Coming Attractions in Theater: July 2011

We are hitting the season of high summer now, with productions coming fast and furious. As is my wont, I will single out shows that are off the beaten path. This is not to say that the production of Guys and Dolls at the Barrington Stage Company isn’t as terrific as I have heard it is. Only that I want to venture beyond brand name material, even as the temperature rises and the call for the tried-and-true grows.

By Bill Marx.

Some of the cast members in the Holland Productions presentation of HIDEOUS PROGENY

The Venetian Twins by Carlos Goldoni. Directed by Jenna Ware. Presented by Shakespeare and Company at the Rose Footprint Theatre/Bankside, Lenox, MA, through August 27. No mention of who translated this 1745 Italian farce, which will be presented outdoors commedia dell’arte style and boasts a plot reminiscent of Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors (which draws on an idea by the Roman playwright Plautus): “Two identical twin brothers, raised separately, each decide to visit Verona for the very first time. Neither knows the other is in town, and it isn’t long before their friends and love interests start to confuse them for each other with delightfully funny results.”

The Most Happy Fella. Music, book, and lyrics by Frank Loesser. Directed by Eric C. Engel. Musical direction by Michael Joseph. At the Gloucester Stage, Gloucester, MA, through July 17. A rare production of a heralded musical/opera from the composer/lyricist of Guys and Dolls that deals with romance between a young woman and a middle-aged man. Tunes include “Standing on the Corner” and “My Heart Is So Full of You.” The cast includes Kerry Dowling, Jennifer Ellis, Timothy John Smith, and Dawn Tucker.

T: The Musical. Music and lyrics by Melissa Carubia and book by John M. Manship. Directed by Jeffrey Mosser. Staged by ImprovBoston in Central Square, 40 Prospect Street, Cambridge, MA, through July 9. Plenty of material here for a show that should ideally be a fusion of Guys and Dolls and Les Miserables. The musical “chronicles the journey of three 20-somethings whose lives have been derailed by the MBTA’s shortcomings. When they discover a secret map that will enable them to conquer the evil of the T, they set forth on a colorful journey that is part love story, part melodrama, part scavenger hunt, all one big transportation nightmare.” Original tunes include “The Shuttle Bus Song (We Can’t Handle It)” and “The Bro Song.”

One Slight Hitch by Lewis Black. Directed by Joe Grifasi. Presented by Williamstown Theatre Festival at the Nikos Stage, Williamstown, MA, July 6–17. A “modern-day farce” from comedian/political satirist Black that “mocks the all-too-human desire to shape our own destiny. It’s Courtney’s wedding day, and her mom, Delia, is making sure that everything is perfect. The groom is perfect, the dress is perfect, and the decorations (assuming they arrive) will be perfect. Then, like in any good farce the doorbell rings. And all hell breaks loose.” Sounds like a perfect set-up to me. The cast includes Mark Linn-Baker and Lizbeth Mackay.

pride@prejudice. Adapted, edited and compiled by Daniel Elihu Kramer from the novel by Jane Austen. Directed by Ron Bashford. Staged at the Chester Theatre Company, Chester, MA., July 6–17. Jane Austen and the Internet meet, mesh, and mingle in the East Coast premiere of this intriguing-sounding, interactive adaptation that comes not only to praise the author but to “deconstruct” her.

Matt and Ben by Mindy Kaling and Brenda Withers. Directed by M. Bevin O’Gara. At the Central Square Theater, 450 Mass. Ave., Cambridge, MA, July 7–31. “We all know the story: Best friends from Cambridge write a screenplay, star in the hit movie, win the Academy Award, and suddenly the world can’t get enough of them. But what’s the real story behind Matt Damon and Ben Affleck’s breakout success?” The off-Broadway hit “comes home to Cambridge with a sharp skewering of celebrity culture and an affectionate look at Boston’s favorite bromance. Warning: the show contains strong language.” The cast includes Marianna Bassham and Philana Mia.

Philana Mia (Matt) and Marianna Bassham (Ben) in MATT AND BEN at the Central Square Theater.

Hideous Progeny by Emily Dendinger. Directed by Krista D’Agostino. Staged by Holland Productions at the Boston Playwrights’ Theatre, Boston, MA, July 9–23. The regional premiere of yet another version of Frankenstein, this “witty and salacious” go-around proffers a Mary Shelley who, “navigating through sex and science, family and phantasms,” gives birth to “her own hideous progeny and secures her name in ink and immortality.”

