Fall Review, Part 3: Emerson's Welcome Addition

In Part 1 of his fall preview, WBUR’s critic-at-large wrote that Boston theaters welcomed back fans with crowd-pleasers. In Part 2, he said two local repertory companies have made their mark.

"Fraulein Maria," by ArtsEmerson (Courtesy)
"Fraulein Maria," by ArtsEmerson (Courtesy)


Some of the old American Repertory Theater aesthetic has drifted from Harvard to Emerson as the ART’s former executive director, Rob Orchard, is now in charge of ArtsEmerson, which has gotten off to a rousing start with its first two productions.

The ArtsEmerson aesthetic, though, is a good deal broader than Robert Brustein’s and Robert Woodruff’s ART. You would have had to look far and wide at ART to find anything as lighthearted as “Fraulein Maria,” Doug Elkins’ very clever dance sendup/homage to “The Sound of Music’’ with three dancers (one male) playing Maria and a hip-hop dancer “interpreting” “Climb Every Mountain" — all using the movie soundtrack.

Nor would you have found much of anything as earnest and political as “The Laramie Residency,’’ about the murder and aftermath of Matthew Shepard in 1998. The Tectonic Theater Project not only revisits its original staging of “The Laramie Project,” in which the company reenacted its interviews with residents, but adds a postscript “The Laramie Project: Ten Years Later.” The company went back and this time added interviews with the two killers. If the result is a little too earnest and self-congratulatory, it’s still both a powerful and chilling 4-and-a-half hours of theater.

What a welcome addition to the Boston theater scene.

- “Fraulein Maria” continues through Oct. 3 at the Paramount Theatre, by ArtsEmerson.

- “The Laramie Residency” continues through Oct. 2 at the Cutler Majestic Theatre, by ArtsEmerson.

"Enron," by the Zeitgeist Stage Company (Courtesy)
"Enron," by the Zeitgeist Stage Company (Courtesy)


At the Boston Center for the Arts, Zeitgeist Stage Company — certainly one of the most ambitious and adventurous companies around — is staging “Enron,” or what could be called “Enron: The Musical.” Well, it’s not really a musical, but British playwright Lucy Prebble’s broad satire of how the company defrauded investors and employees in its financial shell game.

Too broad. The architects of the destruction, Ken Lay and Jeff Skilling, are caricatures and the absurdist overlay is a phantasmagoria of adrenaline-induced bad behavior. If the script were to work at all — it played well in London and closed early in New York — it would need farceurs at the top of their game and a production budget about a million times bigger than Zeitgeist’s. Given David J. Miller’s skill at staging “Stuff Happens,” I thought he might be able to pull this one off, too, but “Enron” comes off as little more than the left-wing equivalent to talk radio.

- Through Oct. 16 at the Boston Center for the Arts, by the Zeitgeist Stage Company

This program aired on September 30, 2010. The audio for this program is not available.

Headshot of Ed Siegel

Ed Siegel Critic-At-Large
Ed Siegel is critic-at-large for WBUR.



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