Monday, November 12, 2018

PULL THE “RIPCORD” FOR COMEDY AT SEVEN ANGELS




PEGGY COSGROVE AND MARINA RE IN "RIPCORD"
PHOTO BY PAUL ROTH
The Bristol Place Senior Living Facility is in grave danger of being lifted off its foundation. This situation is not because of a hurricane or other natural disaster but rather is due to the new roommate that has arrived at Abby’s doorstepAbby likes to be in control of her surroundings and a talkative and bubbly addition to her space is not acceptable or tolerated. In the past, she has been able to encourage the temporary invaders to vacate the premises, but the new gal Marilyn refuses to budge. Talk about “The Odd Couple.”
Settle back at the Seven Angels Theatre in Waterbury for a thoroughly delightful visit with Abby and Marilyn as David Lindsey-Abaire’s comedy “Ripcord” pulls out all the punches until Sunday, December 2. 
People of a certain age can be forgiven for being set in their ways, but Abby carries that philosophy of life to extremes. Marina Re’s Abby is as cantankerous as Scrooge and proud of it. Like a three year old in the sandbox, she has declared her room off limits to any one else. She is not above bribing the genial aide who deliveries glad tidings and medication, Jovan Davis’ Jonny, to help her get her way.
Peggy Cosgrove’s Marilyn is sunshine herself, but she is not about to move her belongings to another floor. She likes the view from the window and she is ready and willing to tolerate Abby’s inhospitable ways. The two are about to wage the fight of the century when they decide on a bet: if Abby can make Marilyn angry, she wins, but if Marilyn can make Abby show fear she will be the victor. Abby will either gain her room back or Marilyn will move into the favored bed by the window.

The pranks they each stage grow wilder and soon cut close to home. Abby involves Marilyn’s daughter Colleen, a caring Julia Register, and her husband Derek, an accommodating Ben Paul Williams. In turn, Marilyn digs into Abby’s past and produces an unwelcome Benjamin, an asking for forgiveness Ed Rosini. The personal attacks escalate to life threatening stages. Brendan Burke directs this look at the escapades of senior citizens with a hilarious eye.

For tickets ($42-55), call Seven Angels Theatre, 1 Plank Road, Waterbury at 203-757-4676 or online at sevenangelstheatre.org. Performances are Thursday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. Thanksgiving week shows are added for Tuesday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. but not on Thanksgiving Day. Watch for a return of “Christmas Eve at Earlene’s Diner” from December 7-19 and a holiday visit with The Edwards Twins on Thursday, December 20 at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.

Come root for these two women at a crossroads in life as they battle for their rights and almost kill themselves and each other in the process.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

"CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF" SIZZLES AT MTC




Music Theatre of Connecticut is honoring the literary genius of playwright Tennessee Williams with an intensely sizzling rendition of the Southern dramatic classic “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” until Sunday, November 18.  The production is sultry, sexy, sensual, stormy and steamy.

It is Big Daddy’s birthday and the family has all gathered to celebrate. They all know that he is dying of cancer and are, for the most part, anxious for part of his 28,000 acre cotton estate and all the wealth that comes with it.  Frank Mastrone is expansive and pompous as the master of his kingdom, not knowing the truth of his medical exams.

The Pollitt household is filled with lies and deceit as each member distorts the truth to suit his own purposes. Cynthia Hannah’s Big Mama exudes charm and good will even though she knows in her heart that her husband does not love her at all, while she worships him.  Son Gooper (Robert Mobley) and his wife Mae
(Elizabeth Donnelly) are practically salivating over the prospects of inheriting the plantation, not missing a single opportunity to denigrate brother Brick and his wife Maggie. 

After the death of his great friend and football buddy, Brick has taken to a love affair with liquor, further neglecting his wife best known as Maggie the cat. Michael Raver’s Brick is indifferent to Maggie, to inheriting the estate, to life. He is slowly drinking himself to the grave.  Andrea Lynn Green’s Maggie 
uses all her feminine wiles to entice Brick into bed but she is doomed to fail.  The presence of Doc Baugh (Jeff Gurner) and the Preacher (Jim Schilling) only serve to escalate the  troubled talk and anxious action. Kevin Connors directs this intense family confrontation with a firm hand, on a Mississippi plantation set designed by Kelly Burr Nelsen.

For tickets ($30-55), call Music Theatre of CT, 509 Westport Avenue, Norwalk (behind Nine West Shoes)
at 203-454-3883 or online at www.musictheatreofct.com.  Performances are Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.

An Evening with Broadway star Adam Pascal, with Larry Edoff on piano, will take place on Saturday, December 1 at 8 p.m. ($75. $65)

Will Maggie the cat be able to stay on that hot tin roof long enough to save her soul and win back her husband Brick? Come judge for yourself.

COME HEAR A DIFFERENT ”LOVE SONG” IN NEW HAVEN



                                     SUSAN AND GEORGE KULP IN "LOVE SONG"

                                         
                                  JO KULP AND CHRISTIAN SHABOO IN "LOVE SONG"


If your life seems to be a monochromatic brown or grey, you are doomed to be unhappy and alone and even a hearty dose of Prozac is not likely to fix what ails you.  Beane, a depressed Christian Shaboo, is in that state and he has accepted it as his normal lot in life.  In great contrast to Beane are his sister Joan and hubby Harry, a married –in-real-life couple Susan and George Kulp, who are vibrant and productive, happy to reside in a lovely detailed home, where lively conversations verging on debates take place. 

