Thursday, March 31, 2016



Andrew Makepeace Ladd III began a life-long tradition of writing letters, by hand with a Parker 51 pen requiring real ink from a bottle, when he was in the second grade. He loved the joy of penning words to paper and, iike a true scholar, wrote essays, letters to the editor and  greeting cards to “present himself“ to those in his intimate world. Forget e-mails, tweets, text messages and Facebook, Andy preferred the more personal and gentler means of old-fashioned communication.  Brian Dennehy is bringing Andrew to sincere and stabilizing life in an excellent production of A. R. Gurney’s “Love Letters” at Long Wharf Theatre’s Main Stage until Sunday, April 10. “Love Letters “ had its world premiere at Long Wharf almost 30 years ago, in 1988.

The grateful recipient of all Andy’s thoughts and feelings is Miss Melissa Gardner, delightfully and rebelliously portrayed by Mia Farrow.  The two pen pals meet in second grade when Andrew is invited to Melissa’s birthday party and she is forced by etiquette and her mother to acknowledge his gift with an appropriate note of thanks and appreciation.  Thus begins a life-long tradition of sending letters and postcards back and forth between the pair, who start as friends and graduate to much more.

Their missives cover his tonsils operation and her broken leg from skiing, her stint at summer camp, his stays at all-boys schools and their adventures in foreign lands for vacations.  Throughout college years, their career choices emerge.  Melissa was always including drawings of the occasional cat and kangaroo, dancing bear or bare body making her decision to pursue art an easy one.  For his part, Andy chose a Naval stint and later the law and politics.

Their friendship endured a variety of girl and boy friends, marriages to other people, divorces, remarriages, and yet their devotion remained strong. Clearly they were always being “pushed together and pulled apart.” Her slightly outlandish and outspoken persona is a great foil for his straight arrow,slightly stuffy and conservative ways.  Over five decades, they form a lasting connection that endures geographical separation and time passages. It is only later, when Andrew follows his heart into a Senate run, that they consummate their long felt feelings physically.

Melissa and Andy mark all the big and small moments of their friendship and affection by writing to each other, with even pauses in their communication speaking volumes. Artistic Director Gordon Edelstein plays a sensitive Post Master as he orchestrates this famous pair of actors in a poignant interchange of words as they read their correspondence in a heartfelt, often humorous, occasionally teary, and touching manner over fifty years.

For tickets ($25-85), 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.

 Let Brian Dennehy and Mia Farrow share the intimacies of Andrew and Melissa so beautifully, expressing how he spent his whole life trying to rescue his "lost princess of Oz."

Monday, March 28, 2016


Doo-wopp is a unique genre of music that was first labelled in 1961 as  four part harmony swing time, often a cappella, with specific sounds that mimicked musical instruments.  its popularity is still felt today and Torrington’s Warner Theatre will be welcoming those happy harmonies for one night only, Saturday, April 16 at 8 p.m. and you’re invited to bop on over courtesy of Praia Entertainment when  "Pop, Rock and Doo-wopp Live ” comes to call.  Six super groups  who created the monumental music will be featured.

A great sound from Atlantic Records, the Drifters bridged the transition from rhythm and blues to soul and are still a force to be reckoned with in the music stratosphere, the precursors of rock and roll. The Drifters started as a back up for Clyde McPhatter of Billy Ward and the Dominoes in 1953 and went through a number of reinventions over the years, becoming part of the Vocal Group Hall of Fame twice.  The tune “Money Honey” brought them to the spotlight.  Numerous problems from inadequate compensation, member turnover and death affected the group as if it were a revolving door.  The Drifters truly “drifted,” but along the way their honeyed sounds produced hits like “Stand By Me,” “There Goes My Baby,” “This Magic Moment” and “Under the Boardwalk.”

Spanning over five decades in the music world of rhythm and blues and rock and roll, Gary U.S. Bonds is a prolific songwriter as well as a singer.  His first publicity stunt, sending promotional copies of his debut hit “New Orleans” to radio stations wrapped in a cover encouraging “Buy U.S. Bonds,” led at only age 19 to make Gary Anderson known as Gary U.S. Bonds.  His sound was considered revolutionary and was followed quickly by his next hit “Quarter to Three.”  An inspiration for future artists like Bruce Springsteen and John Lennon, he will be honored this month for Lifetime Achievement at the Lehigh Valley Music Awards.  His book “By U.S. Bonds: That’s My Story” reveals his influence as one of the early “seedlings “ of rock and roll.

Originally all from Paterson, New Jersey, the 1960’s saw this quartet emerge as a pop music group, as a cover band, taking a proven song hit and making it their own.  Meet Bob Miranda and the Happenings.  Hits like “See You in September,”  “I Got Rhythm” and “Go Away Little Girl” cemented their place at the top of the charts.  “See You in September” has been listed by Entertainment Magazine as one of the top 100 summer songs of all time and with lead singer Bob Miranda still at the helm it continues to please.  Recognized internationally, Bob Miranda and the Happenings bring nostalgia and the incredible sounds of the 60’s back to the Main Stage.

Vito Picone and the Elegants are sure to croon their biggest hit “Little Star,” a tune Picone co-wrote with Arthur Venosa, an original doo-wopp group number.  Hailing from Staten Island, New York, these teens saw success early, touring with legends like Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis and Dion and the Belmonts.  Known for performing golden oldies, the group has never been able to duplicate the wild success of “Little Star” but still performs all over the country, especially at the San Gennaro Festival in Little Italy every September.

Bensonhurst, Brooklyn saw the beginnings of Emil Stucchio and the Classics, a trio that is still intact and performing today. They first sang together in high school,  Over the years they crooned pop standards of the 1920’s and 1930’s, concentrating on ballads, with their biggest hits being “Cinderella,” “Angel Angela,” “Life is But a Dream” and their most successful, “Till Then.”  With lead singer Emil Stucchio, harmonizing with Al Contrera and Teresa McClean, the Classics have an enduring sound and style that led them to be named the sixth most popular group out of 500 in a recent radio survey.

