ALLAN ZELLER AND KIMBERLY SQUIRES ON STAGELunch hour usually consists of a sandwich, tuna fish and bean sprouts on whole wheat grain bread or a ham and cheese withmustard on rye, but it can be so much more. Let Fairfield County’s unique entertainment vehicle, PLAY WITH YOUR FOOD, show youjust how much more it can be. Like a three ring circus of fun, PLAY WITH YOUR FOOD opens at noon with a delectable gourmetmeal, from Westport’s Matsu Sushi or Fairfield and Greenwich’s Rory’s Restaurant. But that is just the enticing first course.After dining, guests will be treated to a trio of play readings by that delightful married couple: actors, Kim Squires and Allan ZellerLove is definitely in the air as Valentine’s Day looms around the rose festooned corner. What happens when a couple, about tocelebrate “24 Years” together, decide to evaluate the roller coaster ride that has been their marriage. Leslie Ayvazian offers upthis intriguing peek in the bedroom and beyond.Brian J. Carter and Susan Vanech will help dig up long buried secrets, along with Squires and Zeller, in a dark and richcomedy by Albi Gorn, “A Family Affair.” Will a young couple digest the marital advice or run from the scene in terror asthey process some unusual truths from a long married pair? Completing the triumvirate is “A Traditional Wedding” by actress and comedian Mo Gaffney, a play that reveals there is more than one way to unite bride with groom and any number of them can be perfect.For perspective on these playlets, Allan Zeller commented "Having done “A Family Affair” by Albi Gorn in the past for Play With Your Food I have come to see it as a battle between the relationships of yesteryear’s married couples and the relationships of couples today and in the future. It is a play that cleverly exposes past mistakes of human beings with revelations of contemporary thought where one would not initially think it to be. The play carries a serious topic but with much humor and surprise. I believe in the end the audience will feel good about the future of these couples. Doing this play with my wife Kimberly will bring a new air of reality and humor to the parts as we will undoubtedly find our own personal quirks in the characters. Working with Kimberly is always a pleasure onstage.”Even though these three offerings are new to his wife Kimberly Squires, she has remarked that “How timely to be sharing the stage with my husband during this Valentine month of February. I always love performing for the Play With Your Food company…they are such a loving and caring team of theatrical professionals. Sharing the stage with my husband during their Valentine season, makes it that much sweeter.”
Ring master of this wonderful time, from noon to 1:30 p.m., is Artistic Director Carole Schweid who selects and directs this special event. A talk back with the actors and director, and sometimes even the playwrights, follows the readings. For tickets ($47) to this HB Productions of Westport, call 203-293-8729 or go online to www.HBProductions.org. This event takes place in three locations, February 6-8 in Westport at Toquet Hall, 58 Post Road East, February 13 in Fairfield at the Fairfield Theater Company and February 14 and 15 in Greenwich at the Greenwich Arts Council, 299 Greenwich Avenue.Forget your tuna and ham and cheese sandwiches in favor of real entertainment with a gourmet flair. Let PLAY WITHYOUR FOOD tempt you to expand your cultural horizons.
Wednesday, January 31, 2018
Sunday, January 28, 2018
Ground-breaking and life altering theater is coming to the Fairfield University’s Quick Center for the Arts for one remarkable performance on Saturday, February 3 at 8 p.m. with the operatic performance of “Parable of the Sower.” Created by composer, librettist, music director and producer Toshi Reagon and her mother, civil rights activist and Freedom Singer Bernice Johnson Reagon, PhD, this work grew out of a love and respect for the written words of Octavia Butler. The pair also collaborate on movie and television scores, recordings and two other operas with director Robert Wilson.This original adaptation of Butler’s work began with a mother’s admiration for Butler’s books which she shared with Toshi, who enjoyed their sense of science fiction and mystery. One Christmas many years ago, they each bought the other the same book: Butler’s "Parable of the Sower." At the time, Toshi wasn’t prepared to read it. It took an invitation from Toni Morrison for Bernice to lead a workshop about Butler at Princeton, one the mom invited her daughter to present with her, to get Toshi to open the pages. Since that time, she has consumed the novel more than fifty times.That intense delving into Butler’s themes has led mother and daughter to work in an easy and enjoyable way. To Toshi, “ if you believe in multiple lifetimes and a connection of souls, my mom is incredible and it is a privilege and honor to be her daughter. We connect musically and I hope to follow in her footsteps. We’re very different but she’s wonderful and my favorite collaborator.”“Parable of the Sower” takes place in the year 2024, a scant six years from now, when a young girl Lauren Olamina, locked in a self made gated community, one that was once an open cul de sac in a suburb outside of Los Angeles, is consumed with the dangers of global warming and how it is destroying America and the world. The pollution of air and water is pervasive and drought is a constant threat. Those who have are separated further and further from those who have not.To Lauren, God and change are intertwined. She disagrees with her pastor father whom she loves. She says her father's God is not her God. She realizes that the walled community is not sustainable and she thinks they should leave. Her father thinks they should stay and hold on. One day, after he disappears and is presumed dead, she with two friends runs to the north to avoid an assault on her home.
