Merrimack Repertory Theatre Blog

May 5, 2014, 10:09 am
Filed under: Merrimack Repertory Theatre

‘Reduced’ to laughter: MRT’s Season Finale

by Kathleen Palmer

The Reduced Shakespeare Company is well-known for their concise skewering of the Bard’s work, the Bible, and history itself. Now RSC brings the evolution of humore to the stage with their “Complete History of Comedy (Abridged),” through May 18 at the Merrimack Repertory Theatre in Lowell, Mass.

The show will round out MRT’s season of spectacular offerings on a lighthearted note. Written by Reed Martin and Austin Tichenor, the show stars Dominic Conti, Michael Faulkner and Jerry Kernion. The trio crank through dozens of comedic references in a fast-paced barrage of jokes, skits, and songs. From a cavewoman popping out clown babies like a clown car (“And that was the birth of comedy), right through modern references about gay marriage legislation, there’s more comedy than you can shake a schtick at (no, I cannot take credit for that pun).

RSC sets up the framework of the show under a loose premise of the lose “Art of Comedy” ancient Chinese manuscript, a predecessor to the famed “Art of War.” The soul of this comedic bible, Rambozo, visits our players and guides them through the history of hilarity.

What’s terrific about this rapid-fire, laugh-out-loud performance is there’s actual historic facts and education of comedy mixed in. We learn about harlequin, the fool (“the role of the fool is to speak truth to power”), parody vs. satire, the rule of three (“when you see something once, it’s the set-up; when you see it twice, its’s the anticipation; when you see it for the third time, it’s the pay-off”), and the “yes, and” tenet of improv.

The troupe tells us the surprising fact that one of the first joke books ever created was done so by the Catholic Church. They then proceed, in monk robes, to read form the Book of Comicals, the first letter of Libidinous, and others, riffing on classic religious jokes sure to offend, even as you’re laughing.

And indeed, they don’t care if your nose gets out of joint. From religion to politics to different races, RSC informs us that “being afraid of offending another race” or viewpoint is, in itself, racist or prejudiced. Everyone gets an equal opporunity mocking.

Some of my favorite skits were Conti portraying Abraham Lincoln as a stand-up comic (“I have to tell you, I’m a little nervous to be in a theater”); a brilliant scene that skewers several Chekhov plays and as many sitcoms all at once (the man behind me absolutely lost it); the reading of critics panning classic bits like Monty Python’s “dead parrot,” Mel Brooks’ “Springtime for Hitler,” and Abbott & Costello’s “Who’s on First”; and Faulkner’s sweet ukulele song called “I Laughed ’til I Cried.”

There’s a terrific Muppet-y puppet show of the Supreme Court justices debating the issues, including the quippy “How do you solve a problem like Scalia.” We learn who is credited with the first rubber chicken. And referring to clowns as “floppy-shoed servants of evil” slayed me.

It’s a mostly clean show, but truly, you can’t tell the history of comedy, no matter how abridged, without a couple swear words, some bodily-function jokes, and the occasional double entendre (or single entendre, as Kernion once notes).

Don’t miss MRT’s last show until September. It’s a laugh-riot, and they’re going out on a high note. And a spit-take.

April 16, 2014, 12:36 pm
Filed under: Merrimack Repertory Theatre


Funding will support production of “Year Zero”


Lowell, MA – National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Acting Chairman Joan Shigekawa announced today that Merrimack Repertory Theatre (MRT) is one of 886 nonprofit organizations nationwide to receive an NEA Art Works grant. MRT is recommended for a $20,000 grant to support its production of Year Zero, a play by Michael Golamco that will launch the company’s 2014-2015 Season in September 2014.


Year Zero is about a Cambodian-American teenager named Vuthy struggling to find his place – in a community that doesn’t truly accept him and in a family that seems to be disappearing. The play is a comedic drama about finding a direction and a home. This grant will assist MRT in achieving goals of audience engagement and diversifying its audience to better reflect its community. Approximately 12% of the Lowell, Massachusetts population is of Cambodian descent, but only a small number of people from this population attend MRT performances.


A well-written play nominated for a number of awards, Year Zero provides MRT with the opportunity to put an aspect of the Cambodian-American experience onstage, and encourages further discussion about the immigrant experience and struggles of assimilation. To help achieve these goals, MRT has formed an Advisory Council comprised of leaders of local Cambodian organizations. This Advisory Council will provide cultural context for the production, teach the artists about the Cambodian immigrant experiencein the context of the play, and assist with Year Zero outreach initiatives. MRT has also partnered with Enterprise Bank, who is the Production Sponsor of the play.


