Now that OSCAR has “officially” put last year’s movie season to bed, here’s what’s kept me woke lately on stage:
ORLANDO: This attractive, jam-packed production bursts from the compact LYRIC STAGE. Sets and costumes are stripped down, beautiful, and efficient– allowing for the fleet passage of time! Sara Ruhl’s play is adapted from Virginia Woolf’s satiric, feminist fever-dream-on-a-gender-bender of a novel, inspired by the author’s love affair with poet/novelist Vita Sackville-West.
The protagonist starts out as a young nobleman named ORLANDO (a handsome Caroline Lawton) who dreams of adventure and becoming a writer. His exploits take him far and wide, over 3 centuries of literary history– and both genders. You see, one morning HE wakes up as SHE, and ironically is even more liberated as she continues to cavort with poets and prostitutes, English queens and Russian figure-skating princesses, sea captains and Spanish dancers. Woolf’s sexual inclinations were much broader than the law allowed in England in 1928, but her imagination has free rein here as she explores the nature of identity, its constancy over time, as she skewers the shifting mores of various eras. It’s a tricky show to stage, but director on speed A.Nora Long and this game cast of five who play an exponential number of parts– keep this timely transgender romp moving at a cool 90 minutes–through March 25!
RIPE FRENZY--a National New Play Network Rolling World Premiere by Jennifer Barclay is fresh off the headlines. A tragedy hovers over the action of the play which follows the days and moments leading up to that event as a tight knit community prepares for a school production of OUR TOWN. The poignant tone and universality of Thornton Wilder’s original is imported here as narrator and town historian Zoe takes the stage. Time is fluid, perspective is all. The excellent Veronica Duerr pulls us in immediately. She’s a vibrant presence, immediately in charge, credible up close in the tiny Studio ONE theater at B.U.’s College of Fine Arts.
As various students and adults enter and leave the stage preparing to mount this play within a play, we come to know them, and their history with these roles and each other. The pieces begin to fall together as we suddenly find ourselves standing on the precipice of a point of view not easily taken, face to face with questions that have no answers. “Ripe Frenzy” (unfortunate title) takes a contemporary look at what sense we can make of the senseless random cruelties that befall us: How do we survive? See this co-production smartly directed by Bridget Kathleen O’Leary presented by New Repertory Theatre and Boston Center for American Performance through March 11!
EVERY BRILLIANT THING–I would put the star of this show and its director on the list of brilliant things they do onstage in this town. Two of our very best actresses–Adrianne Krstansky directed by Marianna Bassham in her directing debut– have mounted this show about a young girl who begins compiling a list of 10 things that she thinks are brilliant. The list begins with “ice cream” and “staying up past your bedtime and being allowed to watch TV!” (I still delight in giving myself permission to do just that almost every night…!). The list is a way for the young girl to cope with what ails her, namely her mother– a depressed woman who has attempted suicide. Ah.
The list grows as the girl does, and eventually encompasses hundreds of thousands of “wonderful and life-affirming” things that provide ballast against life’s sorrows and hardship. It’s a solo show, technically, but the entire audience is involved from the start, and Krstansky’s warmth, and relaxed way with a part allows us comfortably in. You will smile and no doubt laugh; you might cry; you will feel many different things as Adrianne races around the audience telling her life story. There are surprises– and we end up playing parts we didn’t expect. But mostly we come to feel that we are all in this brilliant thing together. By the time Krstansky attempts to high five the entire audience, it doesn’t matter if she actually does it or not; she had me at hello. See this brisk 70 minute spiritual tune up disguised as a play by Duncan Macmillan at SpeakEasy Stage through March 31!