Sunday, April 09, 2006

Sunday: Sugan's shutdown -- alas, alas

The Boston Globe CRITIC'S NOTEBOOK
Questions surround Sugan's split from BCA By Ed Siegel, Globe Staff | April 8, 2006
Tonight's performance of ''Talking to Terrorists" will mark the end of what seemed like a great relationship. Over the past 14 years the Sugan Theatre Company, specializing in contemporary Irish and Celtic plays, has become one of the most interesting and important companies in Boston, ....... Sugan's decision to leave the BCA after the ''Terrorists" run -- without having found another home -- shows that it's still a struggle for small theater companies to make a go of it in Boston. What does it say that the Sugan, one of this city's strongest small or midsize groups, might not be producing anything for the next year or two?..... Carmel O'Reilly is the company's only paid staffer, so when you consider all its artistic successes over the past decade or so -- from Conor McPherson's ''St. Nicholas" and Martin McDonagh's ''The Lonesome West" to any number of recent productions -- it is really amazing how far it has come. After all, this is a company that can hold its own artistically with bigger-staffed counterparts.....
(T)he theater community (is) speculating about whether the BCA did enough to keep Sugan. Harvard theater professor Robert Scanlan, who directed the company's ''Women on the Verge of HRT" at the BCA this season, says the departure points to the city's lack of support for the arts in general and the BCA's lack of support for the Sugan specifically. ......
O'Reilly's responses are more cryptic. Did the move have anything to do with the BCA? ''I don't think I want to comment." Could the BCA have done more? ''Not at this point." Others in the theater community, who didn't want to be quoted, gripe that resident companies at the BCA are forced to spend too much time on outreach programs....
The Sugan's aesthetic tends to be darker. Its work has won critical accolades, but recent pieces like Tom Murphy's ''The Sanctuary Lamp," about three lost souls finding one another in a church, and Gregory Burke's ''Gagarin Way," a bloody (albeit humorous) contemplation of terror, were not huge crowd pleasers. The Sugan has also seen the work of marquee writers it has championed, like McDonagh and McPherson, migrate to the larger New Repertory Theatre, which has staged McPherson's ''The Weir" and McDonagh's ''A Skull in Connemara." McDonagh's latest Broadway sensation, ''The Pillowman," opens New Rep's next season. So whither the Sugan? .... The lesson, though, is that neither audiences nor the theater community should take anything for granted in the arts. It's still a struggle, even for a company as good as Sugan. © Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company

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