Hub Theater is as edgy and varied as ever as April closes. From a taut revival of a Patrick Marber play and a fresh look at Thornton Wilder shorts to a bar—set New England premiere and two provocative new works, local theatergoers have a rich diversity of choices. Particular gratifying is the talent on view even when the offerings prove slight or uneven.
Audiences have grown accustomed to sharp efforts from Bad Habit Productions, and the Marber gem “Closer” is no exception. Set in modern London with powerfully disturbing implications for couples worldwide, Marber’s four character drama centers on insidiously evolving relationships. Is the play’s title an impossible destination? Will men and women ever approach a full understanding of each other? Will fantasies—including a brilliant computer battle of wits and wills— always keep modern lovers from truly connecting?
The answers to these questions are neither easy in life nor in Marber’s frank, unrelenting and always gripping play. Director Susanna Harris Noon smartly captures the erotic energy of the quartet’s odyssey, the pathos of their individual situations and the subtle sexual ambivalences—including the possibility that obituary writer Dan’s late colleague Harry may have over drank out of love for him. Angela Keele catches mysterious Alice’s vulnerability as well as her allure. Crystal Lisbon finds Anna’s adventurousness with Dan and her combativeness with husband Larry. Glen Moore makes Dan’s inner conflict about his attraction to Anna and his profound feeling for Alice very convincing. The standout in this very good foursome is Brooks Reeves’ ferocious doctor Larry –prowling with Anna yet strikingly tentative with Alice in her vixen phase.
On the strength of superb productions of “Arcadia,” “Gross Indecencies” and now “Closer,” Bad Habit Productions has established itself as one of Boston’s must—see companies.
Closer, Bad Habit Productions, Calderwood Pavilion, Boston Center for the Arts, through April 28. bostontheatrescene.com or 617-933-8600
Another troupe that is quickly joining those ranks is Imaginary Beasts. Imaginary Beasts has explored “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” and the work of Moliere as part of its commitment to bring fresh insight to a wide—ranging repertoire of classics. Now company founder Matthew Woods has even brought such rich enhancement to smaller efforts in “Little Giants: The Miniature Plays of Thornton Wilder.” Look for Jill Rogati’s arresting puppetry design—especially in “Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came.“ Cam Cronin whirls with the ease and intensity of a dervish. Best of the nine short works in “Little Giants” is “Mozart and the Grey Steward, “ a remarkable precursor to the title composer’s conflict with lesser talent Salieri in the later hit Peter Shaffer play “Amadeus.” “Little Giants” brings big appreciation to closeted Wilder’s miniatures.
Little Giants: The Miniature Plays of Thornton Wilder, Imaginary Beasts, Boston Center for the Arts, through April 27. imaginarybeasts.org
“Bouncers” may be small in scope, but Stickball Productions evokes its slice of life style in the Cantab Lounge. There is very little plot or character development in John Godber’s play, but director Bill Doncaster has fired up the four talented actors— Seyi Ayorinde, Patrick Curran, James Bocock and especially Joe Siriani— who alternately play British lads and young women and the title club honchos. The result is entertaining if ultimately uneventful barhopping.
Bouncers, Cantab Lounge, Club Bohemia, Cambridge, through April 27, stickballproductions.com
Is Ryan Landry hopping through the cautionary power of Fritz Lang’s haunting early film ‘M” in his largely unsatisfying stage adaptation of the same name? Initially his Huntington Theatre Company debut seems to pay tribute to Lang in keeping vivid aspects of the film— mothers awaiting the return of their children from school, a balloon and a rolling ball that signal foul play and a distinctive kiosk.
Unfortunately all too soon “M” moves from Lang’s moving study of a conflicted child murderer in a far less than angelic society to a strange takeoff a la Pirandello. A romantic couple with no connection to the story proves a serious flaw. Surprisingly, an inspired film subplot about criminals trying to catch the child murder does not appear in the adaptation. Karen MacDonald does her very good best with a title role that Landry’s adaptation undermines. Versatile Larry Coen shines in a variety of roles, and David Drake sparkles as a demanding German director. Even so, Landry’s Huntington debut ends up a missed opportunity for a writer whose talent has worked best so far in his own Gold Dust Orphan parodies.
M, Huntington Theatre Company at Calderwood Pavilion, Boston Center for the Arts, through April 27. Huntingtontheatre.org or 617-266-0800
The new play to catch is “Operation Epsilon,” Alan Brody’s incisive world premiere drama about the questionable morality and ethics of major German scientists during the Holocaust. Call Brody’s play a kind of “Ten Angry Men” for which theatergoers are the jury and a tormented Otto Hahn may be the scientist who catches the conscience of fellow defendants. Will Lyman is heart—wrenchingly good as Hahn—especially whenever he speaks of his fleeing Jewish scientist colleague Lise Meitner. Out actor Diego Arciniegas gives a commanding performance as uranium—probing Werner Heisenberg, whose motives as a scientist and a German are studied with remarkable thoroughness.
Operation Epsilon, project of Catalyst Collaborative @MIT, presented by Nora Theatre at Central Square Theatre, Cambridge, through April 28. centralsquaretheatre.org or 866-811-4111
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