Monday, June 19, 2017

HARTFORD THEATERWORKS UNVEILS "FADE"




ELIZABETH RAMOS AS LUCIA    PHOTO BY LANNY NAGLER

What would you do if you were hired for a job you really didn't want and felt you were unqualified to do?  How would you feel if you discovered after the fact that you only got the position because you filled the minority hiring quota?  Come ask Lucia, the insecure new writer at a high powered TV station in Los Angeles who does not know if she is there as a glorified coffee  girl or to punch up the characters on a new and potent Latino drama.

Come take a journey of discovery with Lucia in a new play by Tanya Saracho "FADE" at Hartford TheaterWorks until Friday, June 30 and learn with her how her Mexican heritage, her values and principles can get lost in a maze of compromises.

Elizabeth Ramos' Lucia is eager to find a place for herself in this new alien world of television.  She finds herself in Los Angeles, amidst the sun and palm trees, when she really wants to be back in Chicago where she successfully wrote her first novel. Like a burrito without a wrapper, she is struggling to establish herself but is finding resistance from her rich, American white boss and the whole team of writers.  Where does she fit in or does she?

The only one to offer even a modicum of concern and a tentative hand of welcome is the office's custodian, also sharing her heritage.  Their immigrant backgrounds are quite different as are their current situations, yet they manage to find some shaky common ground. Eddie Martinez's Abel is willing to share a pizza and beer and talk Lucia off her literal  dangerous perch where she is in fear of falling.

How his real life story becomes her fictional television script  is one of betrayal, whether innocent or intentional, is for you the viewer to decide.  These two actors quickly capture our interest as they  become confidants and learn to trust.  Jerry Ruiz directs this slowly building trap of opportunity and advancement trumping friendship.

For tickets ($40-65), call TheaterWorks, 233 Pearl Street, Hartford at 860-527-7838 or online atwww.theaterworkshartford.org.  Performances are Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday matinees at 2:30 pm, with extra 6:30 p.m. Sunday show June  25.

Class and culture clash, with ambition winning the war, as Lucia and Abel forge a relationship that, ultimately, does not stand up to the test.
ELIZABETH RAMOS AND EDDIE MARTINEZ IN "FADE"
PHOTO BY LANNY NAGLER

Sunday, June 18, 2017

"NOISES OFF!" A FUNNY FARCE IN STORRS







What do sardines, sheets, sheiks, shenanigans, a stage company, secrets, screams, sneak thieves, sex maniacs and Spain all have to do with each other?  On the surface very little you might say.  But if you head to the Jorgensen Theatre at the University of Connecticut at Storrs by Sunday, June 25, the Connecticut Repertory Theatre will illustrate all the extraneous connections and have a lot of fun in the process.

It's time to raise the curtain for Michael Frayn's funny farce "Noises Off" when the cast of a British theatre company tries to put on a show called "Nothing On."  It's dress rehearsal and the director Lloyd (John Bixler) has his hands full trying to control the players.  Think a lion tamer where the lions are on the loose, or on strike and generally uncooperative.

Personal intrigues, like an unplanned pregnancy, cause problems and threaten to sabotage the show. The audience is witness to all the complications in front of and behind the stage, on a wonderful revov=lving set designed by Tim Brown.

A dress or technical rehearsal is supposed to be the last minute opportunity to polish and perfect a performance before it opens to a first night audience.  Staging is fine tuned, lines are delivered flawlessly, costumes and props are put in place and the director makes sure no last minute problems exist.

Imagine the nightmare that Lloyd as the director experiences  when plates of sardines go missing, doors either won't close or open, the actor (Steve Hayes) playing the bungling burglar is off getting drunk and half the cast is having an affair with the other half.  There's more drama going on behind the curtain than in front of it.

