"Mac Wellman's exquisite and hilarious short stories come to life in this production where imagination and stark reality intersect. A tangle of electric wires connects the overhead lighting fixtures in the modified space of Next Door at NYTW, a traditional black box converted into an elongated frontier of speculation. A band of musicians pluck out notes from a collection of instruments that don’t normally go together. Anna McClellan, Daniel Ocanto, Sean Smith, and Graham Ulicny’s performances are as much of a treat as the rest of this exhilarating production…Adapted for the stage and directed by Elena Araoz, the two stories told here are from Mac Wellman’s A Chronicle of the Madness of Small Worlds, a book of short stories about the imaginary inhabitants of a series of asteroids…Wellman’s text is both poetic and volatile, and combined with Siragusa's excellent comedic timing and atmospheric music, it transports us to an altered state…The second story also reflects on, and perhaps attacks more directly the issue of sameness and inclusiveness in society…The narrator, a tall girl named Pollen (played by Anastasia Olowin, the embodiment of an otherworldly charm), recounts her memories as a witness living through a changing world. It’s at once a Romeo and Juliet-esque tale, but with an Alice in Wonderland-level imagination. Set in the ‘future,’ it’s heartbreaking to realize how much of it is a very tangible part of the 21st century. Pollen speaks the nervous breakdown of a world that was once more inclusive, and much happier, but where now, ‘Difference constitutes a threat.’ It will strike a cord with anyone who recognizes the issues caused by intolerance.”

Theatre is Easy by Ran Xia, February 8, 2018
about A Chronicle of the Madness of Small Worlds at New York Theatre Workshop Next Door

“In this diptych, adapted from two Mac Wellman short stories, residents of the asteroids Wu and Horrocks confirm the existence of more or less intelligent life in the universe. Their tales—of toucans from Toutatis and a rock where everyone is named Mary Carnivorous Rabbit—are riots of sound, not sense. But that’s the way of Wellman, the theatre’s foremost practitioner of edifying nonsense. The two forty-five-minute monologues, underscored by live music, are a game-playing gallimaufry of consonance, assonance, alliteration, and glee…Wildly imaginative and linguistically sumptuous.”

The New Yorker, February 2018
about A Chronicle of the Madness of Small Worlds at New York Theatre Workshop Next Door

A Chronicle of the Madness of Small Worlds…was conceived for the stage and directed by Elena Araoz, who has chosen to set Wellman’s wordplay against a cushioning swell of live music…Language twists and turns sharply in A Chronicle of the Madness of Small Worlds. Sometimes, Wellman leads us down dead ends with it, but always to a purpose. Though he loves words, he is never arch or precious with them. He is both playful and deadly serious, and he illuminates his chosen theme here by never addressing it directly. What Wellman is expressing in this pair of monologues is the bewilderment of two people given freedom when all they have known is limits — an idea he makes touching precisely because he has so few limits himself."

The Village Voice by Dan Callahan, January 23, 2018
about A Chronicle of the Madness of Small Worlds at New York Theatre Workshop Next Door

“Elena Araoz, the director, has taken it upon herself to raise these particular two stories into the realm of the performative, with remarkably positive results. The performances themselves are impeccable, spectacular…a marvel, virtuosic, yet under-stated in the way they must be in order to allow room for the audience to participate in the world-building (again: “Walking Telephone” – the performer’s job is to speak it, your job is to imagine it.) The addition of music and sound (there are four musicians arranged in support of the central performances – drums, piano, a horn or two, and a variety of other effects; a mic-ed fan blows ineffectively for the duration of the second monologue) gestures towards a jazz club or lounge act. The incongruity between the strangeness of the encompassing language and the familiarity of the scoring or ‘soundtracking’ the experience feels well-aligned with Wellman’s love of putting the incomprehensible next to the comfortable…The revelation of the evening follows one home, invades our space for a time. Mac Wellman, pervasive space invader that he is, has worm-holed his way inside the madness and chaos of words themselves.”

Culturebot by Dan O’Neil, January 27, 2018
about A Chronicle of the Madness of Small Worlds at New York Theatre Workshop Next Door

“Bright ribbons are all over Shakespeare Glen in Forest Park — wrapped around tree trunks, fluttering from the branches, floating from the bars of tall lighting platforms.The stage, accented with vibrant stripes of yellow fuchsia, holds colorful pots of plants and blankets of flowers. Music rings out, thanks to the Dust Ensemble. ‘Benvenuto a Verona’ proclaims a sign over one of the big curlicues framing the stage. Araoz infuses the whole production with that Italianate flavor. Wealthy teens like Romeo, of the house of Montague, and Juliet, of the house of Capulet, come of age in a world of festival and ritual, high passion and deep mourning. Of course they fall in love at first sight; of course their love ends in catastrophe a few days later. Araoz has built a world for them of vibrant color, a world calibrated entirely to maximum measures.”

St. Louis Post-Dispatch by Judith Newmark, June 2, 2018
about Romeo and Juliet at Shakespeare Festival St. Louis

“Aside from the absolute gratitude I felt during the sublimely beautiful balcony scene, and the anguish over each of the grisly death scenes, the nice thing about Shakespeare (in this famous case) is how wonderfully "lateral" the storytelling is—in other words, how much a great ensemble shares the load of recounting the swirling mess of tragic accidents and tragic misunderstandings; and how a first-rate cast like this can make particular story's elements echo across three hours' running time…All the fatal victims in the play are reduced to sudden damned horror and desolation in their final living moments, as style and romance are bleached-out in an instant by wretched mortality. As much as that magnificent balcony scene, all the awful teenaged deaths (and most especially Juliet's) are what you'll remember the following day…Like much of youth, it's all half exciting party, and half lonely nightmare.”

