4/26/2018

Huntington's "Top Girls": Risk Management

The Cast of "Top Girls"
(photo: T. Charles Erickson)

One is tempted to urge playwright Caryl Churchill to have her people call our people, from the opening surreal scene in her 1982 play, Top Girls, which is set in a London restaurant, with a group gathered by Marlene (Carmen Zilles) to celebrate her promotion to the role of Managing Director of the Top Girls Employment Agency. The group consists of five fascinating females, each representing different historical periods: Isabella Bird (Paula Plum), a nineteenth century writer/traveler; Lady Nijo (Vanessa Kai), a thirteenth century courtesan, later Buddhist nun; Dull Gret (Carmen M. Herlihy), the subject of a Brueghel painting leading women warriors into hell to oppose devils; Pope Joan (Sophia Ramos), a (probably not historical) ninth century female disguised as a man and elected pope; and Patient Griselda (Elia Monte-Brown), the slavishly obedient wife of the Clerk's Tale in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. (All of the actors, save Ms. Zilles, also portray other characters later in the play, along with a seventh, Kiara Pichardo). Each has a herstory to share.
 
Back in the proverbial day, in the formidable shadow of Margaret Thatcher, audiences found this conceit promising. So should they today, as the times they aren't a-changing enough yet. At the crux of this work is the seemingly contradictory conflict of choice of having a family or a career. As a seminal treatment of the emergence of feminism, it has lost little if any of its original impact. Through overlapping dialog, merging time periods and fundamental sadness there is an underlying sentiment of incompleteness; as one character puts it, “what kind of life is that?”. For women in the Error of Trump, what can “success” mean for them, with its almost inevitable accompaniments: gender objectification, isolation and loneliness. If the women of that celebratory dinner party all represented varying degrees of historical oppression, what are today's tragic outcomes of risk? And there's that title...Top What? (Well, in the script they also refer to “the boys”, so at least it's an equal opportunity manuscript).


The Cast of "Top Girls"
(photo: T. Charles Erickson)

As Directed by Liesl Tommy, this is a fun ride when Churchill doesn't get in her own way. That use of overlapping (or, worse yet, contemporaneously competing) speeches strikes one as a gimmick that obliterates whatever the playwright is trying to say, and this is exacerbated by the theater's notoriously problematic acoustics. (At intermission, half a dozen patrons in the sixth row center could be seen obtaining hearing-assisted devices). Such dialog has been employed elsewhere (as in Tony Kushner's Intelligent Homosexual's Guide to Capitalism and Socialism with a Key to the Scriptures a few seasons ago), and never serves any purpose other than to portray how real people often speak over one another. This cast is an exemplary one, however, with all of them given meaty scenes, though in that infamous dinner party scene, heavy accents can get in the way of intelligible discourse. If one were to single out one stellar turn it might be that of Herlihy in her roles as Dull Gret and especially as Angie, a young girl who unlocks the secret of the choices Marlene had made. It's a stunner to hear Marlene proclaim about Angie that “she's not going to make it”, as it is when Angie utters a tragic line, “Frightening”. All this is against the Thatcher (and Reagan) political realities which “won't change as long as they're in”. Any resemblance to today's politics is purely intentional.

The creative elements are superb, from the Scenic Design by Rachel Hauck to the Costume Design by Linda Cho, Lighting Design by Mary Louise Geiger, Projection Design by Jeanette Oi-Suk Yew and Sound Design and Original Music by Broken Chord. In case you hadn't noticed, all of the performers as well as the creative team are women, which solicits the question: when will the day come that one doesn't notice such a novelty? Talk amongst yourselves. And be careful what you risk for.

4/16/2018

Moonbox's "Cabaret": One Feather at a Time

Phil Tayler & The Kit Kat Klub Kast
(photo: Moonbox Productions)

Relax; Life is still a Cabaret, old chum, but don't tell Mama. This latest iteration by Moonbox Productions reflects the recent Broadway revival of the Kander and Ebb musical. The original show tried out in Boston in October 1966, opening in New York the following month. John Kander wrote the Music, Fred Ebb wrote the Lyrics, and Joe Masteroff wrote the Book (what a score and what a book). Kander and Ebb had previously partnered on their first musical, which also tried out in Boston, Flora the Red Menace, which introduced Liza Minelli. While Flora didn't blossom long, the first run of Cabaret surely did, for three years, with several revivals since. At the start of its original tryout in Boston, the musical had three acts, but was soon trimmed to two acts before it left the Shubert Theater, a wise move since the show ended up being a taut, unforgettably effective recreation of its time and place. The revived version by Roundabout Theater, which ran for six years, is itself a revelation, now on view with a cast of local favorites, ample pulchritude and searing performances. It's hands down the best production ever from this company, and that's saying a lot.