For all Joan and Harry are high on life, and on wine, the contrast to Beane is sad to witness.  They try to help him, to reach into his psyche and strike a chord of humanity, but Beane is clearly not at home. To enter this world of differences, head to the New Haven Theater Company’s current offering of John Kolvenbach’s quirky comedy “Love Song” playing until Saturday, November 17.

Ironically it is a robbery that sets Beane on a new path and wakes up his desire to join the human race. In an apartment, where his most treasured possessions are a spoon and a cup, Molly the thief, the real life daughter of the Kulps, Jo, has arrived to steal.  She is disappointed and really angry that Beane is bereft of anything of note.  Where is his artwork, his television and stereo, not a thing worth pinching can she find. Finally she settles on his jacket and jeans, but she berates him for his paltry pickings. Their verbal exchanges are amusing.

Who is Molly and how and why has she given Beane a sense of hope and promise and I daresay love. Joan and Harry are mystified by this new elusive and expansive being.  Yet they are secretly elated.  They suspect drugs are the answer for what else could explain the drastic changes in personality and outlook.  What is more troubling is they can’t find a trace of Molly no matter where they look. Margaret Mann and John Watson direct this foray into fantasy and riff with reality.

For tickets ($20), go online to nhtcboxoffice@gmail.com. The New Haven Theater Company, 839 Chapel Street, New Haven is located at the back of the vintage consignment shop EBM, the English Marketplace. Performances are at 8 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

Watch how a turkey sandwich, a melon, a cup and spoon, a mousetrap, wallpaper, a jelly donut and a lot of wine influence and transform the lives of all the participants in this wildly different song of love.

“ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST” AT PLAYHOUSE ON PARK




THE STAFF AND INMATES AT "ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST"
 In these troubled times, when mad men with guns enter schools, churches, synagogues, concerts, nightclubs and any venue where people gather to learn, pray, sing, dance and participate, there is a renewed emphasis on mental illness and the reasons why such tragic events occur. Is the line between sanity and insanity a narrow tightrope walk? When Randle Patrick McMurphy chooses to commit himself to a mental institution as an easy way to fulfill his punishment instead of jail time, he finds himself truly in a madhouse. This fun-loving, gambling fool, this devilish and self-confident rogue, this arrogant and disrespectful of rules hustler quickly locks horns with Nurse Ratched, the titular head and ultimate authority at the mental hospital.
 
To get a front row seat to the verbal and emotional fisticuffs, book a reservation at West Hartford's Playhouse on Park’s gripping production of ”One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” by Dale Wasserman, based on Ken Kesey’s novel until Sunday, November 18. This is the Playhouse’s tenth season and it is marked by bravery and excellence.
 
Wayne Willinger is outstanding as the swaggering R. P. McMurphy, who assumes leadership of the patients in his ward as soon as he steps over the threshold, bumping out the unofficial head of the pack Dale Harding (Adam Kee ) without so much as a whimper. His bravado and aggressive stance speak volumes.
 
McMurphy’s new gang includes Billy (Alex Rafala) an insecure, nervous and shy boy masquerading in a man’s body, Cheswick (Rick Malone) a big talking guy who lacks the courage to follow through on his grandiose ideas, Martini (Harrison Greene) a friendly Italian chap who hallucinates he is in combat, Frank (John Ramaine) who entertains delusions, Ruckley (Ben McLaughlin) who is preoccupied with building bombs and obsessed with destruction and Chief Bromden (Santos), the play’s narrator, a schizophrenic Native American who pretends to be deaf and dumb until McMurphy challenges him to respond.
 
The talented cast also includes the tyrannical and controlling Nurse Ratched, a strong willed Patricia Randell, who confronts McMurphy in a struggle for power and is willing and eager to go to any lengths to win the war, the ineffectual Dr. Spivey (David Sirois), McMurphy’s girlfriends Candy (Athena Reddy) and Sandra (Katya Collazo) who as prostitutes liven up the midnight party on the ward as well as the staff help (Justin Henry, Lance Williams, Andrew R Cooksey, Jr. and Katya Colazo) who dance to Nurse Ratched’s tune. Ezra Barnes directs this peek into humanity’s dark and troubled souls, revealing their secrets with skill and sensitivity.
 
For tickets ($25-40), call the Playhouse on Park, 244 Park Street, West Hartford at 860- 523-5900, ext 10or online at www.PlayhouseOnPark.org. Performances are Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m and Sunday at 2 p.m., followed by a Talk Back with the cast. For more information about mental illness, you are encouraged to reach out to NAMI Connecticut, at www.NAMICT.orgor call 860-882-0236, ext. 30.The organization provides support, education and advocacy to Connecticut citizens affected by mental illness.
 
The play’s title comes from a nursery rhyme, “one flew east, one flew west, one flew over the cuckoo’s nest.” You will not soon forget Randle Patrick McMurphy and his friends and your visit to the Oregon asylum they called home in the 1960’s.

GRAPPLE WITH THE PLIGHT OF “THE PRISONER” AT YALE REP



MAVUSO (HIRAN ABEYSEKERA) AND EZEKIEL (HERVE GOFFINGS)     PHOTO BY JOAN MARCUS

A prison is usually a formidable concrete structure, with steel bars and armed guards charged with keeping the inmates contained.  One can also create a prison in one’s own mind, a secluded sanctuary where you can retreat and live trapped in your own thoughts.  Neither one is easy to escape.  Most of our daily 65.000 thoughts repeat over and over again day after day.
 
