Sunday, December 10, 2017

“SISTER’S CHRISTMAS CATECHISM” WANTS YOUR HELP





                                        NONIE NEWTON RILEY AS SISTER

Do you want to join a convent or enlist as a technical detective on a crime show, like on CSI, have I got an opportunity for you. Pack up your religious artifacts and your Sherlock Holmes Detection Kit and get thee over to Long Wharf Theatre’s Stage II by Sunday, December 17 for the delightful antics of the good Sister in “Sister’s Christmas Catechism: The Mystery of the Magi’s Gold.”

Think carefully before you show up for service as the nun in charge will not tolerate any clothing that is not modest, or cell phones that have not been silenced or attendance that is not punctual. Sister has rules, and Nonie Newton Riley intends to respect them all. But if you’re attentive and employ deportment, you just might win a hologram of the baby Jesus in the stable, a pencil that proclaims Jesus Loves You Snow Much or a picture
of the Pope wearing a Santa hat.

Sister will also share interesting legends about the candy cane, St. Nicholas, poinsettias, the Nativity and Our Lady of the Grilled Cheese. On a more serious note, Sister is also trying to solve a mystery: what happened to the Magi’s gold and she will go to extreme lengths to find the culprit.

By creating a Living Nativity, including Mary, an ox, an ass, a shepherd, a sheep, three Kings, Joseph and the little drummer boy, using the most original of costuming, like lamp shades and toilet seat covers, Sister is sure the puzzle will be solved. Be prepared to join in the frivolity in this irreverent work created by Maripat Donovan with Jane Morris and Marc Silvia.

For tickets ($34.50 and up), call Long Wharf Theatre, 222 Sargent Drive, New Haven at203-787-4282 or online at www.longwharf.org.   Performances are Tuesday at 7 p.m., Wednesday at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m., Thursday and Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.

If you enjoyed Late Night Catechism and you’re in the holiday spirit, then put on your party hat and have a ball with Sister.

CELEBRATE THE HOLIDAYS WITH SEVEN ANGELS AND IVORYTON PLAYHOUSE




ENTIRE CAST OF "NUNCRACKERS" AT WATERBURY'S SEVEN ANGELS THEATRE


The good nuns at Mount Saint Helen’s School in Hoboken, New Jersey are always busy, but never more so than at Christmas, especially when they are preparing for their first television special and you are invited to be front and center for the telecast.  Courtesy of Seven Angels Theatre in Waterbury, the convent school will present “Nuncrackers” by Dan Goggin to get you into the holiday spirit by raising a little musical mischief.  Hurray because all the hoopla and singing and dancing end on Sunday, December 17.

Come meet and encourage Reverend Mother, a jolly and joyous Michelle Gotay, and her dedicated helper elves Sister Mary Hubert (Cat Heidel), Sister Amnesia (Marcia Masio), Sister Robert Anne (Cathy Wilcox-Sturmer), and Father Virgil (Tom Chute).  Even Santa (Tim Cleary) gets into the act.  A bevy of bountiful boys and girls bring their special brand of joy to the stage to help the merriment: Grace Altenburger, Angelina Emanuel, Ian Kindt, Zoe Kindt, Julia Mehlin, Michael Meier, Zachary Petrarca, Gabrielle Saucier, Julia Thies and Nicole Thomas.

Who says nuns can’t have fun?  This troupe is heaven bent on making the holidays memorable, even if all of their gifts were stolen right from under their Christmas tree. So what if one of their own had an accident and was sent off to the hospital. What does it matter if there are continual technical difficulties.  the show must go on and it definitely does, with highlights like a solo by Sister Mary Annette (think marionette) of "Twelve Days Prior to Christmas,” a troupe rendition of “Santa’s Little Teapot,” a lesson in how not to bake a fruitcake by Father Virgil, a lovely version of “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot like Christmas” by Allison (Grace Altenburger), an inspired tribute to the YMCA guys with “In the Convent,” among others.

You will learn the mysteries of the Catholic Home Shopping Network, see a unique version of the Sugar Plum Fairy you will not soon forget (even if you try to), go a little deeper into the meaning of Christmas  with Sister Robert Anne and even go a bit country western. James Donohue and Semina DeLaurentis direct this festive and fun foray for maximum  enjoyment.

