At the Sofaplex 21/07/01

Good On Paper (R)

Iliza Shlesinger, Ryan Hansen.

Also Margaret Cho, who is absolute perfection here. Andrea (Shlesinger, who also wrote this movie based on a story from her real life) is a comedian trying to break into acting and, while appearing to kill it on stage every night, seems to be floundering a bit in moving her career where she wants it to go. After what she calls one of the worst auditions of her life, Andrea boards a New York-to-L.A. flight and finds herself sitting next to Dennis (Hansen), a charming, funny and smart man who manages to be all of those things while also mentioning that he went to Yale, works for a hedge fund and has a model girlfriend.

Andrea and Dennis hit it off, in a friend-y kind of way, and she invites him to her comedy show. He comes and they hang out even more, drinking at the bar owned by Margot (Cho), Andrea’s close friend. As Andrea explains in a (remarkably not annoying) voiceover, she never particularly finds Dennis attractive but she enjoys his company and they become friends, though the look on Dennis’ face always suggests he wants more.

This movie doesn’t go where you think it will go but I like how this story comes together and I like how it treats its female characters, Andrea and Margot but also Serrena (Rebecca Rittenhouse), an actress Andrea resents and compares herself to. While there is some movie wackiness, there is the sheen of real human beings in crazy situations here and I like that one of the themes of this movie is “trust yourself and your own abilities and instincts,” which makes the movie work for me even when it’s not uproariously funny. Shlesinger, whom I know mostly from her Netflix standup specials, is solid here giving us a character who is likeable but believable. Hansen, whom I still mostly think of from his Veronica Mars role, is exquisitely well-cast. B Available on Netflix.

Fatherhood (PG-13)

Kevin Hart, Lil Rel Howery.

Also Alfre Woodard, Deborah Ayorinde, Paul Reiser, DaWanda Wise, Anthony Carrigan and Melody Hurd playing Maddie, the young daughter of Hart’s Matt.

Matt and Liz (Ayorinde) are sent to the hospital for an emergency Cesarean, which is how Maddy comes into the world. But just a short time after her birth, Liz has a pulmonary embolism and dies and a grief-stricken Matt suddenly finds himself as a single father. He appreciates the help of his mother, Anna (Thedra Porter), and his mother-in-law, Marion (Woodard), and is even happier when they leave, even if he’s not sure how to fold and unfold the stroller or what to do when his infant daughter won’t ever stop crying.

After watching Matt adjust to those tough first months, the movie jumps forward to when Maddy is 5 and chafing at the rules of her strict Catholic school and Matt is just beginning to consider dating. How does he balance his own needs with hers? How does he know what’s best for her?

Though Hart is still funny here and there are still moments of humor in even some of the saddest scenes, this feels like the most stripped down I’ve seen him. He gives a good performance, perfectly capturing that parental blend of dizzying love, bone-deep exhaustion and the constant sense that you’re probably failing at something. It’s a more nuanced kind of performance than Hart gives in his broader comedies and he is able to make his character a recognizable real person. The same is true for the supporting cast, particularly Woodard, whose Marion turns her grief about her daughter into a ferocity about Maddy that even she seems to realize isn’t always about Maddy’s best interest.

Fatherhood is an engaging dramady with performances that make it enjoyable despite the movie’s sadder elements. B Available on Netflix

At the Sofaplex 21/06/17

Spiral (R)

Chris Rock, Max Minghella.

And also just a bit of Samuel L. Jackson, who plays Rock’s character’s father. This movie, which was released in theaters in May and is now available for rent, is subtitled “From the Book of Saw,” putting it in the general Saw universe (the police know about and remember Jigsaw and his killings and the various helpers he had). Here, a new computerized voice is telling victims that he wants to play a game, involving police officers who have committed assorted wrongs. Police Det. Banks (Rock) is sent with his new young partner, Det. Schneck (Minghella), to investigate the first of the spiral killings (so called because the Jigsaw-ish spiral symbol is part of the killer’s imagery) and then becomes the person who receives the messages (some in the form of body parts) sent by the killer.

Parts of this movie feel like Rock working out some new comedy material — a bit on Pilates and infidelity, for example. These parts feel a bit shoved sideways into the movie but they’re probably better suited to him and the character than some of the more melodramatic moments. The movie’s ideas about policing aren’t sketched out well enough to make this a horror movie that Says Something. It’s more like Spiral is using a veneer of Saying Something to give a superficial update to the same red-stage-blood goriness.

I can’t remember what ever drew people to the Saw movies — was it the “cleverness” of the Ironic Punishment Division traps? Was it the audacity of the gore? Was it Cary Elwes? What is Cary Elwes up to these days? (Stranger Things and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, according to the Internet Movie Database — ooo, hey, and Mission: Impossible 7 … good for him!) Where were we? Right, Spiral. D+ (The plus is for the existence of the cast, not that the movie does anything good with them.) Available in theaters and for rent on premium VOD.

Oslo (TV-MA)

Ruth Wilson, Andrew Scott.

Based on the Tony-winning play, HBO’s Oslo tells the true (true-ish, basically, according to Wikipedia) story of the efforts of a married pair of Norwegian diplomats to get unofficial but face-to-face communication going between representatives of Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization — without involving (or requiring any official acknowledgment from) any of the men at the top. The hope of Mona (Wilson) and her husband Terje (Scott) is that without any of the trappings of the more formal negotiations happening in Washington, D.C., perhaps people, talking to each other in a private setting one on one, can forge relationships on which true diplomacy can be built. The movie does a good job of making this moment in history (1993) seem like one full of hope and potential — which gives the movie real stakes and narrative tension. Good performances all around. B+ Available on HBO.

Dog Gone Trouble (TV-Y7)

Voices of Big Sean, Pamela Adlon.

Trouble (Big Sean) is a well cared for dog and companion to extremely wealthy Mrs. Vanderwhoozie (voice of Betty White) who finds himself tossed out like yesterday’s filet mignon when she suddenly dies. Inadvertently sent out into the big city, Trouble befriends (sort of) the grumpy pit bull Rousey (Adlon) and eventually a human, Zoe (voice of Lucy Bell). But when Vanderwhoozie’s heirs (Marissa Winokur, Joel McHale) realize the only way they can get her fortune is by taking care of Trouble, they send animal tracker Thurman (voice of Wilmer Valderrama) to find him.

