By Bill Marx
Somewhere an enterprising graduate student is working on a trenchant study of the correlation between holiday stage entertainment and the American economy. When things were looking bright and profitable the shows became cynical and comic, with mischievous elves placing whoopee cushions under our delusions of good cheer. Now that unemployment is high and the future uncertain the rush to supply inspirational sentiment is omnipresent, with only Out on the Edge venturing on the wild side. And don’t get me started on the tragic (?) fall of “A Christmas Carol.”
Lady by Craig Wright. Presented by the Zeitgeist Stage Company at the Boston Center for the Arts through November, 21, 2009. The plot of Wright’s play about the varieties of American “unfaithfulness” sounds like the set-up for an old joke. A liberal, a “hawkishly conservative” Democratic congressman, and a stoner go out on a hunting trip …
Out on the Edge: 18th Annual Queer Theater Festival. Presented by Theater Offensive at the Boston Center for the Arts, November 4 through 14, 2009. A number of shows look appealing for those yearning for an alternative to the lockstep of holiday cheer. There’s the New England premiere of Tim Miller’s monologue “Lay of the Land,” the Boston premiere of Slanty Eye Mama’s “Birth of a nAsian” and finally the American premiere of Annie Sprinkle and Elizabeth Stephens’ salaciously titled homage to all things wet and green, “Dirty Sex-Ecology or How to Make Love with the Earth.” No doubt the coal industry is an underwriter for the Sprinke and Stephens show (lol). Check website for schedule and ticket prices.
The Salt Girl by John Kuntz. At the Boston Playwrights Theatre, November 5 through 22, 2009. Lauded local playwright and performer John Kuntz stars in his latest script, the tale of “a long-depressed, family black sheep who must now comes to terms with his loneliness or give in to his family’s history.” David R. Gammons directs; be warned, the production “contains nudity.”
The Odyssey, Created and Performed by CWT Co-Directors Jennifer Johnson and John Peitso. Presented by the Charlestown Working Theater, Charlestown, November 6 through 21, 2009. Back by popular demand, this minimal production of Homer’s sweeping epic wowed the local critics with its “inspired” stagecraft and “astonishing beauty.”
A Civil War Christmas by Paula Vogel. Presented by the Huntington Theatre Company at the Boston University Theatre, November 13 through December 13, 2009. In this play with music, Pulitzer prize-winning playwright Paula Vogel comes up with an intriguingly historical take on season’s greeting. Set on Christmas Eve 1864, the production melds together a number of American stories to show us that “the gladness of one’s heart is the greatest gift of all.” Jessica Thebus directs.
Tru Grace: Holiday Memoirs, adapted for the stage and directed by Wesley Savick. Presented by the Underground Railway Theater at the Central Square Theater, Cambridge, November 19 through December 27, 2009. Stories by Truman Capote and Grace Paley provide the basis for “the perfect holiday alternative with an intergenerational cast, puppetry, music, and fruitcakes.”
Machinal by Sophie Treadwell. Presented by The Boston Conservatory at Midway Studios, November 20 through 22, 2009. This still powerful 1928 expressionistic play centers on a sensational real life murder case that sent a woman to the electric chair.
Best of Both Worlds. Book & Lyrics by Randy Weiner. Music by Diedre Murray. Co-written and directed by Diane Paulus. Presented by the American Repertory Theater at the Loeb Drama Center, Cambridge, November 21 through January 3, 2010. A revival of “a holiday musical for the whole family” based on William Shakespeare’s “The Winter’s Tale.” Like the other entries in the A.R.T.’s “Shakespeare Exploded” series, this production does away with the Bard’s pesky language, which apparently makes it easier for attendees to “clap your hands, jump out of your seat, and feel the power of love …” (I will post my review of “Sleep No More,” an adaptation of “Macbeth,” soon.)
Note: This production will “feature a rotating roster of Greater Boston’s most celebrated gospel choirs, including community, university, and church choirs.” Local choirs will be in high demand this season — the Huntington Theater Company’s “A Civil War Christmas” also features local choirs. “Community” has become a fashionable word — this will be a big year for area warblers.
Shipwrecked! An Entertainment: The Amazing Adventures of Louis de Ridgemont (as told by himself) by Donald Margulies. Presented by the Lyric Stage Company of Boston, November 27 through December 20, 2009. The New England premiere of an incredible “adventure tale” that revolves around Louis de Rougemont, who leaves his sickbed and London home in order to see the the world. He encounters pearl divers, a typhoon, and eventually finds himself stranded on an island. No doubt director Scott Lafeber will apply lots of theatrical hocus pocus.