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.


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.





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


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.


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.  


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. 


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.


Huntington's "Skeleton Crew": No Bones About It

Jonathan Lewis Dent, Toccarra Cash, Patricia R. Floyd & Maurice E. Parent in "Skeleton Crew"
(photo: T. Charles Erickson)

At a time like the present, with so many articulate high school students reminding us all of the innate power we have at the ballot box, Huntington Theatre Company is presenting the Boston area premiere of Skeleton Crew by Dominique Morisseau. Though set in a Detroit stamping plant “somewhere around the year 2008”, it's a timely reminder of how national policies and events impact the everyday lives and livelihoods of real people up and down the political food chain. In her trilogy entitled Detroit Projects, which she admits is modeled after August Wilson's Century Cycle, the playwright questions, how did we go from a city of people who make cars to a city of people living in their cars? In Detroit '67, she wrote first about that city's 1967 riot and consequent police brutality, and in Paradise Blue she focused on a 1949 housing renewal act and aggressive gentrification. In Skeleton Crew (an apt title on several levels) the action takes place entirely in the break room of the city's last small auto plant still standing, which she describes as an “existential breakroom, a false space in a way, but a false space within a very real place”.

In a very real sense, the room is a metaphor for where the author's characters find themselves, as rumors of the plant's closing swirl around them. The Scenic Design by Wilson Chin serves as a fifth character in its meticulous attention to detail, from the ubiquitous hand-written signs (such as “No smoking FAYE” or an upcoming Unit Meeting of union members), refrigerator, microwave, coffee maker, boom box, Mustang poster, time clock with punch cards, unisex bathroom and two bulletin boards. Behind these down-to-earth mundane elements there are some secrets (not to be revealed here) that all of the playwright's characters are hiding, not the least of which is how each confronts the primary issue of ethics vs. self-preservation, with survival foremost in their minds.

Patricia R. Floyd & Maurice E. Parent in "Skeleton Crew"
(photo: T. Charles Erickson)

Faye (Patricia R. Floyd), a quintessential survivor with twenty-nine years on the factory assembly line, is fully aware that “any moment one of us could be the other”. Dez (Jonathan Louis Dent) dreams of life beyond the factory, hoping to open his own garage. Shanita (Toccarra Cash) a very pregnant mom-to-be, is a hard-working second generation assembly line worker, saving up enough to support her first child. And then there is Reggie (Maurice Emmanuel Parent), a graduate from the line who has been made a factory foreman, a promotion that makes him torn between his obligation to his fellow workers and management.

How each of these makes concessions in the name of “success” makes for a tightly woven narrative, with Morisseau sometimes tantalizingly withholding information that this fine cast, wonderfully Directed by Megan Sandberg-Zakian, convey through nuances, unfinished thoughts and finely tuned gestures. Floyd is the perfect yet atypical matriarchal figure; Dent is a dreamer whose fantasies just might come true; Cash is a pluperfect timely deliverer of snappy dialogue. But it's Parent who provides the dramatic heft with his complex portrayal of the well-meaning middle man stuck in the middle of a dilemma. The other creative elements, from the apt Costume Design by Ari Fulton, to the intricate Lighting Design by Adam Honore, to the menacing Sound Design by Nathan Leigh, all contribute to this production's realistic feel and impact.

As Parent's character of Reggie puts it near the end of the play, he's running purely on “soul”.  Each of the foursome in her or his own way finds a way to cope with realities seemingly beyond their individual control. There are no bones about it: as the playwright puts it (and as those teens in the headlines might echo), it's time, or perhaps even past time, to “rise the hell up”.


New Rep's "Ripe Frenzy": Topical Paradise?

Veronika Duerr, Stacy Fischer & Samantha Richert in "Ripe Frenzy"
(photo: Zalman Zabansky)

As one approached the venue for the play Ripe Frenzy by Jennifer Barclay, one was greeted by a series of theater posters on the walls of prior productions of Thornton Wilder's Our Town. Then one was handed a program with the phrase “striking topical drama” on its cover, and inside a note by Director Bridget Kathleen O'Leary referencing the shootings at Columbine and other schools. With regard to the setting, the program noted that the action was to take place in the town of Tavistown, New York in 2017, at the high school theater and the surrounding woods. One was tantalized by the ambiguously portentous admonition that “time is slippery here”. And indeed it was to be. We were certainly not in Kansas, Toto. This latest choice as the National New Play Network Rolling World Premiere, a co-production by New Rep Theatre and the Boston Center for American Performance, was beginning to feel more than a bit threatening and not about a small town paradise it may have first seemed.

