Monday, September 17, 2018

“THE PLAY THAT GOES WRONG” IS DELICIOUSLY RIGHT









The old adage the “The play must go on,” meaning despite disasters and unforeseen catastrophes, must have had the
new comedy “The Play That Goes Wrong” clearly in mind. Here is slapstick at its best, and worst, with calamities making a mountain of mishaps and it only gets funnier as each predicament occurs.

Hartford’s Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts will be airing this series of seriously hysterical scenes in this Olivier Award for Best Comedy show written by Jonathan Sayer, Henry Lewis and Henry Shields from Tuesday, September 25 to Sunday, September 30.

Turn your clocks back to the 1920’s and watch in disbelief as the Cornley Drama Society attempts to stage a production of “The Murder at Haversham Manor.” Attempt is the operative word as the unpredictable and unanticipated keep occurring. What do you do when your leading lady suffers a concussion? How do you handle a corpse who refuses to stay dead? Why do the sets keep malfunctioning and are in danger of total collapse? Where do the fortifying drinks go as they disappear from sight?

Think what might happen if the stars of “Spamalot" and The Three Stooges conceived a troupe of children. While patently and biologically unthinkable, the end result might be this fall-over funny laugh riot. Mischief is in every one of the delectable details as they go deliciously down the tube.

For tickets ($23-90), call the Bushnell, 166 Capital 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 p.m. and Sunday at 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.

While murder is serious business, “The Play That Goes Wrong” definitely is not. Come discover the magic mania for yourself.

CHILDHOOD THROUGH JAUNDICED EYES: "MAKE BELIEVE”




In an ideal world, childhood is a precious commodity where parents protect and cherish their young ones, guaranteeing their safety and growth as they journey toward adulthood. What happens, however, when the parents are derailed and shirk their responsibilities, allowing the kids in their care to flounder on their own and find a balance, if at all possible. Such is the milieu of Bess Wohl’s “Make Believe” holding 
its world premiere at the Hartford Stage until Sunday, September 30.

The inviting 1980’s playroom set created by Antje Ellermann, complete with Cabbage Patch doll, poster of E.T., and toys and games galore, does not even hint at the demons lurking under the curtained fort. Here we find a quartet of children who are without supervision, with nary an adult in sight. There is no after school snack. There is no note of explanation. There is no phone call of reassurance that all is well.

The children Chris (Roman Malenda), Addie (Alexa Skye Swinton), Kate (Sloane Wolfe) and baby Carl (RJ Vercellone), who thinks he is a dog, are abandoned to fend for themselves, playing grown ups, in adisturbing version of what they must hear from their absentee parents. The words are caustic and crude, their actions abusive, their reality terrible to envision. These interactions color the memories they carry into adulthood when, in the second part, they gather in that same room to lay to rest, permanently, one of their own.

You will meet Kate (Megan Byrne), Addie (Molly Ward), Carl (Brad Heberlee) and Chris (Chris Ghaffari) and some of the issues of their youth will be addressed. These children were clearly cheated of the carefree and love enriched promises that should have been theirs to enjoy. As adults, they are still not whole and are still struggling for answers. Now twenty years later, they have returned to “the scene of the crime” to determine where the blame lies, and who the perpetrators and victims are. Jackson Gay directs this involving and difficult
scenario of blame and distrust. Please enter this playroom armed with a strong constitution.

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, Thursday and Sunday at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m, with matinees Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m.
Live and relive the childhoods of these four siblings as they struggle to understand what went wrong in what should have been an idyllic world.

Monday, September 3, 2018

MOVING 9/11 DRAMA, “THE GUYS," COMING TO SCSU



                                                         DAN LAURIA
The date 9/11/2001 is etched in our psyches and never to be erased. Each of us knows where we where that morning when our lives were devastated and permanently impacted by a series of unfathomable tragedies. Playwright Anne Nelson has taken that singular sensation and unthinkable occurrence and humanized it with one story of its overwhelming consequences. On Saturday, September 8 at 8 p.m., John Lyman Center at Southern Connecticut State University, 501 Crescent Street, in New Haven will reveal “The Guys,” a personal reflection on one aspect of grief.

