reflected on legacy. It is defined as “planting seeds in a garden you never get to see.” Hamilton has an innate urgency as big as Hamilton’s persistent and risk taking drive. Having emigrated from the West Indies where life was short to New York, Alexander knew many in the West Indies at that time did not expect to live past 20 as he arrived in New York with big aspirations according to the musical at 19 years old.
Hamilton’s life was lived without a second to lose and the show emphasizes this with vigor, roaring cannons by sound designer Nevin Steinberg while Howell Binkley’s peak lighting blares in the distance for My Shot. In spite of a mountain of obstacles, Alexander knew this was his chance to rise up and bring the United States to freedom.
Quite the opposite is the leisurely sarcasm of King of England’s King George, an amusingly smug performance by Neil Haskell as he waits in the wings for his estranged renegades’ surefire defeat and return. Wearing a gleaming crown, Haskell’ s droll and intriguing remarks are so certain and so methodically threatening in You’ll Be Back as he drives his once followers into submission from a distance. In feigned loyalty and villainy, he remarks, “You were mine to subdue.”
One of the strongest and most fascinating aspects of the musical is Jared Dixon’s regal, sophisticated and reserved Aaron Burr to Pierre Jean Gonzalez’s impulsive and expedient Alexander Hamilton. Dixon is exceptional as Burr, emphasizing how these two greats are so alike and so incredibly different as is demonstrated in the stirring number, Dear Theodosia. Burr and Hamilton’s building tension, especially while working with an inspiring Marcus Choi as wise, firm, reasonable and commanding George Washington, is among the best parts of the production. Aaron Burr Sir, Non-Stop, and The Room Where it Happens emphasize this gripping tension while Choi makes a formidable Washington as he delivers soaring vocals in an exhilarating rendition of One Last Time.
Hamilton’s reflective number Hurricane is an indelible performance fueled by Andy Blankenbuehler’s intricate and purposeful choreography while contemporary meets vintage colonial flair in a stream of clever storytelling for the playful Helpless and then the discerning Satisfied. Hamilton’s colonial era setting hits the mark with costumes by Paul Tazewell ranging from bustiers to velvet suits to sweeping ball gowns in muted colors. Ta’Rea Campbell is extraordinary as conflicted Schuyler sister Angelica. Her silvery vocals depict her charisma, determination, but steadfast loyalty established in Helpless and Satisfied. She has intriguing chemistry with Hamilton as she deliberately matches her sister Eliza with him. Nikisha Williams is well suited for wide eyed, altruistic, and unwaveringly supportive Eliza as demonstrated in the touching duet That Would be Enough with Gonzalez and the complex and poignant It’s Quiet Uptown enhanced by Blankenbueher’s sweeping choreography.
Hamilton has had quite a sterling reputation over the years. Witnessing this musical the first time brought incredibly high expectations, so perhaps those high hopes was not fair to the musical itself. It was a unique and immersive experience featuring some fast paced and catchy numbers, but also a wealth of heady and historical dialogue delivered in rap libretto, which sometimes made the musical difficult to follow. Streaming it with subtitles certainly helped on Disney Plus and returning fans of Hamilton are already familiar with the story and soundtrack, but though the style is contemporary and innovative, it was a bit frustrating trying to capture every word. Perhaps it is wise to experience Hamilton through the soundtrack and/or streaming before watching it live.
Much acclaim to Alexander Hamilton who literally picked himself up by his bootstraps and created such an incredible legacy. Hamilton is packed with some lesser known historical facts about United States history and history buffs will especially enjoy it as events unfold. Hamilton is full of patriotism and stands as a much needed reminder of the kind of timeless zealousness that originally established America’s independence and freedom as it pulses to its own contemporary beat.
Broadway in Boston presents Tony award-winning Hamilton live and in person at the Citizens Bank Opera House through March 12. Click here for more information and for tickets.
Though NPR’s famous composer, conductor, author, and music commentator Rob Kapilow has unveiled quite a few eye catching music details over the years with Celebrity Series of Boston from Swing to Broadway to carols and much more, perhaps the most interesting takeaway from Aaron Copland’s classical music composition Appalachian Spring is that it is not about Appalachia nor is it about spring.