This movie has some interesting ideas (probably too many) and some decent voice talent, but the movie overall never quite gels. The story feels half-baked and scattered, as though someone was still trying to figure out how to fit all the parts of this movie together. I wish the movie had also dialed back the meanness a little and turned up the animal antics. C Available on Netflix.

At the Sofaplex 21/05/20

Oxygen (TV-14)

Mélanie Laurent, Malik Zidi.

And Mathieu Amalric gives his voice to MILO, the computer system running the pod where a woman (Laurent) wakes up and finds herself locked in. She tries to calm herself — she’s in a hospital, she reasons, someone will realize she needs help. But MILO tells her that the 35 percent oxygen level in her locked pod means that someone only has about 43 minutes, best case 72, to find her before her air runs out.

This is a fun little thriller, with the woman, who can’t remember her name or anything about how she got in the pod, trying to puzzle her way out. She might not know basic facts about her life but she starts to make educated guesses about where she could be and how to find people who might know who she is. Laurent, whom I still pretty much just know from her Inglourious Basterds role, is excellent here. The woman struggles, breaks down, fights and digs in to old emotions — all while lying down in a box. Oxygen makes the most of the “one person in a box” structure, using flashbacks judiciously and spanning genres to create a story that is suspenseful and even hopeful with just the right dash of humor. B+ Available on Netflix.

The Paper Tigers (PG-13)

Alan Uy, Ron Yuan.

Also Mykel Shannon Jenkins, Matthew Page and Roger Yuan, as the father-figure-like Sifu Cheung, who taught three “we’re brothers forever”-type teenage boys kung fu. Decades later, Cheung has died and though his death is thought to be the result of a heart attack, his friends believe differently. Formerly called Cheung’s “three tigers,” the now grown-up Danny (Uy), Hing (Ron Yuan) and Jim (Jenkins) decide to investigate Cheung’s death to find out what really happened to their former teacher.

Except that they were teenagers A Long Time Ago and Danny and Hing aren’t really at fighting strength or flexibility anymore. Jim is some kind of MMA-ish teacher, but he hasn’t kept up with the kung fu specifics. These middle-aged dudes have baggage in addition to back pain — their once-close friendship broke down a while ago, as did their relationship with Cheung.

The Paper Tigers frequently has the rough-edge feel of the indie that it is and there are a few elements — everything to do with Danny’s relationship with his ex-wife Caryn (Jae Suh Park) and their young son, for example — that could have used some writerly polishing. But the movie has charm, particularly in the friendship among the three men. B Available for rent or purchase.

French Exit (R)

Michelle Pfeiffer, Lucas Hedges.

Michelle Pfeiffer gives a highly entertaining performance as a woman at the end of her fortune who escapes to Paris with her grown son in this movie that is very mannered and very weird but, mostly, strangely enjoyable.

Frances Price (Pfeiffer) leaves, like, $100 tips when she goes to the cafe for coffee so it’s not a surprise that she finds herself broke after what seems like a lifetime spent in old-money-style wealth. Her friend Joan (Susan Coyne) offers to let her and her adult but still quite dependent son Malcolm (Hedges) stay at her apartment in Paris, so Frances sells what possessions she can, turns it all into cash and sets out on her Atlantic crossing with cash, son and their cat in tow.

While on the voyage, Malcolm meets Madeleine (Danielle Macdonald), who gets fired from the on-ship psychic gig after being too honest with one of the passengers. Madeleine gives us one of many clues that there is more to the family cat than meets the eye. Once the duo have arrived in Paris, they meet Madame Reynard (Valerie Mahaffey), another gentle weirdo who seems to have decided that she and Frances will be friends.

French Exit starts out seeming like kind of a riff on a Whit Stillman movie, something about monied people with more taste and elocution than sense or coping abilities. But then it turns into something much, much weirder with a story so lackadaisical in its pacing that I kept thinking it was in its final scene, only to realize that there were some 30 or so more minutes left. For all of this, I basically liked it — particularly, I think, if you choose to read it as a kind of downbeat fairy tale — and liked what Pfeiffer did with a character that could easily have come off as cartoonish and unbelievable. B- Available for rent.

Jungle Beat: The Movie (G)

Voices of David Menken, Ed Kear.

This cute if slight movie features a funny monkey and no recognizable voice talent, for all that I thought of the main characters as Ryan Reynolds Monkey (voiced by Menken) and James Corden Alien (voiced by Kear). According to Wikipedia this movie is based on a TV show (which, oddly enough, appears to have episodes available via Amazon Prime Video while this movie is on Netflix), but it doesn’t require any previous knowledge of the show to get the movie. The basic plot is that the alien named Fneep (Kear), who looks like a blue gummy bear and sounds like James Corden, comes to Earth and his universal translator tech allows the animals — Monkey, Trunk (voice of Ina Marie Smith) the elephant, Humph (voice of John Guerrasio) the hedgehog and Rocky (also Menkin) the hippo — to talk, to each other and to him. He has been sent to conquer Earth, which he does sort of hesitantly, primarily with a short speech because a frog eats his raygun. His new animal friends are chummily encouraging about his conquering (a concept they seem to understand entirely as a chore that needs completing) and try to help him get back to his spaceship so he can get home. In this loose framework, the movie works in a fair amount of just animal silliness: Monkey’s desire for a banana, the grumpy Humph getting lost in circles in a grassy plain, an ostrich and her runaway eggs, one of whom becomes a chick eager to fly. It’s mostly sweet, mostly menace-free stuff. It isn’t the cleverest or best executed “alien and animals become friends” G-rated movie (that is Farmageddon: A Shaun the Sheep Movie, also on Netflix), but it was entertaining enough for my kids, particularly the kid who is always up for monkey-related antics. B Available on Netflix

The Year Earth Changed (PG)

I don’t usually seek out content about Our Covid Year but this tidy 48-minute documentary narrated by David Attenborough was light, pretty to look at and even somewhat hopeful. The focus is animals — animals all over the world in 2020 and how, for example, reduced ocean traffic made life easier for a whale mom or fewer people on the beach meant breeding season was easier for sea turtles. Cheetahs who don’t have to compete with the noise from safari vehicles can more quietly (and thus more safely) call to their young to come feast on prey. Birds who don’t have to compete with traffic noise have their elaborate songs heard more clearly for the first time in decades. “Nature is healing itself” as the internet said — and it did, a little bit, for a little while, so argues this documentary which sort of “a-hems” at the idea about humans doing their part post-pandemic to keep the healing going without getting into the sort of bummer details that would make this a less appealing documentary to relax with. B Available on Apple TV+.

