Monday, June 30, 2014

"GOOD TALK, DAD" A DELIGHTFUL READ



In honor of Father's Day, father and son Bill and Willie Geist held an open conversation, with TV anchor Ann Nyberg as moderator,about their new book which they wrote together "Good Talk, Dad The Birds and the Bees...and other CONVERSATIONS We FORGOT to HAVE." (Grand Central Publishing)  In a most unlikely place, the loading dock of IKEA in New Haven, Bill, the well-known quirky storyteller on "CBS Sunday Morning," and Willie, the respected co-host on NBC's "Today" show and MSNBC's "Morning Joe," finally got around, after almost four decades, to having the big and little talks they should have been having all along. Talks on everything from sex to drinking to how to catch a fish (well, maybe they did have that last one, but it was short, shorter than the fish they caught).

The book was probably prompted by the fact that Bill managed to keep his diagnosis of Parkinson's disease a secret from his millions of fans for 22 years and from his children for over a decade, from everyone but his wife, Jody.  In this literary collaboration, the two men deal openly and honestly and hysterically with what growing up Geist really means.

Not every family can boast of having a giant plastic cow in their front yard, or would want to...or report it stolen and be happy when it was returned.  How many families would claim among its membership a truly eccentric Uncle Herb who made a famous punch bowl concoction "Herbnog" and kept a wild animal collection as well as being not just a fan of the Rolling Stones but a worshiper.

Maybe the two men didn't talk all that much but they did love their outings together, ones they christened ceremoniously with the designation "Dad, this reeally sucks."  It could be uttered while fishing, playing golf, at a Broadway musical or at a modern art exhibit.  The Geists liked to celebrate the birth of the King, Elvis that is, every January 8th.  When it was time for Willie to go to sleepover camp, Bill managed to find the one camp where the counselors were rehabilitated gang members, who "forgot" they were reformed.  This is just one example of Bill's exceedingly unusual parenting style.

The book is stuffed with stories, "folksy stories that we relate to," and includes "their greatest hits."  While Bill admits he's "a sucker for fun," he does get serious in two chapters:  the one that deals with his Parkinson's (for a man who didn't voice his problems for 22 years, he's now a spokesperson and an inspiration) and his year as a photographer in Vietnam ( a story that he never told his own children about, like the Bronze Star he won).

Their family life, their journalism and television career paths, the wives, Bill's Jody and Willie's Christina, the grandchildren, Willie's sister Libby and her clan, are all revealed with laughter and humor at the center.  To spend as much time with your children as possible, to be respectful, to keep smiling to help you get through, to live a good life and work hard, to always have happiness in your house, to find the road to laughter and to lead by example are all the lessons Bill passed down to Willie and now Willie is passing on to his own kids Lucie and George.    Even though Father's Day is over, this is a great book to read any day of the year. Good luck, guys. Keep on talking.

THE SECRET IS OUT: THE EUGENE O'NEILL THEATER CENTER ROCKS!

EUGENE O'NEILL NATIONAL PLAYWRIGHTS THEATER CONFERENCE
                PHOTO BY VINCENT SCARANO


What good is a big secret if you can't share it with someone?  The big 
 summer secret in Connecticut is the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center in
 Waterford.  Considering it has been around for a glorious 50 years, it's about 
time the creativecat is let out of the bag. Founded in 1964, it is the official 
workshop of new works and new artists.  Every summer it opens its lovely
 campus in the rolling hills of Waterford for weeks of "incubating new babies" 
for the American stage and, the most wonderful part, you are invited to 
attend and be directly involved in theexciting birthing process. 


June was devoted to an International Puppetry Conference and now July is
 here to welcome a pair of new musicals for you to enjoy. The first is
 THE WAR DEPTwith Libretto, Music, & Lyrics by Jim Bauer and Libretto, 
Art, & Video Direction by Ruth Bauer, with  staged readings:  Wednesday,
 July 2 at 8pm and Friday, July 4 at 7pm. The American Civil War has ended
 and Private William T. Clarke finds himself working in a dark place to find
 answers for himself and for a trio of others. Unfortunately, Clarke may
 not be up for the challenge.


The second musical offering is The White City with Words by Julia Gytri and
 Music by Avi Amon, with staged readings: Saturday, July 5 at 8pm; Sunday, 
July 6 at 3pm; Wednesday, July 9 at 8pm; Friday, July 11 at 3pm.     

It's Chicago, 1893 and the World’s Columbian Exposition. Lucy, a sharp-
shooter from Buffalo Bill's Wild West,  explores the Fair, and is thrilled by 
the fast-paced world until she discovers that a serial killer of young girls 
may be on the loose.


Breaking the 2013 conference's records, the National Music Theater 
Conference received over 200 submissions for 2014. Under the leadership of 
conference Artistic Director Paulette Haupt, each selected work will undergo
 the O'Neill's signature development process, employing acclaimed professional
 actors, dramaturgs, directors, and music directors.



Six new plays will highlight the National Playwrights Conference this summer, 
under the direction of Wendy Goldberg. The selections include:

Tiger Style! By Mike Lew, about a brother and sister who shake up their
 unsuccessful lives by going on a tour of Asia, with staged readings that took
 place on July 2 & 3, featuring  MaryAnn Hu, Jennifer Ikeda, Francis Jue
 Jason Liebman, and Eugene Young.

