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.

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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.

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

Yes, indeed. There are lots of reasons why this production is a splendid piece of theater. First and foremost is Sandra Laub, the actress playing the one-time prime minister of Israel, Golda Meir.

Most theater people, especially actors, will tell you that doing a one-woman or one-man show is the most difficult of assignments.  After all, it is just one soul out there, alone. It’s a matter of getting the audience to fall for you, and there’s nobody to help out. You, and you alone, must keep the play’s pulse moving, must make the character live.

Peter Goldberg

Well, I don’t want to go overboard here. But “Good People” is just nothing less than a sizzling comedy with a real life message. It’s delicious, deep, delightful, and just plain dandy.

Directed with fire and feeling by Rachel Walshe, the production will have you laughing out loud and holding your breath as the characters reveal themselves.

Led by a splendid Janine Kane, the acting is as good as you’re liable to see anywhere. The sets and the goofy, great costumes add a lot, too.

Mark Turek / Ocean State Theatre

Ah yes, the late Vince Lombardi. I can see him now, back in the black and white TV era of the 1960s. He’s standing like a statue on the sidelines on the tundra that is a Green Bay football field. Legs apart, polo coat covering his broad shoulders, absurd fedora on his head. And most of all there’s his shouting, bellowing, at anyone nearby. The refs, his own players, his assistant coaches, were all fair game, targets of his single minded drive.

He was the Bill Belichick of his time, the best-known coach in all of football. Only louder, tougher, harder to deal with.

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

“Sons of the Prophet” comes to Rhode Island with a pretty darn good reputation. Brown University graduate Stephan Karam’s play was a finalist for a Pulitzer Prize in 2012 and did win several awards that year. It was a favorite of Manhattan’s downtown theater crowd, too.

So, what happened?

At 2nd Story this work, which the author calls “a comedy about a guy coping with chronic pain” seems pretty much weak-kneed. Its “comedy” never really clicks; its philosophy, which seems to be that coping with the unspeakable can be nourishing, doesn’t seem real, or true.

Mark Turek / Ocean State Theatre

Yes, you could figure that “Les Mis” might be just a tad over-saturated these days.

Many have seen it at least once. Or, they’ve heard the wonderful score.

But, you know what? “Les Mis” is still worth seeing, worth being affected by, worth pondering for its immense world view. And the production opening the season at Ocean State is a first-rate effort. No, it doesn’t have the great turntable racing the pace on stage. It hasn’t reached the incredible settings of Broadway or top flight road shows.

Credit Peter Goldberg / The Gamm TheatreCasey Seymour Kim and Alexander Platt in "Far Away" by Caryl Churchill, directed by Tony Estrella.Edit | Remove

For decades, English playwright Caryl Churchill has been accorded Goddess stature in the upper reaches of play writing circles. Fiercely political, strongly on the left, Churchill made her mark with plays of attitude and insight.

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

2nd Story Theatre debuts its new 70-seat performing space this week with a play called “Lobby Hero” by New York writer Kenneth Lonergan.

Yeah, well, you see “hero” is not exactly the right word. On the other hand, maybe it is. Or it is sometimes. You get what I mean?

No, huh? Well, the strength of this very funny, charming, tough and potty-mouthed snappy play is that nothing is exactly as it seems. But it might be. Irony prevails in “Lobby Hero.”

Steven Richard Photography / Theatre by the Sea

Okay, full disclosure. I have a major soft spot for “La Cage.” Ever since I was one of the many who stood and cheered at the end of the 1983 pre-Broadway tryout at Boston’s Colonial Theatre I’ve wanted “La Cage” to succeed wherever it plays.

And it’s not just the crisp score by Jerry Herman or the pungent humor of Harvey Fierstein’s lyrics. It is truly the message of becoming a decent human being and knowing who you are, and why, that’s allowed me to love “La Cage” over the years.

Steven Richard Photography / Theatre-by-the-Sea

Ah, yes. “The sun’ll come out tomorrow/Bet your bottom dollar.” Most of us remember that lyric. And you know, when “Annie,” after trying out at the Goodspeed Opera House, opened on Broadway in 1977 it definitely earned a lot more than a buck. With its bouncy music and improbable but oh-so-charming, very American narrative the show was up for 18 Tony Awards, and won 14, including “Best Musical.”

The show then traveled from Boston to Bangkok as Annie and her dog Sandy, and her multi-millionaire benefactor Daddy Warbucks, made the sun shine once again around the world.

Thomas Palmer / Island Moving Company

They call it The Great Friends Dance Festival and Island Moving, under the direction of veteran Rhode Island dancer/choreographer, Miki Ohlsen, has collected and collaborated with a half dozen or so companies and choreographers.

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.

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