Play by play: October 30, 2009

By JEFFREY GANTZ  |  October 28, 2009

THE CARETAKER | Nora Theatre Company opens its 2009–2010 season with Harold Pinter’s 1960 enigma, in which Aston, who’s had electroshock treatment, brings the homeless and difficult Davies back to his ramshackle apartment and the two fence with each other, Aston trying to please Davies while the audience wonders why. It gets still more complicated when Aston’s younger brother, Mick, enters the picture. Director Daniel Gidron does this play by the book, as perhaps one must, and the production achieves its goal of respectfully, even poignantly presenting a once-groundbreaking work. Still, it’s not perfect. Joe Lanza captures the mercurial Mick’s silkiness but not his menace, and Michael Balcanoff conveys hobo Davies’s puling buoyancy but not his full wiliness and seediness. Even John Kuntz, his shoulders stiff, his eyes darting, sometimes appears to be acting as Aston. | Central Square Theater, 450 Mass Ave, Cambridge | 866.811.4111 | Through November 1 | Curtain 7:30 pm Thurs | 8 pm Fri-Sat | 2 pm Sun | $35; $25 seniors; $20 students

DEAD MAN’S CELL PHONE | The Lyric Stage Company of Boston offers the Boston premiere of this 2008 Off Broadway hit by thirtysomething Pulitzer finalist Sarah Ruhl, contriver of the surreal fantasies The Clean House and Eurydice. Ruhl’s latest smash-up of life and death, profundity and whimsy, centers on a young woman drawn into the life of a stranger whose cell phone she answers — just after he’s bought the farm. Aswim in nonchalance and wonder in a production directed by Carmel O’Reilly and plopped into a skewed, modernist locale by set designer Cristina Todesco, the play’s as whimsical as Ogden Nash on a sidewalk Sprint, yet anchored to earth by troubling themes and forlorn, pressing questions. O’Reilly keeps the fragile comedy’s mock and sorrowful elements in balance, and at the center of Ruhl’s connection-pondering, Heaven-hopping orbit there’s Liz Hayes’s gray-clad, mobile-faced, tentative yet inventive Jean, who finally hears the jumbled music of the spheres and, like the perennial figure in a Jules Feiffer cartoon, dances to it. | 140 Clarendon St, Boston | 617.585.5678 | Through November 15 | Curtain 2 pm [November 11] + 7:30 pm Wed | 7:30 pm Thurs | 8 pm Fri | 3 + 8 pm Sat | 3 pm Sun | $25-$54

THE DONKEY SHOW | C-dust pinch-hits for fairy dust in The Donkey Show, Diane Paulus & Randy Weiner’s disco-set riff on A Midsummer Night’s Dream, an hour-long work set in the Studio 54–inspired environs of Club Oberon (formerly Zero Arrow Theatre) and framed by episodes of Saturday Night Fever in which you may or may not choose to star. The dramatis personae include Dr. Wheelgood, a gold-lamé-clad Puck on roller skates; club owner Mr. Oberon, who’s out to humiliate his haughty diva girlfriend, Tytania; desperately yearning or cockily dismissive lovers Helen, Dimitri, Mia, and Sander; and a twin couple of ruffle-shirted, Afro-coiffed dudes both named Vinnie. Ingeniously double-cast, sexily supple, and screeching into headsets, they join the paying crowd (a small minority of whom occupy tables in a cabaret area that also sees action) for an immersive night of hedonism and hustle driven by the pounding beat and melodramatic passions of disco hits from the 1970s. | Oberon, Mass Ave + Arrow St, Cambridge | 617.547.8300 | Through January 2 | 8 pm Thurs [October 30] | 8 pm Fri | 8 + 10:30 pm Sat | $25-$49

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Related: Play by play: November 6, 2009, Dodging death, 2009: The year in theater, More more >
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