I’m Gonna Pray For You So Hard by Halley Feiffer,  about the tempestous
 relationship of an actress daughter with her most critical fan, her father,with  
staged readings July 4 at 7:15 pm & July 5 at 8:15 pm , featuring Reed Birney 
and Betty Gilpin.

Ugly Lies the Bone by Lindsey Ferrentino, about a woman who returns
 from war traumatized to find her home life in shreds of despair, with  
staged readings July 9 at 8:15 pm & July 10 at 8:15 pm, featuring Cassie Beck,
 Rebecca Henderson, Jedidiah Schultz, Chris Sullivan, and Sally Wingert.
The Imaginary Music Critic Who Doesn’t Exist by David Mitchell Robinson,
about a well-respected music site on the internet that ventures out of control, with 
 staged readings July 12  at 8:15 p.m. & July 13 at 7:15 p.m., featuring
 Eva Kaminsky, Ronete Levinson
Terrell Donnell Sledge, and Michelle Wilson.
A Power Play; Or, What’s-its-Name by A. Rey Pamatmat, about a politician 
who risks everything, including supernatural powers, to win, with staged
 readings July 16 at 8:15 pm & July 17 at 8:15 pm, featuring Teresa Avia
 Scott Drummond, Morgan Everitt, Naomi Lorrain,  
Johnny McKeown, Brian McManamon, Alfredo Narcisco
 Jon Norman Schneider,  Makela Spielman,and DeWanda Wise.
Bright Half Life by Tanya Barfield, about moments of love over a quarter
 of a century, with  staged readings July 18 at 7:15 pm & July 19 at 8:15 pm,
 featuring Eisa Davis and  Sue Jean Kim.

Schedule is subject to change. All performances are at the Eugene O’Neill
 Theater Center, 305 Great Neck Road, Waterford, CT 06385. Tickets for the 
National Playwrights Conference may be purchased online
 at www.theoneill.org or through the O’Neill Box Office at (860) 443-1238 
at $28 each.

As if that weren't enough, the Eugene O'Neil hosts a Cabaret Conference each
 summer and this year is no exception.
Artistic Director John McDaniel announced headliners for the ten-day conference
that begins July 23 with nightly performances. The Grand Finale ends the O’Neill 
summer season on August 2.

The conference brings some of the biggest names in Cabaret Theater to perform 
at the O’Neill each summer, providing valuable development and performance 
training for select Cabaret Fellows – up-and-coming performers on the cabaret 
scene. Says McDaniel, “This year’s conference is all about putting cabaret into 
perspective. Looking Back. Looking Ahead. I couldn’t be
 happier to welcome these amazing talents to our little cabaret in the woods for my 
second season at the O’Neill.
The offerings include:
Cabaret Opening Ceremonies on Wednesday, July 23 at 8 pm,
 free and open to the public.
Jim Caruso and Billy Stritch will hold court on July 24 at 8 pm with their

 professional act of humor and musicianship, straight from New York City.
Mimi Hines – July 25 at 8 pm
Best known for replacing Barbra Streisand on Broadway in
Funny Girl, and 

running the show on her own steam for 18 months, Mimi also starred coast 
to coast in I Do! I Do!Sugar Babies, Hello, Dolly!, Nunsense, Pippin,
 Anything GoesThe Full Monty, and many more. This show business 
legend is widely known to television audiences for her appearances on 
"The Jack Paar Show" and 
"The Ed Sullivan Show," dating back to 1958!
Susie Mosher and the New Faces of 2014 – July 26 at 8 pm
Known throughout New York for her ability to find and showcase the best 

new talent, Susie will bring a fabulous lineup of new faces to the O’Neill 
stage for this special night. 
Susan Mosher  is one of those talents you need to see to believe; on second 
thought, let's just say you need to see her, and stop there." - Adam Feldman, 
 TimeOut NY.
The Man in the Long Black Coat: Barb Jungr sings Bob Dylan – July 27 
at 8 pm.  Back by popular demand, this amazing, unique talent from the UK
 is sure to bring down the house! Tracy Stark, Conference music director and a
 frequent collaborator of Barb’s, will be at the piano.
 "An exhilarating and revelatory evening, in which Dylan's songs are 
ravishingly illuminated,revealing heretofore unheard joys and sorrows. I came
 away in a trance, which lasted until the following week when I returned and 
 my mind was blown even further. The best show in New York hands down, 
in forever." - Jon Robin Baitz
Betty Buckley – August 1at 8 pm
An evening with “The Voice of Broadway.” A Tony Award winning actress and

 singer whose career spans theater, film, television and concert halls around 
the world, Buckley is one of theater’s most respected and legendary leading 
ladies. She makes her debut at the O’Neill this summer.
Conference Fellows & Junior Fellows hone their presentational skills, learning the 
artof stage performance and training under the guidance of Conference special 
guests and  headliners and they will perform on July 30 and 31 at 8 pm. 
 The Cabaret's Grand Finale will take place at 8 pm on Saturday, August 1 .
Barb Jungr will serve as Master Teacher
 for the 2014 Cabaret Fellows.Tickets for the Cabaret performances
 range from $35 to $220.  Call the O'Neill at 860-443-1238 or online  at 
www.theoneill.org.