NEA Acting Chairman Shigekawa said, “The NEA is pleased to announce that Merrimack Repertory Theatre is recommended for an NEA Art Works grant. These NEA-supported projects will not only have a positive impact on local economies, but will also provide opportunities for people of all ages to participate in the arts, help our communities to become more vibrant, and support our nation’s artists as they contribute to our cultural landscape.”


MRT Artistic Director Charles Towers says of the play, “Year Zero is an appealing story about all our pasts; all of us, who are descendents of immigrants, no matter when they came to American or what country they came from. Still, the specific ethnicity of this particular story makes it especially important to be produced in the city that has the second largest Cambodian-American population in the country.”


Art Works grants support the creation of art that meets the highest standards of excellence, public engagement with diverse and excellent art, lifelong learning in the arts, and enhancement of the livability of communities through the arts. The NEA received 1,515 eligible applications under the Art Workscategory, requesting more than $76 million in funding. Of those applications, 886 are recommended for grants for a total of $25.8 million.

MRT (Merrimack Repertory Theatre) is one of Massachusetts’ most highly-regarded theatre companies and one of only three theatres in the state to be a member of LORT (the League of Resident Theatres) which represents the 74 leading non-profit theatres in America. Under the artistic direction of Charles Towers since 2001, it has become known for producing an eclectic mix of new plays and regional premieres, with an emphasis on writers giving voice to the American experience. Since its founding in 1979, MRT has served as a vital cultural, educational and economic resource for Greater Lowell and its surrounding region.


Merrimack Repertory Theatre
Performance Space: The Nancy L. Donahue Theatre
(In Liberty Hall, adjacent to Lowell Memorial Auditorium)
50 E. Merrimack Street
Lowell, MA 01852
Box Office: 978-654-4678

April 7, 2014, 10:41 am
Filed under: Merrimack Repertory Theatre

Merrimack Repertory Theatre’s 35th Anniversary Gala

An evening celebrating and benefiting Merrimack Repertory Theatre’s education and community programs


UMass Lowell Chancellor Martin T. Meehan

UMass Lowell Chancellor Martin T. Meehan

MRT Overseer, Congresswoman Nicola Tsongas

MRT Overseer, Congresswoman Nicola Tsongas

MRT Overseer, Congresswoman Nicola Tsongas will present the Tsongas Award to University of Massachusetts Lowell’s Chancellor Martin T. Meehan in recognition of his long-time personal support and his continued work to build and expand MRT’s partnership with UMass Lowell.

  The event will also feature the Reduced Shakespeare Company® presenting “The Complete History of MRT (abridged),” a 10-minute sketch created especially for this event.


  Saturday, June 21, 2014 at 6:30 pm

University of Massachusetts Lowell Inn and Conference Center

50 Warren Street, Lowell

Black Tie

6:30 pm


7:30 pm


Congresswoman Nicola Tsongas presentation of the Tsongas Award to

Chancellor Martin T. Meehan,

University of Massachusetts Lowell

8:30 pm

The Reduced Shakespeare Company®  in The Complete History of MRT (abridged)

written and directed by Reed Martin and Austin Tichenor

Dancing to follow

To purchase tickets, or to find out more information about sponsorship opportunities, click here.

Join the list of generous sponsors helping make this event possible:


Platinum Sponsor:

Nancy and Richard Donahue



George and Carol Duncan

Enterprise Bank

Marty and Ellen Meehan



Belva and Frank Hopkins

Judy and Geoff

The Lowell Five Cent Savings Bank

Donna T. and Robert S. McKittrick

University of Massachusetts Lowell

Washington Savings Bank



Circle Health

James L. Cooney Insurance and Real Estate

Lowell Community Health Center

O’Connor Studios

The Sun


Wine generously provided by Fine Estates from Spain

April 1, 2014, 9:10 am
Filed under: Merrimack Repertory Theatre




Seven regional premieres that reflect the contemporary American human experience.


Lowell, MA – Merrimack Repertory Theatre (MRT) has announced its 2014-2015 Season. The slate of seven plays continues the company’s commitment to advancing the cause of the human understanding by creating theatrical productions at the highest level of artistic excellence, as well as its tradition of introducing new works to the area. Each of the plays selected for the upcoming season, the company’s 36th, will be a regional premiere. Merrimack Repertory Theatre is the only professional theatre in the Merrimack Valley area and continues to serve as a vital cultural, educational, and economic resource for Greater Lowell and its surrounding region.


The announcement was made by Artistic Director Charles Towers and Executive Director Elizabeth Kegley at an event for subscribers in Nancy L. Donahue Theatre in Lowell’s Liberty Hall on Monday, March 31. Towers, who has served as MRT’s artistic director since 2001, says, “When selecting a season, I am reminded of a principle attributed to Socrates – ‘an unexamined life is not worth living.’ Thus, our job in the theatre is to fully examine the lives of characters as created by a playwright, thereby giving the audience an opportunity to examine their own lives as reflected against the uniqueness of a fictional other.”


