REVIEW:  The Arlekin Players powerful and interactive ‘The Gaaga’ (The Hague) brings war under the microscope

What if during the pain and strife of war, leaders were rounded up and required to stand trial for war crimes?  What if during that trial, the very nature of war is peeled away to only exact more questions?

The Arlekin Players are known for daring and original productions fueled with a strong and universal message and this time, the audience had a say in this interactive trial through the eyes of a child.

Taisiia Fedorenco as Taya in Arlekin Players ‘The Gaaga’ Photo by Irina Danilova

Innovatively written and directed by Sasha Denisova, Arlekin Players Theatre and the Zero-G Virtual Theatre Lab presented The Gaaga (The Hague) live and in person at Beat Brew Hall in Harvard Square in Cambridge, MA as well as a virtual option from June 2 through June 18.  This show contained some adult themes and is 2 hours and 40 including one 10 minute intermission.  Click here for more information.

The cast of Arlekin Players ‘The Gaaga’ Photos by Irina Danilova

The Gaaga delves into some heavy and heady content, but also has its share of satiric humor and spectacle told in an interactive manner through a child’s game delivered through a dark and intriguing performance by Taisiia Fedorenco as Taya in a bomb shelter in Mariupol, Ukraine.  Taya’s “game” is a trial that Putin, portrayed with striking resemblance by hair and makeup designer Anna Furman and depicted somewhat superficially as a child would see Putin by Paulina Dubovikova, and his network of operatives is on trial for their crimes in the Ukraine.  The audience is privy to the trial and then some as each operative parade out for aiding Putin in crimes against humanity. 

It is a powerful, gritty, harrowing, tense, and deeply personal production that leaves many more questions that it does answers about war, its consequences, and the dilemma of who is truly responsible for its uprising.  Though the cast is a dynamic group made of mostly conniving and power hungry adversaries all looking for a scapegoat, The Gaaga adds unexpected dimension to this almost assuredly doomed bunch, but things are never quite as cut and dry.

Taya is not just any girl.  She wants the audience (who can choose to be part of the online jury) to not just see her as narrator and orchestrator of the game, but to get to know her by revealing her favorite soup and what she loves as evidenced by tell tale surroundings including a rocking horse, tea set, and pink doll house.  It’s such a purposefully ironic and metaphorical setting by Environmental Designer Irina Kruzhilina which perhaps symbolizes the loss of innocence as war talk overpowers a child’s playthings.  Lighting designer Kevin Fulton enhances the crucial, mood setting atmosphere from a drab and dismal Dutch prison to the satirical buoyancy of a theatrical performance.  Sound designer Brendan F Doyle and composers Szymon Orfin and Jacek Jedrasik add spectacle and with a cryptic, but at times humorous soundtrack that includes classic rock and original score.

Ilya Volok as Patruschev Photos by Irina Danilova

The originality of The Gaaga varies from treacherous individuals dancing exuberantly in strange garb to being interrogated in a bathtub through the unique lens of security cameras and other means of revelation including a bleary and bombed window.  Quite a few of the cast members make powerful impressions especially handling dual or multiple roles such as Garrett Sands as a malicious soldier, Robert Walsh as Surovikin, Joe Biden and others, but Ilya Volok as conspiracy theorist Patruschev gives a mesmerizing performance, especially in a particularly commanding, absorbing, and unsettling monologue which combines comedy and cruel irony.

Not only is the audience asked show questions as trivia during pivotal points in the production, but invites others to share their thoughts.  Some questions are tongue in cheek, but others are sure to be considered long after the production is over.

Arlekin Players Theatre and the Zero-G Virtual Theatre Lab presented The Gaaga (The Hague) live and in person at Beat Brew Hall in Cambridge, MA as well as a virtual option from June 2 through June 18.  Click here for more information.

REVIEW: Dating just got complicated for Dating Drama shorts at New Ohio Theatre’s New York City’s Indie Theatre Film Festival

The New Ohio Theatre presented its 7th annual NYC Indie Theatre Film Festival live and in person at New Ohio Theatre, 154 Christopher Street in NYC from February 16-19 and then virtually from February 20-26.  The New York City Indie Film Theatre Festival presented a variety of films from short films to features on a variety of topics and some films contain mature themes.   Click here for more information and to learn more about New Ohio Theatre.

Photo credit to New Ohio Theatre

The Sleepless Critic was knee deep in short films and tackled the Dating Drama and the Friendship Bonds shorts which focused on a variety of perspectives on relationships.  Click here for the Friendship Bonds short film review.

New Ohio Shorts ‘Full Disclosure’ Photo credit New Ohio Theatre

Dating is not for the faint of heart.  Sharply written and directed by Mia Rovegno, Full Disclosure opens up the rapid fire, neurotic world of dating in a part confessional stream of consciousness romantic comedy that will keep the viewer guessing till its twisty conclusion.  Charise Greene as Darleen and Ryan Pater as Trent display cute chemistry that swings from obscure to anxious to downright impressive in a sequence of traditional dating scenarios as Zera Bloom’s cheerful, low key instrumental score keeps this lighthearted rom com quite the charmer.

