Boston theatergoers can be grateful for a few rewarding options—from the intimate to the sprawling— this Thanksgiving. Homophobia and bullying receive an always timely and stunningly visceral bashing at the Apollinaire Theatre. F.U.D.G.E. Theatre, always trying to push the envelope with classic fare, brings fresh perspective to “Macbeth” at the Arsenal Center for the Performing Arts. Jean Shepherd fans should head to the Citi Center Wang Theatre for a rollicking tour of the musical version of “A Christmas Story.”
Imagine a play in which a gay American filmmaker outs a homophobic bully in accepting an Oscar. Sounds like a variation on the tribute a straight actor pays to his mentoring closeted gay teacher in the recent film “In and Out”? Aside from the obvious differences, the 2013 play in question—“From White Plains” by Michael Perlman in collaboration with its original New York cast —is a very welcome examination of the profound pain and damage of anti—gay bullying and a transcendent call for gay empowerment. Apollinaire Theatre makes the play’s timely area premiere both haunting and uplifting.
The title refers to the fictional filmmaker Dennis’ award—winning documentary as well as the setting of the back story bulling that led to the suicide of his fellow gay classmate. Throughout the play, Perlman and company present the very different emotional odysseys of the now grownup young men— the bully Ethan, his best friend John, Dennis and the filmmaker’s lover Gregory. While making heart-wrenching points about the brutality of day-to-day bullying and the impact of obsessive vindictiveness on victims themselves, “From White Plains never preaches or sensationalizes. The result is a heartfelt drama that champions gay empowerment as much as the need for heightened sensitivity from friends as well as the bullies they struggle to understand.
Artistic director Danielle Fauteaux Jacques fires up the Apollinaire quartet for an uncommonly powerful ensemble. Brooks Reeves, quickly becoming one of the Hub’s premiere actors (recent standout performances in “Black Comedy” and “Closer”), finds all of Dennis’ rage towards Ethan as well as his angst in explaining his own hurt. Steven DeMarco catches Ethan’s vulnerability as well as his macho demeanor in a remarkably complex portrait. Mauro Canepa as John and Diego Buscaglia as Gregory provide striking support respectively as a sensitive friend and a caring would-be spouse. “From White Plains” and Apollinaire’s riveting area premiere are a must-see destination.
From White Plains, Apollinaire Theatre, Chelsea, through December 14. 617-887-2336 or apollinairetheatre.org
F.U.D.G.E. Theatre likes to shake up audience preconceptions about vintage works. Artistic director Joe DeMita gave the company’s recent revival of “Spring Awakening the Musical” a smart original look at the Arsenal Center. Now it is doing the same for “Macbeth” with both bridge and center stage water that give its disarming revival engaging subtext. Lord and Lady Macbeth as well as various Scottish lords ascend and descend from the bridge as their fortunes and positions evolve. The Witches trio perform their incantations at the water one moment, while Lady Macbeth vainly tries to wash off the blood of murder at another. Ultimately De Mita’s clever stage configuration brings new vitality to this taut tragedy’s unflinching portrait of the violence and chaos that plague soldiers and civilians alike.
Shakespeare calls Macbeth “rugged,” and Dave Rich delivers a performance as sharply chiseled in its alternating malevolence and weakness as the actor’s strong features. Linda Goetz is a standout as a potent kingmaker and ambitious wife. She captures the vulnerability and the human failing of this sometimes sympathetic sleep walker. Benjamin Medeiros lacks gusto as Banquo, and Tim McGuire needs regal bearing and authority as assassinated monarch Duncan. Ryan MacPherson, rightly tenacious as Macduff , and Grant Jacoby, evolving well into heir Malcolm, bring notable fire to their characters’ exchanges about Scotland and solidarity.
Special credit goes to Tim Boland’s poetic lighting.
Something wonderful this way comes, namely F.U.D.G.E. Theatre’s richly bubbling “Macbeth.”
Macbeth, F.U.D.G.E Theatre, Arsenal Center for the Arts. Watertown, through November 30. 617—945—0773 or fudgetheatre.com
Fans of the popular seasonal favorite “A Christmas Story” will quickly see that the musical version on tour from Broadway has all of the spirit of the film’s simple pleasures. A first-rate cast—including several original cast members— from the Tony Award- nominated show catch the wonder and charm of the Joseph Robinette book, based on the Jean Shepherd memories—based movie, and the alternately moving and mirthful Benj Pasek—Justin Paul score. Standouts include big –voiced Jake Lucas as Ralphie,dance-trong Noah Baird as brother Randy, high-kicking John Bolton as The Old Man, tender Erin Dilly as Mother and fervent Dan Lauria as Jean Shepherd.
Warren Carlyle’s exuberant choreography soars in the show stopping “Ralphie to the Rescue” and “You’ll Shoot Your Eye Out.” “A Christmas Story,” embracing universal values of family and friendship, is likely to become as much of a regular tradition in its own right as “A Christmas Carol.”
A Christmas Story, the Musical, tour at Citi Performing Arts Center Wang Theatre, through December 8. 866-348-9738 or citicenter.org
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