"PICASSO AT THE LAPIN AGILE" AT LONG WHARF THEATRE
Looking back on the year that just ended, one discovers delightfully
that there were many wonderful theatrical events that are well worth
remembering. To savor some of my favorites, take a journey with me
through 2014. Beginning in January, there is no better
way to make the winter happy than to attend Goodspeed's Festival of New
Musicals for any or all of the weekend. This year the dates are
January 16-18 and just like last year the festival is stuffed with a
trio of new musicals, a pair of cabarets, special
talks by theater folk, symposiums and tours. What better way to thumb
your nose at winter's chills and ice.
The Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts in Hartford always has a
sensational national touring company waiting in the wings for a
spectacular show. While this week it's the circus world of "Pippin"
eager to color your world, this past year the stand out
show was "War Horse" with its stirring story of the teenaged boy Albert
whose beloved horse Joey is snatched away from him to be part of the
World War I calvary effort. Their reunion, exemplified with life sized
puppets, is an epic tale.
March swept in with a festive red carpet celebration of the Oscars at
The Kate in Old Saybrook, a gem of a theater dedicated to the memory of
Katharine Hepburn. Gowns and tuxedos were donned to welcome the newest
stars to be feted for their acting skills.
You even had a chance to have your photo with a real live Oscar,
complete from head to toe in gold paint.
Comedian Steve Martin graced Long Wharf Theatre's stage with two gifts
this year, with "The Underpants," a collaboration with Hartford Stage
the tale of a woman who embarrasses her husband when she loses her
undergarments at the King's parade, and later with "Picasso at the Lapin
The latter is an imagined encounter of the artist Picasso with the
scientist Einstein at a bar in Paris at the turn of the twentieth
century. Martin exhibits a grand flair for comedy in both.
Comedy was also saluted at Yale Repertory Theatre at least twice this
year, first with the crazy slapstick farce "Accidental Death of an
Anarchist" about a serious bombing that actually happened and later with
"Those Paper Bullets." The latter featured a collision
of Shakespeare and a musical group like the Beatles in a gloriously
funny spoof of song, fashion and romance.
The summer months saw an engagingly different production at Long Wharf
by the Split Knuckle Theatre where the adventures of Sir Ernest
Shackleton and a mild-mannered insurance company employee overcome great
odds in "Endurance." In a tent, the Summer Theatre
of New Canaan put on a smashing version of "Hairspray," that fun musical
about a teenage girl in Baltimore taking on the establishment and
fighting against prejudice and winning.
West Hartford's Playhouse on Park brought to engaging life a sparkling
visit with the awkward misfits who all want to win the spelling contest
in "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee."
With the warm breezes also came the opportunity to travel to Waterford
to find that hidden jewel, the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center, that every
year for the past five decades offers conferences on puppetry around
the world, brand new plays and never heard before
musicals. If you have never experienced the wonders of the O'Neill, you
owe yourself this theatrical treat.
Theatrical treats also abound at Goodspeed Musicals in East Haddam where
"Fiddler on the Roof" entertained all summer with Adam Heller as the
steadfast milkman Tevye. Plan a full day of theater by going one exit
over to Chester to see a new offering at the
Norma Terris Theatre, called the Little Goodspeed.
Young people captured the spotlight in two separate but equally
wonderful ventures. Long Wharf's Shake-It-Up-Shakespeare, under the
skilled direction of Annie DiMartino, offers teens the opportunity to
make Shakespeare a musically vital experience. Their "Much
Ado about Nothing" was a virtuoso performance. Over in Waterbury, Seven
Angels Theatre delivered in spades with Neil Simon's "Brighton Beach
Memoirs" starring Carey Cannata as the precocious Eugene Morris Jerome.
More serious stuff was spotlighted at Westport Country Playhouse when
they presented "Intimate Apparel," about a young African-American
seamstress searching for love and a sense of importance. Hartford
Stage's rendering of Shakespeare's "Hamlet" was brilliant,
with Zach Appelman as the determined son set to avenge his father's
The relatively new on the scene New Haven Theater Company did itself
proud with a stirring production of the Irish play "The Seafarer," where
the stakes in a poker game are raised way too high.
These are but a few of the cream laden shows that rose to the top of
the milk bottle that is Connecticut theater. Hopefully you saw at least
a few and have some favorites of your own. If not, the slate is now
clean and ready to be inscribed for 2015. See
you at the theater.