Making his return to NEC’s golden and gleaming Jordan Hall in person for the first time in front of an audience since the pandemic, NPR’s Rob Kapilow covered some fascinating music territory in What Makes it Great? with Rob Kapilow and a Far Cry Inventing America Part 2 Copland’s Appalachian Spring: An American Voice for Classical Music on Sunday, February 5 at Jordan Hall in Boston, Massachusetts. The show ran for 120 minutes with a 15 minute intermission. Click here for more information on Rob, here for more on A Far Cry, and here for more information about Celebrity Series of Boston.
Kapilow guided the audience through Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring with greater technical zeal and an interactive approach than he has in some of his past performances. Part teacher, humorist, and historian, Rob Kapilow has been performing the What Makes It Great series for approximately 15 years, expertly uncovering a new way to connect to a vast array of music and encouraging the listener to experience this music in an entirely new way from technical composition to its emotional impact.
As beautiful and fanciful as Appalachian Spring sounds, it is neither about Appalachia nor spring and was entirely imagined by Copland who was a Jewish immigrant from Brooklyn. What is so wondrous about this 40s piece is how Copland creates this imaginary and extraordinary world, a piece which was originally called House of Victory, and how it has been historically associated with America over the years. Kapilow uses a bit of a different approach for this particular work by expounding on the technical and mechanical side of the piece and inviting the audience to actively participate in the song’s musical patterns and rhythms. Appalachian Spring is also associated with lyrics and it is a based on the Shaker melody, Simple Gifts, and Rob spends a wealth of time on the mechanics of the piece and how it ties together. It is a method that would thrill classical music fans, music enthusiasts, and musicians alike. He even exposes the subtle intricacies of Copland’s inherent confidence, style, and how to identify it in Copland’s other works.
Adorned in suits, ties, and gowns, Grammy nominated and self-conducted chamber orchestraA Far Cry worked seamlessly with Kapilow as he broke down each aspect of the piece, a feat not easy to do with Kapilow’s specific stops and starts. A Far Cry has made its way around the world since they started in 2007 and what sets this orchestra apart from others is the open communication between each musician. A Far Cry reflected just how important it is to remain in sync with the group, especially since they must connect without a conductor. Their camaraderie and chemistry as they play is compelling to witness as they direct each other with each note.
Copland’s Appalachian Spring has a unique zest, playfulness and peppy thrill of nature through harp and chime as well as calm with a western tinge as Rob explains its historical significance and just why the piece is so enjoyable through each note’s placement, rest, and orchestration.
Appalachian Spring was a childhood favorite for Kapilow’s which was perfectly clear through his personal and humorous anecdotes and the natural and engaging enthusiasm he exhibited throughout the production. Rob is always teaching something new to even some of the most trained and learned music enthusiasts. It was easy to see he has missed the live audience and judging from the audience’s resounding applause and standing ovation, they have missed him too.
Cutting sarcasm, sardonic wit, and a feigned smile does little to contain Patricia’s smoldering rage lurking just beneath the surface. No question Patricia has every reason to harbor resentment considering what she is going through affects her entire family. As a painter, it is important for Patricia to express her mounting feelings through art, but what if the pain is so deep that not even a canvas can exorcise that anger?
Directed methodically by Melia Bensussan, The Art of Burning by Kate Snodgrass is available live and in person at the Calderwood Pavilion in Boston, MA and virtually through February 12, ending just days before Valentine’s Day. The show is 85 minutes with no intermission, contains adult themes, and is not appropriate for children. Click here for more information and tickets.
The Art of Burning takes an unconventional look at love and all of its side steps, misunderstandings, and complications. It also delves into betrayal, divorce, survival, and all of the lingering emotions simmering just below the surface. With dark humor that can be disquieting at times, The Art of Burning explores the complexity of human relations including a few of its vast repercussions.
Jane Shaw’s haunting score and Aja M. Jackson’s vivid lighting enriches scenic designer Luciana Stecconi’s paradoxical, gleaming, and seemingly modest scenery set against a striking and evocative frame. Jackson’s lighting is crucial for each inventive scene change while the foreboding score keeps the tension rising throughout the production. Kara Harmon’s bold costume design not only reflects each character’s distinct personality, but plays a pivotal role in the show’s mounting tension.
