Monday, June 25, 2018



Now that summer is officially here, it’s time to schedule some firecrackers of theatrical entertainment to sparkle your July and August months. Area theaters can’t wait to tempt you into their doors to celebrate the fervor and fever of summer.

You have until July 29 to settle in the shadow of the George Washington Bridge in the Washington Heights section of New York City for a hearty dose of spice and Latin American joy with Lin-Manuel Miranda’s first musical hit “In the Heights.” West Hartford’s Playhouse on Park is busy splashing the stage with this joyous tribute to a community, one Miranda lived in and loves. Dance your way now to join the hip hop fun by calling 860-523-5900, ext. 10 or online at

Goodspeed Musicals is shouting “more, please sir, more” as they offer up the classic Charles Dickens tale “Oliver!” for your pleasure. The delights of Victorian England will be yours for the taking as a troupe of pocket picking scamps plan to steal your heart in this rousing musical family favorite. Call Goodspeed at 860- 873-8668 or online atwww.goodspeed.orgfrom June 29 to September 9. Next door in Chester, from August 3 to September 2, at the Terris Theatre is a brand new musical of secret love letters, ghost written by “Cyrano” guaranteed to entertain.

Want to travel a little for a summer drive, then set your GPS for a scarely known gem hiding in the hills of Waterford. On eleven rolling acres, discover the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center which offers four theaters on site, two indoor and two outdoor. The entire month of July features staged readings of eight plays and three musicals, all brand new and exciting. If you want to be on the cutting edge of what’s happening in the theater, make a reservation by calling the O’Neill at 860-443-1238 or online

Grab your pink poodle skirts and black leather jackets as that perennial favorite “Grease” brings its lightning and thunder to the Ivoryton stage from July 5 to the 29th. Come rock and roll with the kids at Rydell High School as the cool crowd lights up the sky. Bop on over to Ivoryton for a ton of fun. Call the Ivoryton Playhouse at 860-767-7318 or online at www.ivorytonplayhouse.organd start practicing your hand jive moves with Sandy and Danny and the gang..

For inspiring story and piano sounds, let the Hartford Stage share the tale of a woman surviving the Holocaust in the incredibly moving
“The Pianist of Willesden Lane.” From July 12-22, let Mona Golabek tell and perform the story of her mother as she uses her musical skills to live through a monstrous time in history. Call Hartford Stage at 860-527-5151 or online atwww.hartfordstage.orgfor tickets to this performance you will long remember.

Not into musicals, let Hartford TheaterWorks entrap you with “Hand to God,” a drama where evil is lurking in a small town in Texas’ church basement, in a puppet club started by a new widow for teens. How do Satan, sin and sex suddenly play a significant role? Call 860-527-7838 or online

Join the parade the African animals as the Bushnell in Hartford welcomes “Disney’s The Lion King” for a three week engagement from August 1 to the 19. Let the majesty of the jungle overpower you with this compelling tale of power and prestige and leadership of the pack. Call the Bushnell at 860-987-5900 or online at www.bushnell.orgfor your passport to this passionate spectacle.

Mark your calendars as many times as possible to be sure you don’t miss any one of these irresistible offerings. Happy happenings. 

Saturday, June 23, 2018



Swanson is famous for its beef, tuna and chicken pot pies but it’s highly unlikely that they will ever use Mrs. Lovett’s secret recipe. Mrs. Lovett’s pie business was once a flaky failure until she teamed up with a certain mad barber in London’s Fleet Street to create a sensational savory of unusual and peculiar flavor.

The Connecticut Repertory Theatre on the campus of the University of Connecticut is mixing up a batch of tasty treats as it offers for your culinary and theatrical pleasure the Stephen Sondheim musical, with book by Hugh Wheeler, “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street A Musical Thriller in Concert" until Sunday, July 1st.

The barber becomes a barbarian in this passionate tale of revenge. Sweeney Todd is the alias assumed by a barber who was transported to Australia on trumped up charges almost two decades before. He blames Judge Turpin (Ed Dixon) and his liege The Beadle (Lu DeJesus) for the treachery which led his wife to kill herself and the Judge to claim their infant daughter Johanna (Emilie Kouatchou) as his ward.