As a fire captain who has lost eight of his colleagues and friends to the tragedy, Nick is paralyzed by the personal trauma, and unable to find the words to eulogize his men, “The Guys.” He turns to Joan, a writer and editor, to help him meet this challenge. Together they discover each man’s remarkable spirit and individual strengths and weaknesses, his talents, his personality, his contributions. The humanity of this small firehouse community is uncovered.

In the process, Nick and Joan learn the intricacies of their own lives, and unlock ways to heal their own heartaches. Being brought together by extraordinary circumstances, they form a bridge of communication. Come meet Dan Laurie as Nick and Wendie Malick as Joan as they struggle to find answers to their grief. This play, a hit off-off Broadway, is soon to be released as a movie starring Sigourney Weaver and Anthony LaPaglia.

For tickets ($35, students $10), call SCSU box office at 203-392-6154 or online at lymancenter@southernct.edu. A special VIP package for $100 is also available that includes premium seating, post-performance reception on stage, Meet and Greet, photo opportunity and autograph. Proceeds will support SCSU scholarships. Lauria is a graduate of the school.

This true story will touch your heart, with laughter and tears, in its honesty and courage to stand up to a tragedy and call upon the human spirit to overcome all obstacles. Dan Lauria and Wendie Malick will summon their inner strengths to bring this tale of compassion to a triumphant resolution.

THE EDWARDS TWINS: MUCH MORE THAN DOUBLE THE PLEASURE



Imagine a galaxy of stars sparkling and strutting their stuff, under one roof, Seven Angels Theatre in Waterbury, for two 
shining shows. Imagine all these singing icons wrapped up in the brilliant impersonations, by two men, the Edwards twins.
Legendary showstoppers like Cher, Bette, Dolly, and Barbra will magically appear in front of your eyes and you will be hard 
pressed to tell them from the genuine article.

Saturday, September 8 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, September 9 at 2 p.m., a glittering array of your favorite singing sensations 
will be coiffed and costumed to their pearly whites as these two brothers command the stage. Eddie and Anthony Edwards are a unique talent. From the time they were young, born in Burbank, California in 1965, they were fascinated by celebrities. Fortuiously they lived close to the NBC television studios and would sneak into the sets of TV shows being taped and then run home to act out the skits, mimicking the stars. Shows like “Laugh In,” “The Carol Burnett Show” and “The Sonny and Cher Show” became their challenging self-imposed homework assignments.

Now you have the outstanding opportunity to see these personas live and up close and personal. It is credited to Carol Burnett that the two siblings combined their skills on stage, creating so many super stars. With his higher pitched voice, Eddie has assumed the myriad female roles, stunning audiences with his artistic makeup “illusions” while Anthony is the pianist, concentrating on the male side of the show, with Barry Manilow, Billy Joel, Elton John and Neil Diamond among his famous faux.

Performing all over the world to great acclaim, the Edwards twins are coming to Waterbury with their beautifully perfected theatrical giftsFor tickets ($50), call Seven Angels Theatre, 1 Plank Road, Hamilton Park, Waterbury at 203-757-4676 or online atwww.sevenangelstheatre.org.

Where can you see and enjoy a bevy of your favorite personalities gathered all in one place, thanks to two men who clearly love their idols and want to share them - spectacularly - with you, direct from Las Vegas.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

ROMANCE IS ON HOLD IN “LOVE’S LABOUR’S LOST"




JAMES ANDREASSI'S DON ADRIANO WITH HIS PAGE MOTH, BRIANNA BAUCH
PHOTO BY MIKE FRANZMAN


In the Christian faith, Lent is a time, of forty days, to prepare for Easter by forsaking a special desired item as a sign of self-denial.  Forty days is a long time for abstinence.  Imagine, therefore, when King Ferdinand of Navarre and his loyal friends Berowne, Dumaine and Longaville sign a pledge to devote three years to serious study and to abandon the company of women. The ink is barely dry before their vow is severely tested. Into the court of the King come the pretty princess of France and her lovely ladies in waiting and the challenge is clearly afoot.

