Bill Gale

Thomas Nola-Rion / Festival Ballet

Being crowded together in tiny seats and dealing with an over-humid atmosphere has never stopped Festival Ballet's audience from filling the company's main rehearsal hall for “Up Close on Hope.” Showing a number of new works, the latest edition began last weekend. Bill Gale was there.

Yes, and I was happy to be there, too. But after seeing nine short numbers – some of them world premieres – I began to wonder if today's rising choreographers aren't a . . . little bit depressed.

Peter Goldberg / The Gamm Theatre

That's it. Last time out, you may remember, the Gamm did “Grounded,” a high altitude look at an American female fighter pilot that was quick and memorable.

This time artistic director Tony Estrella and his crew have moved to Norway for a dog fight with one of the great, groundbreaking plays of all time, Henrik Ibsen's “Hedda  Gabler.”

Peter Goldberg

Written by a relatively unknown but fast-rising playwright, George Brant, this play flies high in many ways. It begins with our heroine, called “The Pilot,” rhapsodizing about being, well, a pilot. A fighter pilot, that is. A different breed.

Gowned, if that's the word, in a droopy pilot's one piece flight suit rippled with zippers and great big pockets, she appears on stage to the roar of a jet engine and tells you of the wonders of high, blue altitude. She calls her F-16 fighter, “Tiger” and says “he” “can feel the sky in me.”

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.

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.

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.

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.

Thomas Nola-Rion

Ah, yes, definitely. You could call this “Up Close” wide-ranging. Then again you could say, ahh, it’s a mixed bag. But, fortunately, this show has enough fine work – some powerful dancing, and one emotionally charged piece – to make it worth recommending.

What artistic director Misha Djuric has done this time is turn basically to his own company for inspiration and dances. The result shows work from young dancers that are sometimes amusing, sometimes not so much. Then again Festival’s stronger veterans also put forth some fine work.

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.


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.

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.

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.