Don't keep this secret.  Shout it to the world at large and Connecticut 

 audiences inparticular. If you've never taken a ride up I-95 to exit 75, 
you are missing a great entertainment treat. Come and enjoy all that
 the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center has to offer. 
 It's the 50th Anniversary but you don't need to bring a present...
.just yourself.


“HAIRSPRAY” EXPLODES IN DIZZYING DELIGHT IN NEW CANAAN

 TRACY (REBECCA SPIGELMAN) AND LINK (NICK PANKUCH) IN "HAIRSPRAY"


With a hairdo that looks like it was inflated by a bike tire pump, teenager Tracy Turnblad has a heart big enough to take over the whole world.  She recognizes fairness and inequality and would ban prejudice if she had it in her power.  When she gets a chance to dance as a regular on the Corny Collins TV Show, she ignores the fact that she doesn't fit the svelte image of the other kids already chosen and dances her Baltimore best.

The 1960's come alive in this sparkling musical comedy "Hairspray" based on the movie by John Waters, and the award-winning show has a book by Mark O’Donnell and Thomas Meehan, with music by Marc Shaiman and lyrics by Scott Wittman.  Summer Theatre of New Canaan, in a glorious tent, will be injecting energy and enthusiasm until Sunday, August 3 at 11 Farm Road, in Waveny Park (exit 37 off the Merritt).

Even if you don’t have a weekly hair appointment at your local salon, you’re not a certified cosmetologist, you’ve never spent three hours teasing and pouffing your hair into a football helmet-like coif, you’ll still find a lot to love about the musical “Hairspray.”  Rebecca Spigelman is a terrific and tremendously talented Tracy Turnblad who may be just a teenager but one on the verge of big-sized discoveries about life.

Tracy and her teen friends, including her BFF Penny, an adorable Sharon Malane, will be dancing their bobby socks off and making their poodle skirts bark and howl.  When Tracy, a plump dance queen wannabe, wins a coveted spot on the Corny Collins Show, a local television program, she becomes an overnight sensation. Her adoration for the show's teen heart throb Link Larkin, a hunky Nick Pankuch, puts her in direct competition with the snobby star of the show Caroline Lellouche as the opinionated Amber Von Tussle. Amber with her mom Velma, a manipulative Jodi Stevens Bryce, have been in control of all the goings on and like it that way..  Corny Collins, an open-minded Andrew J. Mauney, and the show's sponsor, the owner of Ultra Clutch Hairspray, played by Brian Silliman in a variety of roles, are steam rolled by Velma's bossy attitude. Tracy uses her new fifteen minutes of fame to launch a campaign to allow colored and white students to bogey on the show at the same time, an unheard of reality in 1960’s American society and one that Baltimore is not quickly or easily going to accept. Her friendship with a fellow student Seaweed, a versatile De'Sean Dooley, and his impressive mom Motormouth Maybelle, a charismatic A'lisa Miles, help her  mount her platform against prejudice.

All kids should have supportive parents like Tracy, her mom Edna, portrayed with skillful fun by Greg London, and her dad Wilbur, brought to life by a caring Nick Reynolds, are in direct contrast to Penny's worrisome mother who fears everything in her daughter's life, played by KeLeen Snowgren, who also tackles all the female authority figures. Allegra Libonati directs this bursting at the seams happy fest of a show that is stuffed with great songs like "Good Morning, Baltimore," "Mama, I'm a Big Girl Now,"  "I Can Hear the Bells" and "You Can Hear the Beat."  The Dynamites, Melissa Victor, Tatianna Mott and Darilyn Steele, dazzle whenever they sing and dance.

For tickets ($39 and up, seniors are $25 in advance and $30 at the door), call 203-966-4634 or online at stonc.tix.com.  Performances are Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 4 p.m.  In this their 11th season, Summer Theatre of New Canaan has a full plate of special offerings, including a trio of plays for children:  Merrilee Mannerly from now to July 19, Little Mermaid Jr. from now until August 3 and Charlotte's Web from July 12 to August 3 on weekends, with tickets $20 and up.  On Saturday, July 28 a Special Benefit Concert, A Night of Stars, will feature Broadway hits as well as a pre-show reception, a live auction and a post- concert reception, with tickets starting at $30 for the show and $100 for the entire evening. 

In addition on Tuesday and/or Wednesdays evenings, new musicals will be launched about everyone from Ben Franklin to Helen Keller with tickets $25-40.  Take a chance on being at the cutting edge of excitement.

Follow this enthusiastic and principled girl as she questions the rules and is willing to risk everything, even being imprisoned, for her beliefs. With the help of her parents and her best friends, Tracy inspires a conga line of loyal followers as she makes all her dreams come true.

 Let your hair down or bouffant it up, your choice, as you cha-cha to New Canaan for a turn around the dance floor with that most trustworthy and talented teen Tracy Turnblad.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

GET YOUR 'FINGERS AND TOES" TAPPING



 



 The names Fingers and Toes already suggest a toe tapping beat and the joy of dancing.  As the title of an almost new musical "Fingers and Toes" conjures up the old-fashioned dance numbers of a Fred Astaire or Gene Kelly, set in 1939, at an abandoned theater loft of the New York City's Ziegfeld Roof Theater.  The Ivoryton Playhouse will be twirling and swirling non-stop until Sunday, June 22, with book, music and lyrics by Logan Medland.

