Friday, June 9, 2017



Shadi Ghaheri and Rory Pelsue, co- artistic directors, and Leandro A. Zaneti, managing director, of the Yale Summer Cabaret are the enterprising and expressive theatrical Three Musketeers eager to engage you until August 13.  Currently they are off and running in a thousand innovative ways with their mission of reviving and exploring and exploding a quartet of classics so they are nearly unrecognizable and yet eerily familiar.

The Yale Summer Cabaret, now in its 43rd season, is promising you a "Canon Balle" of dynamite entertainment.  Right off the firing range is a dramatic, all male, in drag, adaptation of The Bard's "Antony + Cleopatra" by director and adapter Rory Pelsue, one you have definitely never seen the likes of before. With a lit fuse, you will be swept into the action from the first canon blast.  In this instance, canon has a double entendre meaning: the military weapon as well as the accumulation of classical works. Pelsue terms it, "fun, explosive, unexpected."

As great and tragic historical love stories go, "Antony + Cleopatra" is at the top of the tower, from the floating barge, from Rome to Egypt and back, to the tip of the asp's tongue. Jake Powell and Arturo Soria set the stage with seductive and slithering moves, even giving lessons in screaming approval for the audience.  Enter a powerful Hudson Oznowicz as Antony to meet the passionate Cleopatra, embodied by Erron Crawford, with the mighty Caesar, Steven Lee Johnson, and Ben Anderson as Antony's wife. Love and hate, betrayal and obsession, battle in this drama set in New York in the late 1980's.  This is not your grandfather's Shakespeare.  Cole McCarty's costumes help set the seductive scene. The day this production ends, Sunday, June 11, there is a benefit brunch at noon, a Drag Brunch: A Feast Fit for a Queen.

Enter a war zone, in Syria, for "The Trojan Women," adapted by Ellen McLaughlin, and directed by Shadi Ghaheri, with an all female cast Ghaheri calls "brilliant."  With poetry and empathy, and a large dose of humanity, the characters become bigger than life as they enact this anti-war story, telling about the Trojan War set in 1995.  Using dance, movement and song, six actors reveal what it is like to be a refugee without home, life, family and yet find the strength and hope to go on into an uncertain future.  Come see Danielle Chaves, Antoinette Crowe-Legacy, Evelyn Giovine, Rachel Kenney, Kineta Kunuta and Sohina Sidhu bring this plight to life. From Friday, June 23 to Sunday, July 2, this play by Euripides becomes a love letter to Syria that will capture your heart.

Get entangled in the passionate drama of a wealthy farmer's daughter and the man who has been employed on the estate for both their lives.  Set in South Africa, Strindberg's play has been adapted by Yael Farber as "Mies Julie" and swirls around an exotic, erotic encounter between the pair that director Rory Pelsue labels "juicy, sexy and ripe."  One question that looms is why are we drawn to people who oppress us?  How do racism, apartheid, colonialism and a power struggle figure in the final tragic ending?  This great toxic love story features Marie Botha as Julie and James Udom as John, two incredible young African actors who give new meaning to the term "potent."  Also on stage are Kineta Kunutu and Amandla Jahava."Mies Julie" plays from Friday, July 14 to Sunday, July 23.

Completing the "Canon Balle" exploration is "Lear," penned by Young Jean Lee and directed by Shadi Ghaheri from Friday, August 4 to Sunday, August 13. This play departs from its source material the most, as it is Lear without Lear being present.  Ghaheri calls it "funny, crazy, dangerous and avant garde" as it "goes all over the place" and ends with Big Bird on Sesame Street.  Three smart, amazing women play the daughters who have the power to save their father but choose not to do it.  Big questions like the meaning of life are examined along with the question of God and why do we exist?  A discussion of what we had for lunch is juxtaposed with the query why did we kill dad? The production features Stephen Cefalu Jr., Danielle Chaves, Amandla Jahava, Jakeem Ryan Lozano and Francesca Fernandez McKenzie.

All this comedy and drama takes place in the Summer Cab's unique space in the basement at 217 Park Street, New Haven.  For tickets ($30, Yale faculty $25, students $15, with season passes available ), call 203-432-1567 or go online to   Performances are Wednesday and Thursday at 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. and 10 p.m.  and Sunday at 8 p.m. Shows the second Friday of the run are at 7 p.m. and 10 p.m.

Plan to arrive early, an hour and a half before showtime, for dinner.  The evolving menu, which reflects the show of the moment, features such offerings as Caesar salad with chicken ($10), the Octavia: Pasta Primavera ($8), the Cleopatra: Fish Tacos ($16), and Asp's Bite: Cheesecake with Strawberries ($6).

For an intimate theatrical experience, in a basement full of sexy, smart, dangerous, brave young artists, telling great and gripping stories from a classical canon, speaking beautiful, poetic words, come to the Yale Summer Cabaret.  Come see the stars of tomorrow today, before they debut on Broadway!

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