Now Todd, played with a steely determination and macabre manner by Terrence Mann, has returned to the scene of the crime to right the wrongs his family has suffered. With the aid of the lusty Mrs. Lovett, played delightfully by Liz Larsen, and a naval man Anthony (Hugh Entrekin), Todd sets his diabolical scheme in place. Complications in the form of an old beggar woman (Andrea Burns), a blackmailer Pirelli (Nicholas Gonzalez) and a wide eyed lad Tobias (Kenneth Galm)  threaten his plans. Peter Flynn directs this involving dark tale plagued with the “chill of ghostly shadows.” The concert form features an orchestra of twelve on stage, led by Ken Clifton, magical lighting by Alan C. Edwards and period costumes designed by Christina Lorraine Bullard.

For tickets ($48 and up) call the CT. Rep, Jorgensen Auditorium, Storrs at 860-486-2113 or 

online at Performances are Tuesday to Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday and 

Saturday at 8 p.m., with matinees Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m. 

Return to nineteenth century London, if you dare, but be careful to have witnesses if you go 
to a local barbershop for a trim or a neighborhood pub for a succulent shepherd’s pie.

Monday, June 18, 2018


For a spicy salsa kick with a Latin- American chaser, look no further than the triumphant musical tale of Gloria Estefan and her producer husband Emilio.  Join the winding conga line all the way to the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts in Hartford until Sunday, June 24 as “On Your Feet!” commands your exciting attention.

This immigrant story features a three year old Gloria moving with her family from Havana, Cuba to Miami, Florida.  Along the way, she had to deal with a father battling an incurable disease, a mother who voiced her disapproval of Gloria’s hopes and dreams and an accident that almost destroyed everything she and her husband had worked decades to achieve.

“On Your Feet!” is energized by a book by Alexander Dinelaris, choreography by Sergio Trujillo and direction by Jerry Mitchell.

Combining an exploding juke box theme, with tunes like “Conga,” “1-2-3,” “Get On Your Feet,” “Anything For You”  and “Rhythm Is Gonna Get You,” with an inspiring autobiographical story, the audience is treated to highs of extreme joy contrasting with real obstacles to success.  Their crossover music dreams are continually dismissed as impossible by record executives in the know as well as their refusal to release their hit singles in English.

In her home life, Gloria faces a heartfelt estrangement from her mother, the painful witnessing of her father’s illness and then the shattering reality of the tour bus crash with a truck that leaves her severely injured.  Her triumphant return to the stage, after battling incredible odds, is showcased in her performance at the 1991 American Music Awards. Her resilience and spirit can be applauded at every step.

For tickets ($22.50 and up), call the Bushnell, 166 Capitol Avenue, Hartford at 860-987-5900 or online at  Performances are Tuesday to 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.

Follow the intriguing path to glory that Gloria and Emilio Estefan forge in the musical world. Get “on your feet."



The Washington Heights section of New York City is being celebrated in all its ethnic diversity in the joyous musical “In the Heights” at Playhouse on Park in West Hartford until Sunday, July 29. Long before his “Hamilton” fame, this production that embraces our differences and appreciates community was penned while Lin-Manuel Miranda was still a student at Wesleyan University in 1999. Some describe it as “Our Town” with a heaping side order of spicy salsa.

The playwright builds on his heritage as a Puerto Rican- American and his skills as a lyricist, composer, actor and rapper to create an energetic ethnic neighborhood in the shadows of the George Washington Bridge. The book to the musical was written by Quiara Alegria Hudes.

Miranda wants audiences to be transported to the world he creates and walk away from the evening dancing. The action lasts for three days, but his goal is to make the inspiring impact of his people to last long afterward. He wrote the piece about his experiences growing up Latino, where he spoke English in school and Spanish at home, spending summers working at a slushy ice machine helping his aunt.

Miranda created Usnavi who owns a bodega, a small corner grocery, as the show’s main character and narrator. He originally played the role himself. in this production, Niko Touros takes the honor, guiding the audience into his world, complete with his joys and frustrations. He introduces us to the woman who acts as his grandmother, Abuela Claudia, a nurturing Amy Jo Phillips, his impatient to grow up cousin Sonny who help him run the bodega, Nick Palazzo, his girlfriend to be Vanessa, a spirited Sophia Introna, who has yet to learn Usnavi’s hopes, as well as the Rosario family, dad JL Rey who rules the job and home, wife Stephanie Pope whose guidance is often needed and daughter Nina, the pride of the community, who is on a scholarship to Stanford, a shining Analise Rios, and their business’ employee Benny, a forward thinking Leyland Patrick, who has his eyes focused on Nina.

We also become friends with the beauty parlor queens Sandra Marante and Paige Buade, the area’s graffiti artist Paul Edme and the treasured ice man cometh at all hours Willie Marte. The ensemble also includes Gabrielle Baker, isiah Bostic, Jahlil Burke, Maya Cuevas, Jon Rodriguez and Olivia Ryan who all help to dance up a storm, courtesy of master choreographer Darlene Zoller.

The plot includes a winning lottery ticket guaranteed to change lives, a city power outage, some dreams, new loves, a death, choices and a ton of wonderful songs and wild dancing.
Sean Harris keeps the pace moving at a dizzying and happy pace.

For tickets ($35-50), call the Playhouse on Park, 233 Park Road, West Hartford at 860-523-5900, ext 10 or online at Performances are Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m., followed by a talk back with the cast. No show on the 4th of July.

Don’t miss this adventure into the world of Lin-Manuel Miranda, in the Washington Heights section of Manhattan, where life spins at its own pace and community and family are everything.

Sunday, June 17, 2018


Women of a certain age know that changes are coming and it’s ready or not for they are unavoidable. This sisterhood of female sorority would probably vote the problem out the door if they had the collective power to do so, but some things are inevitable. To help you weather the storm that is brewing, or help you deal with your present, ever present, ailments, the cure might well be to head immediately to Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven for a healthy dose of Jeanie Linders “Menopause the Musical.” Until Sunday, July 1, this may be the best prescription the doctor ever ordered.
If you have ever experienced hot flashes, night sweats, memory loss, water retention, insomnia, all referred to as “the change,” then you are ready to go on a journey of discovery when the absurd and ridiculous bodily functions that attack women over the age of Jack Benny’s perpetual birthday start happening.

Power business woman Michelle E. White, Soap Star Cherie Price, Earth Mother Roberta B. Wall and Iowa Housewife Karen Gedissman have a hoot and a holler when they accidentally collide at a Bloomingdale’s lingerie sale one fateful afternoon.

The four bond like Elmer’s Glue as they roam through the store’s floors singing and dancing about “Change, Change, Change” and your body’s hard to ignore signs like “Tropical Hot Flashes” that make you want to move into your freezer and “New Attitude” and the coping skills needed to survive.

The quartet of power packed ladies has a great time and so does the audience of energized woman and you-can-count-on -one-hand bravemen. More than two dozen old favorites are treated to new lyrics in this ninety minute intermissionless delight.

For tickets ($50.50 and up) call Long Wharf Theatre, 222 Sargent Drive, New Haven at 203-787-4282 . Performances are Tuesday at 7 p.m., Wednesday at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m., , Thursday and Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.

Grab a girlfriend or three, a mother or a daughter, and boogie on over to a phenomenon in the making and stuff all your chocolate cravings, swollen ankles and estrogen anxieties in one big brown bag and bring it with you.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

"The Age of Innocence" and “Rags" Top Connecticut Critics Awards

MC Jenn Harris with Goodspeed Music Director Michael O'Flaherty, winner of the Tom Killen
Award for outstanding work in theater.  Donna Lynn Hilton presented the award.
Photo by Mara Lavitt

 The world premiere of Hartford Stage’s “The Age of Innocence” and a revised version of the musical “Rags” from Goodspeed Musicals took top honors at the Connecticut Critics Circle Awards Monday.

The event, which celebrated the work from the state’s professional theaters during the 2017-2018 season, was held at Westport Country Playhouse.

Awards for outstanding actors in a musical went to Samantha Massell as Rebecca in Goodspeed’s “Rags” and Jamie LaVerdiere as John Adams in  Connecticut Repertory Theatre’s production of “1776." 

Awards for outstanding actors in a play went to Reg Rogers in Yale Repertory Theatre’s production of “An Enemy of the People” and Isabelle Barbier in Playhouse on Park’s production of “The Diary of Anne Frank.” Isabelle was an astonishing Anne.

Top directing awards went to Terrence Mann for CRT’s “1776” and Ezra Barnes for Playhouse on Park’s “The Diary of Anne Frank.”

Outstanding ensemble award went to TheaterWorks’ production of “The Wolves,” a play about a competitive girls' sports team. The debut award went to Megan O’Callaghan  for “The Bridges of Madison County” and "Fun Home,” both at Music Theatre of Connecticut. The outstanding solo honor was awarded to Elizabeth Stahlmann for Westport Country Playhouse's “Grounded.” Kelli Barclay won for her choreography for Goodspeed Musicals’ “The Will Rogers Follies.”

Michael O’Flaherty, longtime music director for Goodspeed Musicals, received the Tom Killen Award for lifetime service to the theater from Donna Lynn Cooper Hilton, a producer at Goodspeed. This was, in my opinion, the highlight of the evening.

Receiving special awards were New London’s Flock Theatre for its production of “Long Day’s Journey Into Night” at the Monte Cristo Cottage; the Broadway Method Academy of Fairfield; and Billy Bivona, who composed and performed original music for TheaterWork’s production of “Constellations.

The outstanding featured actress award in a musical award went to Jodi Stevensfor Summer Theatre of New Canaan’s “Singin’ in the Rain.” There was a tie for outstanding featured actor in a musical, with honors going to Matt Faucher as Jud for Goodspeed Musicals’ “Oklahoma!” and to Cory Candelet for playing the Wall at Ivoryton Playhouse’s “The Fantasticks.”

The award for outstanding featured actors in a play went to Peter Francis James as the Friar for Westport Country Playhouse’s production of “Romeo and Juliet,” and to Judith Ivey as the nosey neighbor for Long Wharf Theatre’s world premiere of “Fireflies.”

Design awards went to Fitz Patton for sound and Matthew Richards for lighting for Westport Country Playhouse’s “Appropriate;” Linda Cho for costumes for Hartford Stage’s “The Age of Innocence;” Yana Birykova for projections for Westport Country Playhouse’s “Grounded” and David Lewis,for set design for Playhouse on Park’s “The Diary of Anne Frank.”

Jenn Harris and Matthew Wilkas, stars of TheaterWorks’ “Christmas on the Rocks,” presided over the event.

Monday, June 11, 2018


Five decades have passed since Janis Joplin commanded a stage, singing her unique brand of rock ’n roll, gospel, country, soul and blues musical styles to her faithful audiences. One of the original “sex, drugs and rock ’n roll” gals, her star burned bright and hot and extinguished all too quickly. Luckily the Ivoryton Playhouse is bringing the star back for an encore performance until Sunday, June 24 with “A Night with Janis Joplin.”

Francesca Ferrari and Paige McNamara are sharing the honors of the title role of Janis, bringing forth her deep gravelly voice, dark cloud of long hair, distinct style selling songs, and energetic kinetic movements. Along with the distinctive music are stories about her Texas past and the super talents who influenced her musical magic like Aretha Franklin, Nina Simone, Blues Woman and Chantel created by Amma Osei, Etta James and Chantel created by Tawny Dolley, Bessie Smith, Odetta and Chantel created by Aurianna Angelique and Blues Singer and lead Chantel created by Jennifer Leigh Warren.

No need for hearing aides as these women know how to belt out their music to the rafters. A mighty rock band of eight, led by Michael Morris, helps them put the tunes over the top. The show has been created, written and directed by Randy Johnson. Featured songs include “Tell Mama,” “Summertime,” “Piece of My Heart,” Spirit in the Dark,” Little Girl Blue,” “Me and Bobby McGee,” “I’m Gonna Rock My Way to Heaven” and “Mercedes Benz.” Projections that include Joplin’s paintings by Darrel Maloney add to the message.

For tickets ($55, seniors $50, students $22, children $17 ), call the Ivoryton Playhouse, 103 Main Street, Ivoryton at 860-767-7318 or online at Performances are matinees Wednesday and Sunday at 2 p.m., Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m.

Had she not died of a drug overdose at 27, Janis Joplin would now be 76. Yet her music and her style live on and she continues to rock her way to heaven.


