Absurd Person Singular At The Nora Theater, Central Square, Cambridge, MA

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Although touted as the “fall of the British upper classes,” the play is really a look at small town politicking in suburban England in the early seventies. These days though, being middle class is kind of like upper class, if you get my meaning, but I digress.
We peek into the lives of three couples: the young, the middle aged and the well established as they navigate the social pecking order over three horrible Christmas parties. In three acts we’re privy to three kitchens and each couples quirks.
It’s 1972, and the men have careers, but the women don’t. Our first kitchen is set in the modest home of our most ambitious social climbers, and the youngest couple, Mr. and Mrs. Hopcroft. Jane (Samantha Evans) nervously cleans as her husband, Sidney, a housing developer (David Berger-Jones), once a navy commander, tells her the kitchen looks “ship shape.” They count the minutes until their important guests arrive, the Jackons, the middle aged architect and his pill-popping wife, and the Brewster-Wrights, the banker and his gin swilling authoritarian wife. In a comedy of errors, fly spray is left out accidentally, (Heavens!) and absurdly, rather than being a point of embarrassment for our manic lady of the house, our most socially well established Mrs. Marion Brewster-Wright (Stephanie Clayman) uses the stuff as a perfume.
In the second act, we get even more physical black comedy with Ronald Brewster-Wright (Steve Barkhimer) accidental electrocution and several failed attempts at suicide by Eva Jackson (Liz Hayes) because her smary womanizing husband Geoffrey (Bill Mootos) is leaving her.
In our last most beautifully appointed kitchen we get that glimpse at the decline of the upper classes, since Mrs. Brewster-Wright, a drunk recluse, and Mr. Brewster-Wright an ineffectual in denial, have lost all social graces and are living in the cold without heat.The piece de resistance is the last scene where the once masters of the social order become the puppets. The Hopcrofts, now sporting the trappings of wealth, Sidney in a tux and Jane in a fur coat make the older couples dance in an absurd party game while they control the music and the conditions.
The costuming (Leslie Held), with a Marlo Thomas flip a la “That Girl” on (Samantha Evans), a leather jacket and mustache sported by (Bill Mootos) that just reeks of the dry look and smarmy early seventies, and long flowing hippy-dippy Indian print pantsuit worn by (Liz Hayes) set the time spot on. The ensemble cast is terrific, directed by Daniel Gidron and their interpretation of Sir Alan Ayckbourn’s “Absurd Person Singular” really works to place their play appropriately in 1972. A fun absurdist look at the rise and fall of the British middle classes from a long time ago that still has poignant lessons for today.

The Nora Theatre Company
http://www.centralsquaretheater.org/history_nora.html
Absurd Person Singular is up until 8/25/13.

Get Ready for The Nines Festival in Devens, MA

The Nines Festival rocks Devens, MA - Saturday Aug. 10th, 2013
The Nines Festival rocks Devens, MA – Saturday Aug. 10th, 2013

Get ready to head to Devens, MA! The old army fort town will be the host of the first Nines Festival on Willard Field August 10th from 1-11PM. Parking is free, and kids under ten get in free, accompanied by an adult.

A collaborative effort by 3 River Arts and Great Northeast Productions, the Nines Festival promises a diverse line-up suitable for all ages including music, comedy, art installations and interactive exhibits of local, national and emerging artists. Food and crafts will be for sale on site.

Notable indie-rocker national acts like, Austin’s Explosions In the Sky touring with Nine Inch Nails, and Boston’s own Air Traffic Controller will be there, as well as Shuggie Otis the well known R&B guitarist. San Diego’s Delta Spirit will be mixing it up with their own brand of roots, blues and country, and DJ Kid Koala will create some unique sounds with his turntables. With three stages going, plus a comedy tent, there is sure to be something to suit everyone.

For more info about the event:
General ticket purchase: Ticketmaster, The Nines Festival or call 800-653-8000.
VIP ticket purchase: Gets you much swag and goodness, in fact you’ll be on cloud nine, for details scroll to the bottom of the page.

