Show offers proof that lying never goes out of style

Show offers proof that lying never goes out of style

Boston Globe – January 7, 2018
By Lenny Megliola
 GLOBE CORRESPONDENT

WELLESLEY — It’s just by happenstance that the Wellesley College Repertory Theatre is presenting “The Liar” at a time when lying has become a fibbin’ plague in America.

We don’t know whom to believe anymore, from the White House on downIt’s something to get angry about, and we have.

It’s not really a fad. People have been lying forever. It was in the 17th century that Pierre Corneille scripted “The Liar.” The play’s a French farce, made for laughs. This fast-talking liar is named Dorante, a charming young man who, the story goes, is incapable of telling the truth.

Dorante falls in love with a young woman, whom he mistakes for her friend. The lies — and the laughs — come fast and furious.

Marta Rainer of the Wellesley College Theatre Studies Department is directing the play. The irony of the title hasn’t escaped her. “We’re all craving the truth,” she said, “and I think we all need a laugh right now.”

The play opens Jan. 12 at the Ruth Nagel Jones Theatre. Adapted for today by David Ives, the script feels as fresh as the original must have in 1643.

“We have people in the public eye blatantly lying to the public,” said cast member Ariela Nazar-Rosen, who graduated from Wellesley in 2016.

“How much do politicians lie today, and what are the consequences?” asked Angela Bilkic, who graduated in 2015 and is also in the cast.

But fear not, this onstage liar is neither mean-spirited nor a bum. “There’s a likeability about Dorante,” said Dan Prior, who is playing the role. “He’s not lying out of malice or trying to hurt anyone. He likes to be on center stage.”

Why did the director choose this play?

“In a sense it chose me,” said Rainer, who recently moved to Wellesley. “I wanted something that was fun. It has a comic book sensibility. Different types of audiences will find something in it. The actors are excited. It’s all done in verse. Every line has a rhyme.”

There’s no escaping that the production has overtones of current society, giving Rainer a lot to work with. “This play is rife with opportunity. I’m having a ball,” Rainer said.

“I read the play several times before I auditioned,” Prior said. “I love the comedy nitty-gritty and the command of language. It’s wordplay, and the physicality is so important to tell the story.”

Dorante may be overblown with bravado, but Prior takes a different slant. “It’s more that he’s just aspirant. He’s bigger than himself. He shines out. He’s a flawed character, but can he rise from that?”

Bilkic plays Lucrece and Nazar-Rosen Clarice, neither whom Dorante can figure out. Mistaken identity plays a major role here.

“It’s ironic this is called ‘The Liar’ because you can see the truths in people,” Nazar-Rosen said. “With a play like this it’s easy to exaggerate everything.”

As for Clarice, Nazar-Rosen said that “she’s also manipulating. She catches Dorante in his own trap. They do not end up together. She’s engaged, but she’s looking to see what else is out there. I really love this character. It gives me a chance to explore.”

Bilkic’s Lucrece is “upper-middle-class and austere. A shell of a person. But she loosens up. Lucrece reveals what she really wants and who she is. She wants fun and love without restraints. She feels people don’t necessarily marry for love, but she wants to.”

The cast has taken to the play’s rhyming verse. “The language is most interesting,” Bilkic said. “I’ve a fan of Shakespeare. I’ve done Shakespeare. But nothing like this.”

Bilkic embarked on her acting career at Buckingham Browne & Nichols School in Cambridge. Wellesley only heightened her goals. “I realized theater was what I wanted to do.” In the past year she did stage work and short films in New York City.

Nazar-Rosen, just a year out of college, is also pursing a full theater career.

Prior is already a stage veteran. “This show brings me up to 150 since 1991,” he said. “I did ‘Peter Pan’ in kindergarten and never stopped.” He has appeared on numerous local stages, including at Waltham’s Reagle Music Theatre.

Rainer has “toured the world” doing shows she’s written. The gigs have taken her to Russia, Turkey, international festivals, and across the United States.