New Ohio Theatre Dating Drama Shorts ‘eXcape’ Photo credit New Ohio Theatre

Two exes face the end of their relationship.  One is about to move out, but soon realize they are trapped inside their apartment.  Lindsley Howard as Jess and Mariah Naomi Sanchez as Marianna attempt to navigate their rocky relationship on a riddle-filled quest for answers in eXcape. Boosted by Kate Eberstadt’s tense soundtrack, eXcape is a somewhat predictable scenario, but boasts some adventurous and bittersweet moments during this down-to-the-wire mystery.

New Ohio Dating Drama Shorts ‘Jules and Dee’ Photo credit New Ohio Theatre

Featuring a retro punk soundtrack by Jim McCarthy, written and directed by Juliet Perrell and co-directed by Edna Luise Biesold, Jules and Dee take a wild, comedic, and modern twist on Shakespeare in a play within a play showcasing the awkward mayhem that takes place behind the scenes at the Cherry Lane Theatre.  Though it loses its way a bit at times, a spicy Jules by Julie Perrell and Delia Bannon as Dee make a fun pair and it features a refreshing twist ending.

New Ohio Dating Drama Shorts ‘Made in Heaven’ Photo credit New Ohio Theatre

Directed by Yiqing Zhao, Made in Heaven explores the mother daughter relationship and those relationships that are kept hidden from the world.  Named after a café, Made in Heaven is a story about matchmaking, cupcakes and an undercover plot to unlock those secrets.  Yiqing Zhao aptly portrays Serena’s firm and discerning mother Jo and delivers some intriguing scenes with Regina Ohashi as poker faced Ivy.  Elizabeth Chang is likable as conflicted Serena, but this story leaves more questions than answers and would benefit from an extended version to get to know the characters better. 

New Ohio Dating Drama Shorts ‘Me Myself vs I’ Photo credit New Ohio Theatre

 Capturing a whirlwind of emotions including excitement, nervousness and anxiety especially exemplified in the landscape of today’s social media world, Uzunma Udeh as Zoom shows off comedic chops and charisma in Me, Myself vs I.  Created auspiciously by Uzunma Udeh and Tamera Vogl, Me Myself vs I is a well done narrative within a zippy timeframe.

New Ohio Dating Drama Shorts ‘Red’ Photo credit New Ohio Theatre

Directed by Katia Koziara and written by Phoebe Dunn with Ben Brown, Red swiftly turns up the heat as Phoebe Dunn and Ben Brown embark on what becomes an unorthodox date.  Though the two develop some tension as the film progresses and boasts a clever title, knowing the characters better would have made the film a bigger thrill.

New Ohio Dating Drama Shorts ‘You Can Kiss Me’ Photo credit New Ohio Theatre

Two unhappily married people think they have found hope in something new in You Can Kiss Me, a film by Jan Jalenak.  Penelope, portrayed sympathetically by Brandi Nicole Wilson, thinks she has led a predictable life and longs to be adventurous and enigmatic Meg, portrayed by Ylfa Edelstein, tends to keep her personal life close to the hip.  Though the film leads to some implausible scenarios, Brandi Nicole Wilson delivers stirring scenes with both Edelstein and Andrew Elvis Miller as Paul.  The film’s intensity is enhanced by music composed by Jay Purdy including Jensen Smith’s Cello Kiss.

New Ohio Dating Drama Shorts ‘Intimacy Workshop’ Photo credit New Ohio Theatre

What starts out as an absorbing comedy takes an unexpected turn in Intimacy Workshop, written and directed by Eddie Prunoske.  To the soothing sounds of Clair De Lune, a dynamic assortment of men takes on awkward encounters in a workshop about the bonding experience.  Intimacy Workshop has some light, comedic dialogue but could have done without a gory, embarrassing and over the top twist that veers the film off course.

The New Ohio Theatre presented its 7th annual NYC Indie Theatre Film Festival live and in person at New Ohio Theatre, 154 Christopher Street in NYC from February 16-19 and then virtually from February 20-26.  Click here for more information and to learn more about New Ohio Theatre.

REVIEW: ‘Friendship Bonds’ shorts reveal new perspectives at New Ohio Theatre’s New York City’s Indie Theatre Film Festival

The New Ohio Theatre presented its 7th annual NYC Indie Theatre Film Festival live and in person at New Ohio Theatre, 154 Christopher Street in NYC from February 16-19 and then virtually from February 20-26.  The New York City Indie Film Theatre Festival offered a variety of films from shorts to features on a wide range of topics and some of the film selections contain mature themes.   Click here for more information and to learn more about New Ohio Theatre.

Photo credit to New Ohio Theatre

The Sleepless Critic was knee deep in short films and tackled Dating Drama and Friendship Bonds shorts which focused on a variety of perspectives on relationships. Friendship Bonds explores the value and challenges of friendships in various circumstances.  Click here for the Dating Drama short film review. 