The 2014-2015 Season at Merrimack Repertory Theatre embodies that principle, presenting characters and families whose relationships, struggles, and joys will be familiar to MRT audiences, with an ultimate goal of that familiarity leading to a deeper understanding of our own lives and compassion for others. 


Year Zero

By Michael Golamco

Directed by Kyle Fabel

September 11 – October 5, 2014

Sponsored by Enterprise Bank

All teenagers need someone to talk to. Vuthy has chosen a skull. He is a young Cambodian-American struggling to find his place – in a community that doesn’t truly accept him and in a family that seems to be disappearing. A comedic drama about finding a direction and a home.

According to Charles Towers, “Year Zero is an appealing story about all our pasts; all of us, who are descendents of immigrants, no matter when they came to American or what country they came from. Still, the specific ethnicity of this particular story makes it especially important to be produced in the city that has the second largest Cambodian-American population in the country.”

The play also presents a unique opportunity for MRT to reach out into the large Cambodian-American community of Lowell. MRT has already begun forming an advisory committee with members of the Cambodian community that will provide cultural perspective for the production.

Dusk Rings a Bell

By Stephen Belber

Directed by Michael Bloom

October 23 – November 16, 2014

Molly and Ray unexpectedly meet 25 years after their teenage romance. Though their kiss has had a lasting effect on both of them, the memory of their youthful fling is overshadowed by tragic revelations about what has happened in the intervening years.

This production will mark the MRT debut of Michael Bloom, who is an Obie Award-winning director who spent the past nine years as artistic director of the Cleveland Play House. Charles Towers responded to the play immediately, “One thing (among many) I like about this play is that it breaks the conventions of most two-person plays in unique ways.” The bittersweet play premiered at the Atlantic Theatre Company in New York in 2010.

13 Things About Ed Carpolotti

Book, Music and Lyrics by Barry Kleinbort

Based on a play by Jeffrey Hatcher

Directed by Barry Kleinbort

November 28 – December 21, 2014

Sponsored by Wannalancit Mills/Farley White Interests

Virginia Carpolotti is a devoted widow with loving memories for her recently-deceased husband. Though her love endures, her confidence in him flounders as one shady character after another comes calling for the debt that Ed put in her name, and things really heat up when a mysterious $1 million ransom note appears. A delightful comic musical featuring Tony Award-nominee Penny Fuller.

“I directed Penny Fuller in MRT’s production of A Delicate Balance in 2008, in which she gave a brilliant performance,” says Towers. “When she sent me this delightful one-woman chamber musical, which was written especially for her, I immediately decided it was too good an opportunity to pass up. Penny is a Tony-nominated actor and this is a rare opportunity to have her on our stage.”

The Best Brothers

By Daniel MacIvor

Directed by Charles Towers

January 8 – February 1, 2015

When Kyle and Hamilton Best’s mother dies in a bizarre accident involving a Filipino drag queen, the two brothers try to find common ground – often failing with hilarious results. They bicker over the details of the obituary, Kyle’s unfortunate taste in men, and whom Mom loved best – only to find it may very well have been the dog.

Playwright Daniel MacIvor has long been considered a Canadian theatre icon and his most recent play, The Best Brothers, further cements that reputation. The comedy was celebrated at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in 2012 and later went on to a successful run at Toronto’s Tarragon Theatre. Towers remarks, “I read this play one morning and sought to get the rights to it that afternoon. It is rare when I laugh out loud reading a play in my living room, so I pay attention when that happens.”


By Nick Gandiello

Directed by Melia Bensussen

February 12 – March 8, 2015

World Premiere

Gwen thought she had successfully walked away from her troubled past. But then her ex-husband returns with news of their grown daughter’s disappearance and with him come the demons that she sought to erase from her idyllic new life. A powerful new drama that explores complex family dynamics.

“Director Melia Bensussen (who directed The Blonde, the Brunette and the Vengeful Redhead and Two Jews Walk into a War at MRT) is one of my closest collaborators. She sent me this play by an up-and-coming young playwright who is unsparing in looking at the real drama of troubled lives. I responded immediately to the family situation and to the central question at the heart of the play: can people really change?” says Towers.

Out of the City

By Leslie Ayvazian

Directed by Christian Parker

March 19 – April 12, 2015

When two middle-aged married couples take a weekend trip to celebrate a milestone birthday, they find themselves pondering elusive romance and contemplating what comes next. This unorthodox love story proves that rejuvenation can be found at any age.

