I don’t need to tell you how good of a musical Next to Normal is — it won a Pulitzer; we all know how good it is. Nor will it be a surprise to hear that Tony-winning director David Cromer has created a masterful evening of small and terrifyingly intimate moments with a deft, spare, and nuanced hand. Instead, I’d like to focus on why this show had me weeping uncontrollably for most of its second act, and how I think it got there.
For those unfamiliar, Next to Normal is the story of the suburban, middle-class, normal-seeming Goodman family. Our central character, Diana (Keely Vasquez), struggles to live her adult life while dealing with severe and often crippling bipolar disorder. Her husband Dan (David Schlumpf) and teenage kids Natalie and Gabe (Kyrie Courter and Liam Oh), meanwhile, must deal with the side effects of Diana’s dysfunction. Continue reading “I’m Not Crying, You’re Crying!: The Edifice of Self in Next to Normal at Writers Theatre”
Elizabeth Ann Michaela Keel’s Corona takes place on a beautiful set designed by Hannah Beaudry; squarish, obsidian walls, accented with vibrantly lit-up panels that shine with different garish colors throughout. A raised white dais, which looks equal parts marble and futuristic, rises from the stage’s middle and invokes our collective idea of what a starship bridge looks like without mimicking it outright. In addition, right away we are treated to brilliant projections and lighting design from Claire Sangster; the contrast of the black set with monochromatic floods of blue, or pink, or orange create a lovely, spooky, and (pardon the pun) otherworldly feel. In director Tiffany Keane Schaefer’s production, the back wall and side panels show projections of stars and nebulae as they slowly drift by. Continue reading “‘Corona’ Shines Bright at Otherworld Theatre Company”
Before the performance of Detour Guide that I saw began, a producer from Silk Road Rising came out to talk to the audience. Before the usual pre-show announcements, he began by acknowledging the terrorist attacks in New Zealand, the news of which had broken just that morning. The audience shared a moment of silence, and then Karim Nagi came onstage to tell us a story that sought, in all aspects, to humanize and demystify the Arab world. He delved into the music, culture, and history of Egypt, Syria, and many other Arabic-speaking nations. He analyzed portrayals of the Arab world in Hollywood movies and attempted to dismantle stereotypes. He told stories of his childhood, growing up in America as the son of Egyptian immigrants, and of his trips back there. Detour Guide is a screamingly necessary show in this political era, where racist and anti-Muslim stereotypes are being peddled by the most powerful people in the Western world to immediate and devastating effect, as the news that morning reminded us. This is a show that rightfully forced me to address and challenge my own biases. Nagi goes out of his way to make us uncomfortable, and make us examine why we like or dislike certain cultural narratives. Continue reading “‘Detour Guide’ is A Sorely Needed Story That Stumbles in the Telling”
A Number, presented at Writers’ Theatre and directed by Robin Witt, takes place in a world designed by Courtney O’Neill — a spare yet expensive-looking living room, eerily clean, with just a few couches and tables and sculptures. The space feels erudite and smooth, yet the slightest bit empty and creepy. The stage is illuminated by four wall lights that shine a crystal-clear white, and a big window at the back that turns blue and gray and white at key moments in the show; lighting designer Brandon Wardell does admirable work creating tension in the space. Continue reading “A Grounded, Subtle, Sci-Fi Thrill Ride in ‘A Number’ at Writers Theatre”
The Man Who Was Thursday is adapted from a novel originally published in 1908, but I went into it knowing nothing and I cannot recommend this approach enough. Currently running at Lifeline Theatre, The Man Who was Thursday is a lovely byzantine maze of subterfuge, false identities, and plot twists, and the less you know going in, the more fun you’ll have. Continue reading “‘The Man Who Was Thursday’ is a Pitch-Perfect Mix of Intrigue, Nostalgia, and Innovation”
A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, by Robert L. Freedman and Steven Lutvak, takes place in London at the turn of the 20th century, and concerns the adventures of middle-class stockbroker Monty Navarro (Andrés Enriquez) — who, upon learning that his recently deceased mother was disinherited from the obscenely wealthy D’Ysquith family (all played by Matt Crowle), sets out to murder his relatives as revenge. And also so that he can, not uncoincidentally, become next in line to be the Earl of Highhurst. Continue reading “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder is Rib-Cracking Fun”
Strawdog Theatre is always a lovely space to walk into; I’m a sucker for small, intimate blackboxes, and the alley seating and soft music playing as you file into Little Women, produced by Brown Paper Box Co., is quite calming. The set (designed by Jeremy Hollis) is simple and straightforward in all the right ways, with just a few leather trunks serving as both scenery and furniture. On the ceiling and by both entrances are panels of darkened wood that are evocative of 1800’s New England architecture while remaining unobtrusive. Continue reading “Love, Life, and Loss: ‘Little Women’ at Brown Paper Box Co. is a Balm for Troubled Times”