Shorts: Friendship Bonds ‘Andy and Kaliope’ Photo credit to New Ohio Theatre

Beautifully written and produced by Rachel Handler with stirring direction by Crystal Arnette and Catriona Rubenis-Stevens, Andy and Kaliope is a touching short film starring Jai Ram Srinivansan in a sweet portrayal as Andy, a foster child whose big imagination is in a war with his darkest fears.   Accompanied by Rachel Handler as warm and encouraging Jamie, Colin Buckingham as Cole, and an extraordinary gift, Andy must muster the courage to move forward.  It is a wonderful short film about the power of hope.

Shorts: Friendship Bonds Two Women on A Bridge Photo credit to New Ohio Theatre

Exceptionally directed, written, and edited by Tom Bean, Two Women on a Bridge is a thought provoking journey over the Williamsburg Bridge in May 2020 in a captivating display of black and white cinematography.  Starring Karen Maine and Suzanne Lenz to Michael Abiuso’s gentle score, Two Women on a Bridge delves into a fractured friendship and reflects on the overwhelming changes in the world while engaging and hypothetical popup endings instill light humor to some serious themes.

Shorts: Friendship Bonds ‘Eyeballs’ Photo credit to New Ohio Theatre

In a quirky but realistic zoom scenario, a group of students are brought together by a group school project in Eyeballs.  Written by Molly Powers Gallagher and starring as Nadine, Ola Pater as Cara, and Zack Palomo as Dev, the small zoom group convincingly conveys the nervousness and the hesitation to share ideas and connect.  Directed and edited by Robert Thaxton Stevenson, stay put for this cute comedy’s end credit scene.

Shorts: Friendship Bonds ‘Lindsay, Lindsey, Lyndsay’ Photo credit to New Ohio Theatre

Lindsay, Lindsey, Lyndsey is not an exaggeration, but a tale of three different Lindsays. Lindsay’s fabulous new house.  However, things are not quite as they seem.  Dan Kuan Peeples, Cameron Cronin, and Daphne Overbeck deal with jealously, unrequited love, and a renewed sense of belonging as they reminisce over old times.  Though some of the themes are a bit repetitive, this dramedy examines the complications of long term friendships and what keeps them going through it all.

Shorts: Friendship Bonds ‘The One They Wanted’ Photo credit to New Ohio Theatre

Directed by Catrina Rubenis-Stevens and written by Bryan Harlow, The One they Wanted is an absorbing and important short film about the challenges veterans face from within after they come home.  It is a beautiful and poignant look at a pair of brother and sister veterans who share in their internal battles as sister Gabi faces difficulty in daily activities.  Margo Serrano as Gabi embodies the veiled emptiness and depression over recent events while Writer Bryan Harlow also stars as Gabi’s nurturing brother Patrick as they attempt to find connection in their shared experiences.  It is a genuine and affective short film not to be missed.

Shorts: Friendship Bonds ‘Scene Study’ Photo credit New Ohio Theatre

Scene Study is a sly short film about mixed signals.  Written and directed with a few twists and turns by Trace Pope, Russell Sperberg as shy Cal and Joshua Ciccel as charismatic Ryan rehearse a scene study together when something unexpected happens.  Director Trace Pope does a remarkable job in this brief time frame to create a light, unpredictable drama that keeps the viewer guessing till the very end.

Remarkably directed by Bandar Albuliwi, Sakrə Fīs (Sacrifice) is a riveting Iranian story about Azaheh, impressively depicted by Tiffany Ariany and Johnny Ferdosi as playful and fascinating Aadan who find themselves in a suspenseful and life threatening situation during a football game.  Enhanced by Joe Aguirresarobe’s gripping cinematography and Nima Fakhrara’s affective  score, Ariany and Ferdosi’s natural and sweet chemistry and the dangers of daily life in present Iran is what makes this increasingly tense and unpredictable tale such an engrossing and heartrending journey.

Shorts: Friendship Bonds ‘The Bottom’ Photo credit New Ohio Theatre

Do the ends justify the means?  A man, at his most vulnerable, is being forced into a mysterious lake at gunpoint.  Hostility and tension reach its boiling point in this eerie confrontation between James Kautz as Jude and Alex Grubbs as John before the plot thickens.  With harrowing direction by Morgan O’Sullivan and James Kautz and fueled by Adam Bloch’s haunting sound effects, The Bottom is an dark, deeply psychological look at the affect of toxic relationships and may cause more than a chill.

Shorts: Friendship Bonds ‘We (Don’t) Know How to Live Photo credit New Ohio Theatre

On a lighter note, We (Don’t) Know How to Live is a comical and somewhat liberating look at life when reaching a milestone birthday.  Four friends unite for Claire’s 30th birthday party, but Claire receives some distressing news before she arrives which may ruin the whole thing.  Jayne McLendon as Betty, Hilary Wirachowsky as Claire, Khadijah Roberts-Abdullah as Darcy and Gordon Harper as Daniel all give off some Friends vibes as they reflect upon the direction of their lives.  Reflectively written by Jayne McLendon, Hilary Wirachowsky, and Khadijah Roberts-Abdullah, the festive and inviting setting keeps the mood light as the group tackles relatable and age appropriate musings.

