News, schools, and views from a uniquely Lowell perspective

MRT play haunts with Ghost-Writer

Michael Hollinger ’s play, Ghost-Writer, a haunting story of love tangled with the agonies of artistic creation, begins this weekend at the Merrimack Repertory Theatre. The production, the last in a season that stands out as one of  MRT’s finest in recent memory, runs until May 13 and is well worth the price of admission.

As Picasso famously said, “Art is the lie that reveals the truth,” Hollinger explores fictional truth as the “only truth that matters” and as a way of making things more true.  The play lets you inside the writing process and as you watch, it connects two people in an intimate bond that seems to defy the boundary of death. Yet, is that truth or merely the construct of the protagonist? There are hints that support various conclusions, but in the end, Hollinger leaves it up to the viewer to decide.

The play is well written and interesting, with clever dialogue­. The three actors are also exceptional: Franklin Woolsey as the statuesque writer, who would “wait for words to appear”;  Rebecca Harris as Myra, whose facial expressions and presence convey so much more than mere words; and Maureen Garrett, the lively, jealous wife, whose outsider status and deep love for her husband provide provocative conflict as well as surprising empathy.  Although the pace can be slow at times, this subtle, cerebral and nuanced look at reality, writing and relationships proved satisfying. Don’t miss it!

posted in Art, Local Groups, Theater | 1 Comment

Festival of women playwrights great success

Last night’s FemNoire experience at The Whistler House, the second annual festival of women playwrights sponsored by the Image Theater, reminded me of going to comedy clubs years ago and watching a revolving door of performers. FemNoire featured nine vignettes that ranged in tone from seriously funny, to intensely dramatic, and deeply sad. The varied topics and styles kept the audience laughing, at times near tears, and always attentive.

As with most creative ventures, reactions varied in terms of which plays people preferred, and with any short piece, the challenge is to grab the audience quickly, get them to care about the characters and situation, and tell a complete story within minutes.

Some of the plays that stood out were Gay Paree by Andrea Fleck Clardy, a tearjerker about a terminally ill friend asking another for help ending her pain—it is a story about the bond of female friendship and the shared joy and agony that is life. Or Lapse by Gail Phaneuf, an hysterically funny skit between a husband and wife that begins and ends with the same line: “Why’d I come in here?” The story was a laugh-out-loud romp about the very real frustration of becoming ridiculously absent minded as we age.  House Broken by Monica Bauer had some of the strongest dialogue with long, fast-paced monologues from a conservative, career Congressman being forced to resign over sexual indiscretions caught on tape with his dog.

Another play, A Parting Gift by Leslie Powell, was an intense look at domestic violence while Wife of Bobo by M. Lynda Robinson featured the most physical comedy of the night in this tale about a woman married to a clown, literally. In all, FemNoire was a fantastic good time well worth the admission price of $19 and a wonderful way to experience women’s voices in the Merrimack Valley in the incomparable venue of live theater. Kudos to all involved!

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What I love about the MRT

The Merrimack Repertory Theatre, that is. Well, besides the fact that its close to home, parking is easy, and there are now some restaurants open late for after-show dining, they are so accomodating. I’ve been a subscriber for over 10 years, and it pretty much never fails that I can’t make it on the night I’m supposed to go. They always cheerfully reschedule my tickets, even at the last minute. Yesterday, for example, after waiting on hold for awhile, I sent an email to the box office, explaining my problem, hoping I would be able to use my tickets for tonight’s performance of The Blonde, the Brunette and the Vengeful Redhead. It’s the last weekend of the show and the last show of the season, and I know they’ve been selling out, so I wasn’t that confident that I could get in; however, Sean emailed me back, letting me know that I had two seats for the show (and in the orchestra, which is my preference). Now, that’s great service!