The Yale Repertory Theatre in New Haven is inviting you to make an intimate acquaintance with “The Prisoner” written and directed by Peter Brook and Marie-Helene Estienne making its U.S. premiere until Saturday, November 17.  It may engage your mind and imagination, trouble you with its implications and wake up thought provoking ideas.
 
Hayley Carmichael serves as the narrator, a woman bent on adventure and discovery, on a journey with nature as her goal. On her trek, she happens upon a man sitting outside a prison, staring at the edifice as if willing himself inside its gates.  The man, Mavuso, a deeply troubled Hiran Abeysekera, has been sentenced to stay in that small space, contained by mere sticks on the ground, without walls, for twenty years until he achieves redemption.

Mavuso has committed a heinous crime:  he has killed his father.  The reasons are complicated and shrouded with guilt.  He discovered his father sleeping with Nadia, the sister he himself loves inappropriately.  Does he kill his father to save his sister or out of jealousy for his own feelings?
His sister Nadia, who may have acted out of compassion for her father’s loneliness after his wife’s death, comes to visit her brother, to console him and to tell him the news of her pregnancy.  Kalieaswari Srinivasan as Nadia is as much in a prison as her brother.  Their uncle Ezekiel, who knew what was happening and did nothing to stop the incest, is also not blameless in the crime.  It is he who takes the baby from Nadia, after having sentenced Mavuso to his fate.
 Herve Goffings as the uncle steps in to take the child and is as much in exile as his niece and nephew. Mavuso is
visited by his family and by Omar Silva in his role as guard and man, but little relieves his punishment as he thinks about his crime and faces the dire consequences of his own actions.
 For tickets ($ 26-92), call the Yale Rep, 1120 Chapel Street, New Haven at 203-432-1234 or online at www.yalerep.org. Performances are Tuesday at 8 p.m., Wednesday at 2 pm. and 8 p.m., Thursday and Friday at 8 p.m. and Saturday at 2 pm. and8 p.m.
 “The Prisoner” is very much a cerebral play, where your thoughts dictate your feelings, as you identify with a man weighing his own actions against the rituals of atonement, the burden of never forgetting and the need for truth and reconciliation.

Monday, November 5, 2018

WESTPORT COUNTRY PLAYHOUSE PRESENTS TOO TIMELY A DRAMA



JOBY EARLE, ANDREW VEENSTRA AND KELLY MCANDREW IN "THOUSAND PINES"
PHOTO BY CAROL ROSEGG


Thanksgiving is that universal holiday that unites us, brings us together, places gratitude in the center of the dining room table right next to the turkey.  Families gather to give thanks for all the blessings they have enjoyed in the past and hope to celebrate in the future.

What happens, however, when the family units are splintered and suffering, individually and collectively grieving over a tremendous loss. Tragedies like Sandy Hook Elementary School, The Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, and the recent tragedy at the
Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh loom large in our memories.

In Matthew Greene’s world premiere drama “Thousand Pines” at Westport Country Playhouse until Saturday, November 17, we are thrust into the aftermath of a school shooting at a middle school as a trio of  families are trying to cope with the Thanksgiving holiday.

In three different scenarios, we meet the Fosters, the Kanes and the Garrisons who are struggling with the empty chair at their table.  Forget the Norman Rockwell painting. The cranberry sauce and mashed potatoes are accompanied by anger and pain, disillusionment and a search for justice and retribution.

Six skilled actors – Katie Ailion, Kelly McAndrew, Anne Bates, William Ragsdale, Joby Earle and Andrew Veenstra- play the mothers, fathers, husbands, wives, sons, daughters, family friends and teachers who are grabbling with these issues of tragedy and terrorism.

Austin Pendleton directs this all too timely exploration of the repercussions of tragedy, the picking up the pieces of lives that will never to whole again, and the human devastations for all involved.  Since Columbine, Colorado in April, 1999, there have been an incredible 200 school shootings across the country.

For tickets ($30 and up), call Westport Country Playhouse, 25 Powers Court, route 1, Westport at 203-227-4177 or 888-927-7529 or online at www.westportplayhouse.org.  Performances are Tuesday at 7 p.m., Wednesday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m., Thursday and Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 3 pm. and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m.

When grief descends upon us, we look to our loved ones, family and friends, for comfort, for solace and for the will to carry on with life.

IVORYTON UNVEILS “THE QUEENS OF THE GOLDEN MASK”





Since the tragedy at Columbine in April, 1999, there have been 200 school shootings in this country, causing senseless devastation and pain for families and friends and communities.  Gun violence is an abomination that now affects innocents at churches and synagogues, theaters and concert venues, anywhere people gather to learn, pray, sing, or participate.
 
Alarmingly there are 953 registered hate groups in America and one of the first of them was the Ku Klux Klan.  Ivoryton Playhouse is allowing a glimpse into the KKK’s Southern roots in the 1960’s with the world premiere of “The Queens of the Golden Mask” by Carole Lockwood until Sunday, November 18.
 
Surely you remember the strong women of “Steel Magnolias.”  This sisterhood is quite different.  Their friendship has a secret at its base, has been bonded by devotion to a cause, on the surface social, to an organization that bombs churches and sets fire to schools, all in the guise of belief in Jesus.  It really is in the name of hatred and prejudice.
 