The New Ohio Theatre presented its 7th annual NYC Indie Theatre Film Festival live and in person at New Ohio Theatre, 154 Christopher Street in NYC from February 16-19 and then virtually from February 20-26.  Click here for more information and to learn more about New Ohio Theatre.

REVIEW:  Fueled by sardonic wit and intense humor, The Huntington’s ‘The Art of Burning’ crackles

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.

Adrianne Krstansky, Michael Kaye, and Rob Barkhordar in ‘The Art of Burning’ Photo Credit: T Charles Erickson © T Charles Erickson Photography tcharleserickson@photoshelter.com

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.

Rom Barkhordar and Vivia Font in ‘The Art of Burning’ Photo Credit: T Charles Erickson © T Charles Erickson Photography tcharleserickson@photoshelter.com

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.

Michael Kaye and Laura Latreille in ‘The Art of Burning’ Photo Credit: T Charles Erickson © T Charles Erickson Photography tcharleserickson@photoshelter.com


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.

Clio Contogenis and Adrianne Krstansky in ‘The Art of Burning’ Photo Credit: T Charles Erickson © T Charles Erickson Photography tcharleserickson@photoshelter.com

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.

REVIEW: Greater Boston Stage Company’s ‘The Legend of Sleepy Hollow’ a family treat and delivering more surprises than things that go bump in the night

Under a glimmering moon, fog rolls in as a candle burns. 

Near a tattered fence and curtains behind a pedestal table sits The Legend of Sleepy Hollow’s author Washington Irving, portrayed by Boston-based actor Paul Melendy.  Poised to share his gothic novel, Washington Irving is just one of several personas Melendy charismatically manifests for Greater Boston Stage Company’s semi-interactive, one man performance of Halloween classic, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.

Paul Melendy in Greater Boston Stage Company’s ‘The Legend of Sleepy Hollow’ Photo credit to Nile Scott Studios

With lively direction by Weylin Symes, Paul Melendy aptly bares the weight of this local, legendary, and family-friendly tale live and in person at Greater Boston Stage Company in Stoneham, Massachusetts as well as virtually through Sunday, November 6.  This show is just under 90 minutes with no intermission.  Click here for more information and tickets.

Already proving to be a wonderful talent in Greater Boston Stage productions such as The 39 Steps and Miss Holmes Returns, Paul Melendy captures the spirit of Sleepy Hollow through a frenzy of distinct personalities, rapid fire mannerisms, and occasional scares.  This version has a historical and contemporary context, delivering more family- friendly and comedic content than a fright fest.

Paul Melendy in Greater Boston Stage Company’s ‘The Legend of Sleepy Hollow’ Photo credit to Nile Scott Studios

Melendy’s Icabod Crane is an eccentric, bumbling, and polite schoolmaster in love with the lovely Katrina and sets out to impress her and her family, but rumor has it that something ghostly just might be lurking through Sleepy Hollow.  Feeding off the audience while drawing comedic inspiration and wide- eyed vigor reminiscent of Jim Carrey or Jerry Lewis, Melendy’s pliable features transform into a number of characters ranging from the elegant Katrina to a tough guy New Yorker to the mysterious Mister Knickerbocker.  A cross between a recollection and a retelling, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow treats the audience to an assortment of dynamic characters who roam through this secluded valley along the Hudson River.

Melendy is an animated and quick-witted storyteller on this partially introspective journey as David Remedios’s chilling sound effects highlighted by a wild horse whinnying, Katy Monthel’s haunting scenic design, and Deirdre Gerrard’s eerie lighting elevate the production’s mysterious and uneasy tone.  Add Melendy’s exuberance to the mix and audiences are in for an enjoyable ride.

The cast and creative team for Greater Boston Stage Company’s ‘The Legend of Sleepy Hollow’ Photo courtesy of Nile Scott Studios

Greater Boston Stage Company presents The Legend of Sleepy Hollow live and in person in Stoneham, Massachusetts as well as virtually through Sunday, November 6.  This show is just under 90 minutes with no intermission.  Click here for more information and tickets.

REVIEW: OBIE Award-winning New Ohio ICE Factory’s ‘Isla,’ ‘Acheron: The River of Tragedy’ and ‘Body Through Which the Dream Flows’

The OBIE-Award winning New Ohio ICE Factory is celebrating its 29th year and has been presenting a number of innovative works each summer that continue through August 20 live and in person at New Ohio Theatre, 154 Christopher Street in New York City.  Virtual shows are available through August 27.  Isla, Acheron:  The River of Tragedy, and Body Through Which the Dream Flows are just a few of works presented during this annual festival.  Click here for further details, how to stream, and for tickets.