Aimee Doherty in "Cabaret"
(photo: Moonbox Productions)

And so is this: you haven't seen a production of Cabaret at its most powerful until you've seen this one. Not only is the updated (visually, at least) finale incredibly forceful, but they'll have you from the first Willkommen; that is, the eminent Emcee (Phil Tayler) will mesmerize you with his fiercely fluid ferocity from his first appearance. If you thought Tayler's solo effort in Lyric Stage Company's Buyer and Cellar a while back was the epitome of his career, think again. His work here is the paragon of divine decadence. And while we're on acting career assessments, chalk up at least three more high water marks, as Aimee Doherty's Sally Bowles will bowl you over, as will Maryann Zschau's conflicted Fraulein Schneider and Jared Troilo's equally crucial Clifford Bradshaw. This Cabaret is full of “bests”, both on stage and behind, since the creative contributions are also so masterful.


 
Phil Tayler in "Cabaret"
(photo: Moonbox Productions)

 
The first act tells the story of Sally meeting Clifford at the Kit Kat Klub in 1931 Berlin as she sings “Don't Tell Mama”. It is Germany just as the Nazis are rising to power. Based on the novel Goodbye to Berlin by Christopher Isherwood, in turn based on John Van Druten's play I Am a Camera, it takes place in the raunchy German night club with a bizarre Emcee. Bradshaw, an American writer, also meets Ernst Ludwig (Dan Prior) who offers him work and suggests he room in a boardinghouse run by Fraulein Schneider. Later Sally arrives on Cliff's doorstep, having been thrown out of her apartment. The first act ends with a song that becomes a march with some sinister overtones, “Tomorrow Belongs to Me”. In the second act, Sally and Cliff have fallen in love, and she confesses she's pregnant. Meanwhile, Fraulein Schneider catches her boarder Fraulein Kost (Joy Clark) with her turnstyle of admirers, but Kost reminds her that Schneider has had her own dalliance with her Jewish suitor Herr Schultz (Ray O'Hare). Cliff decides to leave Berlin, but Sally chooses to stay behind for what she sees as a life of freedom, unaware of the imminent descent of the Nazi stormtroopers. As he leaves on the train, Cliff begins to write of his experiences at “the end of the world”.
 
 

Maryann Zschau & Ray O'Hare in "Cabaret"
(photo: Moonbox Productions)


One of the delights of this stage version is the reinstatement of the romantic relationship between the landlady Fraulein Schneider and her lovely songs with Herr Schultz, “It Couldn't Please Me More (Pineapple)” and “Married”, both cut from the movie. Zschau and O'Hare are wonderful together, and her final number, “What Would You Do?”, has never seemed so moving. As she admits, “I regret...everything”. Another aspect that was, for all intents and purposes, lost in the film version is the ever-increasing menace of the rise of the Nazi party. With this subplot restored, on both emotional and political levels, it's a much more involving experience. This makes the ultimate fate of the relationships all the more telling and poignant. There is heart to be treasured, but fleeting and doomed in the path of the politics of the era. There is also another song from the Broadway revival, “I Don't Care Much”, which captures the attitude of those most oblivious to reality.

In this version, the company has a very believable Sally in Doherty who sings exceptionally well and has real chemistry. She's especially devastating in her rendering of the title song, at one and the same time angry and vulnerable. Several characters hint at how easy it was to go along to get along. But any production of this show rises or falls on the performance of its Emcee, and Tayler is a mesmerizing triple threat, his acting fierce, his movement sinuous, his singing stunning as he hovers almost non-stop over the proceedings, right up to the point where one is totally blown away by the visual ending (not to be revealed here) which is unexpectedly, yet logically, both overwhelmingly theatrical and shatteringly frightening. The success of this brilliant rethinking of the show is in large part due to the genius of the creative team headed by Director/Choreographer Rachel Bertone. The Set by Janie E. Howland is a wonder (most effective in the night club scenes), the Costume Design by Marian Bertone is pluperfect, and the Lighting Design by Sam Biondolillo and Sound Design by David Wilson are fabulous. Even the entr'acte has been re-imagined with a terrific turn by the onstage orchestra followed by an accompanying kick line by the Kit Kat Klub Kittens.
 
