9/25/2016

Trinity Rep's "Boewulf": Fang in Cheek

The Cast of "Beowulf: A Thousand Years of Baggage"
(photo: Trinity Rep)

Beowulf: A Thousand Years of Baggage, the musical? The rock and roll musical? The 3,182- line oldest Auld English poem in all of its anonymous and alliterative glory? Lest you fear, here are two words for you: Dave Malloy. The Dave Malloy who created the Libretto and Music for Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812 and Three Pianos has written the Music for Beowulf, while Jason Craig has provided the Book and Lyrics . It still consists of the tales of the three pursuits by Beowulf (Charlie Thurston), hero of the Geats, of the Great Mead Hall of Heorot presided over by Danish King Hrothgor (Joe Wilson, Jr.). He first slays the monster Grendel (Stephen Berenson), then the monster's Mother (Anne Scurria), and, about fifty years later, a Dragon (Janice Duclos), though he is then fatally injured. The tale has been the subject of numerous movies, television shows, novels (including graphic ones), music (opera, classical, rock opera), board games, and video games. This incarnation is not your eighth grade assignment, as there are many f-bombs dropped and a lot of the scat is scatological.

But it's all in good fun. We first meet three academics, Berenson, Scurria and Duclos, all discussing the merits of the poem. Soon we find our soldier of fortune taking off on that triple quest, like an ancient Don Quixote, accompanied by five Warriors (Rachel Warren, Rachel Clausen, Rebecca Gibel, Laura Lyman Paine, and Brad Wilson). They provide some great musical backup for such songs as Wilson's “That Was Death”, Thurston's “Passing” and Warren's astonishing showstopper, “Not Only”. The story is often somber and cynical (“better to retaliate than to mourn”, “his dark inevitability”), but mostly intelligently silly. The buff and ready Thurston makes an immediate and lasting impression as he struts and swaggers through each ordeal. The whole cast is in perfect harmony, visually and audibly. If there are standouts, they would have to be Scurria's shocked-little-girl reactions (priceless) and the low-tech overhead projected stick figures (very fang in cheek).

As Directed by Curt Columbus, this one is a winner for the company. The funny, complicated Set Design by Michael McGarty, Costume Design by Olivera Gajic, Lighting Design by Dan Scully, Sound Design by Peter Sasha Hurowitz, as well as Musical Direction by Michael Rice, Choreography by Jude Sandy and Puppet Design by Shoshanna Utchenik are all tremendous assets to the fast-paced show.
 
All in all, it's very high octane, high energy and hilarious. Being presented now through October 9th at Trinity Rep's Chase Theater, it's well worth revisiting Ye Auld English world. So broaden thy horizons and get thee to Heorot (sounds like “carrot”) for this rauncy, rousing and riotous romp. 

9/24/2016

BLO's "Carmen": Another Torrid Adorer

Michael Mayes as the Toreador Escamillo in "Carmen"
(photo: T. Charles Erickson)

Widely known (even among those who aren’t opera buffs) for its famous Toreador aria, Georges Bizet’s Carmen is a much-beloved favorite of many fans, typically listed among their top ten operas. This is despite the fact that the titular heroine isn’t usually presented as a particularly nice or even sympathetic character. In the current Boston Lyric Opera production (amazingly the first professional opera company to grace the stage of the appropriately named Boston Opera House in almost two decades), a co-production with San Francisco Opera, mezzo-soprano Jennifer Johnson Cano plays the flirtatious Carmen more as a victim than as a predatory seducer. The Libretto by Henri Meilhac and Ludovic Halevy revolves around her relationships with the staunch soldier Don José (tenor Roger Honeywell) and torrid bullfighting hero Escamillo (baritone Michael Mayes), featuring village girl Micaëla (soprano Chelsea Basler). It's set in “modern day Ceuta, an autonomous Spanish city in North Africa”.

As most music lovers will know, the libretto is a rather steamy one, from the first appearance of the gypsy girl Carmen. Virtually ignored by Don José (who initially loves Micaëla) until he arrests Carmen for fighting, she seduces him to gain her freedom. Subsequently she declares he must prove his love by deserting the army. Later in the gypsy camp, her ardor diminishes as she now professes love for the toreador Escamillo. Micaëla arrives to tell Don José his mother is dying, and they depart together, Don José threatening he will see Carmen again. In the final scene Don José confronts Carmen, trying to win her back, but when he fails…well, this is opera, so one shouldn’t be surprised that it doesn’t end happily. And that’s the tempestuous tale, told over four acts. For this opera to be so popular with such a simplistic story, there must be a powerful score, and indeed there is. The success of a production of Carmen, as with many operatic works, thus often depends on the quality of the singing and conducting, not necessarily on how deeply involved an audience is on an emotional level; but surprisingly this is not the case with this version, which not only boasts superior vocal talent and the depth of a huge orchestra, but also delivers an emotional wallop.
 