The Art of Burning is also fueled by a powerful cast highlighted by Adrianne Krstansky’s captivating portrayal of Patricia and Clio Contogenis, who makes an impactful impression as conflicted Beth. Krstansky achieves a delicate balance between a strong and sympathetic woman who, for the most part, is holding her own in spite of her circumstances when she is not taking takes things a bit too far. The complexity of that balance still makes her likable even at her lowest points. Patricia’s sardonic wit and realism is nearly bereft of any boundaries. She seems to have lost her inhibitions long ago somewhere in the turmoil of her discoveries.
Contogenis weaves in some of Krstansky’s biting humor and pensiveness as Patricia’s daughter as she faces her own unique challenges along the way. These issues are handled delicately and with vulnerability. Rom Barkhordar portrays Jason, a character with some misplaced optimism and a certain lack of empathy and yet Barkhordar weaves in a subtle obliviousness that Jason can almost be forgiven for. He has some meaty scenes with Krstansky and Contogenis that would be concerning if they were not so humorous. Mark, portrayed by Michael Kaye, seems to depict the onlooker and voice of reason, but things are much more complicated than they appear. Some sobering aspects of Mark and Charlene’s marriage are incredibly relatable and humorous. Kaye and Laura Latreille as capricious Charlene have a fascinating dynamic onstage. Vivia Font takes a memorable turn as Katya as she wrestles with the weight of her decisions.
Snodgrass’s witty, poignant, and intermittently humorous dialogue makes a strong statement about the state of our contemporary world and exposes some hard realities. The truth is people are all a little lost but even at its bleakest times, love may still find a way through it all.
The Art of Burning by Kate Snodgrass is available live and in person at the Calderwood Pavilion in Boston, MA and virtually through February 12, ending just days before Valentine’s Day. Click here for more information and tickets.
Ever wondered if legendary musicians would still be who they are if they lacked any vices or instabilities? Would they still achieve that same level of success or become even greater?
Some of the most extraordinary musicians also endured turmoil in their lives whether through external circumstances or within the depths of their very being. Most come to the general consensus that the artist simply wouldn’t have that level of genius without everything that came with it. For Russian composer, pianist, and conductor Sergei Rachmanioff, he endured quite a battle on his journey to greatness and his music continues to live on.
Preludes references Rachmaninoff’s classic works, but the word itself describes what happens before an important event. It delves head first into Rachmanioff’s massive struggle to create which included fear of failure, Marfan syndrome, and mental instabilities that led to his historical writer’s block. Dan Rodriguez’s music direction combined with Andrew Dunkan Will’s complicated, vivid, and occasionally manic sound design illustrates the turmoil and genius of a musician on the brink of something bigger, but struggling to pull through.
Preludes boasts a fascinating cast including Will McGarrahan taking on multiple roles during the production. Wringing his hands, frustrated, and utterly exhausted, Dan Prior embodies frazzled and despondent ‘Rach,’ his world seized by hesitation and regret delivered cleverly in the opening number Your Day. Rachmaninoff battled life through music, but both can become blaringly stringent. Battling all these limiting factors, Rach freezes. Music Director Dan Rodriguez performs double duty depicting the mood setting musical side of pianist Rachmanioff with earnestness and peaks of humor and charm. Keyboardists Bethany Aiken and Mindy Cimini enhance this complex score that keeps up with the chaos of Rach’s mind and the reality surrounding it.
Prior’s subtle yet searing performance delves into a defeated man reaching for a lifeline through therapist Dahl, depicted skillfully by Aimee Doherty with a contemporary vibe in a Pink Floyd T-shirt, black glasses and edgy depth. Doherty’s inquisitive and unorthodox methods may be the calm in the storm. Kayla Shimizu is relatable as steadfast, optimistic, and maybe in over her head Natalya. Shimizu brings a smooth and natural ease to the number Vocalize as well as a powerful and painfully honest rendition of Natalya as she struggles in her limited understanding of Rach’s condition. Shimizu and Prior bring compelling chemistry and connection in their moving rendition of Not Alone.
