Archive for December, 2015

Best Boston-area Stage Shows for 2015

December 22, 2015

By Robert Israel

Here are my five choices of the best shows that sparkled brightest on Boston-area stages:

* Come Back, Little Sheba, by William Inge, directed by David Cromer, Huntington Theatre Company.

Inge’s first full-length play premiered on Broadway in 1950, and its provocative themes — repressed vs. overt sexuality, substance abuse vs. intervention, fulfillment vs. dashed hopes — resonate just as strongly today. HTC’s superb production featured vivid, heartbreaking, and triumphant performances by Adrienne Krstansky as Lola and Derek Hasenstab as Doc, a hapless couple whose lives came undone before our eyes.

* Needles and Opium, written and directed by Robert Lepage, ArtsEmerson.


Marc Labreche (above), star of Robert Lepage’s “Needles and Opium.”

Quebec City-based Robert Lepage is a master of using special effects to enhance his powerful storytelling. These include puppetry, slack wire acrobatics, dance, computer-generated lighting, and music. Needles and Opium, starring the multi-talented Marc Labreche, abounded in theatrical wizardry. It took us on an intergalactic flight, serving up a savory feast of aural and visual experiences that stirred our minds and enriched our spirits.

* Muse and Morros, Culture Clash’s 30th Anniversary Tour, created, written, and performed by Richard Montoya, Ric Salinas, and Herbert Siguenza, ArtsEmerson.

When they returned to Boston in 2015, Los Angeles-based Culture Clash had not performed here in over a decade. It was easy to see why they had not been back: their ballsy brand of political theatre is raunchy rather than polite. The material from this show was drawn from unexpurgated street interviews: a Pakistani cab driver, a Vietnamese gangbanger, a handicapped war veteran, and other displaced Americans struggling for dignity in our fractured nation. Culture Clash delivered gutsy, assaultive performances.

* appropriate, by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, directed by M. Bevin O’Gara, SpeakEasy Stage Company.

Playwright Jacobs-Jenkins is young, gifted, and black. He pilfered ideas from several writers (Tennessee Williams, Sam Shepard, among others) to cobble together a dark comedy about a white family confronting their racist heritage in a house in the Deep South. His literary thievery paid off: SpeakEasy’s cast – headed by an impressive Melinda Lopez – was riveting.

* Gloucester Blue, written and directed by Israel Horovitz, Gloucester Stage Company.

Yes, Horovitz is into recycling: a conflict between hard-bitten workers and wealthy WASP landowners in a rapidly gentrified Gloucester, MA can be found in his earlier plays, such asNorth Shore Fish and Sins of the Mother. Still, Gloucester Blue — featuring Robert Walsh and Esme Allen as fired-up combatants Latham and Lexi — emerged as a well-acted, forceful variation on the theme, particularly given that this time around the material came spiked with deviously playful black humor.


An earlier version of this piece appeared in The Arts Fuse (Boston).