Talking Broadway by Richard T. Green, June 2, 2018
about Romeo and Juliet at Shakespeare Festival St. Louis

“Contrasted by a traditional Italian funeral processional, the contemporary scenery and the pace of the opening fight scene of Shakespeare Festival St. Louis’ presentation of Romeo and Juliet creates curiosity from the very beginning. But when Reynaldo Piniella eases on the stage as Romeo, he snatches the attention of the audience and never lets them go. His Romeo has some serious swag – and beyond the skinny jeans, leather jacket and dark glasses of his costume. Even in chill mode, his energy and presence starting from when he introduces himself to the audience set the tone for director Elena Araoz’s production that speaks to all ages…Shakespeare Festival St. Louis repackages “Romeo and Juliet” so that his words hit home – and creates a production that manages to engage even those digital natives who live in a constant state of distraction…Araoz brings diversity to the stage from every angle…Young people of color will find themselves reflected on stage…Shakespeare Festival St. Louis lives up to its promise to pay the gift of Shakespeare forward to a new generation – by creating a production that is an illustration of the world we now live in.”

The St. Louis American by Kenya Vaughn, June 7, 2018
about Romeo and Juliet at Shakespeare Festival St. Louis

“The Shakespeare Festival St. Louis turns to the much loved and often performed Romeo and Juliet for its 18th season and turns out a rendition of the beloved play that successfully mixes Shakespeare’s dialogue, story and themes with a contemporary attitude. The mash-up works, resulting in a slightly fantastic retelling that feels a bit like a 1980’s music video complete with a big, well-choreographed dance number. The dance has been a whimsical addition to recent Festival productions, and director Elena Araoz adds her touch with flair.The Shakespeare Festival production pulses with excitement and anticipation, a live three-piece band adding a constant rhythm that propels the emotion forward in concert with the action. The gorgeous scenic design by Margery and Peter Spack features references to the architecture and style of Verona, with modern strokes that lend the show an otherworldly yet vividly familiar sensibility. Dottie Marshall Englis' costume design employs bright color combinations and stylistic references to the 70s and 80s, with a touch of old Verona…The balcony scene is beautifully poetic and Wise and Piniella perfectly capture the full range of their characters in this definitive moment…Director Araoz keeps the show moving swiftly and smoothly through its paces to the final tragic conclusion and ensures the characters are likeable and the tension builds with steady determination from the opening moment to the final, tearful closing scene. Even those most familiar with the script are likely to find new and interesting perspectives in the freshly polished show.”

KDHX by Tina Farmer, June 8, 2018
about Romeo and Juliet at Shakespeare Festival St. Louis

“Araoz’s interpretation features some especially convincing fight choreography orchestrated by Paul Dennhardt in the sword battles between Mercutio and Tybalt or Romeo and Paris. Araoz utilizes not only the expansive main stage…but also has her players roam through the aisles and even at one point has Romeo ascend a light tower well back in the audience. The expansion underscores the carefree approach to this overly familiar tale…Reynaldo Piniella gives a laid-back, cocky portrayal of teen lover Romeo, in line with what a lad of his age and self-assurance might project. He shares an easy chemistry with Sigrid Wise, whose Juliet is headstrong and determined to follow her heart, no shrinking violet she.”

Ladue News by Mark Bretz, June 7, 2018
about Romeo and Juliet at Shakespeare Festival St. Louis

“First you notice the cube: white, sterile, and judging from the florescent light on the interior surface, a controlled environment. Inside the cube, there’s nothing but a woman lying in captivity: defeated, yet somewhat expectant. Then there’s a forest of rebars, extending in all directions, filling the space around this surreal, elevated cage. You feel at once as if in the midst of a jungle, and inside of someone’s nervous system. Even before anything’s happened, Justin Townsend’s set, along with Nathan Leigh’s soundscape, already captures the intense atmosphere of Catherine Filloux’s emotionally and psychologically charged play…Over time, we observe her in an increasingly fragile mental state, with only a Bible for reading material. However, it’s still clear that Betancourt never gives in: her response to her captors’ request to film a "proof of life" video is absolute silence. Fragments of her memories morph with her imagination; God appears in front of her, more as an imaginary friend than as an idol, in a state of religious euphoria. Marco Antonio Rodriguez plays all the male characters in the various pockets of Betancourt’s troubled mind. Versatile should be his middle name, as the actor effortlessly embodies Betancourt’s loving father, an American colleague, a friendly fellow hostage, the merciless guerrilla leader (always wearing a Che Guevara T-shirt), and a teenage soldier who takes pity on Betancourt….Kimber Riddle's portrayal of Betancourt shows the evolution of the politician in distress, as we trace fragments of her memories to figure out the whole story….It offers a poignant anatomy of Betancourt’s psyche as a woman, a politician, and a victim of different ideologies in the crossfire.”

Theatre is Easy by Ran Xia, April 28, 2017
about Kidnap Road at La MaMa

“The production that is currently at La MaMa is directed by Elena Araoz, who does not gloss over the play’s source material. The Woman, played by Kimber Riddle, is dressed in the same jeans and yellow Colombia Nueva teeshirt that Betancourt was wearing on February 23, 2002, when she ignored security warnings to abort a trip into FARC territory (for reasons that some observers interpreted as a tragically naive attempt to win votes in her presidential bid). Riddle also has the fine-featured, elegant beauty of Betancourt herself, so that it’s hard to see her character as anyone but Betancourt. Yet, Araoz’s intentions also apparently lean toward fiction…Riddle spends the 80 minutes of the play’s running time in a modernist white cube that is raised about five feet off the floor and encased by criss-crossing steel cords that evoke the dense Colombian jungle. As white lights come up, Kimber is a beautiful odalisk reposing on her side in the sleek interior, like a jewel in its box. This is in some ways how Betancourt’s fellow prisoners viewed her, for her alleged selfishness and the special privileges she demanded and received from her captors.”