A word about live theatre: you do take your chances when you go to a play. more »

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Love at the Whistler House

Looking for something to do this weekend? Consider music and romance brought to us through the Image Theater, our local theater group. This from their website:  Lowell’s Image Theater is proud to collaborate with the illustrious Whistler House Museum for a Valentine’s weekend celebration of romance, wine and song. Boston cabaret artists Bobbi Carrey and Will McMillan will bring their acclaimed cabaret performance “If I Loved You” to the beautiful Parker Gallery at Lowell’s Whistler House Museum, 243 Worthen Street, Lowell, accompanied by Doug Hammer on piano.

Saturday, February 13th, with a cocktail reception at 7 pm and a show at 8pm and Sunday, Feb 14th at 2pm and 3pm, for the price of $59 a couple, $30 for single tickets. Will and Bobbi will delight you with songs from Gershwin, Rodgers, Berlin, Porter, Sondheim…songs that speak to the heart, mind, and soul. Hear the duo that The Boston Herald claims “transforms listeners into a beautiful daydream…” and The Improper Bostonian called “…sparkling and sultry…” Call 978-452-7641 for reservations (which I just did) and discovered there are only seats remaining for the Sunday performanceL.

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MRT play humorous and heartwarming

Nancye Tuttle has a review in today’s newspaper about Heroes, the current play at the Merrimack Repertory Theatre (through Dec. 13). My husband and I saw the play on Friday and loved it. In fact, we have enjoyed all three productions this year, finding this season’s offerings so far to be outstanding—perhaps the best consistent run we’ve experienced since becoming season ticket holders. We are fortunate to have the MRT as part of the city’s cultural offerings, and I encourage you to make time to attend a performance. There is nothing like live theatre to express the universality of being human in a way that resonates, and Heroes does not disappoint in its humorous and heartwarming take on aging and friendship. As Tuttle writes, “No matter how we fight it, deny it or ignore it, death awaits us all.” Like most things in life, swallowing that hard reality is much easier with a dose of laughter. The quirky characters and hopeful message of Heroes will stay with you long after the curtain closes, and are well worth the price of admission.

posted in In the News, Local People, Theater | 2 Comments

Naughty Readings tomorrow night

If you’re in the mood for some sexy laughs tomorrow night (Sat. 11/14), join the Image Theater, Lowell’s local performing arts group, for its fifth annual, not-for-kids laugh-fest. The naughty songs and skits will be performed upstairs at the Old Court, 29 Central Street, beginning at 8 p.m. I’ve attended all these events and, believe me, they’re fun; although the humor is not kid-friendly, it’s definitely not too naughty for me—a somewhat prudish, Catholic-raised girl. The most important thing is that you will laugh often, and who couldn’t use a few laughs these days! At the same time, you’ll be supporting the efforts of local theater in our community. In its five years of existence, the Image Theater has produced the new works of more than 60 playwrights, as well as highlighting local talent and offering enjoyable theater. Seating is limited, so reserve a $25 ticket by calling 978-441-0102, or take your chances and pay $28 at the door.

posted in Just for Fun, Local Groups, Theater | 2 Comments

Another Saturday night and I ain’t got no money…

I couldn’t help but think of that silly song when I heard about the Image Theater’s event this Saturday. Where can you find good theater, art, creative people, and refreshments for $20? Lowell that’s where, and it’s this Saturday only, so don’t miss it. Lowell’s Image Theater returns with a new production in a great venue. In its first collaboration with The Whistler House, the local theater company will present a sneak preview, fully staged reading of Impasto, written by local playwright and artist Regina Eliot Ramsey, and directed by Image Theater’s own Ann Garvin. Impasto finds Hannah Bauer, (a protege of the great Willem DeKooning) in  quite a bind when, at the last minute, she pulls out of a “comeback”  showing of her artwork at a posh Soho gallery. Alone and embittered for many years, Hannah must open her heart to the prospect of romance, and she must learn to navigate the dog-eat-dog world of art commerce by selling her paintings… without selling out.