For tickets ($39 adults, kids $20), call the Seven Angels Theatre, 1 Plank Road, Waterbury at 203-757-4676 or online at www.sevenangelstheatre.org.  Performances are Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m., with matinees Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m., with a special Thursday night show on December 14 at 7:30 p.m.  For an enthusiastic and energetic, holy and angelic welcome to the holiday season, look no further than the Little Sisters of Hoboken's jolly celebration of Christmas.

For another heavenly treat, hurry on over to the Ivoryton Playhouse for a good old fashioned Christmas radio hour, as it presents David Pittsinger and Friends for a fundraiser to benefit the 106 year old playhouse's community outreach programs, to insure the highest quality of scheduling.  If you are lucky, you remember the stirring portrayal of world renown David Pittsinger here at the playhouse as Emile de Becque in"South Pacific" and Don Quixote in"Man of La Mancha." This bass-baritone will perform with his wife Patricia Schuman as well as Carly Callahan, Charles Widmer and Kathy Weiser with a selection of Christmas standards and sacred songs. 

Come prepared to hear such favorites as "O Holy Night," "Drummer Boy," "Baby, It's Cold Outside" "Silent Night," "I'll Be Home for Christmas" and "Do You Hear What I Hear?"  A four piece band will be conducted by Eric Tudel.  For tickets ($50), call the Ivoryton Playhouse, 103 Main Street, Ivoryton at 860-767-7318 or online atwww.ivorytonplayhouse.org.  Come gather around the family radio way back in the 1940's for a nostalgic holiday song fest and welcome musical treat. The two performances are Thursday, December 21 at 2 p.m. and Friday, December 22  at 7 p.m.  Remember to gaze with wonder at the illuminated village of 500,000 Christmas lights.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

BE TRANSPORTED BY “OUR COUNTRY’S GOOD” AT UCONN



THE PRISONER AND THE OFFICERS IN "OUR COUNTRY'S GOOD"
PHOTO BY GERRY GOODSTEIN

Transport yourself back centuries and over thousands of miles to the 1780’s to a colony for prisoners in Australia where a ship form England has just landed.  Are they there to be punished, for crimes like stealing food or a candlestick, or to seek redemption and a chance at humanity?  The officers in charge are of a mixed vote as to their fate.  You will quickly become engrossed in their precarious situation thanks to an absorbing drama penned by Timberlake Wertenbaker, presented by the Connecticut Repertory Theatre until Sunday, December 10.  The Nafe Katter Theatre on the campus of the University of Connecticut will welcome this straggle of convicts and the men who hold their life or death in their hands.

This Tony Award nominated and Olivier Award winning drama pits these two forces against each other, the helpless men and women who have been convicted of crimes many of them never committed and the army of Royal Marines who are duty bound to make them pay. This talented cast takes double roles, and even a few three positions, as they don officer’s coats, wigs and shoes to play officers and go bare foot as the accused.

In an experiment to discover if there is a chance for rehabilitation by these prisoners, Second Lieutenant Ralph Clark, a hard working and determined Zack Dictakis, resolves to have the convicts in his charge put on a play, a theatrical event to test if performing that feat will give them a positive outlook on their time under lock and key.  Will it stop them from trying to escape?  Will it encourage them to develop as human beings?  Is it even possible for them to learn their lines and execute a show?

With the sounds of whip lashings in the background and the shadows of a noose overhead, Clark strives, against all odds, to accomplish this
nearly impossible feat.  His fellow officers are not supportive of his mission, and some like Major Ross, a mean spirited James Jelkin, actively oppose the play acting. Connecticut Rep’s Artistic Director Michael Bradford puts on his directing cap to lead the procession to the drama’s hopeful opening night.  The hard working cast includes Nick Nudler, Coleman Churchill, Valerie Badjan, Ademide Akintilo, Tabatha Gayle, Emma Mathieu, Jacob Harris Wright, Braley Degenhardt, Gillian Rae Pardi and Matthew Antoci.