Exeunt Magazine by Molly Grogan, May 14, 2017
about Kidnap Road at La MaMa

“Upon entering the space at La MaMa Theater, and thanks in part to Justin Townsend’s impressive set design and lights by Michael McGee, we are immediately transported into the environment created by Elena Araoz to experience Catherine Filloux’s fascinating story…The piece, presented in English with sporadic Spanish and French, is so well directed…Araoz directs with a sharp eye and stretches her actors to extreme levels of performance. Kimber Riddle manages the varying emotional states of her character with impressive ease…Physically and emotionally, Marco Antonio Rodriguez expertly manages from the most realistic to the most abstract of characters; incidentally, the scenes between Woman and God are rich in language and execution. The image of God swinging on a swing in a world of kidnapped and kidnappers is one of the biggest successes of text, direction and interpretation in this production…Kidnap Road is a phenomenal night of theater. One of very few instances where story, direction and acting are so well fused and synchronized it is impossible for the audience to ever feel disconnected.”

Time Square Chronicles by Virginia Jimenez, May 10, 2017
about Kidnap Road at La MaMa

“As stories and themes repeat, we can slowly put together a timeline of the kidnapping and the events that follow. We learn more about the captured woman via scenes with her captors, her father, her children, her lover, and the god of her conscious. Every moment gives insight to her life and her torture. Under the direction of Elena Araoz, the symbolism of a physically limited woman who is constantly affected and restricted by the actions of a man is not lost in a personal and/or political context."

Hector Luis Sin Censura, Teatro, May 7, 2017 (original review in Spanish)
about Kidnap Road at La MaMa

“disciplined direction of Elena Araoz, who knows how to give this stageful of tormented souls their due.”

Light and Sound America, by David Barbour, December 14, 2016
about Alligator with The Sol Project and New Georges

“Parentless twins Ty and Emerald (Dakota Granados and Lindsay Rico) are the reptile-wrestling ringleaders, a performance they enact so athletically Emerald later has to explain it’s not for sport but money—“You think we wrestle gators just for fun?” she deadpans. And Rico nails Emerald’s taciturn, primal mannerisms. Always sweaty and scowling, Emerald keeps everyone at pole’s length so that her pains and secrets, much like those of the other Everglades kin, are undetectable. The only people she does let in are Ty (played with fire and sympathy by Granados), who, on midnight drives, plans giddy escapes to Vegas and leaves roadkill in the dust, and eventually Lucy (Talene Monahon), the savvy wanderer who becomes Emerald’s booze supplier and confidante. Monahon, who knows how to split the difference between maneuvering and manipulating, is mesmerizing. Like Ty and Emerald, her Lucy is a creature of survival….These actions and angst are augmented by the show’s live band, an ensemble that lives just beyond the gate leading to the swamp, making its cacophony all the more menacing. The simple but telling set is designed by Arnulfo Maldonado who lets the swamp’s gate and circular wrestling pit and pool morph into a character of its own. From that gate, Emerald’s fears do appear as the alligator himself, personified by Bobby Moreno. The introduction of the surreal in the form of a literal gator borders on cliché, but Emerald’s climactic and inevitable encounter with the beast is a stunning, messy battle of a girl learning to face herself….mighty production directed by Elena Araoz”

Theatre is Easy, by Billy McEntee, December 6, 2016
about Alligator with The Sol Project and New Georges

“The stage is dominated by the circular gator pit that doubles as most of the play's locations, and thus, fittingly and symbolically, everyone, including some of the audience, gets wet at some point, while the water gets progressively murkier. If the alligator stands for something atavistic, for what doesn't evolve or change, then wrestling one too becomes an important metaphor, as does the continuous return to the gator pit. It is difficult to escape cycles, whether of poverty, addiction, or even adherence to social prescriptions. The play itself cycles back to Ty's opening pitch to the tourists multiple times, producing an interesting effect through shifting audience reactions. Similarly, Danny's resonant realization that the raccoons that he and Ty have treated as targets for violent amusement are in fact living beings with souls, that none of this is actually a game, is an important step, but only a step, on the wider, twistier journey that play captures. If this sounds like a lot for one play to capture, it is, but Alligator overwhelmingly succeeds by embracing its chaos rather than neatly tying things up.”

Culture Catch, by Leah Richards, December 10, 2016
about Alligator with The Sol Project and New Georges

“The storylines are shown to us in a spectacular set that draws our attention constantly and transports us to the everglades with the use of the atmosphere. The mist that populated the stage eases us into this chaotic world and the musicians behind the big wooden wall welcomed us into the frenzy. The fight choreography of the piece was brutal and realistic, while Em’s dance at the beginning is mesmerizing.”

Manhattan with a Twist, by Nelson Diaz-Marcano, December 13, 2016
about Alligator with The Sol Project and New Georges

“The acting is exceptional…The direction is amazing. Elena Araoz's staging is stylized without overdoing it. It's complex and layered, while still being extremely accessible…The theater space transports you.”

Yes Broadway, October 16, 2017
about Alligator with The Sol Project and New Georges

“How much drama could possibly be packed into a show about three people with IQs far below the national average who rarely leave their rural Appalachian farm? And how could the story of their squabbles ever appeal to an audience as sophisticated as ours, in a city as cosmopolitan as New York—let alone engage us? Honestly, I don't know how it happens... but trust me on this: it happens. Nicole Villamil will steal your heart as Mae, a woman who can barely read but believes that, with perseverance, she will eventually escape to a better life. Julian Elijah Martinez will freak-you-the-fuck-out as the straight-from-Deliverance Lloyd, her “family” who isn't really family and “mate” who cheats on her with the livestock. And Nelson Avidon will just impress the hell out of you as Henry, the smartest of the bunch, who's mere presence gives Mae hope—until the point that it doesn’t. So, what makes this production more intense than you can possibly imagine? Maybe it's Maria Irene Fornes' incredible script. Maybe the credit goes to director Elena Araoz. Maybe it's that everyone in the cast really has their characters sussed out, really seems to have come from the backwoods of early twentieth century America. Or maybe it's that the whole thing just plays right into our sophisticated, cosmopolitan stereotypes of what takes place in the distant reaches of our nation's red states. But let's be real: it must be the perfect storm of all of these factors—plus the minimalist yet effective scenic design (Regina Garcia); the unique freeze-frame lighting and sound effects (Maria-Cristina Fuste and Nathan Leigh) that terminate each of the multitude of tension-filled, minutes-long scenes; and costumes (Sarita Fellows) that look like they were stolen right off the backs of people who simply can't afford to have the clothes stolen right off their backs.”

