Entertainment » Theatre

The Sparrow

by Howie Green
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Wednesday Nov 4, 2009
Dillian Arrick as Emily takes flight
Dillian Arrick as Emily takes flight  (Source:Stoneham Theatre)

Just when you think you've seen everything that live theatre has to offer along comes a play that is so cleverly staged and imaginatively presented that it could very well make you rethink everything you know about theatrical productions. The Sparrow is that play and if you want to see one of the best live stage performances to ever hit Boston then you need to get over to the Stoneham Theatre before November 8 to see its East Coast premiere. (It was developed and first produced at The House Theatre of Chicago under the direction of the company's founder Nathan Allen.)

From the opening scene - a bus ride - the staging is ingeniously simple and makes abundantly clear that Allen is a major talent to watch.

The story is a mix of a Stephen King Carrie-like teen tragedy stirred together with a good dose of High School Musical fun. It concerns Emily, an orphaned girl, returning to her small hometown after an absence of a few years. Something of a misfit, her difficulties lie in the fact that she is harboring some couple major secrets, one of which is that she can fly. She can also do a lot of other amazing feats by generating and manipulating energy to her will. The townsfolk try to welcome her back with open arms, but when Emily's other big secret (something to do with her involvement in a car crash that filled both her family and classmates), gets revealed, they turns against her,.

It's an interesting story that could very well have been yet another fun, low budget production if writers Chris Mathews and Jake Minton weren't lucky to Allen at the helm. He turns their play into a cinematic, visually fascinating tour-de-force. With only a few chairs and minimal set pieces Allan creates Emily's real and fantasy worlds with projected collages, videos, audio and lighting that makes for an utterly unique and richly textured experience. Any play that can segue a classroom scene with kids dissecting baby pigs into a musical song and dance production sequence is not going to settle for the normal way of staging anything. The sequences that have Emily flying are unique in that they don't use the usual harness and wire trick but instead rely on the dancing skills of actress Dillan Arrick and some clever lighting effects to beautifully show the joy and freedom the character feels in flight.

The cast of this production gets to play multiple characters often changing costumes and roles in mid-sentence right on stage as the scenes roll along. Many of the Stoneham's versatile and talented repertoire company make appearances including stand-out performances by Steve Gagliastro, Stephen LaMonica and Jonathan Popp. Special notice goes to Ilyse Robbins in multiple roles for her inspired comic/tragic turn as Emily's new host mother then turning on a dime and changing into a bouncy school cheerleader.

If you are a fan of live theatre and you want to give yourself a real treat make time in your schedule to see this show. The Sparrow offers a lively mix of fantasy, comedy, drama, music, and dance that you will not soon forget.

Howie Green is a Boston-based artist and painter whose portrait of rapper Biggie Smalls appears on the album "Incredible". He is winner of Absolut Vodka’s 25th Anniversary art competition and he painted 3 of the cows in the Boston Cow Parade. He recently painted a series of Pop Art Murals at the Dimock Center in Boston, MA and completed large art and mural installations in Delray Beach and Jacksonville, FL. He also recently painted the front entrance to Boston City Hall. His a multi-media designer and author of several books including "Jazz Fish Zen: Adventures in Mamboland" - and he once sang back-up for the opening act at a Shaun Cassidy concert in Madison Square Garden.


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