Enhanced by Karen Perlow’s mind bending lighting, Preludes is at times trippy and often teetering between daydream and reality. Highlighted by amazing and intricate choreography, Anthony Pires Jr as Chaliapin slides into an entrancing and catchy Loop with finesse and charisma while blending elegant vocals between jarring beats. It is a standout number that may ruminate long after the show is over. Taking on multiple roles and delivering inspiring and thought provoking pearls of wisdom is Will McGarrahan who portrays a number of dynamic historical figures. McGarrahan’s commanding voice, distinct characterizations, and dark comedic timing make him a treat to watch each time he appears onstage.
Scenic Designer Shelley Barish’s insightful circular staging moves fluidly with the performers with a piano set perfectly at center stage accented by lilacs, ordered blocks of vibrant colors, and an ever changing, mood-induced colored backdrop. The scalloped trim and soft lighting from various hung fixtures add an eclectic elegance as does the eye popping vintage couch and ottoman.
In some ways, Rachmaninoff’s struggles also made him distinctive. He had Marfan Syndrome which is a genetic disorder that affects the connective tissue of the body and organs. It is a very difficult way of life, but also gave him unusually long fingers. Much of his work is difficult to play because he could reach the piano keys more easily than the average person. This weakness was also a strength and part of what made him seem destined for greatness.
Lyric Stage Company presents Dan Malloy’s musical Preludes through Sunday, February 5 live and in person at Lyric Stage Company in Boston, Massachusetts. The production is approximately 2 hours with a 15 min intermission. Click here for more information and tickets.
After a half century, the Midwinter Revels can not only still create fresh and concise storytelling while weaving in various cultures and traditions with a balance of joy and poignancy, but this year recalls a miraculous event in history that is not shared enough during the holiday season.
Innovatively written and directed by Patrick Swanson and guided by Carolyn Saxon as the Immortal Spirit of Place, Midwinter Revels: A Solstice Celebration Tales from Ellis Island continues live and in person at the Sanders Theatre in Cambridge, MA through December 28 and then will be available virtually December 29 through January 15. Each performance pays tribute to Revels supporters and this particular performance was dedicated to the The Rioff Family in honor of WGBH’s Brian O’Donovan. This show is translated in ASL and is approximately two hours with one intermission. Click here for more information and tickets.
Veteran reveler David Coffin’s enthusiasm reflected the same from the audience as he vigorously prepared them pre-production for the Revels live and interactive sing-along that features a vast array of carols and cultural songs. Meticulously musically directed by Elijah Botkin and led by Keith Murphy of A Saint Patrick’s DayCeltic Sojourn, an intimate onstage band returns as the Liberty Band performing carols to folk to war songs from around the world right alongside the cast. The joy and gratitude in singing in front of an audience again is as uplifting as ever and the cast’s a cappella harmonies are a glorious treat.
Midwinter Revels: A Solstice Celebration Tales from Ellis Island does not just take place on Ellis Island, but provides the foundation for each of the tales shared during the production. The tales of hardship and strife seem so different, but are somehow tied into shared experiences as immigrants from all over the world find themselves stranded together on Christmas Eve in 1924. The spirit of the season is exemplified in several tales including a fiddle that needs mending featuring Maeve Leahy as Bridget and Ewan Swanson as Isaac.
Adorned in a glimmering gown and gold wreathed crown, Carolyn Saxon makes a warm and welcome return to Revels this time as the Immortal Spirit of Place. Her subtle charm and light humor enhance each aspect of the production as she guides the audience through various tales and periods in history in Nikes. Saxon is clearly enjoying this enigmatic role becoming invisible when she wishes and popping up at felicitous and spontaneous moments.
While last year’s show focused on saving a bar by venturing into the past, family is much more prevalent as members of the cast tie in pieces of their own cultural holiday memories into the production. Irish and Jewish Dramaturg Nicole Galland contributed by drawing on her own experiences and upbringing. With frank and humorous inflections, Reveler Stephanie Clayman is an amiable and avid storyteller as she brings some of those tales to life such as two well staged pieces of morally centered Jewish folklore and several Chanukah traditions.
