Review by G. L. Horton
Copyright © 1995
Personal Boston "Bests"
This list of "Bests" is necessarily incomplete. I saw less than
half of the productions in the Boston area last year, and an inclusive
list of my most memorable theatre experiences in 1995 would have
to include 5 of the 16 shows I saw in England, and 2 that came
to Boston on tour, but that I saw earlier in NYC: "Angels In
America, parts I & II" and "Three Tall Women".
The outstanding Boston area production of 1995, and a strong
candidate for Best Production of the Decade, was Shakespeare
& Company's "Much Ado About Nothing". Tina Packer conjured
up visions of heart-stopping beauty to fill the huge outdoor stage
at the Mount in Lenox, and her cast played with the across-the-board
depth that only a permanent company with a consistent style of
training and a guiding philosophy can supply.
. In the Huntington Theatre's "A Raisin in the Sun", Ester
Rolle reprised her role as the mother, familiar from the film
version of the play. But this time she pitched it higher, on a
scale that only live theatre can accommodate. With an excellent
supporting cast, director Kenny Leon proved that Lorraine
Hansbury's 1959 drama has passed through "dated" to become
"classic", its three and a half hour length and its extended revelatory
monologues deeply satisfying when performed by actors who know
how to make it sing.
The "Libation Bearers" , the middle play of the American
Repertory Theatre's revisionist "Oresteia" trilogy
, fell between a flawed "Agamemnon" and a misconceived "Eumenides",
but it was an effective staging of a great play, sparked by Tomas
Derrah's Electra-fying performance as the maddened Orestes.
The company had another partially- great production in the Brecht/Weill
"Threepenny Opera" -- the Weill part. Craig Smith's
musical direction was exquisite, and his singers were great actors
as well -- as long as the music lasted. Then they were caught
up in the pointless flounderings and flat "satire" trying to pass
for a coherent re-thinking of the text.
Irish playwright Tom Murphy's "Famine" is a huge and
profound play that deserves to be done by a company with the subsidized
resources of a national theatre, or at least by one of our local
L.O.R.T.'s Much of what goes on in Boston today is a direct result
of what the Irish went through in the1840's, as that experience
shaped the lives of their American immigrant descendants. Carmel
Reilly's Sugan , the local theater devoted to modern Irish
themes and writers, tackled "Famine" in the tiny BCA Theatre
with a minuscule budget and a cast of 23 actors ranging from brilliant
to passable, and emerged victorious. Anyone lucky enough to have
seen it is the richer for it, and in Sugan's debt..
Coyote Theatre's "Top Girls", also at the BCA, was a
vivid and passionate reading of Caryl Churchill's 1980's
script, proving that what once might have seemed doctrinaire politics
tied to a set of topical references resonates more deeply with
the passage of time. Stephanie Clayman led a first-rate
cast in performances that were models of emotional detail, while
director Stephen Maler kept the fireworks firmly subordinated
to the classic conflict at the play's heart.
Frank McGuiness' study of three hostages imprisoned in
the Middle East, "Someone to Watch Over Me", used terrorism
as the excuse to write an actionless meditation on the Great Questions,
and The New Repertory Theatre supplied the rock solid acting
that brought those questions home to the audience with almost
All of the above passed the highest tests, engaging the intelligence
and the imagination in a way that allows them to serve as touchstones
for the rest of the season. But there were also noteworthy productions
at the level right below the highest, in the category of "good
theatre". Paul Dagnaeult's Speakeasy Theatre leads the
list with two winners, "Jeffrey" and "Twilight of the
Golds". Dagnaeult is a wonderful "actor's director", giving
splendid performers like Jeff Miller plenty of scope, while
inspiring others to reach past what had previously seemed to be
their limitations to a new and higher level. Actors should be
lining up to audition for him.
Centastage presented the premiere of "Dancing Downstream",
by local playwright Bill Lattanzi, in a production that,
although insufficiently magical to keep Lattanzi's whimsy airborne
the whole length of the evening, supplied delights of language
and fantasy all too often missing from local stages, whetting
the appetite for more.
The Public Theatre's "Anything Goes" had leading players
worthy of Broadway, and a chorus of hoofers to lift every heart.
Kudos to Spiro Veloudos.
Out of the Blue managed to make a pretty persuasive
case for Tennessee Williams' overheated "Suddenly, Last Summer",
and for Shakespeare and Company's "Goodnight Desdemona"
director Cecil MacKinnon polished Canadian writer Ann-Marie
MacDonald 's wit and swashed her buckles until her playful
Shakespearean parody shone like a minor masterpiece.