Lead vocalist of the 60’s girl group “The Toys,” Barbara Harris began her career as a church singer at the young age of six.  As part of The Toys, they popularized a Bach minuet, put a Motown spin on it and created “A Lover’s Concerto.”  Other hits to follow include “Attack!,” ”Baby Toys,” “Silver Spoon,” “Sealed with a Kiss” and “How Gentle is the Rain.”  Their manager gave them their name “because you girls are like kids.  You’re like toys.”  Harris credits the group’s happy spirit for their success.

Put on your pink poodle skirts and black leather jackets for the big show.  For tickets ($34-75), call the Warner Theatre in Torrington at 860-489-7180  or online at Ask about the limited number of tickets for the  Meet and Greet post show with the stars.

Get nostalgic and conjure up the great old days and nights of dancing and singing with these wonderful groups that have never faded away from your heart or your memory  See you hopping and bopping at the Warner as you literally watch the live juke box on stage explode with magic.


No one could be happier about the menagerie of players or the wild three ring circus that is this year’s crop of political presidential candidates than that irreverent comedy clan The Capitol Steps.  They are sure to crunch on  toes as they sling barbs and arrows,  using wit and satire to lampoon the whole field of political potentials running for the highest position in the land.  Waterbury’s Palace Theater will host this comedic debate, one in which the lawn mower just may mow them all down to size, for one night only, Thursday, April 7 at 7:30 p.m. It is guaranteed to be HUGE.

If you don’t recognize their name, The Capitol Steps have been around making sport with headlines and headline makers since 1981.  No one is safe from their satirical spotlights, not the Pope, Palin or Putin.  They fearlessly take on anyone standing tall in a leadership role.  Their unique story began at Washington, DC’s hub when they were all Congressional staffers who were asked by their boss, Senator Charles Percy, to create a skit for a Congressional Christmas Party.

The original trio of writers Elaina Newport, Bill Strauss and Jim Aidala were so successful at their assignment they quit that gig and proceeded to take their show on the road.  They have yet to yield the floor.  Their material is timely and topical and tremendously funny, as they poke and prod the current newsmakers in a series of skits, with song parodies, dance, props, costumes and tongue-in-cheek humor.

Everyone in the political arena will be fair game as these “happy hunters” take aim at Hillary, the Donald, Ted, Bernie, Ben, Jeb and Marco.  Whether you’re a Democrat, a Republican, an independent, Green Party, Tea Party or otherwise affiliated, your gal or guy will be lampooned and skewered in a non-partisan free-for-all.  These guys write all their own material and this year they have a feast, a full buffet table, a banquet to select juicy morals from for the tastiest treats…unless you’re John Kasich and your name doesn’t rhyme with anything, not even Dennis Kucinich.

For tickets ($25-75), call the Palace Theater, 100 East Main Street, Waterbury at 203-346-2000 or online at

Prepare for razor sharp wit about the economy, health care, immigration, foreign policy, social security and, most of all, political candidates as this talented group illuminates all the “insider” stuff they once experienced first hand.  Song parodies are their speciality.  Show up and prepare to laugh.  Cast your ballot for The Capitol Steps and they won’t let you down.

Saturday, March 26, 2016





Storytelling through the use of inanimate animals, objects or humans dates back to ancient Greece,  a mere 3000 years ago, and is known as puppetry.  By manipulating fingers, rods or strings, the puppeteer controls hands, legs and arms to tell a tale, often taking on the voice of the sock, the marionette or the puppet in the process.

Through the ages, puppets have been used to tell epic tales, a culture’s fables, love stories, reenactments of wars, healing and religious rites and even vaudeville entertainment.  Today puppets can be seen in Jim Henson’s Muppets, Julie Taymor’s hit Broadway musical “The Lion King” as well as the delightful comedy “Avenue Q.”

The University of Connecticut has a long and loving relationship with these mostly paper mache, cloth and wooden creatures, including a collection of over 2500 puppets from all over the world.  Its dedication to preserving puppetry as an art form began in 1964 with Frank Ballard, whose creativity is preserved in the Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry.  UCONN is one of only two universities in the country to offer a BFA in puppet arts and the only one to offer masters degrees in the field.

You can dip your hand ( or your toes) in this fascinating field of entertainment by attending The MFA Puppet Arts Festival at the Studio Theatre on the Storrs campus until April 3 with a trio of fine productions as world premieres, thesis presentations as part of a master’s candidate requirements. Kalob Martinez molds Macbeth into “El Beto,” a story of lust and blood set in the midst of a Mexican drug cartel. Using Spanish sprinkled liberally in the English, Martinez reenacts the bloody business of assassination. Macbeth, with the help and encouragement of his wife, has grand ambitions and is willing to murder everyone in his path to his goal to be king.  With the three weird sisters as witches of prophesy, he wields his hand puppets in a twirl of mystery.  Martinez employs the Mexican Day of the Dead for inspiration in this unusual adaptation of Shakespeare’s tragedy.

Ana Craciun-Lambru, in “Dust,” was inspired by the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in New York City. She weaves a wonderful dance in her poignant story of puppetry, calling upon her immigrant heritage in Roumania to create a personal world of a little girl and the grandmother she dearly loves.  Using a cache of letters, she traces a trail to America and the search for a better life and the tragedy of forgetting the ones who are left behind.  Her dance of joy and abandon turns to fear as fire and cornfields flair.  Her composition is classic its its emotional impact on the viewer.

Gavin Cummins fills the stage with visual slides that tell a multitude of memories.  Using diverse objects from a mouse, a tractor, a boy whose pants are too big, dreams that are unrealized, a night watchman and a bag of tricks, Cummins employs shadow puppetry to explore the medium like a spool of film unraveling, reel upon reel of stories. He seems to be bidding a fond farewell to objects he cares for in his one man show “Ok, I Love You, Bye.”

For tickets ($7 student, to $30), call 860-486-2113 or online at  Performances are Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m. until April 3.  A fourth production “Echo,” a retelling of a classic Greek myth, by Christopher Mullens will take place at the Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry ( a great place to visit) until April 3.

Come experience what Artistic Director Vincent J. Cardinal terms “an exciting and edgy evening of the freshest kind of performance."

Monday, March 21, 2016


Jules Verne invited you to go around the world in 80 days but the Jewish Film festival is encouraging you to make the global trip in only 10 days.  For the twentieth incredible year, you can stamp your movie going passport in eight exotic countries without having to pack one suitcase or endure one painful inoculation.

Be an adventurer like Verne’s Phileas Fogg and travel to exotic lands all over Hartford and West Hartford from Thursday, March 31 to Sunday, April 10, thanks to the organizational and visionary skills of the Mandell Jewish Community Center, with Harriet Dobin, Director of the Festival at the helm.  Twenty-two films from countries like Israel, Hungary, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Germany, Sweden, France and the United States will be yours for the taking starting opening night at West Hartford’s Herbert Gilman Theater, at the Mandell Jewish Community Center, 335 Bloomfield Avenue at 7 p.m. with “East Jerusalem, West Jerusalem.”

Termed a rockumentary, this movie proves the power of music to build bridges of understanding where enmity previously existed.  For a marathon recording session that was days longer than it took God to create the world, Israeli singer songwriter David Broza assembles an internationally flavored cast of musicians in the Palestinian studio of the band Sabreen.  What results is encouragingly energizing.  Come hear David Broza in conversation and songs, with CDs and confections, following the film. A tasty treat. An encore presentation of the movie will be Sunday, April 10 at 4:30 p.m. at Bow Tie Cinemas, Palace 17, Hartford.

Next up on Saturday, April 2 at 9 p.m. at the Mandell Jewish Community Center preceded by a reception 8 p.m. is the funny farce “Kicking Out Shoshana.”  Ami Shoshan may have all the right moves on the soccer field but he definitely gets sidelined and penalized big time when he flirts with a mobster’s main squeeze. His choices to save his life are King Solomon-like in painful reality. It screens with a short, “The Ten Plagues,” a modern version of biblical dimensions that strikes a woman on her way to the Seder. An encore screening will be Wednesday, April 6 at 7 p.m. at Bow Tie Cinemas, Blue Back Square, West Hartford.

Sunday, April 3 is stuffed with great choices, all at Spotlight Theatres in Hartford, starting with a daughter’s therapy session searching for forgiveness and understanding of her mother at 1 p.m. with “Look at Us Now, Mother!,” followed by a talk with director Gayle Kirschenbaum and her mother Mildred, the subjects of the film.

At 4 p.m., tune in to “Every Face Has a Name,” a film that reunited hundreds of concentration camp survivors seventy years later, after they arrived in Sweden for their first taste of freedom.  Hear their emotional stories that bridge the decades.  It will be paired with the short film “Remember,” stories of local survivors in the area.

Also at 4 p.m. is “10% My Child,” that follows a journey by a young filmmaker Nico to forge a path of love with his elusive girlfriend Noa’s seven year old daughter Franny. Can he make a family out of tattered hearts?  Accompanying this film is “Bulmus (Caught in the Net),” the internet, not a fishing net, when Nathan tries to upload a newly finished project, only to find a neighbor’s child has “stolen” his Wifi connection.  An encore screening will be Thursday, April 7 at 6 p.m. at Bow Tie Cinemas, Blue Back Square, West Hartford.

Rounding out the evening are two choices at 7:30 p.m.: “To Life!,” a poignant tale of friendship between an aging cabaret singer Ruth and a young fugitive from Berlin who each give the other something to live for and “Dough,” an unlikely bonding of an apprentice Muslim teen learning the art of bread making from a traditional Jewish baker and the secret ingredient that affects the challah dramatically.  “Dough” will have an encore screening Sunday, April 10 at 4:30 p.m. at Bow Tie Cinemas, Palace 17, Hartford.

Get your taste buds ready to savor when “In Search of Israeli Cuisine” invites you to dine with Chef Michael Solomonov on Monday, April 4 at 5:30 p.m. at the Mandell JCC.  A grand tasting will be followed at 7 p.m. by the chef’s personal odyssey all over Israel interviewing all the artisans popular in the culinary world: Jewish, Arab, Muslim, Christian and Druze, found in vineyards, olive groves, restaurants and farms. Cookbooks will be sold and a talk with director Roger Sherman and Chef Michael will be held.

The Mark Twain House in Hartford will host “Are You Joking?” also at 7 p.m. Monday, April 4, focusing on a paralegal who switches career tracks when an old and dear friend finds himself in a sex-tape scandal.  Barb becomes a comic to help her gay ballet dancer pal Billy as each discovers truths about who they really are.  A Reel Talk-Reel Laughs and reception will follow with actress/comic Sas Goldberg and interviewer Julia Pistell.   “The Ten Plagues” will screen with it.

On first blush, you wouldn’t think of author Isaac Bathevis Singer as a “hottie,” but his harem of forty female translators, his “muses,” might beg to differ. In ”The Muses of Isaac Bathevis Singer,” you’ll make the acquaintance of this unlikely “Yiddish Don Juan” and the women who idolized him.  Emanuel Synagogue in West Hartford will be screening this charming tale on Tuesday, April 5 at 1 p.m., followed by a Reel Talk with Professor Joshua Lambert and playwright Leah Napolin,  with refreshments.  The short “70 Hester Street” will focus on all the transformations at that Lower East Side address from synagogue, whiskey still, raincoat factory, art studio and director’s home.

Return to the Emanuel at 7 p.m. for the inspirational story of hope and courage that is “Imber’s Left hand,” about a Massachusetts artist Jon Imber who doesn’t let a diagnosis of ALS defeat him.  With the help of his artist wife Jill, he creates 100 portraits in four months as a visual legacy to his life.  A Reel  Talk will follow with Jill Hoy, artist, Richard Kane director, ALS director Ron Hoffman and moderator Deborah Gaudet, from the Wadsworth Atheneum. Widow Jill Hoy is originally from Middletown.

Difficult selections will be on hand on Wednesday, April 6 at Bow Tie Cinemas, Blue Back Square, West Hartford at 7 p.m. between “Serial (Bad) Weddings,” like a modern day "Fiddler on the Roof,” when the parents have to deal with the marriages of their four daughters to an Arab, a Jew, an Asian and a Catholic and “The Kind Words,” a tale about  a trio of siblings who discover a secret side of their mother’s, one that sends them off on a journey to find their mysterious father figure.  “Some Vacation” will screen with “Serial (Bad) Weddings,” about a family road trip taken by a traveling salesman. “Serial (Bad) Weddings” will encore at Bow Tie Cinemas onSunday, April 10 at 2:15 p.m.

“Once in a Lifetime” will highlight Thursday, April 7 at 8:15 at the Bow Tie Cinemas as the teacher of an uninspired class of teens find themselves motivated by Holocaust stories and encouraged to enter a contest they have no chance of winning.  In an unlikely haven, the “bomb shelter capital of the world,” in the Negev desert, lies Sderot where music is life-transforming in “Rock in the Red Zone,” playing on Saturday, April 9 at the Mandell JCC at 9 p.m., preceded by a reception at 8 p.m.

The Jewish Film Festival will come to a close on Sunday, April 10 with a full day of events, starting at 10 a.m. with a brunch and Reel Talk at the Mandell JCC.  At 11 a.m., “Rabin in his Own Words” will air, a documentary about Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and the dramatic life he led, all the way to his the role of peacemaker that ultimately led to his assassination in 1995.

At 7:30 p.m., the festival will conclude with “The Last Mentsch,” how a survivor of Auschwitz, denies his heritage after the war, only to desperately want to reclaim it as he faces his own mortality.  With an unlikely companion, he travels back to Hungary to prove he deserves to be buried in a Jewish cemetery.  A Reel Talk with Dr. Samuel Kassow,Trinity College, and Dr Avinoam Pitt , University of Hartford, will follow, with a reception.

For tickets to all of these  events, call 860-231-6316, fax 860-233-0802 or go online to Go to for tickets, questions and a full brochure, or  Check the full schedule for times, places and encore presentations.

Celebrate the wonderful films and filmmakers, with fascinating conversations and delicious treats, as you enjoy laughter and tears, history, fine acting and tales of the human spirit.



With a provocative title like “Sex with Strangers,” you come to the theater with specific expectations clearly in mind.  While playwright Laura Eason certainly knows how to warm up the sheets, her primary motivation is to create a sensual dance between a pair of characters, a woman and a man, both writers but seemingly at two opposite ends of the literary spectrum. Hartford TheaterWorks will set the book pages wildly turning until Sunday, April 17 as both the sheets of the bed and the sheets of the manuscript turn steamy.

Courtney Rackley’s Olivia, a teacher by day and a writer by night, has been burned by the critical reviews of her first novel.  Too sensitive and vulnerable, she has taken to heart the book’s less than successful debut.  Now she is the throes of a snow storm, comfortably snuggled in and alone in a writer’s retreat cabin in Michigan.  As she proofreads her newest work, one she is guarding from the world, a for-her-eyes-only, her solitude is disturbingly interrupted.

Enter Patrick Ball’s Ethan, a brash, young, aggressive intruder, one who has an agenda of his own. Who is he and why has he come in the middle of a blizzard?  Olivia feels she has the right to demand answers.  The internet is down, the television is nonexistent and they can’t find a deck of cards.  What should they do? Hold a conversation and then get physical.

Ethan is a blogger who wrote about his exploits with the fairer sex and is dared to bed a woman every week for a year.  The result is his New York Times best selling expose “Sex with Strangers.”  Olivia is immediately appalled by his crass treatment of females and yet a little titillated by his success.  When Ethan confesses they share a mutual friend, that he has read her novel not once, but twice, when he showers her with a well practiced line of charm, what is a woman to do?

Their sensual dance continues, with many a misstep, without the help of Arthur Murray or Cupid.  He wants to help her regain her literary self-confidence and reenter the writing world she has abandoned.  She wants to believer him but his past is too tawdry to overlook.  What will happen when the snow melts?  Will their temperatures continue to rise? Director Rob Ruggiero keeps the heat turned up to sizzle as the fine pair of actors exude passion and power.

For tickets ($40-65, student rush $15), call TheaterWorks, 233 Pearl Street, Hartford at 860-527-7838 or online at  Performances are Tuesday to Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2:30 p.m and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2:30 p.m.  Come early to see the deeply personal photographic portraits that are on display and for sale in the upstairs art gallery, by Emma Mead, the

Read between the lines as these two writers journey to find the truths of who they truly are to themselves and to each other.

Friday, March 18, 2016


Modern art is clearly in the eye of the beholder.  Open to interpretation, it can elate or confuse, inspire controversy, stimulate debate and be priced in the stratosphere.  A large canvas of white on white paint has even been the subject matter of a play by Yasmina Reza, simply called “Art,” where three connoisseurs of the genre argue vociferously on what the painting means and if it is really art.   A new invigorating view on the topic is being launched by Bated Breath Theatre Company in a novel manner and you’re invited to pull up an auction chair and take part in the action.

The New Britain Museum of American Art has rolled out a vivid red carpet to welcome Bated Breath Theatre’s talented membership for an evening or afternoon of audience participation in an original theatrical piece entitled “Beneath the Gavel.”  If you’ve ever imagined what it might be like to play with the big guys at an auction house like Sotheby’s or Christie’s, this is your golden invitation.  You can wave your numbered paddle, without fear of embarrassment or bankruptcy and bid on one of a trio of art offerings.