The Cast & Orchestra for BLO's "Carmen"
(photo: Liza Voll Photography)
There's more than enough fire and passion (and sex!) in the singing and acting of this version, despite the minimalist sets (except for some classic cars and an imposing bull billboard). Catalonian Calixto Bieito, in his U.S. debut, delivers a stunning production, with Revival Direction by Joan Anton Rechi. Sensitively conducted by BLO's Music Director David Angus (except for the rapid-fire tempo in the overture), Cano and her three co-stars made this more than a mere potboiler, with Basler a standout in her aria Je dis que rien ne m'epouvante. The rest of the cast was extraordinary, including the singers in the roles of Moralès (baritone Vincent Turregano), Zuniga {bass Liam Moran), Frasquita (soprano Kathryn Skemp Moran), Mercédès (mezzo-soprano Heather Gallagher), El Dancairo (baritone Andrew Garland) and El Remendado (tenor Samuel Levine). Visually, the technical work was outstanding, from the Set Design by Alfons Flores, to the Costume Design by Merce Paloma, Lighting Design by (Robert Wierzel), and especially the realistic Fight Direction by Andrew Kenneth Moss. Mention should also be made of the huge orchestra of 63 musicians and a cast of 108 consisting of the BLO Chorus and the youthful Voices Boston, including soldiers, cigarette girls, smugglers, and gypsies, all with well-coordinated movement. Never has so much beefcake and cheesecake been on display, not gratuitously, and the effect was mesmerizing.
 
As Bieito sees it, his vision is one of a victim in a society wherein people “live and dream their lives very fast, full of violence”. He has made significant cuts in the score, especially the recitatives, to focus on these fast-paced lives. As he has said, his is an interpretation, an attempt at eliciting pity and compassion for both lovers. If you've never been a fan, this could result in a conversion. It's decidely difficult to remain cool about something so hot.

9/23/2016

PPAC's "Wicked": Green with Envy


Jessica Vosk in "Wicked"
(photo: Joan Marcus)

There is much that is green about Wicked, the musical: one witch, a lot of peer jealousy, and a whole lot of money. Billed as “the untold story of the Witches of Oz”, the musicalization of the popular novel by local author Gregory Maguire has grossed, since its Broadway opening thirteen years ago (on 10/30/03), $1,044,603,475 (yes, that's over one billion). Thus a plot synopsis would hardly seem necessary. Everyone is familiar with the original film The Wizard of Oz, and the books by L. Frank Baum, and most theatergoers have presumably already seen this story of brains, heart and courage and are eagerly looking forward to a revisit to the Kingdom. They won't be disappointed.

Just as a brief refresher, the show is really the back story of Elphaba (Jessica Vosk), alias (in Baum's original books) the Wicked Witch of the West. Maguire in his breakthrough novel took the Dorothy story and pretty much upended our expectations. The Book by Winnie Holzman takes the plot-heavy musical in even more foreign territory, wherein Glinda (Amanda Jane Cooper), “the good witch”, is the flawed narcissist (with the delightful song “Popular”) whose status increases as that of Elphaba declines at Shiz School, which culminates in the showstopping climax to Act I, the chill-inducing “Defying Gravity”). Characters who are not found in the original The Wizard of Oz novel (but some of whom are in Baum's dozens of sequels) are Headmistress Madame Morrible (Wendy Worthington), the sole remaining Animal on the faculty, Dr. Dillamond (Chad Jennings), Elphaba's younger sister Nessarose (Kristen Martin), the prince Fiyero who becomes the Scarecrow (Anthony Festa), and Boq who becomes the Tin Man (Sam Seferian). And of course there's The Wizard himself (Stuart Zagnit) who confesses he's not all powerful after all. How all this, and more, transpires requires that attention be paid, for all's well that ends well. Except for that unfortunate landing of a house on top of Nessarose brought on by this girl named Dorothy....