Photo courtesy of New Ohio Theatre

Bikes fly, a plane takes off, and cars zoom as a world unfolds in interactive shadows.  Produced by Hit the Lights Theatre, Isla is a documentary experience which combines shadow puppets, photos, animation, and live action to depict the warmth of Samantha Blaine’s homeland and the realities of the Cuban invasion she grew up in.  Her unique and personal journey with her mother and two free spirited sisters integrates nature and song to demonstrate the realities of invasion, family, and how everything is connected.  Featuring strong vocals as well as heartwarming and wistful performances by Samantha Blain, Marlena Mack, Tiffany Ortiz, Kristopher Dean, Mikayla Stanley, Claron Hayden, and Casey Scott Leach,  Isla is a fascinating production that explores heartache, division, political turmoil, pollution, and how Blaine’s world was shaken by communism. 

‘Isla’ Photo by Claron Haydon

A car crash and a tense, mysterious encounter lead to much more than either of these characters bargained for at a river at the Mexican-US border.  Directed by Martin Balmaceda, Spanish language production Acheron:  The River of Tragedy serves up a wealth of twists and turns in this sordid and at times clever tale.  This production has mature themes and is not for children.

A secretive and menacing presence, portrayed by Cinthia Perez Navarro, has entered the life of Leonardo, portrayed with strained intensity by Aline Lemus Bernal, a nattering, impulsive, and yet perpetual optimist who dreams of freedom as soon as that tumultuous river is crossed.  However, there is a heavy price for that dream and neither are savory characters.  Navarro’s searing intensity and cryptic glances make for some skittish moments while Bernal’s jaunty moves and brisk chatter never quite distract from Navarro’s distressing wrath.  Cinthia Perez Navarro and Aline Lemus Bernal are also behind the show’s sharp choreography.  Acheron:  The River of Tragedy is a gritty tale about the darker side of humanity in the pursuit of happiness.

Acheron ©Hugo Freeman With Aline Lemus Bernal (left) and Cinthia Perez Navarro (right)

Body Through Which the Dreams Flows also explores what it takes to achieve a dream.  In this case, it is achieving the Olympic dream as past footage of Olympic champions kick off the production.  Part documentary and part stage performance, creator Soomi Kim and company takes a look at the incredible world of gymnastics and the corruption and tragedy that has seeped into the sport and the lives of young girls in training.  What does it take to be a champion?  Sometimes the price is too steep.

What is really compelling about Body Through Which Dreams Flow are the reenactments of some real life footage as well as Soomi Kim and Alexandra Beller’s beautiful choreography, the sheer athleticism, and interpretation from athletes Lucy Meola, Olivia Caraballoso, Madison Rodriguez, Shayna Wilson, Nora Avci, and Ai Clancy.  Enhanced by Amanda Ringger’s haunting lighting, Body Through Which the Dream Flows is a stirring and eye opening production addressing the pressures and what seems like the impossible expectations from coaches while focusing on what past athletes have endured.  It also delivers a powerful message on the importance of a child having the chance to be a child.

New Ohio BTWtheDF Full cast_ Ai Clancy, Soomi Kim, Madison Rodriguez, Nora Avci, Shayna Wilson, Lucy Meola, Olivia Caraballoso

The New Ohio ICE Factory 2022 continues live and in person at the New Ohio Theatre through August 20 with virtual availability through August 27.  Click here for more information and tickets.

REVIEW:  The Game is Afoot for Greater Boston Stage Company’s world premiere of ‘Miss Holmes Returns’

Set in Victorian England, 221B Baker Street London is once again shrouded in a murder mystery.  However, the famous detective has another face this time…the lovely Miss Holmes.  With darting eyes taking in every last deduction in an ornate red and black waistcoat, this poker faced beauty seems incapable of being distracted from a case.  Portrayed with steely charisma by Marge Dunn with a knack for deadpan humor, Miss Holmes carries herself with ceaselessly logical and observational prowess, but this particular case just might be over her head. 

Richly written by Christopher M. Walsh and meticulously directed by Weylin Symes, Greater Boston Stage Company with Don Fulton New Works Project presents the world premiere of psychological murder mystery thriller Miss Holmes Returns live and in person at Greater Boston Stage Company in Stoneham, MA and now available virtually through Sunday, May 8.  The show is approximately 2 hours and 15 minutes with one 15 minute intermission.  Click here for more information and tickets.

The cast and crew of Greater Boston Stage Company’s ‘Miss Holmes Returns’ Photo credit to Nile Scott Studios/Greater Boston Stage Company

In the tradition of Sherlock Holmes or most murder mysteries, Miss Holmes Returns begins immediately with a murder as David Ramedios’s suspenseful violin-tinged score haunts the scene.  A man is murdered and Sherlock and Watson must assess the case as a mysterious woman associated with a group with a seemingly checkered past portrayed by Shubhangi Kuchibhotia, flees the scene.

