Monday, March 30, 2009

Good Boston theater: The Pain and the Itch and Aloha, Say the Pretty Girls

Saw a double-header of theater this weekend, not something I get to do as much as I used to, primarily because I simply can't afford the price of a ticket. Disposable income is not something Sue and I have a lot of, and if we have any at all it almost exclusively goes straight into the travel fund. On a Friday or Saturday night you're as likely to find us at home, reading or delving into our musical pursuits as much as you'll see us out on the town.


Currently there are two shows running in Boston that are must-sees: The Pain and the Itch at the BCA, produced by Company One, and Aloha, Say the Pretty Girls at The Factory Theater, produced by Holland Productions. Both are crisply written, superbly acted, and very well-directed.

The Pain and the Itch is aptly titled because it is painful to watch what you're seeing on stage and you will squirm from that itch in your very private parts: A family of very well-off white people who drink the right white wine and watch PBS and espouse all the appropriate, liberal values. Of course there are a few characters who act as flies in the ointment, but funny, those aren't the ones who are making us squirm. The cast is a terrific ensemble. There's no need to give accolades to any one actor on the stage because each character is perfectly drawn and presented, and meshes (or not) with the other characters. The set is sublime, complete with working HD TV. Get ready for the surprise ending, which frankly, threw me at first. Contrived, I wondered, until I reached back and realized how deftly the playwright, actors, and director led me by the nose.

Aloha, Say the Pretty Girls, as the title might intimate, asks, Are there times when you can't tell if your life is coming or going? Well, then aloha, which means both hello and goodbye. A fun, quirky script that transverses time and space--one minute you're in Alaska, the next Hawaii, and sometimes that person looks vaguely familiar and so does the dog. The cast barrels along at a non-stop brisk pace, and it's all fun but in retrospect it does ask some serious questions, particularly about our relationships with one another. And that's the production's charm: It's so darn entertaining you forget its serious theater until you're having drinks afterwards.

If I don't call attention to particular cast members of either production, both directors should be given high praise. Avid baseball fans will know that many times a win on a sleepy, hot summer's day comes from one manager out-dueling the other. The success of both productions rests humbly and mightily on the shoulders of their respective directors: M. Bevin O'Gara for The Pain and the Itch and Krista D'Agostino for Aloha, Say the Pretty Girls.

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