The Book, its weakest element by far, is lacking in subtlety, and the jokes are labored and unfunny (“the artichoke is steamed”, “so happy I could melt”, “innuendo, outuendo”, “the goat is on the lam”, “twister of fate”, and the visual of Galinda's Evita-like hand posture at the beginning of Act II). At the same time, there are some wise subtexts, such as finding a common enemy in order to control the people (sound familiar?) and telling “lies they wanted to hear”, that have resonance today. Schwartz' lyrics, however, save the day (such as a reference to Elphaba's “verdegris”) and his score is often glorious. Standouts include such memorable songs as “Dancing through Life”, “Defying Gravity” and “For Good”, perhaps the most moving and powerful number in the show, the eleven o'clock number unforgettably sung by Vosk and Cooper:

Who can say if I've been changed for the better
But because I knew you
I have been changed for good...
So much of me
Is made of what I learned from you...
And now whatever way our stories end
I know you have rewritten mine...
Because I knew you, because I knew you
I have been changed
For good

Much depends on the abilities of its cast, and most delivered, if often too broadly, but, as the Wizard himself puts it, “you have to give people what they want”. Vosk avoids the burlesque style and creates the sole nuanced role on the stage. The original Direction was by Joe Montello, with Musical Staging by Wayne Cilento (fondly remembered from the original cast of Chorus Line) ; with Scenic Design by Eugene Lee, Costume Design by Susan Hilferty, Lighting Design by Kenneth Posner, Sound Design by Tony Meola and Projection Design by Elaine J. McCarthy, this version is in fine technical shape.

The musical's popularity, due in large part to its message of empowerment for young women and girls, is undeniable. With a solid score and despite its sometimes incomprehensible plot(s), it's no wonder that it's been such a hit. In the midst of our current electoral blues (and reds), perhaps it's time again to embrace the green in all of us and follow that yellow brick road.

9/22/2016

ArtsEmerson's "Machine de Cirque": Towel of Terror

Four Fifths of The Cast of "Machine de Cirque"
(photo: Loup-William Theberge)

Horseplay in the locker room will never be the same. Just when we thought it was safe to come out of the water, and just in time for some desperately needed escape from the absurdity of our national election, along comes a ninety-minute, intermission-less bit of madcap fun that goes by the name of Machine de Cirque. ArtsEmerson is now presenting the area premiere of this new Quebec City circus company, founded in 2013, a not-for-profit group whose self-described goal is “to gather various players from the art world and technology field to produce circus shows”. The fundamental concept is simple: five men try to preserve their post-apocalyptic civilization using found junk parts (teeter boards, juggling clubs, drum kits), and their own invention to create whatever tools they will need to locate other survivors. In the course of this quest, they “don't hesitate to reveal themselves”...literally. Their “canvas is the body, and its limits”. And what a canvas it is.

The Director, Co-Writer & Original Idea's creator is Vincent Dube, with Co-Writers, Co-Directors and performing Artists in the persons of Yohann Trepanier, Raphael Dube, Maxim Laurin, Ugo Dario and Frederic Lebrasseur (who also composed the Music). All contributed to the evolution of the show, called a “creation project” by Vincent Dube. (It's noteworthy that his brother Raphael and Trepanier had been a successful comedy juggling duo). In just ninety swiftly-passing minutes, this quintet manages countless feats that defy description (and the less one reveals anyway, the better). The technical team is right in tune, from the Costume Design by Sebastien Dionne to the Lighting Design by Bruno Matte, Sound Design by Rene Talbot and Mechanical Engineering by David St.-Onge. The set seemed as though Rube Goldberg and Louise Nevelson had co-conspired, and works beautifully.

And it's about that towel of terror, or rather towels plural; this too defies any attempt to convey the timing and precision this bit requires, and the hilarity that ensues. All the mayhem and madness takes place at the Paramount Mainstage, but only until October 2nd. We still have the rest of the election to suffer through, but this show is the perfect antidote to electoral stress, and should provide some temporary symptomatic relief. Get off that bathmat and head for the theater while there's still time. The towel scene alone is the funniest, bawdiest, and most brilliant visual ever conceived, and a joy to watch unravel.