No one but Will Shakespeare could conjure up such a delightful and humorous premise and he does so with delicious wit in “Love’s Labour’s Lost.” The Elm Shakespeare Company has assembled a handsome production on a palatial set, in the forest of Edgerton Park, on the border of New Haven and Hamden, until Sunday, September 2.  The show begins at 8 p.m. but come early to picnic, with your chairs or blankets, and enjoy the festive music at 7:30 provided by Greasy Jones and the Dirty Pots.

You’ll think you’ve fallen into the world of F. Scott Fitzgerald with Elivia Bovenzi’s colorfully couple coordinated costumes, Izmir Ickbal's imaginative palace set, with a  band on stage, creative choreography by Kaia Monroe Rarick and the innovative direction by Rebecca Goodheart.

This admirable production features Martin Lewis as the ambitious King who pledges with his lords played by Aaron Bartz, Kingston Farady  and Michael Hinton to forsake the feminine form in favor of contemplative studies, to sleep but three hours a night, to eat one meal every other day and to stick to these strict decrees for a mere 1095 days or three years, whichever comes first.
Their lofty goals fly out the window when the winsome women of France arrive, led by Rachel Clausen, and accompanied by Lori Vega, Sasha Mahmoud and Betzabeth Castro. A capable chaperone, Gracy Brown, accompanies and advises the ladies. 

A comic romance also ensues between James Andreassi's love obsessed Don Adriano and Sarah Bowles’ dairy maid Jaquenetta. A special shout out to Brianna Bauch as Moth, who is in service to the overly amorous Don, Benjamin Curns as the poet spouting school teacher and Martin Jason Asprey as the mischievious messenger man. The entire cast provides an exceptional visit into the Bard’s world, especially as it is set in the 1920’s.

 Donations are welcome at the performances, collected by the eager Elm Shakespeare Interns who are learning theater arts. A special fundraiser PUT ON THE RITZ will take place on Thursday, August 30 at Edgerton Park, starting at 5 p.m. with cocktails, buffet and auction.  Tickets start at $75. Call 203-392-8882 or online at www.ElmShakespeare.org.

Enter merrily into the romantic world created by Cupid where the pursuits of education are quickly abandoned as Love 101 is studied and many tests are failed in this comic war of wits. The elegant resolution proves that the Bard knew that “all’s well that ends well."

Monday, August 20, 2018

AN HILARIOUS LOOK BEHIND THE CURTAIN:“THE UNDERSTUDY”




BRETT DALTON'S JAKE CONFRONTS HIS UNDERSTUDY ERIC BRYANT'S HARRY

PHOTO BY CAROL ROSEGG

  A spotlight, often harsh and unflattering, is being directed at the angst and agonies of acting, the trials and the triumphs, by playwright Theresa Rebeck in her intimate offering “The Understudy” being showcased at Westport Country Playhouse until Saturday, September 1. “The Understudy” provides a comic look at what it means to be permanently in the wings, word perfect and primed, for a chance at the big time.  For that is the fate of the understudy, ready and willing but unlikely to ever get his chance on stage.

German/Jewish novelist Franz Kafka, whose works were mainly ignored in his lifetime, would seem a strange source of material for a current play on Broadway.  Known for his themes of hopelessness and absurdity, however, one might see the method that playwright Theresa Rebeck found in making a newly discovered Kafka play the skeleton upon which she fleshes out her new comedy. 
Enter from stage left, Harry, not your most eager and grateful actor, so capably neurotic in the hands of Eric Bryant. He doesn’t have a lot of respect for the muscle bound actor he is “covering” for, an action star who commands big bucks but has little legitimate stage quality. Harry, in his opening monologue, manages to disparage the man, Jake, his megabucks movie and the acting profession in general.
Bryant calls the role “theatrical therapy” as it reveals the real struggles and anxieties of actors as they go on stage. He feels there is a supreme powerlessness in acting, as one is constantly begging for a job. His co-stars Brett Dalton who plays Jake and Andrea Syglewski who inhabits the stage manager Roxanne agreed that it is great to be employed, but each role has a beginning and an end. It’s not an easy business. All three agreed that Rebeck depicts their passion, their soul and their bitterness and how saying the lines, on stage, with an audience, is its own reward. Whereas in most plays, actors escape themselves in their characters, this is different. Here they bring their personal neuroses to the job, and have to live in the logic of the lines, and live in the moment. Still they all stated the play offers a window into the actor’s world, why they love it, and the absurdity of it all.