The whole community is attacked and many die. Before she leaves , she starts dropping seeds, wanting to find a rich soil where they will thrive, to grow a new religion of change, understanding and hope which she calls Earthseed. When it rains for the first time in six years, she experiences a cleansing that is special and spiritual. Feeling clean is an unexpected luxury in a parched land and Lauren records it all in her journal. Now she concentrates on survival and building a new community on the road and finding a new home with her chosen family.Toshi uses a chorus of twenty voices, and musical genres that span rock, rhythm and blues, soul, punk, gospel and spirituals, to tell this poignant tale. Centuries of the black music experience are explored in this emotional passage from despair to hope. In her view, this frightening scenario is all too real and we need an immediate change of direction by citizens to reshape our relationship with our government, from the local level on up to the top.Our basic needs are at stake: clean air and water, shelter, health care and education. She feels we must stop using bigotry and prejudice as excuses but rather make a community of communal voices. She hopes experiencing her opera will motivate audiences to take up the cause.Thanks to the efforts of presenter Bill Bragin, of the NYUAD Arts Center, the work had its world premiere in Abu Dhabi last year and its American premiere in North Carolina at UNC Chapel Hill and later at the Public Theater in New York City. Fairfield University is its fourth presentation. This is thanks to the efforts of Peter Van Heerden, executive director of the Quick Center for the Arts, who stated “We are thrilled to present this ground-breaking performance…that resonates on such critical and timely themes.”For tickets ($50, $40, $30 members, $5 Fairfield students), call 203-254-4010 or 877-ARTS-396 or online at www.quickcenter.com. Eric Ting directs this spirited call to action.Be moved and spiritually carried away by this peek into the future and what awaits if we do not heed the call to action of this pressing musical message.
What better way to celebrate the season of love than to invite a trio of married couples to present the stirring and sincere A. R Gurney play "Love Letters" in all its dramatic splendor. Music Theatre of Connecticut has all the hearts and flowers ready, with no need for strings of violins, as first Joanna Gleason and hubby Chris Sarandon opened on January 26-28, followed by Beverly and Kirby Ward from February 2-4 and then Jodi Stevens and Scott Bryce February 9-11."Love Letters" is simply a series of written words, some of friendship, of conversation, of anger, of disappointment and, ultimately, of love. In this age of e-mails, text messages, twitters and Facebook, it is refreshing to return to a gentler and kinder and more personal time when people took pen to paper and actually exchanged handwritten notes.We meet Melissa Gardner who has had a fifty-year relationship with childhood friend Andrew Makepeace Ladd III. The two connect in grade school, second grade to be exact, and even though she is cynical,outlandish, outspoken and a tad rebellious and he is straight arrow, conservative and a bit stuffy, they form a connection that endures over time and geographical separation. To him, she will always be a "lost princess " looking for her Land of Oz and to her, he will always be her knight and her anchor.Whether they are exchanging postcards from summer camp, notes about escapades at private school, get well missives after she breaks her leg skiing, congratulatory words on his top of the class college graduation or the inevitable letters of apology for some slight or misstep, Melissa and Andy mark all the big and small moments of their friendship and affection by writing to each other. Even their pauses in communication speak volumes, when one or the other is miffed.Into her notes, Melissa inserts drawings of cats with long tails, bears that dance and kangaroos that jump over glasses of orange juice that hint early on about the art career she will pursue, pursue all the way to Italy. Into his letters, Andrew reveals his love of the law and of politics that suggests his future path in life. Kevin Connors directs this poignant interchange of heartfelt, sometimes silly, often loving, communication that spans five decades.For tickets ($30-55), call Music Theatre of Connecticut, 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 Sundays at 2 p.m. On Monday, February 5, Harvest Restaurant will donate 10% of its dinner receipts to MTC as part of its new Charity Night.Let real life husbands and wives share the intimacies of Andrew and Melissa so beautifully, expressing how he spent his whole life trying to rescue his lost princess of Oz by continuing giving pieces of himself to her to keep through his letters.
Even in a fairy tale life, there is no guarantee of happily ever after. A little girl has to beware of monsters lurking around every corner, If she wants to stay safe. For Sharon Washington, growing up in a New York apartment tucked in the top if a public library had the potential to be a fantasy come true, but as in all tales of imagination, one must constantly be on guard for the unexpected.
