Friday, May 21, 2010

Check out these Boston theater productions: Farragut North, Family Stories, Betrayal, and Boston Theatre Marathon XII

Have been seeing some really good theater in the Boston area that I'd like to pass along to you.

Lately I've been sitting in the audience thinking back to my old days in school as a photography major. Back then--and this was just as this weird new technology called video was just on the rise--photography was the hip visual technology, and the people who majored in things like printmaking were sort of the anachronisms of the art world.

As a writer, I'm always curious about the structure of the different pieces I've been watching, and the subject matter, and I'm curious about theater's role in society, and if it currently has a real and important and persistent place.

That all aside, here are a few shows that are still up and running that I suggest you see.

I'll start with Farragut North, produced by Zeitgeist Stage Company, in its final week at the Plaza Black Box theater at the Boston Center for the Arts. At some point I heard someone describe Farragut North as The West Wing on crack. Farragut North is a very approachable show in terms of its topic, and mirroring a lot of characteristics of popular television: very fast pace, in your face drama, broadly defined characters facing extraordinary moral questions. It depicts the descent of a political press secretary during a modern presidential campaign, with hard-hitting Mametesque dialogue, and all the misplaced ambition, paranoia, and gluttony for power that we've all come to expect from our leaders. In short, its something we all can quickly identify. Right up to the end there's a moral battle that entices the audience. Always a good sign, after the production I found myself on the sidewalk talking about the story and the characters as if they were real. For someone in theater, to shuck your theater facade and actually become a participatory audience member is high compliments for a show. This is definitely a must-see.

Second on my list is Family Stories, produced by Whistler in the Dark and running for two more weeks at the Factory Theatre. After seeing the show I said to both director and Whistler artistic director Meg Taintor and actress Mellisa Barker that I have no idea what I had just seen, but I loved it. Set in Belgrade in 1998, the country is wracked by violence, civil war, paranoia, famine, and all the other accoutrements of war and civil strife that would plague the citizenry. Jarring emotions and actions play out on the stage, and Family Stories presents an abstract and fragmented view of what life was like during those times. A magnificent piece of theater that will challenge you, and answered the question I had halfway through the production: What kind of life caused someone to write all this? If you're curious about the world, outside of the safe little box most of us live within, go see this.

Last night Harold Pinter's Betrayal opened at the Calderwood Pavillion at the Boston Center for the Arts last night. I'm house manager for the first week (so if you come this weekend you'll get a cheery greeting from me; be sure to say hi), and last night I was lucky enough to be able to see the entire show from the second row. The kind of opening night that I saw last night, where all the tech comes off smoothly and the actors are connecting in a very deep and real way means that this show has nothing else to do but keep getting better and better. Of course, like the other shows I mentioned, I know a few of the actors and technical people. And sometimes that's a problem because you know the actors on stage as people in the "real world." That didn't happen last night watching Lyralen Kaye and Wayne Fritsche (and I'll also say the same for Victor Shopov in Farragut North and Melissa Barker in Family Stories.) Wayne tears your heart out as Robert, the culkhold husband of Lyralen's Emma. Lyralen is the founder and artistic director of Another Country Productions that espouses and promotes Meisner training. Quoting the promo piece, "It’s not about star power so much as it is about ensemble and connection. Betrayal, with its nuance and levels of emotional complication, could not be better served than by this technique." Good acting is simply about human relationships, that spark that jumps across the synapses that exist between all of us. This production of Betrayal is about that and so much more. Again, go see this one.

Finally, a heads up that Boston Playwrights' Theatre is presenting the Boston Theatre Marathon XII this Sunday, May 23 from 12 noon to 10 pm.

50 ten-minute plays by 50 New England playwrights presented by 50 New England theatre companies in 10 hours.

Plus, like last year the Boston Theater Marathon will include The Warm-Up Laps on May 22 featuring free staged readings. These readings are presented in association with the Boston Center for the Arts and their resident theatres.

All net proceeds benefit the Theatre Community Benevolent Fund, a non-profit organization that provides financial relief for theatre artists and organizations who face dire need and require financial assistance.

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