MILLION DOLLAR QUARTET–is worth maybe $100,000. Now onstage at the Colonial (the video above features a different cast) the show speculates on what actually happened the night of Dec. 4, 1956 when Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, and Jerry Lee Lewis met at producer Sam Phillips studio and improvised an historic jam session, later dubbed “the million dollar quartet.” If these are your songs, this is your show. The music is, in fact, the best part of the production with the impersonators playing their instruments and singing for real onstage. But the thing is dead dramatically and it’s a crime. How could someone NOT figure out how to make the tale of these four, colorful, crazy, pioneering rock n’ roll legends jamming together downright scintillating, or even interesting??!
It doesn’t help that Tyler Hunter’s “Elvis” is short, puffy, and lacks sex appeal. Come on– it’s the one thing Elvis absolutely HAS to have and there must be a million Elvis impersonators out there to choose from, plus maybe a thousand who can actually sing. And the lean, rascally Jerry Lee Lewis? His stand-in, John Countryman, looks a tad pudgy, face framed by blond cupid curls. But he does play a mean piano. James Barry as Carl “Blue Suede Shoes” Perkins and Scott Moreau as the deep-throated Johnny Cash are fine. Now just when you think it’s over, the encore is killer, and brought an opening night audience packed with sexa/septua/octogenarians to its feet shaking, rattling, and rolling. And they were dancing too. I’ll take YLVIS— and if you get that reference, this is NOT the show for you. Through October 20 at the Colonial Theatre.
THE OTHER PLACE--This is an absorbing drama by Sharr White which skips around in time until all the pieces of a woman’s life, loves, health, career, marriage and psyche fall into place, with surprising and poignant results. Co-presented by The Nora Theatre Company and Underground Railway Theater at the Central Square Theater, THE OTHER PLACE stars Debra Wise as a renowned neurologist who’s having some difficulty bridging the gaps in her own synapses. Wise mostly negotiates this demanding part with aplomb, with a solid supporting cast. At the Central Square Theater Extended through October 20.
Shakespeare’s ROMEO & JULIET by the estimable Actors’ Shakespeare Project is now onstage at the Strand Theatre in Dorchester. It’s a fresh but uneven take, with a few problems that exceed those of the Montagues and the Capulets. The best thing about the show are the leads– especially Jason Bowen’s “Romeo” who is sexy, rash, romantic, loose and is completely comfortable in his own skin and Shakespeare’s cadences. Julie Ann Earls as the more circumspect “Juliet” has the tougher role– she captures Juliet’s exuberance, but doesn’t quite convey Juliet’s subtler poise in managing her more impulsive lover. I love that the action begins before you know it, and that the actors jump in and use the audience (half seated onstage!) to play off, in a way that feels exciting rather than forced. I loved thinking about Shakespeare’s poetry as early rap.
This is a young, hip, multi-cultural, cast and transgendered interpretation that includes Mercutio (Maurice Emmanuel Parent) entering while singing “Blurred Lines,” and “Benvolio” recast as a woman (Paige Clark) named “Benvolia.” Juliet’s dad (Ken Baltin) looks and sounds like a mean, mush-mouthed Jewish salesman in an slouchy gray suit, while her mom (Miranda Craigwell) is coolly decked out like a six-foot tall Somalian model with platform heels and leather-corseted cleavage– and never breaks a sweat. Paula Langton is blousy and eccentric as Juliet’s Nurse, looking more like one of Cindy Lauper’s girls who “wanna have fun” than anyone you’d ever entrust with your baby. Corralling these wildly varying physical types requires aesthetic cohesion– either in the form of scenic design, costumes, playing style, lighting, or a unified directorial vision (Bobbie Steinbach and Allyn Burrows co-direct) to make it gel. It doesn’t.
And two key moments are dramatically muffled here: 1)the pair’s first lovestruck meeting– one minute they’re dancing, the next they’re kissing; I was unconvinced. When did THAT happen? 2) Later, when Juliet drifts off to sleep after imbibing the friar’s sleeping potion–the moment begged for the light to slowly dim as Juliet descends into her death sleep, and then warm up slowly as the dawn reveals the tragic realities to come. And there is one especially clunky, downright dangerous looking setpiece — a two tiered, wooden, sliver-inducing bed/coffin on wheels, that the actors seemed to contort themselves painfully on, around, or almost falling off! They need to top that thing with a mattress and cover it. See what you think: ROMEO & JULIET at the Strand Theatre through November 3.
BURNING at Boston Playwrights’ Theatre is Ginger Lazarus’s modern riff on “Cyrano De Bergerac.” This time a lesbian ex-Army sergeant named “Cy” (Mal Malme) waxes poetic via a lunky hunk (Ian Michaels) of a male soldier in order to woo the woman–Rose (Jessica Webb)– whom they both love. The action is further complicated by Cy’s past, and psychic damage from the army’s “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy. Layers of lies leave layers of tragic results, proving emotionally, physically, and spiritually devastating. The cast is uniformly effective and convincing– with one major exception– Mal Malme who is in every scene and is likable– but stiff in the role. Even so, I loved the play, its language and the intelligent/explosive but non-exploitive way in which these issues are explored at every level, including the ways in which silence kills and words free us. At Boston Playwrights’ Theatre through October 20
ONE MAN, TWO GUVNORS–– Richard Bean’s farce at the Lyric Stage. I was bored out of my gourd. Two plus hours of non-stop (please make it stop) hi-jinks — a modern British update of Goldoni’s 18th century comedy classic THE SERVANT OF TWO MASTERS. I don’t much care for the original either. I hate farce. This tedious tepid production– a big hit on Broadway– about a servant trying to serve two masters, with drippy 60’s musical intervals live on stage– didn’t make me change my mind. Couldn’t stand the mugging, the silly jokes, the corny slapstick, and obvious predicaments. The pace seemed sluggish rather than madcap. Our own Governor was in the house the afternoon I saw it and he told me he’d heard it was good! Alas, I am a critic– and not that politic. At The Lyric Stage Company of Boston Through October 12.