Look out for bottles of brandy, bedsheets, bouquets of flowers, boxes, baggage, a baby, bathmats, battleaxes and blood not to mention the required ton of  slamming doors.  Silliness is clearly on parade, in one door and out the other, from the first moment Dotty, a ditzy and determined Jennifer Cody, answers the phone.  The cast that also includes Curtis Longfellow, Jayne Ng, Gavin McNicholl, Arlene  Bozich, Grace Allyn and Michael Doherty is off and running, literally and figuratively.  Vincent Cardinal directs this barrel of fun that quickly rolls out of control, even if there are no monkeys on stage.

For tickets ($12-55), call the CT Repertory Theatre, Storrs at 860-486-2113 or online at www.crt.uconn.edu..  Shows are Tuesday to Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., with matinees at 2 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.  The Summer Nutmeg Series will conclude with NEWSIES, July 6-16.

You may never look at sardines quite the same way ever again after they go flying on stage during the hilarious havoc of "Noises Off!" where a sneak peek behind the curtain may prove hazardous to your health.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

DON'T CONFUSE "FUN HOME" WITH A FUN HOUSE







Alison Bechdel is not afraid to open the closet door and step proudly out into the light of revelation.  In college, she bravely emerged as a lesbian, and shortly afterward her father Bruce, often violent and suffering from depression, committed suicide.  The fact that he too was gay and could never admit it, especially after his daughter's open pronouncement, may have conspired to cause his desperate act.

The Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts is welcoming the national tour of "Fun Home," the multiple Tony Award winning Best Musical by Lisa Kron for book and lyrics and Jeanine Tesori for music from Tuesday, June 20 to Sunday, June 25.  Based on an exceptional graphic novel penned by Bechdel herself,"Fun Home" explores her origins, growing up in a small town in Pennsylvania, as the daughter of a father who teaches high school English, restores old houses and runs a funeral home and a mom who oversees the raising of three children.

The musical examines Alison at a trio of distinct ages of life, as a child of ten, a college student and today as woman in her forties.  With the advantage of hindsight, we witness Alison "remembering," trying to cull from the past the important clues that will impact the present.

Understanding her father and his secret life involving young men and her own blooming sexuality, Alison examines the journals she has kept to find revealing answers about her family. The musical has been termed "wholly original," exquisite," "ground breaking" and "uplifting" for it is not every family 
that seeks entertainment playing hide and seek inside the ever  present coffins.  As a cartoonist, Alison is able to see the world in quirky art drawings as she becomes a detective probing her past for answers to the mysteries of her childhood. The biggest question is who was her dad and did she having role or responsibility in his death?

For tickets ($25.50-95.50), call the Bushnell, 166 Capitol Avenue, Hartford at 860-987-5900 or online at 
www.bushnell.org. Performances are Tuesday to Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 1 p.m. and 6:30 p..m.

Let Alison Bechdel draw you literally and figuratively into her past as she creates a distinct picture of her family through her adult eyes.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

COME VISIT THE GARDENS OF BEATRIX FARRAND






Documentary film maker Karyl Evans wants to take you down the proverbial garden path.  For the last three years, she has been hopscotching across the country researching the creations of one woman's enterprising works, a socialite who dared to venture into a male dominated word: landscape architecture.  This forty minute movie, "The Life and Gardens of Beatrix Farrand," reveals the exquisite works of a lady way ahead of her time.

Born to a privileged lifestyle in New York City in 1872, Beatrix Farrand was the niece of author Edith Wharton.  She explored the gardens of Europe for four months and then set her sights on a career in America, primarily on the East Coast.  Over a remarkable five decades, Farrand created over 200 garden sites, being hailed as the most successful female landscape architect of 20th century America.

From sites in Bar harbor, Maine where her family had a summer home, to prestigious undertakings like the National Cathedral in Washington, D. C., a commission for the first Mrs. Woodrow Wilson for the White House (now redesigned as the Jacqueline Kennedy Garden), Dumbarton Oaks as well as gardens on the campuses of Yale, Princeton and Occidental, Farrand left her indelible mark. 

