Monday, March 30, 2015


                    PHOTO BY CAROL ROSEGG

When the peasants revolt, the rulers often lose their heads.  In the fictional land of Grusinia, the Governor Abashvili (Max Gordon Moore) and his wife Natella (Brenda Meaney) are swept up in the revolution and in the ensuing fire and confusion their infant Michael is abandoned and lost to them.  Thanks to the quick thinking and compassion of a palace kitchen maid Grusha (Shaunette Renee Wilson) who values life, rather than Natella who puts her wardrobe above her son's well being, Michael is rescued and is taken on a journey of danger and risk.

Bertolt Brecht has penned this epic folk tale and courtesy of the Yale Repertory Theatre, you can be swept away in its all encompassing drama, in "The Caucasian Chalk Circle," until Saturday, April 11 at the University Theatre, 222 York Street, New Haven.

The political regime in Grusinia is being toppled and the Governor loses everything, up to and including his head.   With appreciation to the ever present and singing narrator/storyteller Azdak (Steven Skybell), we are privy to all the action, the disputes, the adventures, the conflicts, the battle of good versus evil and the struggle for justice.  This parable is long in the telling, but filled with amazing scenic designs and unique special effects, courtesy of Chika Shimizu, that make the odyssey more enjoyable, like melting icicles and a perilous trek across a foot bridge.

One moment Grusha is being wooed by the friendly soldier Simon (Jonathan Majors) and the next she is putting her own life at risk as she flees with the infant Michael in tow, trying to find a safe place for them to hide.  The blood thirsty Ironshirt soldiers are in swift pursuit.  All the turmoil has been set in motion by the Fat Prince, the Governor's brother, (Jesse J. Perez) who causes the coup.

After Grusha protects her "little burden," engaging in actions to unselfishly shield him, like marrying a man Yussep (Aubre Merrylees) on his death bed to give the baby a legitimate name, she finds herself in a court of law. Natella has returned to claim her son and the vast estates that are now his.  A large chalk circle is drawn to establish his true parentage and a crafty judge has the powers to sway the court's verdict.

Liz Diamond directs this well crafted tale with hints of humor sprinkled through the life threatening action, with original music by David Lang, musical direction by Daniel Schlosberg, in this work translated by James and Tania Stern and W. H. Auden.

For tickets ($20-99), call the Yale /Repertory Theatre at 203-432-1234 or online at  Performances are Tuesday to Saturday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m. and occasional Wednesdays at 2 p.m.

Come witness the drama of young Michael (Kourtney Savage and Fred Thornley IV) being placed in the center of the chalk circle in a true King Solomon moment in time.


Can you imagine life changing in one incredible moment in time, a moment that will haunt for decades to come, coloring the future in black clouds of guilt?  For NFL Oakland Raider football star Frank Baker that fateful minute came during an exhibition game against the New England Patriots.  Baker's tackle of Lyle Turner, while perfectly legal, left both men's lives shattered.  Baker, then at the top of his game, never recovered his fame and position and Turner was left in a wheelchair for life.

Let playwright David Robson place you firmly in the grips of this powerful drama as years after the tragic event Frank Baker is called upon to stand up and be a man and confront and apologize for his actions on the football field in "Playing the Assassin."  TheaterWorks of Hartford will be squaring off in the intense drama until Sunday, April 26.

Based on a true incident that occurred in 1978 when Oakland Raider star Jack Tatum tackled New England Patriot wide receiver Daryl Stingley with such force, Stingley never walked again.  Here the action picks up two and a half decades later when Frank Baker is given a golden opportunity:  CBS wants him for a pre-Super Bowl interview where, for the first time, he will confront Lyle Turner on air.

An eager-to-please young interviewer, Lewis, a calculating Garrett Lee Henricks, has a script in his head for this revelatory confrontation,  His agenda is personal and prophetic and he has no room for variations or changes when he encounters Baker, an imposing and impassioned Ezra Knight. Baker has an agenda of his own:  he wants a stadium full of money and a chance to gain his self respect and professional esteem back.  His brutal attack on the turf had earned him the name "The Assassin" and he has been haunted by that encounter with Turner for seemingly forever,  Now he believes his life is finally changing for the better.

Trapped in a hotel room, working out negotiations and contracts, these two strangers discover the parallels of their lives as secrets explode and revelations reverberate,  Like  a prize fighting match, the two circle and weave, strike out and retreat, knowing only one can be declared winner.  Director Joe Brancato keeps the action and tension taut and the violence brewing just below the surface.

For tickets ($50-65, senior Saturday matinee $35, student rush $15), call TheaterWorks, 233 Pearl Street, Hartford at 860-527-7838 or online at  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 p.m. Come early to view the dramatic photos of sports legends, players who changed the game, in the art gallery upstairs, courtesy of The Hartford.

Get swept into the devastating verbal and physical encounter between two men determined to put the past at rest by whatever means at their disposal.


How hard is it to find the right recipe for romance?  Just ask Giulia Melucci who has tried, unsuccessfully, for years to lure the right man from her culinary delights in her kitchen to the altogether different pleasures of the bedroom.  Her meals are delicious and savory, often culled from her mother's Italian-American cookbook but while they satisfy gastronomically, they fail to seal the deal that culminates in a wedding ring.

The charming and versatile Giulia is being brought to delectable life in the hands and hospitality of Maria Baratta  as she cooks up a fabulous feast right before your eyes in "I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti," a memoir by Giulia that has been cleverly adapted by Jacques Lamarre.  Seven Angels Theater in Waterbury will be cooking up a storm, with fresh pasta created from scratch, complete with antipasto, salad, bread and wine, for a lucky select few, right on stage, until  Sunday, April  26.

