REVIEW:  In partnership with the city of Chelsea and Teatro Chelsea, Apollinaire Theatre staged a street fighting and adventurous summer ‘Hamlet’

Ser o no ser esa es la cuestion (To Be or not to Be)

This was the classic question posed by Apollinaire Theatre Company in partnership with Teatro Chelsea and the City of Chelsea in a bilingual production of Shakespeare’s classic play, Hamlet which took place on Fridays and Saturdays only from August 4-19 live and in person at various locations in Chelsea, Massachusetts.  Though it was not necessary to understand both Spanish and English to enjoy this show and does not take away the gravitas of Shakespeare’s eloquent text, those who understood the dialogue in Spanish may have been at an advantage.  The free production was 90 minutes with no intermission. 

Armando Rivera as Hamlet in ‘Hamlet’

Each performance featured a pre-show that offered take out or delivery dinner, live entertainment, and a pop up Beer Garden by BearMoose Brewing Company at 6:30 pm prior to the performance at 8 pm.  Click here to see what is next for Apollinaire Theatre Company and Teatro Chelsea this fall.

Alan Kuang ‘Hamlet’ rap Photo credit to Danielle Fauteux Jacques

Every summer for the past 20 years with donor support, the Apollinaire Theatre Company has been presenting outdoor theatre productions free to the public in partnership with the city of Chelsea.  This year’s production of the Shakespearean classic, Hamlet mixed the traditional with the contemporary while keeping the audience on its feet.  Intricately directed and cleverly staged by Danielle Fauteaux Jacques with lighthearted chorography by Audrey Johnson, the show is an immersive experience as the production expands beyond the stage and cast members can enter from anywhere.

Armando Rivera as Hamlet in ‘Hamlet’ Photo credit to Danielle Fauteux Jacques

Though the roads were blocked off, there was still plenty that might have distracted this focused cast.  However disruptive, outdoor disturbances such as traffic, noises or foot traffic did not distract them from their performances for an instant.  Armed with microphones, it was fascinating to watch each scene unfold complete with transportable lighting, sound, ominous sound effects with Diana Mediola and Juhi Nagpal‘s elaborate sets and props. How complicated it must have been to stage something like this while gathering an increasing and surrounding crowd led to each destination by a single notebook.

Shakespeare’s Hamlet is about the Prince of Denmark who discovers his mother has married his uncle after his father has been murdered.  An urgent message inspires Hamlet to believe ‘something is rotten in the state of Denmark.’

Armando Rivera as Hamlet and Paul Benford-Bruce in ‘Hamlet’ Photo credit to Danielle Fauteux Jacques

Hamlet is a compelling drama that boasts some iridescent and noteworthy special effects such as blue smoke drifting above Paul Benford-Bruce’s haunting figure on a distinctive blue tinged city fountain lit by Joe Morales.  Resolute, firm, and eerie, Benford-Bruce delivers a memorable performance as Hamlet’s father.  David Reiffel’s ominous and echoing sound design and composition lent to the foreboding mystique of the production.

Anna Riggins as Ophelia, Alan Kuang as Laertes, Paola Ferrer as Gertrude and Brooks Reeves as Polonius in ‘Hamlet’ Photo credit to Danielle Fauteux Jacques

Nodding to the Elsinore, Denmark setting during the late middle ages while boasting a sleek and contemporary flair, Hamlet blended the contemporary with the historical through its colorful, stately, and elegant costumes in furs, leathers, and glittering crowns by Elizabeth Rocha.

Armando Rivera as Hamlet, the Prince of Denmark, led this impressive cast.   Rivera exacted the alarming rage expected of Hamlet in the face of betrayal.  Rivera excelled at Hamlet’s darkly playful, determined, and off kilter demeanor, especially in a powerful scene alone with Ophelia and with Brooks Reeves as Claudius. 

Anna Riggins delivered an absorbing performance as Ophelia with a wide smile, bright eyed virtue, and a complete infatuation and intriguing chemistry with Rivera.  Clinging to any sign of affection, Riggins offered a vulnerable and sympathetic performance.  Riggins also shared a sweet chemistry with her brother, Laertes and Ron Lacey who portrays their proud and concerned father, Polonius.  Alan Kuang is naturally charismatic in the role of valiant and forthright Laertes, especially during an all out and literal street fight with Rivera.

Play-Within-A-Play in ‘Hamlet’ Photo credit to Danielle Fauteux Jacques

Brooks Reeves as Claudius achieved a suave poker face, but with just enough of a devious smirk to embellish this role with Paolo Ferrer as mysterious Gertrude, they are a beguiling pair.  Claudius is a calculating character and left little room for sympathy.  Reeves particularly shined during the play-within-a-play scene as Reeves exclaimed, ‘Get me some light!’  With skillful feigned concern and sarcasm, Reeves was well suited for the role as some of that demeanor is also on display in the Old North Church’s production of Revolution’s Edge through September.

Armando RIvera as Hamlet and Brooks Reeves as Claudius Photo credit to Danielle Fauteux Jacques

Hamlet was not complete without the appearance of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, portrayed with jovial humor by Aloe Domizio and Paul St. Cyr respectively.  Wheeling in on lit bicycles, they made a seeming pair of silly and dimwitted bookends as Hamlet’s childhood friends.  However, like each character in this Shakespearean classic, they are more than meets the eye. 

Apollinaire Theatre Company, in partnership with Teatro Chelsea and the City of Chelsea, presented an outdoor bilingual production of Shakespeare’s classic play, Hamlet which took place on Fridays and Saturdays only from August 4-19 live and in person at various locations in Chelsea, Massachusetts.  Click here to see what is next for Apollinaire Theatre Company and Teatro Chelsea this fall.

REVIEW:   Company One’s ‘The Boy Who Kissed the Sky’ a heartfelt tale that rocks the cosmos

Music lifts, transports, comforts, brings people together, and provides its own therapy to the happy and the hurt.  Though the Boy, depicted with earnest and imaginative optimism by Errol Service Jr., is not aware of it yet, a force much bigger than him is going to lead the way to his destiny. 

Errol Service Jr. in ‘The Boy Who Kissed the Sky’ Photo by Erin-Crowley

Directed inventively by Summer L Williams with funky musical direction by David Freeman Coleman, joyfully choreographed by Victoria Lynn Awkward and loosely based on legendary guitarist Jimi Hendrix’s life, Company One presents Idris Goodwin’s celestial and groovy The Boy Who Kissed the Sky live and in person at the Strand Theatre in Dorchester, Massachusetts and now streaming through Saturday, August 12.  This far out production is 70 minutes with no intermission and pay what you can tickets are available.  Part of what makes Company One’s The Boy Who Kissed the Sky special is its commitment to the community and social change by partnering with a number of community organizations including Project Bread, Zumix, and Boston Music Project through this production.  Click here for more information and tickets.

Adriana Alvarez, Errol Service Jr. and Martinez Napoleon in ‘The Boy Who Kissed the Sky’ Photo by Erin Crowley

In many ways, musician Jimi Hendrix was deemed ahead of his time.  Part biography, part musical and part fantastic trip through time, the cosmos, and through hardship, The Boy Who Kissed the Sky envisions possibly how Hendrix got there.  It is noteworthy that Service’s boy is never referred to as Hendrix and can be translated into any dreamer’s potential.

 This production boasts a wealth of various projections by Rasean Davonte Johnson including traffic and misty rain as well as kinetic water colored special effects and cosmic imagery.  Through all of the pizzazz and psychedelic special effects lies an inspirational tale built for any dreamer attempting to overcome challenging circumstances.  Set in Jimi Hendrix’s hometown of Seattle, Washington, It also delivers a strong message about the value of hard work, keeping an eye on the prize, and believing in one’s boundless potential.

The cast of ‘The Boy Who Kissed The Sky’ Photo by Erin Crowley

The Boy Who Kissed the Sky’s energetic cast is lead by Errol Service Jr. referred to only as The Boy.  Much of the cast plays more than one role.   Service’s Boy is amiable, sympathetic, imaginative and inquisitive as he waits for his mother, depicted warmly by Yasmeen Dunkin Cedric Lilly is enigmatic and forthright as the boy’s veteran father, Mel and Keira “Kee” Prusmack delivers a humorous yet kindhearted performance as Mrs. Newton, the boy’s nosy neighbor.

L-R Martinez Napoleon and Errol-Service Jr. in ‘The Boy Who Kissed the Sky’ Photo by Erin Crowley

However, grooving through time and space backed by some of Hendrix’s music history and influences is Martinez Napoleon who soars as J. Sonic.  With excellent vocals, mystical charisma, and an easy rapport with Service Jr, Napoleon sweeps through the production with a smooth yet caring demeanor as Martinez attempts to demonstrate that the boy, using a broom as a guitar, is more powerful than the boy ever thought possible.

The cast of ‘The Boy Who Kissed The Sky’ Photo by Erin Crowley

Backed by Eugene H Russell IV and Divinity Roxx’s uplifting rock n roll and blues-inspired score especially for numbers A Feeling Without A Name and Way Back,  The Boy Who Kissed the Sky is a musical celebration elevated by Jimi Hendrix’s iconic fashion sense and Danielle Dominique Sumi’s dramatic and galactic 60s-inspired costume design.  An epic and renowned onstage band trio jams high above the production’s stage alongside a gigantic moon and Wooden Kiwi Productions constructed the rock n roll set equipped with giant wooden amplifiers and stereo speakers under Danielle DeLaFuente’s scenic vision.

Idris Goodwin’s ‘The Boy Who Kissed the Sky’ is appropriate for all ages and a wonderful production to anyone could use a little inspiration.

Directed inventively by Summer L Williams with funky musical direction by David Freeman Coleman, joyfully choreographed by Victoria Lynn Awkward, and loosely based on legendary guitarist Jimi Hendrix’s life, Company One presents Idris Goodwin’s celestial and groovy The Boy Who Kissed the Sky live and in person at the Strand Theatre in Dorchester, Massachusetts and now streaming through Saturday, August 12.  This far out production is 70 minutes with no intermission and pay what you can tickets are available.  Click here for more information and tickets.

REVIEW: In honor of Boston’s Old North Church’s tricentennial, Plays in Place rewinds the clock for tense and engrossing ‘Revolution’s Edge’

After 300 years, Boston’s Old North Church has stood through some of the most exciting and harrowing moments in our nation’s history.  The Old North Church’s clock has consistently kept time since 1726.  Playwright Patrick Gabridge pens an original play that explores a particularly intense dialogue set on the eve of the Revolutionary War in 1775.  Plays in Place rewinds the clock to 1775 where three individuals contemplate their fates as tensions escalate to panic, gradually making it impossible not to take action.

Nathan Johnson photo-by Nile Scott Studios

In honor of the Old North Church’s 300th anniversary and directed skillfully by Alexandra Smith, Plays in Place presents Patrick Gabridge’s engaging Revolution’s Edge, live and in person at The Old North Church in Boston Massachusetts on select days through September 19.   The production is 45 minutes with no intermission and the box pews provide an immersive view. It is an educational production that is appropriate for families.  Click here for more information and for tickets.

Brooks Reeves Photo by Nile Scott Studios

From colorful waistcoats to pristine linen shirts to proper vestments, Christina Beam’s elegantly detailed costumes are perfectly authentic to its era and one couldn’t have asked for a better setting than the Old North Church, Boston’s oldest surviving church right along the Freedom Trail

Evan Turissini and Brooks Reeves Photo-by Nile Scott Studios

Three individuals composed of a reverend/doctor, his slave, and a sea captain are metaphorically tied together during this strained window in history.  They are contemplating the state of Boston, the nation, and their future.  Each clings to a different perspective of their future in terms of family, loyalty, occupation, politics, and identity.  Two are a friendship divided through conflict and one is left without a choice as they articulate their thoughts and struggles while the world seems to be collapsing around them.

Gabridge’s passionate script has an intensity rooted in fear that looms quietly and then builds throughout the production.   It also brings out the best in this trio of performers.  Revolution’s Edge teeters from warmth to anxiousness to manipulation, but each evokes a note of consideration and compassion, even while blinded by fear. 

Evan Turissini and Brooks Reeves Photo by Nile Scott Studios

Evan Turissini portrays American ship captain, vestryman, and patriot Captain John Pulling Jr. with reason, devotion, and compassion for the others, but is squarely dedicated to his cause.  Turissini and Brooks Reeves as complicated Rev. Dr. Mather Byles Jr, a reverend and doctor with ties to England and America, share some pivotal and contentious moments that bring out some indelible performances.  Huddled closely together, it is engrossing to watch their war of words.  Byles’s impatience and manipulative side is particularly exposed in a significant conversation with Byles’s slave Cato, depicted sympathetically and astutely by Nathan Johnson.  Johnson is faced with agonizing sacrifices and is truly the heart of this production.

Nathan Johnson and Brooks Reeves Photo by Nile Scott Studios

Revolution’s Edge cleverly weaves some of Boston’s most significant events including the Boston Tea Party and Revere’s Ride while the audience is still privy to dangerous events in motion right outside the church’s windows.

Though this would be especially fascinating for visitors of Boston and historians, Revolution’s Edge is an exciting and deeply educational window into a harrowing moment in history.  Witnessing it knowing how the world is now brings intricate and profound meaning.

In honor of the Old North Church’s 300th anniversary and directed by Alexandra Smith, Plays in Place presents Patrick Gabridge’s engaging Revolution’s Edge live and in person at The Old North Church in Boston Massachusetts on select days through September 19.   The production is 45 minutes with no intermission and the box pews provide an immersive view.   Click here for more information and for tickets.

REVIEW:  Sisterhood is the new black in Hub Theatre Company of Boston’s vivacious ‘Love, Loss, and What I Wore’

Call this cast a girl squad and a sisterhood.

With potent direction by Paula Plum and based on the bestselling memoir by Ilene Beckerman, Hub Theatre Company of Boston presents Nora Ephron and Delia Ephron’s semi-interactive production of Love, Loss, and What I Wore live and in person at Club Café in Boston, Massachusetts through Saturday, August 5.  This show is 90 minutes with no intermission and pay-what-you-can tickets are available.  It occasionally contains adult and unfiltered language.  Purchase a drink during this show and Club Café also offers a full menu.  Click here for more information and for tickets.

Lauren Elisa, June Kfoury, Barbara Douglass, Evelyn Holley, and Nettie Chickering in Hub Theatre’s ‘Love, Loss, and ‘What I Wore’ Photo credit to Tim Gurczak

The name Nora Ephron must ring a bell.  She was a famous award-winning rom-com journalist, writer, and filmmaker best known for 1983’s Silkwood, 1989’s When Harry Met Sally as well as 90s rom com classics Sleepless and Seattle and You’ve Got Mail before co-writing the screenplay for Julie and Julia in 2009.  Ephron’s signature style tackled the seriousness of life with a lighthearted demeanor and always found some relatable humor along the way.  With her sister Delia, Nora lends that empowering humor and charm to Love, Loss, and What I Wore.

June Kfoury, Evelyn Holley, Nettie Chickering, Lauren Elias, and Barbara Douglass in ‘Hub Theatre’s ‘Love, Loss, and What I Wore’ Photo credit to Tim Gurczak

One of the greatest strengths of Love, Loss and What I Wore is the ensemble’s beautiful camaraderie.  Love Loss and What I Wore has a gift for eloquently associating fashion with life’s bittersweet challenges.  Portraying several ages while sharing that walk down memory lane is Nettie Chickering, Barbara Douglass, Lauren Elias, Evelyn Holley, and June Kfoury.  Dressed in chic black by Kat Lawrence, they allow their vibrant experiences to take center stage.  From fashion faux pas to that eternally favorite garment, five women lay bare their fondest memories and insecurities.  It is a love letter to growing up and growing older in all of its wonder and complications. 