Hartford Stage has created a fanciful set, courtesy of Tony Ferrier, for Sharon Washington to share her unique childhood in “Feeding the Dragon,” a story she lived, wrote about and performs in an engaging one woman show until Sunday, February 4.
In telling her story, Ms. Washington takes on the personas of almost two dozen personalities who people her world, who made it so dramatic and real. Not the least of which is her father, the flawed man who literally and figuratively feeds the dragon, the giant furnace in which he stuffs coal to keep the mammoth building warm and safe. His addiction to alcohol often makes him the scary monster in her autobiographical tale.
Living in a library had some distinct advantages for her: while the furnace devoured coal, she devoured books. Her love of learning was fed by her love of the written word. She traveled many times a day and night up the five long marble flights to her tower, a fairy tale world that was strictly her own. Her view of the stars out the top windows was remarkable, as was the freedom of journeying through the stacks of books below.
She often felt like a king’s daughter, until the demons arrived unannounced.
When those demons descended and forced her away from her beloved childhood playground, we see a frightened little girl facing a real world of racial issues and injustice. Sharon Washington is revelatory in both milieus, always charming and lyrical, sincere and honest in her portrayal of her innermost secrets. Her storytelling is personal and passionate, under the taut direction of Maria Mileaf.
For tickets ($25-90), call the Hartford Stage, 50 Church Street, Hartford at 860-527-5151 or online atwww.hartfordstage.org. Performances are Tuesday to Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.,with added performance at 7:30 p.m. on February 2.
Come be enchanted by Sharon Washington’s tale and help her squeeze a nugget of shiny black coal so hard she is sure she will create a diamond. She, herself, is the diamond she creates.
The world is packed with infinite possibilities: what if you take the road less traveled, or miss the 9:05 train, or spontaneously show up at a party you weren't supposed to attend? How might your life be altered by these seemingly random occurrences? Think of a butterfly fluttering its wings in Australia and the ripples it causes thousands of miles away. These are hundreds of "if" moments of life we face daily and they do change the course of who and what we are.
To be convinced of these phenomenons, just attend Hartford TheaterWorks' latest offering, a boy meets girl love story by Nick Payne, called "Constellations" shining in the firmament until Sunday, February 22.
An unlikely coupe meet at a barbecue. Roland (M. Scott McLean) is a "honey" of a catch, a bee keeper, who is close to nature and its revelations. Marianne (Allison Pistorius) dapples in an existential world of theoretical physics, striving to make inroads in string theory and quantum mechanics. Is there any realm where these two can communicate and ultimately find love?
"Constellations" offers dozens of scenarios, one after the other, possible, probable, different scenes of what might or could happen as these two meet, talk and attempt to establish a relationship. With the unique use of lighting by Philip S. Rosenberg and original music provided by Billy Bivona, we are privy to a series of "do-overs" as Roland and Marianne get their sea legs steady as they overcome obstacles and climb over objections to ultimately reach the top of the mountain where eternal love dwells.
Like a roller coaster ride that exhilarates and enchants, that terrifies and alarms, the pair of talented actors holdour hearts close to their own. They reach out to each other. They push each other away. They fumble and start over, as hope and despair fly to opposite corners.
From the moment you enter the intimate space that is Hartford TheaterWorks, you will feel disoriented as the entire stage has been reconfigured. It is now a shiny black circle in the center, like an arena, created by designer Jean Kim. Rob Ruggiero directs an involving and compelling world where love is the ultimate prize.
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. and matinees Saturday and Sunday at 2:30 p.m.