Opplaud, October 8, 2017
about Mud with Boundless Theatre Company

“Under Elena Araoz's direction, this foursome explodes on stage with their strong and opposing energies that are felt for the full 90 minutes. Olowin is demure and charming with her innocence and blissful zest for life and all things joyful. It is welcome breeze in the sea of life's cynics and skeptics. Some may argue that Sridharan's Glen is not a far off representation of the often forgetful or emotionally unavailable nature of men that is possessed with his illness that prevents him from moving forward with relationships. Frings is spot on as the modern power women who puts her career first and doesn't have as much time for children or family. She is the perfect match for Miler who likes to solve problems realistically and has no patience for complicated ideologies. It's fascinating to become engaged in these different personality types, as they try to navigate life's most intimate relationships.”

Broadway World, by Courtney Savoia, September 20, 2016
about Mechanics of Love with Two-by-For Productions

“Guha’s writing sparkles with quirky humor, as the play’s offbeat premise translates into an unconventional but utterly charming, funny tone. Under Elena Araoz’s direction, the cast delivers that offbeat quality impeccably. Frings in particular nails her character’s idiosyncrasies, to hilarious effect, while Miller’s incredulousness at the plot’s strangeness gives him a more grounded humor. Olowin’s performance as a ballerina whose dance skills leave everyone underwhelmed gets at the heart of the play’s quirkiness.”

StageBuddy by Auriane Desombrem, September 13, 2016
about Mechanics of Love with Two-by-For Productions

"Here directed and choreographed by Elena Araoz…This staging is refreshingly natural. In Act I when Violetta, feeling faint, invites her party guests to begin dancing in the next room without her, Ms. Mitchell, as Violetta, rests in a chair at the salon table. When Mr. Pomeroy's Alfredo, who is smitten with Violetta, comes alone to see her, he pulls up another chair close to her and straddles its backrest. The two remain seated realistically during their first romantic exchanges. And in the last act, when Violetta is dying, she does not stand up in a last flush of excitement on the return of her penitent lover, Alfredo, the way this scene is almost always staged...Ms. Mitchell sang the whole act, giving an affecting performance of the aria "Addio del passato," from her deathbed."

The New York Times by Anthony Tommasini, February 13, 2012
about La Traviata with New York City Opera at BAM
original production Sir Jonathan Miller

"Some of the most affecting moments of acting you're likely to find in a contemporary Traviata…Here you believe that a love that percolated for a year comes to fruition in one duet, caressingly sung in part by David Pomeroy whose caramel-hued tenor allowed each note to stretch out in a buttery blend of dark and light, barely touching Violetta in observance of contemporary social mores…When Violetta faints, her protector in the Baron Douphol checks in on her as he would any other investment, before going back, disaffectedly, to his newspaper. The revelries for which he presumably pays are maintenance costs for his love life…Social consciousness permeates the opera, with Downton Abbey–style interactions between courtesans, the men who keep them and their servants…There's a moment following Violetta's duet with Alfredo's father in which the two look a downward, desolate glance at each other, and then stare ahead once again before Violetta sighs, "Ebben?" ("Well, then?"). And you don't dare breathe when Alfredo, after cursing out Violetta, turns to find himself face-to-face with his father…Violetta is bedridden, barely moving throughout the final act. When Alfredo enters, he is struck in the doorway, dumbfounded, and you can imagine the stench of death and the shock of seeing a loved one wasted away. It's riveting when Violetta actually does make subtle movements or pulls herself up by the footboard to let out a ringing "Gran dio!" True to character, her final note is cut down in its prime, and you have to stare hard to see the moment at which she expires, making for one of the most affecting Violetta deaths I've seen."

WQXR by Olivia Giovetti, February 13, 2012
about La Traviata with New York City Opera at BAM

"Staged at BAM by Elena Araoz, the production flowed…Stage pictures stirred the imagination…an opening hoop-skirted tableau conjured a field of restless pastel haystacks."

New York Daily News by Joe Dziemianowicz, February 14, 2012
about La Traviata with New York City Opera at BAM

"…provided just the sort of intimacy, realism, and honesty that the company needs to distinguish itself not only from the Metropolitan Opera but from its own history…strips away 169 years of excess and provides us with the skeleton of the opera, focusing on the contrast between the public and the scandalous, and the private and brutally complex. Public spaces – Violetta's house, Flora's party – become spaces for private contemplation or confrontations, always with the feeling that everyone is listening, gossiping, and judging. This is most effective during Violetta and Alfredo's Act I duet "Un dì felice" and their Act II confrontation "Invitato a qui seguirmi," when we see the other guests in the interior rooms, eavesdropping on their confessions of love or running to witness the painful spectacle of accusation. Using the public to highlight intimacy of the private relationships around which the opera revolves, the production creates an intimacy and a spontaneity that is amplified by the close quarters of the Howard Gilman Opera House. Every vocal nuance, facial expression, and gesture reads as if the audience were watching it on a wide movie screen, forcing the audience's engagement."