Alone in his deserted attic with only his piano for company, composer Tristan St. Claire, also known as "Fingers" consoles himself at the ivories.  His wife Tatiana has demanded he leave their home and he has sought comfort at the keyboard, but it refuses to come.

Interrupting his pity party is his best friend Dustin McGrath, the "Toes" to his "Fingers."  The two men have a history together, when Fingers (Aaron Berk) originally befriended a bewildered newcomer to town, Rick Faugno's Toes.  Now it's time for Dustin to return the favor and help rescue Tristan.

When a cute and vivacious Molly Molloy drops in unexpectedly, the scene is set for some great music, dance and romance.  Joyce Chittick's Molly is the soft marshmallow heart of the show.  Her presence encourages Toes to conjure up a plan: he sets a two week deadline for the trio to compose a brand new musical comedy with lots of singing and dancing and lovey dovey stuff to show to a big producer.  If it pulls Fingers out of the dumps and helps him resolve his issues with his wife, all the better.  Robert Moss directs and David Wanstreet choreographs, with Logan Medland providing musical direction of this Cracker Jack prize- in- the- box delight.

For tickets ($42, seniors $37. students $20, children $15), call the Ivoryton Playhouse, 103 Main Street, Ivoryton at 860-767-7318 or online at www.ivorytonplayhouse.org.  Performances are Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., with matinees at 2 p.m. Wednesday and Sunday.

Let real life husband and wife Joyce Chittick and Rick Faugno join Aaron Berk and dance and sing their way into your heart with dollops of nostalgic charm.

Monday, June 23, 2014

A BASEBALL ODYSSEY AROUND THE BASES



When Eric Kabakoff, who grew up in New Haven, went with his dad Arthur and cousin Harvey to his first baseball game, he was 10 years old and saw the Philadelphia Phillies play in Veterans Stadium.  He was hooked, ball, bat and glove, and that love has only grown over the ensuing years.  Acknowledging he could never play the game well or was even likely to catch a foul ball in the stands, he was, nonetheless, ready to root for his team of choice, mainly the Yankees.

Besides craving the greasy hot dogs that are the traditional food fare at ball parks, Kabakoff inherited all the qualities of a true fan:  an obsession for the game and an encyclopedic knowledge of the parks and players.  Somewhere between watching the Mets at Shea Stadium, the Yankees at Yankee Stadium and the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field, he determined he would visit every Major League playing field and record his thoughts for posterity.

The results, after decades of research, is "Rally Caps, Rain Delays and Racing Sausages, A Baseball Fan's Quest to See the Game from a Seat in Every Ballpark."  With a breezy, conversational style, that is both witty and educational at the same time, he takes the reader along, in his literary pocket, as he records the history of the teams.  The reader feels his pain when he gets sunburned, his financial agony when he overpays for scalper's tickets and his distress when stadium members sitting above, below and beside him disrespect the game. He spoke recently at the New Haven Free Public Library about his literary odyssey.

It's high praise to say that I, a non-sports person who would have been like his college friend Rachel and brought a book along to the game, found his missive totally engaging.  The reader also shares his triumph when the Liberty Bell rings and lights up after every Phillies' home run and win, or how a Rally Monkey appears on a big screen if the Angels are in trouble to "rally" the team and fans.  Mascots like Bernie Brewer descend a slide when there's a home run while Denver's purple dinosaur became a mascot when dinosaur bones were discovered while building the stadium.

Unique to Milwaukee are the sixth inning races between an Italian Sausage, Bratwurst, Hot Dog, Polish Sausage and Chorizo Sausage as costumed people race around the bases to please the crowds.  You don't see that every day of the week. As you visit each ballpark along with Kabakoff, you'll follow the saga of how he tried and tried and tried and finally got a pair of tickets to a Cubs game at Wrigley Field, a must for any baseball aficionado-even though they haven't won a World Series for over 105 years.  Eric calls Wrigley Field "a ball park, an institution and a community...the quintessential baseball experience...a pilgrimage...a mecca...a cathedral."

In 1926, the name Wrigley Field was given by the Cubs' owner at the time, William Wrigley, Jr., for the express purpose of selling more gum.  You may or may not know that enterprising residents nearby built bleachers on their roof tops overlooking the park and then sold tickets to the game.  Lawsuits eventually were settled when the rooftop seats became part of the Cubs' official attendance records and money changed hands.

Did you know:
...Angel Stadium in Anaheim, California is noted for a 23 story "A" with a halo at the top that he describes as "a refugee from a 1960's drive-in."
...The 1965 Beatles concert at Shea Stadium set a trend at ballparks, and was known more for the Beatles than for the Mets.
...The Oakland A's inspired the book and movie "Moneyball."
...The San Francisco Giants' A T & T Park could be "the best park in the game," ranking up with San Diego's Petco Park in the author's opinion.
...Eric's favorite hot dog was at the Metrodome in Minneapolis and featured 10 toppings.  If you're going to earn an ulcer, that's the way to go.
...Toronto's retractable roof was great 25 years ago but is disappointing today.
...Ted Williams earned the nickname "Splendid Splinter."
...A scene from "The Wiz" with Michael Jackson and Diana Ross was filmed at Shea Stadium. These are just a brief sampling of the interesting tidbits Kabakoff inserts on every page.