Nettie Chickering in Hub Theatre’s ‘Love, Loss, and What I Wore’ Photo credit to Tim Gurczak

To an array of lighthearted club hits between scenes, this dynamic group share silly, sad, courageous and important stories with collaborative flair and wistfulness.  They dance, grieve, conspire, tease, support and relate to each other all while discussing everything from relationships to family to roommates to the trials and tribulations of being a woman in a fun loving and deeply personal manner.  A few lighter moments include witnessing Lauren Elias and her hilarious and empathetic comments about carrying a purse, Douglass’s wise and humorous motherly advice, and the sheer joy and supportive manner in which these women appreciate each other’s company.   However, what stirs the production the most is contained in this group’s most significant challenges.  The stories they share are raw, honest, at times rueful, and may seem familiar as well.

June Kfoury in Hub Theatre’s ‘Love, Loss, and What I Wore’ Photo credit to Tim Gurczak

With Talia Elise’s dazzling lighting powering a bright and cheerful set which includes glowing string lights, a luminous neon hanger, shimmering disco ball, multicolor boas, and an illustrated clothing rack by Justin Lahue and Maggie Shivers plus a wonderful dose of nostalgia, Love Loss and What I Wore is a captivating experience into life’s surprises and how to discover what is truly important.

Hub Theatre Company of Boston presents Nora Ephron and Delia Ephron’s semi-interactive production of Love, Loss, and What I Wore live and in person at Club Café in Boston, Massachusetts through Saturday, August 5.  This show is 90 minutes with no intermission and pay-what-you-can tickets are available.  It occasionally contains adult and unfiltered language.  Click here for more information and for tickets.

REVIEW:  The Huntington’s epic generational saga ‘The Lehman Trilogy’ a wealth of ideas within a whirlwind of talent

It all begins with a dream. 

Spanning over 150 years and three generations, The Lehman Trilogy’s vast and epic saga infused with Mark Bennett’s melodic retro-inspired original music featuring solo musician Joe LaRocca enhances a trilogy of versatile, pliable, dynamic, and unforgettable talent in three chapters embodying a wide range of characters on their able shoulders.  Timed perfectly in the month of July, three Bavarian Jewish immigrant brothers take on America searching for the perfect business venture that personify their vision starting in Montgomery, Alabama and beyond.

Based on a true story and the bestselling book of the same name with fascinating direction by Carey Perloff, The Huntington continues Stefano Massini’s The Lehman Trilogy live and in person at The Huntington Theatre through Sunday, July 23.  The production is three hours and 35 minutes with two intermissions.  Click here for more information and for tickets.

Joshua David Robinson, Firdous Bamji, Steven Skybell ‘The Lehman Trilogy’ T Charles Erickson Photography Photograph © T Charles Erickson

Decked out in top hats and tailored black suits embroidered with symbolic imagery on the back by Dede Ayite, it is difficult to fathom how these three actors navigated such an extensive yet detailed story including narration, mastering accents, contorting faces, changing mannerisms, and role changes at the drop of a hat all while making it look so seamless.  It is even difficult to imagine such an epic production has been performed twice in one day as scheduled occasionally during the production’s run.   

From meager beginnings to extraordinary meaning that spring to life as Steven Skybell as determined and confident Henry Lehman disembarks from a ship with only a mere suitcase in his possession in awe of America.  It sounds like a story shared by many immigrants with nothing but a dream, but it’s the chutzpah, persistence and the resilience in everything that makes this particular tale shine.  Business through love, children, and every chaos in-between to attempt what seems impossible.  Points in history that transformed the United States and yet Lehman stands unrelenting to their dream.  Each vision altered to suit what is needed next in the world.

Joe LaRocca, Steven Skybell, Firdous Bamji ‘The Lehman Trilogy’ T Charles Erickson Photography Photograph © T Charles Erickson

What stunning innovation can spring from a modest factory!  Sara Brown’s unassuming wooden warehouse metaphorically transforms through lifelike, mesmerizing and moving projections including illuminating rain, peerless rooftops, and surprising entryways created imaginatively by Jeanette Oi-Suk Yew and fueled by lighting designer Robert Wierzel.

Steven Skybell, Firdous Bamji ‘The Lehman Trilogy’ T Charles Erickson Photography Photograph © T Charles Erickson

Also noteworthy are the clever scene transitions especially in the third chapter such as the pop of a champagne bottle to the start of a race.  It is in these careful details by Carey Perloff that keep up the show’s swift pace. 

The show has a sleek sophistication and insightfulness that translate into lessons about navigating life itself.  It is lengthy but justified in the expansive history of these visionary brothers.  The real draw is not only the talent, but the evolution of this narrative tale.  One valuable life lesson is it is not in failure, but how to respond to it that really matters.  Mastery leaves no room for shortsightedness, but thrives on evolution and the answer to every problem is there.  One just needs to spot it.

