Reviewer: Jane Baldwin

Jane Baldwin
Jane Baldwin, a longtime faculty member of the Boston Conservatory, taught Modern Drama, Acting, and Humanities. She is a recipient of the Canadian Heather McCallum Award for the best English essay and the French language Prix André G. Bourassa. Her books and articles include Michel Saint-Denis and the Shaping of the Modern Actor (Greenwood Press), Theatre: The Rediscovery of Style and Other Writings, which she edited (Routledge Press), and Vie et morts de la création collective/Lives and Deaths of Collective Creation, co-edited with Jean-Marc Larrue and Christiane Page (Vox Theatri). Her essay, “Michel Saint-Denis: Training the Complete Actor,” is published in Actor Training, ed., Alison Hodge (Routledge Press). Her latest work, “The Accidental Rebirth of Collective Creation: Jacques Copeau, Michel Saint-Denis, Léon Chancerel, and Improvised Theatre” appears in Toward a New History of Collective Creation, eds., Kathryn Mederos Syssoyeva and Scott Proudfit (Palgrave). Although most of her reviews are from the Boston area, she has followed the Stratford Festival in Canada for many years.”

The State of Siege (l’état de siège): A political warning

Reviewed by Jane Baldwin

État de siège

État de siège, Photo de Jean Louis Fernandez

Albert Camus’ 1948 play The State of Siege (L’État de Siège) is presently touring the U.S. in a production by Paris’ celebrated Théâtre de la Ville. This is the company’s third visit to this country, but its first to Boston where it opened on November 9 at ArtEmerson’s Majestic Theatre.

Camus was invited to write the play by the actor and mime Jean-Louis Barrault then also France’s leading director. As early as the late 1930s, Barrault began developing ideas for a drama based on the plague. At first, he collaborated with Antonin Artaud whose interest lay not in dialogue, but in creating a powerful theatre of ritual, imagery, and movement which ultimately through assaulting the audience’s senses would have a cathartic effect. The two men split up because Artaud’s ideas were too extreme for Barrault and the converse was true for Artaud. (more…)

The Revolutionists: How far have we come?

Reviewed by Jane Baldwin

The Revolutionists. Photo A. R. Sinclair


The Revolutionists Photo A. R. Sinclair

The Nora Theatre Company at the Central Square Theatre in Cambridge, MA is currently presenting The Revolutionists, a work by Lauren Gunderson that takes place in Paris during the Reign of Terror (1792-1793), a period of the French Revolution during which the leaders of the new government took revenge against those viewed as anti-revolutionists. The situation worsened when the government split into two factions, the Jacobins and Girondins. Of the two the Jacobins were the more vicious. Arrests, quick trials, and the guillotine were the order of the day. (more…)

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time: An Intense and Moving Theatrical Experience

Reviewed by Jane Baldwin

photo: Nile Hawver-Nile Scott Shots

The 2015 Tony Award winning The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time now playing at Boston’s SpeakEasy Company was adapted by Simon Stephens from Mark Haddon’s bestseller of the same name. It is a very imaginative theatrical play where what is seen is as important as the words heard.

It revolves around Christopher Boone, a high functioning mathematically gifted autistic fifteen year old boy who lives in Swindon, England. Although the word autism is never mentioned, his behavior and the production make his problems clear. Given that he prefers his own company he does not socialize with people. As a result, he is extremely naïve about the way the world functions. He cannot bear physical contact with people. Even his parents are allowed only to reach out a hand and touch Christopher’s hand while he stands at a distance. However he has a pet rat he cares for tenderly. He dreams of becoming an astronaut, a profession where he could be alone and fly towards the planets. (more…)

Souvenir, A Fantasia on the Life of Florence Foster: A Sad, Mad, and Yes Funny Play

Reviewed by Jane Baldwin

Souvenir. A Fantasia on the Life of Florence Foster Jenkins
Photo Mark S.Howard

Ten years after staging Stephen Temperley’s two-hander Souvenir, A Fantasia on the Life of Florence Foster Jenkins Spiro Veloudos, the artistic director of Boston’s Lyric Stage, has revived it with the same cast. Not having seen the earlier production, I am unable to compare the two. However, both talented performers Will McGarrahan and Leigh Barrett are comfortable and believable in their roles. (more…)

WARHOLCAPOTE: Their World of Celebrity, Competition, Conversation, Art, and Friendship

Reviewed by Jane Baldwin

Warholcapote
Photo Gretjen Helene

As its title seems to indicate,Warholcapote , a two character play revolves around a relationship so close that both characters are in some way indistinguishable. Both were honored as avant-garde artists of the mid-twentieth century and both were celebrity hounds. Much of Warhol’s art consists of paintings of beautiful and famous actresses, most notably Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor, the most prominent movie stars of their time. Nonetheless, he is perhaps most renowned for his pop art paintings of Campbell soup cans and other consumer goods of the middle class of the period. (more…)