Opera Pulse by Steven Jude Tietjen, February 18, 2012
about La Traviata with New York City Opera at BAM

"Doors in the walls are ajar, revealing the outside world where people dance, and visitors come and go. When society impinges on intimate lives, problems like those in La Traviata arise. As the world constricts in the final scene, Violetta, the fallen woman of the title, dies in the presence of those she loves most, all doors shut to ward off the world. Under Violetta's bed is a bedpan, reminding us that this is verismo opera...In NYCO's production, the story seems very fresh."

Berkshire Fine Arts by Susan Hall, February 13, 2012
about La Traviata with New York City Opera at BAM

"La Traviata was the best possible news for the company…clear, unfussy verismo. It sets the time and place, opens up the context into social values that are normally strange to us, and then stays out of the way of the music, singing and acting. The dramatic conflict in the story is silly to all but the most stuffy and anachronistic listeners — we believe in, and are moved by, the drama because Verdi's music makes it work. And because the artist made it work. Laquita Mitchell was a sweet, clear-voiced Violetta. She's a lyrical, graceful singer with a human presence, and her characterization was of a loving young woman cut down by tragedy, and facing it with empathetic equanimity, not one whose internal fires begat the consumption that fells her…If a measure of an opera company is the quality of what they put on stage, City Opera remains world class."

Seen and Heard International, by George Grella, March 7, 2012
about La Traviata with New York City Opera at BAM

"Araoz did have a deft hand with…the staging. The gypsy and matador choruses were exquisitely choreographed and a real highlight of Act II. The New York City Opera chorus also deserves mention for carrying off first-rate singing and some lively dancing during all the party scenes."

Bachtrack, Gale Martin, February 16, 2012
about La Traviata with New York City Opera at BAM

"Villano's new play features two pairs of upwardly mobile parents whose initially civil encounter steadily degenerates into nerve-shattering combat. But Company goes to further extremes, and its quartet of 40-something characters are not strangers but longtime friends. That means they have plenty of shared history, including a few seamy chapters whose details spill out during the course of an explosive afternoon. All of them have law degrees, too, so the dialogue has the strategic, hyper-verbal flavor of courtroom maneuvering and argumentation…Director Elena Araoz maintains a headlong pace, and all four cast members deliver vividly etched performances. Your attention is unlikely to flag."

The Boston Globe, by Don Aucoin, October 9, 2012
about The Company We Keep at Boston Playwrights' Theatre

"A well-crafted new play with high strung characters who snap, dialogue that crackles, and scenes that pop in unanticipated ways. Director Elena Araoz takes advantage of the script's inherent tension and discomfort to create suspense and many surprises in this cross between Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice. Marianna Bassham, John Kooi, Bill Mootos, and Jessica Webb breathe life into Villano's characters who are not such nice people, but whose flaws and neuroses provide rich fodder for conflict and plot…The Company We Keep is a black comedy with biting, stinging humor delivered with impeccable timing by this stellar cast of veteran actors…Ellie is all about appearances and keeping a lid on things. Her kitchen is pristine and even the contents of her cabinets are lined up like soldiers…When circumstances shift in the second act, Ellie's control becomes more manic and Webb channels Lady Macbeth scrubbing out a spill on the counter. Katherine is multi-faceted and Bassham has a field day bringing her different aspects into focus. Although she seems friendly and malleable, she is the steeliest of the four and ultimately takes control to get what she wants…Their nuanced performances will grab you and tighten their grip as the play careens to its conclusion…Set Designer Cameron Anderson gives us much that we need to know about Ellie with his spare, white kitchen. Jeff Adelberg lights everything brightly, leaving no safe place for hiding secrets…I'm not sure what I expected when I entered the theater, but I got more than I bargained for and enjoyed every word, twist, and turn. To quote Margo Channing in All About Eve, "Fasten your seat belts, it's going to be a bumpy night."

Broadwayworld.com, by Nancy Grossman, October 11, 2012
about The Company We Keep with Boston Playwrights' Theatre

Lucia di Lammermoor, the 19th-century Italian opera by Gaetano Donizetti, which is being given a stellar production at the Lebanon Opera House, has nearly all the elements required of a pot-boiling tragedy…This Opera North production sets the opera in Richmond, Va., at the end of the Civil War. The city is in ruins, and Enrico Ashton hopes to marry off his sister Lucia to a wealthy suitor, Arturo Bucklaw. But Lucia has fallen in love with a Union officer, Edgardo di Ravenswood, and resists her brother’s plans…Lucia is what feminist scholars have called the “Madwoman in the Attic,” the woman whose sanity is questioned because she objects to having her future controlled by others. Donizetti wasn’t a feminist, of course, but the opera, and this staging by Elena Araoz, does raise provocative questions about where the line of madness lies. Lucia has a mad scene, but is she mad? Or is she a young woman who has come through a long war in a bombarded city, who has also recently lost her mother and is under the thumb of a dictatorial brother? She snaps but whether this is the result of chronic mental instability or a kind of blunt force trauma is ambiguous. Opera North has done first-rate work in recent years but this production is exceptionally well-sung and acted. It has two star performances by [Angela] Mortellaro and DongWon Kim as Enrico Ashton, who bring not only power and a purity of line to vocally demanding roles but the kind of emotional conviction and truthfulness that sets the best opera singers apart. Are they acting singers or singing actors? They’re both, and you don’t want to miss them if you can help it.”

Valley News, by Nicola Smith, August 8, 2013
about Lucia di Lammermoor with Opera North, NH

"Both productions showed what can happen when a smart director and talented casts revitalize works that can become weighed down by musty cliches...Opera North’s production of Lucia di Lammermoor at the Lebanon Opera House this summer took an intensely Gothic tale of family, revenge and doomed lovers, which was originally set in 17th century Scotland, and moved it to Richmond, Va., during the Civil War. The two warring families became Union and Confederate...The direction by Elena Araoz gave a florid melodrama new life by suggesting that the heroine Lucia, who has one of the great mad scenes in opera (or anywhere, really), is as much the unwitting pawn of a patriarchal society as she is a fragile flower... At this stage in its development, Opera North is, judging by the caliber of this production, just about where it wants to be."