Firdous Bamji, Joshua David Robinson ‘The Lehman Trilogy’ T Charles Erickson Photography Photograph © T Charles Erickson

 Steven Skybell as inquisitive, bright eyed and headstrong Henry Lehman, Joshua David Robinson as strategic Emanuel Lehman, and introduced with a sheepish half smile Firdous Bamji as Mayer Lehman form a trilogy of talent.  They navigate these challenging roles with humor, discipline, and fervor and it is astounding to witness these actors onstage exchanging different countenances of various ages and genders, taking over narration, and moving the stories like, not by accident, a well oiled machine.  However, the tale is also infused with all the humor, heart, camaraderie and determination demonstrated in groundbreaking and strategic fashion that never becomes ineffective or silly.  It is smart, moving and detailed in a way that relates to anyone who has tried, failed, and has resolved to start again.

Firdous Bamji, Joshua David Robinson ‘The Lehman Trilogy’ T Charles Erickson Photography Photograph © T Charles Erickson

Based on a true story and the bestselling book of the same name with fascinating direction by Carey Perloff, The Huntington continues Stefano Massini’s The Lehman Trilogy live and in person at the Huntington Theatre through Sunday, July 23.  The production is three hours and 35 minutes with two intermissions.  Click here for more information and for tickets.

REVIEW: Teatro Chelsea hits close to home with compelling family dramedy ‘619 Hendricks’

When a house is chock full of memories, sometimes it is difficult to let go.

Shortly after the death of brothers Nesto and Richie’s parents in Laredo, Texas, the aptly titled 619 Hendricks is an address which holds the livelihood of Nesto and Richie’s immediate futures, but for very different reasons.

Directed thoughtfully by Armando Rivera, Teatro Chelsea continues the world premiere of Josie Nericcio’s family dramedy, 619 Hendricks live and in person at Chelsea Theatre Works in Chelsea, Massachusetts through July 1.  Though it is not necessary to understand both Spanish and English to enjoy this production, those who understood some of the dialogue in Spanish may have been at an advantage.  This bilingual production is 100 minutes with one 10 minute intermission.  Click here for more information and for tickets.

Cristhian Mancinas Garcia as Richie and Juan Carlos Pinedo-Rivera as Nesto in ‘619 Hendricks’ Photo credit to Teatro Chelsea

619 Hendricks is an affecting and sincere dramedy of a vibrant Latino family with some tough decisions ahead of them.  It achieves a delicate balance of sentimentality and practicality as Nesto and Richie discuss the future of their family house which will be financially split between the two of them.  Scenic designer Payton Tavares creates an appropriately tattered atmosphere including intricately torn brick walls and strips of blue wallpaper under vintage photographs perhaps symbolizing the house’s need of repair is not just external.  The intimate manner in which the audience is situated offers a uniquely exclusive peek into this house of many secrets.  619 Hendricks explores grief, jealousies, stubbornness, sibling rivalry, and desperation as the show teeters between humor and tension even occasionally within a single statement.

Juan Carlos Pinedo-Rivera as Nesto, Juan Pedro Paniagua as Tio Chago, and Cristhian Mancinas Garcia as Richie in ‘619 Hendricks’ Photo credit to Teatro Chelsea

This lively cast captures a natural and animated familial rhythm as they lovingly tease and chide each other as they roam the house.   Nesto and Monica Risi as wise and tolerant Marta make an amiable pair striving to do what is best for their family.  Juan Pedro Paniagua as Tio (Uncle) Chago and Eliza Guzman-Hostas as Tia (Aunt) Carolina provide a refreshing lightheartedness as they humorous banter while the brothers discuss a topic that is all too universally familiar within families, especially after a loved one has passed.

Two brothers are at odds over the family house, but the house is just the tip of the iceberg.  Their family issues run deep and the drama unfolds steadily and consistently as tension mounts.  Nesto and Richie have contrasting temperaments which make their bickering, needling, and manipulations that much more explosive. Nesto, portrayed with a big personality and even loftier ideas by Juan Carlos Pinedo-Rivera, thinks he has a fool proof plan for the house while Richie, portrayed with sympathetic and quiet introspection by Crishian Mancinas Garcia, is not so sure.  With Felix Ramos as business minded agent Hector’s added pressure, determined Pinedo-Rivera and Garcia deliver meaty performances as they cut each other to the quick, a consequence of fighting for the upper hand at any cost.  The fights are genuine, tense, and so universally familiar that it is easy to relate to their situation in all of its complications. 

Cristhian Mancinas Garcia as Richie in 619 Hendricks Photo credit to Teatro Chelsea

Directed by Armando Rivera, Teatro Chelsea continues the world premiere of Josie Nericcio’s family dramedy, 619 Hendricks live and in person at Chelsea Theatre Works in Chelsea, Massachusetts through July 1.  This bilingual production is 100 minutes with one 10 minute intermission.  Click here for more information and for tickets.

REVIEW:  Life is full of surprises in Lyric Stage’s unconventionally ‘Rooted’

Plant a tree and save the planet.  Be a ‘smartie plants’ and explore the ‘wood wide web.’

That is a few of the many mottos and a bit of humor uttered by Emery, a disabled recluse spending life in a tree house in the small town of Millersville, Pennsylvania.  Emery talks to plants more than people with the exception of her sister and caretaker Hazel as well as her cousin who she depends on for everything.  Longing for companionship she is comfortable with, Emery decides to post about her plants on YouTube.  What could go wrong?

L to R Lisa Tucker as Emery and Karen MacDonald as Hazel Photo by Ken Yotsukura Photography

Directed conscientiously by Courtney O’Connor, Lyric Stage Company presents Deborah Zoe Laufer’s dramedy Rooted continuing live and in person at Lyric Stage Company in Boston, Massachusetts through June 25.  The show is 100 minutes without one intermission.  Click here for more information and tickets.

The stage unfolds with blooming splendor as a lively, bending tree hovers over the cast.  Soothing and eclectic music by Dewey Dellay as well as streaming and transformative lighting by Karen Perlow provide a warm and peaceful vibe as Emery carefully handles the greenery surrounding her.  Janie E. Howland’s meditative and functioning set at first sight provides an oasis from the real world.   

Lisa Tucker as Emery Photo by Ken Yotsukura Photography

Rooted explores various topics such as the internet, climate change, healing, taking risks, and companionship with insightfulness and humor as Hazel and Emery manage one surprise after the next.  The small cast is rooted in connection to one another.  With sun hat and a mix of modest and eccentric attire by Chelsea Kerl, Lisa Tucker portrays plant loving and serious Emery with fragility and compassion while evoking determination and anxiety bubbling just under the surface as she faces decisions she has never encountered before in her sheltered existence.  Karen MacDonald portrays Emery’s sister and lifetime caretaker Hazel, an adventurous spirit who longs to ‘spread her leaves’ beyond this small town.  Dressed in a short diner uniform with white go-go boots, MacDonald lights up as chatty Hazel, exuding Hazel’s frank and responsible yet opportunistic spirit as Hazel struggles with day-to-day-life.  With Emery as careful observer and Hazel’s big and cynical personality, Tucker and MacDonald are definitely yin and yang in this production, but manage at times to streamline their differences.    Katherine Callaway as impressionable and naïve East Coopersville native Luanne brings a unique outlook and has an ultimately calming effect on the group. 

L to R Katherine Callaway as Luanne Karen MacDonald as Hazel and Lisa Tucker as Emery Photo by Ken Yotsukura Photography

Finally, the plants themselves by Props Artisan Lauren Corcuera deliver subtle charm as these sentient beings gauge the frequently changing energy and emotion of the production’s increasingly complex environment.

Rooted challenges a few of life’s bigger questions and is ultimately one wild and engaging production about what can come from good intentions as three uniquely flawed individuals work together to maneuver hope and healing to the masses during life’s surprising turns.

Katherine Callaway as Luanne and Lisa Tucker as Emery Photo by Ken Yotsukura Photography

Lyric Stage Company presents Deborah Zoe Laufer’s dramedy Rooted continuing live and in person at Lyric Stage in Boston, Massachusetts through June 25.  The show is 100 minutes without an intermission.  Click here for more information and tickets.

REVIEW:  It’s a great time for sleuthing at Greater Boston Stage Company’s ‘Clue: On Stage’

During a dark and stormy night, a group of strangers are required to gather in a mysterious mansion under puzzling circumstances.  The real reason for the gathering is just one of many twists and turns in this famous dark and comedic murder mystery.

Last year, Ryan Reynolds announced he would star in a new Clue film reboot for 20th Century Studios which, like a lot of reboots, seems unnecessary since the 80’s film Clue is an enduring cult classic.  The popular Parker Brothers board game (now owned by Hasbro) has been revamped a number of times as a board game and has been translated into various forms of entertainment including a live Scavenger Hunt and interactive dinner theatre.  This is one mystery that people have been anxious to solve for generations.  Having seen the 80’s film many times over as well as played the popular board game, this is the first time seeing it done live onstage. 

The Players of ‘Clue: On Stage’ Photo credit to Nile Scott Studios

Directed mischievously by Weylin Symes, Greater Boston Stage Company continues Sandy Rustin’s Clue: on Stage live and in person at Greater Boston Stage Company in Stoneham, MA through June 25.  Clue: on Stage is family friendly, but after all, a black comedy murder mystery which has its dark turns.  The violence is not gruesome, but like the Parker Brothers board game, probably most appropriate for kids ages 8 and up.  This show is 90 minutes with no intermission.  Click here for more information and for tickets.

Clue is a great murder mystery farce, but it really takes a cohesive cast led by famous butler Wadsworth to make this production simmer.  Recent Elliot Norton Award winner Paul Melendy is just the man for the job not only bringing a unique twist to resourceful Wadsworth, but by fostering a new take on the character as does Bryan Miner as Mr. Body.  Tim Curry will always be THE Wadsworth, but Melendy makes this refreshing interpretation his own while keeping Curry’s core characteristics still intact right down to his playful eyebrow lift and smirking grin. 

Paul Melendy as Wadsworth and Maureen Keiller as Miss Peacock Photo credit to Nile Scott Studios

Whether in moments of scheming or over thinking, the cast has compelling chemistry as funny and fascinating adversaries.   Genevieve Lefevre makes a mischievous Yvette while Jennifer Ellis is pitch perfect as Miss Scarlet creating a wonderful balance of sophistication and dry humor.  Maureen Keiller portrays chatty, nervous, and panicky Miss Peacock.  Wearing signature black glasses, Miss Peacock’s character could be interpreted as shrill and abrasive, but Keiller’s distinct comic timing makes Miss Peacock one of the funniest parts of the production.   

