Monday, August 4, 2014


Even though it's August, proving time does fly in the summer, there is still time to discover a slightly hidden theater gem in New Haven:  Yale Summer Cabaret.  A few steps back from the sidewalk at 217 Park Street and down a flight of stairs, you will enter a unique entertainment space that for forty years has been offering a combination plate of cutting edge theater and culinary  dinners, drinks and desserts.

How could it be around for four decades and you never knew about it?  For shame.  There is still time to discover its secrets.  Until Sunday, August 10, co-director Luke Harlan will present "Middletown" by Will Eno.  With a passing nod to Beckett's "Waiting for Godot" married and then annulled from Thornton Wilder's "Our Town,"  "Middletown" is about the people who happen to inhabit one small town, how they think, how they interact, their passions, their problems, their philosophies of life.

Here is an average town but look deeper, under the surface, under the friendly veneer to the layer of despair beneath.  When Maura Hooper's Mary Swanson moves to town, she is anxious to start a family but her husband is still preoccupied elsewhere.  She reaches out to Aaron Bartz's John Dodge, a handyman who is lost in his own maze of doubts.

The local cop played by Matt Raich has problems of self-control when dealing with the town drunk, Aubie Merrylees, who doesn't welcome the strong arm
tactics the policeman uses. Librarian (Annelise Lawson) interacts with the tour guide (Shaunette Renee Wilson) and tourists (Julian Elijah Martinez and Jenelle Chu) while Ato Blankson-Wood serves as a public speaker, think narrator, to introduce the play and all the players.

Anxiety moves to the forefront in Act II and puts life and death clearly on the line.  Nick Hussong has created projection designs that greatly enhance the action.  Yale Summer Cabaret will complete its season with a series of one act plays (some as short as four minutes) billed as Summer Shorts Festival by six groundbreaking playwrights who began their careers at the Yale School of Drama.

The plays include a trio by Rolin Jones and one each by Kate Tarker, Hansol Jung, Mary Lewis, MJ Kaufman and A. Rey Pamatmat, all directed by Jessica Holt and Luke Harlan, and some especially written for the Cabaret.  They will play the weekend of August 14-17. Come early and enjoy dinner from an eclectic menu of offerings, like watermelon gazpacho ($6) to pork ribs and baked beans ($15) to strawberry rhubarb pie ($5).  For 8 p.m. shows Tuesday to Saturday, dinner starts at 6:30 p.m.  For 7 p.m. Sunday shows, dinner starts at 5:30 p.m.  An elevator is available.  Reservations are recommended by calling 203-432-1566 or online at  Single tickets are $15-40.

Let the Yale Summer Cabaret, where your waiter can be the co-artistic director and serve you key lime pie one minute and be on stage introducing the show or as a featured actor the next, where the stage is reconfigured for each show to better accommodate the audience, where the theatrical offerings are all edgy, novel and definitely thought provoking, be your own newest discovery.

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