"How the Arts Moved Us in 2013: Our Favorite Moments in Books, Art, Music, Movies and Theater"

Valley News, by Nicola Smith, December 28, 2013
about Lucia di Lammermoor with Opera North, NH

"The opening night of A Midsummer Night's Dream showed that the festival is as skilled with comedy as with history. This was a well-paced and well-executed performance directed by Elena Araoz and utilizing scenic and lighting designs by Broadway designer Justin Townsend that transformed the picturesque outdoor theater at Vyšehrad into a truly enchanting setting…Uniquely suited to this theater, A Midsummer Night's Dream utilized every inch of this very specific performance space, with actors climbing up and over walls and peeking at times through the tree branches that arch over the stage."

The Prague Post, Stephan Delbos, June 20, 2012
about A Midsummer Night's Dream with Prague Shakespeare Festival, Prague

“The troupe not only gave its audiences something different; it gave them juicy morsels to chew on, each very different from the others and pretty novel in and of themselves...Horrocks (and Toutatis too), written by Mac Wellman and directed by Elena Araoz, is a solo piece featuring a character know as ‘A very tall young girl...’ Erin Mallon...does delicious, delicate justice to Wellman’s purling riot of wordplay. This is a piece that is, or might as well be, written in what literary scholars call ‘schizophrenese,’ a style of language that has an immediate clarity, but that seems to defy focused scrutiny. It seems, at times, like a metaphor for sexual politics, but its specific imagery -- detailing, as it does, deliberately vague notions -- doesn’t stand still long enough to take on any definite labels. This is a composition... and yes, it does have a lyrical and compositional music about it... that forces you to lie back and surrender to it. Act Two is a single presentation, also written by Wellman and directed by Araoz, a musical tour de force in which the four-piece band Electric Chamber Music takes the lyricism of the second play and brings it to literal, musical life, as a futuristic (or fantastical? Or psychotronic?) emcee -- or rather, M.C.R. (Timothy Siragusa) -- narrates and sings in a long howl of articulate frenzy, tinged not only with madness but also with bluegrass, classical, and neoclassical. It’s a tale about the ‘erasure of identity,’ complete with ‘telepathic transparencies,’ a ‘hay ride’ into either solipsism or Nirvana... and maybe both at once...For aficionados of the slanted, the atonal, the minimalist, and the hyper-shapely, super-smart edge of the arts, this The Madness of Small Worlds was better than your standard dose of Darjeeling. It was even better than a double shot of rye.”

Edge Boston by Kilian Melloy, October 29, 2013
about Wu World Woo and Horrocks (and Toutatis too) with Sleeping Weazel at ArtsEmerson

“Sleeping Weazel Production Company is celebrating its second season in Boston, and is starting off with a bang by introducing us to the off-the-charts works of Mac Wellman...The acting here was top notch...Special kudos to Ms. Mallon, who delivered an incredible monologue as the tall, thin girl….on the charcoal road...It is a mind bending experience, so much so you may hear a snap.”

didyouweekend.com by Richard DiMaggio, October 26, 2013
about Wu World Woo and Horrocks (and Toutatis too) with Sleeping Weazel at ArtsEmerson

"This new play, based on (or at least inspired by) Samuel Taylor Coleridge's poem "Christabel" (1797-1800), is a diverting, idiosyncratic little fable that turns primal…Coleridge never finished the poem, so Ms. Bustamante and the director, Elena Araoz, are free to go wild at the end. And they do. The big finish, which puts Susan Zeeman Rogers's clever set to the test, is both tragic and optimistic. The last word goes to the poem's mastiff, played by a flat dog statue, whose growls and other vocalizations are comic high points."

The New York Times by Anita Gates, March 19, 2009
about Thirst: a spell for Christabel with First Light Theatre Group and HERE Arts Center

"The production does succeed beautifully in its stagecraft. Set designer Susan Zeeman Rogers captures both the drabness of Christabel's day-to-day life and the looming power and mystery of the forest and of Enid. The stage is framed with rough, burlap-mesh covered cutouts of trees, and tree silhouettes as a backdrop. But everything hides a secret and a potential for transformation— trees contain drawers and cupboards; Enid emerges from a drawer in a piece of furniture that mutates from a burly kitchen table to a girl's delicate bed—and just when you think all the tricks have been played out, the final scene completely transforms the space yet again…marrying simplicity with mystery and a touch of stage magic."

Nytheatre.com by Loren Noveck, March 13, 2009
about Thirst: a spell for Christabel with First Light Theatre Group and HERE Arts Center

"It's the performances that put the show over the top, and director Elena Araoz makes the most of her cast's considerable chops. Fraizer, a trained clown, has some dexterous moments of physical comedy, and Pinter invests the character of Stephen Marx with the proper note of egotistical bombast. Still, Miriam is the show's true comedic center, and the role gives Lori Funk the chance to really go to town. All self-dramatizing poses and elegantly arched nostrils, her Miriam comes off like a...glamorous monster with a kind of undefined, all-consuming voraciousness. Plus she can peel a mango like nobody's business."

