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American Ballet Theatre

Take Le Corsaire with a grain of salt. A big one. Attacked by four 19th-century choreographers over a period of 62 years and set to music by five composers, the full-length ballet contains innumerable melodramatic episodes. But the story can be boiled down to this: Conrad, the pirate of the title, frees a harem girl, […]

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Brain Children

Four adult actors in Rubicon Theatre Project’s production are convincing and funny as “gifted” nine-year-olds enrolled in a program intended to stimulate budding geniuses. They also persuasively represent the quartet’s maturation over the three-year period covered by Liza Lentini’s script: there are plenty of laughs in this flashback to the early 80s encapsulating pivotal moments […]

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Kelley Stoltz

In an era of MySpace pages and MP3 downloads, this San Francisco singer-songwriter landed his record deal the old-fashioned way. Stoltz’s long journey to his contract with Sub Pop began with 2001’s bedroom-recorded full-length Antique Glow, for which he crammed a small army of instruments and influences–the Beatles, Small Faces, Nick Drake, and Joy Division […]

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Fighting Words

Maybe the success of Million Dollar Baby convinced Rivendell Theatre Ensemble that the time was ripe to stage a play about women and boxing. Trouble is, playwright Sunil Kuruvilla doesn’t let his three female characters get in any knockout punches. This is familiar territory: three women in a dying Welsh town wrestle with dashed dreams […]

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A Whistle in the Dark

In 1960, Dublin’s Abbey Theatre rejected Irish playwright Tom Murphy’s debut effort. It’s not difficult to see why: this hard look at a violence-prone working-class Irish family eking out a living in Coventry, England, pulls no punches. Nor is it surprising, given Murphy’s gifts as a storyteller, that one year later the same play would […]

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Brighton Beach Memoirs

However sparkling a performer, Noah Rawitz hasn’t developed the comic subtlety or dialect skills to play Neil Simon’s pubescent alter ego in the first installment of his autobiographical trilogy. But because all Rawitz’s scenery chewing stifles the comedy, the family’s struggle to hold together during the Great Depression and the dawn of World War II […]

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The Improvised Shakespeare Company

Seven strapping men in swashbuckler shirts improvise a two-act Shakespearean play based on a title suggested by the audience. At the show I saw, “The Taming of the Jew” inspired the Bard’s usual themes (religion, family, betrayal) and plot devices (murders, disguises, fortunes gained/lost) as well as an uncomfortably funny circumcision. Director-performer Blaine Swen, a […]

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The Swimmer

The only John Cheever story ever adapted to the big screen, “The Swimmer” follows the eccentric journey of a New England bon vivant who appears at the house of some old friends and resolves to take a dip in each of the backyard swimming pools that lead across the county back to his stately home. […]

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Beth Orton

On her 1997 debut, Trailer Park, Beth Orton made a splash by merging elegant folk-pop and electronic beats. The album’s success soon attracted well-known collaborators like Dr. John, Ben Harper, and Emmylou Harris, but though Orton followed pretty much the same template, the fussy arrangements on her next two records turned her into a middle-of-the-road […]

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Brunettes

The Brunettes quite accurately describe themselves as “boy/girl melodrama pop inspired by 70s New York punk and 60s girl groups but created in an Auckland scene of opiate-infused garage rock ‘n’ roll.” That makes my job a little easier, but it still doesn’t capture the magnetic charm of 2004’s Mars Loves Venus (Lil’ Chief). The […]

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Loose Knit

Glib TV writer Theresa Rebeck makes an agora of a women’s knitting circle, airing all manner of thirtysomething gripes: workplace unfairness, marital disillusionment, the general shortage of acceptable men. Rebeck gives all the actors a juicy rant or two, but again and again she overshoots the mark, more or less forcing them into look-at-me hysterical […]