There’s a trove of theater to discover in Boston RIGHT NOW! Here’s more of what I’ve seen onstage in the last 10 days.
“THE STONE“– Take a trip to Needham and up a narrow staircase to a tiny theater and a troupe of artists bursting with ideas, talent, and drama. Award-winning Russian theater company Arlekin Players works in English and Russian and I popped into see their latest avant garde undertaking “The Stone” by Marius von Mayenburg, directed by company artistic director Igor Golyak, with an extraordinary scenic design by David R. Gammons.
The play is a difficult one, whose action we enter midway, and which is devised to reveal itself in layers as its conflicting truths and lies sneak up on you and pull you in. But the Arlekin Players provide detailed program notes to fill in historical context and guide you through. The play tells the story of a house, its many inhabitants, and its secrets, buried and excavated by this troupe’s daring approach.
The Jewish Heising family in 1935 Nazi Germany, is under duress to sell their home to a German couple, named Schwarzmann. The fallout from that sale, theft, crime– is explored within the context of rising German antisemitism and through decades of shifting ownership as succeeding generations dig up, reclaim, and bear the burden of its tainted legacy. The performances and set are uniquely rendered. The chronology ricochets from one era to the next between 1935 and 1993, the actors trodding the boards, churning up time and shapeshifting as they go, playing the same characters aging through decades with no more than a look, an inflection, a tweak of bearing. Darya Denisova as the German matriarch Witha must have witchcraft at her disposal. Her scenes with Jewish matriarch Mieze played by the intense and stunning Rimma Gluzman are riveting. All of the performances are passionately delivered, the challenging production highly condensed to reveal its truths slyly, suddenly, and without sentimentality.
All of the actors are in mud-spattered white garments, all of them stained by the past– those victimized as well as those complicit. Truths are buried in the garden where things grow and die; in the course of the play, a telling stone is uncovered and with it a sullied history dredged up from the grave. That grave is here literally represented by a long gash running right through the middle of a wide, horizontal wooden stage, regurgitating its dark past, the wreckage of ruined lives are heaved up from the ground, a destroyed piano hovers as characters emerge from and sink back into the past while an elegant old chandelier glows dimly overhead.
Add to this already saturated scenario, a series of video screens around the perimeter, hidden cameras, an intricate and evocative lighting scheme and sound design, and we have a intensely immersive experience. The play seeps into your skin and left me reeling. See THE STONE before it closes September 29!
LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS the darkly comic Alan Menken/Howard Ashman musical by way Motown and B-moviemaker Roger Corman has opened LYRIC STAGE COMPANY’s 45th season. This production of the classic musical about a bloodthirsty plant blooming in a skid row florist shop has a solid pedigree: Rachel Bertone directs and choreographs, Janie Howland provided the scenic design, and most voices are terrific particularly back up singers Chiffon, Crystal and Ronnette (Pier Lamia Porter, Lovely Hoffman, and Carla Martinez). The main reason to see it is a standout performance by Katrina Z. Pavao as poor, sweet, high-heeled Audrey teetering on the tip of a bad relationship & whose vocals are as tight as her skirts. She’s sweetly vulnerable and we can’t wait until her brute of a boyfriend is swallowed whole by the predatory plant. But when all is said and done, it’s still LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS and I have never been able to cultivate much of an appetite for its creepy symbiosis of humor, horror, & horticulture. Through October 6 at Lyric Stage.
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