From Denmark With Love: A Comedy Mash-Up of Hamlet & Bond

Hamlet walks across the stage with a teapot. The actor is held in a James Bond style spotlight. He turns suddenly to face the audience and pours tea. The name is Ham – Hamlet. The parody mashup of James Bond and Hamlet takes off. Armed with an invisible sword made with twelfth century technology by Q, our Hammie, the hammy hero, seeks revenge — a dish best served shaken, not stirred. John J. King’s script is outrageous. It’s loaded with bad puns and rich language, throwing every Bond title into wonderful sentences that the actors mug expertly in delivery. Daniel Jones stars as both Hamlet and Claudius with wonderful imitations of Sean Connery and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

The story more or less: The criminal mastermind Claudius Von Bjornborg has a sinister plot to take over all of Europe using poisoned milk. Hammy, Ophelia, Horatio and Q must deal with Hamlet’s mommy issues and help him win back the throne and stop Claudius’s evil plot or die trying.

Presented by Vaquero Playground and The Boston Playwrights’ Theatre
You can also check out From Denmark With Love – THE ALBUM, a compilation of ten Bond Theme Song mash-ups by Boston bands.http://www.vaqueroplayground.com/fdwlalbum.html

Dandy Warhols Rock the Wilbur, Boston, MA

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Dandy Warhols, Courtney Taylor-Taylor

The Portland Oregon alternative rock band the Dandy Warhols rocked it with a bit more hair than when 13 Tales of Urban Bohemia first came out thirteen years ago. The tour is for the re-release of the newly remastered 13 Tales album with new material.

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Dandy Warhols, Zia McCabe

Courtney Taylor-Taylor, his long hair tied up in a knot, stood behind two microphones, right leg crossed over left to reach his guitar peddles in off black jeggins and Beatle boots. His brass belt buckle to the side so as not to scratch the finish of his guitar – so rock star it hurts – and he is so easy in that persona. There were some shout out’s to Zia McCabe as she walked on stage since it was her birthday, and two additional back up players were there to help round out the sound so that the Dandy’s would sound as close to the record as possible, according to Taylor-Taylor.

The first set followed 13 Tales in it’s entirety. The horn player in the back let Zia McCabe do other things on her synthesizer and shake the shit out of a pair of maracas while singing back up with the slow building philosophical “Godless,” “Muhammed,” and “Nietzsche,” none of which have lost their power. Taylor-Taylor’s deep growl surfaces in pouty sex idol lips with a sneer Elvis would be proud of, but it isn’t hostile nor studied boredom – it’s the affect of a Zen master of psychedelic rock. The slow build of the first set broke into a frenzy with the power pop hit “Bohemian Like You” and thus started the audience participation. Peter Holmström may look like someone you wouldn’t bring home to meet the folks, but he tore it up on a variety of guitars including but not limited to a cool black Rickenbacker, a hollow-body Telecaster, that had surf sound galore, and a Fender Stratocaster.

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Dandy Warhols, Peter Holstrom
Dandy Worhol's at the Wilbur, Boston, MA
Dandy Warhol’s at the Wilbur, Boston, MA

The stage craft, lighting and projections were stunning, and added to the mood, whipping the crowd into a frenzy or slowing it down into a slow pulsing swaying groove. As the evening progressed, Taylor-Taylor did a solo version of “Every Day Should Be A Holiday” with just a hollow-body guitar and one of his two mics pointed at the audience while the rest of the band took a break. He made a Jedi joke and complained that since he wasn’t drinking or smoking these days, he had to do this bit. He stepped back from the microphone and sang while playing guitar and he is such a strong singer, you could hear him. It also speaks to the great acoustics of the Wilbur Theatre.

When the band rejoined Tayor-Taylor on stage, he led the audience in a round of “Happy Birthday” for Zia McCabe. He flubbed the name humorously, like one does when it’s not someone you know as the audience sang in full voice. She raised her Corona bottle in thanks and drank to the crowd’s rejoicing. The second set began with just the four primary Dandy’s doing dance material like the growly “Good Morning” and notable anthem singalongs “We Used To Be Friends,” and “Horse Pills.”

