THEATER REVIEW: ‘She Loves Me’ makes scents, mostly fragrant

‘She Loves Me’ / Theater Barn

The ’60s musical “She Loves Me” reeks of quality. It is always aromatic.

The genius parfumerie-creators seem to have moved this show along without breaking a sweat. Lyrics by Sheldon Harnick are witty, character-right and inventively crafted. Music has rolled tunefully from Jerry Bock with a sophistication that is never self-conscious or egotistical. (And thank goodness, it is never obliged to thump its way to audience id.) The book by Joe Masteroff is gently funny and simply brilliant. The story is enough to give you renewed faith in humankind and, surprisingly, all of its elements are stirred together without even a spoonful of sugar.

The production at Theater Barn is part of an especially well-chosen musical season, and it exposes the good stuff of “She Loves Me”–while allowing some major missteps. Read more…

THEATER REVIEW: Ancram play shrinks distance to Kabul

“Homebody/Kabul” / Ancram Opera House

PLAYWRIGHT TONY KUSHNER and actor Danielle Skraastad say it at least twice in his play, “Homebody/Kabul”: “I love the world!”

There is a spare yet generous look to the stage at Ancram Opera House. There are books and more books in piles tall and short. There is a cozy corner for the woman at home in London. (Her monologue is coming.) At the end of the play, there is an up-stage group of nicely lit, gray-sandy walls that summon up Kabul’s beauty and its dry, modern threat of non-life.

Watching Skraastad is like becoming an attentive therapist who listens to the outpourings of a patient’s teeming mind. The mind is not just neurotic; it is brilliant, funny, pathetic, informed, passionate, peripatetic, and, above all, world-loving. Read more…

THEATER REVIEW: Song and dance fuels tuneful ‘Pump Boys’

“Pump Boys and Dinettes” / Theater Barn

AT THE THEATER BARN the beat goes on and the music steadily roars garage-to-diner and back. Occasionally there is a hint of plot relationship between the people on the stage, but the fun is mainly the sound of music.

The time and place is described as “Highway 57 Gas Station and Double Cupp Diner located somewhere between Frog Level and Smyrna, NC.” The diner is run by the Cupp sisters (oh cute), and the boys pump gas and repair cars when they get a break from their music-making.

In this production, there are two guitars, a bass, and a keyboard, and six very attractive singing voices. Even someone who is not a rock-country-western fan will love the agile musicality and luscious sounds that overwhelm regional nasality. Read more…

THEATER REVIEW: Anderson inhabits bard’s Richard II

“Richard II” / Walking the Dog Theater / Hawthorne Valley School

MAKING THEATER is preposterous. Especially making Shakespeare. Making theater is expensive, time-eating, and brain-taxing. When doing it, an author and bunches of people have to merge efforts in order to herd the brains of other bunches of people (audiences) into a complex, specific path. At each performance, for a couple of hours, the audience-bunch has to sit still and shut up. Their brain-engagement needs to be “enjoyable” in some way—especially if the joy is to be some sort of fresh understanding. Then the theater-makers have to keep doing it over and over, night after night.

Some theater-makers are actors.

Shakespeare is lucky that, in Columbia County, NY, 2018, he has David Anderson. Read more…

THEATER REVIEW: Thump thing limits ABBA’s ‘Mamma’s’ minor merits

“Mamma Mia!” / Mac-Haydn Theatre, Chatham

THE MUSIC OF ABBA seemed innovative in its day. It was, in a way.

But, of an evening, can a listener get tired of Abba music in minor modes? (Yup. And I love minor modes.) It’s when the whole first act of a theater piece such as “Mamma Mia!” offers song after song after song in minor. And if the songs all have similar meters, tempos, and harmonic progressions, with lots of percussional um-thump, um-thump, um-thump, um-thump, the sequence may be enough to make you long for a waltz, or a dirge, or even a snobby piece in seven-eight. How about a small helping of C-major?

You probably already know that it’s about a feisty mom and a young girl who is trying to find out which of three men is her father. Read more…