Any month that includes an attempt to get kids into the poetry of Shakespeare, inspirational women, and talking chickens looks fairly promising.
By Bill Marx
1: Shakespeare and the Language that Shaped a World by Kevin G. Coleman. Directed by Jenna Ware. Presented by Shakespeare and Company at the Elayne P. Bernstein Theatre, Lenox, MA, through April 24. I think it was British director Richard Eyre who said that audiences would be out of touch with Shakespeare’s language in a generation or two. Let’s prove him wrong—take your kids to “this fast-paced, fun, and accessible introduction to Shakespeare for kids of all ages.” The presentation features “music, sword fights, and even dance.” The homage to Shakespeare includes “a hands-on workshop with the actors (A Midsummer Night’s Dream) that’s open to everyone!”
2: Mary’s Wedding by Stephen Massicotte. Presented by Portland Stage, Portland, ME, April 6–25. Winner of the 2000 Alberta Playwriting Competition and the 2002 Betty Mitchell Award for Best New Play, this script by Canadian playwright Stephen Massicotte wades into romance novel territory: it is the story “of a young farmer and his bride-to-be who are separated when he enlists in World War I.” My intuition tells me you should bring a hankie.
3: Le Cabaret Grimm Written and directed by Jason Slavick. Adapted by Grimms’ Tales. Presented by The Performance LAB at Boston Center for the Arts – Cyclorama, Boston, MA, April 8–24. Billed as a “punk cabaret fairy tale (sans fairies),” Le Cabaret Grimm amounts to a “punk cabaret tale of loss, longing, and desire—with a healthy dose of irony. We’ve got sexy girls and boys, conjoined twins, demons, and talking chickens.” In my experience, you can’t beat talking chickens when it comes evoking Bohemian decadence. The evening is hosted by the “extraordinary” Johnny Blazes.
4: On This Moon by Kevin Mullins. Presented by Flat Earth Theatre at The Arsenal Center for the Arts, Black Box Theatre, Watertown, MA, April 16–24. I like the idea of a sci-fi drama, this one modeled after Shakespeare’s The Tempest. The plot: “Living on a remote moon, Dr. Paulson seeks a better life for his daughter, Mary. To that end, he tasks his android servant, Ariel, with sabotaging a passing ship containing a potential suitor for Mary, Freddy—who later reveals that he is gay.” The classic 1950s sci-fi film “Forbidden Planet” also drew on The Tempest though it didn’t fiddle around with the script’s sexuality. Robbie the Robot was the Ariel figure.
5: Act A Lady by Jordan Harrison. Directed by Darren Evans. Presented by Theatre on Fire at the Charlestown Working Theater, Charlestown, MA, April 16 through May 1. A gender-bending comedy-drama that explores the uproar that occurs in a small, depression era, Midwestern town when a trio of townsmen from the Elks lodge perform the female roles in an overheated melodrama. The upshot? “Gender lines blur, eyebrows raise, identities explode, and life and art are forever entangled.”
6: The Blonde, the Brunette and the Vengeful Redhead by Robert Hewett. Staged by the Merrimack Repertory Theatre, Lowell, MA, April 22 though May 16. The regional premiere of an “international hit” that features an actress playing seven roles. The story gives us a suburban housewife who, suspecting that her husband is cheating on her, loses it at the mall. Omnipresent Boston acting legend Karen MacDonald stars.
7: Roman Conquest by Terry Byrne. At the Boston Playwrights’ Theatre (Odyssey Theatre), Boston, MA, April 26. Ace Boston theater critic Terry Byrne presents a staged reading of her play, which is based on true events. “Three courageous women flee scandal and the rigid rules of 19th century Boston society to find love and success in Rome. When their sanctuary is threatened, charismatic actress Charlotte Cushman and gifted sculptors Emma Stebbins, Harriet Hosmer, and Edmonia Lewis join forces to fight convention and for the right to preserve—for all of us—their own trailblazing legacy.”
8: The Emancipation of Mandy and Miz Ellie by Lois Roach. Presented by Company One at the Boston Center for the Arts, April 30 through May 22. More feminist uplift. The world premiere of a play about “two women whose lives become inextricably intertwined with a single purchase. An examination of life surrounding the Emancipation Proclamation, this touching and relevant journey told through live percussion, rhythmic movement, and the songs of freedom makes history, her story.” The performers include the OrigiNation Dance Troupe.
9: The Great American Trailer Park Musical Music & Lyrics by David Nehls. Book by Betsy Kelso. Presented by SpeakEasy Stage Company at the Calderwood Pavilion at the Boston Center for the Arts, Boston, MA, April 30 through May 29. A country-rock and blues musical about the colorful lives and trashy loves of the American underclass: “There’s a new tenant at Armadillo Acres—and she’s wreaking havoc all over Florida’s most exclusive trailer park.”
10: The Syringa Tree by Pamela Gein. Directed by Laura Kepley. Presented by Trinity Repertory Company at Trinity Repertory Company, Providence, RI, April 30 through May 30. A sensitively written autobiographical piece about growing up under apartheid in South Africa. The impressive case includes Barbara Meek, Anne Scurria, and Rachael Warren.