Theater (147)

Longfellow and Dickens: A Theatrical Conversation

              The work of Charles Dickens is nearly omnipresent this time of the season, but what about the writer himself; what about Dickens the man? As it happens, the Englishman was a close friend and correspondent of Portland’s own illustrious writer, the nationally beloved poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. And two Portland thespians bring that friendship to life, in a theatrical conversation between the two literary greats, An Evening with…

Anything Helps God Bless, explores Portland's failed ban on "signing" and the lives of those around it

“Twenty-four inches,” says one narrator. “That’s the width of the median strip on Preble Street at the corner of Marginal Way in Portland, Maine.” And then: “Thirty-two inches. That’s the width of an average man who stands on a median strip holding a cardboard sign, measured elbow to elbow.” Most of us have seen these men and women who stand in the street medians, holding signs and asking for money. A controversial 2013 Portland ban…

Adventure and melodrama abound in Great Expectations

Raised in humble circumstances by his surly sister and her blacksmith husband, young Pip nevertheless feels himself called to a higher station in life. The adventure and melodrama awaiting him are made interestingly psychological in the New Hampshire Theatre Project’s deft and evocative ensemble production of Charles Dickens’ classic Great Expectations, its script adapted by Gale Childs Daly for a six-person cast, with the virtuoso Bretton Reis as Pip and five narrators in an epic…

Enigmatic romance: A metaphysical love story plays out at Portland Stage

Five decades ago, Bemadette (Carmen Roman) traveled from her home in war-torn Germany to New York, where she waited in vain for her lover to join her. Since then, though she has written novels about life and relationships, she herself has long been isolated. Now, however, she is unexpectedly re-awakened by a young Cuban man, in Nilo Cruz’s compellingly lyrical and allusive "Sotto Voce," a “metaphysical love story” evocatively staged at Portland Stage Company, under…

Folio following: Homage to Shakespeare crosses class lines

This past spring, on the 500th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, the Folger Shakespeare Library circulated editions of the famed First Folio of his work – the posthumous collection of poems without which The Bard might never have become The Bard. The men who got this anthology into print – actors John Heminge and Henry Condell – are the subjects of local thespian Kevin O’Leary’s new script, "Roles of a Lifetime." It runs at the Portland…

Satire with an 'un-Chekhovian sunniness': Good Theater gives funny nod to Russian master

You know you love, or should love, Chekhov – his mingling of the ridiculous and the tragic, his intricately flawed characters, his frank treatment of the human plight – but do you sometimes find him a little dreary? The 2013 comedy Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike offers both a reprieve and an homage. This breezy, Tony-winning riff on Chekhov, by renowned comedic playwright Christopher Durang, is on stage now at Good Theater, in…

Corruption and collusion: Cast Aside revives once-suppressed production

The debut performance of Marc Blitzstein’s 1937 Cradle Will Rock, a scathing condemnation of corporate corruption in America, was a drama all its own: the musical, written as part of the Works Progress Administration, was at the last minute shut down and its performers locked out of their theater. The WPA cited budget cuts, but many suspected censorship. The production found another theater, where Blitzstein played the score on a lone piano and the actors,…

Rediscovery and second chances: Later Life at Portland Stage excels as gentle study

As we age, do we evolve, or do we just become more extreme versions of ourselves? A man and a woman in their silver years confront the question when, after decades of marriage to other people, they get a second chance at a connection, in A.R. Gurney’s Later Life. Cecil MacKinnon directs a vibrant production at Portland Stage Company.   Austin (John Hadden) a banker and old-school Boston Brahmin, and Ruth (Rae C. Wright) Austin,…

Dark, loony politics: Election-year lunacy lampooned in The Totalitarians

What recommends candidate Penny Easter (Shannon Campbell) to serve as Lieutenant Governor of Nebraska? Big, awesome hair, magnetic charisma, and a blithe dismissal of anything overly substantive. She can’t formulate language too well – “Things come in my mouth wrong” – and that’s where campaign manager Francine (Janice Gardner) comes in. But is Penny part of some kind of conspiratorial demagogic plot?   Thus Peter Sinn Nachtrieb’s wallop of dark comedy The Totalitarians, directed by…

Sensual rebels: Portland Players production raises the heat with Bonnie and Clyde

The saga of Bonnie and Clyde, the iconic lovers who held up stores and banks through the American Depression, is both a cautionary and a romanticized tale. And odd as it may sound for a story that ends in a gruesome shootout, that story has also become a Broadway musical. Portland Players present a striking, energetic and beautifully sung production of Bonnie and Clyde, the Musical, starring the fiery duo of Joanna Clarke and Joel…
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