If you were offered a free ticket for a boat ride on the Titanic, how quickly would you run to pack a bag? With tornadoes in Connecticut and volcanoes erupting in Hawaii and Guatemala, the world seems to be sending a clear message to stay safely in your bed under the covers. Yet what could go wrong with a coveted invitation to attend the 1979 opening of a Manhattan casino and discotheque?  What if one catastrophe goes viral into many?  Feeling brave?

The Connecticut Repertory Theatre has a special treat for hearty souls, ones whose health and life insurance are paid up, for “Disaster!” The Musical Comedy playing until Saturday, June 16 at UCONN’s Jorgensen Theatre on the Storrs campus.  Gather all your rabbit’s feet and four leaf clovers, not to mention cloves of garlic -just in case-for this adventurous romp in the world of Murphy’s Law where whatever can go wrong, does.

This is a wild, wet and wonderful show at its sterling best.  Created by the comic genius of Jack Plotnick and Seth Rudetsky, with Drew Geraci, “Disaster!” is great energetic fun, a blast to the past, with 70’s music at every devious and dangerous turn.  Be ready to boogie before the curtain even goes up and you find yourself on stage doing the hustle or the frug, thanks to  Mary Ann Lamb’s enthusiastic choreography.

Nick Nudler’s Tony is the proud but unscrupulous owner of the new casino, a manipulating charmer who convinces Jackie, a smooth singing Angie Schworer, to be his featured torch entertainer at no pay. Believing she loves Tony, Jackie gives her star power freely, while caring for her twin kids, both adorably payed by Sana ”Prince” Sarr.

More love interests are played by the eager newspaper reporter Marianne, an eager Alyah Scott, and her jilted fiancĂ©/waiter Chad, a hopeful Ben Jackson Walker, as well as the happily married couple Maury,a  devoted Griffin Binnicker and Shirley, his secret keeping wife Anne L. Nathan.  Seth Rudetsky has a lot of fun running around as the prophet of doom, a disaster expert who predicts earthquakes and tidal waves and advises making reservations for the life boats NOW.

Toss in a gambling addicted nun brought to life by Maggie McDowell, a waiter named Scott, Simon Longnight, who wants to be a chick magnet and a sassy Levora Varona, Leanne Antonio, who with her pup wants to have a good time.  The grand ensemble also includes Sasha Renee Brown, Spencer LaRue, Michael Katz and Hayden Elizabeth Price.

Jack Plotnick directs this musical comedy stuffed with the time’s best tunes, like a juke box unleashed, such as “Hooked on a Feeling,” “Knock on Wood,” “Reunited,” “I Am Woman” and “Feelings," all inserted at appropriate moments in the action.

For tickets ($48 and up), call the Connecticut Repertory Theatre at the Jorgensen at 860-486-2113 or online at   Performances are Tuesday to Thursday at 7:30 p.m. Friday at 8 p.m. and Saturday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.

With a gracious nod to disaster movies of the past, be prepared for nature’s wrath unleashed and don’t forget your life preservers!

Wednesday, June 6, 2018



New York Tribune editor and vocal opponent of slavery Horace Greeley is credited with the slogan “Go west, young man, and grow up with the country.”  Many people, especially former slaves after the Civil War, sought help with healing from the violent conflict and heeded those words.
Many African-Americans landed in Nicodemus, Kansas to start a new life and to finally establish a home and settle on land that they owned. The Homestead Act helped their resettlement, but it took courage and strength and a strong spirit to leave all that they knew, to venture off into a wilderness as a pioneer.

Westport Country Playhouse, until Saturday, June 16, is inviting you to come along with a trio of sisters as they establish a new life in a new land in Pearl Cleage’s “Flyin’ West.”  It is a journey well worth taking. Share the sisters’ joys and sorrows, their triumphs and their despairs as they forge a claim on freedom.

Sister Sophie, a determined Nikiya Mathis, has a steel backbone and a spine of resilance.  She will not fail in her goal to establish a good life on the prairie.  To ensure her success, she carries a rifle with her wherever she ventures.  Like a mother hen, she watchs over Miss Leah, a feisty Brenda Pressley, who has her ways set in starch and tons of stories she may or may not share.  Sophie also looks out for her sister Fannie, a hopeful Brittany Bradford, who has caught the eye of a new neighbor Wil, a gentlemanly Edward O’Blenis.  

The youngest sister is Minnie, an adventurous Keona Welch, who has already left home on the arm of a poet, Frank Charles, a forward thinking and opportunist Michael Chenevert, and is just returning after many years in Europe.  Minnie’s return is welcomed, until the family sees that Frank is abusive and harmful and willing to go to any lengths to get his way.  His light skin has given him desires to pass as white and a disappointment about an inheritance pushes him to unspeakable acts.

Marjorie Bradley Kellogg’s set is a fine picture of these immigrants' world and all they possess and love.  Seret Scott directs this wonderful heart filled play with a sensitive voice.  

For tickets ($30 and up), call Westport Country Playhouse, 25 Powers Court, Westport (off route1) at 203-227-4177 or 888-927-7529 or online at  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 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m.

Come cheer on this sisterhood and root for their solidarity and spirit as they battle the dangerous elements, both outside and inside their doors.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018



The New Haven community is blessed with a two week event unique in the country:  THE INTERNATIONAL FESTIVAL OF ARTS AND IDEAS. From Saturday, June 9 to Saturday, June 23, the city of New Haven is opening its arms wide in welcome for friends, families, neighbors and visitors to discover the arts in all their glory, from all corners of the globe.

If you are into music, plan to bring a chair or blanket and a meal to the New Haven Green for a FREE concert, most starting at 6 p.m.  Come hear Elan Troman and Rohn Lawrence, with special guest The Rahsaan Langley Project to kick off the Festival on Saturday, June 9 at 6 p.m. The next night plan to hear  a vibrant mix of Latin American and Afro-Mexican sounds as Flor De Toloache and Las Cafeteras ignite the stage from 6 p.m. on. Ruth B’s soulful ballads will ring out in all their purity on the Green on Saturday, June 16 starting at 7 p.m. while Amir Elsaffar, with members of the Sound Orchestra and New Haven Symphony Orchestra, will pump the air with jazz, Iraqi maqam music and classical music on Sunday, June 17 at 4 p.m.

Area churches will feature a series of programs for $10 each on such diverse topics as the history of reeds, a jazz and hip-hop band, a poetry jam, and Ugandan Folk Fusion. Choral groups from Germany to Sri Lanka to Mexico will rise up in song several times at the Morse Recital Hall in Sprague Hall on College Street, $35 or all performances for $100. For guitar magic, plan to attend Kaki King’s The Neck Is a Bridge to the Body, on Wednesday, June 20 at 8 p.m., also at Sprague Hall, $35-55.

For the excitement of a diverse program, seek out the lectures and presentations on topics like Germany and the European Union, Islam and Music: The Case of Iran or Mexico Beyond the Headlines.  All Ideas events are FREE and open to the public.  Go to ARTIDEA.ORG/IDEAS for specific dates and times.

If theater is your fervent desire, the Festival offers a plethora of choices.  Starting outdoors in the Yale Law School Courtyard, come experience the New England premiere of The Merchant of Venice by Compagnia de’ Colombari from Italy, directed by Karin Coonrod.  Five multi-ethnic actors will take you on an unforgettable journey, June 19-23, $45-65. On June 22 and 23, be transfixed by the world premiere of Requiem for an Electric Chair, a true story told by the actor who lived it, Toto Kisaku of the Democratic Republic of the Congo at the Iseman Theatre on Chapel Street,  $25. For an hour of story telling, come hear Ain Gordon, accompanied by Josh Quillen on percussion, at the Iseman Theatre June 12 and 13, $35-55, in Radicals in Miniature.

Yale’s University Theatre will be the site of A Billion Nights on Earth as a father and son take a journey to the stars from June 14 to 16, with director Thaddeus Phillips and visual artist Steven Dufala.  Love dance and the Beatles, then plan to attend the Mark Morris Dance Group’s presentation of Pepperland in its East Coast premiere at the Shubert Theater June 21 and 22 at 8 p.m., $20-125. This colorful and groundbreaking event also includes a dinner with the cast for $300, contact Brian Nekoloff at 203-498-3704.

In addition to all of the above, there are boat and walking tours, a photo exhibit on the Green by artist Joe Standart of immigrant faces and a series of unique food experiences around the city to experience. Check out ARTIDEA/ORG/FOOD to capture them all. The vast majority of events are FREE.  For tickets go online or call 203-498-3772.  A number of flex passes and packages are available.