“I’m happy to bring ‘The Liar’ to a local audience,” she said.

It’s a play that’ll make you laugh. And that’s the truth.

Lenny Megliola can be reached at lennymegs41@gmail.com.

A Piece of My Heart

A Piece of My Heart

A Piece of My Heart

by Shirley Lauro, Directed by Nora Hussey

Suggested by the book by Keith Walker

This is a powerful, true drama of six women who went to Vietnam: five nurses and a country western singer booked by an unscrupulous agent to entertain the troops. The play portrays each young woman before, during and after her tour in the war-torn jungle and ends as each leaves a personal token at The Wall in Washington. “There have been a number of plays dealing with Vietnam, but none with the direct, emotional impact of Ms. Lauro’s work”. – NY Times

The Cast

Victoria George*: Martha
Marge Dunn: Mary Jo
Ariela Nazar-Rosen: Sissy
Sarah Lord*: Whitney
Jenna Lea Scott*: Leeann
Andrea Lyman*: Steele
Danny Bolton*:  American Man
Alan White*: American Man

*member of Actor’s Equity Association

Danny Bolton*

Marge Dunn

Victoria George*

Sarah Lord*

Andrea Lyman*

Ariela Nazar-Rosen

Jeanna Lea Scott*

Alan White*

Ruth Nagel Jones Theatre

106 Central St. Alumnae Hall | Wellesley College Campus

PERFORMANCES

May 31 – June 24, 2018

SOLD OUT June 23 and June 24th

                                         More tickets are available on Sunday June 24th than Saturday JUne 23rd @ 7pm

Evenings:  Thurs., Fri., & Sat. @ 7pm

      Matinees:  Sat. & Sun. @  2pm

      _______________

TICKETS:

$20 general admission | $10 seniors and students

PAY WHAT YOU CAN on Thursdays!

To make a reservation call the Box Office @ 781-283-2000
The theatre is handicapped accessible,
Please email disabilityservices@wellesley.edu for information.

Production Staff

Director – Nora Hussey

Stage Management – Lindsay Garofalo

Set Design – Janie Howland

Production Management – David Towlun

Photographer – David Brooks Andrews

Projection Design – Johnathan Carr

Costume Design – Chelsea Kerl

Sound Design – George Cooke

Lighting Design – Matt Whiton

Assistant Production Management – Diana Lobontiu ’18

Assistant Stage Management – Mieke Bovbjerg

Box Office Manager – Meghan Howard

Wellesley Repertory Theater Offers up A ‘Piece of My Heart’

Review by James Wilkinson

A Piece of My Heart – Written by Shirley Lauro. Directed by Nora Hussey. Set Design by Janie Howland. Costume Design by Chelsea Kurl. Lighting Design by Matt Whiton. Projection Design by Johnathan Carr. Sound Design by George Cooke. Dramaturgy by Laura Zawarski. Presented by Wellesley Repertory Theatre, at Wellesley College 106 Central Street, Wellesley through June 24.

There’s been a long overdue push in recent years, for the inclusion of a wider range of voices and experiences in mainstream culture. I found myself thinking about this while I was watching Wellesley Repertory Theatre’s production of Shirley Lauro’s A Piece of My Heart – precisely because the production is a prime example of what can happen when you let the perspectives of underrepresented groups into the room. Suddenly we’re able to come at institutions, narratives and historical events from new angles. The Vietnam War looms large for artists of a certain generation and can seem like a “been there/done that” topic. Artistic mediums have been dissecting both the war itself and the circumstances surrounding it since before it was even over. But as I was watching Wellesley Rep’s show, I realized that while I could easily name a number of cultural artistic touchstones that told the story of the men in that war, (Born on the Fourth of July, Apocalypse NowPlatoonFull Metal Jacket, The Deer Hunter, the works of Tim O’Brien, etc.), there weren’t any stories that immediately came to mind that focused on the women who acted beside those men. That’s where Lauro’s play and Wellesley Rep’s production comes in. In addition to being a finely crafted evening of theater, A Piece of My Heart provides a necessary history lesson on a traditionally underserved group, female Vietnam Vets.