At the Sofaplex 21/05/13

Street Gang: How We Got to Sesame Street (PG)

I know Oscar the Grouch, Big Bird, Bert and Ernie, Gordon, Luis, Mr. Hooper and Maria but one name I didn’t know from the early days of Sesame Street was Joan Ganz Cooney. Cooney, one of the talking heads in this charming documentary, was one of the major forces in bringing Sesame Street to life with the goal of using the techniques that so successfully sold children candy and cereal and got everyone singing ad jingles to sell letters, numbers, reading and basic concepts. This documentary is heavy on the early years — how the show came together in 1969 and recruited its core cast and crew, the public’s reaction to the show and the show’s revolutionary approach to teaching and talking with children. We also get discussion of the real-life death of Will Lee in 1982 and how it was handled by working the death of his character Mr. Hooper into the show and the documentary touches on the 1990 death of Jim Henson. The discussion of the ruling principles for how the show reaches children is fascinating and, if you’ve watched the show in more recent seasons, you can see how the child-respecting approach and concept-teaching ideas continue to direct the show even decades later. I always love the story of people making something; Street Gang offers a smart, affectionate look at the creation of something so fundamental to the childhoods of Gen-Xers and beyond. B+

The Courier (PG-13)

Benedict Cumberbatch, Rachel Brosnahan.

And Merab Ninidze as Oleg Penkovsky, a Russian who passes secrets to the British and Americans in the early 1960s. Because Penkovsky is a high-profile official, the British send in an “amateur,” businessman Greville Wynne (Cumberbatch), who has already done some business in Eastern Europe. An ordinary salesman, looking to open a market in the Soviet Union, Greville ferries documents in and out of the Soviet Union until, of course, the Russians get suspicious.

The movie has a Bridge of Spies vibe but peppier, with Greville and Oleg forming a friendship even as they’re mostly just play-acting at “doing business” as cover for a passing of documents. Their work touches the Cuban Missile Crisis and is, apparently, based on a true story. It’s a suspenseful spy tale and Cumberbatch sells his “regular guy, extraordinary circumstances” situation. B Available for rent.

Golden Arm

Mary Holland, Betsy Sodaro.

Longtime best friends Melanie (Holland) and Danny (Sodaro) hit the road so Melanie can train for and compete in an arm wrestling competition in this lightweight but sweet movie that feels like a good Galentine’s Day watch. Melanie is a baker whose business could use an infusion of cash and who seems a little uncertain about the direction of her life after a recent divorce. Danny is an arm wrestling champ who loses her shot at that year’s national title after a fight with Brenda (Olivia Stambouliah), a take-no-prisoners competitor. This movie is part road-trip movie, part sports competition movie (complete with training montages) and part friendship movie that reminded me a bit of Bridesmaids with Holland’s Kristen Wiig energy and the way that female friendship is shown as a strong and resilient thing. B Available for purchase or rent.

Chadwick Boseman: Portrait of an Artist (TV-MA)

This 21-minute documentary looks at the work of Chadwick Boseman primarily through the lens of his Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom performance (which everybody assumed was going to win him a posthumous Oscar right up until the final moments of the award ceremony). Spike Lee, Danai Gurira, George C. Wolfe, Glynn Turman and other actors and directors who have worked with Boseman talk about his style and approach to a part. Perhaps most illuminating are the sequences with Viola Davis, Boseman’s Ma Rainey co-star and a fellow Oscar nominee for the film, who gives a window into not just how Boseman thought about his part but how all actors work to build a character, reading in part from his notes about the screenplay. It’s a short celebration of Boseman’s craft and it’s only available through, I think, this Saturday. B+ Available on Netflix.

Monster (R)

Kelvin Harrison Jr., Jeffrey Wright.

Also Jennifer Hudson, Jennifer Ehle, Tim Blake Nelson, Nas, Rakim Mayers (known in his music career as A$AP Rocky) and a very young-looking John David Washington. According to Wikipedia, this movie, which

hit Netflix on May 7, premiered at the 2018 Sundance, and from a read of Washington’s Wikipedia page and late 2017 previews of the festival I get the sense that this movie was shot a good while ago. (Also credited on this film: Radha Blank, writer/director/star of the recent The 40-Year-Old Version, is listed as one of the screenwriters.) .
While not as strong as some of the cast’s subsequent work, this movie has some solid performances. Harrison plays Steve, a 16-year-old aspiring filmmaker who gets tangled up in charges related to a robbery in a neighborhood store that ends in the murder of the clerk. Steve is held in jail awaiting and throughout his trial and we see his shock and fear at being in this situation. Largely through flashbacks, we learn about Steve’s strong relationship with his parents (Hudson, Wright) and supportive teacher (Nelson) and his budding romance with a fellow student at his prestigious magnet school. Steve also has what he later calls an acquaintance but might be better described as a fascination with James King (Mayers), a guy from the neighborhood who eventually ends up as a co-defendant at Steve’s trial.
While Monster has good performances and an interesting story it also has a not-always-successful structural element in the form of a voiceover narration by Steve that frequently puts the setting in screenplay terms. The idea that the frightened, traumatized Steve might put his ordeal at the remove of watching it as though he were watching or shooting a movie makes sense (might even make more sense in a book, where we are more naturally in his head) but it frequently gets in the way and does an amount of “telling” when “showing” would have let the emotion of the story come through more. B- Available on Netflix.

WeWork: Or the Making and Breaking of a $47 Billion Unicorn
Way back before the pandemic, if you can remember that far, financial news was obsessed with the saga of WeWork in late 2019 and its failed IPO. This Hulu documentary offers a (frequently gleeful) history of WeWork’s rise and fall, packed full of more Silicon Valley nonsense than, well, Silicon Valley or any other industry parody. Stories of extraordinary excess and mission statements about changing the way people live that sound, as several people observe, like a cult are juxtaposed with people reminding us that “for God’s sake, they’re renting [bleeping] desks.” B Available on Hulu

NH Jewish Film Festival
The New Hampshire Jewish Film Festival kicks off (virtually) Wednesday, May 19, featuring 11 films and a short film presentation.
The short film program, which will be viewable for free, is available anytime between Wednesday, May 19, and Thursday, June 10 (the closing day of the festival), and will explore food themes such as “the secrets of cooking artisan pastrami, the origins of chocolate soda ‘egg creams,’ and the reason why cheeseburgers are forbidden by Jewish dietary laws,” according to an event press release. The movie available on the first day is When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit, a movie in German that is getting its U.S. release on May 21. This movie and all other festival movies are available for 72 hours after their festival date, starting at noon on that day. Buy a ticket for $12 to see one movie or get a $43 four-film pass or a $110 all-access pass. The festival will also feature post-film discussions with directors for five of the films and there will be a closing day event featuring a water cooler discussion in Red River Theatres’ virtual lobby.
See a schedule of the films and events and find more on purchasing tickets at

Booked up

NH celebrates Indie Bookstore Day

Saturday, April 24, is Independent Bookstore Day, a nationwide celebration of independent bookstores and the book-lovers who frequent them. Though you won’t find as many in-store author visits, live music, food and other festivities as have been offered in pre-Covid years, local bookstores are doing what they can to make it a special day.

“We are celebrating … but we still don’t feel it is the right time to encourage in-store activities,” said Willard Williams, co-owner of Toadstool Bookstore, which has locations in Nashua, Peterborough and Keene. “Instead, we are using IBD to draw attention to our bookselling staff, who have done so much for us over the past year. We want to acknowledge them with our heartfelt thanks and hope others will as well.”

Participating bookstores will still carry IBD-exclusive items, such as special-edition books, art prints and literary themed novelty items, and some stores, including the Toadstool, will host special events virtually or outdoors.

IBD participating bookstores and special events

A Freethinker’s Corner (652 A Central Ave., Dover, 343-2437,

Bookery Manchester (844 Elm St., Manchester, 836-6600,

Live music, gift card giveaways with purchases and a weeklong trivia contest on Instagram

The Country Bookseller (Durgin Stables, 23-A N. Main St., Wolfeboro, 569-6030,

Gibson’s Bookstore (45 S. Main St., Concord, 224-0562,

Erin Bowman book signing for Dustborn, on the sidewalk outside the store, 1 to 2:30 p.m.

Literary Cocktail Hour, featuring authors Kat Howard, Kelly Braffet, Cat Valente, and Freya Marskem in conversation with bookstore staff, Zoom, 5 p.m.

Innisfree Bookshop (312 Daniel Webster Hwy., Meredith, 279-3905,

Still North Books & Bar (3 Allen St., Hanover, 676-7846,

The Toadstool Bookshop (Somerset Plaza, 375 Amherst St., Route 101A, Nashua, 673-1734; 12 Depot Square, Peterborough, 924-3543; 12 Emerald St., Keene, 352-8815,

Paddy Donnelly presents The Vanishing Lake, Zoom, 1 p.m.

Water Street Bookstore (125 Water St., Exeter, 778-9731,

2021 IBD exclusive items

Available on Independent Bookstore Day through participating bookstores. Call ahead to find out which items your local bookstore will be carrying.

• Baby Yoda cotton onesie (size 6 to 12 months), a Mandalorian twist on the American Library Association’s iconic “READ” posters

• Signed special edition of Cook, Eat, Repeat: Ingredients, Recipes, and Stories by Nigella Lawson

Being Alive is a Good Idea, an edited transcript of a conversation held between Nikki Giovanni and Glory Edimat at the 2020 Well-Read Black Girl Festival, covering poetry, Tupac, Black Lives Matter, aliens, pencils, Kamala Harris and more

• Special edition of Embodied: An Intersectional Feminist Comics Poetry Anthology that includes a foil cover and poster

• “Bad Citizen” Graffiti Stencil featuring George Orwell quote, “In a time of deceit telling the truth is a revolutionary act.”

In the Tall Grass, a short story by Stephen King and Joe Hill, available for the first time in a limited-edition book form

• Signed special edition of Hummingbird Salamander by Jeff VanderMeer

Art print based on the picture book The ABCs of Black History by Rio Cortez, created by artist Lauren Semmer

• Independent Bookstore Day 2021 pop chart map of participating bookstores in the U.S.

• “Little Victories” canvas pouch (cotton, with zipper, 9” x 6”)

• Signed special edition of Sharks in the Time of Saviorsby Kawai Strong Washburn

For more information about Independent Bookstore Day, visit

Zoom Play Festival
: Virtual, via YouTube.
When: Pre-recorded, available to watch Friday, April 16, through Sunday, April 25.
Cost: Free, donations appreciated.
More info: Visit, or Powerhouse Theatre Collaborative on Facebook.

Featured photo: 2021 IBD exclusive items. Courtesy photo.

Zooming in

Festival showcases plays created for virtual performance

Laconia-based theater company Powerhouse Theatre Collaborative is giving a new meaning to virtual theater with its Zoom Play Festival, featuring a series of short plays written specifically for the Zoom video chat platform.

“It’s not like these are just readings of plays,” Powerhouse manager Bryan Halperin said. “These are plays that are actually being performed as they were intended.”

The festival, produced in collaboration with the Community Players of Concord, will be pre-recorded and available to watch for free on YouTube from Friday, April 16, through Sunday, April 25.

There will be seven original plays, all written by New Hampshire playwrights who participated in a 10-week playwriting workshop hosted by the two theater companies last fall. The workshop was open to playwrights of all experience levels and covered the basics of playwriting, such as developing plot points, characters and dialogue, as well as how to write a Zoom-based play.

“If they came up with an idea that wasn’t really workable, I steered them back to how we could make it work to fit into this format,” said Halperin, who instructed the workshop.

Featured playwright Douglas Schwarz of Concord has been active with the Players for years, acting, directing and doing backstage work. Recently he’s taken an interest in playwriting.

“I’ve done a very small amount of playwriting in the past, and it’s something I’ve been sort of wanting to get better at,” he said. “I thought the workshop would be an opportunity to get some more perspective on how playwriting works and give me the confidence that I can really do this.”

Schwarz’ play, titled Choices, follows four people at various stages in their lives, talking over Zoom and reflecting on the choices they’ve made.

“I’ve thought a lot about how decisions can change our lives and really [determine] what direction our lives are going to go,” he said. “I thought, wouldn’t it be cool if I could do [a play] that somehow expresses these thoughts I’ve had?”

The plays In Boxes, Boys in Boxes and Girls in Boxes are three different versions of a play by Sharleigh Thomson, each with a different director and cast. Set in May 2020 during the pandemic, it centers on a video chat between two college seniors as they consider the next chapter of their lives and realize their romantic feelings for each other.

“You’d never make a captive audience sit through three versions of the same play back-to-back, but since it’s on YouTube, they can choose which one they want to watch, or they can watch all three at their leisure,” Halperin said. “It’s a bit of an experiment.”

Other plays include Couple Seeks Extrovert by Brenda Wilbert, a comedy about an introverted couple who step outside their comfort zone when they rent out a room to an extrovert; Ship of Fools by Chuck Fray, an interview between an oblivious newscaster and an author of apocalyptic fiction; and Here We Go by Doreen Sheppard, a look at how families come together and cope during hard times.

More than 30 people are creatively involved in the festival.

“That’s what we’re most happy about,” Halperin said. “It’s great to be able to give [theater artists] an opportunity to be appreciated during this time when theater is so limited.”

“Theater is so important to us, and going without it has been difficult,” Schwarz added, “so this was really a gift to us from the Players and Powerhouse.”

Zoom Play Festival
: Virtual, via YouTube.
When: Pre-recorded, available to watch Friday, April 16, through Sunday, April 25.
Cost: Free, donations appreciated.
More info: Visit, or Powerhouse Theatre Collaborative on Facebook.

Featured photo: Joel Iwakiewicz and Adam Beauparlant in Boys in Boxes. Courtesy photo.

Live to tell the tale

Storytelling Festival features traditional and personal stories, poetry, music

The New Hampshire Theatre Project’s annual Storytelling Festival returns to the stage — and to the screen — on Saturday, April 10, with six storytellers telling traditional and personal tales inspired by the theme “What Are You Waiting For?” The performance will be held for a live audience in person at The Music Hall in Portsmouth and virtually over the live video platform Crowdcast.

“There are several [storytelling series] in the area that honor personal stories in the Moth [Radio Hour] tradition, but in terms of telling different kinds of stories, telling traditional tales and [highlighting] storytelling as an art form, there’s really nothing else like [NHTP’s Storytelling Festival] in the area,” said NHTP executive director Genevieve Aichele, who is hosting and performing at this year’s event.

Featured storytellers will include Boston-based award-winning storyteller Diane Edgecomb, presenting a comedic story from her early acting career; British storyteller and humorist Simon Brooks, performing a traditional tale from northern England; Seacoast jazz musician and entertainer Sharon Jones, sharing a story about a special moment on stage at Portsmouth High School; Seacoast storyteller and emcee Pat Spalding of the storytelling series True Tales Live, aired on Portsmouth Public Media TV, telling tales of her time as a majorette with the Leftist Marching Band; and poet Maya Williams of Portland, Maine, telling stories of suicidality, racial identity, religion and healing through the art of spoken word poetry.

Additionally, world fusion musician Randy Armstrong will perform musical interludes throughout the festival with an eclectic mix of instruments.

“If you like Moth Radio Hour and you want to hear those types of personal stories, there will be some of that, and if you enjoy traditional tales, there will be some of that, too,” Aichele said. “Poetry, music — there’s something in it for everyone.”

Aichele will perform her original adaptation of “The Elephant and the Ant,” a traditional tale from India, with musical accompaniment by Armstrong.

“The music is really part of the storytelling,” she said. “It helps to set the mood and gives it that cultural atmosphere and flavor of the culture where the story begins.”

The theme “What Are You Waiting For?” was inspired, Aichele said, by the innovation of the arts community throughout the pandemic.

“It’s a new world; we can’t do art the way we used to,” she said, “so why not use Covid as an opportunity to reinvent ourselves? What are we waiting for? That’s really what these stories are about — not waiting to act or make a change.”

While experiencing a performance virtually is “not quite the same” as experiencing it in person, Aichele said, there’s still a “feeling of excitement and energy” that comes with watching any kind of live event.

“No matter where you are, you’re there; you’re in the audience,” she said. “You’re a part of that community of people who are seeing this thing happening live, and that can be really exciting.”

New Hampshire Theatre Project’s 5th annual Storytelling Festival
: Live in person at The Music Hall Historic Theater, 28 Chestnut St., Portsmouth, and virtual livestream via Crowdcast
When: Saturday, April 10, 8 p.m.
Cost: Tickets cost $36 for the performance at The Music Hall and $15 for the livestream performance
More info: Visit and


Call for Art

FIBER ART EXHIBIT The Surface Design Association’s (SDA) New Hampshire Group invites New Hampshire fiber artists to submit work for its upcoming exhibit of fiber art and textiles, “Tension: Process in the Making.” Exhibit will run July 24 through Sept. 4 at Twiggs Gallery (254 King St., Boscawen). Submission deadline is Fri., May 1. Visit or call 975-0015.

Classes & lectures

GENERAL ART CLASSES In-person art classes for all levels and two-dimensional media. held with small groups of two to five students. Private classes are also available. Diane Crespo Fine Art Gallery (32 Hanover St., Manchester). Students are asked to wear masks in the gallery. Tuition costs $20 per group class and $28 per private class, with payment due at the beginning of the class. Call 493-1677 or visit for availability.

DRAWING & PAINTING CLASSES Art House Studios, 66 Hanover St., Suite 202, Manchester. Classes include Drawing Fundamentals, Painting in Acrylic, Drawing: Observation to Abstraction, Exploring Mixed Media, and Figure Drawing. Class sizes are limited to six students. Visit


• “BODY OF WORK: SERIES I” New Hampshire Art Association presents an exhibition featuring artwork in a variety of media by eight local artists. On view now through May 2. Online and in person at the NHAA’s Robert Lincoln Levy Gallery, 136 State St., Portsmouth. All works are for sale. Gallery hours are Monday and Tuesday by appointment, Wednesday and Thursday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. Visit or call 431-4230.

35TH ANNUAL OMER T. LASSONDE JURIED EXHIBITION The New Hampshire Art Association presents a group art show featuring works in a variety of media by NHAA members and non-members. NHAA’s Robert Lincoln Levy Gallery (136 State St., Portsmouth). On view now through May 30. A virtual opening reception and awards ceremony is planned for Thurs., April 15, at 6:30 p.m. Call 431-4230 and visit

• “THE BODY IN ART: FROM THE SPIRITUAL TO THE SENSUAL” Exhibit provides a look at how artists through the ages have used the human body as a means of creative expression. On view now through Sept. 1. Currier Museum of Art, 150 Ash St., Manchester. Museum admission tickets cost $15, $13 for seniors age 65 and up, and must be booked online. Call 669-6144 or visit

GALLERY ART A new collection of art by more than 20 area artists on display now in-person and online. Creative Ventures Gallery (411 Nashua St., Milford). Call 672-2500 or visit

• “TOMIE DEPAOLA AT THE CURRIER” Exhibition celebrates the illustrator’s life and legacy through a collection of his original drawings. On view now. Currier Museum of Art, 150 Ash St., Manchester. Museum admission tickets cost $15, $13 for seniors age 65 and up, and must be booked online. Call 669-6144 or visit

Special events

MAGNIFY VOICES EXPRESSIVE ARTS CELEBRATION Youth artwork showcased to help raise awareness and decrease stigma of mental illness and effect change to ensure social and emotional health for all children in New Hampshire. May, date TBA. Visit or email



THE SORCERER’S APPRENTICE Filmed live in London 2021. Virtual screening presented by Capitol Center for the Arts in Concord. Now through April 11. $25 per ticket. Call 225-1111 or visit

DON QUIXOTE Performed by Safe Haven Ballet. Thurs., April 8, and Fri., April 9, 7 p.m. The Music Hall, Historic Theater, 28 Chestnut St., Portsmouth. Tickets cost $50 for adults and $45 for children, seniors and groups. Visit or call 436-2400.

THE ART OF CIRCUS Virtual screening presented by Capitol Center for the Arts in Concord. Thurs., April 8, 7 p.m., Sat., April 10, 8 p.m., and Sun., April 11, 2 p.m. $25 per ticket. Call 225-1111 or visit

FIFTH ANNUAL STORYTELLING FESTIVAL New Hampshire Theatre Project presents. Five storytellers tell traditional and personal tales inspired by NHTP’s 2020 – 2021 MainStage theme “What Are You Waiting For?” Featuring Diane Edgecomb, Pat Spalding, Simon Brooks, Sharon Jones and Maya Williams; with special guest host Genevieve Aichele and musical accompaniment by Randy Armstrong. Sat., April 10, 7 p.m. The Music Hall Historic Theater, 28 Chestnut St., Portsmouth. Tickets cost $36. Call 431-6644 or visit

KINKY BOOTS Recorded live in London. Virtual screening presented by Capitol Center for the Arts in Concord. April 14 through April 21. $15 per ticket. Call 225-1111 or visit

COX AND BOX Performed by New York Gilbert & Sullivan Players. Virtual screening presented by Capitol Center for the Arts in Concord. Thurs., April 15, and Fri., April 16, 8 p.m., and Sun., April 18, 2 p.m. $20 per ticket. Call 225-1111 or visit

ZOOM PLAY FESTIVAL Presented by Powerhouse Theatre Collaborative and Community Players of Concord. Features short original plays by New Hampshire playwrights. Fri., April 16. Virtual. See Powerhouse Theatre Collaborative on Facebook.

THAT GOLDEN GIRLS SHOW: A PUPPET PARODY at the Capitol Center for the Arts (44 S. Main St. in Concord; on Sat., April 24, at 8 p.m. Tickets cost $35.


CONCORD COMMUNITY MUSIC SCHOOL FACULTY CONCERT Part of Concord’s Walker Lecture Series. Virtual, via Concord TV (Channel 22, or stream at Wed., April 21. 7:30 p.m. Free and open to the public. Call 333-0035 or visit

Featured photo: Featured storyteller Diane Edgecomb. Courtesy photo.

Fine lines

New Hampshire celebrates National Poetry Month

From writing prompts to readings and workshops, New Hampshire poets and poetry lovers will have all kinds of opportunities throughout April to celebrate National Poetry Month from home.

Now in its 25th year, National Poetry Month is an annual observance created by the Academy of American Poets to increase awareness and appreciation of poetry in the U.S. Schools, publishers, libraries, booksellers and poets all over the country are encouraged to host special events and activities to promote the literary art form.

In New Hampshire, the month’s festivities are spearheaded by state Poet Laureate Alexandria Peary, in partnership with New Hampshire Magazine, Concord-based publisher Hobblebush Books and others.

Peary has created 30 poetry writing prompts — one for each day in April — that will be posted on New Hampshire Magazine’s website and social media.

The prompts are meant to be “a reflection of the past year,” Peary said, particularly in regard to the pandemic, and will represent a wide variety of poetry styles. They may, for example, challenge participants to write a sonnet that mourns a loss or celebrates a recovery; a narrative poem about a pandemic moment; a persona poem from the perspective of a front-line worker; or an ode to a pandemic-related object.

“They’re just something to get people started,” Peary said. “You could look at the prompts and just see what comes to mind and do a free-write every day, or you could pick just one or two [prompts] and try to write a whole poem — whatever works for you.”

At the end of the month, there will be two free virtual workshops, led by two graduate students interning with Peary, where participants can receive feedback on their poems.

Now through May 15, original poems can be submitted for review and possible publication in an anthology of poetry about the pandemic experience in New Hampshire, to be edited by Peary and published by Hobblebush Books this summer. The anthology is a follow-up to COVID Spring: Granite State Pandemic Poems, published in September 2020, which features original poems submitted by 54 New Hampshire writers, providing “a thirty-day snapshot of what life was like in the Granite State in April of 2020” through topics such as Covid-related “job loss, loneliness and love, masks, social distancing, surreal visitors, uncertainty, graduations deferred, grief, neighborly and less-than-neighborly acts, observing the beginning of the pandemic and making projections about the future, recalibrating or confirming what it means to be human, to be a resident of this region,” Peary said in the anthology’s introduction.

Gibson’s Bookstore in Concord, in partnership with Hobblebush Books, will host free virtual poetry readings and conversations every Monday in April. The series will feature Granite State poets Maudelle Driskell, Meg Kearney, Martha Carlson-Bradley, Liz Ahl, Rodger Martin, Henry Walters, Margot Douaihy and Peary.

“[Participating in] one of these events might give you ideas for your own writing,” Peary said, “and I think it could also give you a sense that, with so many opportunities for engagement with the creative writing [community] in the state, it could become a really rich part of your life and social life.”

Peary said this month is a great time for people who are interested in poetry to give writing their own poetry a try, even if it’s short or in fragments.

“It doesn’t need to be something with a complete structure,” she said. “Try to maximize the distance between you and the critics in your head and just jot some stuff down, and be accepting of whatever that is.”

National Poetry Month in New Hampshire
Virtual poetry events and activities will be held throughout April. Visit and

Writing workshops
Registration required.
• Sunday, April 25, 3 p.m., moderated by Lily Greenberg
• Tuesday, April 27, 7 p.m. moderated by Brooke Delp

​Readings and conversations with Granite State poets
Weekly, Monday at 7 p.m., through April. Registration required.
• April 5: Maudelle Driskell and Meg Kearney
• April 12: Martha Carlson-Bradley and Liz Ahl
• April 19: Rodger Martin and Henry Walters
• April 26: NH Poet Laureate Alexandria Peary and Margot Douaihy

Featured photo: Alexandria Peary. Courtesy photo.

Old school, new school

Sarah McCraw Crow explores women’s movement of the ’70s in debut novel

Canterbury author Sarah McCraw Crow weaves a story of loss, change and identity amid the second-wave women’s movement in her debut novel The Wrong Kind of Woman.

In 1970 New England, Oliver Desmarais, a professor at the elite all-male Clarendon College, dies suddenly. The Wrong Kind of Woman follows three characters through the year following Oliver’s death — his widow Virginia, his 13-year-old daughter Rebecca and his student Sam Waxman — and is told through their alternating perspectives.

Virginia had previously shared her husband’s disapproval of the four unmarried women on the faculty at the college, known as The Gang of Four, but now finds herself in their circle, joining the women’s movement and making waves at the otherwise apathetic campus.

Rebecca’s world has been turned upside down as she adjusts to life without her father and the shifting identity of her mother, whom she is growing to resent.

Mourning the loss of his favorite professor and hungry for human connection, junior Sam Waxman falls in love with a passionate activist who is willing to do whatever it takes to bring about change.

The Wrong Kind of Woman was born out of the author’s interest in women’s history, particularly in the realm of academia. McCraw Crow has had a “longtime fascination,” she said, with the women of her mother’s generation — women who are in their 80s and 90s today.

“I’ve always wondered how they managed, when they were young, with the choices that were available to them back in those days … and the various constraints and cultural pressures that were strong against them doing jobs that were more traditionally masculine or ambitious,” McCraw Crow said.

The fictional Clarendon College, she revealed, is loosely based on her alma mater, Dartmouth College in Hanover, which she started attending in 1983, a little more than a decade after the Ivy League university started admitting female students in its undergraduate programs.

“When I was there, there were still all sorts of reminders and remnants from the days when it was all male,” McCraw Crow said. “I thought a lot about what it must have been like for the first women faculty working there and the first women exchange students.”

To capture the book’s period setting, McCraw Crow explored archived newspapers from the early 1970s, read memoirs by women’s movement activists and personally interviewed a number of women who were among the first women to attend Dartmouth College when it became coed.

“Dartmouth wasn’t uniformly anti-women, but there was a core group of people who really didn’t want women there and were pretty awful to the first women students,” she said. “It was very helpful for me to talk to these women about how difficult that was and how they got through it — the good things from that time and the things that were the most hurtful.”

While The Wrong Kind of Woman provides an inspiring look at the social change effected since the 1970s, McCraw Crow said, it is also a sobering reminder that the war is not yet won.

“This is a story that still resonates today,” she said, “because as far as gender parity and gender equity, we still have quite a long way to go.”

The Wrong Kind of Woman by Sarah McCraw Crow
The novel is available through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Walmart and local independent bookstores. Visit

Featured photo: The Wrong Kind of Woman

Airport art exhibition via iPhone

There’s an augmented reality app for that

In the early 1990s, Tom McGurrin crafted a brooch from gold and a single pearl. The brooch’s design is organic in nature, almost resembling that of a caterpillar on a branch. He hammered the gold against granite and folded it until he was satisfied with its texture. Then he sold it. But he never imagined that someday anyone with a smartphone would be able to open an app and see that brooch in a virtual art exhibition. In fact, he didn’t even know what a smartphone was.

Today, the League of New Hampshire Craftsmen is using technology to make items like that brooch viewable beyond the walls of the Manchester-Boston Regional Airport, where the physical collection is currently on display. The League partnered with Aery, an augmented reality app, to bring its museum collection to Apple devices.

“It’s a great way to bring forward what’s happening in technology and how it relates to the world of craft and art,” said Miriam Carter, the executive director of the League of NH Craftsmen. “Everyone loves technology these days, so it advances the possibilities of what we can do to show beautiful, handmade crafts.”

The Augmented Reality Exhibition includes pieces ranging from carved birds and lamps made of jade to the gold brooch crafted by McGurrin.

Objects in the League of NH Craftsmen’s collection were photographed from all angles in order to create complete 3D images, which were then uploaded to Aery.

“You can then see the entire [object] as it exists,” Carter said.

The app also allows viewers to manipulate the objects; they can have some fun by placing them in front of scenic backdrops or changing their size. For example, a carved bird that’s only a few inches tall can be made eight feet tall and positioned to tower over a backdrop of cars.

The project was spearheaded by the New Hampshire Business Committee for the Arts, of which the Manchester-Boston Regional Airport, League of NH Craftsmen and Aery are all members.

“We are working to create partnerships between our members that allow us to demonstrate the creative economy at work,” said Tricia Soule, executive director of the committee.

Originally, the exhibit was only going to be on display at the Manchester airport.

“The airport is an access point for people coming to New Hampshire, so we wanted to have this featured there,” Carter said. “We’re a large, iconic New Hampshire organization and we wanted to let people know about us and all the wonderful cultural entities in the state itself.”

Soule also had a clear vision going into the project: “To bring artwork into the airport to showcase arts and cultural organizations in the state of New Hampshire … [and to] showcase New Hampshire as a destination for people to enjoy arts and culture.”

And then the airport closed.

Now, though the exhibition has been on display at the airport since December, even people who are not traveling can access it through the New Hampshire Business Committee for the Arts’s channel on Aery. Karina Mitchell, vice president of Aery, describes it as “an augmented reality app that allows guests to view augmented reality art in their home as a curated collection.”

Carter said she’s excited for a time when the League’s Exhibition Gallery in Concord can reopen and the permanent collection can be experienced in person again; the Gallery has been closed for about a year because of the pandemic.

“That’ll be our opening, celebratory event when we reach some form of normalcy,” she said with a laugh. “At that time, we’ll actually have folks on hand to show the app as well. So you’ll see the live objects, but you’ll also see what this app can do.”

As for McGurrin? “Nothing really replaces looking at something in person.” On the other hand, he adds, “It’s kind of a lot of fun.” – By Sadie Burgess

Augmented Reality Exhibition
When: All day, every day through May
Where: Aery AR app (iOS compatible)
More info:

Featured photo: Image from Aery. Courtesy of Tricia Soule.


Call for Art

NHAA SPRING JURYING The New Hampshire Art Association accepts new members. Jurying takes place on Mon., March 22. For a prospectus and application form, visit and click on “Become a Member.” Applications and application fee payment are due by Thurs., March 18, and can be submitted online or in person at the NHAA headquarters (136 State St., Portsmouth). Instructions for dropping off and picking up artwork will be emailed after an application and payment is received. Call 431-4230.
MAGNIFY VOICES EXPRESSIVE ARTS CONTEST Kids in grades 5 through 12 may submit creative may submit a short film (2 minutes or less); an original essay or poem (1000 words or less); or a design in another artistic medium such as a painting, song or sculpture that expresses their experience or observations of mental health in New Hampshire. Art pieces will be showcased to help raise awareness, decrease stigma and discrimination, and affect change to ensure socially and emotionally healthy growth for all children in New Hampshire. Submission deadline is March 31. Prize money will be awarded for grades 5 through 8 and grades 9 through 12. A celebration will take place in May, date TBD. Email
ART ON MAIN The City of Concord and the Greater Concord Chamber of Commerce are seeking professional sculptors for year-round outdoor public art exhibit set up in Concord’s downtown. Must be age 18 or older. Submit up to two original sculptures for consideration. Submission deadline is March 31. Sculptors will be notified of their acceptance by April 30. Installation will begin on May 21. Exhibit opens in June. Selected sculptors will receive a $500 stipend. All sculptures will be for sale. Visit, call 224-2508 or email

Classes & lectures

“NORMAN ROCKWELL AND FRANK LLOYD WRIGHT” Jane Oneail presents a lecture. Part of Concord’s Walker Lecture Series. Virtual, via Zoom. Wed., March 17, 7:30 p.m. Free and open to the public. Call 333-0035 or visit


“THE VIEW THROUGH MY EYES” The New Hampshire Art Association presents works by pastel artist Chris Reid. Greater Concord Chamber of Commerce Gallery, 49 S. Main St., Concord. On display now through March 18. Visit or call 431-4230.
“ON THE BRIGHT SIDE” New Hampshire Art Association features works by multiple artists in a variety of media. On view now through March 28, in person at NHAA’s Robert Lincoln Levy Gallery (136 State St., Portsmouth) and online. Gallery hours are Monday and Tuesday by appointment, Wednesday and Thursday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. Online opening reception to be held on Friday, March 5, at 6:30 p.m., via Zoom. Visit or call 431-4230.
GALLERY ART A new collection of art by more than 20 area artists on display now in-person and online. Creative Ventures Gallery (411 Nashua St., Milford). Call 672-2500 or visit
“TRANSFORMATIONS: NATURE AND BEYOND” The New Hampshire Art Association presents works by digital artist William Townsend. Greater Concord Chamber of Commerce Gallery, 49 S. Main St., Concord. On display March 23 through June 17. Gallery hours are Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Visit or call 431-4230.


NASHUA PUBLIC ART AUDIO TOUR Self-guided audio tours of the sculptures and murals in downtown Nashua, offered via the Distrx app, which uses Bluetooth iBeacon technology to automatically display photos and text and provides audio descriptions at each stop on the tour as tourists approach the works of art. Each tour has 10 to 15 stops. Free and accessible on Android and iOS on demand. Available in English and Spanish. Visit



HAMLET Video auditions for post-apocalyptic reimagining of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, produced by Manchester-based theater company Cue Zero Theatre Co. Open roles include Gertrude, Laertes, Guildenstern/Bernardo and ensemble characters. Performers must be at least 16 years old by opening night. To audition, submit a one-minute video of yourself performing a Shakespearean monologue that showcases your theatrical abilities by 11:59 p.m., on Sun., March 21. Callbacks will be held in person on Thurs., March 25, from 6 to 9 p.m. Visit or email


A TEMPEST PRAYER New Hampshire Theatre Project’s SoloStage program presents. Fri., March 19, and Sat., March 20, 8 p.m., and Sun., March 21, 2 p.m. Performances held virtually and in-person at 959 Islington St., Portsmouth. In-person show tickets cost $30, and virtual show tickets cost $20. Call 431-6644 or visit
FIFTH ANNUAL STORYTELLING FESTIVAL New Hampshire Theatre Project presents. Five storytellers tell traditional and personal tales inspired by NHTP’s 2020 – 2021 MainStage theme “What Are You Waiting For?” Sat., April 10, 7 p.m. The Music Hall Historic Theater, 28 Chestnut St., Portsmouth. Tickets cost $36. Call 431-6644 or visit

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