Bated Breath even provides the monetary medium to fund your bid, as they “shoot” out $100,000 bills enthusiastically into the crowd.  Imagine being in the enviable position to plunk down $2.3 million for a piece to hang over your fireplace mantle.  Director Mara Lieberman has researched this current topic based on true stories from news headlines and auction world insiders and incorporated the ideas of her acting company, Frankie Alicea, Gabriel Aprea, Missy Burmeister, Sri Dopp, Rebecca Ellis and Debra Walsh, to flesh out the experience.  Exploring the often outrageous sums bid on a canvas, the persona of the larger-than-life players like the artist Andy Warhol of Campbell Soup fame and the controlling manipulation of prominent art dealers like Leo Castelli, “Beneath the Gavel” assails the senses with a bombardment of sensory matter.  

In pantomime (an artist painting a model with imaginary paint in an empty frame), with dance and movement (the frenetic bustle of city dwellers hurrying to work), in scenes of a behind-the-canvas  look at art auctioneers, the art world is revealed, warts and all.  Bated Breath uses specific sites that enhance its message, which makes being in an art gallery and museum a visionary decision.  With the rich legacy of paintings as a backdrop, the audience is immersed in the subject matter.  

For tickets ($25, museum members $20), call 800-229-0257 ext. 203 or go online at  The remaining performances are Saturday, March 19 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. and Thursday, March 24 at 7 p.m. at the New Britain Museum of American Art, 56 Lexington Street, New Britain. Hurry!

Grab your paddle, don the fancy patron of the arts glasses as a gift, collect as much fake moola as you can and enjoy the theatrical endeavor that is the creative whirlwind “Beneath the Gavel."

Monday, March 14, 2016



Hop aboard the soul train that’s heading to the Hartford’s Bushnell theatrical station Tuesday, March 22 to Sunday, March 27 for a magnificent ride into musical history.  Let the conductor Berry Gordy punch your ticket to ride for a guaranteed special trip down the pop music tracks as “Motown the Musical” climbs mountains high on an electrifying engine of hits.  Sit back and be transported on the glory train.

First stop up is Detroit where the musical royalty gathered to begin the trip of a lifetime and music mogul record producer Berry Gordy began his energizing conducting feat.  Establishing the record label Motown Recording Corporation in April 1960 on West End Boulevard in a two-story house at #2648, Gordy wasn’t content to be a songwriter, he wanted to produce the stars.  in a converted garage space in the back of the property, one he called Studio A and Hitsville USA, he wanted a virtual unknown singer to walk in one door only to emerge a force to be reckoned with in the music world.  “Motown the Musical” created by Berry Gordy’s vision reveals his extraordinary ability to recognize talent, raw and new, and polish it to a glowing hue.  His discoveries include such names as Diana, Smokey, Michael and Stevie and more and they all shine on stage in a momentous milk train string of stops on the marvelous Motown train that is Gordy’s history.

Starting with an $800 loan from his family, he created groups like the Miracles, the Supremes, the Temptations, the Four Tops, the Commodores and more, giving a platform to a string of African-American artists. Come hear the musical legends and authentic sounds and dancing feet with all the glitz and glamour that were part and parcel of the pop culture package.

For tickets ($25.50-112.50), call the Bushnell, 166 Capitol Avenue, Hartford at 860-987-5900 or online at  Performances are Tuesday at 8 p.m., Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.

Come meet the man who you know “is ready for a brand new beat,” one the world will hear and follow on board the little engine that could, conducted by Berry Gordy himself.

Thursday, March 10, 2016


With a glass of green beer in one hand and a shamrock stuck in your jaunty hat, you’ll be all set to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in style.  Seven Angels Theatre is happy to set your comedy funny bones vibrating this Saturday, March 19 at 8 p.m. when a trio of unlikely leprechauns invade Waterbury’s temporary Emerald Isle, for one night only.

First up is writer and stand up comic Tony Powell, who hails from Brooklyn and was something of a child prodigy, winning a scholarship to a Cheshire Connecticut boarding school, and starting college at age 16 at the University of Virginia, excelling on the debate team and planning a career as a speech writer.  Powell was teaching at-risk teens on Coney Island when he was tapped by the irreverent Don Imus to join his Imus in the Morning Radio Show, post the Rutgers controversy.  Initially a sports commentator, he has since graviatated to general commentator and celebrity impersonations.  He is known for doing Little Richard, Jesse Jackson, Eddie Murphy and Charles Rangel.  Powell thinks “comedy is a powerful aphrodisiac.”  He discovered he was funny in the fifth grade when he did a running commentary on a dissection of a frog in science class and made everybody in class laugh, except perhaps the teacher.

Finding his powers early in life, Powell thinks “comics are born and see the world in a certain way, observing the funny in it.”’ To Powell, comics “speak the truth and take on the establishment.”  You may have seen him in commercials for Ritz Crackers, the U.S. Army, Dawn Dishwashing Liquid, or Miller’s Beer as Mr. Chill or Heineken.

Next up at the microphone is “Goumba Johnny” Sialiano, born in the Bronx, who started out as a professional football player for the NY Jets and NY Giants until he was sidelined by a neck injury.  Creating Broadway Bodyguards, he went on to escort celebrities like Smokey Robinson, Malcolm Forbes and Sam Kinison.  Today he is a radio host, comedian, actor and author and a famous “roaster” on the circuit for “victims” like Matt Lauer.

Noted for his “slice of Italian comedy,” he talks about how his mom worked in a church and punished him by sending him to his room to read the Bible, where he discovered Jesus was Italian, how he was forced to go to his 3rd, 4th and 5th degree cousins’ weddings and how his father was the font of italian wisdom. He’s frequently seen at comedy clubs like Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods, on soap operas like Guiding Light and As the World Turns, made commercials for the NFL on the Super Bowl, written for Cosmopolitan and US Weekly and penned a book in 2008 “So You Wanna Be a Mobster: Get Made! Get Paid! Get Babes! Start Your Own Mafia Family!” and helped raise dollars for numerous charities.