Stacy Fischer, Henry B. Gardner & Reilly Anspaugh in "Ripe Frenzy"
(photo: Kalman Zabarsky)

Produced at Boston University's Studio ONE (from February 24th to March 11th), in an intermission-less fast-paced ninety minutes, this was a stunner from the first appearance of the main character Zoe (Veronika Duerr), as we were informed by her that she played the role of The Stage Manager decades ago in one of the school's biennial productions of “Our Town”, and she is now, among other things, (such as town historian), the real life stage manager of the fortieth production of the work (which she mysteriously refers to as the thirty-ninth-and-two-thirds production, which is the heaviest hint of what's to come); she is also mother of the show's projectionist. The director of this version of “Our Town” is Miriam (Stacy Fischer), also a mother, and helping out is another mother, Felicia (Samantha Richert). There are also teenagers, Matt (Henry B. Gardner), Bethany (Reilly Anspaugh), Hadley (also played by Anspaugh) and Bryan James McNamara (also played by Gardner).

Under O'Leary's taut direction, the cast, without exception, was stellar, most notably Duerr (who impressed earlier this season in SpeakEasy Stage's Men in Boats). Her opening lengthy monologue as Zoe was a true acting tour de force. The creative elements were also on point, from the Scenic Design by Afsoon Pajoufar, to the Sound Design by David Reiffel, the Costume Design by Annalynn Luu, and most especially the work of Projections Designer Jared Mezzocchi, who described his contribution as “mediaturgy” (the importance of which might even be a spoiler).

Stacy Fischer & Veronika Duerr in "Ripe Frenzy"
(photo: Kalman Zabarsky)

As the plot developed, we became more aware of what Zoe meant when she noted that “logic is calming” and that “positivity is a choice we make”; so is denial, expressed by her: “we must remind ourselves of the goodness in life”, and the fact that two seemingly opposite things can both be true. Love and horror co-exist. Ripe Frenzy is a much darker (and maybe more truthful) take on small town life than that of Wilder. To elaborate on these themes would be to give in to the temptation to clarify some issues that would be unfair spoilers. Many people have relatively benign and romanticized remembrances of Wilder's original, conveniently forgetting how even he had his bittersweet moments. In his preface to the published version of his work, he spoke of how theatergoers were beginning to seek plays that were “soothing”; while he sought to demonstrate “a value above all price for the smallest events in our daily life”, he at the same time utilized the words “hundreds', “thousands” and “millions” many times, to assert that individuality is inner; it lies within. It's the obverse of what Playwright Barclay clearly sees, the town from the other side of the tracks.

Were Barclay to portray the character of Emily, she would still have her bemoaning as to how one never notices another in a cloud of ignorance and blindness. This Our Town has morphed into the current reality of what might now be entitled Every Town.

Zeitgeist's "Steve": Showtune Queue

Mikey DiLoreto, Alex Jacobs, Jenny Reagan, Victor Shopov, Adam Boisselle & Mike Nilsson in "Steve"
 (photo: David J. Miller)

Steve, by playwright Mark Gerrard, the current production by Zeitgeist Theatre, is first and foremost a play for all musical comedy queens with its myriad list of showtune references, but should appeal to any even broader spectrum of theatergoers. Stephen (Alex Jacobs), a somewhat inhibited businessman and Steve (Victor Shopov), failed chorus boy and stay-at-home dad raising their son, have been live-in partners for sixteen years. Their small circle of friends includes lesbian Carrie (Jenny Reagan), recently broken up with her longtime girlfriend (and terminally ill). There's also a hunky personal trainer named Steve (!), whom we mercifully don't see, and a flirty Argentinian waiter/dancer Esteban, which is Spanish for, um, Steve (Adam Boisselle). Another Steve (this one named Sondheim) in one version of his musical Company had a line about “multitudes of Amys”; this show obviously has a multitude of Steves. Oh, and there are guys not named Steve, Brian (Mike Nilsson) and Matt (Mikey DeLoreto). Issues that arise in these relationships include narcissism, sexting, monogamy, and middle aged gay New Yorkers and how they interact.