Don't come to the show hungry, unless you have a reservation at the nearest Italian restaurant close by right after the curtain falls.  All the action takes place in the kitchen while Giulia chats, easily and hysterically, about the men in her life, as she is preparing a complete meal.  We meet the
gentlemen who one by one broke bread with her and then proceeded to break her heart.  From the young Irish bloke Steve whom she met in college to the smarter and more sophisticated Kit who wrote for the Atlantic Monthly to the older and wiser Marcus, a cartoonist for the New Yorker, with his Vespa scooter and Charles Nelson Reilly voice to Ethan, a musician, writer and TV producer who loved food a lot but not Giulia as much.  She even gave her heart temporarily to a Scotsman who had problems with commitment. 

As Giulia, Baratta voices each of her potential soul mates with astute accuracy and charm, all the while chatting with her mother by telephone, who wants to help and offer advice. Using her culinary delights, her plan is to find true love over lasagna or risotto. For every bad dates she endures and wrong turn she makes, you will root for her to find her one and only.  As she cooks, she tosses a little salt over her shoulder, but, so far, it hasn't brought her luck and rose petals.

Semina De Laurentis directs this delightful show with characteristic sweetness while Daniel Husvar's kitchen set is the perfect setting for all the steamy action.

For tickets ($37.50-52.50), call Seven Angels Theatre, 1 Plank Road, Hamilton Park Pavilion, Waterbury  at 203-757-4676 or online at  Performances are Thursday at 2 p.m. and 8p.m., Friday at 8 p.m. and Saturday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m., with Sunday at 2 p.m.

Twirl a forkful of flavorful and perfectly seasoned pasta as you contemplate the perils and pleasures of the New York City dating scene, where you can starve or feast surrounded by a banquet of male offerings.

Monday, March 23, 2015



By day, these dedicated troupers are teachers of third grade, special education, Spanish, math and reading, full time students, IT specialists and managers, physical therapists, parents, a dentist and one professional dancer.  Under the direction and encouragement of Darlene Zoller, they all become professional dancers and the proof is in the pudding stirred to perfect confection in "DIGITS Dig It!," a new show by the stop/time Dance Theater, the resident dance company of West Hartford's Playhouse on Park.

Until Sunday, March 29, this truly talented troupe will explode with energy and enthusiasm and Cheshire Cat grins as they perform this show conceived, directed and choreographed by Ms. Zoller.  These dancers with a passion for movement have willingly entered "Darleneland" and boy, do they have a lot of rhapsody and rhythm to show for it.

With a theme of digits as fingers, Zoller originally collaborated with composer and pianist Sean Pallatroni, bouncing musical ideas as "a series of musical puns" surrounding the number of things you can do with your hands.  Exploring the concept of one digit, two digits, three digits (well, you get the idea), the pair worked out songs and numbers that fit the concept.  As Sean so quaintly put it, "God, I hope this works."

Fortunately and fortuitously, work it does.  Beginning with one as the "loneliest number that there ever was," we meet a solitary dancer, Spencer Pond, who initially delights in having studio time all to himself.  He resents the intrusion of other hoofers who disturb his privacy and he sends his jazzy invaders scurrying away.

The two dozen ensuing numbers include an original words and music by Sean Pallatroni that serenades the Great White Way, with Rick Fountain crooning "King of Manhattan."  Victoria Mooney strikes an apologetic pose in Cole Porter's deliciously irreverent "Miss Otis Regrets" about a woman who can't come to lunch because she has shot her lover and has been punished, permanently.

Standards like "Too Darn Hot" and "Bye, Bye, Blackbird" sizzle and snap, flutter and fly, while numbers like "Queen Bee" rhythmically explore the insect world.  "Cinema Italiano" sparkles with sleekness and shine. The dance company also includes the creative moves of Michael Barker, Jennifer Bunger, Lisa Caffyn, Lynsey Chartier, Beckie Correale, Amelia Flater, Constance Gobeille, Laurie Misenti, Erica O'Keefe, Sheri Righi, Melissa B. Shannon, Alicia Voukides and Courtney Woods. DeMara Cabrera's primary color set resembles a flattened Rubix's Cube in the style of "Laugh In" while Lisa Steier's costumes light up each dramatic staging with dazzling effects.

For tickets ($25-35), call Playhouse on Park, 244 Park Road, West Hartford at 860-523-5900, ext. 10 or online at  Performances are Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. (with a talk back with the cast).

So whether your "life is just a bowl of cherries," way "cool," or packed with "uptown funk," let the stop/time Dance Theater show off their spectacular moves and grooves, jazz hands and tap feet and all.



Whether you raised a pint of green beer in tribute or donned a green shirt or tie, everyone is Irish on ST. Paddy's Day and Elim Park in Cheshire planted shamrocks and four leaf clovers in honor of the holiday.  With the rousing music and foot stomping tunes of The Kerry Boys, the rafters of Nelson Hall were raised a significant foot or two on Friday, March 13 when these balladeers and troubadours got the crowd singing and clapping about ramblers and gamblers, whiskey and rye, celebrating wakes and gals like sweet Molly Malone.  A wee bit of Scotland crept in with sentimental songs like Danny Boy while tunes like Wild Rover practically had the audience levitating with joy.

If you missed this rousing tribute to St. Patrick, never fear, there's lots more entertainment coming down the road, the high road and the low road, and coming to Nelson Hall at Elim Park, 150 Cook Hill Road, Cheshire for your listening pleasure.  Baby Boomers, it's your time for a musical salute when Squire and Louise come to call.  On Saturday, March 28 at 2 p.m., the joint will be jumping with all the music, comedy and inspiration of the Boomer generation. Relive those grand old days with two folks who know all the buttons to push and tunes to sing and jokes to tell to make these years come alive once more.