Move over, Bob Hope, there’s another amazing traveling comic in town, one who has taken his antics and routines around the world nine times.  Tom Foss has entertained troops from Iraq to Afghanistan as well as the Middle East to Europe.  Dubbed a “cross between Robin Williams and George Carlin,” Tom Foss can also be found on aircraft carriers, support ships and army bases all over the U. S. in addition to being a member of the crew on a number of Carnival cruise ships.  A regular visitor to comedy clubs, Foss can also be heard on XM Satellite Sirius Radio.

Tom Foss is likely to make fun of everything from flip flops to knee problems, aging to Cialis, ice cream to soccer, cell phones to squirrels, drinking to relationships, senior moments to snacks.

For a fun night of comic geniuses, call Seven Angels Theatre, 1 Plank Road, Waterbury at 203-757-4676 or online at for tickets ($38.75).

Irish beer will be flowing and maybe some of it will even be green for the celebratory occasion..

Sunday, March 6, 2016



Grace’s Diner is a port in a storm, in this case a blizzard that closed highways and stranded a bus load of passengers.  Seeking warmth and a hot cup of java, each traveler enters the homey establishment with a personal agenda to fulfill.  Playwright William Inge offers a myriad of messages about life, learning and love in his involving comedy/drama “Bus Stop” being staged weekends until March 12 by the New Haven Theater Company at The English Building Markets, 839 Chapel Street, New Haven.

Susan Kulp is Grace, capable, understanding and hard working, a woman who has witnessed a lot and now is content to have a little loving companionship when the opportunity arises.  When Carl (Erich Greene) pulls in with his cadre of characters, he indicates his willingness to put his boots under her bed.

Sara Courtemache’s Elma is Grace’s helper at the diner, a young, wide-eyed girl on the cusp of womanhood, one who loves literature and culture and is eager to experience the world.  She gravitates immediately to the smooth talking Dr. Gerald Lyman, a persuasive J. Kevin Smith, who likes a little chaser with his soda and has a less than honorable scheme with the naive Elma in mind.

Also on the bus is a night club singer, a chanteuse if you please, a captivating Megan Keith Chenot as Cherie, who explains to the accommodating sheriff, a law abiding Peter Chenot, that she has been kidnapped, abducted against her will and forced to ride across state lines.  Her offender is the lanky and sincere cowboy Bo Decker, an aggressively eager Trevor Williams, who is clearly besotted by Cherie and has only honorable intentions: to marry her and live a long and happy life on his Montana ranch.

Bo’s guitar playing sidekick is an older man Virgil (John Watson) who serves as his guardian and voice of reason.  With the phone lines down and the roads impassable, the occupants of Grace’s Diner perform a sensual dance of restless souls trying to find peace and joy and affection.  George Kulp does a fine job directing this troupe of talented community players, on a detailed set he designed to generate memories of a Woolworth’s luncheonette.

For tickets ($20), go online to or purchase them at the door.  You can even shop for a chafing dish, candles, vintage clothing or china as you go through the consignment store on the way to the theater entrance.  Performances are Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m.

Hop on and off this well-driven transport that will have you rooting for a successful journey for all the travelers of life on board.


Starlight and teardrops mark the brief meteor of love that is Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet.”  A tragedy for the ages, it rarely fails to move the heart strings as the young lovers fall into the dramatic swirl of instantaneous deep affection at the Capulet’s masked ball, only to be forced to seal their fate five days later in death.

Like an adult firefly that glows with luminescence for too swift a time and then, captured in a glass jar, is snuffed out forever, Romeo and Juliet are trapped by the feuding enmity of their two families, the Capulets and the Montagues.  The scene is Verona, Italy in post-war modern times as envisioned by director Darko Tresnjak at the Hartford Stage until Sunday, March 20.

Chris Ghaffari’s Romeo and Kaliswa Brewster’s Juliet are perfectly paired as eager lovers whose eyes meet, as she bewitches him in a gypsy dance at the ball.  The lure of forbidden fruit is quickly evident, adding to the impetuous need to preserve their secret in marriage, before their parents can intercede to stop them.

For Juliet’s part, her father (Timothy D. Stickney) and mother (Celeste Ciulla) have set their sights on the eligible nobleman Paris (Julien Seredowych) to be her bridegroom.  Romeo previously enamored by the fair Rosaline, soon realizes it is only to Juliet that he can pledge his heart.

The tension in the air intensifies when Romeo’s friend Mercutio (Wyatt Fenner) finds himself pitted in battle against Juliet’s cousin Tybalt (Jonathan Louis Dent).  When Tybalt is slain, Romeo avenges his death by slaying Mercutio and suddenly Romeo finds himself banished from the city.

With the help and counsel of the good Friar Laurence (Charles Janasz), a plan is formed to save their recent union.  Juliet’s nurse (Kandis Chappell) tries to protect her young charge but sleeping potions, vials of poison, misdirected missives and threats of revenge plague any chance of happiness.

Shakespeare’s verse is beautifully pleasing to the ear, Ilona Somogyi’s costumes are stylish, while Darko Tresnjak’s set is problematic, containing a wall of a flower decked mausoleum that opens to reveal a balcony and a large gravel-filled pit that is distracting as it crunches with the action.  While all’s well does not end well, this production is distinguished for its elegance of words and deeds. Kudos to the whole cast.

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. and Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m.

Enter the star-crossed orb of two lovers whose affection, like a firefly burned too brightly, was quickly extinguished when deprived of air to breath.  “Parting is such sweet sorrow."


While a flock of geese migrate south and autumnal leaves start turning crimson and gold, the mind and body acknowledge that the seasons of growth and beginnings are fading.  Playwright Bruce Graham has used the coming of winter to foretell the end of life and the difficult decisions about approaching death in his deeply moving and emotional drama “The Outgoing Tide” being lovingly staged by Square One Theatre Company in Stratford until Sunday, March 20.