Impasto begins at 7 pm, Oct 10, at The Whistler House Museum, 243 Worthen Street. Get there early and see the beautiful Gorky exhibit.  After the show, meet with the actors and playwright, and enjoy refreshments. In five years, the Image Theater has produced and given voice to more than 50 playwrights. I have seen many of their productions, which always entertain, at locations as varied as the Revolving Museum and The Old Court pub. This one promises to be special, so call 978-452-7641 to reserve your seats soon because space is limited. And don’t let money blues keep you from having an exceptionally fine Saturday night in our favorite Mill City!

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Weekend drama

No, I’m not talking about the school committee, but our local arts scene: The last play of the season at the MRT is A Moon for the Misbegotten, a classic by Eugene O’Neil. Well, I say classic, but who knows? I saw this play in a college production about 20 years ago and was not impressed, as it seemed melodramatic, overwrought and dated. Still, I’m game to see it again. The great thing about live theatre is that there is always something to like, or to discuss or critique after the show. Productions can differ radically because of the added variables of directing, acting, even set design. I’m going Sunday night, but the play runs through May 17th with performances on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday nights at 8 pm; matinees run Saturdays at 4:30, Sundays at 2:00. Saturday night shows at 8:30 and Sunday night shows at 7:00 pm (call the box office at 978-654-4678). The recent positive review of the play in the Boston Globe indicates to me that some of the flaws in the production that I saw so long ago might have been countered by smart directing and excellent acting. It sounds like it might even be a bit humorous! On the other end of the spectrum, we have home-grown theatre right here in Lowell – the Image Theater strikes again with an ORIGINAL play by our own Jerry Bisantz. Entitled The Straight Line, featuring “beer, romance and gun fights,” the play will be upstairs at The Old Court for the next two weekends, Friday and Saturday nights at 8:00 pm. Last but not least, Lowell High School students will perform Little Shop of Horrors, opening tonight with performances Friday and Saturday at 8 pm at the Lowell Freshman Academy Theater (how do you spell that word anyway? – er as in Image Theater or -re as in Merrimack Repertory Theatre? These are the things that keep me awake at night!) So, there you have it, entertainment and then some for your rainy May weekend. There really IS a lot to like about Lowell! Enjoy!

posted in Local Groups, Lowell High, Theater, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Great start to the New Year at MRT

Richard Dresser is becoming a local favorite and the regional premiere of his latest play, A View of the Harbor at the Merrimack Repertory Theater is not to be missed. Smart, funny and provocative, with clever dialogue and convincing characters, this play will give you plenty to think about as you ponder the motivations and methods on display. We saw Harold Pinter’s Pulitzer Prize winning play, The Homecoming at the MRT a season or two ago (and hated it), but in this play, Dresser seems, in some way, to be paying homage to that work. While funnier and more accessible, it is on some level just as disturbing. Unlike Pinter’s play, this one is also enjoyable.

And by the way, Happy New Year! The blog’s been quiet due to holiday and family commitments, but we’re still here!

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No bailout for the arts

Last Sunday was an unusually theatrical day for me. First, I attended a production of Once Upon a Mattress at the Peacock Players in Nashua with two 12-year-olds who thoroughly enjoyed the performance. (I did too.) That evening, my husband and I attended opening night of Skylight at Lowell’s Merrimack Repertory Theatre (MRT). This is our second year as season ticket holders, which despite my initial concern regarding conflicting schedules, has turned out to be a wonderful investment in Date Night and the immediacy of live theatre. Both events that day included fund-raising pitches to the audience. In MRT’s case, Artistic Director Charles Towers spoke about how difficult financial times were at the theatre lately. With state funding cut 75% this season (from $100,000 to $25,000) and no government bailout on the horizon, the theatre must turn to the community for its continued existence. The reality is, those who value live theatre must support it. That means attending shows and contributing to the cause—especially during tough economic times. Unfortunately theatre, like other arts and non-profit groups that vitally enrich our community, will never be on the short list for bailouts—unless we do the bailing ourselves.

posted in Art, Local Groups, Money Matters, Theater | 0 Comments

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