Top 5 Theatre News Stories of 2018
5. The folks at Mixed Magic Theatre really adhere to the idea that the show must go on. Their Mineral Spring Avenue home needed some urgent but major roof repairs, so they performed their whole fall season from a rehearsal space via Facebook Live.
4. The Edwards Twins bill themselves as “Las Vegas based”, although they perform around here so often that I have no idea when they actually get to Las Vegas. (Winter, I guess.) The roaming cabaret act has come under fire recently for performing in blackface – I haven’t seen the show, but they do that – while impersonating the likes of Stevie Wonder, Lionel Richie, and Ray Charles. The Gamm canceled a planned appearance just the other day, though one of the twins took to talk radio to double down on his position. “Ninety-eight percent of the African American community endorses what we do,” he told WPRO. Regardless of their vocal or comedy talents, it’s maybe time for these guys to enter the 21st century.
3. Current and incoming students to Brown/Trinity Rep’s joint MFA program got some great news last winter: full tuition scholarships. “You cannot take risks and choose your own path when hampered by debt, and I am hopeful that we will see riskier and more innovative work as a result of this change,” said Patricia Ybarra, chair of Brown’s Theater Arts and Performance Studies department.
2. The ongoing saga of Kevin Broccoli and James Franco finally came to an end. Broccoli’s production James Franco and Me, a two-man satire in which the two characters are Franco and Broccoli himself, debuted in Cranston a few years ago at Epic Theatre Company. Franco’s lawyers only noticed when the show was set to move to New York for the 2017 Fringe Festival, but Broccoli eventually got the okay and the show ran this year (with the added subtitle “An Unauthorized Satire”). It even got a mention in the Times.
1. After a forty-year run, 2nd Story Theatre closed on July 1. It was a surprise – the Warren company was already selling tickets for two other summer shows – but not completely unexpected. (About six months earlier, most local reviewers were informed that they would no longer be offering press seats at all, which seemed odd.) A 2017 remodel eliminated one of the theatre’s two stages and replaced it with a restaurant, Union, adding to an already very crowded Warren restaurant scene.
Top 10 Shows of 2018
1. Twelfth Night (Burbage Theatre Company)
2. ‘Night, Mother (Counter-Productions Theatre Company)
3. Homos: or, Everyone in America (Epic Theatre Company)
(I didn’t review this one because it came during my summer break. I also didn’t see it until the final night, when the actors got so enthusiastic that they broke a glass door.)
4. Pride and Prejudice (Trinity Rep)
5. The Hypochondriac (Burbage)
6. Life Sucks (Epic)
7. Futurity (The Wilbury Group, extended through December 30)
8. Sometimes the Rain, Sometimes the Sea (Brown)
9. Bat Boy: the Musical (Providence College)
10. Back to the Work (Strange Attractor)
(I couldn’t review this one for the newsletter because it kept selling out.)
Providence Performing Arts Center turned 90.
The Wilbury Group was one of just four theatres in the country to receive first-time funding from the American Theatre Wing, the organization that produces the Tony Awards. They join companies in Indiana, Colorado, and Flint, Michigan.
Francis Parra, co-founder and artistic director of Teatro ECAS, received this year’s Tom Roberts Prize from the Rhode Island Council for the Humanities.
Let Us Never Speak of It Again
Into the Breeches! I’ve recommended plays that I thought were badly written but provocative, and plays that were boring but well executed, but Trinity’s joyless spring comedy was so awful in every way that I declined to actually review it. The worst part is that the play was specifically written for the actresses of Trinity, all of whom are very funny in any other show. Only Janice Duclos managed to elicit anything resembling humor.
The Gamm, like the Paw Sox, fled Pawtucket this year, reopening in a newly renovated space on Jefferson Boulevard, formerly the home of Ocean State Theatre.
In addition to 2nd Story, Counter-Productions Theatre Company announced that their 12th season would be their last. The company has been operating out of the AS220 Black Box for quite some time now.