To see OR not to see? That is the question I will answer about what’s onstage around town right now.AS YOU LIKE IT

To see: AS YOU LIKE IT presented by Actors’ Shakespeare Project at the Springstep Building in Medford! Full disclosure: my husband the brilliant architect Andrew Cohen of ACTWO Architects designed the building, and it has for the first time been used– and cleverly– by a theater company. The modern space at the edge of Medford Center (this the first time I’ve ever heard the sound of an airplane over the Forest of Arden) embraces a fresh retelling of the bard’s comedy about lovers in disguise, pairs of rival siblings, the cast doubling their parts with counterparts, the action reiterated by a wall of mirrors behind– reflecting the dichotomies in front. At one point a verbal quartet erupts, echoing the parallel plans of pairs of characters headed to the Forest of Arden to straighten things out!

The costumes– weird Edwardian amalgamations are oddly unattractive. But the fight scenes are acrobatically choreographed by Robert Walsh, while this equally nimble cast delivers the goods– especially Brooke Hardman who is a funny, vivacious Rosalind/Gannymede in men’s clothing. When she toys with the besotted Orlando (Jesse Hinson) and challenges his love poems tacked to the trees, the comedy catches fire and sweeps us up in the rhythm of this forest idyll of love, music (beautiful bittersweet melodies by David Reiffel),  justice,  jubilation and some of Shakespeare’s divinely worded observations about melancholy, truth, and the passage of time. Through May 18 at SPRINGSTEP in Medford!

Snow-White-2-540x359To see: SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN BOTTOMS by mad genius Ryan Landry’s raunchy, riotous, and unrelentingly talented Gold Dust Orphans. Ryan himself plays the long-lashed, archly browed, thoroughly bitchy wicked queen, she of the ultra high collar, and low down intentions. (In this get up, Landry bears quite a resemblance to 1920’s wealthy socialite Millicent Rogers– look her up). Her “mirror mirror on the wall” is played by the infinitely talented Olive Another–who has a ball: saucy, droll, with a big rich voice and a silvery smirk. Snow White is sung to perfection by Jessica Barstis and inevitably flips us out when she tips over for the inevitable panty-exposing pole dance. Paul V. Melendy is exceptionally funny and well-sung as the pantalooned Prince Charming who may be panting after the wrong partner. The recklessly paced show (directed by James P. Byrne and choreographed by Meredith Langton) is laced with wildly bawdy byplay and a torrent of tunes plucked from Landry’s seemingly inexhaustible and encyclopedic repertoire of musical references; elaborate production numbers are capped off by costumes wittily obscene– in one case punctuated by penises rapped like dainty rose bouquets. Ah romance– the seven bottoms -among them Bette, Liza and Cher– are puppets (thank god) who are violated in hygienically creative ways. DO NOT TAKE THE KIDS– even if they would like Ryan’s little Jack Russell “Rhoda” who makes her marvelous cameos, and bears her master’s theatrical hijinks with the sangfroid of a doggie decidedly not in heat. THIS SHOW IS CRAZY FUN– through May 18 at THE RAMROD CENTER FOR THE PERFORMING ARTS!

18moon1To see: WHERE THE MOUNTAIN MEETS THE MOON at Wheelock Family Theatre is a beautiful looking production based on Grace Lin’s book about a young girl named Minli (an expressive Caroline Workman) who, inspired by her father’s telling of Chineses folk tales, sets out on a fantastical journey to find the Old Man of the Moon– and her fortune! Indeed, a beautiful moon hangs over the action, gracefully directed by Jane Staab who also voices Gold and Silver Fish. The entire design team gives us enchantment– evocative colorful sets & costumes, while Craig A. Zemsky’s lighting adds another layer of magic.

The problem for me was the storytelling itself, adapted by Jeannine Coulombe. There are many tales to keep track of, and tales within tales– like a narrative hall of mirrors and I got lost. I can only imagine how the kids in the audience were faring on this overly intricate journey. But the matinee audience packed mostly with kids the day I saw it–seemed wrapped up in the color, music, movement, and a cast of child actors often making their entrances by running through the audience and up onto the stage. Gauge your child’s attention span and decide if your darlings meet the duration: two hours 15 minutes works! Through May 11 at WHEELOCK FAMILY THEATRE.

Not to see: The World Premiere of Sila produced by Underground Railway Theater at Central Square Theater. It’s about the melting of the polar ice caps, and its affect on the animals and indigenous cultures on Baffin Island and beyond. The play is about as compelling as watching a glacier melt– though the repercussions of said melting are nothing to 10246472_10152349453264712_6834553064594727351_nsneeze at. However, agenda driven theater about climate change in the Arctic needs to be anchored by human drama, and that’s what’s sorely missing here. The interactions of a climatologist, an Inuit activist and her daughter, and two polar bears struggling to survive, are mostly talk. Ironically, the polar bears had me at hello. These beautiful big puppets operated by a several people with the actors doubling as their speaking voices–were mesmerizing, and ended up breaking my heart. Not so much the humans– until one shattering scene in ACT II that broke my heart.

The rest is talk, and data, and undeveloped characters and stiff actors who don’t feel real or connect; the exceptions are Sophorl Ngin as Veronica/Mother Bear and Theresa Nguyen as Daughter Bear.  SILA– written by Chantal Bilodeau and directed by Megan Sandberg-Zakian–is oddly sentimental and cold. “SILA” which means “breath” in Inuit–is the one thing missing here: the breath of life. Through May 25 at CENTRAL SQUARE THEATER.