 
Phil Tayler in "Cabaret"
(photo: Moonbox Productions)
 
And lest you think this is merely a remembrance of things past, one might do well to recall that attention must be paid to the gradual nature of the consolidation of political power, in the words of Mussolini to Hitler: if you pluck a chicken one feather at a time, no one will notice. But, until the clouds of storm troopers gather, there's a great deal of escapism offered here. It's racy, raunchy, and raucous; it's also a whole lot of fun. Go, but, as those Kittens warn, “Don't Tell Mama”.
 
And don't be plucked into thinking it can't happen here.
 



 


 


 
 








4/15/2018

Fathom Events' Met Opera "Luisa Miller": As the Wurm Turns

Yoncheva & Beczala in "Luisa Miller"
(photo: Metropolitan Opera)

Luisa Miller, recently presented by the Metropolitan Opera in a Live in HD broadcast, is one of
Composer Giuseppe Verdi's lesser known works from what is regarded as the beginning of his “middle period”. With a Libretto by Salvatore Cammarano in three acts, based on a play by Schiller, it is recognized as a bourgeois tragedy and a precursor to such works as La Traviata.

The story takes place in 1850's England. Luisa Miller (soprano Sonya Yoncheva) is in love with Carlo, who is really Rodolfo (tenor Piotr Beczala), the son of Count Walter (bass Alexander Vinogradov). Her father (Placido Domingo, still identified by the Met as a tenor, even in this role) suspects Carlo's true intentions, and those fears are confirmed when Walter's retainer Wurm (bass Dimitry Belosselskiy) reveals Rodolfo's true identity. Walter prefers that his son marry the Duchess Federica (mezzo-soprano Olesya Petrova). Miller tries to convince his daughter of Rodolfo's deceit, but Rodolfo claims he is sincere. After Walter insults Luisa and Henry defends her, the count orders them both imprisoned, but Rodolfo arranges their freedom by threatening to reveal information about his father that would be incriminating (namely, how he became count via a convenient murder). After Miller is jailed, Wurm tells Luisa that she can save her father by writing a letter pledging herself to him. Meanwhile Wurm and Walter plot to send her letter to Rodolfo. When they threaten her father, she professes her love for Wurm to Federica. Walter persuades Rodolfo, in despair about the letter, that he could avenge her treachery by marrying Federica. Rodolfo confronts Luisa with the letter, then asks her to pour him a drink. Not realizing that he has put poison in the cup, she drinks from it, as does he. Before she dies, she reveals the truth to him. As he is dying, Rodolfo kills Wurm.
 

Belosselskiy & Domingo in "Luisa Miller"
(photo: Metropolitan Opera)
 
No one could argue that Verdi and Cammarano don't know how to boil a pot or burn a barn, as this work definitely demonstrates. There's also a lot of elaborate scenery that slows things down at several changes of scenes. But the singing overcomes any qualms one might have, even in the smaller role of village girl Laura (mezzo-soprano Rihab Chaieb). Yoncheva was especially endearing in her Act Two aria, Tu puniscimi, o signore, as was Beczala in the same act in his aria Quando le sere al placido. The a capella quartet was an amazing display of musicianship. The standing ovation at the close of the performance was much deserved, especially in light of the incredible (and continuing) career of Domingo, now taking on baritone roles, and conducting, with aplomb.

This performance was Conducted by Bertrand De Billy, in a Production by Elijah Moshinsky with Set and Costume Design by Santo Loquasto, Lighting Design by Duane Schuler, with Stage Direction by Gregory Keller. The Chorus Master was Donald Palumbo. The HD Live Director was Matthew Diamond and the HD Live Host was a replacement, Anthony Roth Costanzo, a countertenor (and winner of the prestigious 2012 Operalia in Beijing) whose poise and enthusiasm made for a welcoming presence. This surely stands out as perhaps the finest production of the Met's current season.

"Luisa Miller" will have an Encore presentation Weds. April 18th at a theater near you

4/09/2018

Lyric Stage's "Anna Christie": Life on a Skoal Barge

Lindsey McWhorter & Johnny Lee Davenport in "Anna Christie"
(photo: Mark S. Howard)

It's hard to fathom the fact that the play Anna Christie by Eugene O'Neill is just a couple of years shy of a century old. O'Neill won the 1922 Pulitzer Prize for this work (his second, after 1920's Beyond the Horizon) and was to go on to win several more, as well as the 1936 Nobel Prize for Literature. This play, originally performed in four acts, takes place partly in Provincetown and Boston in 1921, and has had several Broadway revivals (including the 1993 Tony award winner for best revival) as well as the famous 1930 Garbo film. It was even the source for a 1957 musical, New Girl in Town with Gwen Verdon, which survived over a year in New York despite its ludicrous lyrics by Robert Merrill (who would have a much bigger impact just two years later with Take Me Along, based on O'Neill's Ah Wilderness).


Nancy E. Carroll & Johnny Lee Davenport in "Anna Christie"
(photo: Mark S. Howard)

In this version, updated and trimmed down by Director Scott Edmiston for Boston's Lyric Stage, we are wisely spared having to decipher the Swedish dialect in O'Neill's original, which hasn't aged well. The basic story remains the reunion (after a twenty year separation) between the title character Anna Christie (Lindsey McWhorter) and her father, Chris C. Christopherson (Johnny Lee Davenport), the captain of a coal barge. Having abandoned her when she was five and moved her from the family home in Sweden to a Minnesota farm, and to a life of hardship, he is unprepared for her unexpected letter announcing her imminent arrival. In anticipation of his daughter's appearance, Christopherson has just dumped his live-in lady friend Marthy Owen (Nancy E. Carroll) in a New York waterfront saloon run by Larry (James R. Milord). After some awkward moments it seems as though father and daughter have accepted one another, more or less, until a shipwreck lands an Irish stoker, Mat Burke (Dan Whelton), who quickly falls in love with Anna (and vice versa), a development her father strongly resists. While Christopherson wants his daughter to have no part of a romance with a seaman, Mat wants to marry her; each seeks to fashion her in his own image, but she wants control of her own life. When she finally shares her past with them, they both go on a two-day bender and independently sign up for the crew of the same ship heading out the next day to Capetown South Africa. They promise to return after the voyage and she faces life alone until then, minus her two hard-drinking companions.


Dan Whelton & Lindsey McWhorter in "Anna Christie"
(photo: Mark S. Howard)

Edmiston's pared-down take on the tale doesn't diminish some of its stereotypical elements and coincidences, but it does make it possible to focus on these three characters each in search of personal redemption. Having eliminated several minor characters and plot devices (such as the role Marthy plays in the original's revelation of Anna's past), Edmiston allows for the three leads to shine in their respective roles, notably McWhorter in the title performance and Davenport in his once-towering parental figure. Whelton, in a less developed part, is to some extent hampered by a thickening Irish brogue, which doesn't help to portray his demons as well as those of the others. What does help is the evocative Scenic Design by Janie E. Howland, as well as the stark Lighting Design by Karen Perlow, simple yet effective Costume Design by Charles Schoonmaker and the ominous Sound Design (and original music) by Dewey Dellay.

Anna could be viewed as a product of her time, or decades ahead of it; the latter seems more appropriate, given O'Neill's early feminist realism versus the prevalent melodrama of the early twentieth century. As her father at one point declaims, “that old devil sea, she ain't God”. Anna ultimately seizes control, telling both men in her life to go to hell. It's a rare opportunity to experience fine acting in an undeniably challenging, dated work. O'Neill was born in one hotel and died in another; in between he wrote fifty plays, of which this has proven to be, ironically, timeless.


4/06/2018

Odyssey Opera's "Giovanna d'Arco": Burning Question

Jeremy Ayres Fisher & Haeran Hong in "Giovanna d'Arco"
(photo: Kathy Wittman)
 
Giovanna d'Arco is the fifth and final Odyssey Opera production of the season, comprised of five operas centered on Joan of Arc and The Hundred Years' War. This version, a Boston premiere, Composed by Giuseppe Verdi with a Libretto by Temistocle Solera, (based on a play by Schiller), while early, is unmistakably the work of Verdi, not mere “hurdy Verdi” as the young composer sometimes sounded. It shows the promise of what was to come as his work matured (for example, an orchestrated storm in the overture that presages the vocalized one years later in his Rigoletto). First performed at La Scala in 1845 in a heavily censored version, this current production, performed In Italian with English surtitles, restores the censored (notably by the church authorities) original text.