In the musical “South Pacific,” a song emphasizes that bigotry is “carefully taught.”  Generations instill the concept of white supremacy in the name of religion and feel justified in their anger and fear.
A finely tuned cast led by Ellen Barry as Ida, affectionately known as Moma, is grandmother to her ladies. She is at once warm and caring, but, when threatened, becomes a fierce protector.  She can morph into a monster willing to kill to protect her and her ideals.  She terrorizes Martha Nell, a frightened Sarah Jo Provost, who is married to Ida’s son and causes her to go to great lengths to guarantee she never delivers a baby who will inherit these evils.
 
Ida needs seven believers to join the secret cult so she also recruits Jean, an eager Jes Bedwineck, Ophelia, a socially sensitive Bonnie Black, a very pregnant Kathy (Two), Bethany Fitzgerald, Faith, an obedient Gerrianne Genga and the northern newcomer Rose, a newly married Anna Fagan.  These women bake cakes and buy dynamite, under a pledge of secrecy, protective of their husbands and their cause.
 
Jacqueline Hubbard embraces the risk of exposing the roots of this insidious evil as she directs this revealing and monumental work. Based on a true story, this drama tells what happens when women inside the fold stand morally upright in protest and for civil rights and humanity.
 
For tickets ($55, seniors $50, students $25, children $20), call the Ivoryton Playhouse, 103 Main Street, Ivoryton at 860-767-7318 or online at www.ivorytonplayhouse.org.  Performances are Wednesday and Sunday at 2 p.m.,  Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m.  There are talkbacks after the Wednesday and Thursday evening shows.
 
Look behind the hoods and the golden masks into the hearts and minds of these females who would willingly 
break the law in support of their twisted beliefs.

SQUARE ONE THEATRE IS IN THE POLITICAL ARENA





DANIELLE SULTINI, KIEL STANGO AND DAVID VICTOR TOAST SUCCESS IN "THE GOD GAME"


At the height of the political drama, with midterm elections being hotly contested, red states vying with blue for supremacy, and promises and allegations competing for top billing, how timely is Square One Theatre Company’s latest offering? The answer: extremely timely and compelling.  Weekends until Sunday, November 18, Square One will present “The God Game” by Suzanne Bradbeer at the Stratford Academy, 719 Birdseye Street, Stratford.

Tom is a well respected Senator representing the fine state of Virginia, with just enough ambition and ego to want to do a good job for his loyal constituents.  For Tom, honest politician is not an oxymoron.  He especially believes that the issue of global warming and climate change must be addressed seriously and soon.

Tom, a dedicated public servant in David Victor, is happily married to Lisa, a supportive Danielle Sultini, and today is their twentieth wedding anniversary. They are both still recovering , at different stages, from the tragic death of Tom’s brother Jay in a car accident. Jay’s shadow looms large over the couple and on Jay’s intimate ex-partner Matt, an ambitious and driven Kiel Stango. 

Matt has suddenly appeared at their home with an important issue to discuss, an item important enough to interrupt their private family celebration.

What question does Matt have to propose? Will Tom be excited by the possibilities or resistant to the demands it poses?  Can Lisa be on the bandwagon or will she fight that family comes first?  Will the circumstances of Jay’s death color the decision making process?  You will have to see for yourself as this trio of fine actors debate the issues and ponder the consequences for the country.  Tom Holehan directs this provocative political arena where the pressures and sacrifices of public life take on an unusual family toll.

For tickets ($22, seniors and students $20), call Square One Theatre at 203-375-8778 or online at www.squareonetheatre.com.  Performances are Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.

The inner struggles of a politician and his family are examined as well as the costs and rewards of being a public servant and upholder of beliefs and truths.

Monday, October 29, 2018

FIDDLING ON THE ROOF AT THE BUSHNELL




Imagine a plate of stuffed cabbage, at once spicy and sweet, tangy and tasty, brimming with chopped meat, wrapped in a cabbage coat, swimming in tomato sauce. Hungry, yet? The recipe is waiting for you at the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts in Hartford from Tuesday, November 6 to Sunday, November 11, so don’t miss the symbolic meal.

More than fifty years ago, the tales of Sholem Aleichem were immortalized by Jerry Bock for music, Sheldon Harnick for lyrics and Joseph Stein for book in the classic musical “Fiddler on the Roof.” This is a stunning, new version of this traditional favorite, with an Israeli choreographer Hofesh Shechter taking wing from the original stylings of Jerome Robbins.

It’s1905 Russia, in a shtetl called Anatevka, where the dairy man Tevye lives with his opinionated wife Golde, his five unmarried daughters, three of whom are determined to marry against his wishes, a cartful of poverty, a lame horse, and a Tsar who wants to force the Jews from their village to scatter with the winds.

Can Tevye endure the changes that assail him, while still maintaining his faith and shaky position as father, husband and friend, that cause him to be as insecure as a fiddler perched on a roof? As each one of his strong willed daughters comes to him wanting his blessing, each abandoning the old honored traditions of using a matchmaker, a yente, to arrange a marriage, Tevye is tested.

First Tzeitel wants to marry Motel the tailor for love, then Hodel falls for Perchik the teacher and finally, hardest to believe, Chava wants to marry out of her faith, to a Russian soldier. Tevye is like a tree, willing to bend but afraid he will surely break.

Songs like “If I Were a Rich Man,” “Tradition,” “Miracle of Miracles,” “Sunrise, Sunset,” “Matchmaker” and many more swirl to greatness.

