Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Boston Theater Marathon 16, round up

As many of you know, the Boston Theater Marathon is one of my very favorite theater events of every year.  With 53 short plays by 53 New England playwrights, staged by 53 different companies, it's an ideal opportunity to see a cross section of the local talent pool and to be inspired by the voices of dozens of playwrights.  And it helps benefit the Theatre Community Benevolent Fund.

As I have done for the past fours years, I dragged my daughter Kira to the Wimberly Theatre at the Calderwood Pavilion, on a gorgeous Mother's Day (with my apologies to my wife, Tracy, whose Mother's Day has been interrupted by a long string of BTMs). This year, I missed just one of the 53 plays, in a day that began at noon and ran straight until 10pm.

There was, as always, a lot to admire about the day.  Here are some of my favorite moments:
  • Kevin LaVelle always seems the perfect actor for Bill Donnelly's plays, and he was on the mark again on Sunday in Grass Hog, the first play of the day, as a neighbor who's had more than his share of ups and downs.  Produced by Battleground State.
  • Rick Park gave us a very touching car play, The Doppler of My Heart, with terrific performances by Greg Maraio and Becca Lewis. Produced by Company One.
  • Steve Barkhimer totally rocked Richard Dresser's ultimate cringe-worthy wedding toast in Love, Dad. I laughed awfully hard (and took notes in case I ever have to make such a toast for my daughter someday).  Produced by the ART.
  • 16 Gigs by Maggie Kearnon, an awkward explosion/exploration of eager-unrequited longing and love was one of my favorite scripts and got a terrific performance from Stanis Johnson. Produced by Marblehead Little Theatre.
  • Film Appreciation by David Susman got a whole bucketful of well-deserved laughs, about a woman who dates the ultimate film buff (and some other types). Produced by Mill 6.
  • Webbed Hands, by Cecilia Raker, directed by Matthew Woods and produced by Imaginary Beasts, was a theatrical delight, with its use of mask and movement.  It was a real standout for me (and made me miss Rough & Tumble).  I'd love to see more Marathon plays with more adventurous or unusual staging.
  • Obehi Janice rocked the role of a math teacher having a very, very bad birthday, in MJ Halberstadt's Peggy's Properties, directed by Jeff Mosser and produced by Project: Project. I'm a sucker for any play about math, but this one was about so much more, all in a very small package.
  • Fracking With Walt Whitman, by Greg Hirschak, with Chris Webb in the role of a poet laureate who might become president in a very strange and dangerous world, made me laugh so hard I cried.  Produced by Off the Grid Theatre Company.
  • And The Maltese Walter by John Minigan, produced by Argos and directed by Ariana Gett, might have been my very favorite of the evening, with Paul Melendy starring as a man with a strange superpower (and paired with Charles Linshaw and Liza Hayes). 
Overall, I also felt like this Marathon had stronger lighting and sound design that past years, which was a treat.  (I have to give a shout out to Cassie Seinuk, the stage manager, and all the BTM folk who make the show run so smoothly.)

As in any year, there are always a few types of plays that appear more than others.  This year, we had two ghost plays, and another meta play (Peter Floyd's clever Too, Too Solid Flesh) that featured characters that not everyone on stage could see. There was the usual collection of plays in cars, the T plays, and a whole bunch of plays where people in relationships were leaving each other (often for members of the same sex).

If I had a wish list, it would be for us to make a car jig, so the various car plays could dispense with mimed steering wheels. And more plays that are more physically theatrical and/or musical (we did have one ten-minute musical, The House of All Alone, with book and byrics by Richard Schotter and music by Phil Schroeder, which was a lot of fun).

My other big wish would be to make an online directory with pictures and resumes for all the actors in the Marathon.  I am certainly not the only theater maker in the house at the BTM furiously scribbling notes on programs, as I'm looking for possible actors for upcoming readings and productions. 

Once again, congratulations to everyone on a fantastic day of theater.  I can't wait 'til next year!