David Coffin as Conor Riley revealed a miraculous event during World War I that took place on Christmas Eve in 1914. For a brief time, soldiers showed camaraderie with their enemies as they joined together in song, games, and friendship. It is a historical event that needs to be shared with as much frequency as annual holiday traditions such How the Grinch Stole Christmas, A Christmas Carol, or It’s a Wonderful Life. That brief interlude of peace made such a significant impact on the world and Midwinter Revels depicts that moving period of time with Christmas in the Trenches, O Tannenbaum and Stile Nacht as the production spread itself beyond the Sanders Theatre stage.
The children are always a joy to watch and this year as the Ellis Island Children, they share upbeat, jumping rope rhythm for There’s a Big Ship Sailing and later with Las Posadas as Mary rides on a donkey. It is just one example of the many endearing appearances they make in song and tale.
A brilliant performance comes from Ricardo Holguin who passionately performs a wondrous rendition of Mexican love song La Malgeuna followed by striking number El Relampago featuring women in gorgeous floral headdresses and sun drenched gowns by Heidi Hermiller. Kelli Edwards’ multifaceted choreography is on full display throughout as well as for a tricky and intricate sword dance accompanied by an onstage accordion and drummer for The Straw Folk Mummers Play and Rogue’s Delight.
Though the show lulled a bit on occasion, Midwinter Revels: A Solstice Celebration Tales from Ellis Island’s engaging tales bring unity and light and depicts how sharing different traditions can bring a new understanding and warmth into the darkest of times.
Midwinter Revels: A Solstice Celebration Tales from Ellis Island continues live and in person at the Sanders Theatre in Cambridge, MA through December 28 and then will be available virtually December 29 through January 15. Click here for more information and tickets.
Spoken by one of the characters in Chicken and Biscuits by Douglas Lyons, this statement perfectly encompasses the essence of this spirited family dramedy. The holidays tend to bring out family dysfunction in rare form and Front Porch Arts Collective has it covered with Chicken and Biscuits delivered just in time for the holidays on December 9.
Judgment is passed at every angle and tensions run high as one family must reunite for a funeral honoring the family patriarch. As Jacqui Parker as Baneatta’s opening scene suggests, the power of prayer may be the only way for this family to get through this complicated day.
Hosted by Suffolk University, Front Porch Arts Collective ventured into their first solo show in residence with The Huntington with Chicken and Biscuits at the Modern Theatre in Boston, Massachusetts through January 8. Directed reflectively by Lyndsay Allyn Cox, Chicken and Biscuits is one hour and 45 minutes with no intermission. Click here for more information and for tickets.
Everyone is part of the congregation in Modern Theatre’s modest sized theatre without a bad seat in the house. Set inside a sunlit church in Connecticut, one of the beautiful highlights of Erik D. Diaz’s transformative set design include the tree lined and then colorful stained glass windows with authentic hanging sanctuary lamps. Anna Drummond’s dynamic sound design lent to the heart and humor of the production while M. Berry’s exceptional lighting varied from somber to uplifting and every mood in between as revelations unfold. With fine details by Earon Chew Neasley, Zoe Sundra’s striking costumes which includes dignified hats varying from elegant to over the top, embellish each character’s distinct personalities. Prop master Lauren Corcuera’s intricate details completed the hospitable atmosphere, especially those homestyle chicken and biscuits.
Though this production delves into grief and family dysfunction, it also delivers a wealth of high spirited comedy and stirring moments from a cast of vibrant characters. It does not take long to grasp that Father and Grandfather Bernard Jenkins was the glue that held this family together. His loss has touched each family member in a unique way while a few of the family members have their own unique ideas on how to celebrate his life.
Filled with quiet consternation, Jacqui Parker portrays compelling Baneatta who is just barely holding it together as she and her optimistic and charismatic husband Robert Cornelius as Reverend Reginald Mabry prepare to attend the service. Baneatta has a unique effect on each family member and Parker carries that aura with a certain gravitas. Though she and her husband appear to be opposites, Cornelius and Parker are impressive as a longtime married couple comfortable with each other’s idiosyncrasies. Cornelius has a natural charisma and delivers a particularly noteworthy and powerful performance as easygoing Reginald, especially as he addresses the congregation with a rousing sermon.