Backstage by A.J. Mell, June 9, 2008 CRITIC'S PICK
about Three on A Couch with Redshift Productions at Soho Playhouse

"Djerassi's play expertly mixes the genres film noir, commedia dell'arte, and broad farce into a hilarious cocktail of theatre. Everything is working here: the jokes come from all directions, both high and lowbrow. Elena Araoz's direction takes a highly intelligent and verbose script and wrings every last ounce of comedy out of it. The design complements the action with an expert touch...The cast is firing on all cylinders as well. Mark Pinter plays the megalomaniacal author to the film noir hilt, while still finding room for some well-placed clowning. Lori Funk plays Marx's estranged trophy wife like a boulder rolling downhill; once she gets started, nothing can stop her short of the curtain call. With two such powerful actors onstage, a third actor might be overshadowed completely. Unless that actor is Brad Fraizer. His nuanced portrayal of the world's most neurotic shrink is a study in comic dedication. He opens the show the way every great comedy should: with a brutally hilarious pratfall. His performance is the true gem of this piece and it should not be missed."

nytheatre.com by Peter Schuyler, June 6, 2008
about Three on A Couch with Redshift Productions at Soho Playhouse

"The production effectively throws together psychoanalysis, art, ego, obsession, marriage and mangoes (yes, mangoes) to create a wonderfully jocular piece of theater…Whether it's Funk's excessive blinking, the manner in which Pinter majestically wraps a scarf around his neck or Frazier's circus-like balancing on an ordinary wooden stool, the physical comedy works as effectively as any of the spoken dialogue."

EDGE by Jim Halterman, June 11, 2008
about Three on A Couch with Redshift Productions at Soho Playhouse

"The director has her cast play brilliantly with the fourth wall; the action is speckled with telling details like Theo bending into the stage light to read a letter, Miriam violently batting her eyelashes for much too long, husband and wife pounding out all the lines of a dramatic private scene while looking only at the audience. All told, it's a full-throated sounding out of the possibilities of live theater."

Blogcritics Magazine by Jon Sobel, June 8, 2008
about Three on A Couch with Redshift Productions at Soho Playhouse

"A triptych of short plays by Wallace now at Central Square Theater in a well-acted production by Underground Railway Theater…riveting."

The Boston Globe By Don Aucoin, November 25, 2010 CRITIC'S PICK
about The Fever Chart with Underground Railway Theatre

"Elena Araoz's production for URT, deployed on Susan Zeeman Rogers's evocatively tiled and tattered set, smartly wraps Wallace's dreams in a jarring between-scenes cacophony of white noise and music...Araoz teases the humor from the plays and delicately emphasizes the echoes of each in the others."

The Boston Phoenix by Carolyn Clay, December 1, 2010
about The Fever Chart with Underground Railway Theatre

"The Fever Chart is ideal for URT, a company that generally goes in for the fantastical. Director Elena Araoz keeps us engaged thanks to tight pacing and a solid cast. The audience is positioned on all four sides of the stage, forcing us to face each other as we collectively parse out impossible situations. Susan Zeeman Rogers' set beautifully evokes a bombed-out building, haphazardly repaired and reinhabited too soon. It's another fitting image for a world gone to pieces, rebuilding itself in the realm of dreams, if nowhere else."

The Boston Herald by Jenna Scherer, November 30, 2010
about The Fever Chart with Underground Railway Theatre

"Elena Araoz's direction is as nimble as a folk dance…Araoz shows a genuine flair for stagecraft like when Mr. Miari throws a bucket of bird bones into the air, only to see them transform into white feathers. While there's plenty of talk about snipers' bullets tearing through flesh, it is the image of feathers wafting to the floor that stays with us."

The Jewish Journal by Don Stradley, November 26, 2010
about The Fever Chart with Underground Railway Theatre

"Director Elena Araoz has gathered an amazingly talented cast, in which she has an Israeli and Jew playing Palestinians, and the daughter of the late Edward Said…portraying a callous Israeli nurse's aide. Their acting is so powerful, the audience is stricken with silent admiration - and puzzlement."

East Boston Times by Sheila Barth, December 1, 2010
about The Fever Chart with Underground Railway Theatre

"Elegantly staged in the round by director Elena Araoz, on Susan Zeeman Roger's spare but evocative set, the production is beautifully rendered…The acting across the board is quite fine."

Hub Review by Thomas Garvey, December 6, 2010
about The Fever Chart with Underground Railway Theatre

"Phenomenal performances…the acting is, across the board, superb…it's a clear image anchored in a steady hand."

Dig by J. Patrick Brown, December 1-8, 2010
about The Fever Chart with Underground Railway Theatre

"A composed study of grief, Unanswered, We Ride examines how different coping mechanisms can tear a family apart…Calmly directed by Elena Araoz, Jaclyn Villano's script is perceptive on the creeping eruptions of conflict arising from sorrow."

The Scotsman by Jay Richardson, August 22, 2011
about Unanswered, We Ride at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe

"A woman resigned to expecting catastrophes in her life, Reese O'Leary finds herself facing her greatest trial thus far – the accidental death of her daughter – and we join her in a heart-wrenching process of picking up the shattered pieces of her life. The airport takes centre stage, where elements of direction, chance and emotional baggage are cleverly incorporated along the way. Outstandingly convincing acting aside, playwright Jaclyn Villano showcases her exceptional linguistic abilities in articulating the most complex and profound of emotions…It is a painful journey thankfully ending with a heart-warming reconciliation."

ThreeWeeks – The Edinburgh Festival, by Cheryl Moh, August 13, 2011
about Unanswered, We Ride at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe

"Indeed, cinematic in style and substance it very much is as the three actors, using only a karaoke machine, two bench seats and a very significant suitcase, become the various protagonists within the story…In the very capable hands of three superb actors, Joy Barrett, Joe Tippett and Martha Wollner and concisely directed by Elena Araoz, Jaclyn Villano's play is delivered clearly and seamlessly… It is all so well drawn and so empathetically portrayed that that we are drawn in. We are made to care about the family. We become desperate for them to hang together. We love the husband and hope that he will not take the easy route and chuck her out for her indulgence…Barrett is real and vulnerable. Tippett is exquisite in his portrayal as both caring husband and godlike father. Wollner is delicious as salt-of-the-earth-mother-in-law and Sadie - the bohemian barmaid. But the real honours should go to Araoz for directing this out of the dirge it could have been in less capable hands. Instead, we are taken to a place we otherwise would not go and might not want to if we had the choice, but we are made to empathise and care. I found myself wiping tears away more than once, and left the room, better for it."

