TWO WORLD PREMIERES hit the stage in Boston– BOTH very much worth seeing. While not perfect, these works live at the edge of what’s happening now, reminding us with urgency of what we already know and need to address.


THE ART OF BURNING is onstage now at Huntington’s Calderwood Pavilion at the BCA. It’s written by Elliot Norton Prize winner and Boston playwright Kate Snodgrass and directed by Melia Bensussen artistic director of Hartford Stage. The play features a standout cast: the sublime Adrienne Krstansky as Patricia a modernist painter who’s in the middle of a divorce and child custody negotiation, when she rethinks her role as a woman, artist, mother, and wife and decides to change the terms of the transaction. Her soon to be ex-husband Jason (Rom Barkhordar ) is flummoxed and their lawyer Mark (Michael Kaye) falls into a tailspin. Mark’s wife Charlene (the always compelling Laura Latreille) has her own take on her friend Patricia’s situation.

THE ART OF BURNING most aptly describes the performances of these two female leads, Krstansky and Latreille whose performances fire up the action.Their characters ignite the tensions in this funny and furious exhumation of the entrenched misogyny of the old white patriarchy and channel the mythic rage and passion of goddesses whose anger ran deep. I’d love an evening written just for them.

The play starts out as a funny, feisty contemporary domestic dispute around a dissolving marriage, then unexpectedly widens out and bends toward Greek tragedy. There were moments of darkening suspense when I wondered if Patricia were criminally insane and if the play’s structure could support that. But no, the action, the cast, and director navigate the roller coaster of tonal contours seamlessly.  There are big laughs and sudden moments of unexpected tension.

The play dramatizes what bubbles up from the ingrained, unexamined, hidden biases men hold about women, the unconscious ways in which men default to demeaning women, and then unthinkingly pass those biases on. Patricia wants to break the generational trauma, so custody of her and Mark’s daughter Beth (Clio Contogenis–miscast and overbroad) becomes the crucible of the action. As Patricia battles Mark for custody of Beth, Beth battles both parents and herself as an angsty teen struggling to establish her own identity. Nestled within those struggles is the mother/daughter relationship wherein mother and daughter discover connection while navigating overlapping territory.

The play brings up a lot of what we already know about embedded misogyny, the rage it breeds, and creates conversation about how to approach it with a nod to Greek myth.  I think it needs to go even farther, though it does make a stab at a new mythology (Medea was a pawn after all!) wherein women are the prime movers and as artists create their own destinies. As it is, THE ART OF BURNING is an entertaining and necessary reminder of the relentless and subtle ways in which misogyny seeps into our language, assumptions, interactions,  and continues to poison the well from which we all drink.  At the BCA’s Calderwood Pavilion through February 12!

MADE IN CHINA 2.0 is fresh out of China, a solo show created and performed by experimental theater director Wang Chong from Beijing who’s been celebrated for his provocative work, touring throughout China and the world including New York, London, Oslo, Melbourne and beyond, and has worked with avant garde theater directors like Robert Wilson.

This simple, hour-long show was absolutely fascinating, if not technically sophisticated. Chong shares his life and his creative journey alone onstage with the help of a table, a few cameras, an overhead video screen, some smoke and a few props. He emerges barefoot in black and white, a loose and lanky performer who brought an ironic sense of humor, easy physicality, great warmth, and honesty to an hour-long show which reveals an artist fully engaged in his culture and using his personal history, artistic journey, and theater making in China to shed light on the world in which we live. It wasn’t the content of the show that wowed– it was the fact of it. Mindful of 2023 as the Year of the Rabbit in the Chinese zodiac, fill in the blanks and SEE THIS WORLD PREMIERE. At the Emerson Paramount Center Jackie Liebergott Black Box through February 12!