Eric plans to have a book signing at Cooperstown, New York at the Baseball Hall of Fame on Thursday, August 21.  Maybe he'll get to see his childhood hero Don Mattingly, who always gave his best effort and earned Eric's emulation.

Eric S. Kabakoff is a man of his word too.  He determined many years ago he would visit every Major League ballpark, thirty in all, and now he has written a book to prove it: "Rally Caps, Rain Delays and Racing Sausages."  Go to www.rallyrainsausage.com or amazon.com to order the book.

Batter up!  It's a swing and a hit and a home run when Eric Kabakoff comes up to the literary plate for his turn at bat.

TAKE COURAGE FOR THE LONG RUN IN "ENDURANCE"


The world of British explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton, courageous captain of an Antarctica expedition in the early 1900's, collides  in a Titanic moment with a mild mannered middle management minion, Walter Spivey, from the insurance realm of Hartford, CT. over a century later. Their divergent stories mix and mingle in a majestic manner that define what delightful theater going can and should be in "Endurance," at Long Wharf Theatre's Stage II until Sunday, June 29.

Performed with impeccable skill and talent by four intrepid members of the Split Knuckle Theatre, "Endurance" by Nick Ryan weaves together the same characters in twin tales of overcoming great obstacles.  Using only desks,  chairs, waste baskets and a lone filing cabinet, the cast imagines them into towers of ice and a ship battling brutal and bitter cold of the far north, and, only moments later, into the insurance offices of insurance giant BMI.

Jason Bohon, Andrew Grusetskie, Christopher Hirsh and Greg Webster are virtuosos of voice, savants of sound effects, masters of mimicry and just plain terrific as they flit from crisis in Spivey's boardroom to chaos in Shackleton's Antarctica expedition. The troupe came from London, by way of the University of Connecticut, and may, in fact, be relocating to New Haven soon.

The economic downturn at BMI in Hartford, CT has caused Walter and his buddies Larry, Mark and Ben to panic about their livelihood.  The company is downsizing and each man fears what that will do to their jobs.  When Walter is promoted instead of getting the axe, it initially looks like they have hope.

They soon discover, to their dismay, that Walter must almost single handedly save them and the entire firm.  How will he accomplish this, if it is even possible?  When he comes upon a book citing Sir Shackleton's fearless trip, when he saves his 27 member crew from the jaws of death for two  long and grueling years, he utilizes it as a platform to encourage his own team to greater heights of achievement.

For tickets ($35-55), 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.

Pull up an office chair or hop aboard the ship the "Endurance" for a fascinating tour de force performance by this talented cast and crew.

ANSWER THE DOORBELL, IT'S "THE NERD"




The popularity of the television show "The Big Bang Theory" has given geeks and nerds some well deserved status as mental geniuses.  Way before his time, playwright Larry Shue focused attention on one definite participant worthy of inclusion in this category when he penned his bizarre comedy "The Nerd."  The top grossing American play in London's West End in 1986, it is getting an airing courtesy of the Connecticut Cabaret Theatre in Berlin weekends until Saturday, July 19.

On the occasion of his 34th birthday, a promising young architect Willum Cubbert (Chris Brooks), is partying with his friends Tansy (Sandra Lee) and Axel (Rick Bennett), who also happen to be his tenants.  Willum's dinner party additionally includes his newest client Warnock Waldgrave (Russell S. Fish) who arrives with his wife (Nancy Ferene) and son Thor (Rick Scola) in tow.  Willum is designing his hotel but Warnock keeps changing and simplifying the blueprints.

Into this happy crowd crashes an unexpected guest Rick Steadman (James J. Moran) who saved Willum's life in Vietnam.  The two men have never met but in their letters  Willum invited Rick to come to him if he ever needed help.  What Rick, "The Nerd," does is turn Willum's life inside out and upside down.  He's a klutz, an interloper, a self-absorbed pest, an interferer of the first order and a wonderfully obnoxious bore.

What ensues is pure chaos.  Where else would you find a comedy that includes bribery, blue prints, a bottle of Jack Daniels, and broken crockery, cottage cheese and chalk, shoes and socks and salads and shishkabobs, not to mention telephone answering machines and tambourines and a temperamental gorilla.

How far will Willum's promise to help Rick stretch the bonds of loyalty and friendship?  How long can the million irritating things a day Rick manages to commit continue before Willum snaps?  Will any of Rick's shenanigans cause Willum to establish "the gumption" Tansy claims he needs or help Axel perform an "anonymous favor" even one time?  Kris McMurray presides over this zoo of a menagerie as the animals escape and run wild.

For tickets ($30), call the CT Cabaret Theatre, 31-33 Webster Square Road, Berlin at 860-829-1248 or online at www.ctcabaret.com.  No shows the weekend of July 4 and 5.  Performances are Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., with doors opening at 7:15 p.m. Don't forget to bring snacks to share or plan to purchase dessert and drinks on site.

Let the nerd devilishly work his way under your skin until you too call "uncle" and send him packing, after he clearly outstays his welcome.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

“THE SUNSHINE BOYS” GLOW AT UCONN




Holding a grudge is not the same as holding your breath.  A grudge can be locked in for days, weeks, months and years without your face turning blue.  For Willie Clark, it has become a passionate pastime, a raison d'etre, a cause celebre, a reason to get up every morning and become angry all over again. As a first class vaudevillian, he was half of a team with Al Lewis and together as the Sunshine Boys they achieved a fair amount of fame.  Their comic routines, like "The Doctor Will See You Now," became legendary.  But somewhere along the way to celebrity, after 43 years making funny, Al decided, without a whoopee cushion of concern, to retire, just like that, with no warning or explanation...and Willie is still mad.

Old chestnuts can still be filled with a nutty flavor once you’ve cracked open their hard exterior shells and Neil Simon’s “The Sunshine Boys” is no exception.  Here two old Vaudevillian entertainers, going by the names of Lewis and Clark, are back.
 The Connecticut Repertory Theater will be overseeing their rocky reunion until Sunday, June 29 as Al Lewis and Willie Clark attempt a comeback after a hiatus of almost a dozen years.

Crankiness and stubbornness don’t necessarily improve with age, like a fine wine or a sharp cheese.  Willie Clark, a memorable
Jerry Adler, has yet to forgive his partner Al, a mild-mannered Richard Kline, for ending their act abruptly, forcing them both into retirement. Never have crotchety and cranky been so comic!  The two men are masters of their game. Adler had always wanted to play Willie and now he does so supremely well and Kline played the nephew Ben in 1974, so he has now come full circle and is doing himself proud.

Almost daily for the last twelve years, Willie has been nudging his nephew Ben,a patiently devoted Richard Ruiz, who doubles as his agent, to find him work.  Unfortunately Willie’s memory doesn’t allow him to remember his lines.  That faulty thinking, however, doesn’t stop him from clinging to a long list of grievances over Al’s conduct before he deserted the act. He sits in his pajamas and curses Al, on a wonderfully detailed set designed by Tim Brown.

Suddenly Ben has a gold-plated opportunity.  CBS is doing a History of Comedy Show and wants the two men to do their best routine, “The Doctor Will See You Now.”  All Ben has to do is get the two men on the set together without them killing each other first.  Vincent J. Cardinal directs this fun-filled rampage, like a merry-go-round running out of control, as the two cantankerous old coots poke each other in the funny bone.  Additional support is provided by Tina Fabrique, Thomas Brazzle, Steven Hayes, Sara Andreas and Conor Donnally.

For tickets ($10-43), call 860-486-2113 or online at www.crt.uconn.edu. All performances are at the Jorgensen Theatre on campus (minutes off exit 68 of I-84).   Performances are Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 p.m. and at 8 p.m. Friday and  Saturday and  at 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Let a little sunshine into your life by making an appointment to visit the wacky doctor and his probing I. R. S. agent patient as Vaudeville strikes again.


Friday, June 20, 2014

VISIT "THE TWO GENTLEMEN OF VERONA" UNDER THE STARS




"The Two Gentlemen of Verona" has the double distinction of being one of William Shakespeare's first plays and first comedy.  Early on, he played with the themes of friendship and love, betrayal and inconstancy.  Even at his beginnings, he was witty and urbane and slightly contemptuous of love at first sight and love that defied obstacles and he enjoyed testing friendships and fidelity.

Shakespeare on the Sound, in its 19th year of offering excellent productions of the Bard, is once again providing a splendid look into Shakespeare's world of characters on a lovely rolling hill on the Five Mile River, in Pinkney Park, in Rowayton at sunset from now until Sunday, June 29.  The set of books and pages, "novelly" created by Brian Prather, opens to reveal the captivating tales of Valentine (Nicholas Urda) and Proteus (Ben Chase), two bosom buddies, residing in Verona.

Proteus is clearly enamored of the fair Julia (Medina Senghore) and tries to distinguish himself from her other suitors.  To that end, he sends her letters of affection but she tears them to shreds and claims to care not a whit for him.  Meanwhile Valentine is full of scorn for Proteus' pain and is ever so disdainful of love's agonies.

Shakespeare, of course, quickly makes Valentine a fool for love by sending him off to Milan, where he promptly sights the sensual Silvia (Katie Wieland) and loses his heart to her.  Running around retrieving  her dropped gloves, he can't imagine life without her.  Also hoping to woo her is the comic and cavalier Sir Thurio (Scott Watson), the choice of Silvia's father (Nicholas Stannard).  When Proteus is sent to Milan in pursuit of Valentine, he too spies Silvia and promptly forgets his true love Julia in favor of his new affection for Silvia.

Rivalries ensue as Julia follows them and disguises herself as a boy (sound familiar?), letters go astray, plots are foiled, outlaws in the forest attack, rings are given and regifted but, with the Bard's help, everyone ends up paired and matched with suitable dispatch.The colorful costume parade is delightful as are the entrances and exits of Crab, with his master Launce (Tom Pecinka). Crab is  a pooch who looks with disdain on all the foolishness.  Oliver as Crab has been trained by animal expert Bill Berloni and steals the spotlight, possibly in the only play that calls for a canine.  Claire Shannon Kelly directs this romp of romance.