Saturday, January 27, 2018
IN "OFFICE HOUR" PHOTO BY T. CHARLES ERICKSON
For the world in general and America in particular, the evidence of violent acts is all too prevalent and pervasive, from Columbine to Virginia Tech to the latest, in Kentucky, in churches, movie theaters, concert venues and schools, virtually anywhere. Playwright Julia Cho has tackled this disturbing topic head on, caught in the crosshairs of a gun, with that pistol held snugly in the hand of a solitary figure cloaked in isolation and mystery.Prepare yourself to be placed in the middle of the confrontation and be ready to duck when the bullets realistically and metaphorically start to fly. In Julia Cho’s intense drama “Office Hour,” you are in an instructor’s office at a university as she attempts to reach out to understand the motivations of a student, one who dresses in black, hides behind sunglasses, a hoodie and a baseball cap, and refuses to participate in class. As a loner who isolates himself from his classmates and writes inflammatory and disturbing assignments, he is presenting himself as a danger…to himself and to others.Gina, who leads an English writing class, has already been warned by other teachers that Dennis is a problem. Jackie Chung’s Gina feels she has to reach out to Dennis and try to find areas of commonality. They are both Asian and share an immigrant background. Writing is important to each of them. She requires each student to attend her office hours and feels this is an ideal opportunity to reach him, and cause him to open up and explain what he feels and who he is. The thought that he could explode is real and she fears for him. Daniel Chung’s Dennis is clearly disturbed and when his facade starts to crack, he admits that he feels “dead” inside. He can’t even look at himself in the mirror. He is the poster child for being unloved, by himself and by the world.To what extent can Gina venture before she puts her own life in danger? Her colleagues David (Jeremy Kahn) and Genevieve (Kerry Warren) have tried and failed to reach him. A series of frightening scenarios play out on stage, any or all of which could actually take place. The dark shadows of Newtown echo in the narrative. Long Wharf has even partnered with Sandy Hook Promise, a nonprofit organization devoted to preventing gun violence, to generate conversations about preventing future tragedies.To say this is timely drama is an understatement. These incidents of violence are all too common and steps must be taken to understand why shooting a gun is thought to be the answer by these alienated individuals. Here is a play about communicating with "the other,” about humanity, about fear. Lisa Peterson directs this confrontational theater experience that resonates all too painfully to our lives.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. and 7 p.m. This is a co-production with Berkeley Repertory Theatre in California and takes place at Stage II..“Office Hour” grapples with good and evil and humanity, with a teacher and a student, with a moral dilemma about how we can make things better. As director Lisa Peterson views it, it is “a brilliant fractured communication that must be experienced."
Monday, January 22, 2018
GEORGE LOMBARDO, LORI FLEDMAN, BARBARA HORAN AND MOLLY AS PEACHES
A dog park is not your typical place to find love, especially if you don't even own a pooch. But that does not deter Ralph Bellini by one dog biscuit. Ralph is a little late arriving at courtship's door but it doesn't stop him from actively pursuing his heart's desire: a woman of a certain age who has a little "furry rat" at the end of a leash. Ralph may have reached the ripe old age of eighty but he is young at heart and ready to greet love head on. Anything but an ordinary suitor, he uses operatic arias to woo his lady. No pink roses or milk chocolate caramels for this guy.Thanks to playwright Joe DiPietro, you are cordially invited to witness the pursuit of Carol and her pooch Peaches in "The Last Romance" a bittersweet tale of love in later life, enjoying a walk in the park at Connecticut Cabaret Theatre in Berlin weekends until Saturday, February 3.For years Ralph, a spry and talkative George Lombardo, never varies his routine. One day he does and his life changes. For the last twelve years, since his his wife Anna died, Ralph has walked the same streets at the same time and met the same people. Today, he tried a new route in a new direction and voila! he sees a lovely lady he wants to know more about. He follows her to the dog park and asks her not her name or the name of her terrier but "Do you like opera?" Long ago Ralph had dreams of becoming an opera singer and performing at the Metropolitan, and he even auditioned for a role. Even today, opera is a major part of his world and he wants Carol, a stand offish and proper Barbara Horan, to enroll as a student in his Opera 101 class.Since his wife died, Ralph has been under the care and feeding of his outspoken and controlling sister Rose, a feisty Lori Feldman, who manages his life from morning to night. Protective to a fault, Rose lives in fear that the events of October 25 will be repeated. She has been separated from her hubby Tony for over twenty years and feels she has taken the right road in not granting him a divorce. Cooking and cleaning for Ralph is her reason to live, and she is unwilling to move aside as this strange new woman threatens to usurp her role.Meanwhile Carol, with her adorable four footed companion Peaches, a scene stealing Molly McMurray ( any resemblance to her owner Kris is strictly deliberate), initially resists Ralph's kidding and teasing ways. Ultimately his charm and wit win her over and they plan an exciting getaway. Rose, with a deliberateness that borders on meanness, threatens to spoil their last chance at happiness. Will Ralph and Carol find their heart's desire? Can Rose spoil their late in life hopes? Will Peaches be found in time? Kris McMurray directs this Valentine's Day old fashioned love note with sincerity and sweetness, with a quartet of talented actors leading the way.For tickets ($30), call the CT Cabaret Theatre, 31 Webster Square Road, Berlin at 860-829-1248 or online atwww.ctcabaret.com.Performances are Friday and Saturday night at 8 p.m., with doors opening at 7:15 p.m. Remember to bring goodies to share at your table or plan to buy dessert and drinks at the onsite concession stand.Come delight as Peaches plays Cupid to help Ralph and Carol prove that a second chance at love can be just as sweet as the first time around. Check to see if Peaches (or Molly to her friends and fans) gets her well deserved curtain call.
SEVEN ANGELS THEATRE PHOTO BY PAUL ROTH
If you lived in the time of Shakespeare, in the 1590’s or thereabout, and Old Will was cemented to the spotlight, you might develop an inferiority complex or three if that is where you wanted to be yourself, especially if you too desired to curry favor for creativity and ingenuity and inspiration and novelty, well you get the idea. For two brothers, Nick and Nigel Bottom, this is a real problem, one they are determined to resolve, come hell or high water on Stratford on Avon.To discover if these boy geniuses are up for the task of moving the Bard off center stage, run lickety split to the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts from Tuesday, January 30 to Sunday, February 4 for the rousing and ribald laugh riot “Something Rotten” with book by John O’Farrell and Karey Kirkpatrick and music and lyrics by Karey and Wayne Kirkpatrick.Standing in the shadows are not where Nick (Rob McClure) and Nigel (Josh Grisetti) want to be. They want to push that upstart Shakespeare (Adam Pascal) right into the orchestra pit, never to surface again. When Nick steals money from the family savings, he hires a soothsayer Thomas Nostradamus (Blake Hammond) to predict what the next success in theater will be: the answer is a musical where actors spontaneously burst into song and dance.What ensues from that point forward is a madcap scheme to create this new untried and utterly different theatrical form, an intriguing plot when Shakespeare learns about these upstarts and their crazy ideas and tries to steal it first. Soon all the principals are appearing in court and Nick is sentenced to be beheaded. Numbers like “God, I Hate Shakespeare,” “Will Power” and “Bottom’s Gonna Be on Top” keep the energy moving in a spirited and lively manner.For tickets ($22.50-117.50), call the Bushnell, 166 Capitol Avenue, Hartford at 860-987-5900 orwww.bushnell.com. Performances are Tuesday, 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.No need to bring any spoiled tomatoes when you come to see this multi-award nominatedmusical comedy “Something Rotten.”
Hop one town over for some sweetness, bitter sweet though may be. If you weren’t lucky enough to be gifted a sister, perhaps you have acquired a few good female friends who surround you with comfort and support in happy times and sad. A sisterhood of strong women can certainly be a blessing. In Robert Harling’s touching story of friendship and survival “Steel Magnolias” gracing the stage of Playhouse on Park in West Hartford until Sunday, January 28, Harling took the story of his sister Susan, her life and her death, and wove it into a saga of laughter and tears, the gifts of friendship in joy and in sorrow. This is now the thirtieth anniversary of this very personal tale.
Truvy’s Beauty Parlor is more than just a place for cuts and curls, hair spray and permanent waves. It is a way of life for the ladies of Chinquapin, Louisiana as they mark weddings, anniversaries, births and deaths and share gossip, secrets and offer support and encouragement.
Jill Taylor Anthony’s Truvy is the mother hen who presides lovingly over her roost, watching over her newest chick and hire Annelle (Liza Couser) who finds comfort in religion and prayer as she tries to find her way, Clairee (Dorothy Stanley) who has lost her prestigious position as the wife of the mayor but still wants respect and a little adventure, Ouiser (Peggy Cosgrave) who thrives on being contrary, cranky and outspoken to conceal her heart of gold, M’Lynn (Jeannie Hines) who faces reality so clearly that it may be her undoing and M’Lynn’s daughter Shelby (Susan Slotoroff) who is bursting to explore life’s possibilities and grab at the carousel’s gold ring.
These women are all regulars of Truvy’s, who prescribes to the adage “there is no such thing as natural beauty.” They celebrate Shelby’s marriage to Jackson and then hold her in their hearts when she decides, against medical advice, to create a little piece of immortality with a baby. As Shelby declares, “I’d rather have thirty minutes of wonderful than a lifetime of nothing special.” Susan Haefner directs a stellar cast on a set designed by David Lewis.
For tickets ($25-40), call Playhouse on Park, 244 Park Road, West Hartford at 860-523-5900, ext. 10 or online at www.PlayhouseonPark.org. Performances are Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., with matinees Sunday at 2 p.m.
Discover for yourself why laughter through tears is Truvy’s favorite emotion. Don’t forget your box of Kleenex.No need for Kleenex with this Waterbury favorite. With a teasing comb and a can of Aqua- Net, teenage girls
could create a masterpiece of hair fantasy known as the Beehive. the time would be the 1960’s and John F.Kennedy had just been elected President, girl groups like the Chiffons and the Shirelleswould have been pining for boys and teenyboppers would have been in their glory. Now you havethe opportunity to relive those days. Start tapping your go-go booted feet while humming sha-na-na or hay-la hay-la, and start grooving over to Waterbury’s Seven Angels Theatre by Sunday,January 28 for a restorative injection of the swinging sixties musical “Beehive.”Forget that none of the six female vocalists - Amy Bentley, Brittany Mulcahy, Chelsea Dacey, Samantha Rae Bass, Erin West Reed and Patricia Paganucci - were even a twinkle in their parents’ eyes six decades ago. These talented ladies have no trouble chronicling the Kennedy years, Elvis’ reign, the invasion of the Beatles and bringing back to life the music of the girl groups so popular then.With more than three dozen hits to parade, the sextet recreate Brenda Lee, Leslie Gore, Connie Francis, Aretha Franklin,Tina Turner and go across the pond to visit Petula Clark and Lulu. Favorites such as “My Boyfriend’s Back,” “Respect,” “It’s My Party,” “Where the Boys Are,” and “You Don’t Own Me “ are vocally energized as the platters spin.For tickets ($30) to this creation by Larry Gallagher, directed and choreographed by Foster Reese, call the Seven Angels, Plank Road, Hamilton Park, Waterbury at (203)757-4676 (off I-84). Performances are Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2.p.m.
Stock up on your Aqua-net and let this bevy of pastel prettiness serenade you with the best beat of the sixties. And the beat goes on. There’s no complaining about nothing to do with this fantastic trio of entertainment options ripe for the taking. Enjoy!
Monday, January 15, 2018
With the year 2017 just a memory, it is important to look back and select those theatrical events that were significant, at least in this reviewer's eyes. In no particular order, just as memory serves me, the following shows had a lasting impart on me for a variety of reasons. This list is not exclusive but these are the cream that has risen to the top of the milk bottle. I hope you agree with at least some of them.
Having just come home after an exhilarating and exhausting weekend at the 13th Annual Goodspeed Festival of New Musicals, still wrapped in the excitement of seeing a trio of brand new musicals, two cabarets and a number of talks on topics from the role of a critic to the progress of the Goodspeed born show "Come From Away" currently on Broadway, I have to start with The Festival. Last year and every year, it has been a dream for theater lovers. Set in the middle of winter, it gathers new ideas and gives them wings. Mark your calendars now for January 11, 12 and 13, 2019 and join me in rooting on the talented participants.
Did you get to experience the magic of "Fireflies" at the Long Wharf with those luminous stars Judith Ivey and Jane Alexander? Set in a small Texas town, it circled around a retired teacher, her nosy neighbor and a stranger/intruder/romancer, played by Denis Arndt who disrupts their quiet life in the most unexpected ways.
If Katharine Hepburn invited you for "Tea at Five" you would be delighted to accept, thanks to Connecticut Cabaret Theatre in Berlin with the wonderful actress Kelly Boucher who plays Kate. We get to meet her at two distinct stages of her life, first when she is young and actively lobbying for the role of Scarlett O'Hara in "Gone with the Wind," and later at the end of her life when she is ill but not yet ready to end her acting career.
For a little dramatic tension, I hope you attended Yale Rep's "An Enemy of the People" by Henrik Ibsen. This timely saga pitted two strong men, brothers, against each other over the fate of their town in Norway's political future and its prosperity. The tug of war between the siblings was a wonder to behold, as the entire town took sides.
A drama of an entirely different nature took place at Long Wharf Theatre with a new adaptation of Chaim Potak's "The Chosen" where two teenage boys, raised in quite different religious viewpoints, become unlikely friends. Reuben and Danny learn a lot from their fathers and from each other as they grapple with the difficult task of growing up.
For a complete change of pace, with sunny sides of the street and the need for umbrellas, I hope you got to skip to the big tent in New Canaan for the effervescent musical "Singing' in the Rain" by Summer Theater of New Canaan. This Betty Comden and Adolph Green sweetness tells the tale of how stars of the silent screen transitioned to talkies, or not.
Moving the historical timetable back to our country's founding, we meet the fervent champion of freedom John Adams and his lively battle to win America's release from mother Britain. The Connecticut Repertory Theater on the campus of the University of Connecticut gave their red, white and blue best to make this story, the musical "1776," a stirring stage presence.
Two theaters gave great performances of the momentous concert in rock and roll history "Million Dollar Quartet" that actually took place on December 4, 1956 at Sun Records, the studio of Sam Phillips, considered the Father of Rock and Roll. Sam assembled four icons of the genre, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash and Elvis in a once in a lifetime concert at both Ivoryton Playhouse and Seven Angels Theater in Waterbury to great acclaim.
Hopefully you were lucky enough to score a ticket to Hartford Stage's amazing production by Hershey Felder of "Our Great Tchaikovsky." Felder is the king of musical biographies which he writes and stars in as the composer himself. He is a maestro at the piano and this 19th century tale from Russia is no exception. Next on his list is DeBussy. Watch for it.
Perhaps the most outstanding production of the year goes to Playhouse on Park's "The Diary of Anne Frank," a journey through World War Ii seen through the eyes of a teenage girl. Isabelle Barbier's portrayal of Anne was so on target it is clearly the role Isabelle was born to play.
It is easy to see why I love theater and writing about it. But even I will admit that seeing seven plays in six days, my current record, may be a little too much. See you at the theater.
Thursday, January 11, 2018
Being named after a President might be daunting for a baby boy, but if your moniker is Woodrow Wilson Guthrie you are able to strive for perfection and then some. Your life has to be meaningful and special, even if it means walking from one end of the country to the other. When you boast about making a joyful noise unto the Lord, Woody did so with his treasure trove of 3000 songs, novels, short stories, poems, oil paintings, political cartoons, children’s books and sketches of everyday life. He is considered one of America’s greatest songwriters and cultural icons and you have the privilege of making his unique acquaintance at the Westport Country Playhouse until January 20 in “Woody Sez,” a musical portrait devised and starring David M. Lutken.
Woody Guthrie wrote folk tunes about his growing up years in Oklahoma's Dust Bowl, political, children's, songs of wanderlust and traveling, songs of peace and against war, social justice and even songs with a Jewish flavor. None of his verses is more well known than "This Land Is Your Land," that he penned in 1940, considered one of folk music's most famous tunes. Even that was a protest against the sentiment he heard in Irving Berlin's "God Bless America."
The team of David M. Lutken and Nick Corley gets full credit for this production which they conceived together. Lutken stars as the prosaic philosophizing guitar playing guy who was compelled to ramble across the country and write about all he saw and all the people he met along the way. Nick Corley sets his hand to directing this impassioned yet humble tale, of a man and the music he had to make.
Guthrie was a social commentator, a radical with an advocacy for truth, who believed “all you can write isall you can see.” He has been described as “a three chord picker with a poet’s brain” and his tale has beenbrought to 65 cities, thanks to David Lutken and his comrades on fiddle, bass, guitar, banjo, harmonica andmore, Katie Barton, David Finch and Leenya Rideout.
Think of Woody Guthrie as an amalgam of Will Rogers and Pete Seeger, a man filled with words and sentiments which he put into poems, plays, letters, a newspaper column called "Woody Sez," song lyrics as well as novels and artwork. He suffered many tragic losses in his life as well as great happiness. They translated into his writings. As Woody says himself, "There's a feeling in music and it carries you back down the road you have traveled and makes you travel it again. Sometimes when I hear music I think back over my days - and a feeling that is fifty-fifty joy and pain swells like clouds taking all kinds of shapes in my mind.”Some highlights include "This Train Is Bound for Glory,” “Jack Hammer Blues,” "Sinking of the Reuben James," "The Ballad of Tom Joad," "Riding In My Car," and, of course, "This Land Is Your Land."For tickets ($35, 45, and 50), call the Westport Country Playhouse, 25 Powers Court, Westport at 888-927-7529 or 203-227-4177. Performances are Tuesday at 7 p.m., Wednesday at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m., Thursday and Friday at 8 p.m.and Saturday at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m.,
Come meet this home spun, down home country boy named after our 28th president, with his guitar and his friends in this special and moving tribute to the Oklahoma Troubadour. They are all bound for glory.