Victor Shopov & Jenny Reagan in "Steve"
(photo: David J. Miller)

What they've come together to celebrate is the 42nd birthday of Steve, to the tune of a barrage of showtune references, at least a couple of dozen just in this first scene. Most of them are fairly current shows, though Call Me Madam and Oklahoma! get brief mention. Some are quick and easy to miss (a cat named Elphebah, for example, or a line like “you're not a kid anymore, you'll never be a kid anymore” from Company. One of the more enjoyable ways to approach this encyclopedia of references is to try to catch which shows are included while still trying to follow the really thin plot. For the record, these would include Mame, Merrily We Roll Along, Man of La Mancha, West Side Story, Into the Woods, Bye Bye Birdie, A Little Night Music, Jesus Christ Superstar, My Fair Lady, Sunday in the Park with George, South Pacific, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, DreamgirIs, and I Can Get It For You Wholesale. And, yes, they're all in that first scene.

Alex Jacobs, Jenny Reagan & Mike Nilsson in "Steve"
(photo: David J. Miller) 

Once the play gets a bit less referential, there emerge some truths not to be revealed here, but suffice it to say that, thanks to David Miller's terrific direction and the acting of the ensemble, especially Zeitgeist repeaters Shopov and DiLoreto, there is much to appreciate in the play itself. One problem is that,in addition to the confusion about which Steve is which in any given line, and the roles of five other unseen characters, Gerrard also tinkers here and there with time (clumsy flashbacks) and place (suddenly we're at Fire Island?). But there are enough moving moments (as when Reagan protests about her ex, “we speak every day...almost”) as playwright Gerrard pursues the serious side of the zeitgeist. At one point Reagan queries if their talk might be “just noise”, a provocative question for a playwright to pose.
Zeitgeist may be off-off-Tremont, but it should be on every Boston theatergoer's map. It's never boring and is often more insightful than the product of a lot of other larger local companies. In any case, for members of this little company that could, it's obviously a labor of love, and it shows. The Direction, Scenic Design and Production Photos are by David Miller, who rumor hath it also makes the popcorn (untrue), with Lighting Design by Michael Clark Wonson, Sound Design by Jay Mobley and Costume Design by Elizabeth Cole Sheehan. One caveat: if you're going to put on a show with choir style seating, an overstuffed wingback chair on stage makes for partially obstructed views for some audience members.
Steve (all of them) is at the Boston Center for the Arts through March 24th. It's fun and a lot more engaging than a mere list of other theater pieces makes it sound. You should see it even if your name isn't Steve.


SpeakEasy's "Every Brilliant Thing": And They'll None of Them Be Missed

Adrianne Krstansky in "Every Brilliant Thing"
(photo: Maggie Hall Photography)

Local actress Adrianne Krstansky, as the Narrator and sole performer in the play Every Brilliant Thing, now being presented by SpeakEasy Stage, has a little list, enumerating the things in life that make it worth living, as a means of communicating with her suicidally-inclined mother. It's a list that started as a defense mechanism in the eighth year of her character's life and grew, from simple material things to the more complex. Members of the audience are employed to insert occasional (mostly pre-written) contributions that not only break the theatrical fourth wall but embrace it, while essentially demolishing it. As such, it offers, for better or for worse, an unusual degree of spontaneity and improvisation, which makes it clear that no performance of the work is the same as any other. This level of reality theater could be disastrous in many an actor's hands, but this is not just any actor, but in point of fact (wait for it) a truly brilliant thing herself.