This is the perfect family summer entertainment under the stars and donations at the door are most welcome.  Performances are evenings at 7:30 p.m., except Monday, for a show that runs almost 2 and a half hours.  Bring a chair or blanket, dinner or snacks and the kiddies and savor this summer show courtesy of Shakespeare. 

Monday, June 16, 2014

WHO KNEW SPELLING COULD BE SO MUCH FUN!?!



You can be the star of your own parade, no matter how quirky and unusual you are, if you find your special traits and talents.  Nowhere is that more evident than in the delightful potpourri of nerds and misfits, said only with love, assembled to compete in "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee."  Playhouse on Park in West Hartford is doing one heck of a great job introducing you to six of the funniest and most deliciously different adolescent contestants ever placed under one basketball hoop. The show runs until Sunday, July 20.

The late great playwright Wendy Wasserstein is credited with putting composer William Finn together with his former student Rachel Sheinkin and her co-creator Rebecca Feldman to turn this original non-musical C-R-E-P-U-S-C-U-L-E (one of the spelling words) into this Tony Award winning musical.  If you've never experienced it, what a summer treat.  If you're already a fan, go again and take some friends with you.

If you're daring and live on the edge, you might even volunteer to be one of the four hand-selected to join the bee on stage with an official entry number and everything.  You, too, can earn a juice box and a hug from the official comfort counselor Mitch (Norman Payne) who is there serving out his community service while on parole.

The Scripps National Spelling Bee was recently held in Washington, D. C. over Memorial Day weekend and has been held ever year since 1925, except during World War II, but "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee" deserves kudos and accolades as well. Where else would you find a Boy Scout named Chip  (Scott Scaffidi) who wears a chestful of badges, a pig tailed angel (Hillary Ekwall) who sports not one dad but two which influences her leadership of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance, an original Flower Child named Leaf Coneybear (Kevin Barlowski) who makes his own cheerful and colorful clothing, William Barfee (rhymes with parfait) who has a rare muscous membrane disorder and (thanks to Steven Mooney) a magical and moving foot that spells out the words, an over-achieving Asian, Marcy Park (Maya Naff) who can't help how incredibly smart she is and, lastly, a young girl who talks into her hand to spell, Olive (Natalie Sannes) who bravely stands alone, with her mom off in an Indian ashram and her dad busy at work.

Overseeing the proceedings are Vice Principal Panch (Joel Newsome) who has a dubious past and eager-to-please Rona Lisa Perretti (Emily Kron) who has the double distinction of being a class A realtor and of winning the 3rd Annual Bee.  Under the direction and choreography of Susan Haefner, with a cast of top notch performers and words to spell like "weltanschauung" and "cow," you are guaranteed a lively, animated and entertaining evening.

For tickets ($32.50-42.50), call Playhouse on Park, 244 Park Road, West Hartford at 860-523-5900, ext. 10 or online at boxoffice@PlayhouseOnPark.org.  Performances are Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.  The cast also performs Mondays from 6-8 p.m. next door at A. C. Petersen's Restaurant while you dine.

You'll enjoy everything from the initial musical recitation of "The Rules" to the interim "Pandemonium" all the way to the crowning of "The Champion."
I p-r-o-m-i-s-e you!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

WESTPORT PLAYHOUSE SINGS UP SHAKESPEARE


 
In honor of William Shakespeare's 450th birthday celebration, the Westport Country Playhouse is throwing a gala party and you're invited to its special shindig of songs.  Conceived by Wayne Barker, Mark Lamos and Deborah Grace Winer and directed by Mark Lamos with both whimsy and affection, "Sing for Your Shakespeare" has already been extended to Saturday, June 28.

As musical revues go, this one is spectacular, tipping its hat to the Bard and glorying in his immortal words and lyrics, his original phrasings and the many shows inspired by those bon mots.  The talented troupe who bring his words to life are Karen Akers, Britney Coleman, Darius De Haas, Stephen DeRosa, Constantine Germanacos and Laurie Wells.

Under five glittering chandeliers, a seven piece band accompanies such numbers as Rodgers and Hart's "The Boys From Syracuse:" "Falling in Love with Love," "What Can You Do With a Man?," "This Can't Be Love" and "Sing for Your Supper."  Sonnets are recited and set to song, scenes from "Romeo and Juliet," "Love's Labours Lost" and "Hamlet" are versed as well as from "The Tempest" and "The Taming of the Shrew."

A nod to Cole Poter's "Kiss Me Kate" engages tunes like "Brush Up Your Shakespeare," "Too Darn Hot" and "Where Is the Life That Late I Led" while "West Side Story" by Sondheim and Bernstein is referenced with a trio of tunes, "Maria," "Tonight" and "Somewhere."

The man of the hour and the centuries makes a special guest appearance, thanks to Stephen DeRosa, as Will Shakespeare himself and takes stage center.  With a starched and ruffled ruff and ungartered leg, he garners the accolades due him in proper style.

For tickets ($30 and up), call Westport Country Playhouse, 25 Powers Court, off route 1, Westport at 203-227-4177 or 888-927-7529 or online at www.westportplayhouse.org.  Performances are Tuesday at 8 p.m., Wednesday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m., Thursday and Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m.

Take a tour through America's Songbook, inspired and enhanced thanks to the Bard who would be proud to find himself on Broadway and across stages around the world.