Get your entertainment calendar ready to mark the dates for Saturday, April 11 at 2 p.m. or 7:30 p.m. when the Grand Ole Opry comes a knocking.  The Truck Stop Troubadours will open the country western song book and let out all the timeless hits of that unique part of the globe.  A live band will jiggle and jive so fast that you'll literally jump out of your seat as the rhythm gets your blood pumping and your hands clapping and your feet kicking.

A change of pace will welcome Will and Anthony Nunziata, known affectionately as the singing brothers of Broadway, as they carry the audience From Broadway to Italy with a medley of hits that will stimulate your memories and have you crooning along with these two talented guys. They combine comedy and conversation with tunes like "O Sole Mio" and "Somewhere," bridging the musical gap from Broadway to the land of their ancestors.  On Saturday, April 25 at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., you'll find yourself sailing across the pond in a bevy of brilliant musical magic and mirth that will transport you to heaven and back.

Ready to dance on your toes?  Let the Connecticut Ballet sweep you away on a glorious journey with Will Shakespeare as the famed dance troupe presents A Midsummer Night's Dream in all its color and splendor on Saturday, May 2 at 7:30 p.m. The Bard's classic comedy of lovers sprinkled with fairy dust by a mischievous Puck and all the misadventures that ensue is sure to delight audience members of all ages. This is the ninth full length ballet produced by the company, under the leadership of Artistic Director Brett Raphael. An added bonus, you can meet the dancers in the lobby after the show.

Hold on to your felt hats because there's more as the essence of Ol' Blue Eyes comes to town with Bryan Anthony's smooth and elegant tribute to the man himself in Celebrating Sinatra: His Life in Music. On Saturday, May 8 at 7:30 p.m. and again on Sunday, May 9 at 2 p.m., you will be entertained by this super performer who will delight you, with the Nelson Riddle Orchestra accompanying him. He will croon the tunes of Cole Porter, Hoagy Carmichael, Irving Berlin and Sammy Cahn, to name drop a few.  The Great American Songbook will be ablaze with memorable hits from "I've Got You Under My Skin" to "Night and Day" to "All the Way."

For tickets, call Nelson Hall at Elim Park at 203-699-5495 for prices and more information.

Enjoy the variety of choices for a gala spring as Nelson Hall at Elim Park fills your dance and entertainment card.



This Mississippi gal taught herself a passel of musical instruments, was an all-star basketball player, a waitress, a receptionist, a barmaid, worked in a shoe factory and kept her hairdresser license renewed every year in case she ever needed it as a profession. Fortunately Tammy Wynette transformed herself into "The First Lady of Country Music" and never looked back.

To get up close and personal with Miss Wynette, born Virginia Wynette Pugh in 1942, mosey on over to the Ivoryton Playhouse for a tasty morsel of music history with "Stand By Your Man The Tammy Wynette Story" playing until Sunday, April 5.

Tammy started singing early on at a Mississippi radio show, raised by her mother, MeeMaw, a feisty Marcy McGuigan, and marrying the first of her five husbands before she graduated high school.  As a country western singer and songwriter, she never knew about instant stardom, but advanced up the charts with such winning tunes as "Your Good Girl's Gonna Go Bad," "D.I.V.O.R.C.E," "Stand By Your Man," "I Saw the Light," "We Go Together," "Did You Ever" and "I Still Believe in Fairytales." She continued to record with her third husband George Jones, a smooth crooning Ben Hope, long after their stormy divorce.

They were known as the King and Queen of Country Music and they made beautiful music together until they didn't.  His predilection for alcohol and her addiction to pain pills, due to her multiple surgeries, took a toll on their marriage. Katie Barton's Tammy captures the spirit of this intrepid singer who fought to achieve stardom and to keep her daughters protected.

Mark St. Germain's insightful musical provides glimpses into her complex, hard scrabble life, one that follows step by step her circuitous route to the top of the marquee.  There were a number of salty tears and no happily ever afters for this soulful star who struggles for every rung up on the success ladder. Her life is chronicled from her early beginnings with a perky young Tammy played by Lilly Tobin, and her relationships with the many men in her life performed by Morgan  Morse, Louis Tucci, Guy "Fooch" Fischetti, Jonathan Brown, Eric Scott Anthony and Sam Sherwood. All the men also comprise one jive  jumping band, under the musical direction of David M. Lutken, that make each tune terrific. This musical biography of Miss Wynette is directed with spice by Sherry Lutken.

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

Come watch how the "Love Bugs," Tammy and George Jones, are brought to glorious life by real life wife and husband Katie Barton and Ben Hope.  They'd love you to come by and say "Howdy" and sit and listen a spell.

Sunday, March 22, 2015


What do peanut shells and banana peels have to do with the movie "Gone With The Wind"?  Those meager pickings are all producer David O. Selznick would allow his "kidnapped" writer and director to eat, peanuts and bananas, while they solved a great conundrum:  how to create a script of the Margaret Mitchell book that was less than seven hours long.

The turbulence of the Civil War, an epic saga penned by  Mitchell, her one and only masterpiece, became "Gone with the Wind."  Translating its 1037 pages of romance and drama in the old South into a four hour film by David O. Selznick, producer, ended up being ranked number 4 on the 100 Best American Films of All Time list of 1998. But how it came to pass, against great odds, is a unique story all on its own.

To be privy to the inside scoop of how the movie came to be written and splashed across the silver screen, ultimately to win ten Academy Awards and be one of the highest grossing films of its time, head over to the Connecticut Playmakers to see the frantic slapstick comedy "Moonlight and Magnolias" by Ron Hutchinson Friday, March 27 and Saturday, March 28 at 8 p.m. at First Congregational Church, 108 Sound Beach Avenue, Old Greenwich.