Boasting an esteemed cast, the dynamic between each character remains faithful to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s classic characters.  Sherlock is not quite complete without a Watson and Shonna Cirone fits the bill as good humored, intuitive, and sharp Dr. Dorothy Watson.  The show shrewdly uses the flipped gender of this duo to its advantage. Both outspoken and resolute feminists, Dunn and Cirone share some fascinating and fun moments observing how these two differing, yet complementary personalities approach attempting to solve the crime.  They complement each other much like the classic Holmes and Watson duo and their untimely friendship. 

Alexander Platt as Mycroft Holmes and Marge Dunn as Miss Holmes Photo credit to Nile Scott Studios/Greater Boston Stage Company

Alexander Platt, in a dual role, depicts Sherlock’s stern and demanding brother Mycroft with a mysterious and villainous air.  Platt’s darker take on the character makes him much more fascinating. Cheryl McMahon, who was a delight in SpeakEasy Stage Company’s clever Admissions, is wonderful in a dual role which includes the feisty and humorous Mrs. Hudson, the landlady of 221B Baker Street.

Paul Melendy, who led the stellar cast of Greater Boston Stage Company’s recent The 39 Steps, impressively portrays warm and quirky Adam Worthington while Joshua Wolf Coleman as Inspector Geoffrey Lestrade of Scotland Yard assigned to the case, is enthralled by Sherlock’s keen observations on the scene.

Marge Dunn as Miss Holmes and Paul Melendy as Adam Worthington Photo courtesy of Nile Scott Studios/Greater Boston Stage Company

Fans of previous Sherlock adaptations will appreciate the various Easter eggs subtly scattered around set designer Katy Monthei’s vintage and stately scenery which includes colorful, vintage lamps, a selection of well worn books, double tier shelving, and floral-adorned furniture.  From Worthington’s rich green cravat to Lestrade’s black bowler hat to the detailed lace and velvet costumes to Sherlock’s amazing Victorian boots, costume designer Deidre McCabe Gerrard brilliantly captures the sophistication of Victorian England.

Miss Holmes Returns boasts fastidious dialogue as well as clever and comical moments as the plot thickens.  The show may be a bit lengthy in its deductions, but its various twists and turns are well worth finding out whodunit.

Greater Boston Stage Company with Don Fulton New Works Project presents the world premiere of psychological murder mystery thriller Miss Holmes Returns live and in person at Greater Boston Stage Company in Stoneham, MA and now available virtually through Sunday, May 8.  Click here for more information and tickets.

REVIEW: Singer-songwriters Natalie Price and Grace Pettis share resilience through struggle and the joy of performing live onstage again

It is no surprise that guitar strumming singer-songwriters Natalie Price and Grace Pettis recently brought a mix of emotional weight to the Club Passim stage in Cambridge, MA.  Not only in the great joy of performing for an audience again, but the heartache, loss, and reflection in their music as a result of these past couple of complicated years.  However, within this sadness lies resilience for thriving again.  

Grace Pettis and Natalie Price Photo credit to Natalie Price

Singer-songwriter Natalie Price debuted at Club Passim and opened for returning Club Passim favorite Grace Pettis on Thursday, April 14 in person and on live stream for one night only.  Click here to see where Pettis will perform next and here for more on Price.  Click here for more on Club Passim, their educational programs, upcoming events, and how to support local music.

A smattering of spotlights lit the Club Passim stage as Dallas-born Natalie Price delivered a mix of reflective, sorrowful, and playful love songs during her brief opening set.   Price’s sound has a tinge of Natalie Imbruglia or Lisa Loeb as she shares her experiences.

These Days is a clever track about the memory of escaping an unhealthy relationship and if the timing of that relationship were any different, Price might not have escaped.  Price sings, ‘I’m so glad I wasn’t younger when we met’ and ‘The heaviness, strangled me/A songbird in a cage.’  Its seemingly lighthearted chords contrast a returning and complex memory that changes over time.

Another highlight was The Island, a song performed entirely with a music box-sounding Kalimba instrument.  It is a melodious track about the euphoria of new love while Done is another clever piece that delves into the erratic and frantic feelings of unsteady love.  Price ends the set with a catchy and cheerful tune about devotion.

Natalie Price’s music can be found on Band Camp or on her website.

Grace Pettis Photo credit to Nicola Gell

Before taking the stage alone, Grace Pettis joined Price for an unconventional and sweet lullaby Pettis wrote and performs for a Ukrainian child living with Pettis and her family in Ireland called Sleepy Lobster.  Pettis had a table set up that evening to support Ukraine.

Florida-born Grace Pettis delves into a collection of powerful, somber, and soulful tunes, a reflection of some of the complex, life-changing experiences Pettis endured over the last two years.  In a burgundy shirt and black pants, Pettis is an unassuming presence with a certain personable charm and expressed her gratefulness to be back at Club Passim sharing her music with a crowd again.