From botanist Charles Sprague Sargent, after she moved into his home, she learned landscape gardening, drafting, elevation, surveying and engineering. She furthered her studies at the Columbia School of Mines.  In her creations, she favored native plantings. 

Six-time Emmy Award-winning documentary filmmaker and Yale Fellow Karyl Evans has focuses her camera on a unique woman who might have been forgotten without her efforts.  Farrand's unusual career choice makes her a worthy subject for examination, as Evans spotlights fifty of her gardening sites across the country, highlighting how relevant they still are today.

Scott Koniecko, President of the Beatrix Farrand Society said of her film, "We are all duly impressed with the way you are able to put your well researched information together in such an eloquently concise and comprehensive way."  

In 2014, Farrand was recognized by Built by Women New York City, to salute outstanding sites engineered and built by women, for her creation the Peggy Rockefeller Rose Garden at the New York Botanical Garden.

"The Life and Gardens of Beatrix Farrand" is now available for screening by the producer and for purchase.  Go to www.BeatrixFarrandDocumentary.com.  Come fall in love with the lush rainbow colored creations by this master architect, a pioneer, of the landscape world.

Monday, June 12, 2017

COME TO THE FESTIVAL !


                                       THE ANTI-GRAVITY ACT  LEO


Come celebrate  New Haven and the 2017 International Festival of Arts and Ideas until Saturday, June 24.  Every day in a dozen exciting ways, the Festival is offering a plethora of activities, 80% free for the taking, for the whole family to enjoy.

Think of the Festival as a giant gift box filled with surprises and goodies for your pleasure.  Open it to see what jumps out.  Attend the world premiere of "Whitman, Melville, Dickinson-Passions of Bloom" by Martin Bresnick, a literary exploration on Tuesday, June 20 at 8 p.m. at Sprague Hall, 470 College Street ($35-65).  For some south of the border rhythms, go listen to "Afro Peruvian New Trends Orquestra " Monday, June 19 at 8:30 p.m. at Center Church, 250 Temple Street ($10).

How about a walking tour of Wooster Street to learn about the Immigrant Experience on Wednesday, June 21 at 5:30 p.m. (free) or a bike ride to the Ninth Square (free).  Discover the tasty dish Rolie Polie Guacamole for a mash of funk, rock and folk music at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, June 14 at the United Church on the Green ($10) .  Take a peek at the fascination of an Open Ring Circus on Thursday, June 22 at 6:30 p.m. at the New Haven Green (free).

For an intriguing conversation, come learn about playwright August Wilson with Constanza Romeso and Harry  J. Elam Jr. at the Yale University Art Gallery (free) on Thursday, June 22 at 5:30 p.m. or one with Taylor Mac and Bassem Youssef at the Yale University Art Gallery on Saturday, June 24 at 3 p.m. (free).

If you enjoy music, the Yale Institute for Music Theatre at the Off Broadway Theatre is presenting a pair of new staged singings, "Gumbo" and "Cowboy Bob," on Friday and Saturday, June 24 and 25 at 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. both days ($25).  Grab a lawn chair and the kiddies for some headline concerts on the New Haven Green on Saturday, June 17 at 6 p.m. with TROKER and Fulaso, on Sunday, June 18 at 7 p.m., with Jimmy Greene Quartet and the NHSO, and on Saturday, June 24 at 7 p.m. with The Wailers and Rusted Root (free).

Whether you're exclaiming over the Anti Gravity show LEO at the University Theatre on Friday, June 23 at 8 p.m. or Saturday, June 24 at noon and 3 p.m ($35-55) or the smooth samba sounds of the Bossa Nova Project on the New Haven Green on Friday, June 23 at noon (free), there are tons of treats courtesy of New Haven's International Festival of Arts and Ideas. Go online to www.artidea.org for a full schedule. The  unique power packed fun begins now.