Dandy Worhols, Brent DeBoer
Dandy Warhols, Brent DeBoer

When the bass drum got out of alignment, there was a meaningful glance between Brent DeBoer a.k.a.“Fathead” and Taylor-Taylor. Taylor-Taylor showed no compunction about yelling for “Joe to tape the bass drum” in the middle of the song, making it feel like a smaller more intimate setting. Fathead was in amazing voice and it was a thrill to hear his high notes coming through in person. Eventually, Taylor-Taylor joked about the indentured servitude of the backup players, as they came out to finish the set and their continuing tour of America and “Canadia” as he talked about the significance of 13 tales being re-released on13-13-13 and its mind blowing synchronicity. The encore had Holmström using a bow for etherial sounds on electric guitar cascading into Pete Townsend windmills as Taylor-Taylor did split jumps during the rocking guitar and heavy synth of “Boys Better” ending finally with McCabe’s solo of “Daisy On My Toe.” It was a spectacular show.

13 Tales of Urban Bohemia remastered with bonus material will release on June 11, 2013 on Capitol Records.

Master Class at the New Rep in Watertown, MA – A Review

Watertown – The New Rep Theatre

Master Class at New Repertory Theater, Watertown, MA
Amelia Broome as Maria Callas in Terrence McNally’s “Master Class,” with Erica Spyres as Sophie, Brendon Shapiro and Lindsay Conrad as Manny and Sharon.

The Tony award winning play, Master Class, by Terrence McNally takes place in the early seventies at Julliard, the prestigious arts school in New York. Maria Callas, a widely renowned opera singer, known for her bel canto technique, is now a teacher. She is the focus of the play, supremely played by Amelia Broome, an ambitious role for a New Rep debut. Broome is stunning, severe, and pitiable all at the same time, embodying the decline of a diva who refuses to pass the torch to younger singers. She finds fault with everything the students do, but through it we witness her reveries of past triumphs and disappointments.

During flashbacks actual recordings of Madam Callas are played, leaving the actress free to perform dialog between Callas and Aristotle Onassis. Callas, like Onassis, is proudly Greek, and a larger than life character. Broome plays the role of Onassis with swagger and that of Callas with a mixture of innocence and arrogance, making for a very complex interaction. Yes, the same man that was consort to Jackie Bouvier Kennedy, and eventual husband, was with Maria Callas, for years, but never married her. Some purport the whole sorted affair plays like a Greek tragedy. Her imperious behavior in the classroom melts away during these reveries revealing an intense, lovelorn, neglected, broken woman who has nothing but her devotion to a man who doesn’t love her, the discipline of her art, and the memory of public acclaim. “Now in the twilight of her career, …she reflects on her life, reliving theatrical artistic and painful intimate disappointments.”

The diva’s trite pronouncements about discipline and art are both touchingly humorous – in the vein of when I was a kid we walked to school without shoes up hill both ways – and uninspiringly true, as I myself have known operatic singers who didn’t necessarily know the libretto or what they were singing about – kind of like William Shatner learning a whole script in Esperanto, but having no idea what he was saying. I agree with Callas’ edict that context does count for something, and without it, the technician remains a technician never rising to the level of artist.

The fierce attacks on the students are countered with melodramatic sentimentality in the recounting of Callas’ private life reflecting a sad and lonely person who can’t let go of past glory. All of the angst and arrogance is summed up in one moment when the diva cannot reach a note that the young soprano can. The sentimental layers are pulled away tenderly and with humor by Broome and the ensemble. Under the hard shell, and gushy nougat, at her core, Callas is a vulnerable afflicted woman.

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The real Maria Callas the subject of play Master Class at the New Rep

The evening ended with the actors commending the audience for coming out to support the production and a call to action for OneFund. The actors and the audience were all very aware that we were suspending disbelief on many levels. The play is a phenomenal character study, and some of the philosophical commentary about it being unsafe in the real world rang all the truer because of the circumstances. Collectively, we were working through the fact that Watertown had been under siege not twenty-four hours earlier. This should have been the last performance of Master Class, the “Tony Award winning story of Maria Callas’ ambition and stardom,” but because of the manhunt for the Boston Marathon bomber, there would be one final make-up performance on Sunday night.

MASTER CLASS Company

Cast (in alphabetical order)
Darren Anderson, Tony
Amelia Broome*, Maria
Michael Caminiti, Stagehand
Lindsay Conrad, Sharon
Brendon Shapiro*, Manny
Erica Spyres*, Sophie

John Traub, Set Designer
Stacey Stephens, Costume Designer
Chris Brusberg, Lighting Designer
David Reiffel, Sound Designer
Phill Madore*, Stage Manager