The play first saw light at a 2013 British fringe festival, written by Duncan MacMillan and stand-up comic Jonny Donahoe (who also performed it), eventually finding its way to these shores in 2014, off-Broadway. The fact that it is playable by any gender on the spectrum of life ably demonstrates its universality; on the other hand, it also betrays the fact that we don't have much opportunity to get to know this character. The company's Producing Artistic Director Paul Daigneault admits in the program notes that he's not a huge fan of one-person shows and thus has rarely presented them. One of the reasons he chose to do so in this instance has to have been the further choice to select as Director another renowned actor, Marianna Bassham. It's an enlightening window into what might be identified by the Narrator as the source of many moments of life's mysteries, joys and wonders. Imagination, she discovers, is fundamentally what makes life worth living.

That all this is accomplished on a bare fully-lit (Lighting Design by Eric Levenson) “in the round” (well, square) stage with no set and few props to speak of, with the protagonist simply attired in gray and black with a Twin Peaks shirt (Costume Design by Amanda Ostrow Mason), is all the more astonishing; so is the abundance of wry humor. A few episodes are heart-breaking, bittersweet and funny all at the same time, as when the family pet, to be put to sleep, is revealed to have been named “Sherlock Bones”; it's a moment when her seven year old psyche learns the lesson that a loved one can become an object and thus may be taken away forever. There could have been more allusions to such loss or to her parents' reactions to her list (her mother never verbally acknowledging it, her father merely correcting her spelling), or of the briefly mentioned allusion to the “Werther effect”, from a Goethe novel, meaning a change or “copy cat” act brought about by interaction with a powerful artifact of pop culture, such as the suicide of a prominent figure like Marilyn Monroe or Robin Williams.

That both Actor and Director succeed so well in their respective roles is a testament to their previous growth in theater, as well as their research into how parental depression leads to what the playwright defines as a cloud of silence (Sound Design by Lee Schuna) hovering over a family when they are coping with mental illness. They succeed in conveying the sadness, the guilt and the shame felt by those who love them, while at the same time amassing a list of brilliant things that would indeed be missed.
There is a ironic lyric from the theme song of the television series Mash: “suicide is painless”.  Not.


Lyric Stage's "Virginia Woolf's Orlando": Not Mickey Mouse

Rory Lambert-Wright, Caroline Lawton & Jeff Marcus in "Orlando"
(photo: Mark S. Howard)

In the history of theater, there has long been a tradition of choral storytelling, much of it very fondly remembered (such as Paul Sills' 1970 Story Theatre or the Royal Shakespeare Company's epic 1980 The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby). It often appeared as an outgrowth of improv theater, with a sense of controlled spontaneity and exhuberance. In this same vein has arrived Virginia Woolf's Orlando, now being performed by Lyric Stage (in collaboration with Suffolk University's Theatre Department). An adaptation by Sarah Ruhl from Woolf's long love letter to Vita-Sackville-West, it consists of a half dozen episodic ventures (or adventures) involving half a dozen actors through half a dozen centuries (that's a lot of half-dozens) beginning with the Elizabethan era and ending in the “present moment”. In ninety gender-bending minutes (including an intermission), our hero/heroine Orlando (Caroline Lawton) encounters members of a five person acting chorus (here played by Elise Arsenault. Michael Hisamoto, Rory Lambert-Wright, Jeff Marcus and Halyey Spivey. The journey, reminiscent of that of another youth (in Voltaire's Candide) is Directed by A. Nora Long, the company's Assistant Artistic Director, with versatile Scenic Design by Richard Wadsworth Chambers, impressive Costume Design by Jessica Pribble and complex Lighting Design by Steven McIntosh. Here is a bit of a triptik for theatergoers (with what one hopes are not too many spoilers) to aid in one's appreciation of this take on Orlando's journey, which as noted above, despite its title, does not remotely feature a voyage to the land of the Mouse.