From her razor red fingernails to her curve hugging blue dress, Thomika Bridwell depicts outrageous and outspoken hairstylist Beverly Jenkins with Lorraine Kanyike as La’Trice Franklin, Beverly’s smirking aspiring rapper daughter, not far behind. Bridwell and Kanyike’s snappy comedic dialogue and chemistry make for some ludicrous and entertaining moments as they proudly march to the sound of their very own drummer. Fiercely protective and flirtatious, Beverly’s scene stealing personality is a force to be reckoned with while Kanyike, in a pleather vest and revealing pants, exudes La’trice’s confident, attention seeking demeanor which also contains a grain of insightful teenage wisdom.
Mishka Yarovoy delivers an empathetic and endearing performance as Logan, who longs for as little as the family getting his name right and Adrian Peguero as conflicted Kenny mourns a grandfather who understood him best. However, Sabrina Lynne Sawyer stands out in a stellar performance as serious, distinguished, and multi-faceted Simone who struggles and strives for perfection.
Anxiety, gossip, bickering, and a few surprises are inevitable at most family gatherings whether it is on a holiday, a family reunion, or even at a family funeral. Chicken and Biscuits, named after Bernard’s favorite meal, can also provide comfort, grace, and love as long as everyone can sit together, take a breath, and listen.
Hosted by Suffolk University, Front Porch Arts Collective ventured into their first solo show in residence with The Huntington with Chicken and Biscuits at the Modern Theatre in Boston, Massachusetts through January 8. Click here for more information and for tickets.
Buckle up for a bumpy ride courtesy of the Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society as they deliver an unconventional whodunit production that has an inspector engraving notes on a crime scene into a flower pot and not to mention that mysterious, mangled, and empty dog cage! If this all seems preposterous, that is just a glimpse into the hilarity that ensues at Haversham Manor in The Play That Goes Wrong.
Directed fervently and methodically by Fred Sullivan Jr., The Lyric Stage Company presents The Play That Goes Wrong by Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer, and Henry Shields continuing through December 18. This semi-interactive show that is not just limited to the stage space is approximately two hours with one intermission. Click here for more information and tickets.
The Play That Goes Wrong is a British farce that first hit the London Stage in 2012 before it went on to make its way around the world. This award-winning whodunit play within a play became so popular, it bore BBC’s The Goes Wrong Show that just completed its second season last year.
After some interactive, pre-show comedic antics by Alexa Cadete as resolute stagehand Annie, Michael Liebhauser’s warm and dry sense of humor as Director Chris sets the stage for what this enthusiastic and determined acting troupe has in store for its audience. What makes The Play That Goes Wrong particularly entertaining is just how well timed the cast must collaboratively be in order to make such auspicious theater.
From an unpredictable corpse portrayed with misguided panache by Dan Garcia to the various degrees of hysterics demonstrated by Cadete and Nora Eschenheimer as well as various cast members’ feigned composure under fire, The Play That Goes Wrong is a brilliant must see. Cadete as stagehand Annie and Mitch Kiliulis as baffled sound man Trevor are wonderful as they take the heat at times for guffaws from subtle to catastrophic in a perplexed malaise.
Wearing a dazzling smile adorned in an elegant and cascading dress, Eschenheimer as Sandra flails and flaunts with poise and pizzazz as she ardently attempts to portray Florence. She shares some frivolous moments and a gift for physical comedy with Marc Pierre as clever and sophisticated Max. Pierre’s melodramatic and smirking expressions make him a bit of a scene stealer while Dan Whelton demonstrates more propriety as Dennis depicts Butler Perkins. Whelton is sophisticated and shrewd if not for an occasional dialect stumble here and there, handled drolly as only a regal thespian can. Kelby T. Akin rounds out this cast delivering wit and gravitas as Robert contributes to the clever sight gags and a wealth of hilarious improvising takes on new meaning.