Producer David O. Selznick's career and reputation and future and fortune are all on the line.  Every day it is costing him $50,000 to make a film that has no viable script.  Fraught with obstacles, the project to make "Gone with the Wind" is in tremendous trouble.  He finally has a cast, Vivien Leigh as his daunting and determined heroine Scarlett O'Hara and Clark Gable as the dashing and enigmatic Rhett Butler, but without a workable screenplay he has nothing.

Every script to date is flawed, too long or not practical.  Atlanta has to burn, the Confederacy has to be defeated and Scarlett has to face surmounting problems.  Selznick (Adam Auslander) implores his good friend the journalist Ben Hecht (David Pollard) to come to his rescue.  Hecht, who has never even read the book, reluctantly agrees to try.  Locked in a room for five days, with Selznick and his brand new director Victor Fleming (Tim Cronin) acting out the plot, Hecht is forced to live on peanuts and bananas and produce a masterpiece.  How the trio survive with the aid of the producer's faithful secretary Ms. Poppenghul (Tina D'Amato) is a comic circus, under the deft direction of Dan Friedman.

For tickets ($25), call  the Connecticut Playmakers at 203-249-5419 or online at  Performances are Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. This is a cabaret setting, so bring goodies to share at your table. Come witness this plucky Connecticut community theatre group that has produced 225 Broadway hits over its 67 year history in the Greenwich area.

Make your plans now to have "Dinner with Disney" that will take you on a musical journey of Disney songs for the last 75 years.  Come hear tunes from such hits as "The Lion King," "Aladdin," "Snow White," "The Jungle Book," "Frozen," "Tarzan" and "Cinderella," to name a few.  Bring your kids and your dinner on Friday and Saturday, May 8 and 9, 15 and 16 and 22 and 23 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, May 17 and 24 at 2 p.m.

You'll surely want to rent a DVD of this classic film once you witness the behind-the-scenes shenanigans that unbelievably led Ben Hecht, "the Shakespeare of Hollywood," to succeed where so many others before him had failed. All David O. Selznick wants is one great movie before he dies and without becoming a monkey's uncle he manages to pull off the trick of the century.

Monday, March 16, 2015


Do you have a young budding Neil Simon or Will Shakespeare living at your home?  If so, maybe he or she is a finalist in the Hartford Stage's Young Playwrights for Change Competition held during the month of January in Hartford.  Three free workshops were conducted at the Hartford Stage Education Center, 942 Main Street, Hartford for middle schoolers from Connecticut and neighboring states of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine.

The contest question was "What is Family?" and students were encouraged to explore situations about single parents, biracial, adopted, gay and lesbian and blended families and their home life, 8-10 pages in length,  and last 10 minutes on stage.  The top four plays will have a staged reading by Hartford Stage's Youth Studio and Adult Acting Classes.  The free performances will take place Saturday, March 21 at 2 p.m. at the Classical Magnet School, 85 Woodland Street, Hartford.

Winning top honors is Daniel Coppinger, an eighth grader at the Henry James Memorial School in Simsbury. His play, "Who is My Family?" focuses on a 13 year old boy from Korea being raised by a Caucasian mother and father.  He questions where and how he belongs.  Coppinger's entry will be included in an anthology with other regional winners.  He used his own personal experiences as an adopted child to inform his play. Although never having written a play before, he "is happy to know that my hard work has paid off."

Other students from the Henry James Memorial School in Simsbury took honors for second and third place, Kevin Kurian, an eighth grader, for his play
Promise" and Lindsay Madigan, an eighth grader, for her play, "Coming Together."  Another eighth grader, Carter K. Brown, from the Sage Park Middle School in Windsor, won an honorable mention for her play "Sky Blu."

This is the second year of this national competition that encourages young students to develop their writing skills.  Ashley Baker, Resident Teaching Artist at Hartford Stage, coordinated this literary effort. Come and cheer on these enterprising youth as they exercise their growing talents as writers.
Perhaps one day in the not so distant future the Hartford Stage will raise the curtain on one of their creative works as a world premiere.



The twilight years are not the easiest time of life for many. Parts we've always counted on, like legs and eyes and ears, don't always work the way we want them to function.  Memories dating back decades or mere minutes become problematic.  We enter a room with a specific motive or goal in mind and can't remember it worth a fig.  For Ethel and Norman Thayer, their summer home in New England has been a refuge and source of comfort for almost five decades.  They've raised their daughter Chelsea there and delighted in watching the seasons evolve.

Now the Thayers are changing quicker than the summer skies.  In Ernest Thompson's poignantly simple and bittersweet love story "On Golden Pond," we find ourselves enscounced in lawn chairs at that summer house, listening to the loons on the lake, and enjoying the tart-tinged squabbles that pop up between the pair thanks to Darien Arts Center Stage weekends until Sunday, March 22.

The years are creeping up on Norman.  He will soon celebrate his eighth year while Ethel is a spry seventy.  The sharp minded professor who taught English at the University of Pennsylvania is now experiencing bouts of forgetfulness.  How many more years will he be able to make this annual summer pilgrimage? Affectionately called an old poop by Ethel, a sincerely caring Nancy Sinacori, Will Jeffries' Norman is sure this will be his last summer on the lake.  Their wonderful banter and bickering is delightful to be witness to as they repeat the traditions that have made the lake so significant in their married lives. David Eger's comfortable cottage set adds to the ambiance as does the happy chirping of birds and calls of the loons.

Daughter Chelsea, a vibrant Kitty Robertson,  sweeps into the cottage with her dentist fiance Bill, a straight arrow Eric Dino, in tow, as well as his teenage son Billy, a chipper kid who is ready for new adventures.  Chelsea and Bill have one foot on the departure gate to Europe and want the older folks to babysit Billy for the duration.  The rocky relationship between Norman and his uninvited house guest mellow in a fishing boat on Golden Pond as well as through books that Norman brings to Billy's interest and attention.