Her passionate and powerful vocals in Pick me Up and Never Get it Back from her new album, Working Woman from MPress Records, has universal appeal with the latter a bittersweet message on the importance of living in the present and the former finding the strength to keep going in spite of life’s hardships.   Though Pick me Up could simply be interpreted as a love song, it could also apply to a larger message about faith and finding loyal support through life.

Pettis mused in Rain’s lyrics, ‘I don’t know how to be happy’ when she recalled being tasked with writing a song about sunshine.  The somber track was inspired by November rain in Ireland.

So many of Grace’s work addresses strength through struggle.  Mean Something also from Working Woman has a soothing quality about finding hope while Birthright, which is a Nobody’s Girl song, reveals the struggles of living with the pain of the past.  Pettis is an apt songwriter reflecting on the end of a life-changing relationship. She sings, ‘Brace myself for unwanted advice…I’m the box forgotten in the attic.’

However, one of my favorite tracks is Corner, a complex love song about unconditional loyalty, the pain thick in Grace’s voice.  Though the show had its share of solemn musings, Pettis ends the set with Working Woman’s fiery and meaningful title track, her powerful belt demonstrating though hardship, Grace Pettis has thicker skin than that.

Click here for more information on Grace Pettis and where she is touring next.  Learn more about Natalie Price here and click here for more on Club Passim, their music classes, upcoming concerts, and how to support local music.

REVIEW:  Greater Boston Stage Company’s well-timed ‘Incident at Our Lady of Perpetual Help’ a comical trip down memory lane

Greater Boston Stage Company chose the perfect time to debut Incident at Our Lady of Perpetual Help.  Nestled right through St. Patrick’s Day during Lent (for Catholics), this engaging family comedy delves into the lives of the quirky lower middle class Irish-Catholic O’Shea family during a chaotic and pivotal week in their lives in the 1970s.  It’s a memory play…with a few amusing twists.

From L to R: Vin Vega as Becky, Maureen Keiller as Theresa “Terri” Carmichael, Amy Barker as Jo O’Shea, and Autumn Blazon-Brown as Linda O’Shea Photo courtesy of Greater Boston Stage Company

A semi-autobiographical play written by Katie Forgette and directed by Weylin Symes, Greater Boston Stage Company presents Incident at Our Lady of Perpetual Help virtually and at Greater Boston Stage Company in Stoneham, Massachusetts through March 20.  The show is 1 hour and 45 minutes with intermission and recommended for children ages 13 and up.  Click here for more information and tickets.

It is fascinating how memories work when they are retold, recalled, and recollected.  A fuzzy little detail here and a little change there may make a big difference.  Some of the production’s characters are a bit over the top, but so was the 70s.  Every detail of this show rewinds the clock to a simpler time before the internet, cell phones, and other technological distractions took over.  Deirdre Gerrard pulls together a wonderfully nostalgic and mismatched array of 70s attire from corduroy to bold patterns to star-studded bellbottoms. 

From L to R: Vin Vega as Becky, Autumn Blazon-Brown as Linda, Amy Barker as Jo O’Shea, and Maureen Keiller as Theresa “Terri” Carmichael Photo courtesy of Greater Boston Stage Company

Incident at Our Lady of Perpetual Help is full of candidness, warmth, and quick pacing much due to the cast’s authentic and believable chemistry as a relatable, flawed, and dysfunctional family.  Tempers flare, judgments are passed often, and the O’Shea family is set in their routines within a meticulously-detailed and functioning wood paneled kitchen plucked straight out of the 70s.  From an afghan blanket on a chair to knickknacks on shelves to photos and notes smattered on a corkboard to greenery gathering in a kitchen window, set designer Shelley Barish’s remarkable blast from the past kitchen lies in the details.

A bossy grandmother, a cheapskate father that works too hard, an exhausted but nurturing mother, a shoot-from-the-hip aunt, and an impressionable daughter all vie for the spotlight breaking the 4th wall and well aware they are in the play.  It flows more like a slice-of-life documentary with most characters eager to speak to the “camera.”

Vin Vega as Becky and Autumn Blazon-Brown as Linda O’Shea Photo courtesy of Greater Boston Stage Company

At the center of this play is somewhat reliable narrator Autumn Blazon-Brown as adorably spunky women’s-lib teenager Linda O’Shea.  Smart yet adventurous, Blazon-Brown shows charming charisma as Linda who, in a moment of frustration, is obnoxious to her impressionable sister Becky to the chagrin of those around her including intimidating Fr. Lovett portrayed with self-righteous glee by Barlow Adamson.  Chaos ensues.   

Amy Barker as Jo O’Shea and Autumn Blazon-Brown as Linda O’Shea Photo courtesy of Greater Boston Stage Company

Adamson is an apt comedian with a wealth of opportunities to show off his dynamic skills during this production.  Vin Vega portrays film-obsessed and imaginative Becky who seems the most sensible among this amiable cast and often along for the ride within the O’Shea high jinx.  Amy Barker portrays a relatable every mom as exhausted but nurturing matriarch Jo O’Shea, but Maureen Keiller, a familiar face having delivered solid past performances in Boston such as in Between Riverside and Crazy, Admissions and The Women, is a gem as Theresa “Terri” Carmichael.  Wisecracking, bold, and often blunt, Keiller shows under Terri’s complicated and tough façade is a loneliness and vulnerability with a fierce loyalty to her family.   A better aunt you will never find.