Orlando, a sixteen year old boy when first introduced by the chorus, longs to be famous, so he sets about writing a great poem, “The Oak Tree”. Queen Elizabeth, quite taken with him, sets him up at court with titles, land and her heart until she catches him with another and falls ill. The Great Frost occurs, trapping some Russian ships in ice, which is how Orlando meets and falls in love with the Russian Princess Sasha. Jealous at catching Sasha in bed with another, he first rages but then decides to run away with her, but the Great Thaw occurs, freeing the Russian ships which depart with Sasha. Orlando returns to his poetry, but the Romanian Archduchess attempts to seduce him, so he asks to be sent to Constantinople, where he beds the gypsy Rosina Pepita, eventually awakening as a woman. She returns to England to work on her poem,where the Archduchess exposes herself to Orlando as a man and tries again to seduce Orlando to no avail. A century later Orlando, finding herself surrounded by nothing but married couples, trips and breaks her ankle. A man on horseback arrives and they are shortly engaged and subsequently married. Finally, a century still later (the twentieth, if you've been keeping score), Orlando feels a bit like a duck out of water amidst all the technology that surrounds her, and decides after a visit from an old friend to return to writing her great work, The Oak Tree, as a clock strikes midnight.

Michael Hisamoto, Jeff Marcus, Caroline Lawton, Rory Lambert-Wright & Hayley Spivey
in "Orlando"
(photo: Mark S. Howard)

As Director Long puts it, Woolf “relished the idea that the mind of the artist is androgynous”, so she most likely would have enjoyed the wordplay and transtheatrical hijinks. Whether an audience member concurs might well depend on how one appreciates the literary short story form versus a more coherent and sustained storytelling work, or a novella as opposed to a more in-depth novel. There is much to be learned and loved in all of these possible choices.

But, unlike the previous plays noted above, Ruhl's take is by definition episodic, which leads to a lot of repetitious themes. The cast tries nobly to keep the narrative threads reasonably intact, but the text divides rather then conquers. There were also some pacing issues, which may have been due to one cast member's being indisposed (and, with remarkable poise on the part of the other actors, seamlessly dropped from the last scene). There are some cogent points made by the adapting playwright (equating being dead and a woman, in the context of women's lack of power or influence over the ages, or how one can be struck and disoriented, then altered, by exposure to the arts). But one wishes she had provided a more focused romp, such as the way in which Story Theatre utilized Grimm fairy tales and Aesop's fables with a complete story in each of its segments, or the opposite approach with Nicholas Nickleby's continuing narrative with more time to devote to development of a few supporting characters. In this Orlando, one never has a sense of who the various roles are, with comings and goings so fleeting that they leave little impact. It's as though one were at a banquet sampling appetizers without feeling sufficiently satisfied in the end; it may be that Ruhl is slightly fearful of overdoing the message she wishes to convey.

What's indisputable about this piece is that she certainly isn't afraid of Virginia Woolf.


Fathom Events' Met Opera "La Boheme": Still Paying the Rent

Susanna Phillips (center) & Cast of "La Boheme"
(photo: Metropolitan Opera)

La Boheme, composed by Giacamo Puccini, is one of opera's most popular and best-known stories that has withstood the test of time in many varied productions (and even survived, if just barely, its adaptation as the rock-like musical Rent). Given its familiarity to most opera fans, a brief synopsis along with identification of the singers involved in this performance should suffice.

In a Parisian garret in the 1840's, writer Rodolpho (tenor Michael Fabiano) and his roommates the artist Marcello (baritone Lucas Meachem), the philosopher Coline (bass Matthew Rose), and the musician Schaunard (baritone Alexey Lavrov) are reduced to burning Rodolpho's work to keep warm while they share a meager supper. Their landlord Benoit (bass Paul Plishka) arrives looking for his rent payment, but they get him drunk and kick him out. All but Rodolfo (who has some writing to finish) head for the nearby Cafe Momus to celebrate Christmas Eve. Soon, there is a weak knock on the door and Mimi (soprano Sonya Yoncheva) arrives with her candle that has blown out. The same happens to Rodolfo and, in their search for illumination, they fall in love (of course, this is an opera after all) and head to join the others at the cafe. There they all enjoy the many distractions, such as the toy vendor Parpignol (tenor Gregory Warren) and the singing by Marcello's former girlfriend Musetta (Susanna Phillips) who arrives on the arm of the rich Alcindoro (Plishka again) and whom she sends off to buy her shoes. Marcello and Musetta fall into one another's arms and join the crowd as they march off after some soldiers, led by the Sergeant (bass Jason Hendrix), leaving the bill behind for Alcindoro.

