Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Beyond NSMT: A new troup in Gloucester

I know I should be happy when an art venues survives or, in the case of North Shore Music Theatre, is wrestled from its dirt nap — even if it hasn’t put on a show I find even remotely interesting in ... well, ever? And maybe I am. Way down, deep inside. But, more than anything, the news that somebody was able to con the bank out of $3.6 million and is dumping it into a Dunham Road venue that seemingly met its maker last year after a prolonged, agonizing porcelain swirly dance (a failure as much of imagination as finances, always an issue in corporate arts and mass-produced culture) underlines the importance of living wills and do-not-resuscitate orders, as well as the need for good aim and velocity when working with wooden stakes. And what’s going to save the old Music Tent this time around, you ask? You know, the same overproduced, overpriced dog food that the pup just won’t go near. They’re calling them time-tested musicals, we call it (yawwwwn) the same old thing — brilliantly repackaged, I’m sure, just like the old theater itself.

We wish them well as we cluck our tongues, but we are way more intrigued by the theater news up the road a piece from the Garden City, in Gloucester, Fishtown (Does every community around here have a nickname?), where Cape Ann Theater Collaborative, the new kid in town, is about to launch its first season, one that is as intriguing as NSMT’s is flat and predictable — and, from the look of it, very little in the way of song and dance. Thank God. And probably none of the bells and whistles either. They open March 19 with “The Weir” by Irish playwright Conor McPherson. The play is set in a small pub in rural Ireland, where local men swap spooky stories in an attempt to impress a young woman who recently moved into a nearby “haunted” house. The tables are soon turned when she tells a tale of her own.

They’ll follow that up next month with, if you can believe it, the largely forgotten but ultimately riveting lyrical “Effects of Gamma Rays on Man in the Moon Marigolds,” an unflinching look at dysfunctional family life in a home destroyed by booze, probably best remembered for its 1972 big-screen adaptation with Joanne Woodward as the boozy, bleary Beatrice. How it translates across the decades, we’ll see. The company will also stage ”The Ocean of Technology,” a new piece by the improv group the Fish Schticks in the fall.

The company was founded in January by Michael McNamara, Susan Frey, Pauline Miceli and Pat Maloney Brown. The idea is to keep the focus local and the productions affordable — and, by building a season in the shadows of Gloucester Stage’s dark months, supporting year-round theater on the island.

What? Yeah, yeah. We love North Shore Music(al) Theater. It really is an institution. Blah, blah.

JUST THE FACTS, MAN: Cape Ann Theater Collaborative will stage “The Weir” by Irish playwright Conor McPherson, at 7:30 p.m. March 19-20 and 26-27, and at 2 p.m. March 21 and 28 at Gorton Theater, 267 E. Main St., Gloucester. The cast includes David McCaleb, Michael McNamara, Rory O’Connor, Michael O’Leary and Kierstin Searcy. Dublin native Pauline Miceli directs. Tickets are $15. Info: 978.879.3172.

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