For tickets ($23-113), call the Bushnell, 166 Capitol Avenue, Hartford at 860-987-5900 or online atwww.bushnell.org. Performances are Tuesday to Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m. and 8 pm. and Sunday at 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.

Travel back in time with Tevye and his family to a long forgotten corner of the world where the villagers take pride in minding your business for you and are willing to share your laughter and your tears.

Monday, October 22, 2018

HARTFORD STAGE INVITES YOU TO THE COURT OF “HENRY V”





A stark stage, in the round, without benefit of scenery, save for a floor map of the world, is the only introduction to the Hartford Stage’s dramatic production of Shakespeare’s intense history play “Henry V” until Sunday, November 11.
Upon the shoulders of a king, leadership and responsibility to his people lie heavily   Can a good ruler be moral and put the fate of his subjects before his own needs and status? King Henry V, embodied in all his feelings and his flaws by Stephen Louis Grush, struggles with choices that will define his position of power.
King Henry V of England has the ability to be a hero but in achieving his goals his conduct is less than noble.  With determination and diligence, he sets his crown on defeating the French for he truly believes the throne of France belongs to him.
The audience is encouraged to imagine the multitude of war scenes and get into Henry’s head, much as they would have in Shakespeare’s time.  We must anticipate his conflicts and his need to prove he is a genuine king, one quite different from the impetuous youth who partied all too well. He must convince himself and his people that God will reward him for his military deeds.
Winning the Battle of Agincourt is a decisive act on Henry’s part, ensuring him as one of the most successful and famous rulers in English history.  His Crispin’s Day speech calls on the English to rise to glory and commit to the task of victory.
A stellar cast includes Peter Francis James as the Chorus and Sir Thomas Erpingham,  Felicity Jones Latta as the Archbishop of Canterbury, Nym and Alice, Miles Anderson as  Bishop of Ely and Pistol,  Karen Aldridge as Exeter,  Evelyn Spahr as Lord Scroop, Katherine, Kate Forbes as the Constable of France and Burgundy and Governor of Harfleur and Baron Vaughn as Captain Gower, Mistress Quickly and Fluellen.
Thanks to director Elizabeth Williamson we feel we are planning the strategies, in the counsel room and on the battlefields.
For tickets ($25 and up), call the Hartford Stage, 50 Church Street, Hartford at 860-527=5151 or online at www.hartfordstage.org.  Performances are Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday and Sunday at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and matinees at 2 p.m Saturday and Sunday.
Go to war with Henry V as he calculatingly plots to add France to his empire.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

ANSWER THE DOOR FOR “THE ROOMMATE”




LINDA POWELL (ON FLOOR) AND TASHA LAWRENCE
PHOTO BY T. CHARLES ERICKSON

The first time most of us encounter a roommate situation, we are freshmen at college, anxious to please, uncertain of all the new and untested options at our disposal.  The occasion might be scary …what if we don’t like each other or get along?  The occasion might be joyous…we are soul mates destined to be bff’s forever.

How much more daunting is it to be fifty-somethings and opening your heart and home to a complete stranger?  Will you be compatible or drive each other bonkers?  Will you cook and break bread together and celebrate holidays or will you tiptoe around each other and pretend you are each alone?

Come make the acquaintance of Sharon, an eager to please Linda Powell, who lives in the conservative mid-western state of Iowa.  Probably for financial reasons (we are never quite sure), she has invited Robyn, a more sophisticated and worldly Tasha Lawrence, to share her home in Jen Silverman’s play “The Roommate” at Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven until Sunday, November 4.

Talk about your odd couples. These two, on the surface, have little in common, Sharon loves all kinds of food and Robyn is a vegan.  Sharon is originally from Illinois while Robyn hails from the home of danger and decadence, the Bronx, New York.  Each is divorced and has relationship issues with their offspring.  Sharon is
straight as an arrow and Robyn is gay. As the pair tentatively get acquainted (softly hum “Getting to Know You” from “The King and I”), Sharon confesses the highlight of her week is attending a reading group/ book club, while Robyn admits to a past that includes  writing slam poetry  and making voodoo dolls from pottery.

Quirky revelations drop like articles of clothing off a dress store’s rack and we learn real history about these two unlikely housemates. Can the insecure but sincere Sharon find happiness with the power driven and ambitious Robyn?  Hold your breath as roles are reversed to the astonishment of both. Mike Donahue directs this intriguing foray into these diverse female personalities, on a comfortable set designed by Dane Laffrey.

For tickets ($35.50-91.50), call Long Wharf Theatre, 222 Sargent Drive, New Haven at 203-787-4282 or online at www.longwharf.org.  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.

Walk into Sharon’s home in the corn fed state of Iowa and experience the whirlwind effect that Robyn, the new roommate, has on both their lives.

