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Boston Spotlight: May 2005

Those Darling Buds of May logo
James A. Williams, Michele Shay, and Richard Brooks in Radio Golf
(Photo © Carol Rosegg)
It's not even "moon in June" time, and already musicals are rampant, from Charles Strouse's latest, You Never Know, at Providence's Trinity Rep through May 22, to the Goodspeed Opera House's revival of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, romping in East Haddam, Connecticut, through June 26. Meanwhile, at its Norma Terris Theatre in nearby Chester, the Goodspeed will be workshopping The Flight of the Lawnchair Man, conceived by Robert Lindsey Nassif (Hollywood Arms and Opal) May 19-June 12; Lynne Taylor-Corbett (Swing! et al.) choreographs and directs. Critics are barred, but in every other respect -- including Broadway-level casting -- it's a full-out production.

The North Shore Music Theatre in Beverly, on Boston's North Shore, offers a fresh, in-the-round take on Thoroughly Modern Millie through May 15, and Newton's New Repertory Theatre has rounded up a stellar cast -- e.g., Leigh Barrett, Nancy E. Carroll, Miguel Cervantes -- for Into the Woods, its farewell show (through May 29) at the cramped church that has been its home for the past 16 years: next fall New Rep opens big in a brand-new theatre at Watertown's Arsenal Mall.

It's an opera, not a musical, but surely lines are starting to get blurred when there's onstage sex (both straight and gay) and even a "birth." Those are just some of the scandalous goings-on in Jonathan Dove's airport opera buffa Flight, an East Coast premiere presented by the Boston Lyric Opera at the Shubert Theatre through May 10. Also on the experimental side, Boston's fledgling chamber opera company Intermezzo, founded and directed by accomplished baritone John Whittlesey, will be presenting Seymour Barab's A Game of Chance and the Brecht/Weill Seven Deadly Sins at the Berklee College of Music May 13-15.

From May 3-15, a road-company Little Shop of Horrors occupies the Colonial Theatre; Chicago takes over the Wang May 17-22. From May 20 to June 16, the Huntington Theatre is mounting William Finn's Falsettos, with Geoffrey Nauffts (who toured in The Full Monty) as the conflicted dad.

It's a rich slate as well for the talkies. While Radio Golf, the final installation in August Wilson's 20th-century dectych, plays out at Yale Rep through May 14, Sam Waterston leads a stellar cast in Tom Stoppard's cultural/political farce Travesties at the Long Wharf May 4-June 5. His role is that of "unreliable narrator" Henry Carr, a British diplomat who recalls hanging out in 1917 Zurich with James Joyce, Lenin, and dadaist poet Tristan Tzara. (Coincidentally, the Yale School of Drama School is mounting The Real Thing, Stoppard's clever/cutting 1982 look at naughty literati, May 3-7.)

The Boston Playwrights Theatre is a terrific incubator for new talent, and that's just what we expect to see when up-and-comer Janet Kenney's My Heart & My Flesh debuts with local faves Karen MacDonald, Helen McElwain, and Richard Arum playing, respectively, the possessive mother of a cognitively impaired adult daughter and her behaviorally challenged suitor; the play runs through May 14.

The ever-polished Speakeasy Stage, in collaboration with Boston Theatre Works and Broadway in Boston, is putting on Richard Greenberg's multiply Tony-awarded 2002/03 gay baseball romance Take Me Out through June 4. Sentimental partnership of another sort is explored in Neil Simon's The Sunshine Boys, at the Stoneham Theatre May 5 to 22; here the big draw is Dick Van Patten (yes, Eight Is Enough), as one of a pair of estranged vaudevillians forced to collaborate.

The Merrimack Repertory Theatre in Lowell, another exemplary exurban company, will be putting on Harold Pinter's under-revived 1965 classic of sinister minimalism, The Homecoming, May 5 to June 5. From May 6 to June 4, the Lyric Stage offers the New England premiere of Ken Ludwig's comedy Shakespeare in Hollywood, in which the "real" Puck and Oberon show up to jinx Max Reinhardt's filming of A Midsummer Night's Dream. Further Shakespearean mayhem can be found in Amy Freed's The Beard of Avon, another New England premiere (May 12 - June 19), this one put on by the plucky Gamm Theatre in Pawtucket, Rhode Island.

In its very first season, the Actors Shakespeare Project, with its unusual venues and outstanding cadre of local performers, has become a mainstay of exciting, intelligent Boston theatre. Hence the anticipation surrounding their Julius Caesar, to be staged at the Cambridge Family YMCA Theatre May 12-June 5.

Providence will get a glimpse of "highly stylized" Manhattan avant-gardism when the Perishable Theatre hosts the Theatre of the Two-Headed Calf in the world premiere of The Cataract May 4 - June 4. Author Lisa D'Amour (co-creator of 2003's Obie-winning Nita and Zita) places two contrasting couples beside a surging Mississippi waterfall in 1886 as, accompanied by Brendan Connelly's Cageian score, they experience "tidal waves of desire." And on May 13-19, Trinity Rep gives its second stage over to The Buz'Gem Blues, a Native American "romcom" by Drew Hayden Taylor (buz'gem means "sweetheart" in Ojibway).

The American Repertory Theatre will resurrect O'Neill's rather turgid, and thus rarely revived, 1924 shocker, Desire Under the Elms May 14 - June 12. Intrafamilial infidelity! Infanticide! Hungarian theatre/film director Janos Szasz adds to the ART's outre stock in trade.

The entire theatre community customarily turns out for the annual Boston Theatre Marathon, this year -- on May 22 -- liberated from the cramped Boston Playwrights space into the spacious new Calderwood Pavilion at the Boston Center for the Arts. The 10-minute plays -- 50 of them! -- are submitted anonymously, but truncated treats by locally nurtured scribes like John Kuntz and Ginger Lazarus always seem to make the cut. (Kuntz-the-actor, by the way, is currently up at the Seacoast Repertory Theatre in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, reprising his manic tour de force in Fully Committed through May 29.)

New works are also blooming on Cape Cod, just now awakening from its long winter snooze. Encouraged by a couple of SRO readings this spring, the Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theatre is mounting a full production of Robert Reich's political farce Public Exposure May 25-June 18. Having served as Clinton's secretary of labor, Reich knows whereof he speaks when it comes to sexual shenanigans in high places. And John Buffalo Mailer -- son of Norman, it must be noted -- will have his latest play produced at the Provincetown Repertory Theater May 28-June 12 (his mother, Norris Church Mailer, was instrumental in getting the spiffy new facility built). Set in Park Slope, in post-apocalyptic October 2001, Crazy Eyes focuses on a quartet of 27-year-olds: an aspiring actor, a day trader, an AIDS researcher, and the Palestinian owner of a 99-cent store. Their common bond? A bag of white powder.

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