Greater Boston Stage Company presents Incident at Our Lady of Perpetual Help virtually and at Greater Boston Stage Company in Stoneham, Massachusetts through March 20.  The show is 1 hour and 45 minutes with intermission and recommended for children ages 13 and up.  Click here for more information and tickets.

REVIEW:  Gorgeously filmed, Boston Lyric Opera and Opera Philadelphia’s ethereal ‘Svadba’ a vivid and dreamy celebration of treasured moments before a wedding

As Atlantic Ocean waves lap along the shore, renowned vocalists Chabrelle D. Williams, Brianna J. Robinson, Maggie Finnegan, Vera Savage, and Hannah Ludwig provide an intense and inspired a cappella chorus for an idyllic beachside cottage as a bride, what appears to be the mother of the bride, and bridesmaids prepare for a beautiful wedding.  A wedding can stir up a myriad of powerful emotions from bitter sweet to pure joy as a couple starts a new life together and in a way, leaves the former one behind.  Filled with rich traditions, rituals, and cultural customs, the days leading up to a wedding can provide life’s most unforgettable moments.

JUST BEFORE HER WEDDING CEREMONY BEGINS, MILICA (VICTORIA L. AWKWARD) SHARES A GRATEFUL MOMENT WITH LENA (JACKIE DAVIS) IN “SVADBA.” Photo courtesy of Boston Lyric Opera

Gorgeously filmed, seamlessly conducted by Daniela Candillari, and insightfully directed by Shura Baryshnikov (the daughter of legendary dancer and choreographer Mikhail Baryshnikov),  Boston Lyric Opera presents in collaboration with Opera Philadelphia Channel, Svadba by Ana Sokolovic streaming now on Operabox.tv.  The film is just under an hour.  Click here for streaming access and more information.

(L.-R.) VICTORIA L. AWKWARD AS MILICA AND JACKIE DAVIS AS LENA IN “SVADBA.” Photo courtesy Boston Lyric Opera

Svadba, which is Serbian for ‘wedding,’ contains all the anticipation and beauty of the days building up to the big day.   It is a pivotal time in a couple’s life, especially these times when family and friends gathering can be a hesitant and tricky venture.  The glow of the bride-to-be is resplendent in Victoria Awkward as Milica, the loving stares of love and pride shine in Jackie Davis’s eyes as Lena and the beautiful bridesmaids excitedly bonding create a dreamy and ethereal presence in this picturesque setting.

What also makes Svadba so alluring is the intimacy among the group.  From Victoria Awkward as bride Milica and Jackie Davis as Lena’s first encounter, it is easy to see the precious nature of a mother and daughter relationship, though the film does not specify the connection between them.  Davis treats Awkward delicately, taking her hand and getting her ready while presenting to her family and cultural customs and heirlooms leading up to this big day.  The sunlight peers into the cottage, illuminating the treasure trove of precious objects.  There is a quiet outpouring of love between the two of them as Davis prepares Awkward for the future.

Costume designer Albulena’s Borovci’s dynamic costumes vary from traditional and intriguing to unconventional with fantasy and flair.  Sparkling, translucent, and understated gowns adorn bridesmaids Sasha Peterson as Maid of Honor Ljubica, Emily Jerant-Hendrickson, Sarah Pacheco as Zora, and Jay Breen as Danica.  The pale green and coral complements the serene beachside landscape while a bride’s vivid daydream unleashes brighter and bolder attire.

JAY BREEN (AS DANICA, L.) AND VICTORIA L. AWKWARD (AS MILICA, IN WHITE) DANCE AS OTHER BRIDESMAID’S LOOK ON IN “SVADBA.” Photo courtesy of Boston Lyric Opera

Much of this opera symbolizes togetherness, the progression of growing up and finding where a woman fits in the world from the bride’s whirlwind feelings to family and friends perspectives.  The choreography at times feels so intense that the dancers look like they are being taken over by the chorus’s powerful vocal harmony.  From spontaneous frolicking to wild and intense dance rituals set to heavenly, trilling, and rhythmic vocals that narrate, navigate, and reveal the complicated feelings when one weds, Svadba is a spirited snapshot to this tumultuous and extraordinary rite of passage and a beautiful celebration of the future.

MILICA (VICTORIA L. AWKWARD, CENTER) AND HER BRIDESMAIDS RETURN TO THE COTTAGE AFTER GATHERING DECORATIVE FLORA IN “SVADBA.” Photo courtesy of Boston Lyric Opera

Boston Lyric Opera presents in collaboration with Opera Philadelphia Channel, Svadba streaming now on Operabox.tv.  The film is just under an hour.  Click here for streaming access and more information.