Play by play: October 9, 2009

By JEFFREY GANTZ  |  October 7, 2009

FENCES | Set on a scruffy patch of yard off a Pittsburgh alley in 1957, August Wilson’s first Pulitzer winner centers on an embittered titan of a garbage collector who claims to have wrestled down the Devil and also includes a mentally damaged character whose perceived connections to Heaven turn out to be quite genuine. As in Wilson’s other finest works, it’s this combination of the mundane and the miraculous — interwoven in a rich tapestry of black speech that draws on the church, the street, and the blues — that makes the play not only hard-hitting but transcendent. And slammed here by the bat of the Huntington Theatre Company, the baseball-centric drama soars. Frequent Wilson collaborator Kenny Leon is at the helm, with Wilson vet John Beasley filling James Earl Jones’s shoes if not quite supplying his thunder as Herculean hauler of refuse Troy Maxson, and Crystal Fox turning in a subtly devastating performance as wife Rose. The supporting players, uniformly fine, include Bill Nunn’s big, shuffling baby of a Gabriel, Troy’s brother, whose World War II brain injury financed the Maxson home. | Boston University Theatre, 264 Huntington Ave, Boston | 617.266.0800 | Through October 11 | Curtain 7:30 pm Thurs | 8 pm Fri | 2 + 8 pm Sat | 2 pm Sun | $20-$82.50

KISS ME, KATE | With its supreme Cole Porter score, this 1948 adaptation of The Taming of the Shrew is surely one of the half-dozen best Broadway musicals. The setting is the Baltimore tryout of a new musical of Shakespeare’s comedy, and its stars are a one-time married couple whose combative relationship emulates that of Petruchio and Katharine. This Lyric Stage production isn’t the best: the choreography seems hampered by the constricted space, the movement from scene to scene isn’t organic, and the sets and costumes are unattractive. The cast members — led by Peter Davenport as Fred Graham/Petruchio, Amelia Broome as Lilli Vanessi/Katharine, Michele DeLuca as Lois Lane/Bianca, and R. Patrick Ryan as Bill Calhoun/Lucentio — appear to have been chosen more for their pipes than for their acting chops; the singing is efficient but the dialogue scenes lack verve and rhythm. Yet from beyond the grave Cole Porter keeps bailing the production out — there isn’t a second-rate tune in the entire show. | 140 Clarendon St, Boston | 617.585.5678 | Through October 10 | Curtain 7:30 pm Thurs | 8 pm Fri | 3 + 8 pm Sat | $25-$54

LITTLE BLACK DRESS | “What would you do for a string of pearls?” That’s the question Irish dramatist Ronan Noone (Brendan, The Atheist) poses in his new play, and by way of answering, we’re told, he “culls all the dark humor and pathos from the Kansas prairie, where every girl wants to be Grace Kelly.” The cast includes Jeremiah Kissel, Marianna Bassham, Karl Baker Olson, and Alex Pollock; Ari Edelson directs. | Boston Playwrights’ Theatre, 949 Comm Ave, Boston | 866.811.4111 | Through October 24 | Curtain 7:30 pm Wed [October 21] + Thurs | 8 pm Fri | 4 + 8 pm Sat | 2 pm Sun | $30; $25 seniors; $10 students | Carolyn Clay’s review on page 28

THE MOJO AND THE SAYSO | THIS UP YOU MIGHTY RACE COMPANY PRODUCTION HAS BEEN CANCELLED.

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