By Bill Marx
“I submit all my plays to the National Theatre for rejection. To assure myself I am seeing clearly.” — Howard Barker
Given the New York Times’s unenthusiastic review of an off-Broadway staging of Howard Barker’s A Hard Heart back in December – “Kathleen Chalfant can perform such miracles onstage that she has even found the lifeblood in Howard Barker’s bloodless essay question of a play” — the chances that the script would receive a Boston production didn’t look good, at least among the city’s cautious medium-sized and larger theaters.
A scene from Howard Barker’s latest play I Saw Myself
For a contemporary straight play or comedy to be staged here a warm reception in New York is often a must. Unruly and dense, Barker has not been a favorite in the Big Apple, along with a number of other intriguing playwrights. But to its credit, Whistler in the Dark will be giving A Hard Heart a chance to beat in the Black Box Theatre at the Arsenal Center for the Arts (321 Arsenal St., Watertown, MA 02472) from April 11 through 26. The small company did right by Barker in 2006 with a sterling production of the dramatist’s The Possibilities.
Richard Romagnoli, Chair of the Theatre Department at Middlebury College and Co-Artistic Director of The Potomac Theatre Project, will serve as the guest director of A Hard Heart. Romagnoli will go on to direct another Barker play, Scenes from an Execution, for The Potomac Theatre Project in New York from July 1 to 26.
Howard Barker’s U.K. company, the Wrestling School, announced earlier this year it had lost its Arts Council funding, which meant the end of the company after 20 years of experimental work.
Barker, an inveterate dissenter, called it political censorship. The Labour government explained that it had to cut back on culture to pay for the London Olympics. Luckily, an anonymous American fan of the troupe is going to replace that funding for the next three years. So Barker has a new play opening in London, titled I Saw Myself, beginning on April 9.
Playwright Naomi Wallace
Also, there’s a rare appearance by another thorny political playwright, Naomi Wallace, who hasn’t, to my knowledge, had a professional production in Boston since 2001’s One Flea Spare at the New Repertory Theatre. The MIT Dramashop — directed by Michael Ouellette — will take on In the Heart of America, a play written in 1994 and set during the first Gulf War. The student production will run at the Kresge Little Theater on the MIT campus from April 10 through 18. The play has received productions in Washington D.C, and Philadelphia.
A scene from Naomi Wallace’s trilogy The Fever Chart: Three Visions of the Middle East, which is currently being produced in Cairo