Non-Registered Critics: Paul Birchall

Dec

Blacktop Highway

Fleck’s smartly timed, perfectly pitched performance, filled with craziness, fun, and wisdom, keep us guessing. It’s a real pleasure to see something as compelling and fresh as this wonderfully odd work.

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Nov

Letters From Home

That said, worthy and deeply personal as this production is, it nevertheless lacks the dramatic heft of a storyline. The personal anecdotes are indeed moving and nicely executed, and McClure stages them with sensitivity, but there is no actual drama in the narrative, and the results are a show that is perhaps slighter and more ephemeral than it might be.

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Nov

The Woman Who Went to Space as a Man

It’s clear what Huskey is trying to do here, which is to present Sheldon as a feminist heroine — but this could easily have been done without this flatfooted surreal approach. One suspects Sheldon, a steadfastly matter-of-fact stylist, is likely to have found as disconnecting as we do.

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Oct

American Hero

Director James Eckhouse’s affectionate tone, which melds whimsy with a snarky attitude towards the all too recognizable corporate culture, is executed with style and surprising urgency. The ensemble work is tight and funny. – RECOMMENDED

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Sep

I AM CHARLIE

Cardinal’s stylish piece, harrowingly executed by Joe Le Mieux with maximum intensity and commitment, is a striking tour de force,… Director Tom Waters’ production is rich with calculatedly disturbing elements.

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Aug

PARADISE – A Divine Bluegrass Musical Comedy

In director Michael Myers’ peppy if straightforward staging, the songs are pleasantly frothy, and the cast certainly is game for it. The book, however, plays like an early draft that needs serious workshopping before going before an audience.

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Aug

Longing Pinocchio

…the performers spin the incredibly modest resources of a tiny venue, a few platforms, and a sound system into the most compelling theatrical gold… Yes, the narrative is traditional, but the general mood of eerie unease, combined with imaginative moments and gestures, belies its deceptive simplicity. – RECOMMENDED

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Aug

Side by Side by Sondheim

The four-person ensemble is certainly game, but director Dan Fishbach’s direction so limits the choreography that the production comes across as a slightly animated concert performance. The best interpretations are those in which the performers add personality to the numbers. The less successful ones are competently sung, but forgettable the moment they’re over —dismaying when you’re talking about Sondheim’s best.

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Jun

Aleichem Sholom! The wit and wisdom of Sholom Aleichem

Their charisma together is impressive, and they possess what appears to be a genuine closeness that comes across as a great stage partnership. The result is a show that’s a little iconic that holds a place within a larger body of work, more than itself alone.

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Jun

The Midnight Menagerie

It would be a stretch to call Pfeltz’s shallow, sadistic piece a work of Grand Guignol — it hasn’t the emotional depth for that — but there’s something energizing about the sheer wickedness and cruelty of the situations he puts his characters in. However, these setups frequently devolve with such extreme sadism and camp that any emotion we might feel is undercut.

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Jun

The Universe (101)

Stone and Godfrey (who are credited as the piece’s creators, producers and directors) have crafted a delightful, quirky vignette that is full of daffy, Monty Python-like absurdity wrapped around a Douglas (“Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”) Adams-like comic riff on the themes of quantum physics and magic. Indeed, their artful melding of magic and narrative is almost a trick itself. – RECOMMENDED

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Apr

DAMAGED FURNITURE

The show boasts quick-witted, funny dialogue and vivid multidimensional characters. At the same time, for all its glib charm and humor, the play is laced with an underlying melancholy, creating an atmosphere that’s part sitcom, part piquant meditation on our difficult relationship with family. It’s surprisingly wise and funny. – RECOMMENDED

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Mar

A Streetcar Named Desire

Even a modern classic like this one requires a reason to be presented or it comes across as recycled and tired. Michetti elegantly bypasses all these pitfalls by fashioning a production that’s fresh as a daisy and as powerful as a right hook from Stanley Kowalski. – RECOMMENDED

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Nov

The Secret in the Wings

…playwright Mary Zimmerman’s gorgeously rendered adaptation of a number of fantastic stories will frankly blow your mind. It will also remind you of the more disturbing roots of these stories, planted deep in the collective unconscious where dark creatures roam and human motivations are more jagged than the road through a moonlit forest. Zimmerman’s anthology, which receives a masterful staging in director Joseph V. Calarco’s handsome production, contains so many unsettling ideas and events, that it stays unnervingly in your memory long after you leave the theater…The ensemble work is masterful: The cast wrings pathos and humor from situations which, on the page, sometimes make no sense at all. – RECOMMENDED

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Nov

Redline and Sinner’s Laundry

Director Eli Gonda stages the monologues with a mostly unintrusive hand, letting the disturbing subject matter speak for itself. – RECOMMENDED

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Oct

With Love and a Major Organ

Notwithstanding the pretentious novelties—which tend to reduce sympathy for the narrative—Boston Court’s production values are remarkably strong, and director Jessica Kubzansky polishes up the insubstantial and inconsequential nonsense to a startlingly appealing sheen.

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Oct

Exit Strategy

Holter’s beautifully written piece crackles with energy and passion — it hearkens back to those early British plays by Harold Brenton and David Hare in the way it combines issues and politics with emotion and personality. – RECOMMENDED

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Sep

Daytona

Abetted by director Elina de Santos, the acting is beyond powerful. It’s a real joy to see performers of a certain age realizing plays with this much emotional impact. – Recommended

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Aug

Sequence

That’s rather a hefty theme for a theatrical comedy, but to his credit, Lakra skillfully embodies his arcane concepts in delightful characters. Under Bruce Gay’s direction, their appeal increases, even as their mouths unspool with all the babble of a mid-level college physics discussion section.

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Aug

Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris

Fishbach basically sets the stage and lets the performers do their thing. And the cast certainly is likable and technically assured.

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