theater review

Courtesy Gamm Theatre

Confrontations between white police officers and people of color may be the main public conflict in the United States these days. At the Gamm Theatre, a play called “The Rant” looks into the issue, and goes on to possibly even deeper questions. Rhode Island Public Radio’s Bill Gale has the review.

“The Rant” continues through December 13th at the Gamm Theatre in Pawtucket. Bill Gale reviews the performing arts for Rhode Island Public Radio.

Maggie Hall / Ocean State Theatre

Warwick’s Ocean State Theatre opens the season with a mixture of music and dark humor. Rhode Island Public Radio theatre critic Bill Gale was mostly won over by The Addams Family: The Musical.

The Addams Family: The Musical runs through October 25th at Ocean State Theatre in Warwick. Bill Gale reviews the performing arts for Rhode Island Public Radio.

2nd Story Theatre

Ed Shea, artistic director of Warren's 2nd Story Theatre, had to ring up theater folk in London for permission to do “Dangerous Corner,” a mostly forgotten 1930s play by J.B. Priestley. Bill Gale says the result is, somewhat mixed.

Maggie Hall / Wilbury Theatre Group

Using the same theater space where Trinity Rep began more than 50 years ago, The Wilbury Group is another young theater willing to take a chance. Bill Gale says their latest work, “Dry Land,” is certainly risky.

Ah, yes, so it is. Written by Ruby Rae Spiegel when she was still an undergraduate at  Yale University, “Dry Land” rushes you into a vortex of, well, you could say a bunch of  kids being young and stupid.

Peter Goldberg / The Gamm Theatre

So far, the Southern New England arts season has been a place for serious theater. Trinity Rep opened with Shakespeare's “Julius Caesar.” And now, Pawtucket's Gamm Theatre has presented Tennessee Williams' deep and driving “A Streetcar Named Desire.”

Mark Turek / Trinity Rep

The right of all Americans to be down-hearted once in a while is brought up -- and defended -- in a new musical comedy having its premiere at Trinity Rep. Bill Gale says it  can have you laughing out loud, and thinking, too.

Sarah Ruhl is a playwright known for her off-beat but well put together plays. “The Clean House,” has a Brazilian maid who cares only to find the perfect joke which then turns to a narrative about being joyful in the face of death and dying. Or in “Dead Man's Cell Phone” Ruhl looks at the societal disconnection brought about by the digital age.

Maggie Hall / Wilbury Theatre Group

Serious mental illness might well seem an unlikely jumping off point for musical theater. But with “Next to Normal,” now at the Wilbury Group in Providence, the subject becomes a powerful drama mostly well done. 

Brian Yorkey, who wrote the book and lyrics for the engrossing “Next to Normal” once opined that “musicals can be ridiculous.”

“You know, all those people breaking into song all the time,” he said. But the author also  pointed out that, somehow, a good musical can be “sublime.”

Peter Goldberg / Gamm Theatre

The Gamm Theatre is closing its season with a play reaching back to the French Revolution and the Enlightenment. It's a crackling production. But is there a connection to today? Not so much.

Mark Turek / Ocean State Theatre

“Into the Woods” won three Tony Awards on Broadway in 1988. But “Best Musical” wasn't one of them.  Bill Gale thinks that a strong production at the Ocean State Theatre tells you why.

Full disclosure, I have never cottoned to “Into the Woods” which brought so much fame and honor to its creators Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine.

Richard W. Dionne, Jr. / 2nd Story Theatre

2nd Story Theatre in Warren has always liked to do off-beat plays and its current work, “4000 miles,” is no exception. Bill Gale says it's a little loopy, a little lacking in plot, but that it's also one of those works you'll think about days after you see it.

It was, of course, the poet Robert Frost who wrote that “Home is the place where …they have to take you in.”  Well, “4000 Miles” is something of a recurrence of that idea.

Peter Goldberg / Gamm Theatre

Set in 1965 playwright John Guare's “The House of Blue Leaves” was a groundbreaking work, an American family drama set amid European-like absurdity. Now the Gamm Theatre has revived “Blue Leaves.” Bill Gale says it holds up, pretty well.

Brian Gagnon / Wilbury Theatre Group

Using the same theater on Broad Street in Providence where Trinity Rep began in the 1960s, the adventurous Wilbury Group is currently staging a work about the life and times, and death, of Walt Disney. Bill Gale has this review.

“A Public Reading of An Unproduced Screenplay About the Death of Walt Disney” continues at the Wilbury Group in Providence through November 22. Bill Gale reviews the performing arts for Rhode Island Public Radio.

Ah, yes, welcome back, “Cloud Nine.” Churchill’s play was a hit in certain quarters back there when the world as we knew it seemed to be tumbling onto a landscape that was unclear and wonderful and scary.

The play won an Obie, Off Broadway’s version of the Tony Awards. It was done around the country by risk-taking regional theaters including a crackerjack production in the 1983-84 season at what we then called the Trinity Square Repertory Company in Providence.

Steven Richard Photography / Theatre-by-the-Sea

It’s a funny thing about “Cats.”

Some people, many actually, are enthralled by this musical taken almost completely from a poem by that Anglo-American literary icon, T.S. Eliot. “Cats” lovers adore the music by Andrew Lloyd-Webber and are happy to forget about the almost plotless story line that finds a beat-up old cat restored to vibrant life.

Others, myself included, enjoy much of the music but really find “Cats” to be a clawless work, more a stagnant showing off piece than anything else.

So , make your choice and pay your money. Or not.

Going forward with a famous musical is generally a matter of copying. After all, if you are putting on “Annie” or “Nunsense” you aren’t going to change things—just try to do a crowd-pleasing show as well as you can.

But that’s not the case with Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill’s “Three Penny Opera.”