The World Goes ‘Round. Music by John Kander and lyrics by Fred Ebb. Conceived by Scott Ellis, Susan Stroman, and David Thompson. Directed and choreographed by Ilyse Robbins. Music direction by Todd C. Gordon. Staged by the New Repertory Theatre in the Charles Mosesian Theater, the Arsenal Center for the Arts, Watertown, MA, July 10–31. A retrospective of the much-admired work of Kander and Ebb, including “your favorite songs such as ‘Mr. Cellophane,’ ‘Maybe this Time,’ ‘Cabaret,’ and ‘New York, New York,’ which are “seamlessly interwoven into a passionate, harmonious, up-tempo evening of musical theatre.” Question: Are evenings of musical theater ever down-tempo? The cast includes songsters Leigh Barrett and Aimee Doherty.

Mormons, Mothers, and Monsters. Book and Lyrics by Sam Salmond. Music by Will Aronson. Musical Direction by Vadim Feichtner. Directed by Adrienne Campbell-Holt. Presented by the Barrington Stage Company’s Musical Theatre Lab at Stage Two, 36 Linden Street, Pittsfield, MA, July 14–31. Would anyone ever have predicted that Mormons would become the hot property for musical theater? A world premiere of “a quirky new comedy about a boy and his Mormon mother who smile their way through three shattering divorces. As he grows, the boy hides under the bed sheets, prays fervently and tries to figure out just who is responsible for his crappy, crappy life.”

1001 by Jason Grote. Directed by Megan Sandberg-Zakian. Presented by Company One at the Boston Center for the Arts, Boston, MA, July 15 through August 13. This “seductive fever-dream of a play” is receiving its New England premiere. The script is a “kaleidoscopic reinvention of the Arabian Nights [that] proves to be a timely tale as America reflects on the 10 year anniversary of 9/11. 1001’s rich fantasia conjures a storybook world that dissolves, at a moment’s notice, into an apocalyptic, 21st-century landscape.” The Boston Globe found this play to be “endlessly compelling,” which means the critic, wherever he or she is, is still compelled by it. I will settle for being temporarily compelled.

Political satirist Lewis Black's farce ONE SLIGHT HITCH opens at the Williamstown Theatre Festival this month.

Dutch Masters by Greg Keller. Directed by Brian Roff. Staged by the Berkshire Theatre Festival at the the Unicorn Theatre, Stockbridge, MA, July 19 through August 6. Billed as a “shocking examination of race relations in our time,” this sounds like a variation on Amiri Baraka’s Dutchman: “In the summer of 1992, two young adult men find themselves on the same subway car headed uptown. One white, one black, the two will discover over the course of one afternoon exactly what it is that unites and divides them. This production is part of Lift Ev’ry Voice, Celebrating African-American Culture & Heritage in the Berkshires.”

Crime and Punishment. Adapted by Marilyn Campbell and Curt Columbus from the novel by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Directed by Sheila Siragusa. Staged at the Chester Theatre Company, Chester, MA., July 20–31. The New England premiere of an award-winning adaptation of the Russian murder classic that is “simultaneously an electrifying journey into the mind of a killer, a cat-and-mouse detective story, and a tale of overpowering love for a fallen woman.”

All’s Well That Ends Well by William Shakespeare. Directed by Steven Maler. Presented by Commonwealth Shakespeare Company at the Boston Common, Parkman Bandstand, Boston, MA, July 27 through August 14. An interesting choice for this year’s free Shakespeare production on the Boston Common, given that this is a “problem” comedy in which an intelligent woman is determined to woo a man who doesn’t love her. And he’s not all that great of a catch.

2010: Our Hideous Future: The Musical! Produced and presented by Unreliable Narrator Theater Group at Oberon, Cambridge, MA, July 28 and 29. “The American Repertory Theater’s destination for theater and nightlife on the fringe of Harvard Square” presents a number of musical events and shows throughout the month, including Matchmaker Matchmaker I’m Willing to Settle! A Musical Guide to Internet Dating (July 26) and Tanya and Nancy: The Rock Opera. (July 18–21).

I picked this one because the summary is revealingly incomprehensible: “The way, far, future, A.D. 2010, New Malden: a time of techno-studded blechhiness. Lonely human freedom fighter Kate Brick plans a last stand against the oppressive Artas, artificial life forms who control humankind through torture, brainwashing, and Facebook. But judging by the complacence of her lover Dehnise Compuserve and the complacence of her former humans, it may be too late.” I agree—Facebook and the aliens have won . . .

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