For tickets ($10-33), call 860-486-2113 or go online to www.crt.uconn.edu.  Show times are tonight at 7:30 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m and 8 p.m.and Sunday at 2 p.m.

 Will Clark achieve the impossible?  You’ll have to attend “Our Country’s Good” to find out for yourself.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

HOLIDAY SHOWS AND MORE ABOUND THIS SEASON


LENNY WOLPE AS SCROOGE IN "A CONNECTICUT CHRISTMAS CAROL"
AT THE TERRIS THEATRE IN CHESTER   PHOTO BY DIANE SOBOLEWSKI

What would the holidays be like, without an abundance of merriment and joy.  Look all around you at the offerings that local theaters have wrapped up in red, green and gold finery for your viewing pleasure.

At the Hartford Stage, it's another visit with that mean and greedy Scrooge who shouts "Bah humbug" to the holidays and needs the visits of a trio of ghosts to open his eyes to the wonders of Christmas, of love and of generosity. After seventeen years as the miserly mean man, Bill Raymond has turned over his gold coins and stocking cap to Michael Preston who regaled the audiences with a bit of juggling magic in his new role.  This is Michael Wilson's original creation, two decades ago, of Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol A Ghost Story of Christmas" and it is a wonderful family classic.  For tickets, call the Hartford Stage, 50 Church Street, Hartford at 860-527-5151 or online at www.hartfordstage.org/christmas-carol/. The show runs through Saturday, December 30.

For adults in need of a little Christmas cheer, there's a bar stool waiting just around the corner at Hartford TheaterWorks, 233 Pearl Street, where their original offering of "Christmas on the Rocks" is returning for another round of intoxicating joy.  Up until Saturday, December 23, a string of your favorite characters of the holiday will stumble and straggle into a bar for a bit of liquid fortitude and festive fun.  Come meet and greet Clara of Nutcracker fame and Tiny Tim and Frosty the Snowman's creator Karen and Charlie Brown, among others.  Jenn Harris and Matthew Wilkas, with Tom Bloom as the genial bartender, do a super job as the long ago stars on your holiday tree.  Call HTW at 860-527-7838 or online at www.theaterworkshartford.org to see this literary baby created by Artistic Director Rob Ruggiero by Saturday, December 23.

Mosey on over to the illuminated village of Ivoryton, 500,000 Christmas lights bright,  to the Playhouse, 103 Main Street, for a unique radio show by their community players of  Joe Landry’s “It’s a Wonderful Life” A Live Radio Play, set in the 1940’s, in Bedford Falls,  complete with intriguing sound effects. Call Ivoryton at 860-767-7318 or online at www.ivorytonplayhouse.org.  Be a part of the studio audience until Sunday, December 17.


Want a new twist on an old theme, look no further than Goodspeed's Terris Theatre in Chester for a show with  a decidedly local flavor, a nutmeg spicy "A Connecticut Christmas Carol" created by LJ Fecko and Michael O'Flaherty now extended until Saturday, December 30.  Come see Mark Twain, Harriet Beecher Stowe, P. T. Barnum and J. P. Morgan sing and dance their way into your heart and the heart of that curmudgeon Scrooge (he's everywhere this time of year).  This is sure to become a family favorite.  For tickets, call the Goodspeed at 860- 873-8664, ext. 324   or go online to www.goodspeed.org.  The fine tradition of storytelling continues.

Interested in something without mistletoe and holly, the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, 166 Capitol Avenue, has a few more showings of the musical special "The Color Purple" for your entertainment until Sunday, December 10.  Call 860-987-5900 or online at www.bushnell.org.  This classic Alice Walker novel highlights the story of two sisters, Celie and Nettie who are separated from each other in the South, only to be reunited decades later.  Let the music of jazz, gospel, ragtime and blues carry and lift your heart.


What would the spirit of the holidays be like without  a musical shout out from the Connecticut Gay Men's Chorus?
Happily they are tuning up for concerts in two locations, first at the Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center, on Main Street, in Old Saybrook, on Sunday, December 10 at 4 p.m.  Go to www.katharinehepburntheater.secure.force.com for tickets.  If you miss the 10th, you can still catch these colorful and talented guys at the Co-Op Theater, on 177 College Street in New Haven on Saturday, December 16 at 8 p.m. and Sunday,December 17 at 4 p.m.  Go online to www.ctgmc.org.  You can be sure these gentlemen will  be decked out in their holiday finery ready to entertain you in regal style with all the best tunes of the season.