Monday, June 9, 2014

ENTER THE MAGICAL AND MYSTERIOUS WORLD OF "VAREKAI"


With magic and mystery, you will be swept into the exotic and enticing world of "Varekai," one of the many fantastic realms created by Cirque du Soleil.  Since 1984, when Cirque du Soleil was a small, struggling troupe of street performers in Quebec on stilts, juggling and performing music, it now entertains millions each year with its 19 different shows, imaginative acts that wow and amaze around the world. Now it is Hartford 's turn to present "Varekai", from Wednesday, June 11 to Sunday, June 15 at the XL Center.

"Varekai" will encourage you to enter a strange and bizarre world that will stun and astound you, astonish and excite you.  Even before the show begins, a pair of clowns, Steve and Joanna, dressed in red garb, and brandishing a whistle and a wand, will polish bald heads and frisk unsuspecting patrons.  Their antics will delight your sense of fun.  Don't be surprised if you're invited to dance or have a few personal items secretly removed from your person.

Watch creepy crawly creatures emerge onto the stage as if the forest is exploding right before your eyes.  As the land awakens, you will spy royal creatures in purple who will sing unique songs to accompany the feats of daring, a peach centipede, an inventor/weatherman, the Skywatcher, with a magic cart and a kaleidoscope of wild and weird insects that twirl and twist, spin and tumble.

Into their midst falls Icarus, a young man whose wings of white fail to keep him aloft.  His snowy feathers are soon stolen by the black garbed Guide and quickly Icarus is trapped in a mesh net that sends him swirling into the sky, tumbling and twisting in agile and graceful moves. Once back safely on earth, Icarus encounters an intriguing green creature destined to be his Betrothed, and they begin an adventure together.

Soon the stage is filled with strolling musicians, leaping red clad dancers, the Georgian troupe, amazing tumblers dressed like gold warriors, an aerialist in winter white splendor and a succession of wood nymphs and sprites. Suddenly a magician and his assistant appear with their dancing dog and Steve and Joanna are back in the spotlight.

In Act II, the forest landscape expands to include a night sky alive with firefly lights, underwater creatures who perform a graceful ice dance under the sea, a man who manipulates on crutches, the muscular strength of two men bound only by twin leather straps, a girl twirling silver batons, a diamond dusted lady walking on canes and a troupe of tumblers who successfully defy gravity.

"Varekai" is a Romany word that means "wherever" and now it conjures up gypsies and nomads and wanderers who live in an unknown world of mystery as created, written and directed  by Dominic Champagne.  Here 50 performers from 18 countries wear 600 costumes and astonish 1000's of times. For tickets ($35-145), call 877-522-8499 or online at www.xlcenter.com.  Performances are Wednesday to Saturday at 7:30 p.m., with a late matinee at 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at 1:30 p.m.

Count yourself among the millions, an estimated 150 million, who will witness the magical circus show that is Cirque du Soleil.

" FIFTH OF JULY" CELEBRATES THE TALLEY FAMILY

The Talley family of Lebanon, Missouri has been immortalized, warts and all, by playwright Langford Wilson in a trilogy of literary endeavors all set around the fourth of July, including "Tally's Folly," "Talley and Son" and " Fifth of July."  The New Britain Hole in the Wall Theater will bring "Fifth of July" to stirring and startling life weekends until Saturday, June 28.

Langford Wilson was born in Lebanon, Missouri and lived there with his mother after his parents divorced.  He won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1980 for "Talley's Folly," about Sally Talley's unheard of engagement to a man of the Jewish persuasion over her family's strong objections. "Fifth of July" garnered him a Tony Award for Best Play nomination.


 
 


In "Fifth of July," the story centers around Ken Talley, Jr. (Matthew Skwiot) who has been injured in the Vietnam War and uses prosthetic limbs for legs.  Even though he has signed a contract to teach high school English, he questions his own abilities to be effective in the classroom.  He lives with his male life partner Jed (Sean Sterling-Granado), who is a botanist and doubles as a caregiver for Ken.

When the play opens, their farmhouse home may be on the market.  Soon family members arrive, each with his own agenda.  Old friends John (Tom Pepper) and his drug addled wife Gwen (Sally Arlette-Garcia) want to buy the place to make her a music studio to advance her career as a country western singer. Ken's unmarried sister June (Elizabeth Hill Bohmier) marches in with her precocious teenage daughter Shirley (Tess Pepper) and their contentious relationship is tested.  The family matriarch Sally (Barbara Gallow) comes bearing a candy box filled with her late husband's year old ashes, with the intention of scattering them somewhere appropriate.  Completing the circle of characters is Gwen's guitarist Wes (Alexander Levine) for whom Shirley has taken a shine.  Everyone has secrets.  A bidding war for the house ensues and in the space of two days everyone ends up in a different and, for some, better place.

Expect fireworks for its Independence Day and the fourth and fifth of July and director Kelly DiMauro manages the emotional explosions quite well.

For tickets ($20, students and seniors $15), call 860-229-3049 or online at www.hitw.org.  Performances are Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. The theater is located in downtown New Britain at 116 Main Street and free parking is available in the garage on Chestnut Street.

Come get involved in the Talley family's unorthodox holiday celebration and discover if the rockets are a red, white and blue festival of failure or of fun.