'A GREAT EXPERIENCE' The Wilbury Group's 'Chad Deity.' [Photo by Brian Gagnon Photography]
There were many noteworthy theatrical happenings this year, from the definitively executed classic tragedy of Othello at Mixed Magic Theatre, with Ricardo Pitts-Wiley in the title role, to the cleverly quirky and whimsical This Might Not Be It — apocalypse averted! — at Epic Theatre Company.
So many successes, so few column inches. The best survey would consist of reprinting reviews of the best of them, but I’ll have to settle for quoting from them.
My hands-down favorite was Sandra Laub’s restrained but shattering portrayal of Golda Meir, directed by Bryna Wortman at 2nd Story Theatre. William Gibson’s Golda’s Balcony takes place on the eve of the 1973 Yom Kippur War, when the survival of Israel hung on the Prime Minister’s decisions re: the prospect of igniting atomic holocaust by using nuclear weapons in a preventative first strike. The production was “a profound and skillful reminder of the perilous nature of politics when heated opposition leads to thoughts of extermination.” One-person plays can be mere showcases for a bravura performance, but this production courageously stuck to the principle of less is more. Laub’s careful pauses gave us a sense of complex unspoked calculations, and keeping Meir’s emotions under wraps let the inevitable bursts of temper send chills down our spines. Magnificent performance.
The new, intimate DownStage at 2nd Story was christened with a terrific production of Kenneth Lonergan’s Lobby Hero . Directed by Ed Shea, Jeff Church played “a little man who keeps his life in parentheses, decorat[ing] his performance with funny little physical bits and expressions.”
A rare slice of local life pleased audiences, and delighted me, in Kevin Broccoli’s The House In Providence , at Mixed Magic Theatre, directed by Jonathan Pitts-Wiley. With four house residents, two guests, and a couple of neighborhood friends who keep dropping in, the play adopted the template of Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya for the relationships. “As someone says toward the end of this intriguing social-study kitchen-sink drama, it’s easy to get along with people you don’t deal with every day, who don’t know you inside out and can make you feel terrible with just a look.”
Broccoli is also the artistic director of Epic Theatre Company, which was indeed epically busy this year with eight productions. They ranged from Harold Pinter’s intimate tale of marital trust-busting, Betrayal , well directed by Troy Gearing, to Irish playwright Martin McDonagh’s A Behanding In Spokane , a black comedy directed by Rob Roy. The deliciously quirky humor was well represented by the best line in the play: “Yes, I do find some black women attractive — but that doesn’t mean I’m not a racist!” The staging was better than the play itself, which I found “stumbles now and then over implausibilities tossed in for chuckles.”
Trinity Repertory Company’s most ambitious staging was a skillfully compressed adaptation of Fyodor Dostoevsky’s voluminous Crime and Punishment , which artistic director Curt Columbus co-authored with playwright Marilyn Campbell. A psychological drama of a man tormented by guilt over killing a greedy old pawnbroker, Rodion Raskolnikov was brought to life by Stephen Thorne, who gave “his usual expansive performance when inhabiting a complex character, presenting a man who wants to think he’s superior while trying to quash feelings that he is simply a monster.”
Students in the Brown University/Trinity Rep MFA theater programs did a fascinating job with Eugène Ionesco’s surreal Rhinoceros , with Heidi Handelsman directing Greg Fallick as the antihero Berenger. One grin-inducing touch was Carisa Anik Platt “as the anguished Housewife distraught over her flattened cat — her hysteria is hysterical.”