Surely there are no excuses for not getting into the holiday spirit with all these delightful possibilities right at your doorstep.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

PANTOCHINO PRODUCTIONS HOLDING A HOLIDAY “SCHOOL FOR ELVES”










Schools exist to teach everything from architecture to archeology, cooking to crocheting, decorating to dentistry.  But have you ever heard of an institution of learning dedicated to producing the best of Santa’s little helpers?  Pantochino Productions is offering just such a quick course wrapped in red and green finery and wrapped with a gold bow, just in time for Christmas.

Weekends until Friday, December 22, sign up for lessons in their delightful original musical ”School for Elves" at the Milford Center for the Arts at the train station. The Yule School is anxiously awaiting their newest class of students as well as the new headmaster, Mr. Sassafras, a demanding Jimmy Johansmeyer, and the school secretary, a charming Miss Garland, the pert Mary Mannix, is making sure everything will be ready and waiting for his arrival. 

 All the teachers, Mr. Trimmings (Justin Rugg),Mrs. Wranglesome (Valerie Solli), Mrs. Lessons (Maria Berte), Miss Orderly (Hannah Kupson), Mr. Molasses (George Spelvin), Mrs. Flourish (Hannah Duffy) and Mrs. Claus herself (Shelley Marsh Poggio) are lined up for welcoming   Even Santa (Greg Hatzis) and the reliable package man (Don Poggio) are standing by to meet and greet. With a regal and no-nonsense manner, Mr. Sassafras enters and takes charge, putting the newest class of elves (Ainsley Novin, Connor Rizzo, Sebastian Bianchine, Adeline Horne, Rowan Simonelli, Sierra P. DiMartino, Gavin Conte, Brianna Jackson, Annabel Wardman, Ainsley Dahlstrom and Luke Hatzis) immediately through their paces.  

In the midst of all this merriment and excitement, it becomes apparent that there is danger lurking in the form of a mystery man who wants to take over Christmas and move Santa Claus as far away as the South Pole.  When two elves suddenly disappear, it looks like the threat is all too real.  Will the school and the elves be able to rally and save Christmas? With tunes like “There’s a Little Bit of Magic” and “Let’s Make a Christmas to Remember,” everyone works together in the spirit of the holiday and its message of kindness and love.  Even fruitcake is called upon to help with a slice or three. 

 With original book and lyrics by Bert Bernardi and music by Justin Rugg, with imaginative costuming by Jimmy Johansmeyer, this is another in a string of colorful ornaments strung on Pantochino’s theatrical tree. For tickets ($20 on line, $22 at the door), go to www.pantochino.com.  Performances are Friday at 7:30 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.  Saturday shows are cabaret style and you can bring goodies to share at your table.  A book sale will be held at Barnes and Noble, on the Post Road, in Milford on Friday, December 15 to benefit Pantochino. Come and buy holiday gifts at the bazaar.

“THE CHOSEN” A POWERFUL TALE OF FATHERS AND SONS AT LONG WHARF












Two fathers raising their teenage sons, living only five blocks apart in Brooklyn, New York, at the eve of World War II, who share the same religion, still manage to live worlds away from each other.  Both men are dedicated to their roles as teachers and guiders, as instillers of wisdom, who love their offspring and only want what is best for them but approach their vital roles with a different set of rules.  A chance game of baseball between the youth force their disparate worlds to collide as the fast ball Danny Saunders hits strikes the eye of pitcher Reuven Malter.  That accident brings the two boys into a close encounter of the Jewish kind and changes their fates dramatically. 
 Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven will explore that collision of beliefs until Sunday, December 17  with a new adaptation by Aaron Posner and Chaim Potok of Chaim Potok’s involving novel "The Chosen.” 
Reuben Malter, an inquisitive and engaging Max Wolfowitz, enjoys a loving relationship with his father, David, an inspiring Steven Skybell, existing as equals in their bonds of intelligence seeking and understanding of their faith.  When Reuven meets the traditionally educated Chasidic boy Danny Saunders, a complicated and conflicted Ben Edelman, they form a tentative truce.  The accident on the baseball diamond thrusts them together and causes them both to question their beliefs and upbringings. 

