There's nothing quite like the drama (pun intended) of seeing a play. Of waiting impatiently for the curtain to rise, twiddling your thumbs excitedly during intermission, and giving a standing ovation through the final curtain call. If you agree, you're in luck — Boston theater is having a fantastic season.
It’s believed that Thornton Wilder’s Pulitzer Prize-winning “Our Town” is the most produced play in the United States. And yet in the Huntington’s new production, director David Cromer (who also doubles as Stage Manager through December 30th) brings us an astonishing excavation of a long familiar work we only thought we knew. After an Obie-winning run off-Broadway, Cromer stages the play intimately here in a 250-seat space at the Calderwood evoking a school auditorium or town hall—a ripe setting for a play set in 1901 Grover’s Corners, NH. With a bare bones set (just two tables, four chairs and a piano) he delivers us immediately into Grovers Corners and its vintage slice of Americana. Only it’s not. What Cromer brilliantly teases out of this near 75-year-old work is a 2012 sensibility and cynicism. The conflicts that spill out of the two all-American families at the heart of “Our Town” fulminate in a third act that will emotionally overpower you.
Plays at the CITI Emerson Colonial Theatrethrough December 23rd
Like “Our Town,” which premiered locally at the Wilbur Theatre before heading to New York in 1938, “Memphis” germinated here at North Shore Music Theatre before ultimately landing on Broadway where it won four 2010 Tony awards including Best Musical. Set in the 1950s, Memphis is loosely based on the legacy of Dewey Phillips, a Memphis disc jockey (known as “Daddy-O-Dewey”) who was among the first to integrate American radio. Here we find Huey Calhoun who radiojacks a Memphis station to play the “race music” that he wants to champion. As a result, the radio station’s popularity rockets forward but also ignites a violent social discord. It’s a robust production punctuated with exceptionally strong voices.
Plays at the Lyric Stage Company through December 23rd
In Tony-winning playwright David Henry Hwang’s (“M. Butterfly”) newest play, “Chinglish,” he examines US-China relations through a clever and funny business transaction. David Cavanaugh is a sign-maker from Ohio trying to gain a foothold in a thriving Chinese province. A former ENRON executive, he’s looking for a personal economic recovery while the Chinese officials are looking for English translations that won’t be mocked by foreigners. It’s an inventive look at the complicated relationship between the two nations through the microcosm of one very personal transaction. Co-stars Barlow Adamson and Celeste Oliva are riveting standouts here.