In a strange way, Norman and Billy pave the way for years of conflict to be resolved between father and daughter, as they forgive and forget and make amends for past difficulties and disappointments. Will Jeffries leads this talented cast as the fixed in his ways Norman who often favors fish over humans. Patrick Kiley directs this gentle tale with a tender hand. An extra dose of down home Maine humor is provided by David Jackins as Charlie, long time admirer of Chelsea and loyal post office delivery man. Holy Mackinoli!

For tickets ($20), call the Darien Arts Center Stage, 2 Renshaw Road, Darien (exit 11 off I-95, behind the Darien Town Hall) at  203-655-5414 or online at Performances are Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.

Let this lovely waltz of a play lure you in and catch your heartstrings as Norman and Ethel continue the dance steps they have perfected over the decades, even if they occasionally miss a beat or two.

Thursday, March 12, 2015


The future of a boy is in question.   The fate of a priest is under scrutiny.  The certainty of an accusing nun is startlingly evident.  All of these are judge and jury in New Haven Theater Company's current offering, John Patrick Shanley's involving drama "Doubt" playing Thursday to Saturday this week at their new home, the English Building Markets.

What is not in doubt is the sincerity and enthusiasm of the New Haven Theater Company.

Through many iterations of this plucky group since it was founded in the 1990's by T. Paul Lowry, the NHTC has changed and modified itself to accommodate its members.  Now fifteen members strong and numbering entrepreneurs (at least two), an arts administrator, a lawyer, a retired reading teacher, a scientist, marketing managers, a current teacher and a former professional actor, the present version has strengthened and solidified its structure over the last six years.

Once T. Paul Lowry left New Haven for Chicago, the initial group was forced to reinvent itself.  According to Peter Chenot, one of those original members, by 2009 "we have assembled a team that has stayed intact.  It's a labor of love.  The people involved in NHTC respect and love each other a lot.  They bring their own life experiences to the process."  Peter has just accepted a new position with Westport Country Playhouse and he and his wife Megan are intimately involved with the day-to-day functionings of the group.

Everyone by necessity wears a variety of hats, like the director of "Doubt" George Kulp and his star nun, Margaret Mann as Sister Aloysius, who found themselves painting the floor of the stage on Tuesday night, preparing it for the debut performance last Thursday.

While NHTC has a history of being a site-specific theater, moving the performances to a space that fits with the play's action, like office and real estate buildings and banks, it is delighted to have a new place to call home.  Thanks to the generosity of Carol and Robert Orr, the English Building Markets at 839 Chapel Street, New Haven is its intimate location.  It's not often you can walk through a cluttered consignment shoppe, past china, furniture, artwork and jewelry, past racks of vintage clothing and shoes and discover a small forty seat theater in the back. A bonus is you get to window shop before and after the show and maybe take home a new bauble or bead.

One of the most amazing facts about NHTC, according to Steve Scarpa, whose day job is as Director of Marketing and Communications at Long Wharf Theatre, is "there are no egos here.  We are 15 equals from all walks of life and we work together with great trust. We get to try all avenues of theater life, like designing and writing.  We really engage with the show we are doing to create the perfect format for what we want to do."

With "Doubt," the suggestion to do it was made by Steve and put forth for a group discussion, with ways to approach it discussed and by democratic process it was voted to do it.  The fact that Scarpa was an altar boy in his youth and was now going to play Father Flynn was just an added bonus.  "Doubt" focuses on Father Flynn and whether or not he is guilty of an inappropriate relationship with Donald Muller, a 12 year old, the first African- American boy who has ever been admitted to St. Nicholas School.  The time is 1964.

Margaret Mann's Sister Aloysius is stern, pious and unbending as the principal whom all the students fear. She cautions the naive and eager-to-please Sister James, a sweet and innocent Mallory Pellegrino, that she needs more starch in her spine.  She urges Sister James to spy on Father Flynn and confirm her convictions.  As she states unequivocally, "I will bring him down."  Her vigilance is her guardian.  After all, Father Flynn writes with a ball point pen, has long finger nails, takes three sugars in his tea and likes Frosty the Snowman.  These are all evidence of his guilt.  She even seeks the counsel of Donald's mother, a concerned and caring Aleta Staton, to stand with her in her judgmental accusations.

As  for whether or not Father Flynn is guilty or innocent, the playwright leaves the question open for personal interpretation.  Early on in the rehearsal process, director George Kulp met with his Father Flynn, Steve Scarpa, and they discussed "how to approach his part and what it was about."  They refused, however, to discuss it with me.  If you see "Doubt," you'll have to decide on your own.

Next up in May is a new play "The Cult" by the company's resident playwright Drew Gray.  He describes it as "a comedy about a young man with a regular office job who happens to run a cult in his off hours.  It's humane, unique and funny."  Other members of NHTC include Donna Glen, Erich Greene (stage manager for "Doubt"), Ally Kaechele (board operator for "Doubt"), Deena Nicol, Christian Shaboo, J. Kevin Smith and John Watson.

In the final tally, what has never been in doubt, clearly, is the fact that NHTC's goal is to put on a really good show and earn enough money to pay the produce excellent theater for theater's sake and to have fun in the process. 

New Haven Theater Company
839 Chapel Street
New Haven, CT   $20

Monday, March 9, 2015



What could be more entertaining than watching a cable access television show "Baking with Babcha?"  So what if Babcha rambles with a Russian accent and has a strong affinity for her liquid cooking ingredients like vodka and bourbon? Her borscht and cabbage rolls are to die for.  With her son Stephen as her enthusiastic producer, it's a downright shame Babcha is being cancelled.

You're invited to be in the audience for that final broadcast as Connecticut Cabaret Theatre presents "The Kitchen Witches" by Caroline Smith weekends until Saturday, April 11.  You never know what might happen.  It's live television after all. Babcha, who is really Dolly Biddle, just might have her Last Ukranian Supper interrupted by her mortal enemy and rival chef Isobel Lomax, better known as Izzy to her friends.