Monday, January 8, 2018
While some people catch a cold or the flu with great annoyance, Dorothy Stanley caught the acting “bug” with tremendous joy when she was four years old and it is still actively in her system. She performed “Oh, You Beautiful Doll” as part of a dance recital, as a soloist, and her fate was sealed. Now she is busy cruising the streets of West Hartford, her hometown, reacquainting herself with the places she grew up visiting, as she prepares for a new role, that of Clairee, the mayor’s wife, in that sentimental Southern saga “Steel Magnolias” coming to Playhouse on Park from January 10 to 28.Stanley is “waxing nostalgic” as she revisits all the old familiar places from her youth. Born at Hartford Hospital, she is calling it “great to be back.” Now she lives in Vermont, and recounts happily all the plays from summer theater at the Weston Playhouse where she honed her craft. She moved around a lot due to her father’s profession with the Air National Guard, allowing her unique experiences from the Bushnell, to Pittsburgh, New Hampshire, Juilliard and Broadway. Originally a professional violist, she soon found acting her passion and has performed in such classics as “Bye, Bye Birdie,” “Carousel,” “Sound of Music,” “Kiss of the Spider Woman,” “Dames at Sea,” "Once” and “Billy Elliot,” to name but a few. She credits her audition for “Kiss Me Kate,” the moment everything fell into place and her career officially took wing.Whether she is playing one of the strippers in “Gypsy” or a happy “tapper” in “Sugar Babies,” Stanley has found joy in singing, dancing and acting on stage. She especially likes feel good shows and this one at Playhouse on Park definitely fills the bill. Even though it is the story of a mother and her ill daughter, there is a lot of humor to wrap around the sadness. This is a sisterhood of women, strong women of the South, who stand together. As Stanley sees it, “We are all there for each other. We feel like sisters. We all get along and are supportive.” Stanley credits Susan Haefner, the director, for how well the cast is performing. “We’re having a ball. First Susan had us discussing our feelings about each other and about diabetes, the disease that affects the every day existence of Shelby, a main character, and how close we are at different stages in life.” Thanks to Susan, "we all feel like family. We are working in an extremely positive, professional yet relaxed atmosphere and that’s a delightful way to work.”“Steel Magnolias” was written three decades ago as a celebration of the life of the playwright’s sister Susan by Robert Harling. He was having trouble coping with his younger sister’s sudden death, after receiving a kidney from their mom, and it was suggested he write about it to help heal. In ten days, he penned this tribute to the family and friends whose love surrounded them. Harling wanted to capture his sister’s life and spirit. He set the story in the place where he grew up, Natchitoches, Louisiana. He placed it in a beauty parlor, the private place for women where they gathered for inspiration, support and strength. The title comes from “something beautiful, made of very strong stuff.”For tickets ($25-40), call Playhouse on Park, 244 Park Road, West Hartford at 860-523-5900, ext. 10, or 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. There is an added performance on Tuesday, January 23 at 2 p.m.In addition to everything else, Dorothy Stanley admits to being a Stephen Sondheim fanatic, having played 14 roles in seven of his shows over the years, like “Follies,” “Sweeney Todd” and "Gypsy.” She even confesses, “I would perform a Sondheim musical in a barn for free.” Since that may not happen any time soon, join Stanley’s bevy of high school friends who are coming to the Playhouse to see her shine as Clairee.
An unlikely subject for a broad based comedy might well be the seriously rebellious historical figure Karl Heinrich Marx, yet that is who the creative team of Richard Bean and Clive Coleman have fixated on for their latest production. The year is 1850 and we find the 32 year old revolutionary, deemed Europe's number one terrorist, hiding in the soho section of London on the brink of despair and brilliance.With Rory Kenner as Marx and Oliver Chris as his adopted best friend Friedrich Engels, the National Theatre Live will present "Young Marx" for your enlightened edification at the Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center tonight, January 11, at 7 p.m.We first meet Karl as he is hounded by creditors and in fear of having his wife Jenny flee from his side. He is constantly ill, with continual debts and apparent poverty not improving his outlook. Are you in hysterics yet? To add to the pathos, one of his children is close to an unhappy ending. No wonder Marx has taken to hiding in the cupboard whenever there's a banging on his door.Have no fear, the gag lines are soon falling over themselves like an Abbott and Costello routine and the apparent despair of the setting is no longer helpless. Soon you are marveling at Marx's genius as he philosophizes about the changes in economics he hopes to promote, to save the working class from the cruelty of the capitalists and effect changes, especially in child labor laws. Quickly the seriousness is pushed aside as the comic soap opera tone returns with a vengeance for a brief encounter with Charles Darwin and a fight at the stately British Museum library.For all his bright ideas, Marx is portrayed as a boozer and womanizer, an angry young man who spouts ideas as the spirit moves him. This new work is the opening salvo to introduce London's newest theatrical home The Bridge to audiences, a $16 million space overlooking the Tower Bridge, the first all-new commercial theater to be built in London in eight decades. Nicholas Hytner, artistic director of the National Theatre, is at the helm.For tickets ($20), call The Kate, 300 Main Street, Old Saybrook at 877-503-1286 or online at www.katharinehepburntheatre.org for this National Theatre Live in HD production. Come back the next night, Friday, January 12 at 8 p.m. for the tantalizing sounds of a talented quintet of female singer-songwriters who carry the sparkling torch of the Lilith Fair tour for the twentieth year. Hear the finale of this celebratory tour that features former Connecticut State Troubadour Lara Herscovitch, Sharon Goldman, Sloan Wainwright, Trina Hamlin and Connecticut Folk Songwriting Contest winner Amy Soucy, accompanied by guitarist Stephen Murphy. The show entitled "Steady On" features a sisterhood of songs created over the last two decades.For tickets ($26-28), call The Kate at 877-503-1286 or online at www.thekate.org.Whether you are in the mood for hysterical historical comedy or sensational singing, look to The Kate to satisfy your entertainment desires. Check their calendar for dozens of exciting offerings every month of the year.