Friday, June 9, 2017

HAVE A BLAST WITH THE YALE SUMMER CABARET




A MUCH DIFFERENT MEETING OF ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA THAN THE YALE CABARET

Shadi Ghaheri and Rory Pelsue, co- artistic directors, and Leandro A. Zaneti, managing director, of the Yale Summer Cabaret are the enterprising and expressive theatrical Three Musketeers eager to engage you until August 13.  Currently they are off and running in a thousand innovative ways with their mission of reviving and exploring and exploding a quartet of classics so they are nearly unrecognizable and yet eerily familiar.

The Yale Summer Cabaret, now in its 43rd season, is promising you a "Canon Balle" of dynamite entertainment.  Right off the firing range is a dramatic, all male, in drag, adaptation of The Bard's "Antony + Cleopatra" by director and adapter Rory Pelsue, one you have definitely never seen the likes of before. With a lit fuse, you will be swept into the action from the first canon blast.  In this instance, canon has a double entendre meaning: the military weapon as well as the accumulation of classical works. Pelsue terms it, "fun, explosive, unexpected."

As great and tragic historical love stories go, "Antony + Cleopatra" is at the top of the tower, from the floating barge, from Rome to Egypt and back, to the tip of the asp's tongue. Jake Powell and Arturo Soria set the stage with seductive and slithering moves, even giving lessons in screaming approval for the audience.  Enter a powerful Hudson Oznowicz as Antony to meet the passionate Cleopatra, embodied by Erron Crawford, with the mighty Caesar, Steven Lee Johnson, and Ben Anderson as Antony's wife. Love and hate, betrayal and obsession, battle in this drama set in New York in the late 1980's.  This is not your grandfather's Shakespeare.  Cole McCarty's costumes help set the seductive scene. The day this production ends, Sunday, June 11, there is a benefit brunch at noon, a Drag Brunch: A Feast Fit for a Queen.

Enter a war zone, in Syria, for "The Trojan Women," adapted by Ellen McLaughlin, and directed by Shadi Ghaheri, with an all female cast Ghaheri calls "brilliant."  With poetry and empathy, and a large dose of humanity, the characters become bigger than life as they enact this anti-war story, telling about the Trojan War set in 1995.  Using dance, movement and song, six actors reveal what it is like to be a refugee without home, life, family and yet find the strength and hope to go on into an uncertain future.  Come see Danielle Chaves, Antoinette Crowe-Legacy, Evelyn Giovine, Rachel Kenney, Kineta Kunuta and Sohina Sidhu bring this plight to life. From Friday, June 23 to Sunday, July 2, this play by Euripides becomes a love letter to Syria that will capture your heart.

Get entangled in the passionate drama of a wealthy farmer's daughter and the man who has been employed on the estate for both their lives.  Set in South Africa, Strindberg's play has been adapted by Yael Farber as "Mies Julie" and swirls around an exotic, erotic encounter between the pair that director Rory Pelsue labels "juicy, sexy and ripe."  One question that looms is why are we drawn to people who oppress us?  How do racism, apartheid, colonialism and a power struggle figure in the final tragic ending?  This great toxic love story features Marie Botha as Julie and James Udom as John, two incredible young African actors who give new meaning to the term "potent."  Also on stage are Kineta Kunutu and Amandla Jahava."Mies Julie" plays from Friday, July 14 to Sunday, July 23.

Completing the "Canon Balle" exploration is "Lear," penned by Young Jean Lee and directed by Shadi Ghaheri from Friday, August 4 to Sunday, August 13. This play departs from its source material the most, as it is Lear without Lear being present.  Ghaheri calls it "funny, crazy, dangerous and avant garde" as it "goes all over the place" and ends with Big Bird on Sesame Street.  Three smart, amazing women play the daughters who have the power to save their father but choose not to do it.  Big questions like the meaning of life are examined along with the question of God and why do we exist?  A discussion of what we had for lunch is juxtaposed with the query why did we kill dad? The production features Stephen Cefalu Jr., Danielle Chaves, Amandla Jahava, Jakeem Ryan Lozano and Francesca Fernandez McKenzie.