These ladies duel with ladles, rolling pins and wooden spoons at thirty paces when Izzy shows up uninvited in Dolly's television kitchen.  The two exchange verbal volleys of insults that have been brewing over three decades of enmity.  It seems Izzy stole Dolly's husband Larry and showed him a lot of her secret family recipes.

Fortunately or not, their cutthroat antics on camera excite the show's producers as well as the viewing audience and soon the two rivals find themselves sharing a ceramic cooking counter on air.  They are quickly sabotaging each other's concoctions, fighting over dressing rooms and playing one upsmanship on stage.  Poor Stephen, an infinitely patient James J. Moran, is caught in the crossfire.  Kristin Ceneviva is terrific as the tippling diva Dolly while Barbara Horan's Isobel is great as she plans to whisk her way to the top of the meringue any way she can.  Linda Kelly enters and exits with an applause sign with aplomb.  Director Kris McMurray plays head chef with culinary and comic skills.

For tickets ($30), call CT Cabaret Theatre, 31-33 Webster Square Road, Berlin at 860-829-1248 or online at  Performances are Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., with doors opening at 7:15 p.m.  Desserts and drinks are available at the concession stand or bring your own goodies.

Spices can be sweet, salty or savory but with Dolly and Izzy they can be all three as these long term rivals set their cooking show "The Kitchen Witches" on fire with flames of fun and frivolous frivolity.

Sunday, March 8, 2015


Choices and opportunities are abundant for many and , unfortunately, sparse for others.  Seeing possibilities is an excellent first step in finding your way forward and upward.  Where you are born, with or without that silver spoon, can influence your future, encouraging or limiting your options.

Just ask Margaret Walsh, a scrappy and feisty graduate of "Southie," the South Boston's Lower End, who can't escape her birthplace no matter how hard she struggles.  In David Lindsay-Abaire's steel boned 2011 play "Good People," he allows us to see Margie, warts and all, as she valiantly tries to make a better life for herself and for her adult disabled daughter Joyce. The Square One Theatre Company will present this play weekends until Saturday, March 21.

The stars have seemingly all aligned against Margie, beautifully captured in Janet Rathert's capable hands. The blue collar Boston neighborhood Margie calls home has plotted and conspired to hold her down. Never having finished high school, because of an unwanted pregnancy, this single mom has limited resources and even those are in danger of drying up.

As a cashier in a Dollar Store, she relies on her friends Jean (Danielle Sultini) and Dottie (Alice McMahon) for moral support. Dottie also babysits  because Joyce can't be left alone. Now, her too frequent tardinesses have caused her boss Stevie (Darius James Copland) to fire her.  Her salary, although barely minimum wage, has been keeping a roof over her head, as Dottie is also her landlord.

Homelessness is soon added to her list of terrors.

Just when the day seems darkest, her friend Jean tells Margie she has just bumped into their old Southie pal Mike (Brian Michael Riley) at a fundraising event and he is now a successful doctor.  Maybe Mike will be Margie's knight in shining armor and rescue her with a job.  After all, the two dated for a few months back in high school days. Their history should count for something.

Watch how Margie tries to make Mike and his new wife, a lovely African-American Kate (Jessica Myers), hand her a winning lottery ticket.  Can she force them to change her luck?  Does Mike owe her anything from the past?  Can Margie use sabotage and blackmail to manipulate the odds to her advantage?  Will the fact that Mike always was "good people" work in her favor?  Tom Holehan directs this dark comedy that will tug on your heartstrings as you alternately applaud and cringe at Margie's tactics, as she risks everything for a  new beginning.

For tickets ($20, students and seniors $19), call Square One Theatre Company, 2422 Main Street, Stratford  at 203-375-8778 or online at  Performances are Fridays at 8 p.m., Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. with an additional
  twilight matinee Saturday, March 21 at 4 p.m.

Throughout Square One Theatre’s performance schedule of "Good People," 
Stratford’s Acapulco’s Mexican Family Restaurant & Cantina, Blue Sky Diner, Kama Sushi, and Stationhouse Wine Bar & Grill are offering ‘dining specials’ for all Square One Theatre subscribers and ticket holders.
Laugh and cry with Margie as she tries to manipulate the players to give herself a winning hand, or, at the least, a chance to say "Bingo" in the game of
chance we call life.

Thursday, March 5, 2015


Now that the Oscars have all been given out, it's time to turn your movie loving mind to a new flavor and genre.   Luckily the Jewish Film Festival is poised to fill that gap in your entertainment schedule.  Start buttering your popcorn so you'll be be ready to go from Thursday, March 12 to Sunday, March 22 as the Jewish Film Festival presents 19 new hits for your viewing pleasure.  Hailing from ten countries like France, Belgium, Israel, Germany, America, the Czech Republic and Canada, the films will be screened at 7 venues across Hartford and West Hartford.  Many of the offerings are making their Connecticut or east coast premieres and many are tied to special events like dinners and breakfasts and opportunities to hear and see authors, filmmakers, academics and performers.

According to Harriet Dobin, the  Director of the Mandell Jewish Community Center Jewish Film Festival, this is the 19th year of the Festival and over 5000 people are expected to attend, and not just a Jewish audience.  The films are timely and relevant for a broad gathering. The festival began with an initial collaboration between the Mandell JCC, the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art and Trinity College.  Each year up to 100 full length features, shorts and documentaries are submitted from all over the world and first Ms. Dobin and then a committee selects the final listing.  Approximately 150 comparable Jewish Film Festivals are held in the USA, Canada and across the globe.