The Entire Cast of "Machine de Cirque"
(photo: Loup-William Theberge)

9/19/2016

Opera Odyssey's "Dimitrij": Not Godunov but Just as Grand

Ales Briscein as "Dimitrij"
(photo: Kathy Wittman)

'Twas a grand night for singing when Opera Odyssey gave Boston its first ever performance of the little-known grand opera, Anton Dvorak's Dimitrij, a bombastic barnburner if there ever was one. Composed in 1800, with a libretto by Marie Cervinkova-Riegrova, this was in effect the U.S. premiere of Dvorak's original work (not the cut and pasted version by Kovarovic in 1906). Though the composer created ten operas in his life, this is his only truly grand opera on such an epic scale. Less well-known than his Rusalka and Armida, it deserves to be seen and especially heard more often. As beautifully Conducted by Gil Rose, with a seventy-plus exquisite chorus under the direction of Chorus Master William Cutter, this made Jordan Hall come alive as perhaps never before. It has a complex and convoluted plot that mirrors the complicated truths in history, occurring as it does just after the events in the better-known opera Boris Godunov.

It is Moscow, 1604, after Godunov's death, as the Russian people have divided into two camps, one led by Sujskij (bass-baritone Mark S. Doss) favoring the Godunovs, the other led by Basmanov (bass-baritone Christopher Job) favoring the false pretender Dimitrij (tenor Ales Briscein), the husband of the Polish Marina (soprano Dana Buresova) and the assumed son of Ivan the Terrible, Boris' predecessor. If Ivan's widow Marfa (mezzo-soprano Irina Mishura) should publicly declare Dimitrij her son (though she knows he is not), she believes it will help her against her enemies. Dimitrij breaks up a fight between the Russians and the Poles, rescuing Godunov's daughter Xenie (soprano Olga Jelinkova), and thwarts the conspiracy led by Sujskij, who is sentenced to be executed. Xenie begs Dimitrij to be merciful towards Sujskij. When Marina suspects a relationship has developed between her husband Dimitrij and Xenie, she reveals his humble birth, but he is firm in his commitment to Xenie and continuing his rule. Xenie, mourning her betrayed love, is killed on Marina's orders, though Marina changes her mind but not in time to stop the murder. Dimitrij, his origins revealed, is finally shot by Sujskij.

The superlative ensemble of singers in this production were all led by Briscien who, with his high tenor in the role of the False Dimitrij, never hit a false note. Though this was admittedly a concert version, one might have profited if he had demonstrated a little more real interaction with the other singers, as did his co-stars Buresova, Mishura and Jelinkova, with sumptuous detail, not to mention the ardent Doss. (At one point the text called for Dimitrij to be told: “if you can, look me in the face”). But there was so much to admire, with the healthy infusion of brilliant international stars, (Poles, Russians, and Czechs), and everything from mazurkas to triumphant choral singing. The huge Opera Odyssey Chorus and Orchestra echoed in their singing and playing the words from the text, a reference to “this magnificent cathedral” that could easily have been applied to Jordan Hall itself.

Rose has a busy year ahead, with his Boston Modern Orchestra Project and the remaining Opera Odyssey schedule, with tickets for the company's remaining performances to go on sale October 3rd. Their “Wilde Opera Nights” season will focus on “masterpieces inspired by the writings and world of Oscar Wilde, to include: The Picture of Dorian Gray by Lowell Lieberman (a co-production with the Boston Modern Opera Project, November 18 only, at Jordan Hall; a fully staged The Importance of Being Earnest by Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco, March 17 & 19, at the Wimberly Theatre in the Calderwood Pavilion; The Dwarf (Der Zwerg) by Alexander von Zemlinsky, April 14 only, at Jordan Hall; and Patience, or Bunthorne's Bride, by Sullivan and Gilbert, June 3 & 4, fully staged at Boston University Theatre. If their Dimitrij is any indication, it will surely be a full season of grand nights.

9/15/2016

Huntington's "Sunday in the Park": Harmony, by George

The Cast of "Sunday in the Park with George"
(photo: Paul Moratta)