The intimate black box stage at Stratford Academy, 719 Birdseye Street, Stratford, the new home of the company, has been transformed into an inviting cottage on the Chesapeake Bay, one where Gunner has been happily dropping his fishing line for decades.  Al Kulcsar’s Gunner is sarcastically funny with a bite (much like he’d want his catfish to have), an actor who becomes increasingly evocative as we witness his bouts of dementia framed by passages of lucidity.

Gunner, once a trucker, had married young, his childhood sweetheart Peg, whom he affectionately dubs his “Grace Kelly beautiful, South Philly version.”  Unprepared for marriage and a quickly arriving child, he used a bullying form of words and deeds with his son Jack to “toughen” him for life.  Now as an adult son about to divorce his wife, Jack, a conflicted Damien Long, has yet to reconcile his feelings for his dad.  

Jack is now caught, as surely as a lobster locked in a trap, between his parents as he is summoned by his father to return to the family home for an urgent matter.  His mother Peg, a dedicated and devoted Peggy Nelson, has always protected her son, filling him with cautionary tales of terror that could happen if he wasn’t careful. These messages contrasted greatly to the ones spouted by dad who always advocated taking a risk.

Now Jack is poised on a dangerous diving board between them. Mom wants him to advocate for and convince Gunner to move into an assisted living facility, one that has a special unit for when his mind finally betrays him, abandoning his quality of life.  For his part, Gunner will hear none of it and has executed a plan that he can live (or die) with but he requires Jack’s help and Peg’s blessing.

Tom Holehan directs this incredibly honest, timely and personal weighing of options and values, one that too many face as terminal illness robs us of our choices.  Moments of humor punctuate the drama, while flash backs reveal the reasonings behind the actions of the past.  This cast of three is masterful in bringing this drama of impending death to poignant life.

For tickets ($20, seniors and students $19), call Square One Theatre Company at 203- 375-8778 or online at Performances areThursday at 7 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.

Discover the importance of being there for family in good times and in bad, and the need to forgive when all is said and done. You may feel a compelling need to have a plate of pancakes or fried catfish by the end of the evening. 
Peggy Nelson, Al Kulcsar and  Damien Long in “The Outgoing Tide"


Alan Safier is a man of many voices and faces, from politicians like Spiro Agnew, scientists like Albert Einstein, presidents like John Adams, authors like Truman Capote and even assassins like Charles J Guiteau who succeeded in killing President James Garfield.  With a range that spans Dr. Seuss to Shakespeare, including a seven year stint as the middle dog in Kibble ’n Bits commercials, Safier is up for any acting challenge, like the one  in which he spotlights the mean spirited grouch Scrooge in Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” now renamed “Humbug!” or “Joseph’s Gospel,” that ventures down a biblical path to a manger in Bethlehem.

An actor, singer, producer and voice over artist of commercials, Safier started being funny in his eighth grade school days, entertaining as the class clown doing imitations of John F. Kennedy.  Soon his repertoire grew to include Jimmy Stewart, Carol Channing, Henry Fonda and Orson Bean.  He chanced to meet Bean when they both showed up to audition for the same voice-over gig. Bean was “a nice guy, who was flattered by my imitation.”

With Sheldon Harnick of “Fiddler on the Roof” fame, a good friend, he mentioned one day over lunch that he was looking for a good holiday show.  Harnick remembered that years earlier he had penned the book and lyrics with Michel Legrand’s music to “Humbug!”  Although written for a full cast, Harnick offered to let Safier adapt it to a one man show, with Safier playing 27 characters and singing a dozen songs.  Cleverly pre-recording film clips, he’s able, for example, to sing a duet with Marley’s ghost on a 12 foot high screen.  As Safier explains, “It gave me a whole new appreciation for the genius of Charles Dickens.”

Alan Safier seems to gravitate to one man shows.  He recently premiered in a John Dowie work “Joseph’s Gospel” in Buffalo, a play recommended to him by a Protestant minister he met.  He flew to London and met the playwright, securing the U.S. rights.  While slightly irreverent, with a contemporary feel, it tells the Bible story at the barn in Bethlehem from the father’s perspective.

For the past eight years, he has toured the country in a definitely gentler and more humorous role. Just hand him a silvery head of hair, a pair of blackrimmed glasses and a trademark cigar (one he never actually smokes) and that favorite comic centenarian George Burns will be ready to visit.  From Thursday, March 10 to Sunday, March 13, Alan Safier will become George Burns, in Rupert Holmes’ engaging play “Say Goodnight Gracie” at Nelson Hall, at Elim Park, in Cheshire.

Safier’s agent got him the audition when the actor then in the role had throat surgery and admits he almost didn’t go.  “I didn’t feel I was good enough, but a friend persuaded me to try and now I can’t imagine not playing George.  It’s actor heaven to be out there by myself.  I read everything written about and by him so I can literally get inside his skin." Using film clips and a little song and dance, and holding his favorite stogie, Safier spends an hour and a half convincing God that he should be allowed into heaven.

For Safier, the show is an act of love. “Everyone knows George and Gracie.  The audience enjoys lots and lots of laughter as well as a few tears.  Occasionally there’s a teenager in the front row who was dragged to the performance and quickly becomes entranced as if he’s hearing from a lovable grandfather.  After the show, he’ll tell me he’s going to go home and google the star.  I enjoy introducing the Burns to a new generation of people.”

For tickets ($36, seniors $29, children $12), call Nelson Hall at 203-699-5495.  Performances are today at 2 p.m., Friday at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.

Come discover how Georg Burns, a song and dance man back in Vaudeville days, met a dizzy and pretty Irish lass named Gracie Allen and created an act for the ages.  You’ll learn the secrets to his longevity of a 100 years and how when he grew up, after decades in show biz,  he was a hit playing the big man upstairs, God himself.  Alan Safier is pleased to make your acquaintance as the man of the century.



Compassion and choices, coming home, cancer, clowns, candy and champagne all figure prominently in Scott Stephen Kegler’s touching world premiere drama.  Chestnut Street Playhouse will introduce “Champagne and Licorice” to audiences at its intimate space, 24 Chestnut Street, Norwich weekends until Saturday, March 12.

