BWW Review: Caryl Churchill Two-fer by Commonwealth Shakespeare at Babson College

BWW Review: Caryl Churchill Two-fer by Commonwealth Shakespeare at Babson College

Universe Rushing Apart: Blue Kettle and Here We Go

Two One-Act Plays by Caryl Churchill, Directed by Bryn Boice; Scenic Design, Cristina Todesco; Lighting Design, Jen Rock; Composer and Sound Design, Dewey Dellay; Costume Design, Nancy Leary; Properties Artisan, Sally Tomasetti; Stage Manager, Jenna Worden; Assistant Stage Manager, Rachel Corning; Production Manager, Kristen Mazzocchi; Assistant Director, Courtney Plati

CAST (in alphabetical order): Siobhan Carroll, Maureen Keiller, Karen MacDonald, Sarah Mass, Ryan Winkles

Performances through November 18 by Commonwealth Shakespeare Company at Black Box Theater, Sorenson Center for the Arts, Babson College, 231 Forest Street, Wellesley, MA; Box Office 866-811-4111 or www.commshakes.org

Renowned British playwright Caryl Churchill is the author of a pair of one-act plays merged into Commonwealth Shakespeare Company's Universe Rushing Apart: Blue Kettle and Here We Go, playing through the weekend in the Black Box Theater at Babson College's Sorenson Center for the Arts in Wellesley. If you are inclined to think that the distance from the downtown Boston theater district translates into a lesser degree of intellectual stimulation, or that the creative and technical elements may be more laid back owing to the suburban locale, think again. A stellar cast, thoughtfully directed by Bryn Boice, and imaginative design choices by an accomplished team, add up to a decidedly unique theatrical experience.

Although the plays were written eighteen years apart and not linked by the playwright, what they have in common is surrealism, and both allow Boice and company to put their personal stamp on the pieces. To the extent that they work here, and I will admit to not being totally enamored with this type of storytelling, the credit goes to the spot on performances by the elite ensemble, all of whom play two or three characters with sharply-defined differentiation. Karen MacDonald, Maureen Keiller, Sarah Mass, Siobhan Carroll, and Ryan Winkles provide a mini-master class, as if they have been acting in Churchill's plays forever. They seem entirely comfortable with her dialogue, even when, in Blue Kettle, it devolves into nonsense, and when all the lines in Here We Go are divvied up among the characters virtually at random.

Blue Kettle is a series of vignettes in which a 40-something man claims to be the long-lost son of several older women who gave him up for adoption, and it is underscored by a deep vein of need and longing that cries out for connection. Here We Go is a three-part story which begins at a post-funeral party where a group of women are forced to face their own mortality, followed by a monologue delivered by the deceased. The final segment, a wordless scene where a caretaker repeatedly dresses and undresses an elderly man in her care, is ultimately a test for the patience of the audience. Universe Rushing Apart is female-centric, written by and mostly performed by women, and the design team also consists primarily of women. Cristina Todesco's spare scenic design, using a series of large, white cubes rearranged for each scene by a pair of women stagehands, is given additional interest by Jen Rock's lighting design. Nancy Leary's costumes highlight the eclectic personalities of the characters, and Dewey Dellay's music augments and enriches the dramatic content.

Photo credit: Evgenia Eliseeva (Siobhan Carroll, Karen MacDonald, Ryan Winkles, Maureen Keiller, Sarah Mass)

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