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play reviews


  • Originally published 08/19/2013

    The Horror! The Horror! 1922 Fright Fest Rears Its Lovable Head Again

    The Cat and the Canary Unicorn Theater 6 East Street Stockbridge, MassachusettsThe Cat and the Canary is one of the most successful plays and horror movies of all time. It has been staged endlessly in its nearly 100 year history and Hollywood has turned it into a movie six different times. It is even the basis for the legendary Haunted Mansion at Disney World, in Orlando, Florida.You can understand why at the Unicorn Theater, in the Berkshires, where it is up and running, and scaring, once again. The fright fest starts as you park outside the rustic old red barn theater. A half dozen “ghosts,” dressed in 1920s costumes, greet theatergoers in a dread-filled, zombie-ish way, heads bobbing and eyes opening and closing slowly. Inside, the theater has been turned into Glencliff Manor, that resembles every black and white manor house you ever saw in chilling movies.

  • Originally published 08/19/2013

    A Scalding Look at the Thirty Years' War

    Mother Courage and Her Children Shakespeare & Company 70 Kemble Avenue Lenox, MassachusettsYou think our wars in Afghanistan and Iraq lasted a long time? In Europe three hundred years ago, they had wars.

  • Originally published 08/03/2013

    Slave Revolt Rides on Broken Down Railroad

    Tellin’ Man Midtown International Theater Festival Dorothy Strelsin Theater 312 W. 36th Street New York, N.Y. Each summer, the festival stages fifty or so plays of different varieties at the midtown theater complex.There were five well known slave revolts in America prior to the Civil War: in New York in 1712, along the Stono River, in South Carolina, in 1740, in Richmond, Virginia in 1800, the Denmark Vesey revolt in Charleston in 1822 and the Nat Turner revolt in Virginia in 1831. Paul Gray’s new play, Tellin’ Man seems to be based most closely on the rebellion led by Gabriel Prosser in Richmond, Virginia, in 1800. In Gray’s play, as in the Prosser revolt, other slaves secretly told the owners of the rebellion and the slave owners worked with law enforcement to quash it.The Tellin’ Man is the story of James, who betrayed his fellow slaves, and what happened to him, his family and his friends after the leaders of the revolt were arrested. It is a narrow focus play about slavery and the eternal hope of those in bondage that they could be free.

  • Originally published 08/03/2013

    Fighting to Save a Sleazy Motel in Boston in the 1940s

    Motel Rasdell June Havoc Theater Midtown International Theater Festival 312 W. 36th Street New York, N.Y.Each summer, the festival presents fifty or so plays with a variety of themes as well as historyIn the 1940s, all proper Bostonian scoffed at the sleazy Motel Rasdell, a fictional hotel on the edge of the city. It was home to drug dealers, drug addicts on their “reefers,” derelicts, the homeless and hard edged hookers. Nobody ever mistook it for a dorm at Harvard, on the other side of the Charles River.It is also home to a bouncy new musical, Motel Rasdell, with an exuberant cast, a solid book and a charming, if harrowing, story.John is a reporter for a Boston newspaper and a womanizer in his personal life. He begins an affair with a hooker, Eve, who works at the Rasdell. He learns all about the wild life at the motel, and the illegality of just about everything that goes on there and writes a story about it. At the same time, his wife Jane catches him in his double life and leaves for Cape Cod, where she sulks on the beach. His two teenaged kids then try to run the house without her.

  • Originally published 07/21/2013

    A Scorching History of Rape in America

    Extremities Unicorn Theater 6 East Street Stockbridge, MassachusettsThe first seventeen minutes of Bill Mastrosimone’s savage play Extremities keep theatergoers on the edge of their seats. A stranger invades the home of a young woman he knows is alone and attempts to rape her. He is kneeling over her on the living room rug, his thick legs pinning her to the floor, his hands ripping at her clothes. She utters ear splitting screams of terror, flails her exposed legs wildly in the air and begs for her life.Then, suddenly, she is able to reach for a can of bug repellent and sprays her assailant in the face, disabling him. She springs to her feet, gets behind him and, before he can recover, ties him up. She tosses him into her empty fireplace, ties the iron grill to the wall and holds him captive, determined to kill him in revenge for what he did to her.

  • Originally published 07/21/2013

    When Does a War End for the Veterans?

    Heroes Shakespeare and Company 70 Kemble Street Lenox, MassachusettsWhen does a war end for the men who fought it?That’s the question in French writer Gerald Sibleyras play Heroes, translated by Tom Stoppard, which just opened at Shakespeare and Company in the Berkshires. The setting is 1959 somewhere in France. Three veterans of World War One, Phillipe, Gustave and Henri, reminisce about the war every day on the veranda of the Old Soldiers home where they live. Henry has been there 25 years and Phillipe ten. Gustave arrived six months ago.Sibleyras’ fine play seems slow moving and tepid at first. It appears to be the story of three perfectly harmless and lovable old men spending their golden years glorying in their wartime heroism long ago, cheered by all. As the minutes slip way, though, you see them as badly damaged individuals whose problems grow as each day passes. They don’t do anything well except re-fight World War One and act as much as soldiers as they can remember.

  • Originally published 07/06/2013

    Moving New Play on the Rosenbergs and 1950s Atomic Secrets

    Ethel Sings: Espionage in High CWalker Space Theater46 Walker StreetNew York, N.Y.The summer of 2013 is the 60th anniversary of the execution of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, accused of selling American atomic secrets to the Soviet Union from about 1943 to the early 1950s. Even though it was later proved that they were guilty, the pair remains political celebrities today.Ethel Sings, by Joan Beber, is a moving drama about the couple, who died in their mid-30s (Ethel was 38, Julius 35), leaving behind two small children, Michael and Robert. Their case brought on several rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court, several delays of execution and even a last minute plea to President Dwight Eisenhower. Beber paints a fine portrait of the couple, who went from joining the Communist Party to organizing labor and political rallies to espionage. They were, like some other ultra-liberals of the era, convinced that world was in better hands with the Soviets than the Americans. So they decided to do what they could to help the Soviets. That was their downfall.