Bill Gale

Performing Arts Critic

Bill Gale has had a widely varied career (including a stint as an air traffic controller) before dedicating himself to The Providence Journal for 35 years — 25 of those as the Journal's theater and dance critic. He is the former executive committee chair of the Foundation of the American Theater Critics Association and currently serves on their board.Gale has received a variety of awards including a Lifetime Achievement Award from the New England Theatre Conference. He has taught at Rhode Island College and Roger Williams University, and is currently an Admiral at Hope High School. He is married to clinical social worker Peggy Gale and is the father of two children. And he loves working in radio.

Ways to Connect

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

Ah, yes, “Hay Fever” one of those plays that became known as “a comedy of manners.” But in truth Coward's 1925 hit really ought to be called a “comedy of ill manners.”

It's Coward's view of a famous family being famously, uproariously, ridiculously bad mannered to point of forcing the family's so-called “guests” to split, to sneak out of the house, to take any measures to get away from the family's self-regard, their “I really don't give a hoot for anything or anyone but myself” attitude.

Mark Turek

Well, yes it does. At the Ocean State in Warwick “Guys and Dolls” – admittedly one of my all-time favorite musicals – comes across as a bifurcated project. On the one hand there is still that marvelous score by Frank Loesser, songs that can break your heart and make you laugh out loud. Under music director Justin P. Cowan they are handled well by a cast of good singers who know how to offer a song without seeming to force it.

Richard W. Dionne, Jr.

It’s September, 1939 and the carnage of World War II is just beginning. Germany has invaded Poland. The British and their allies are preparing to fight. The world is on edge.

And, frankly, so are Dr. Freud and Professor Lewis, two of the great intellectuals of their time who are meeting in Freud’s office in England. But it’s not the Nazi war machine or the reluctant answer of its provocations by the British that’s under debate.

Peter Goldberg / The Gamm Theatre

Yes, “Blackbird,” by Scottish author David Harrower, is a toughie. There’s no way around but to say that it focuses intimately, deeply on child molestation. It considers who was involved. It asks if whether both of its main characters – a middle aged man and a 12-year-old girl -- did not each suffer greatly. And, most tellingly, it offers no solutions.

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

First I’d like to say that “Sylvia” is an absolute true charmer of a play. It’s laugh out loud funny and can prompt small smiles, too. At 2nd Story, director Pat Hegnauer has given it force and speed and reached to its serious undercurrent, too. This is one of the very best productions of the current theater season. Don’t miss it.

Okay, about explaining it all. Playwright A.R. Gurney, best known for “Love Letters” and “The Dinner Party,” has set it up simply. A middle-aged couple with

Peter Goldberg

Well, that’s right. Filled with shouting, drumming and blood, blood, blood, this Macbeth is a fearsome production. Director Fred Sullivan Jr. has missed no chance to put a point right under your nose, and into your ears.  Drums pound, soldiers shout and women weep.

Ambar Espinoza / RIPR

All this week we're marking Brown University's 250th with a series of conversations with graduates, leaders and historians. Thursday we're focusing on the arts. Rhode Island Public Radio's Bill Gale sat down with alum and playwright Lynn Nottage about her work and the future of the theater.

Mark Turek


It certainly is. With a book, and music and lyrics, by the era’s one-time

wunderkind, Lionel Bart, “Oliver!” received 23 curtain calls opening night and

sailed on for six years in London’s West End. Then it became a Broadway hit and

there was a very successful film, too.


Later on, producer Cameron Macintosh took over and ran successful revivals.

Many theater fans loved “Oliver!” for its gutsy, and plucky, drive. It’s wistful

happy ending helped, too.


Mark Turek

That is for sure. Playwright Lynn Nottage, a Brown graduate, has called “Intimate Apparel” a “meditation on loneliness.” Surely that is a more exact, more piercing description of this lovely, incisive and heartbreaking work at Trinity Rep.

“Intimate Apparel” is one of those plays that will have you confused sometimes, a little bored perhaps, and then will suddenly strike, make you fall for the people involved and for the ideas being put forth. It’s a play most worth seeing, and thinking about.

Richard W. Dionne, Jr.

Right-o. Let me say it up front. “Seven Keys to Baldpate” at 2nd Story is nothing less than a charmer. It’ll tickle your funny bone and warm your heart in the middle of this obstreperous winter of our discontent.

Okay, that’s enough of 1913-type hyperbole. But there’s no question that the Providence-born Cohan knew what he was doing. He adapted “Baldpate” from a novel by the author of the Charlie Chan film series. He said the play is both a farce and a melodrama. He was right on both counts.

On-stage, “Baldpate” is filled with goofy moments and overwrought happenings.

Think it’s easy to be funny? Is it a joy to tell jokes? To do “physical” fun?

Ah, . . . no folks, not really. 

Comedy, as any actor or comedian will tell you, is hard.

And that’s just the case these nights at Ocean State. The production of “Laughter on the 23rd Floor” finds nine hard-working performers giving it all they’ve got.

Led by Trinity Rep’s leading actor, Fred Sullivan Jr., the cast pounces and pumps.

They jump on every Simon gag. They are happy to be physical throughout.

Wilbury Theater Group

Ah, yes, ahh, “The Iliad.” By Homer. We all know that. Helen of Troy. Achilles Agamemnon. Lots of battles, murders and . . . Well, you know truth is that a lot of folks, myself certainly included, pretty much slept through any course we ever took on “The Iliad.” We ended up with not a whole lot more than the ability to say, “Oh, yes, the Iliad. By Homer.” Haven’t looked at that in years.”

Peter Goldberg / The Gamm Theatre

In an interview concerning the New York production of “The Big Meal” the 33- year-old author, Dan LeFranc, makes a point of saying that his own growing up saw, quote, “lots of support but also a ton of friction and fear.”  And that was “critical in making me the kind of writer and person I am today,” he added.

Well, that would be a guy who has sharp instincts both for the jugular and the heart. “The Big Meal” checks out those eight folks in all kinds of ways.

Mark Turek / Trinity Rep

Ah, yes. Good old Chris Durang. What’s he gotten into now? Over the years he’s been known for such ideosyncratic shows as “Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All For You, “The Marriage of Bette and Boo” and, of course, “The Idiots Kasamazov.”

But Durang’s nicely into his 60’s now. Perhaps he’s calmed down a bit?

Well, no. “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike” concerns Bucks County, PA., Snow White, licking postage stamps, movie stars, the theatuh, voodoo, pricks, getting old and the significance of the blue heron. Among many other things.

Mark Turek / Trinity Rep

Yup. Charles Dickens is back in town. Played with great good humor by the veteran Tom Gleadow, this year’s “A Christmas Carol” has Mr. Dickens on stage often and to considerable effect.

The rotund Gleadow is one of those luminous actors whom you find yourself watching anytime he’s on stage. And he’s there a lot, giving this year’s version more of the dialogue from the novel then perhaps ever. He also chides, and directs, poor old Ebenezer Scrooge a bit, too, which lends a nice comedic touch.