July 20, 2006

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Variations on a theme
Goldberg Variations has layers, Chris Jones shines
By Heidi Masek hmasek@hippopress.com

One might walk away from Goldberg Variations at Andy’s Summer Playhouse with a feeling that one needs to see this three more times and read a biography or two, but then, it’s nice to have one’s mind challenged rather than spoonfed every now and then.

Because of the nature of the collaboration, in which 31 writers, choreographers, musicians, etc., created scenes that are variations on the themes of Rube Goldberg’s philosophies, commentaries and cartoons, and Bach’s Goldberg Variations, which play in the background, foreground or not there at all (30 variations and an aria), there’s a lot to absorb during the production.

If you associate “Rube Goldberg” with a device that complexly does a simple task, you might enjoy many of the creative ways contributors brought that concept to the stage through the young actors. The younger audience members also seemed to get a good laugh out of a lot of those moments. But Goldberg created much more than the idea of a “Rube Goldberg machine.” If you are rusty on your Goldberg history, a lot of the scenes are clearer once you’ve watched Variation 16, by Jane Elkund, “The Abridged Biography,” in which the actors illustrate Rube Goldberg’s life as if they were in one of his famed panel cartoons. Some scenes play off social or political commentary, a nod to Goldberg’s satirical cartoons, and perhaps pointing out some history repeating itself.

As is the way of Andy’s Playhouse, children perform in the show, and it’s a premiere original work. The young company did an amazing job moving quickly from scene to scene, most of them playing several “roles,” with some characters returning. The “flash plays” range from amusing shorts that kids identify with to abstract and symbolic pieces that might leave you scratching your head. It’s definitely a cool show to catch if you are looking for something thought-provoking and new.

Just east of Wilton, the Milford Area Players are putting on a much more traditional kind of play. It has a beginning, middle and end, for one thing. In I Hate Hamlet, Chris Jones is commanding as the ghost of John Barrymore calling forth the “glory” of playing Hamlet. His character is endearing as a man who is reveling in being “larger than life,” and while he’s on stage for almost the entire show, every gesture and facial expression is in character. Barbara Webb as Lillian Troy, an agent who had a fling with Barrymore decades earlier, and Gail Angellis as real estate agent Felicia Dantine are delightful to watch. It’s kind of an “industry” play but the argument of art and talent versus being “packaged” to make money is one that’s more and more relevant.

I Hate Hamlet by the Milford Area Players runs at the Amato Center for the Performing Arts through July 23 (milfordareaplayers.org).

The Goldberg Variations runs through July 22 at Andy’s Summer Playhouse (andyssummerplahouse.org).


07/13/2006 I Hate Hamlet
07/06/2006 Serious theater
06/29/2006 L.A. in Peterborough
06/22/2006 Da Vinci to Rube Goldberg
06/15/2006 Peter Bridges remembered
06/08/2006 From Hairspray to monkeys
06/01/2006 Special Theatrics
05/25/2006 Live Brit-com
05/18/2006 Evil stepsisters earn the yuks
05/11/2006 A message to mom
05/04/2006 Meet the cast
04/27/2006 'I hope i get it'
04/20/2006 Find yourself in Yonkers
04/13/2006 Nashua rocks The Wiz
04/06/2006 Nashua rocks The Wiz
03/30/2006 Cabaret is Mnchester bound
03/23/2006 A 42nd Street detour
03/16/2006 Actor-director wants your ideas
02/23/2006 Yellow Taxi's Theater Festival opens March 1
02/16/2006 Herding CATS
02/09/2006 An actors' studio
02/02/2006 A thing about love
01/26/2006 Spring theater season warming up
01/19/2006 Gearing up for the big night
01/12/2006 This Phantom is not a menace
01/05/2006 Jim Kelly, sci-fi writer and alternate historian
10th anniversary at Capitol Center
10 Ways To Survive The Audition
A Chorus Line
A Figaro Worth Cheering
A 'Living Newspaper' on stage
A tale of two wives
A Tribute To Music
Actorsingers Deliver On Superstar
Beauty and the Beast
Bedford Off-Broadway Gets Spooky
Being The Beatles, 1964 The Tribute
Bringing NYC to Wilton
Creating the venue from antiques
Crimes Of The Heart
Curtain to rise on Dana Center
Dana Center Takes Center Stage
Ensemble elevates Palace’s Godspell
From stage to the silver screen
Great play, too bad it’s over
Greater Tuna
Humble Boy
It’s cabaret, hear it sing, joke, tease
It's Child's Play
Jesus Christ Superstar
Kids Tackle Edgar Allan Poe
Local boy hits the big time, doesn’t lose his head
Lowell theater opens with a winner of a satire
Madco welcomes Boston actor-director
Meet John Sefel, Director
Meet Suzanne Delle, Yellow Taxi’s driver
Music Man to run three weekends
New Thalian Players
Palace announces 2005-06 season
Peterborough Players’ Solidarity is solid gold
Plaid
Plaid (II)
Playing with man’s best friend
Proud of the Peacock
Racy, crazy blast at the Palace
Reviving His Passion
Robert Dionne, The man behind the Majestic
Rosemary Dann
Secrets Every Smart Traveler Should Know
Short-Attention Span Theater
Side Show
Sideshow slips sideways
Spending The Summer On Stage
Stages of learning
Steel Magnolias
Suessical: The Musical
Theater Of The Imagination
Theater Kids Without A School
Theater in the park draws big
The Drawer Boy
The Festival
The Five best shows of 2005
The Prisoner Of Second Avenue
The Russian/American Kids Circus
The Senator Wore Pantyhose
The Tony Awards, they're grrrrreat
The Warmth Of The Cold
Three nights, three shows at the Palace
Tosca

Under the Caribbean with the little mermaid

Wake up to ‘night Mother