L to R: Paul Melendy as Wadsworth Bill Mootos as Colonel Mustard and Genevieve Lefevre as Yvette Photo credit to Nile Scott Studios

In a classic mustache, Bill Mootos brings comic wit to somewhat dim witted Colonel Mustard while Mark Linehan as Professor Plum and Stewart Evan Smith as squeamish Mr. Green both bring an enigmatic quality to their characters.   

Sara Coombs is a good Mrs. White, but would have liked Mrs. White to be less soft spoken and more humorously cryptic.  From stern to silly, Katie Pickett juggles a number of memorable roles as the story unfolds.

Paul Melendy as Wadsworth, Stewart Evan Smith as Mr. Green and Genevieve Lefevre as Yvette Photo credit to Nile Scott Studios

Whether in Miss Peacock’s spectacular blue and green glittering dress, Colonel Mustard’s military garb, Miss Scarlet’s vampy red dress, Yvette’s classic French maid costume, Wadsworth’s coat and tails or Mrs. White’s jet black furs, costume designer Deirdre Gerrard creates an elegant and vintage look authentic to each of the character’s iconic personas.

Paul Melendy as Wadsworth and Jennifer Ellis as Miss Scarlet Photo credit to Nile Scott Studios

Keeping its vintage 50s charm, Clue on Stage’s set by scenic designer Katy Monthei injects some similarities to the 80s film cult classic from the haunting and soft glow at the iconic mansion’s enigmatic front door to the comical and sophisticated portable set pieces.  Lighting designer Jeff Adelberg and sound designer Caroline Eng work overtime to seamlessly and simultaneously up the ante on suspense, humor, and drama through the evolving lighting from foreboding to revealing to flashing to playful  while the sound design transforms from sinister to lively to jolly. 

The show’s innovative blocking and moving staging is a riot as it cleverly makes the most of every inch of the space with its transformative style and  the cast’s ‘athletic’ movements choreographed by Alexander Platt and Cait Zweil.

The Players of ‘Clue: On Stage’ Photo credit to Nile Scott Studios

Sandy Rustin’s fun and comical script is no rehash of the film adaptation, but delivers fresh humor without leaving out some of the iconic quotes and scenes from the 80s film.  Revisiting Clue was such an entertaining experience that I would gladly see it again.

Greater Boston Stage Company continues Sandy Rustin’s Clue: on Stage live and in person at Greater Boston Stage Company in Stoneham, MA through June 25.  This show is 90 minutes with no intermission.  Click here for more information and for tickets.

REVIEW: By song and by sea, interactive musical comedy ‘Toothy’s Treasure’ makes waves in Boston

A pirate’s life is not for everyone, but when it comes to the possibility of treasure, perhaps anyone might be willing to learn.

Widely interactive with its share of comedic pop culture references and more, musical comedy Toothy’s Treasure by Brayden Martino and composed by John-William Gambrell arrived for one weekend only at Boston Center for the Arts live and in person from Wednesday, May 31 through Sunday, June 4.  The production was 95 minutes with no intermission and offered pay-what-you-can tickets.  Click here for more information.

The Off-Broadway cast of ‘Toothy’s Treasure’ Photo by Brayden Martino

What is great about the day in the life of a pirate is that every day is different and the same can be said for Toothys Treasure.  Part sink-or-swim improvisation, musical comedy, and interactive tale, Toothy’s Treasure is never the same production twice.  The core plot may remain the same, but Toothy’s Treasure steers in various directions and with the amount of improvisation actually involved, it can be tricky to keep this type of show from starting to veer off course.  However, it does keep the cast and the audience on their toes. 

He’s a Pirate or otherwise known as the Pirates of the Caribbean Theme song, Under the Sea, and Ruth B’s Lost Boy are just a few of the mood setting preshow tunes piped into the Black Box Theatre to warm up the crowd as cast members humorously mingle.  Easter eggs such as a cereal box, skeleton, a cardboard rudder, and multi-purpose wooden boxes hold a purpose or two as the show progresses.

As pirates are often in peril, a crack team of multi-talented actors are on hand to weather the storm, albeit like all pirates, with more than a bit of self preservation.  Cait Winston is more than up to the challenge as not only a lively parrot puppeteer, but with a knack for maneuvering other humorous roles along the way.  Creator Brayden Martino, in lavender threads, is commanding, foppish, and egotistical as Captain Moldy Bones who leads a crew including Chloe Gardner and Mabel White to replace a certain missing crew member on their voyage to locate Toothy’s buried Treasure.  Charlize Vermaak and Dylan Gombos also lend spontaneity and playfulness to various roles.

The Off-Broadway cast of ‘Toothy’s Treasure’ Photo credit to Brayden Martino

The musical aspect holds promise, especially as certain lyrics are cleverly altered to fit ever changing scenarios performed by an onstage musical trio.   A few highlights include the catchy opening number Thank you Scurvy which explores the next quest for this dastardly and swashbuckling crew.  My Lady the Sea is a charming piece delivered with devoted fervor by Mabel White as Squid Lips and the introspective What Would I Do boasts humorous and well timed sound effects skillfully engineered by Bella Cario, Brayden Martino, and Evelyn DumeerBreak the Mold by Chloe Gardner, who depicts humble and earnest Wet Shoe, brims with boldness and sincerity. 

