Theater (167)

Identity and Its Discontents: Portland Stage's 'Disgraced'

Amir (Alex Purcell), a corporate lawyer, and Emily (Roya Shanks), a painter, live in an expensive apartment high over Manhattan, with tall windows and haut-Orientalist décor, Moorish-cum-Art-Deco ceiling lamps. Emily, who is white, is fascinated by Islam and has been using its forms in her paintings, but Amir, born to Pakistani immigrants, denounces his ancestral religion. This tension between them is but the first of many in Disgraced, Ayad Akhtar’s Pulitzer-winning conflagration about race, religion,…

Reading Homer in the End Times: Mad Horse's 'Mr. Burns: A Post-Electric Play'

In a near-future scourged by nuclear fallout, these few humans, banded together, probably look a lot like humans of the far past: they huddle around a fire in the dark, telling stories. The main story they’re telling is a certain episode of The Simpsons, called “Cape Feare” — a riff on a film that’s a remake of a film that’s an adaptation of a novel. How this already intertextual story continues to evolve, across 80 years of the…

Flowers of the Real: Little Fest and Maine Playwrights Festival

With spring finally springing, it’s time for the new. And for the next two weeks, theater-goers can queue up for two Portland festivals featuring brand new short plays. This week, it’s Acorn Productions’ Maine Playwrights Festival, now in its sixteenth year. And next week, Portland Stage Affiliate Artists’ Little Festival of the Unexpected, turns twenty-seven. The Maine Playwrights Festival Acorn stages six short plays, chosen from open call submissions, on an ultra-versatile set (designed by John Sundling) at the…

Keep Your Eyes Wet: USM's 'Molded by the Flow' Makes Spirited Theater

Molded by the Flow is a show about water and work. As it begins, musicians tap mallets against tall glass jars and suspended silver goblets. Workers in coveralls move among wood crates stacked high against a blue screen, which flickers to life with a pale, fluid ripple. Visions of water are the pulse of this original multi-disciplinary performance and the culmination of a year-long collaboration between students and faculty in USM’s departments of Theatre, Art, and the School…

Grief Lessons: Portland Stage's String Around My Finger

In the aftermath of a miscarriage, Emma (Marjolaine Whittlesey) and her fiancé Kip (Chris Davis) must contend with their loss, with their own hearts, and – especially trying, sometimes – with other people’s help. A stranger writes to Emma comparing her lost child to the death of a dog. Kip’s tone-deaf, type-A sister Lisa (Danielle Slavick) hovers by the hospital bed and kibitzes. The physician assistant, Dave (David Mason), is jaded and monosyllabic. It’s all so…

Long Lost America: Good Theater's Tender Trip to Bountiful

In post-WWII America, many families left their farms, and men who had once been their own bosses were now answering to office supervisors and managers. Social critics have written about the demoralizing effect this had on men. But what of the women? After widowed Carrie Watts (Louisa Flaningam) is forced to sell off the vast family farmlands in Bountiful, Texas, she finds herself trapped in a two-room apartment in Austin, with her worried son (Christopher Holt) and…

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 (Phoenix editor 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,…

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’…
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