There’s a BIG FISH flopping around onstage over at SPEAKEASY. It’s a tale by Daniel Wallace born as a novel, morphed into a film by Tim Burton, then blown up to a broadway musical, with a book by John August and music/lyrics by Andrew Lippa–who then scaled it back from 26 actors to 12, and gave it its “intimate” New England premiere.
The relationship between a tall tale-telling traveling salesman Edward Bloom (Steven Goldstein) and his decidedly down-to-earth son Will (Sam Simahk) hangs in the balance. Will can’t bear his dad’s exaggerations– or are they? When dad’s on his deathbed, the son must get to the truth. Some of the stories may be true and even stranger than fiction. This is one of the show’s problems– it’s never clear what’s true and what isn’t; all of it seems far-fetched.
In any case, we are firmly told in the opening number, “you need to be the hero in your story and the world can be yours.” The songs are well sung by this talented cast, but the tunes and lyrics are generic. Can’t get past Sondheim covering similar “fairy tale meets reality” ground in his brilliant INTO THE WOODS. The lighting is flat, the costumes nondescript, the sets downright unattractive. Though the last scene reeled me in and made me shed a tear, the rest of the show is still on the hook for a credible plot and memorable tunes. Through April 11 at SpeakEasy Stage Company.
Another New England premiere presented by Company One glares at the dark underside of fairytales in SHOCKHEADED PETER. 11 vignettes are performed from a famous 19th century German children’s book by Heinrich Hoffmann, who wrote it for his 3 year old! There are twisted tales of naughty kidlets and the evils that befall them. If they suck their thumbs, those thumbs will be snipped off!! Other horrors await finicky eaters, fidgety seaters, and kitty tormenters. Company One’s production unfolds like a gruesome victorian greeting card, and explores what happens when our stifled fears fester, swell, and explode in our faces. Call me sick– but shouldn’t this be, well, fun and scary? The show is smart, but over plays its hand. A tediously self-conscious MC (Alexandria King) appears to be channeling Gloria Swanson by way of Dracula. Each scene is pitched the same: too high. Inventive staging and costumes YES, but The Tiger Lillies music well-played by Walter Sickert & The Army of Broken Toys (click on the link to hear “Snip Snip”) was too sing song for my taste and regrooved the monotonous tone. 90 minutes felt like an eternity in a dungeon. Through April 4 at Suffolk’s Modern Theatre.
Finally, there’s LIFERS a new play by John Shea and Maureen Cornell presented by Argos Productions and Happy Medium Theatre, a long list of credits for a very slight work that’s barely a notch above dinner theater. In fact, it’s set in a neighborhood restaurant about to go upscale and turn its meatloaf into filet mignon and its old staff into a tailspin: grumpy chef, veteran chain smoking waitress, gay waiter with attitude– cliches all. Fringe stalwarts Maureen Adduci, Peter Brown, & company are better than the material. Brett Marks smoothly directs the farce; but it’s meatloaf just the same. Through April 4 at Boston Playwrights’ Theatre.