All this comedy and drama takes place in the Summer Cab's unique space in the basement at 217 Park Street, New Haven.  For tickets ($30, Yale faculty $25, students $15, with season passes available ), call 203-432-1567 or go online to www.summercabaret17.org.   Performances are Wednesday and Thursday at 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. and 10 p.m.  and Sunday at 8 p.m. Shows the second Friday of the run are at 7 p.m. and 10 p.m.

Plan to arrive early, an hour and a half before showtime, for dinner.  The evolving menu, which reflects the show of the moment, features such offerings as Caesar salad with chicken ($10), the Octavia: Pasta Primavera ($8), the Cleopatra: Fish Tacos ($16), and Asp's Bite: Cheesecake with Strawberries ($6).

For an intimate theatrical experience, in a basement full of sexy, smart, dangerous, brave young artists, telling great and gripping stories from a classical canon, speaking beautiful, poetic words, come to the Yale Summer Cabaret.  Come see the stars of tomorrow today, before they debut on Broadway!

THEATRE ARTISTS WORKSHOP OPENED ITS DOORS FOR A FESTIVAL



PHOTO FROM A PAST THEATRE ARTISTS WORKSHOP PRODUCTION




For 34 years, the Theatre Artists Workshop of Norwalk has been a safe testing ground and meeting place for actors  and all associated show business folk. They meet every Monday night to ply their craft, perfecting their efforts and encouraging their membership. Occasionally they open their doors with a presentation for the public and one occurred recently, the Playwright’s Festival for Spring, 2017.  A series of eight offerings, eclectic in nature, were staged to great acclaim.

Rosemary Foley has written “Cue Cards for Men," a comic tongue- in- cheek score card of inappropriate commentary that men are prone to deliver to the dismay of their female companions. Come to a symphony for Bach and witness how Randall Krongard  disturbs his date Samantha Pattison to the displeasure of audience members played by Allan Zeller (also the director) and Nadine Willig.

Frank Izzo’s “Failure to Extract” takes you graveside as a kid brother, Frank Piazza, talks on his sixty-fifth birthday to his long dead sibling, reminiscing about the past and a prized Chevy convertible and about a letter he found from their recently deceased dad.  Martin West directed this melancholy piece.

Murder and mayhem are swirling around ”Stacy and Doug” by Jim Gordon, also directed by Martin West.  Susan Jacobson and Randall Krongard are locked in a macabre duel of accusations that give  "wicked" a bad name.

It’s spring and it’s that time of year, to clean up here on earth and even down below.  Let Mary Jane Schaefer, with the help of Carole Schweid as director, dust off the underworld in “Spring Cleaning in Hell.”  Sean Hannon as Hades and Leigh Katz as Persephone have very different ideas about their less than ideal living arrangements. 

A young widow, played by Molly Garbe, is traumatized by her first plane trip and an episode of turbulence.  She seeks reassurance from her seat mate, a comforting Sean Hannon, in Rosemary Foley's "First Flight." Miss Foley also directs her play.

An outspoken and obnoxious Nadine, brought to hilarious life by Sachi Parker is Fred Stroppel's "The Friend From The City" who turns Curt (Frank Piazza) and Vicki's (Emilie Roberts) lives upside down and inside out when she comes for a visit. Just who is telling the truth?  Martin West directs again.

Joanna Keylock's Anna is the conscientious mother trying to arrange "The Play Date" by Megan Smith-Harris, who also directs it, for her young son Jack.  Suddenly her patriotism and parenting skills are called into question and Jack's chances for a new friend are shot down.

A married couple Jodi (Stephanie Hazard) and Peter (Allan Zeller) are quickly at odds with each other in "The Basement of Everything You Need" by Fran Dorf, who shares the directing credits with Allan Zeller.  Are they desperate or just grateful to be alive?  Is the ocean out their window or impossible to view? Will a shared hotdog solve any of their problems?

Look for a future production by the members of the Theatre Artists Workshop to witness how they hone their skills in the theatrical world.