Thursday, January 14, 2010

Powell-ful production at New Works

She’s trying to be cool about it, not to rub it in, but it's hard to hold back the gloating: While we're, thankfully, between winter batterings, winds whipping, blowing the snow and our opportunity to truly enjoy a much-deserved long holiday weekend, Leslie Powell’s looking out her window at the Santa Catalina mountains, drenched in sunlight, as the mercury dances around the 70-degree mark. Ah, Tucson, Arizona, the Newburyport playwright Southwest escape destination, where she can spend some time with Sis and, of course, fellow scribblers from the Old Pueblo Playwrights, her literary home-away-from-home. Not that there's anything wrong with escaping New England’s winter treachery. (“I know, I know,” she says in a sotto voce that almost masks the smirk we expect is manifesting itself more than 2,000 miles away on the other end of the receiver, “but I still feel kinda guilty.” Yeah, right. Then it's off to southern California on a business trip, and back to chill Newburyport in time to take in the New Works Festival.

Yup, she’s in the line-up again. With some of the other usual local suspects, locally. Like Steve Faria, who nabbed the festival’s first-ever Peter Honegger Award for his short play “Egg Whites and Miracles,” and Deirdre Girard. And big picture, like James McLindon, the Northampton playwright who is making his third appearance in the anchor position and taking home the Pestolozzi Award for best full-length play.

Powell's latest is a little different from her previous stuff — much darker than, say, “Movie Mogul in his Mama’s Muumuu,” a hilarious collaboration with her husband, Ron Pullins, in which the main character writes breathless homo-erotic sports stories in his splendid, sartorial comfort. No, “Soldier Boy,” despite its name, which conjures up hazy memories of ’50s innocence, is much darker material: A returned, broken veteran picks up a woman in a bar, but it all goes very wrong, turning from a cheap-but-possibly-fun one-nighter to an attempted abduction, with the soldier threatening to kill her — or himself.

The material has its roots in news reports prompted by reports of the miserable medical and psychiatric treatment that have awaited veterans back home. “It just made me so angry,” says Powell, who founded Random Acts, the Newburyport play-in-a-day festival, with Hailey Klein, and the North Shore Readers Theatre Collaborative, which brings original plays to the stage in a readers' format, with Pullins and Actors Studio founder Marc Clopton.

This will be the third production of the piece, but its first local showing. Its first time out was during the 2008 Boston Theatre Marathon, where it was produced by the Metro Stage Company. Second time out was during the 2009 Gloucester Fall Shorts Festival, where it was directed by Holly Little. (New Works rules allow previous festival entries in the lineup.) Both were dramatically different productions, says the playwright: “I want to see it as many times as I can with different actors,” she says. “It's always different. It's like seeing it new and fresh because different actors and directors bring a different perspective." The current production, which will open day two of the festival, will be directed by Tim Diering, who closed out 2009 with two Michael Kimball plays: “Santa Come Home” at the Players Ring and “I Fall for You” at the Firehouse. Jesiah Hammond and Kate Bossi star. As for Diering, he’s keeping mum about what his plans are for the show — even keeping the playwright in the dark — saying only that “it will knock your socks off."

THE FACTS, THE FOLKS: The New Works Festival runs Jan. 22-23 and Jan. 29-30 at the Firehouse Center for the Performing Arts, 1 Market Square, Newburyport. The first weekend will open with “Dead and Buried,” the new full-length play by James McLindon. The following night will feature half of the 14-shorts accepted into the festival. The second weekend will open with a staged reading of “pudding,” a new full-length play by Michael Tooher, followed, the next day, by the remaining shorts. Show times are 8 p.m. Tickets are $12. A limited number of four-day passes are available for $35 each. For information, call 978-462-7336 or go online to

Friday, Jan. 22: "Dead and Buried,” drama by James McLindon, starring Astrid Lorentzson, Ashley Risteen and Eliot Johnson. Directed by Sherry Bonder.

Saturday, Jan. 23: “Soldier Boy,” drama by Leslie Powell, starring Kate Bossi and Jesiah Hammond; directed by Tim Diering. “No Strings Attached,” comedy by Kara Sorenson, starring Jennifer Wilson, Phil Thompson, Eric Lamarche and Steve Sacchetti; directed by Lois Honegger. “Knowing,” comedy by Gregory Hischak, starring Pam Battin-Sacks and Danny Sklar; directed by Cynthia Arsenault. “If You Love,” drama by Marc Clopton, starring John Sheedy and Jesiah Hammond; directed by Anna Smulowitz. “Sleeping with the Cat 1963,” drama by Daniel Sklar, starring Maureen Daley and Mary Shapiro; directed by Alan Huisman. “Jock Itch,” comedy by George Sauer, starring Sandy Farrier and Brad Ritchie; directed by Jack Rushton; “Touching Elephants,” drama-comedy by Stephen Faria, starring Gloria Papert, Dennis Flynn and Victor Atkins; directed by Diana Kerry.

Friday, Jan. 29: “Pudding,” comedy by Michael Tooher, starring Jennifer Wilson and Terry Blanchard, with Mary Shapiro, Kathy Isabel, Terry Donohue, Sherry Bonder, Julie McConechie, Myron Moss and Sam Szabo; directed by Maureen Daley

Saturday, Jan. 30: "Egg Whites and Miracles,” comedy by Stephen Faria, starring Missy Chabot, Irene Sanders and Fontaine Dollas Dubus, directed by Kimm Wilkinson. “Free Will and Kat,” drama by Deirdre Girard, starring Kayt Tommasino and Teddy Speck; directed by Stephen Haley. “Last Dance,” comedy by Kerry Zagarella, starring Bruce Anderson, Tracy Bickel, Kari Nickou and Jack Rushton; directed by Suzanne Bryan. “A Simile,” comedy by Robert B. Boulrice; directed by David Frank. “A Crooked Chapatti,” comedy by Priya Tahiliani, directed by Kathy Isabel. “Amenities,” comedy by Gregory Hischak, starring Stephen Faria, Kari Nickou, Irene Sanders and Steve Turner; directed by Anne Easter Smith.

1 comment: