A powerful psychology professor and his emotionally vulnerable young research assistant form the dramatic axis of “Boxes,” a stage thriller that runs through Dec. 1 at Portland’s Good Theater. Shown are Ashanti Williams and Hannah Daly. Kevin Fahrman

The East Coast premiere of a theatrical thriller and a pair of musical showcases are my top picks among upcoming offerings in the performing arts.

In Portland, Good Theater opened an excellent professional production of Jule Selbo’s “Boxes,” which is a psychological cat-and-mouse game for the stage that runs through Dec. 1.

This Friday, seven members of the jazz faculty at the University of Southern Maine School of Music, led by trombonist Chris Oberholtzer, will present a concert showcasing the entirety of a 1962 classic jazz album.

“From the Top” is National Public Radio’s weekly broadcast showcase for young classical musicians that is recorded in various locations around the country. On Wednesday, Nov. 20, two editions of the show will be recorded before a live audience in Merrill Auditorium under the aegis of Portland Ovations. Three young Mainers will be among those performing.


An odd experiment in psychology turns into a cat-and-mouse chase in “Boxes,” a stage drama that’s getting its East Coast premiere this month at Portland’s Good Theater.

“Boxes” was written by Jule Selbo, a successful Hollywood scribe who now lives on Munjoy Hill, a few blocks from the theater. “Boxes” is a psychological thriller that holds the audience on edge from its opening scene to denouement, and Good Theater’s taut professional production does justice to this superbly inventive script.

The setting is a prestigious medical school in present-day New York. The axis of the plot is the tense relationship between a powerful professor of psychology with a questionable and mysterious past and an emotionally vulnerable med student who is hired as his research assistant – and is unwittingly also the subject of his experiment.

By twists and turns, the story devolves into a mysterious hunt. But who is the hunter and who is the quarry?

Director Steve Underwood gets excellent performances from the two actors playing the lead characters, Ashanti Williams and Hannah Daly. Plus, there’s excellent support from a trio of actors playing subsidiary characters: Thomas Ian Campbell as the med student’s sometimes boyfriend, Dalton Kimball as his video game-obsessed friend and Sally Wood as the professor’s lover and research collaborator.

Good Theater presents “Boxes” through Dec. 1 at the St. Lawrence Arts Center, 76 Congress St. (top of Munjoy Hill in Portland), with 7 p.m. performances Wednesdays and Thursdays, 7:30 p.m. Fridays, 3 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays. Call 835-0895.

USM jazz ensemble

Eight jazz professors at the University of Southern Maine School of Music will get together this Friday for their annual public showcase, the second offering in the school’s 2019-2020 Faculty Concert Series. This is an event that I’ve attended and enjoyed for many years.

This year’s lineup is Chris Oberholtzer, trombone; Barry Saunders, saxophone; Chris Klaxton, trumpet; Taylor O’Donnell, vocalist; Gary Wittner, guitar; Jed Wilson, piano; Bronek Suchanek, bass and Les Harris Jr., drums.

This Friday’s concert will include a live performance of the entirety of a classical jazz album from 1962 by singer Nancy Wilson and the Cannonball Adderley fivesome, including such tunes as “A Sleepin’ Bee,” “Happy Talk,” “Save Your Love for Me” and “Never Will I Marry.” The composers are a varied lot, ranging from celebrated Broadway theater writers to lesser-known jazz musicians.

Catch the USM jazz faculty concert at 8 p.m. Friday, Nov. 15, at Corthell Concert Hall on the school’s Gorham campus. Call the music box office at 780-5555.

‘From the Top’

A nationally broadcast showcase for America’s most promising young classical musicians will be recording two episodes in Portland. “From the Top,” produced by National Public Radio, will visit Merrill Auditorium on Wednesday, Nov. 20, to record a pair of hour-long shows in front of a live audience, with famed pianist Orli Shaham as the guest host. Portland Ovations will provide the venue and the audience.

Ten musicians ranging in age from 13 to 17 and playing a diverse spectrum of instruments are slated. Three are from Maine: 15-year-old violinist Colin Aponte from Blue Hill, 17-year-old soprano Annabel Parker from Rockport and 16-year-old violinist Joshua Rosenthal from Damariscotta. The others hail from states as far away as California and their instruments range from clarinet to harp and piano.

The format for “From the Top” includes brief interviews and anecdotes as well as a performance. These broadcasts will air on participating stations, including Maine Public Classical, and by podcast during the weeks of Dec. 16 and Jan. 6, 2020.

Portland Ovations hosts public recording sessions of National Public Radio’s “From the Top” at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 20, at Merrill Auditorium at Portland City Hall. Call PortTIX at 842-0800.

Comments are not available on this story.

filed under: