Inventive staging and sharp interpretation
Imaginary Beasts, one of the most creative companies in the Hub, is introducing Boston to the poetic radio plays of the late gifted English writer Angela Carter in Halloween-friendly adaptations identified as “Hairy Tales.” Actors’ Shakespeare Company brings gender bending and clever directorial touches to its somewhat flawed but always heartfelt10th anniversary opener “Romeo and Juliet.” Next Door Theater Company pays beautiful respect to a disarming three widow- centered play called “The Cemetery Club.” Merrimack Repertory Theatre pumps up the theatrical circulation of the recent Tony Award winner “God of Carnage.” Huntington Theatre Company’s mixes Disney and Kipling in a joyful if not fully juiced up blend of “The Jungle Book.”
Trust underrated by must-see talented Imaginary Beasts to bring as much insight to diverse gems by Carter-relatively unknown in the States but recently ranked 10th in a (London) Times list of “The 50 Greatest British Writers.” After all, this high-energy company did the same last season for an area premiere of short pieces by Thornton Wilder called “Little Giants.” Out artistic director Matthew Wood evokes the poetry and the pulse of two very different Carter gems in ‘adults-only’ one- act dramatizations of “The Company of Wolves” and “Vampirella (Lady of the House of Love)” (with company regular Michael Underhill directing ‘family-friendly matinees’ of “Puss and Boots”).
In the “Little Red Riding Hood”-based former, a spirited ensemble capture the rustic flavor of Kiki Samko’s lively choreography and richly explores the tale’s strong sexual elements. Erin Butcher makes a notably spunky Little Red and William Schuller and Michael Underhill combine bare-chested for a very arresting evocation of four-legged Werewolf. For full creepiness, look to the latter adaptation for an often scary exploration of dangerous sensuality. Poornima Kirby and Amy Meyer do justice to the Countess’ vulnerability, and Schuller is striking as the Count. Out actor Joey Pelletier has the right quirkiness as Sawney Beane. Underhill finds the directness and the humor of British tea-drinker Hero. “Vampirella” is a world-class haunt.
Hairy Tales, Imaginary Beasts, Black Box Theatre, Boston Center for the Arts, through October 13. 617-933-8600 or bostontheatrescene.com
Actors Shakespeare Project has given the Strand a kind of Globe Theatre ambience with enveloping banners and part of the audience on stage for its thoughtful revival of “Romeo and Juliet.” Company regular Bobbie Steinbach and artistic director Allyn Burrows tap into both the ferocity of the tensions between the Capulets and the Montagues and the undaunted passions of the ill-fated lovers. Susan Dibble brings evocative choreography to the Capulet’s party.
While earnest Jason Bowen surprisingly understates Romeo’s emotional adventurousness in the early going, Julie Ann Earls has all of Juliet’s excitement and feeling throughout- especially in a richly expressive sequence around her bed. Paula Langton combines Nurse’s maternal caring for Juliet and her striking earthiness. Best of all are Maurice Emmanuel Parent’s dynamic Mercutio-notably in his vivid Queen Mab speech- and Ken Baltin’s by turns genial and ferocious Capulet. Paige Clarke is a gutsy gender-bending Benvolia strikingly romanced by Mercutio. Look for an imaginative surprise in the tomb-based closing. “Romeo and Juliet” is as perilous as young love, but ASP’s noble attempt deserves attention.
Romeo and Juliet, Actors’ Shakespeare Project, Strand Theatre, Boston, through November 3.866-811-4111 or actorsshakespeareproject.org
Huntington Theatre Company seemed to struggle with the offbeat alliances that give distinction to the escalating war of words and attitudes that propel “God of Carnage.” Merrimack Repertory Theatre, under Kyle Fabel’s taut direction, embraces and enriches them. Judith Lightfoot Clarke as political correctness-obsessed Veronica and Laura Lattreille as initially reticent but ultimately intrepid Annette are stand-outs as mothers defending their unseen playground-fighting sons-with Stephen Caffrey as volatile Michael and Joseph Adams as cell-phone compulsive Alan convincing as their respective spouses. Merrimack Rep puts the childishness of the parents in rich relief.
God of Carnage, Merrimack Repertory Theatre, Lowell, through October 13. 978-654-4678.
If you think a play about the ritual-like monthly meetings of respect-paying Jewish widows is impossibly morbid, think again. Next Door Theatre Company’s out director-designer Brian Milauskas has brought as much care to the friendship of the focal trio and the unexpected budding romance of Ida as he has to her smartly detailed home. Sarah deLima is a revelation capturing Ida’s blooming new love, and Cheryl McMahon’s outspoken Lucille, Lida McGirr’s reserved Doris and Paul D. Farwell’s charming Sam are all winners.
The Cemetery Club, Next Door Theatre Company, Winchester, through October 12.781-729-NEXT.