Theater (147)

Cast Aside's Gutenberg! Wears Every Hat in the Book

Before heading out to Cast Aside Productions’ latest show, Gutenberg! The Musical!, I googled Johannes Gutenberg, the man who in 1439 famously introduced movable type — and thus mass literacy — to Europe. I found a possible broken betrothal, a few bankruptcies, and lots of gaps in the historical record — slim pickings, I thought, for a musical. Turns out the young writers of Gutenberg!, Bud Davenport (Kyle Aarons) and Doug Simon (Ryan Walker), did…

Trial in Purgatory: The Last Days of Judas Iscariot balances dark exercises with smart comedy

Purgatory — the waiting-place where the dead await judgment — turns out to have plumbing, bodegas, and a courthouse. So explains a cheery Southern angel (Marie Stewart Harmon), a jury member in the high-profile trial of Judas (Nick Schroeder), infamous betrayer of Jesus. Among key jurisprudential questions, in Stephen Adly Guirgis’s The Last Days of Judas Iscariot, are who deserves forgiveness, and who has grounds to bestow it. Stacey Koloski directs a nervy, canny ensemble…

Wantonness and Buffoonery: Lyric's Spring Awakening

When it comes to understanding sexuality, abuse, abortion, and suicide, the nineteenth-century German youth of Spring Awakening are on their own. Wendla (Rachel Friedman) can’t get her mom to explain sex. Precocious Melchior (Eric Berry-Sandelin) critiques “parentalism” and tries to imagine the female orgasm. Moritz (Jake Boyce) agonizes over why he dreams of women’s stockings. We follow the trials of these and other teens in Duncan Sheik and Steven Sater’s acclaimed rock-musical, a remake of Frank…

No, You're the Puppet!: Shoestring's Magical Peter Pan

Remember Peter Pan, the boy who refused to grow up? These days, the premise might seem a little less magical and a little more distressingly non-fictional. Leave it to Shoestring Theater, and its cheerfully anarchic puppet antics, to update and upend J. M. Barrie’s classic. Shoestring’s new Peter Pan, adapted and directed by Nance Parker, runs this Friday and Saturday, as the feature of Mayo Street Arts’ Puppet Cabaret, which opens with the Bad Puppys’…

Up for Babs: Dustin Tucker Soars in Buyer & Cellar

The story of Buyer & Cellar is a work of fiction, its narrator assures us right off the bat, but its bizarre central premise is true: Barbra Streisand designed and built a period 19th-century shopping mall in her Malibu basement. Buyer & Cellar proceeds from playwright Jonathan Tolins’s improbable thought experiment: What if Barbra hired someone to “run” the “shops”? That someone is Alex, a snarky underemployed actor. The pricelessly funny Dustin Tucker plays him…

Power Play: DRC's Sex-Obsessed Venus in Fur

“Whatever happened to femininity?” writer-director Thomas (Joe Bearor) complains in his audition room. Poor Thomas can’t find a single actress smart, sensual, and powerfully feminine enough to play the lead in his new show, Venus in Fur, which he’s adapted from the 1870 book that inspired the term “masochism.” And things don’t look any better when crass, slaphappy, unsophisticated Vanda (Casey Turner) shows up. But audition she does, to unexpected ends, in David Ives’s Venus…

Unromantic Squabbling Actually Quite Hot in George Bernard Shaw Classic

Just how sweet and honorable is it to go to die for one’s country? George Bernard Shaw looked askance at such romantic notions in Arms and the Man, which tells of how war-dazzled young Raina falls for enemy soldier Captain Bluntschli, a jaded, pragmatic soldier-for-hire. Pie Man Theatre Company presents the classic comedy at Mayo Street Arts, under the direction of Stephanie Ross. Staged intimately in the round, the show opens in the bedroom of…

Crass gags and a smart cast in Cocktails and Travails

Are the nonstop national news alerts making you anxious, desperate, and easily triggered into dread and nausea? Well, you’ve got nothing on Greg (Mark Rubin) – he’s up for tenure. He and his wife Emily (Heather Perry Weafer) are about to host tenure committee heavy-hitter Professor Stilton (Lisa Muller-Jones) for cocktails, and his career depends on absolutely nothing going wrong. What could possibly go wrong? Ever so much, in Portland writer and actor Brent Askari’s…

Good Theater's "The May Queen" delivers colorful, contentious comedy

There are four desks in the office world of The May Queen, a “pod” in Kingston, New York’s Vallor Group Insurance Agency, and the first one you’ll notice belongs to middle-aged Zumba enthusiast Gail (Laura Houck) – a Hawaiian heaven of grass skirt and hula dolls. The desk where Mike (Rob Cameron) works, when he’s not suspended, is a minor mess of homage to New York sports teams and fast food trash. Of the other…

Old world elegance, sadomasochistic rituals, and murder fantasies on display in The Maids

The powerless have a complicated relationship with power in Jean Genet’s 1947 Absurdist drama The Maids: Claire and Solange both hate Madame and love her, aspire to both kill and be her. Genet’s unnerving look at class, power, and Otherness never really gets old, and Gary Locke directs an exquisitely acted production at The Players’ Ring, starring the exceptional Seacoast-area actors Whitney Smith and Constance Witman.   Genet, the orphaned homosexual son of a prostitute…
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