In Lauro’s play the large strokes of the characters’ arcs are perhaps not too different from any of the male-centric stories that I listed above. We watch as a collection of women decide to join the war effort, cope with the high stress of working in combat and then return home to a country that is unable to properly take care of them. Part of what is different and interesting here is how Lauro chooses to present these stories. Each of the women speaks for herself, often times directly addressing the audience and the focus cuts between the different women as each details her own particular experiences with battle. The effect of this mosaic of voices is a kind of living memoir. In the play’s opening scene, the characters stand, facing away from us, and one by one each gets the chance to turn to the audience and narrate their own story.

I’ve seen other plays employ direct address and in the past I’ve always found it to have a somewhat frustratingly distancing effect. Rather than getting the chance to be in the scene, the audience is told about the scene. But here, director Nora Hussey and her cast of actors find a way to pull the audience in so that the events of the play feel immediate and intimate. What we’re getting is the direct and emotional experience of these women as it is happening. Being a play concerned with war, it’s no surprise that some of the most visceral moments come during battle scenes, but the real magic of this production comes from a very subtle, hypnotic spell that it casts to draw you in. In the final scenes of the play when the characters meet at a vet support group, after watching everything the characters had gone through, I found myself incredibly moved by where they end up and how they push on. Certainly this is a testament to the fantastic company of actors who really invest in the journey of the characters. When we meet them they’re full of optimism and pluck. By the end of the play, they don’t regret their service to their country, but the actors’ faces show that they’re now aware of the high personal cost they paid.

I realize that by saying that it would be good for you to see A Piece of My Heart it sounds like I’m telling you to eat your vegetables. And it’s true, I do think that there’s value in being exposed to narratives about underserved groups like women and people of color. But at the end of the day, this production is so much more than that. Ultimately what recommends the production is the heart and humanity that the Wellesley Repertory Theater team has put it into it. And having just celebrated Memorial Day, the play also serves as a touching reminder of the cost often paid by those who serve.

Measure for Measure Happening this Weekend

Measure for Measure Happening this Weekend

Welcome back, Wellesley!

The theatre is excited to have many events on the books this academic year, keeping you inspired and always learning (as well as very entertained). Our first show is Measure for Measure, starring the Actors from the London Stage. You may have seen some cast members in your classes this week, and if so you can attest to how truly talented they are. Hailing from all over the UK and professionally trained in theatre performance, you will be seeing actors that have performed with such acclaimed groups as Royal Shakespeare Company and at Shakespeare’s Globe – it does not get more impressive than that.

Did I mention that all of these performances – which take place Thursday thru Saturday at 7pm – are free of charge? The bottom line is that there are no excuses not to see this sensational production, especially if you are an English or theatre major.

Truth is truth 

To th’end of reck’ning. – (Isabella, Act 5 Scene 1)

The truth is, you cannot afford to miss this one, so mark your calendars now.

Sonia Flew

Sonia Flew

The Swellesley Report: Sonia Flew

First off, the last thing a mom should ask a nineteen-year-old young man hell-bent on joining the Marines in response to the 9/11 attacks is, “What do you know about how the world works?” And she certainly shouldn’t ask it with a world-weary air, making it clear that she is the one in the room who knows such things. Another suggestion: don’t follow it up by telling him, “You have such a limited understanding of these things.”

But that’s just real-world advice. For an opening scene in Melinda Lopez’s play, Sonia Flew, at Wellesley Repertory Theatre through June 25, an exhibition of such motherly disdain is the perfect way to set a tone of conflict and move the action forward. As the Elliot Norton Award-winning play opens, Sonia (Mariela Lopez-Ponce, on the edge of a nervous breakdown), Zak’s mom, has conveniently forgotten that in her early 1960s teenage past, becoming involved with Fidel Castro’s Cuban Revolution seemed like the perfect antidote to her controlling parents, a way to provide her life with purpose and and a sense of being part of something bigger than herself. The adult Sonia never sees — or refuses to see — the parallels between her former teenage self, ready to join the Revolution, and her current teenage son, on a fast-track to the Marines as his way of avenging the 9/11 attacks.

 

Mariela Lopez-Ponce

Sonia (adult)

Zach Georgian

Zak

Christine de Jesus Ahsan

Sonia (teen)

Woody Gaul

Daniel

Producing Artistic Director     Nora Hussey

Director                                   Lois Roach

Production Manager               David Towlun

Scenic Design                         Janie Howland**

Costume Design                     Chelsea Kerl

Lighting Design                       Becky Marsh

Sound Design                         Jack Staid

Stage Manager                       Lindsay D. Garofalo*

Alicia Olivo                            Assistant Director

Calla Nelles-Sager                Assistant Stage Manager

Drew Chasse                         Production Assistant


**member of USA Local 829

*member of Actor’s Equity Association

This type of parallel comes up throughout the play, as we are shown in the first half a modern-day family grappling with the idea that the bright son who has just completed his freshman year of college now wants to go to war. I wanted to sit down at the kitchen table right along with the family and put forth the benefits that both Zak (played by Zach Georgian with stubbornness and a touch of glee as he hits one nerve after another) and the United States Armed Forces would reap if he entered the ROTC program, but it wasn’t my dialogue to tweak. In the name of creating dramatic tension, however, sending a braniac kid from a nice Jewish family off to put boots on the ground in the toughest branch of the service certainly works. (Playwright Lopez appeared earlier this Spring in Grand Concourse at SpeakEasy Stage in Boston.)

The second half of the play brings us to 1960s Cuba, where a teen-age Sonia (Christine de Jesus Ahsan, with innocence verging on adult understanding)  is flattered by the attention of a slimy, opportunistic soldier (Woody Gaul). The young Sonia is too naive to comprehend his underlying motives, which turn out to be more about meeting his recruitment quota of teens to send to “camp” than a true interest in young Sonia’s future. Sonia is lately at odds with her parents, and more and more interested in what her role could be in Fidel Castro’s Cuba. She doesn’t comprehend that the Revolution is leading to a dictatorship. Her professor father does, however, but pretends that hunkering down and living quietly is the solution, even though he just saw ten of his colleagues marched out of the university in chains and taken to God only knows where. Only the mom sees it all plain as truth: life as her family has known it in Cuba is over, and she must get her daughter out. As in right now. Even when the last words her daughter tells her are “I do not forgive you. I will never forgive you.”

Truly, I was at the edge of my seat for then entire running time of 2 1/2 hours, including intermission. The thought of anything happening to Zak haunted me to the very end of the play. The idea that the young Sonia was teetering on a wire on which she never asked to step, and on which she couldn’t remain balanced, where landing on one side meant narrow or no choices, while ending up on the other side meant freedom with its incredibly high price, kept me spellbound. The bitterness of the adult Sonia as she refused to don the mantle of the strong, unflappable, unconditionally supportive mother and wife kept me yearning for her — redemption? Epiphany? Comeuppance? Rescue? I wasn’t sure, but had to find out which way Lopez would send it.

Sonia’s husband Daniel is played by Woody Gaul (Wellesley Repertory Theatre’s Emilie: La Marquise du Châtelet Defends Her Life Tonight) with Rock-of-Gibraltar fortitude combined with mensch-like stability and decency. He’s the reassuring voice that guides his daughter through the family crisis with, “We’re not splitting up. This family doesn’t do that. We don’t.” Even when he hurls tough truths at his wife about her own behavior, there’s an undercurrent in his very being of the idea of forever. We’re not splitting up. We don’t do that. We won’t.

It’s always good to see Nancy Tutunjian Berger onstage (she appeared earlier this Spring in Enchanted April at The Center for Arts in Natick). As family friend Nina, Berger’s warmth and vulnerability allows us to see the meaning of family closeness during tough times on an island that is about to become virtually inescapable.