Costume designer Gail Astrid Buckley captures the essence of the British, upper crust atmosphere from various plaids to dapper suits including a signature Inspector trench coat while Peter Colao’s innovative and extraordinary set design brings in as many laughs as the cast’s humorous antics. Accompanied by Dewey Dellay’s spot on sound design and John Milinowski’s standout and suspenseful lighting, Haversham Manor’s elegant bookcase, classic wooden grandfather clock, a roaring fireplace, a functioning elevator, velvet sofa and a second floor study all seem to have a life of their own in this delightful show.
It is hands down among the funniest performances the Sleepless Critic has seen all year. Not only is the multi-layered direction intricate and perceptive, but each cast member’s razor sharp comedic chops rise to the occasion at times quite literally! The Play that Goes Wrong is a great way to let loose and enjoy a lighthearted production where flustered cheeks become the norm and to find out just how far this masterful group will go to for an uproarious good time.
The Lyric Stage Company presents The Play That Goes Wrong by Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer, and Henry Shields continuing through December 18. This semi-interactive show that is not just limited to the stage space is approximately two hours with one intermission. Click here for more information and tickets.
Afung Moy is majestic, idealistic, and beautiful. In 1834, she has set foot on American soil from China at just 14 years of age to share her background, culture, and experiences. However, the details behind her arrival as well as her time and purpose in the United States is where the real story lies.
Directed impressively by Sarah Shin and in partnership with the Chuang Stage, Central Square Theater reveals a little known yet impactful figure in Lloyd Suh’sThe Chinese Lady live and in person at Central Square Theater in Cambridge, Massachusetts through December 11. This semi-interactive production is 90 minutes with no intermission. Click here for more information and for tickets.
The Chinese Lady is gripping from the start and much of that is due to its two powerful leads that at first share amiable banter, humor, and building tension. With bright and expressive eyes, Sophorl Ngin depicts Afung Moy with compelling curiosity as she gradually discovers the life that has been set out in front of her. Ngin’s sweet and understated ingenuity beams adorned in exquisitely-detailed gold embroidered lavender and lilac attire crowned with a colorful guan by costume designer Sandra Zhihan Jia.
Scenic designer Qinan Zhang has a meticulous eye for detail and each piece of furniture and prop provides a significant purpose. Nothing in this vast room is just for show. Translucent curtains blanket the room and add a mysterious quality to the space. Steel structures hang above a Chinese floral blossoms arrangement and the matching end tables and chair quickly become essential to this historical account.
From China’s history of inventing tea to the gruesome details of foot binding, Ngin delivers her lines pragmatically and with a cheery glow, treating her time onstage at first an adventure with delusions of grandeur. With a wide eyed countenance, Ngin brilliantly depicts Afung from her imaginative humor and naivete to the subtle evolution in her ripened demeanor, weary walk, and her conflicted style of speaking as years gradually progress. The Chinese Lady is confronted with the ugly side of humanity and lays it bare as her time slowly fades into a land she has little choice but to adapt to it.
Ngin as Afung and Jae Woo as her older translator and guide Atung illustrate their absorbing camaraderie as they embody their complex characters, particularly exemplified in a chilling scene with the President. This intense and carefully executed scene is riveting and difficult to witness, but punctuates the sheer marvel of these two together onstage. Jae Woo portrays Atung as mysterious, subdued, polite, and unassuming as he keeps himself as minimal as the furniture. He is kind, protective, and squarely knows his place, but hints at a painfully buried intensity. Woo handles this complicated and austere character with tight lipped finesse in spite of or more hauntingly, because of all he has been through.
The Chinese Lady is best experienced without revealing the true nature of the story. Afung’s endearing personality provides a temporary distraction of what is actually happening onstage. Director Sarah Shin and author Lloyd Suh’s clever unfolding of historical and contemporary events and the actors’ subtle navigation in their performances on issues that are anything but subtle are weaved into a striking and message driven historical work that peels away that subtlety piece by piece and by the final act, leaves everything astonishingly and unsettling bare.
Central Square Theater reveals a little known yet impactful historical figure in Lloyd Suh’s The Chinese Lady live and in person at Central Square Theater in Cambridge, Massachusetts through December 11. This semi-interactive performance is 90 minutes with no intermission. Click here for more information and tickets.