Fringe Review by Guy Masterson, August 22, 2011
about Unanswered, We Ride at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe

"This is a riveting production directed by Elena Araoz...[She] guides and captures the pace, the development and the characterizations brilliantly...perfect for the Arthur Miller material."

The Complete Hoot by Jo Evarts, February 1-15, 2008
about The Price at Northern Stage

"It's disturbing, gripping, though provoking theatre...Matching Miller's mastery is a four-person Northern Stage cast that brings the characters to life with breathtaking skill."

Eagle Times by Chuck and Sue Bingaman, February 7, 2008
about The Price at Northern Stage

"The acting is powerful, each of the actors bringing their script so intensely to life...directed with great sensitivity by Elena Araoz."

Journal Opinon by Louise Sandberg, February 6, 2008
about The Price at Northern Stage

"An art historian at a Vienna museum (Lisa Harrow) and a chemistry professor (Simon Jones) clash over the authenticity of an ancient bronze sculpture of a young man. Reputations and egos are at stake. Debates concerning aesthetics versus science are inevitable. Because the playwright, Carl Djerassi, is himself a world-class chemist (he's credited as one of the inventors of the Pill), you may guess who gets the upper hand, though both sides have their innings. The director, Elena Araoz, keeps the proceedings lively, never allowing intellectuality to stand in the way of a good joke. There's even a touch of animate-inanimate eroticism."

The New Yorker, May 28, 2007
about Phallacy with Redshift Productions at The Cherry Lane Theatre

"The conflict between science and art and truth and beauty has rarely been this engaging. Or, indeed, funny...Video projections are frequently used to show the statue in question as well as set scenes, and several times, they are ingeniously cast directly upon the actors in a gorgeous piece of theatrical legerdemain...If you enjoy witty academic banter, philosophy or great art, this is the show for you."

www.BroadwayWorld.com by Duncan Pflaster, May 19, 2007
about Phallacy with Redshift Productions at The Cherry Lane Theatre

"There are some performances, some moments, that should absolutely invigorate anyone, artist or audience... Io: a myth about you is crammed to overflowing with them. The new play by Monika Bustamante staged by Shrewd Productions recasts the tale of Io as a story about down-at-the-heels gods plotting over gentrification, drugs and murder. It's a Rent meets Rocky Horror Picture Show sort of aesthetic with more than a dash of Dallas...Elena Araoz's direction wrings out passion and comedy from a superb ensemble cast."

Austin American Statesman by Joey Seiler, October 23, 2007
about Io: a myth about you with Shrewd Productions at The Vortex

"Playwright Monika Bustamante has recreated Io in a world so immediately modern that it comes with references to Dr. Phil, Botox, and The Secret...A strong current of desperation propels the play forward...Director Elena Araoz takes full advantage of the ramshackle stage to establish this anxious, off-kilter environment. The set consists of wayward wood, dilapidated stairs, and chicken wire, and characters continually pop up from new angles to keep the show visually captivating...Io rarely lets up...Beyond the visual stimulation is a strong ensemble of actors who live up to Io's intense and madcap world...At times funny, disturbing, beautiful, tender, and, above all, captivating, Io: a myth about you is a top-notch production that rages about like a rough sea...and the journey is certainly worth taking."

Austin Chronicle by Avimaan Syam, November 2, 2007
about Io: a myth about you with Shrewd Productions at The Vortex

"Choreographer Elena Araoz, did a fabulous job with the chorus, especially during the party scenes of Violetta (Libiamo) and Flora (the Gypsy and Matador numbers)."

reviewvancouver.org by Ed Farolan, April 2011
about La traviata at Vancouver Opera

"Another tiny glimpse of detail would be the handling of the third act masquerade…Violetta's vapid friends dressing up for the charade, pleased as punch with their own cleverness: hollow people acting in a hollow way. This makes her earlier willingness to spend her last days sequestered in the country with a sweet, silly boy a bit more credible."

Musical Notes by David Gordon Duke, May 2011
about La traviata at Vancouver Opera

"The actors and musicians spread themselves throughout the building, sprinkling feathers from the balcony and showing shadow puppets on screens flanking the pulpit. It was an innovative…enthralling production... Elena Araoz kept the action tight and used the space imaginatively...Aurea's Faust is multilayered, and it's that richness that sets it apart from most music-theatre productions...Especially with an intense Nigel Gore in the lead, it doesn't get much better than that."

Providence Journal by Channing Gray, October 20, 2006
about Faust with Aurea at the FirstWorksProv Festival

"It was pleasant and refreshing to see director Elena Manuela Araoz cleaving to the very bosom of Shakespeare with armor covering the army fatigues of the soldiers, a bare stage for most of the play, and red rags, glitter, and rose petals substituting for gallons of blood. While Araoz has cut the text radically, she's cut it well, and she stages it well...Araoz approaches the "comic tone" problem like this: the first act is played as "tragedy," complete with classical music during the scene changes; the second is played as "comedy," with modern, up-tempo scoring. The actors seem to follow right along."

Austin Chronicle by Barry Pineo, January 16, 2004
about Titus Andronicus, Austin Shakespeare Festival

"The majestic palace looks luxurious and peaceful, but it camouflages a fierce battlefield...The Power also features diverse stage scenery…dazzling costumes, and dancing and music in an ancient Chinese style which will delight audiences."

China Daily, August 31, 2005
about The Power, Noble Theatre Bridge, Beijing