As Harriet Dobin explains it, "At one time this festival was just FOR the Jewish community.  We've evolved and placed great emphasis on becoming a festival ABOUT Jews.  We branch out into commercial theaters like Bow Tie Cinemas Blue Back Square, Spotlight Theatres and Bow Tie Cinemas Palace 17, the new Infinity Music Hall and Bistro, as well as our own theater at the Mandell JCC, the Herbert Gilman Theater, and two synagogues, Emanuel Synagogue  and Beth El Temple.  We have a very demanding audience who have come to expect only the most superb films.  We're part of a great big world and that's what we want the festival to reflect."

The event will begin with a musical tribute to Sophie Tucker, a native daughter known for her booming voice, her contributions for six decades to musical theater and as "the Last of the Red Hot Mamas."  Hartford's new Infinity Music Hall and Bistro will host the grand opening, a 5:30 p.m. dinner reception and 7:30 p.m. Live Cabaret featuring the winner of a Sophie Tucker singing contest, Colleen Welsh, from the Hartt School, University of Hartford, performing with her pianist Paul Feyer.  The new film "The Outrageous Sophie Tucker" will tell the tale of the woman who paved the way for so many other stars, from her start in her family's small kosher restaurant to performing in burlesque, films and television, for presidents and even for royalty in England.  The film and performance will be open captioned for the deaf and hearing impaired in the community.

Filmmakers and authors Susan and Lloyd Ecker will give a Reel Talk, about their experiences producing the movie, over dessert. On the couple's first date back in 1973, they attended a Bette Midler concert where she shared stories about Sophie Tucker on stage.  That sent the Ecker's on an odyssey to research Tucker and learn about her life and career through 400 scrapbooks and countless interviews over an eight year period. Tickets are $75 and boas and bows, sparkles and spangles are the optional Roaring Twenties fun attire.  If you can't make the grand evening, on Friday, March 13 at 10 a.m, there will be a Talking Tucker brunch (no film) at the Mandell JCC, $20, as well as on the festival's last day, a film showing on Sunday, March 22 at noon at the Mandell JCC, with tickets $12 in advance and $15 at the door.  Call 860-231-6316 or go online to or for a full schedule of showings.

How about a trip to France without packing a bag or getting a passport.  "It Happened in Saint-Tropez"  is your ticket, with a reception.  Want intrigue, then enter the world of Bruce Sundlun who survived being shot down in Belgium in World War II, followed by a Reel Talk.  Need a little inspiration, then travel with teenage Mica who pledges to honor his grandfather and the country, Cuba, that saved him during the Holocaust in "Havana Curveball."  Learn about Hannah Cohen's desire for a Holy Communion despite the fact she's definitely not Catholic.

Prepare to be wonderfully entertained when the iconic and beloved Theodore Bikel is "married" to the magical words of Sholem Aleichem, the famed Yiddish storyteller in "Theodore Bikel: In the Shoes of Sholem Aleichem."  Ever wonder what it might be like to serve as a woman in the Israeli Army then "Zero Motivation" is for you. Have you ever searched your family's history to try to find yourself?  If so, you'll want to go on "Hanna's Journey."  Imagine creating a euthanasia machine for your aging friends and watch "The Farewell Party" for insights into the end of life issues.

Time for a nosh, like a thick corned beef on rye with a half sour pickle? Come meet the "Deli Man" and learn the history of Jews in a culinary tour across America.  Ready for a change of pace, to suspenseful thriller and a compelling example of anti-semitism and terror.  Look no further than "24 Days:  The True Story of Ilan Halimi Affair." Follow a ten year old boy as he escapes the Warsaw Ghetto in "Run Boy Run," that will be accompanied by talks with the Hartford Stage and their upcoming production of "The Pianist of Willesdan Lane." Change the pace  with the tale of two cousins in "The Go Go Boys: The Inside Story of Cannon Films." Travel with Eyad, a Muslim boy, who wins a place as the first Arab  in a prestigious boarding school in Jerusalem in "Dancing Arabs" and learn how he struggles to adjust.

In "Berlin Calling," a father and daughter retrace the dad's difficult days in World War II and discover realities they never dreamed possible.  Two lonely souls connect in "Felix and Meira" with a forbidden love dictated by religious differences.  History buffs will enjoy "The Prime Ministers, Part Two-Soldiers and Peacemakers" as it follows Prime Ministers Rabin and Begin.  A childless couple enters into a strange arrangement with a young Jewish refugee they are hiding in "Closed Season." The final film tells the  story of volunteer pilots and how they helped win the War of Independence in "Above and Beyond-The Birth of the Israeli Air Force" that includes a Reel Talk and reception. This event is $25.  For tickets to any or all of these fine films, call 860-231-6316 or go online at for the full schedule  and locations.

Don't let this fascinating array of movie offerings escape your attention.  As the snows of winter hopefully melt in our collective memories, go to the movies for excitement, entertainment, inspiration and warmth.

Monday, March 2, 2015


Everyone experiences moments of being alone and lonesome.  If those moments, however, linger for months and even years, that emotional state can sink you into depression. Such is the fate of 35 year old Jonathan who has lost his life partner Gabriel in a tragic incident, one that Jonathan can't erase or forget.  His world is now permanently colored in dark shadows that  cause him fear and unhappiness.

In his world premiere play "Reverberation," playwright Matthew Lopez is inviting you to enter into Jonathan's state of being and become up close and personal with its realities.  Ready or not, fortified with prozac or zoloft, the Hartford Stage is unmasking this psychological conundrum until Sunday, March 15.

Luke McFarlane's Jonathan does not easily share his secrets.  He holds them close to his chest and guards them fiercely.  If he isn't illustrating greeting cards of sympathy, he is indulging in alcohol, working out or surfing the web for casual male sex partners.  Suddenly his new upstairs neighbor, in his cluttered Astoria, Queens apartment created in great detail by Andromache Chalfant, literally clomps into his life over his protestations. It seems her breezy outlook on life will bring his existence both hope and promise.

Aya Cash's Claire is eternally sunny and just what the psychiatrist would order for Jonathan's wounded soul.  With her whimsical nature and his solid physical stability, they bring a freshness to their new friendship and it appears for a precious moment in time that their mutual needs can be met.

Bookending Claire's arrival is Wes, a young and eager-to-please boy toy captured in his sincere naivety by Carl Lundsfelt.  His appearance, before Claire arrives and again after Claire and Jonathan reach a certain plateau in their relationship, causes a ripple in the lake, much like a stone sent skipping, with endless circles of reverberations.  Maxwell Williams directs this brutally honest and often disturbing punch of reality with a steady hand.

For tickets ($25 and up), call the Hartford Stage, 50 Church Street, Hartford at 860-527-5151 or online at  Performances are Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., with matinees at 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Be prepared for explicit sexual permissiveness as Jonathan struggles to surface from his spiritual drowning.


If you're unlucky enough to be in the wrong place at the definitely worst time and witness a murder, there may not be a good spot to hide.  Just ask that wannabe cabaret lounge singer Deloris Van Cartier (Kerissa Arrington) who finds herself in just that pickle and predicament.  Now her boyfriend's gang is after her and the best place for the police to hide her is just what William Shakespeare might have suggested. Deloris is told to "get thee to a nunnery."

For three fabulous performances, Friday, March 6 at 8 p.m. and Saturday, March 7 at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m., the Palace Theater in Waterbury will have the rosary beads ready for their newest novitiate as "Sister Act" comes to town.  Just what Mother Superior (Maggie Clennon Reberg) thinks of her latest charge is immediately evident.  She's suspicious.

At the Holy Order of the Little Sisters of Our Mother of Perpetual Faith, Deloris has become Sister Mary Clarence and reluctantly gives up her vices like smoking, drinking, dancing and suggestive clothing.  With the help of perky and peppy Sister Mary Patrick (Sarah Michelle Cue), Deloris gets indoctrinated into her new life and uses her previous life as a disco singer to inject the order's anemic sounding choir with new vigor and vitality.

This lively musical written by Cheri and Bill Steinkellner and Douglas Carter Beane, with lyrics by Glenn Slater and music by Alan Menken is based on the hit 1992 film comedy of the same name. Of course, eventually the gang traces Deloris down and invades her solemn hiding place.  Glorious songs like "Take Me to Heaven," "Spread the Love Around" and "Raise Your Voice" send melodies heavenward.

For tickets ($45-65), call the Palace Theater, 100 East Main Street, Waterbury at 203-346-2000 or online at

Before the  Friday, March 6, evening performance, Riverhouse Catering will prepare a 6 p.m. pre-fixe, four-course dinner in the Palace’s Poli Club, located on the mezzanine level of the theater. Dinner is $62.50 per person, which includes tax, service fees, coffee, and tea. A cash bar is also available and the menu can be viewed in advance at Seating is limited and reservations can be made when purchasing tickets through the Box Office.

Let Deloris and the Good Sisters entertain you with their angelic voices as chaos invades the religious order  and justice is at stake.  Hear the rafters ring with joy.



 Imagine two sisters who didn't speak for ten years when their mother gave a quilt she had made to one sibling, forgetting she had promised it to the other. Meet a daughter who devotedly cared for her mother for years who was heartbroken when her father gave away her mom's prized diamond ring, in what he thought was a fair distribution of her jewelry. Her brother got the ring and gave it to his wife.  Neither the brother nor his spouse ever helped during the mother's lengthy illness.  Another brother and sister fought over their mother's prized china.  The sister won it and spitefully kept it in boxes in the attic. They haven't spoken in years.

Do you know any similar tales of controversy where the desire for a family's prized possession caused chaos and a mad scramble to establish bragging rights?  Enter Joshua Harmon who has crafted a provocative look into family dynamics in "Bad Jews" being harpooned with wit and barbs at Long Wharf Theatre's Stage II until Sunday, March 29.

A beloved grandfather, Poppy, has died and the family is about to sit shiva, a period of mourning Jews observe to help adjust to their great loss.  Poppy's grandchildren arrive to stay with Jonah at his New York City apartment, one that even commands a view of the Hudson River from the bathroom.  His cousin Diana, now calling herself Daphna in preparation for her aliyah, a permanent move, to Israel arrives with an agenda carved in stone:  she is the only one worthy of inheriting Poppy's necklace, a chai meaning life, which he kept hidden while in the death camps during the Holocaust.

Keilly McQuail's Daphna is outstanding in her combative stance, a David ready to take on any Goliath, demanding and compelling, judgmental without the fairness of a King Solomon, equally parts selfish, offensive and admirable in her righteousness.  Max Michael Miller's Jonah is mild mannered and basically neutral like Switzerland.  He needs to mourn his grandfather in peace and wants to avoid conflict at all costs.  When his brother Liam, a defensive Mike Steinmetz, arrives, after the funeral is over if you can believe it, bringing his non-Jewish girlfriend Melody in tow, Jonah is suddenly the judge and jury between the two cousins.  In his own mind, Liam believes Poppy had decreed the chai to be his.  He plans to gift it to Melody, a sweetly naive Christy Escobar, as an engagement present, just as Poppy had given it to his wife decades before. Pick a side as tempers flare and fire and Oliver Butler directs this thought stimulating comedy with a golden chain of darkness.

For tickets ($74.50), call Long Wharf Theatre, 222 Sargent Drive, New Haven at 203-787-4282 or online at  Performances are Tuesday at 7 p.m., Wednesday at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m., Thursday at 8 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.

Whatever your family or religious observances, "Bad Jews" will speak to you, as it escalates from sympathetic remembrances to venomous attacks, all quicker than you can spread cream cheese on an onion bagel.