Monday, October 15, 2018

"THE DROWSY CHAPERONE” IS NO SLEEPER



If you love musical theater, a special treat is waiting for you at Goodspeed Musicals until Sunday, November 25 so don’t be caught napping. To guide you on this journey of discovery, you first have to make the acquaintance of The Man in Chair, a truly delightful character who is most anxious to share his love for the genre and guarantee that you love it as much as he does. John Scherer couldn’t be more charming and personable as our host as he serves as commentator, putting on a phonograph record of his favorite show from 1928, an homage to the Jazz Age, stuffed with magical characters, “The Drowsy Chaperone.” His little apartment suddenly morphs into the show as it comes to life before our unbelieving eyes. Wow!
As it delightfully spoofs the musical comedies of the past, we learn we are participating in the wedding of the century, when Robert Martin (Clyde Alves) meets the sparkling show star Janet Van de Graaff (Stephanie Rothenberg) on a cruise and instantly falls in love. The nuptials are slated to take place immediately, with best man George (Tim Falter) as wedding planner. Unfortunately Janet’s producer Feldzieg (James Judy) can’t afford for her to retire from show biz and plots to stop the couple from saying their “I dos.” To motivate Feldzieg a little more, there are two gangsters at the house, a comic duo (Blakely Slaybaugh and Parker Slaybaugh), who are posing as pastry chefs and threaten him at every turn.
In desperation, Feldzieg employs a Latin lover Aldolpho, a slickly sauve (not!) John Rapson to seduce the bride-to-be but he mistakes her chaperone (Jennifer Allen) for Janet and woos her into submission. “The Drowsy Chaperone” began its stage life as an entertainment for a stag party for the wedding of theatrical couple Bob Martin and Janet Van De Graaff in Canada and has grown, after several reincarnations, into the show the Goodspeed is presenting so wonderfully. Hunter Foster directs this joy stuffed musical adventure, with glorious costuming by Gregg Barnes, a remarkable set by Howard Jones and clever choreography by Chris Bailey.

With book by Bob Martin and Don McKellar, music and lyrics by Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison, winner of two Tonys for best score and best book and four Drama Desks for outstanding musical, book, lyrics and music, this is a show-within-a-show, centering around a conceited showgirl who decides to marry a man she’s known for two New York minutes and a producer who sees his meal ticket waltzing away. The show depends on every campy device known to musical comedy and happily exploits them all. Meanwhile The Man in Chair comments as he tries hard not to jump into the action and save the day and the damsel.

Eccentric and memorable characters lead us on a merry parade to the wedding day, with wannabe stars (Ruth Pferdehirt), dowager ladies (Ruth Gottschall), Trix the Aviatrix (Danielle lee Greaves) and even the butler (Jay Aubrey Jones) insinuating themselves into the bride and groom’s big day and into the pleasure filled plot.

For tickets ($29 and up), call the Goodspeed Musicals, East Haddam at 860-873-8668 or online at www.goodspeed.org. Performances are Wednesday at 2 p.m. and at 7:30 p.m., Thursday at 7:30 p.m. (with select 2 p.m. shows), Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. (with select 6:30 p.m. shows).

Come to the wedding and no gifts are required on your part. You'll be the recipient of a gift of laughter and joy and musical merriment as “The Drowsy Chaperone” bursts into life magically before your eyes. If you are like I am, you’ll want to take The Man in Chair home, with his phonograph, to introduce you to more of his favorites. What fun!

TAKE A DIP IN “THE RIVER” AT HARTFORD THEATERWORKS


Mystery swirls in the dark waters that conceal schools of silvery sea trout in the river. A fisherman’s paradise, they are a challenge to catch, especially if you refuse to cheat in the process by using a “monster munch,” a pickle and olive flavored lure which is tantamount to poaching.  Sea trout move like a lightning bolt and are huge creatures, a delight to the purist fisherman to land.

Jez Butterworth has hooked a fascinating line in “The River” now being baited at Hartford TheaterWorks until Sunday, November 11.  The play is set in an isolated cabin, accurately detailed by Brian Prather, where we first encounter The Man, Billy Carter, who lives and breathes his fascination for fish.

He definitely wants a female companion to share his love of the shiny and elusive creatures, a woman who will stand along side him in his river of dreams. Does such a woman exist?  To add to the drama, these amazing beings can only be caught on one moonless night of the year, lucky for us, and this is the night.

Does The Man lure his female friends to his lair as carefully and systematically as he sets out to catch his sea trout?  He clearly loves both pursuits, proclaiming affection for each, only destined to be disappointed if his “lures” don’t work. Andrea Goss and Jasmine Batchelor serve the story as the much desired ladies who ultimately disillusion him.  In the process, The Man prepares a sea trout for tasty consumption.  The fish, fortunately, lives up to its reputation.  Rob Ruggiero directs this simple on the surface tale that has plenty of intrigue underneath its deep waters.

For tickets ($45-70), call TheaterWorks, 233 Pearl Street, Hartford at 860-527-7838 or online at www.twhartford.org.  Performances are Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., with matinees Saturday and Sunday at 2:30 p.m.

You don't have to be an angler to get hooked on this poetic homage to the art of catching creatures, both animal and human.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

AN INTRIGUING SPIDER’S WEB AT SACRED HEART UNIVERSITY





If you are a promising writer, actor, sports personality, model or musician, in the public eye on the brink of fame and fortune, beware the predatory trap of a master spider maker.  Alexa Vere De Vere is a fictional creation designed for herself, by herself, and she is dangerous to anyone who is caught in her web of lies.

Douglas Carter Beane has placed Alexa in the center of his intriguing comic drama “As Bees in Honey Drown,” a phrase Alexa is wont to say as she drops names and places to impress.  Nothing she says or does is true so be careful before she catches you in her calculated hands.

The Performing Arts Department of Sacred Heart University in Fairfield offered up “As Bees in Honey Drown” until October 14 in their Little Theater.

Evan Wyler, a new and promising writer, is her latest victim.  Evan, a na├»ve Paxton McLane, believes everything this unscrupulous smooth talking grifter is selling.  Delaney Lynch is all too believable as she entices Evan into writing her glamorous life story, purported to be for Hollywood consumption.