The International Festival of Arts and Ideas is a gift from the city of New Haven. Do not let this incredible present go unopened.  Take full advantage of all the wondrous pleasures and treasures it provides.

Monday, June 4, 2018


When a play features a series of slamming doors, you might mistakenly believe you are attending a farce.
But if the doors are the steel bars of a prison cell, you know quite quickly you are in for an intense and 
gripping drama. Hartford TheaterWorks, until Saturday,, June 23, is  reserving a place for you in the cell of one Nicholas
Bright, a desperate Eric Bryant, who has been kidnapped in Pakistan by mistake, yet cannot convince his
 captors to release him. Aya Akhtar has crafted a frightening trauma that feels all too real in its enactment.

What could be more shocking or scary than a kidnapping, especially in a foreign country where torture is
common place and the threat of a beheading all too real? What if your ransom demands are unrealistic
at $10,000,000 and the bank you work for refuses to pay? For Nick, these are his realities and he must
find a creative solution to save his own life, or he will never see his wife and young son again.

It is useless for Nick to tell his captors, Anand Bhatt’s Dar, Fajer Kaisi’s Bashir and their leader Rajesh
Bose, the Iman Saleem, that he is not their intended victim, the bank’s president. The men are not going to let
 him go.  His fate is squarely in his own hands. Fortunately for Nick, he has a great command of investments
 and strategies and he convinces his captors that he can raise the intended funds himself by manipulating
 the market. He assures them that futures are the answer and proceeds to teach Bashir all he knows.

The fate of Pakistan is perilous and the Iman may be more likely to satisfy his own needs than those of his
people.  His actions cause Bashir to question him and an internal conflict ignites, with Nick caught in the
middle.  Soon the monetary scheme is in jeopardy and Nick’s life becomes even more precarious.

The title of the play comes from the economic theories of Adam Smith that state that self-interest drives
the free market like an invisible hand.  Here all the players are directly involved in securing Nick’s success.
David Kennedy directs this intense tale that makes you feel like you are in Nick’s cell with him and his
captors, and in imminent danger of losing your life.

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

Come be intrigued as Nick juggles potatoes, oranges, wheat, water and sugar to satisfy greed and the
monetary madness of his untrustworthy jailers.


Piet's Randall  Newsome toasts his friend Steve, Ariyon Bakare
Photo by T. Charles Erickson

Despite drought and despair, the aloe plant is a survivor.  Much like the South African people for whom the aloe is symbolic, the vegetation can exist in a parched and unforgiving landscape.  Peculiar to the aloe are its healing properties where breaking off a spike and freeing its juices can be used to treat burns and for other medicinal purposes.

For Piet and Gladys, an aloe plane is quite unlikely to cure their ills.  Despite the fact that Piet collects these succulents and is ecstatic over discovering an unnamed species, the plant is incapable of healing here.  South African playwright Athol Fugard visits their home in Port Elizabeth in 1963 at a time of trauma and change in his drama “A Lesson from Aloes” being sensitively staged at the Hartford Stage until Sunday, June 10.

Randall Newsome is the gentleman farmer who happily tends the aloe garden, now that he is no longer a bus driver or an active member of a civil rights movement.  Caring for his cacti and for his fragile wife Gladys, a frequently distraught Andrus Nichols, is all he can manage.  Quoting poetry and tending to Gladys’ needs, as she recovers from a nervous breakdown, are now his full time occupation.

Once upon a time, Piet was actively involved in advancing the cause of justice and the ending of apartheid.  He has seen the devastation of his friend Steve, a fiery Ariyon Bakare,who has witnessed first hand the terrible effects of taking on the establishment.  Steve has lost his job as a bricklayer, been arrested for his activities and now is leaving his home with his family to resettle in England. Piet and Gladys have prepared a farewell meal for the occasion.

Revelations and accusations are the main courses at the dinner as secrets are exposed and angry words are shouted into the quiet of the night.  Darko Tresnjak directs this powerful cast in a drama where friendship and marriages are tested against a background of political unrest.

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

Let Athol Fugard be your travel guard into a time in history where injustice ruled and rebellions failed to succeed.