Emily Donnel is sweetly sensitive in her role as Silky, as she copes with a reality newly complicated.  She prefers to be called Cindy and at this momentous point in her life she deserves to be indulged.  Whatever name she answers to, she needs friendship, understanding and love as well as moral support.  Her days are at a crossroads and change is on the horizon.  Away for many years, she has chosen New Year’s Eve for her emotional homecoming.

In the past year, she has said goodbye to her job, her car, her boyfriend and her apartment, taken a bucket list trip to Ireland and made a significant life-affirming decision.  Waiting at a bus stop on the final leg of her destination, she chances to meet Phil (Michael Vernon Davis) who is remarkable for his red nose, giant feet and costume.  Unable to continue reading her book, the two begin a conversation, each thinking the other is “creepy.”

While she apologizes a lot and he frequently takes comfort and courage from a bottle of alcohol, the pair connect on some spiritual level, so much so that she invites the clown, later on, to come to her New Year’s Eve party.  Arriving home, Cindy learns she is not the only one with secrets and surprises.  Her widowed mother Barbara (Heather Spiegal) has a live-in boyfriend Robert (Philip Tremblay) and a new pet rabbit.  Her free thinking brother Eddie (her real life brother Benjamin Donner) crashes in with his unusual “family” members Sacha (Nathan Rumney) and the pregnant Cherice (Alyson Fowler).  While most family members are yours by birth and default, Eddie has chosen these people to love and care for.

As Dick Clark’s new celebrity replacements prepare to drop the crystal ball on the New Year, Cindy reveals her master plan, one she hopes everyone will accept and approve. Ready or not, she is determined to be her own advocate and dictate her own fate.  Shane William Kegler directs this involving drama that debates end-of-life choices with a fine cast and with a delicate hand.

For tickets ($20), call Chestnut Street Playhouse at 860 -886-2378 or online at
Performances are Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.

Prepare to laugh a lot and cry a little as Cindy’s established and adopted familiies help her down her chosen path.  Go to for more information or call  800-247-7421 to learn about the work on this important issue.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016



What might Dutch post-Impressionist painter Vincent van Gogh have thought of modern day auction houses where one of his 2100 artworks, that were largely ignored in his lifetime, are now fetching upwards of $100 million?  Recognized today as a genius in the art world, he was only able to sell one painting for what would be the equivalent now of $50. The Bated Breath Theatre Company will be bringing the thrill of the auction block, like a Christie’s or Sotheby’s, to the New Britain Museum of American Art for five performances Thursday, March 10 and Friday, March 11 at 7 p.m. and Saturday, March 19 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. and Thursday, March 24 at 7 p.m. when “Beneath the Gavel” comes to elegant and fast paced life.

What began in 2008 as a small volunteer laden theatre company started by professors at the University of Connecticut, Bated Breath now embraces an active partnership with art galleries, museums, schools and other public spaces.  Using site-specific locations (like its present endeavor), an experimental approach, encouraging audience participation, Bated Breath, under the dedicated and inspired leadership of Executive/Artistic Director Mara Lieberman since 2012, has now emerged as a vital and exciting immersive experience.

With an emphasis on dynamic interactive performances, the theatre company has already created a number of cultural works like “The Unmaking of Toulouse-Lautrec” about the French artist, “Freedom: In 3 Acts” commissioned by The Amsted Center for Art & Culture that explores emancipation and the rich American history carried in the Negro spiritual and earned a prestigious Award of Merit last May from the Connecticut League of History Organizations, and “Wild Things: The Life and Work of Maurice Sendak” based on the children’s book “Where the Wild Things Are.“  Their newest original work “Beneath the Gavel” will take the audiences plunk smack dab in the midst of an art auction where a raising of a numbered paddle can signal a bid for hundreds, thousands, even millions of dollars.  Talk about high blood pressure deviations!  Forget the fourth wall, as you as audience members are front and center to the action. That prized piece of art can be yours for the taking.

Mara Lieberman is enthusiastic about “waking up the arts, making things matter, creating an exciting adventure” and calls “Beneath the Gavel” the company’s biggest effort to date since she’s been at the helm.  A year and a half in the making, it is the product of interviews with figures in the art world as well as the ideas of the entire company, completed as “assignments, homework and compositions,” that she videotapes and researches, throwing away 90%, but then assembles the finished product “like a chef” from all the ingredients provided.

At the open rehearsal I attended, I saw the contemporary art world being designed with visual effects, picture frames, a quartet of umbrellas, a beach ball, balloons, feathers, money guns, funky eyeglasses and a hamburger.  It will be interesting to see how the company members Gabriel Aprea, Debra Walsh, Becky Ellis, Sri Dopp, Missy Burmeister and Frankie Alicea, with stage manager Ayla Davidson, Executive Administrator Missy Burmeister and Assistant Stage Manager Krista DeVellis, with Mara Lieberman incorporate these diverse items and many more into a cutting edge presentation.

For Lieberman, the goal is to “find texture” and coordinate “so many moving parts.” describing it as a cross-pollination of the visual and performance arts, which she calls “Interludes.”  While “reaching for high quality,” she needs to “focus on the art and germinate it to fruition.”  Creating immersive theater, where the audience is surrounded by and central to the action, is challenging.  Here the troupe is creating a heightened artificial work, telling the biography of a painting from first brush strokes to auction house bidding.  This "marriage of art and theater" is being celebrated. 

This is Bated Breath’s third collaboration with the New Britain Museum of American Art, 56 Lexington Avenue, New Britain.  For tickets ($20 member, $25 non-member), call 860-874-3522 or 860-229-0257, ext 201 or online at or email A wine and cheese reception at 5:30 p.m. will proceed the Thursday, March 10 opening night performance.

Come collect your play Monopoly money so you can bid with abandon at the Awesome Art Auction at the New Britain Museum.  Is there a Dali or van Gogh in your future?