For this critic, it all began in 1984, as the first act of a preview of a then-new Sondheim musical, Sunday in the Park with George , thundered to the climax of its final scene, with its exquisite visual, lyrical drive. It was love at first sight, and hearing, with its affirmation, in spite of all that is dark, desperate and demonic in our world, that there still can be art, inexplicably beautiful, brilliant, moving and enthralling. Though it earned two Tony Awards for technical achievements, the show was met with a decidedly mixed reception, until it won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. In subsequent productions, virtually all true to the original conceptualists and their visionary brilliance, it grew in acceptance and stature, despite the fact that its subject matter, the creation of the painting A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte by Georges Seurat (1859-1891), is an unusual one. Sondheim in his book Look, I Made a Hat speaks of the painting's “varying perspectives and proportions...(with) hundreds of thousands of daubs of color”, and the “curious fact that not one of them is looking at another”. It was Librettist James Lapine who first noticed what was missing: the painter. With that realization, they were able to proceed with what has come to be regarded as perhaps the finest work by Composer/Lyricist Sondheim and Lapine. Thus it was that the announcement that this work had been chosen as the initial production of Huntington Theatre Company's current season elicited excitement among local theatergoers as they wondered: will this possibly equal the company's magnificent track record with such works as She Loves Me, Candide and Jungle Book? It's a joy to reveal that Huntington has created another transcendent and
transporting miracle.
 
The story begins with the words of Georges Seurat (the passionate Adam Chanler-Berat): White. A blank page or canvas. The challenge: bring order to the whole, through design, composition, balance, light, and harmony. He is at work on a huge painting of some fifty characters, one of whom is his model and Mistress “Dot” (the lustrous Jenni Barber), a sly allusion to his pointillist style. Also in the painting are an Old Lady, George's mother (the wondrous Bobbie Steinbach) with her Nurse (Amy Barker). Eventually there will also be three bathers (echoed in Seurat's other work, Bathers at Asnieres) and a Boatman (Todd A. Horman), two shop girls both named Celeste (Morgan Kirner and Sarah Oakes Muirhead) who are flirting with a handsome soldier (Andrew O'Shanick), a middle-aged couple, Yvonne (Aimee Doherty) and her husband Jules (Josh Breckenridge) who stroll in to criticize his work, their two servants, Franz (Patrick Varner) and Frieda (Melody Butiu), and a dog. There will also be young Louise (Bailey MacNeal) and an American couple, Mr. & Mrs. (James Andrew Walsh and Barker again). The score includes the songs “The Day Off”, (a dog song, no less), and “Finishing the Hat” (about which Sondheim writes of “the treasured feeling of trancing out in a stream-of-consciousness lyric"). Then there is Dot's resigned lament “We Do Not Belong Together” as she leaves, pregnant with George's child, for America with her new beau Louis the baker (Nick Sulfaro), and Georges' mother's comments on the passage of time in “Beautiful” (and quite beautifully sung by Steinbach). As the painting progresses, it becomes clear why Seurat was consumed with satire, considered by some as a cartoonist as much as a painter. The first act ends with his commentary: “Order. Design. Tension. Balance. Harmony”, and the song “Sunday” with its stunning use of the word “Forever”. It remains one of the most brilliant moments in musical theater history.


Adam Chanler-Berat as George in "Sunday in the Park with George"
(photo: Paul Moratta) 

Act Two begins a century later with the characters in the painting expressing what they would have thought if they'd understood the reality that they would be immortalized, in “It's Hot Up Here” (with what Sondheim describes as a “tone of enervation”). The site is the museum in which the painting hangs (in a sort of meta moment, the Art Institute of Chicago, home of the painting in real life). The museum is the venue for a cocktail party for Seurat's great grandson George, (Chanler-Berat again) a self-described sculptor and inventor. He enters with his grandmother Marie (whom Dot was pregnant with in Act I, portrayed by Barber) for his latest multimedia installation, another in a series of “chromolumes” (referencing Seurat's theory of his “chromoluminarism”or “color-light-ism”). There is a generous amount of discussion about today's art scene, in the fabulously staged “Putting It Together” about the art of making (and promoting) art. It remains the weaker of the two acts in plot, but the stronger for its masterful score, notably Barber's two stellar turns in “Children and Art” (“the only things we hand down") and “Move On”. Along the way there are numerous humorous bits, but also what Sondheim describes as its “current of vulnerability, of longing, of compassion, that inform the show”. Undeniably the star of the proceedings is Sondheim himself, for his lovely music and even moreso his tantalizing lyrics. There are so many excerpts one could note, but let the following arbitrary choice suffice:
 
And the girls are so rapturous
isn't it lovely that artists can capture us?...
It's not so much do what you like
as it is that you like what you do...
I chose and my world was shaken – so what?
The choice may have been mistaken
The choosing was not...
Stop worrying if your vision is new
Let others make that decision
They usually do
You keep moving on...
Anything you do, let it come from you
Then it will be new
Give us more to see....