 While Reuven has the freedom and encouragement to become whoever he wants, Danny is being guided, even forced, to take the path his father dictates. Without either knowing it, Reuven’s dad has been mentoring Danny’s literary choices at the library, an act his own father Reb Saunders, a judgmental and observant George Guidall, would not approve.  Reb Saunders  even has to give his permission for the two boys to maintain a friendship.

 Reuben acquits himself and is soon invited to study with the great patriarch, a special honor. Difficulties arise since even though bothare students of the Talmud and dedicated yeshiva scholars, they have both grown up in vastly different environments. Danny feels the yoke of his father’s goals, to have him continue a rabbinic dynasty six generations in the making, to take over the leadership of Reb Saunders’ congregation.On the other hand, Reuven is free to pursue his own directions. 

 The question of the existence of a state of Israel irrevocably divides the two families and the boys are forbidden to speak.  The Malters are Zionists and want a Jewish homeland while the Saunders vigorously oppose the idea. Gordon Edelstein directs this thoughtful family drama  about parents and children struggling to reach a level of love and understanding that is liberating. It will appeal to people of all backgrounds and ethnicities.

For tickets ($29 and up), call Long Wharf Theatre, 222 Sargent Drive, New Haven at 203-787-4282 or online at www.longwharf.org.  Performances are Tuesday at 7 p.m. Wednesday at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m., Thursday and Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.

Come discover how each boy, poised on the cusp of manhood, ultimately forges his own unique destiny.

COMPELLING DRAMA "NATIVE SON" AT YALE REP


JEROD HAYNES  AS BIGGER AND JASON BOWEN AS THE BLACK RAT
PHOTO BY JOAN MARCUS

New Haven's Yale Repertory Theatre is inviting you to make the acquaintance of Bigger Thomas but don't expect the encounter to be over tea and crumpets.  Bigger's world in infested with violence and disappointment, poverty and struggle, and the occasional black rat that has to be destroyed.  In Bigger Thomas' world, there is little to hope for and much to be feared.  In Chicago's South Side at the tail end of the Great Depression, black men like Bigger have a fate that seals their existence and offers little to encourage their escape.  Thanks to Richard Wright's gritty portrait of Bigger Thomas in his groundbreaking novel "Native Son," we know him from the inside out, privy to his thoughts and illusions, trapped in his physical and mental assaults.

Yale Repertory Theatre, until Saturday, December 16, is presenting this gritty and gutsy tale adapted for the stage by Nambi E Kelley. This is not a sit back and enjoy experience.  It is in your face and in the head of Bigger as his life explodes around him.  When he secures the job as a chauffeur for a wealthy white  family, it seems for a moment he may have the means for advancement, a chance to climb out of his preordained struggle.  An accident, however, sets him on a road of violence and despair, one that he runs from but can't escape.

Jerod Haynes' Bigger is born into a life of poverty and every day is a struggle to be human. He is blessed or cursed with an inner self, a soul who reflects on his actions and choices, and helps him think through and about his reality. Jason Bowen embodies that inner voice with gusto. Bigger is doomed to run ever faster to escape, climbing up the metal scaffolding set created by scenic designer Ryan Emens, but never finding the freedom he seeks so desperately.  The audience is also trapped in his psyche, with the violence and intensity that marked his forehead like the one forged on Cain.  Seret Scott directs this  explosive drama that will leave you exhausted and exhilarated at the same time.

For tickets ($12-99), call the Yale Rep, 1120 Chapel Street, New Haven at  203-432-1234 or online atwww.yalerep.org.  Performances are  Tuesday at 8 p.m., Wednesday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m., Thursday and Friday at 8 p.m., and Saturday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.

Leave your prejudices and preconceptions at the door as you become embroiled in Bigger Thomas' world and the fate he inherited and can't distance himself from living.