When Even discovers his credit card has been maxed out and Alexa has conveniently disappeared, he realizes he is only one victim of many.  He soon meets
the producer Kaden (Andrew Peloquin),  Bethany the wannabe actress (Allison Campbell), Illya the model (Olivia Porriello) and Mike, her dead husband who is very much alive (Kevin Carlson).

Can Evan and this string of victims achieve a level of revenge?  Should he just forget and forgive and go on with his career? Will this powerful self -assured potential star maker get what she deserves? Jim Schilling directs this foray into this sting and scheme operation manipulated by one devilish dream maker and destroyer.


Imagine the chutzpah it takes to feed this line of lies and have no conscience or concern when lives and hopes and promises are destroyed.

“BEAT BUGS” A NEW MUSICAL ADVENTURE ENCHANTS IN MILFORD


Mr. Mustard  and the Five Bugs he is trying to destroy but can't!
A colony of bugs are bopping to the beat of the Beatles’ music:  who could ask for anything more?  Credit the creative talents of Pantochino Productions for being the first ever to bring this new  children’s musical to the stage at the Milford Arts Council weekends until Sunday, October 28.   

Based on the animated Netflix series,  “Beat Bugs” was created
By Josh Wakely and written by Sean Cercone and David Abbinanti, with garden set by Von Del Mar, cute and clever costuming by Jimmy Johansmeyer, musical direction by Justin Rugg and staging and direction by Bert Bernardini.

A community of bugs with a slowish slug Walter, Barret Crowder,  an inventive cricket Crick, David Katz, a friendly 
fire fly Buzz, Sydney Maher, a lovely ladybug Kumi, Ariana
Morales, and a brave beetle Jay, Gian Raffaele DiCostanza, revel in taking an adventure, a magical and mysterious journey in their backyard. Led by a host of fire flies, these five pals are
busy celebrating Crick’s birthday together.

Soon they find themselves in a land blessed with strawberry fields forever and deem it heavenly.  Unbeknownst to them, in another part of town, a mean Mr. Mustard, Jimmy Johansmeyer, without the aid of his loyal assistant Prudence Mary Mannix , is plotting  to build a Premium Power Solution Plant that would pollute and, ultimately, destroy all the flora and fauna, bugs and berries, and force any living creature to move their home to a new location in order to survive.

With echoes of “Strawberry Fields Forever,” the pals discover this wondrous new nature preserve and conjure up the Sgt. Pepper Lonely Hearts Club Band, led by Justin Rugg, to express their joy. Tunes like “All You Need is Love,” “We Can Work It Out,” “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” “Yellow Submarine” and “With a Little Help From My Friends” create a new Woodstock, in this case Bugstock.  They are helped in the song fest by Doris, a spider (Anna Hicks) and Postman Bee (Michael Battista).

Will Mr. Sun  (Don Poggio) or the Queen Bee (Shelley Marsh Poggio) be able to save the day and the garden preserve?  Can Prudence persuade mean Mr. Mustard to mend his mischievous manners?  The show is thoroughly delightful and may make you itch for more.  The cast is totally enchanting, even the nasty you know who.

For tickets ($22 online, $25 at the door), go online to www.pantochino.com.  Performances are Friday at 7:30 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. at the Milford Arts Council at the train station, 40 Railroad Avenue South.  Free parking is at the bank lot nearby.  A selection of
“Beatles” cupcakes from Sweet Cupcasions are available at the lower level speakeasy to enjoy at your cabaret table. Bring your own goodies to share.

Take the family to this new novel musical show with a message: wherever your friends are is home and love is sure to fill every room.


Tuesday, October 9, 2018

COME VISIT “THE RAT PACK LOUNGE” IN BERLIN


God has commanded that Frank, Sammy and Dean leave Heaven where they all currently reside to return to earth on a mission. Apparently Mr. Sinatra committed an unpardonable sin twenty five years ago and now he and his famous cohorts have to correct it. With your help and encouragement, the Connecticut Cabaret Theatre in Berlin will be holding court weekends until Saturday, November 3 to determine in which direction God will force Mr.Martin, Mr, Sinatra and Mr. Davis. Jr. to go. Credit goes to James  Handyman and Ray Broderick for “The Rat Pack Lounge”, with musical arrangements by John Glaudini, for this singing and drinking tribute to the Chairman of the Board and friends.

With a three piece band “Tommy and the Gang” behind them, this trio rocks the joint, a down on its luck bar owned by one Vic (Nick D’Angelo), the guy who was victimized those many years ago. Now on New Year’s Eve 1998, Vic is ready to end his life and God does not want that to happen. He sends a three unlikely guardian angels down to assure it doesn’t. To prevent Vic’s suicide, the men, who have taken over the bodies of guys who happened to be in the bar at the time, work to restore Vic’s confidence in himself and his musical talents, with Jayson Beaulieu as Frank, Jonathan Escobar as Dean and Rick Bennett as Sammy.


With appropriate formal wear, the requisite mannerisms and shtick, this dynamite team sings, dances and banters like the men they emulate. Their easy camaraderie on stage makes their performance a fun experience and crowns each of them as “kings of the road.” Gradually Viccatches on to their musical magic and is snapping his fingers and crooning like a champ. All along the way a blonde Kristin Iovene sashays in and out to guarantee their progress.

Tunes like “High Hopes,” “Volare,” “You Make Me Feel So Young,” “My Way,” “Fly Me to the Moon,” “I’ve Got the World on a String” and “Birth of the Blues” fill the lounge with great song, Kris McMurray directs this homage to the best crooners of the past in a show that has a theme like “It's a Wonderful Life."