Though there are some (intentionally) cardboard characters on the stage, the live cast is anything but, starting with Chanler-Berat and Barber, and true of the entire ensemble, which sings just about perfectly as a chorus. And what of the design, composition, balance, light, and harmony of this production? It's actually not a miracle when a company's palette includes Direction by Peter DuBois, with Musical Direction by Eric Stern, Choreography by Daniel Pelzig, Orchestrations by Michael Starobin, Scenic Design by Derek McLane, Costume Design by Robert Morgan, Lighting Design by Christopher Akerlind, Sound Design by Jon Weston and Projection Design by Zachary G. Borovay. DuBois really seems to have captured the creative intent of Sondheim and Lapine, as have the rest of the creative team. Special notice should be made about Morgan's array of colorful costumes, true to the original painting and period yet fresh and new in feeling.

Regarded as one of the world's half-dozen most beloved paintings, there is no substitute for seeing it with its transcendent size and in living color (though this production will do quite nicely in the meantime). It's ironic that it has become iconic, so much so that it now even exists as a life-size topiary park in Columbus, Ohio. And now, thanks to Huntington Theatre, it has been resplendently reaffirmed, for which we should all be exceedingly grateful. We should also be grateful that DuBois plans to mount the remaining Sondheim works over the next few decades. As the final line in the play puts it: So many possibilities.  Meanwhile, please, Mr. Sondheim, give us more to see.   And hear.
  
The "Sunday in the Park with George" Topiary
(Columbus, Ohio)

9/13/2016

Nora Theatre's "Marjorie Prime": The Stepford Lives

Sarah deLima & Lee Mikeska Gardner in "Marjorie Prime"
(photo: Nora Theatre)

It's about that gorilla in the room, the automated one, the machine that, if taken too much for granted, might just be about to take over. AGI (Artificial General Intelligence), a machine that could successfully perform any intellectual task that a human can, is by some estimates about a decade away. Marjorie Prime, a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Drama, written by Jordan Harrison, is the current production at Nora Theatre, taking on this subject, as well as a much more worrisome one. It's Artificial Super Intelligence (ASI) that worries philosophers. What if machines develop the ability to make mistakes, use misplaced modifiers and non-sequiturs? What if they threaten the completion of Psychologist Daniel Gilbert's “Sentence”: “The human being is the only animal that...”

Heady stuff for an hour and a half play, with innumerable subtexts and implied dangers. By investigating the great mystery of human memory as opposed to the possibility of unlimited promises of technology, this work suggests it's more fact than fantasy. In a world some sixty years from the present, there are some suggestions of advanced tech, such as turning off a musical source with one's fingertips in the air. Most of the world on view seems at first not to have changed all that much, but the playwright has much more in store for us, as he peels back the layers of life as it will be, much like the proverbial onion. As one character says, “pronouns are powerful things”, as are the concepts of then and now, as in the casual use of “didn't/don't”, the expression of living “as one”, the desire for one who “want(s) to be more than human too” and the off-hand remark that “it's amazing what they can do with a few zillion pixels”.

On the surface, this is the story of an 85-year old woman named Marjorie (Sarah deLima), cursed with a fading memory, who is kept company by a handsome young man (Alejandro Simoes) and visited by her daughter Tess (Lee Mikeska Gardner) and Tess' husband Jon (Barlow Adamson). To divulge any further details would be a shame, as the author has a clear and careful, incremental exposition in mind. Suffice it to say that it's as though one combined “The Twilight Zone” with “The Stepford Wives”, and that the word “prime” doesn't refer to anyone's surname. That's just about all one can say without destroying the impact of its numerous revelations.

Presented as part of The Catalyst Collaborative at MIT, and wonderfully Directed by M. Bevin O'Gara, it boasts a quartet of excellent performances, all in their prime. Harrison has created a thought-provoking and potentially disturbing work. The creative team provided fine support, from the Scenic Design by Sara Brown to the Costume Design by Penney Pinette, to the Lighting Design by Wen-Ling Liao and Sound Design and Original Music by Arshan Gailus. It's a testament to its compelling issues that it's just been made into a film, with Geena Davis, Lois Smith, Jon Hamm and Tim Robbins, no less.

At the end of this remarkable play one character sums up: “How nice that we could love somebody”. It's a mark of the genius of this play that this seemingly benign observation is so chilling. And about the completion of “The Sentence”. How about: “The human being is the only animal that.....can write theater reviews”?