Michael Fabiano as Rodolfo in "La Boheme"
(photo: Metropolitan Opera)

Months later, with snow falling, at the Barriere d'Enter, or tollgate, manned by the Customs Officer (bass Joseph Turi), Mimi searches for the home where Marcello and Musetta have moved. She speaks of Rodopho's jealousy and hides when he arrives, complaining of her flirting. He reveals his real reason for their difficulties is that the poverty he can offer is not good for the ailing Mimi, who rushes out to bid him goodbye. They reconcile and agree to spend their days together until the arrival of spring. But months later in the garret, it's clear they have again separated, as have Marcello and Musetta, who bemoan their loneliness. Musetta then arrives with a weakened Mimi, arranging for her jewelry to be pawned, and Coline's overcoat as well, for medicine for Mimi. Rodolfo and Mimi sing of much happier days but she begins to cough violently. As all rally around her, she succumbs, and Rodolfo, the last to realize she is gone, collapses in despair.

Sonya Yoncheva as Mimi in "La Boheme"
(photo: Metropolitan Opera)

Just your usual operatic ending (especially for a Puccini heroine), redeemed by some of Puccini's most gloriously romantic music, and presented in this Production (and Set Design) by Franco Zeffirelli, with arguably the most beloved production of the Met's older offerings. In addition, the Costume Design is by Peter J. Hall, with Lighting Design by Gil Wechsler, Stage Direction by Gregory Keller and, as usual, choral direction by estimable Chorus Master Donald Palumbo. The HD Broadcast was presented under Director Matthew Diamond, with Kelli O'Hara as the HD Host (who will be taking on the role of Despina in Cosi fan Tutte in a few weeks).

This was a beautifully sung performance from all six of the principals, plus the added bonus of real chemistry between Fabiano and Yoncheva. With singing, acting and orchestral precision of this caliber, the Met need never be concerned about paying the rent.

The HD Broadcast will have an encore on Wednesday February 28th at a theater near you.


Fathom Events' "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof": Mellow Drama?

National Theatre Live's "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof"
(photo: Johan Persson))

Continuing with its National Theatre Live HD Broadcast series, Fathom Events will be presenting the acclaimed Young Vic production of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof for a single evening this coming week. The 1955 work by playwright Tennessee Williams, which earned him a Pulitzer Prize for drama, was controversial at the time it was first produced, as it dealt with sexual issues including marital dysfunction and a possible repressed homoerotic relationship. In the wrong hands this might have been excruciatingly dated, but reviews of this production were virtually unanimous in praise of director Benedict Andrews (who was also acclaimed for his previous direction of another Williams work, A Streetcar Named Desire) as well as his cast.

Jack O'Connell & Sienna Miller in "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof"
(photo: Johan Persson)

Sienna Miller plays Maggie the Cat, married to the ex-jock Brick, played by Jack O'Connell, who is on crutches as a result of a sports-related injury. The first act is reportedly a real tour de force for Miller as she berates her husband for never standing up to his father, Big Daddy, (superbly played by Colm Meaney) as well as hinting that Brick's long friendship with his dead best buddy Skipper might have been more than what it first seemed. It's the sixty-fifth birthday of the small clan's patriarch, and they have all gathered to celebrate it, with eyes centered on his considerable fortune.

Colm Meaney & Jack O'Connell in "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof"
(photo: Johan Persson)

The second act is reportedly a wonderful diatribe between father and son as Big Daddy, described in the New York Times review as the “blunt philosopher in residence”, has a secret to share with his disappointing progeny. Their ontological discussion is the crux of the play, as Brick states that his only out is either liquor or death, and his father states that “the human animal is a beast that dies, but the fact that he's dying don't give him pity for others”. It remains today a melodrama with more than a grain of truth, and those involved in the family's dysfunction as a whole demonstrate the exaggerated truth of people's reactions when their survival is threatened.

This production, in addition to the acting and direction, boasts praised technical elements, including its dramatic copper and gold Lighting Design by Jon Clark and Set Design by Magda Willi, and is said to be a visually exciting version of a true masterpiece. As noted, it's a “one-off”, as they say in the mother country, and from all accounts is one performance not to be missed.