The show is strange, silly, humorous, and adventurous with a sincere message, but features a bit more improvisation for its own good and might benefit from sticking a bit more to structure.  However, Toothy’s Treasure is a funny and entertaining piece of theatre that allows the audience to be part of the story and to decide if it’s indeed a pirate’s life for you.

Toothy’s Treasure by Brayden Martino and composed by John-William Gambrell arrived for one weekend only at Boston Center for the Arts live and in person from Wednesday, May 31 through Sunday, June 4.  Toothy’s Treasure has taken the stage off-Broadway and in Boston.  Click here for more information and when it will return Off-Broadway in New York.

REVIEW:  Umbrella Stage Company unveils riveting musical, ‘The Color Purple’

How does one find faith when everything falls apart?

Based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Alice Walker, The Color Purple is a powerful and thought provoking historical drama that examines life’s true meaning, redemption, transformation, and the search for faith and love when all seems lost.

With stirring direction by BW Gonzalez, Nathanael Wilkerson’s lively music direction, and instinctively choreographed by Najee A. Brown, Umbrella Stage Company continues the Tony award-winning musical, The Color Purple by Marsha Norman through Sunday, June 4 live and in person at the Umbrella Arts Center in Concord, MA.  The show has two acts with one intermission and contains some mature themes.  Some package shows also offer walking tours.  Click here for more information and tickets.

Shy’Kira Allen as Celie and cast Photo by Jim Sabitus

Umbrella Stage Company could not have chosen a better time to bring this particular musical to the stage this year.  The Color Purple celebrated the 40th anniversary of the acclaimed novel last year and the 1985 film directed by Steven Spielberg featured an all star cast including Whoopi Goldberg, Danny Glover and Oprah Winfrey.  It garnered several Oscar nominations including Best Picture. This December, a musical film adaptation of The Color Purple will premiere featuring a multitalented cast including Taraji P. Henson, Halle Bailey, Fantasia Barrino, and H.E.R.

Having never read the book or seen the film, The Color Purple was an eye opening experience.  It holds turmoil, peril, and cruelty, but it is also an extraordinary tale of miracles, transformation, humor, and unyielding hope exclaimed by a mesmerizing cast of powerful voices each with their own challenges to overcome.  Walker’s dynamic characters possess a wealth of depth and complexity that deliver some astonishing twists and turns.  The Color Purple features a powerful and Grammy award-winning score that infuses gospel, ragtime, jazz, and blues. The uplifting Our Prayer is gripping right from the start and the tapestry of moving numbers that follow makes the musical all the more enthralling.

‘Our Prayer’ from The Color Purple Photo by Jim Sabitus

SeifAllah Salotto-Crisobal’s impactful lighting design meticulously sets the tone in creative and multicolored pastels transforming Janie E. Howland’s modest wooden set equipped with whips and a silver barrel.  Covering a 40 year range, costume designer Danielle Dominigue Sumi navigates various eras with finesse including culturally appropriate attire from muted to kaleidoscopic colors.

Shy’Kira Allen as Celie and Kayla Leacock as Nettie Photo by Jim Sabitus

In 1909 rural Georgia, Celie at 14 is about to give birth.  She finds solace in her buoyant and discerning sister Nettie in a beautiful depiction by Kayla Leacock.  Their genuine camaraderie is sheer joy to witness as Celie navigates her own unmerited suffering.  Nettie is one of many spiritually strong and often challenged women surrounding inquisitive, naïve, obedient, and shy Celie depicted remarkably by Shy’kira Allen, that teach her about resilience and fortitude.  Kai Clifton is a powerful force as daring Sofia with a trailblazing attitude and demeanor rare of a woman in the early 1900’s as demonstrated in a sage and commanding rendition of Hell No!  Crystin Gilmore holds her own power as captivating and liberated performer Shug Avery who breezes into Georgia on a whim bringing excitement, scandal, and humor to the town as demonstrated in an alluring rendition of Push the Button.  However, Gilmore truly shines in quieter moments with her tender rendition of Too Beautiful for Words as well as the show’s heartfelt title track.

Crystin Gilmore as Shug Avery and cast Photo by Jim Sabitus

Shy’Kira Allen rises to the challenge as complicated Celie and though Allen has many memorable scenes with the cast, her most powerful scenes are the ones she must stand on her own such as in Lily of the Field, Dear God, and a brilliant rendition of I’m HereBrian Demar Jones is impressive and deceptively charismatic as short sighted and egocentric Mister while Jordan Aaron Hall is likable as compassionate yet impressionable Harpo.  Rural Georgia is an area not without its gossip and keeping the mood light in the midst of the show’s most difficult moments are the humorous and ever knowing Church Ladies, their clever vocal styling slick for Shug Avery Coming to Town and Uh Oh.

Kai Clifton as Sofia and cast Photo by Jim Sabitus

Umbrella Stage Company delivers Alice Walker’s message with such collective fervor, make time to witness this Color Purple

Umbrella Stage Company continues the Tony award-winning musical, The Color Purple though Sunday, June 4 live and in person at the Umbrella Arts Center in Concord, MA.  The show has two acts with one intermission and contains some mature themes.  Click here for more information and tickets.