Constellations: A Relationship Held Together by String Theory

Reviewed by Jane Baldwin

Constellations
Photo. A.R.Sinclair

Cambridge’s Central Square Theatre is presently showing Nick Payne’s imaginative Constellations under the auspices of the Underground Railway Theatre as a Catalyst Collaborative @ MIT. Every year a play whose source is scientific knowledge is offered at the Central Square Theatre and supported by MIT as a means of amalgamating art and science.   (more…)

Gypsy: A Wonderful Revival

Reviewed by Jane Baldwin

Photo Mark Howard.
Gypsy

For its first show of the season Boston’s Lyric Stage, which often produces musical theatre pieces, chose Arthur Laurents’, Jule Styne’s, and Stephen Sondheim’s Gypsy. Gypsy is considered by many critics, scholars, and theatre artists as one of the greatest musicals of the mid-20th century when American musical comedy turned into musical theatre, a more well-rounded genre in which the narrative and characterization were on par with the songs, where comedy could remain an integral part of the show or be dropped.

In 1959, Ethel Merman created the leading role of Mama Rose, a woman dedicated to fulfilling her dream of seeing her two daughters become show business stars, who in Merman’s version was funny, cruel, selfish, powerful, and at times loving. Her loud (and for some abrasive) mezzo-soprano voice and her belting style were inimical.

Since the original closed in 1961, Gypsy has been revived four times on Broadway with Tyne Daly, Angela Lansbury, Bernadette Peters, and Patti Lupone as the lead. Tyne Daly, Angela Lansbury, and Patti Lupone won a Tony award, while Bernadette Peters was nominated. What their performances have in common is that their interpretations are less vulgar, tough, lower class, and over the top than Merman’s.
(more…)

Louis Riel: An Impressive Revival

Reviewed by Jane Baldwin

Photo: Sophie l’anson

Louis Riel, Canada’s leading opera composed by Harry Somers with the libretto written by Mavor Moore and Jacques Languirand, first produced in 1967 to commemorate the centennial has been revived for the country’s 150th anniversary of confederation. The 2017 production is a collaboration between the Canadian Opera Company in Toronto and the National Arts Centre in Ottawa. (more…)

La fureur de ce que je pense : An extraordinary theatrical experience

Reviewed by Jane Baldwin

Phtoto: Caroline Laberge

Seeing La fureur de ce que je pense was my first experience of Nelly Arcan’s writing, far less known in the English-speaking world than in the French where her work has been nominated for several prestigious awards. Before attaining fame as an author, she worked as a sex escort. At 36 years of age, she hanged herself in her Montreal apartment.

La fureur de ce que je pense, presented in Ottawa, as part of the French language programme of the NAC,   was assembled by the director Marie Brassard from Arcan’s works, which although they are largely autobiographical, are representative of the anxieties and stress of many women. This may be the reason that the single character is enacted by six different actresses. Before the show begins, the audience sees what appear to be two levels of mirrors stretching across the stage with blinding lights above them. The effect is that the audience members view themselves reflected, thus making them part of the world of the play. The lights go down slowly. Voices are heard speaking in unison as in a Greek tragedy. There are six extraordinary actresses, all of whom play the same character, but every one of them recounts incidents or aspects of the character’s life through a series of monologues. In addition, there is a small graceful dancer who does not seem to be part of the same world. Does she symbolize Arcan as an innocent child? She enters and leaves the stage seemingly at will. (more…)

Arrabal: A Story of Love and Politics Told through the Tango

Reviewed by Jane Baldwin

Photo: Celia Von Tiedeman.

Arrabal, now playing at the American Repertory Theatre in Cambridge in its U.S. début, premiered in Toronto in 2014. In its present state, it is a fascinating theatre experience, a political drama told without words via the tango and music. It is also an immersive show where some audience members, supposedly at a tango club in Buenos Aires, sit at tables downstage as well as on the orchestra floor, which had several rows of seats removed. In the first scene which takes place in the present spectators are invited to join the performers onstage for a tango lesson.

The joyous mood changes abruptly as the story begins. A projection announces that it is 1976, the year in which Isabel Peron’s government was overthrown by a right-wing junta. We meet Rodolfo (Julio Zurita), an endangered resistant, bringing his infant daughter to his mother who lives in a slum (arrabal in Spanish) outside Buenos Aires. He dances a tender tango with baby Arrabal (a word also associated with the tango) before putting her into the bassinet and leaving her a red scarf. (more…)

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