Leslie Ayvazian was loosely inspired by the characters in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream when writing Out of the City. Though there are few direct parallels between the plays, the underlying spirit of the Bard’s play remains. As Charles Towers notes, “The countryside does strange things to lovers of any age, and this wry comedy never fails to surprise and delight.”

The Outgoing Tide

By Bruce Graham

Directed by Charles Towers

April 23 – May 17, 2015

Sponsored by Circle Health

Tormented by the menacing grip of an aging mind and an uncertain future ahead, one man has a plan – but it is not what his family had in mind. A touching family drama sprinkled with surprising humor that asks what it means to truly love someone.

Playwright Bruce Graham and Charles Towers as director last partnered on Stella and Lou, which was very well-received by MRT audiences in December 2013. Towers remarks, “While The Outgoing Tide still reflects Bruce’s unique blend of humor and pathos, the story couldn’t be more different from Stella and Lou. The twists, the turns, the deeply recognizable family relationships and, of course, the humor, all combine to carry us to a place where dignity, honesty and humanity take hold and refuse to let go.”


Subscriptions are now available through the MRT Box Office for the 2014-2015 Season. Subscribers to a seven-play packages receive a 20% discount off single ticket prices and guaranteed same seats throughout the season. Seven-play subscriptions start at just $140 for adults and $126 for seniors. Three-play sampler packages are also available, with a 15% savings off single ticket prices. FlexPass packages are available in increments of 4, 5, 6, or 7 and allow the ultimate in flexibility while still receiving a discount. All subscribers are entitled to the full slate of benefits that includes free even exchanges, and discounts on additional tickets and Young Company tuition. A full list of benefits can be found at

Subscriptions can be purchased by calling 978-654-4678 or by visiting Tickets for individual productions go on sale in August.

Merrimack Repertory Theatre
Performance Space: The Nancy L. Donahue Theatre
(In Liberty Hall, adjacent to Lowell Memorial Auditorium)
50 E. Merrimack Street
Lowell, MA 01852
Box Office: 978-654-4678

March 27, 2014, 1:25 pm
Filed under: Merrimack Repertory Theatre


2014 – 2015 Share the Experience Program

We know you share your enjoyment of MRT with friends, neighbors, and co-workers, and now you can help grow MRT’s audience and receive a 15% rebate in addition to your regular subscriber discount by introducing a new subscriber to MRT.


How do I Participate?

Download the form below and give it to a potential new subscriber. Have them fill it out and return it to the box office by March 9, 2014 to receive the Early Bird pricing. Subscription rates will increase after the March 9 deadline. Both sets of pricing are listed on the reverse side. Once the form has been received, and you have renewed your subscription, MRT will issue you a rebate for an extra 15% off your subscription. Your friend will also save 15% off the regular subscription prices by using this form. Current subscribers may receive only one 15% rebate.


Who Counts as a New Subscriber?

Anyone who has never been a subscriber or has not subscribed for the past two seasons. Current MRT subscribers, recipients of a gift subscription, and people in the same household as a current subscriber are not eligible.


Learn More

To learn more about the Share the Experience program, contact the box office at 978-654-4678 or feel free to make multiple copies of this form or contact the box office to request additional copies.


Click here to download the Share the Experience form.


March 20, 2014, 1:23 pm
Filed under: Merrimack Repertory Theatre


Ladies, are you and your friends looking for something new to change up your plans? Look no further than MRT!


This season MRT introduced Ladies Nights, a chance to get together with your girlfriends and have a night out at the theatre. This season we offered Ladies Nights on January 23 for The Devil’s Music: The Life and Blues of Bessie Smith and on April 3 for Talley’s Folly, and we are going to continue to offer it next year for the 2014-2015 season!


What makes Ladies Night so special? Along with taking in a fantastic MRT production, you and your friends will be treated with a wine and dessert reception before the show.


For more information and to see what shows will be offering Ladies Nights next season, visit or call the box office at 978-654-4678.


October 30, 2013, 9:58 am
Filed under: Merrimack Repertory Theatre

Last Wednesday the Friends of MRT hosted their annual Harvest Wine and Beer tasting. The evening was a great success, with over 80 guests in attendance. Judy Carven won the Money Scarecrow raffle, which included $200 in cash and $100 in scratch tickets. MRT and the Friends of MRT would like to thank the following vendors for their support: Lowell Beer Works, Dessert Yurt, Blue Taleh, Centro, Tutto Bene, OZ Wines, MS Walker, Lost Angel Wines, Winebow, Martignetti Wines, Grape Moments, Atlantic Imports, and Preston Layne.

If you missed out on this fabulous evening, be sure to check out some of the photos!