Marc Heller in "Giovanna d'Arco"
(photo: Kathy Wittman)

The action takes place in 1429, first in the village of Domremy, France and the nearby forest where Carlo VII, King of France (tenor Marc Heller) claims to have had a vision of the Blessed Virgin. Meanwhile Giacomo, (baritone Daniel Sutin), a shepherd and father to Giovanna (soprano Haeran Hong), prays for his daughter's safety as she prays to be chosen to lead the French forces into battle against the English. Carlo pleads that she defend herself, as her father says she is in a pact with the devil. She ultimately has mystical dialogs with her father as she awaits her fate at the stake, finally convincing him of her purity, and he helps her to escape. She rejoins the battle, and, under her leadership, Delil, a French Officer (tenor Jeremy Ayres Fisher) and his troops prevail over Talbot, the English Commander (bass Christopher Carbin) and his troops on the battlefield of Rouen. The French celebrate their success in the Reims Cathedral Square, though Giovanna has died in combat. She revives, only to ascend into heaven to the accompaniment of angelic anthems of salvation and victory, aptly supplied by singers and harp in one of the theater's boxes.

As with the previous four operas this season, this performance was conducted by Gil Rose, the company's Artistic and General Director. The Stage Direction was by Beth Greenberg, who alludes in the program notes to opera's norms of both visual spectacle and extended vocalism that are so appropriate for this grand storytelling. The Scenic Design by Dan Daly, abstract, symbolic yet contemporary, was complemented by the Costume Design by Brooke Stanton (most notably in strikingly impressive androgynous battle gear for Joan), and the Lighting Design by Dennis Parichy.


Daniel Sutin & Haeran Hong in "Giovanna D'Arco"
(photo: Kathy Wittman)

The meticulous playing of the orchestra under Rose's firm hand and the hearty chorus (here prepared by Mariah Wilson), are significant factors in all of Odyssey Opera presentations, but this one was especially notable for its dependence on three superb lead singers. Sutin was moving even in an inexplicably vacillating role, which he conquered by both serious vocalizing and dramatic impact. The same could be said of Heller, sounded every inch the complicated man and ruler, with extraordinary strength of musical line. But it was, as it should be, up to Hong to create a complex and convincing portrait of a historical enigma, belying her diminutive bearing with a purity and range that were, well, pure heaven.

We may never know with certainty who and what the real Joan was; that must remain an unresolved burning question. This production made sure we were reminded of her more human aspects of love, loyalty, and sacrifice. Once again local opera lovers were offered an incredibly nuanced performance of a rarely heard piece. The libretto may be clunky to say the least, but every member of this company added her or his embellishments to a Joan of Arc for the musical ages.  
 
 

4/01/2018

Fathom Events' Met Opera "Cosi Fan Tutte": All Women Are Like...What?

The Cast of "Cosi fan Tutte"
(photo: Metropolitan Opera)

Mozart's opera Cosi Fan Tutte has always presented a fundamental challenge for a company attempting to mount its production, namely how to portray the two female leads, alluded to in the title, who, in the libretto by Lorenzo Da Ponte, inexplicably don't recognize their respective disguised lovers. In this latest Metropolitan Opera version (a co-production with English National Opera) the conundrum isn't solved, but this Fathom Events HD Live broadcast makes a significant effort to do so, by updating the story, placing the action in America in the 1950's, utilizing a few unusual venues such as a nightclub, a boardwalk, a Skyline Motel, and the Pleasure Gardens Fairground, all at Coney Island.


Kelli O'Hara in "Cosi fan Tutte"
(photo: Metropolitan Opera)

The story begins as Don Alfonso (baritone Christopher Maltman) offers Ferrando (tenor Ben Bliss) and Guglielmo (bass-baitone Adam Plachetka) a wager, namely that their fiancees, the sisters Fiordiligi (soprano Amanda Majeski) and Dorabella (mezzo-soprano Serena Malfi) will be unfaithful to them, which they don't believe possible. Alfonso then tells the two women that their boyfriends have been called away into battle. Though inconsolable, the women are urged by their maid Despina (soprano Kelli O'Hara) to find new lovers. With Despina's help, Alfonso introduces them to two “new” friends (Ferrando and Gugliemo in disguise). Rejected by the women, the two imposters pretend to take poison, and Despina (herself disguised as “Doctor Magnetico”) pretends to heal them. Claiming they must be kissed to recover fully, the “boys” are rebuffed again. Later, the women are encouraged by Despina to choose which new lover each prefers. Dorabella finally succumbs to the disguised Guglielmo, but Fiordiligi spurns the still-disguised Ferrando, though eventually she gives in. Still disguised as the Doctor, Despina arrives ostensibly to marry the two couples, but Alfonso declares that the boys have returned and reveals them to be the disguised suitors. Initially the boys profess to be shocked, but eventually admit to the whole charade; Alfonso bids them all to have learned their lesson.


The Cast of "Cosi fan Tutte"
(photo: Metropolitan Opera)

In this performance, under Conductor David Robertson, there was much to enjoy. The comic
Production by Phelim McDermott with colorful Set Design by Tom Pye in collaboration with Improbable) was a visual stunner, from the Costume Design by Laura Hopkins to the Lighting Design by Paule Constable. The Live in HD Director was Gary Halvorson, and the Host was Joyce DiDonato (who will be seen on Saturday April 28 as the title character in the season's final Live in HD broadcast, Cendrillon). As for the sextet of singers, they were virtually perfect in their roles. Maltman, dressed as a baggy pants comedian, and Bliss and Plachetka, as leather bomber-jacket greasers, as well as Majeski and Malfi in their 50's dresses, looked the part and sounded wonderful. And, though primarily known for her Broadway theater roles, O'Hara (who previously performed in the Met's The Merry Widow) once again displayed a lovely voice and a knack for comic timing. They all managed to exceed one's expectations with the slap-schtick approach to Da Ponte's libretto, complete with real-life actual sideshow performers, from sword-swallowers to fire-eaters to (also real-life) snake charmers. It made for a unique conception of the opera that will be hard to equal or surpass.


The Encore presentation will be broadcast on Wednesday April 4th at a theater near you. 
 
 

3/27/2018

New Rep's "Bakelite Masterpiece": Throwing the First Stone

Benjamin Evett in "Bakelite Masterpiece"
(photo: Andrew Brilliant/Brilliant Pictures)

Consider Lucifer” is a suggestion made by the major character in the brief play The Bakelite Masterpiece by Kate Cayley, which premiered in Toronto in 2014, was then co-produced by the Berkshire Theater Group and WAM in 2016, and is now being presented by New Rep in Watertown. Based on events concerning the infamous Dutch forger Han van Meegeren, it's a spare two-hander co-starring Benjamin Evett as Meegeren and Laura Latreille as the (fictional) character Geert Piller, an art historian who has been handed the task of determining the guilt or innocence of the painter accused of Nazi sympathies. Specifically, the forger is accused of selling a painting to Goering, ostensibly created by Vermeer; his defense will be that he in fact defrauded the Nazi with his own forgery and thus should instead be considered a hero. The title refers to his ingenious use of a bakelite spread brushed on the painting before baking it to simulate its aging process. Bakelite, an early plastic, was formed from the combination of phenol and formaldehyde, (the chemical name for which is polyoxybenzylmethyleneglycolanhydride, for short). All the action takes place in his prison cell in Amsterdam in 1946, as he proposes to prove his skills by creating a copy of a Vermeer that depicts Christ and a woman caught in adultery, using Piller as his model. As proposterous as this plot point seems, (and it does in fact become a difficult concept to accept even as some of Piller's issues are gradually revealed), playwright Cayley has fashioned an engrossing conversation and confrontation.


Laura Latreille & Benjamin Evett in "Bakelite Masterpiece"
(photo: Andrew Brilliant/Brilliant Pictures)

Evett and Latreille (the latter seemingly battling a cold) were tremendous foils for one another. While the rhetoric sometimes bordered on the hyperbolic, they maintained their characters throughout the intermissionless, ninety-minute work, under the focused direction of Jim Petosa, the company's Artistic Director. Evett, in the showier role, displayed his familiar no-holes-barred delivery, in one of the most powerful roles of his estimable career, at times literally throwing himself into the fray. All of the technical elements contribute to the feeling of being hemmed in by history. The Set Design is by Christina Todesco, with Lighting Design by Scott Pinkney, Costume Design by Molly Trainer and Sound Design and Original Musical Composition by Dewey Dellay, each helping to forge belief in the incredible plot premise.

The painter/forger's urging to “consider Lucifer” (the angel who disobeyed and thus was thrown out of heaven and into hell) questions whether truth demands some doubt and whether being a “perfect fraud” is worse than a complete fool. He also alludes to the fact that the New Testament evangelists who wrote the Biblical story never revealed exactly what Christ wrote in the sand that effectively prohibited the crowd from stoning the woman; tradition maintains that it was an allusion to the sins of those all too ready to pick up the stone. And he further questions whether sometimes hate can be useful, as well as if forgiveness is always deserved. For those eager for irony, let them consider the program note that Meegeren's “original” forgeries have been replicated by still later forgers, including his own son. “Consider Lucifer” indeed.

Let she or he who is without guilt (including critics) throw the first stone, through April 8th.