For tickets ($34), call the CT Cabaret Theatre , 31-33 Webster Square Road, Berlin at 860-829-1248 or online atwww.ctcabaret.com. Shows are Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., with doors opening at 7:15 p.m. Remember this is cabaret, so bring goodies to share at your table or plan to buy them at the concession stand on site.

Gather around the bar and lift up a glass in tribute to the legends of Frank, Sammy and Dean who are living large again in the Rat Pack Lounge. Keep those champagne bottles popping.

Monday, October 8, 2018

SEVEN ANGELS PRESENTS HEAVENLY “ALTAR BOYZ"











Five young men are busy making heavenly harmony at Seven Angels Theatre until Sunday, October 21 and you are invited to join the hallelujah choir and confess your sins and sing praises unto the Lord. 
Part gospel revival meeting, part Bible camp, part Sunday School class, “Altar Boyz” is all high voltage, high energy musical comedy, a spoof on a Christian boys band that is marking the end of their national “Raise the Praise” tour. The boys, aptly named Matthew, Mark, Luke and Juan, with one token Jew Abraham, want to convert the nonbelievers and take temptation away from the sinners in their midst and, in the process, prove it’s cool to be Catholic.

The guys led by Matthew (Jeff Jordan), Mark (Andrew Poston), Luke (Louis Griffin), Juan (Spiro Marcos) and Abraham (Maclain Dassatti) are used to playing bingo parlors but want to headline at the Hollywood Bowl. Like a Richard Simmons exercise video, the five lads applaud God for giving them rhythm as they perform synchonized choreography and impassioned song.
In this modern age, they hear Jesus’s message on their cell phone, fax, email and beeper as they encourage the audience to work on their souls, to cleanse them of sin. According to the boys, God is making a comeback and they are happily his willing agents. Don’t worry about fire and brimstone, these guys are all into love and forgiveness and, ultimately, family.

“Altar Boyz” is the brain child of Kevin Del Aguila, book, and Gary Adler and Michael Patrick Walker, music and lyrics. The show was conceived by Mark Kessler and Ken Davenport, choreographed  and directed by Sam Hay.

For tickets ($45-55), call Seven Angels Theatre, 1 Plank Road, Waterbury at 203-757-4676 or www.SevenAngelsTheatre.com. Performances are Thursday to Sunday at 8 p.m., with matinees   at 2 p.m. 


Learn how everybody fits into God’s great family according to the gospel of Matthew, Mark, Luke, Juan and Abraham, the self-anointed and angelic “Altar Boyz.”

TAKE A JOURNEY WITH “THE GRAPES OF WRATH” TO UCONN


ANGELA HUNT AS MA AND ALEX CAMPBELL AS ROSE OF SHARON
PHOTO BY GERRY GOODSTEIN


Is it coincidental that Job from Bible lore endures a mighty list of travails, being continually tested by God, and John Steinbeck creates the Joad family in Oklahoma to journey to California, against all odds, during the difficult times of the Great Depression? While Job was wealthy, the Joads knew poverty first hand. Still the comparison seems possible.  One would need determination, perseverance and a strong will to survive the great traumas that face both Job and the Joads.  The suffering and adversities are many, yet the human spirit battles to endure. 

Let the Connecticut Repertory Theatre, on the campus of the University of Connecticut at Storrs, in the Jorgenson Auditorium, give you a lesson in courage until Sunday, October 14.  This Steinbeck novel has become a prize-winning movie as well as the 1990 winner of a Tony and Outer Critics Circle Award, a drama penned by Frank Galati.

 Will the Joads find the promised golden land of California, if they even make it to the west coast?  Can the steel magnolia strong Ma Joad have the fortitude to lead this desperate family, three generations strong, against the overwhelming elements? Her son Tom, a newly freed from prison Mauricio Miranda, returns to his Oklahoma roots just as the clan is packing the truck to travel west.  Full of promise, they have just lost their farm but are eager to start anew and leave the Dust Bowl behind. 

 Ma and Pa (Angela Hunt and Ken O’Brien) with Granma and Grampa (Johanna Leister and Dale AJ Rose) want and need work.  Visions of juicy oranges and tasty grapes fill their heads and, hopefully,  soon their stomachs. Like in a video game, obstacles pop up at every curve in the road.  Tom has trouble controlling his temper, his pregnant sister Rose of Sharon (Alex Campbell) has different ideas from her new husband Connie (Aiden Marchetti), brother Noah (Nick Greika) at the last moment refuses to leave home and brother Al (Sebastian Nagpal) has his eye on all the ladies.  Jim Casy (Joe Jung), a former preacher, joins the Joads heading out. 

The heaviness of the heartaches are relieved by the music created by Rob Barnes who sings, plays guitar and also serves as narrator,   A number of unusual instruments like a washboard, banjolele and washtub bass add to the spirit, especially at the lively square dance scene.  Gary English sensitively directs this deeply moving tale of one family’s struggle to secure a better life. 

For tickets ($10-35), call the CT Repertory Theatre at the Jorgenson at 860-486-2113 or online at www.crt.uconn.edu.  Performances are 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 2 p.m.

John Steinbeck won the Pulitzer Prize and Nobel Prize for his book and Frank Galati secured the 1990 Tony Award for Best Play for his adaptation.  “Grapes of Wrath” is well worth your undivided attention.