Theater (167)

Ogunquit's 'Ragtime' Revives the Musical Ideal

The defining characteristic of ragtime music is its “syncopation” — a style in which the melody falls in between the beats instead of on them. Syncopated rhythms, which originated with African-American musicians, give the sense that the melody is slightly ahead of or even moving against its own beat, and they were new and jarring in early nineteenth-century America. These rhythms are an apt vehicle for the cultural and personal intersections of Ragtime, the musical epic of three very…

Monmouth's Excellent 'Red Velvet' Depicts a Society Unable to Act its Values

In 1833, London was embroiled over slavery in Britain’s colonies: after a revolt in Jamaica and pressure on the home front, Parliament instituted the Slavery Abolition Act. Enter Ira Aldridge (the excellent Ryan Vincent Anderson), a young African-American actor, to replace an ailing Othello at Covent Garden — and to expose, as the first black actor on that stage, London’s hypocrisies and bigotries. In the beautifully crafted comedic drama Red Velvet, on stage at the Theater at Monmouth, playwright Lolita Chakrabarti imagines what happened offstage at Covent Garden. Jennifer Nelson directs a dynamic and deftly performed production of the play, both an affecting portrait of Aldridge and an acute meditation on the politics and powers of…

Monmouth's 'Macbeth' Searches for the Damned Spot

The Theater at Monmouth’s Macbeth takes some pains to convey an out-of-time Scotland for its horrors of avarice. The inter-scene music is aggressively modern — industrial metal, dissonant synth-rock. Colored lights pulse through layers of gray and fraying sheaths. Is this a steam-punk world? Cyber-punk? The costumes keep us wondering: leather vests over blood-splattered t-shirts; straight-up Victorian jackets and bowlers. Setting thus feels unsettled in this Macbeth, directed by Dawn McAndrews and performed in rep as part of this…

Chekhov in the Park — Fenix Finely Forgoes Shakespeare for Elegant 'Three Sisters'

How many times have you watched Midsummer in a summer park? With all due respect to the Bard, do you ever yearn to enjoy your picnic with some other master of language and the human condition? This summer, Fenix Theatre Company takes a blessed break from Shakespeare to bring Anton Chekhov’s masterpiece Three Sisters to the Deering Oaks band shell.  Now, if Chekhov intimidates you, or if his name conjures only grey Russian misery, rest assured that this excellent Fenix show, directed by Tess Van…

Out to Win — MSMT's 'Guys and Dolls' Spins American Myths

The quintessential American musical Guys and Dolls, based on stories by New York writer Damon Runyon, plays like a kind of Dickensian comic book of America. It’s a New York peopled by two vying types, the gambler versus the evangelical — a standoff between those who want to be left to their vices and those who want to save you. Any of this sound familiar? Maine State Music Theatre presents a bright and snazzy production of this…

Theater of the Transformative — TEoC's Original 'Lived Experiences' in Congress Square Park

What is it like to walk through a day in Portland as a person of color? Lived Experiences, the first original devised piece of the Theater Ensemble of Color, offers revealing insights into everyday racism and discrimination. After workshop productions this past weekend at Mayo Street Arts, TEoC will perform Lived Experiences in Congress Square Park the evenings of July 5 and 6. The first iteration of the script that became Lived Experiences began in May…

Summer Hits The Stage

Once again, PortFringe has kicked off Portland’s summer of theater, and you have through June 24 to catch some of the crazy — check out last issue’s PF Roundup and this issue’s capsule reviews.    Summer usually proceeds with a measure of Shakespeare, but some of the usual suspects are mixing things up interestingly this year. Fenix Theatre Company is instead staging Chekhov in Deering Oaks Park: Three Sisters runs in the band shell July 13 through August 5. And while Bare Portland…

Early Highlights from the PortFringe Festival

The Fringe goes on! This year, the PF team has had the great idea to offer “first looks” at shows, written by local friends of PF and posted at http://portfringe.com/first-looks/, and here are a few of my own highlights from the first weekend: The Yellow Wallpaper (Bare Portland – Portland) + from the rib vault in the room that has become mary (New Fruit – Portland) Absolutely stunning. This jointly devised installation and performance, an abstracted riff on Charlotte Perkins…

Giving In To Trickery — Bess Welden's 'Legbala is a River'

To hear the story of Legbala is a River, we’re invited into a bright, round tent of white cloth, to sit with our feet bare in red sand. A woman moves among us to tell her story, and what we hear first is a question: “Is it ok for me to say,” she asks, “that I don’t miss him all the time?” “He” is her husband, a doctor, who has left her and their two kids, for…

Bloomsday's Back — Tony Reilly's AIRE Renews a Love of Joyce

Tony Reilly in "Ulysses for Beginners" The American Irish Repertory Theater (AIRE) is bringing back their original show "Bloomsday for Beginners," its celebration of June 16, the day that the action takes place in James Joyce’s much-revered-but perhaps-lesser-read masterwork, Ulysses. In one hour, the troupe will take you through the perambulations of Leopold Bloom, the main character and Irish Odysseus who wanders the Dublin streets and pubs and, at one point, a brothel. It's there…
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