For his part, Jake, a manly Brett Dalton, is also waiting for his major break-through role but is willing to pay his dues and give Kafka a fighting chance. As the two men meet on stage for the first time, it is all stage manager Roxanne can do to prevent them from coming to blows. Yet by the play’s end, they share a significant moment that makes all the struggle supremely worthwhile.

Poor Roxanne, a wonderfully exasperated Andrea Syglowski, has a lot to contend with on her theatrical plate: her star and his understudy have an instant dislike for each other, the understudy is presuming to rewrite the script, both men are eating the props, an unseen light, sound and scenery tech Laura is stoned on drugs, the unseen star Bruce is casting his huge shadow over the rehearsal process and Roxanne quickly discovers the understudy has changed his name and is really her ex-fiancee who jilted her at the altar. What is a girl to do for an encore? David Kennedy mines the play for maximum laughter at the expense of the art of show business.

For tickets ($30 and up), call the Westport Country Playhouse, 25 Powers Court, Westport, off route 1 at 203-227-4177 or 888-927-7529 or online atwww.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 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m. 

The show must go on, unless it doesn’t, in this comic behind the curtains look at theater, passions, egos, wounded hearts, warts and all.
ANDREA SYGLOWSKI'S ROXANNE COMES FACE TO FACE WITH HER EX-FIANCEE
ERIC BRYANT'S HARRY    PHOTO BY CAROL ROSEGG

“SOCIAL SECURITY” IS A REAL LAUGHING MATTER



RUSSELL FISH, LORI FELDMAN, CHRIS BROOKS AND RACHEL WEST-BALLING
IN "SOCIAL SECURITY"
 Ernest Ackerman, a retired motorman from Cleveland, Ohio, became the first person ever to receive a check, on August 16, 1935 for Social Security. He was lucky enough to retire one day after the Social Security program began and he received a check for a whopping 17 cents. Today millions of Americans rely on this monthly check to live on, for food, rent and sundries.

One of those women is Sophie Greengrass who is fortunate enough to live with her daughter Trudy and her accountant husband Martin on Long Island. She also is lucky enough to have another daughter Barbara and her successful art gallery owning husband David who are more than willing to write a check for mama’s care and comfort…as long as she doesn’t invade their luxurious Manhattan apartment and disturb their lovely life style.

The Connecticut Cabaret Theatre in Berlin is inviting you to get up close and personal with these families as critical issues are discussed and radical changes are being made, weekends until Saturday, September 22 when Andrew Bergman’s frantic family comedy “Social Security” comes to call. The Avon Lady or the Fuller Brush Man would have been more welcomed.
With an ominous phone call that there is “something to discuss,” sophisticated art gallery owners David (Chris Brooks) and Barbara Kahn(Rachel West-Balling) have the disconcerting sense that their smooth, witty, and well ordered lives are about to irrevocably change. How different they are from the Mineola, Long Island branch, her uptight sister Trudy (Carleigh Cappetta Schultz) and her staid accountant husband Martin (Tony Galli) who are content to be suburbanites, happily overprotecting their daughter Sarah and care taking of mama Sophie (Lori Feldman) at the same time.
So what could be so urgent as to make the stay-at-home Heymans leave their secure nest and venture into the big, bad Big Apple? The couple are the epitome of the “sandwich generation.” Not only do they have to handle all the capricious whims of Sophie, who is hard of hearing, leaves half eaten sour balls everywhere like in the toaster, and needs be catered to, they also have to contend with their only daughter Sarah who seemed to be off to college and becoming sexually active in a menage a trois off campus. What are concerned parents to do? Dump Sophie in Manhattan and fly to Buffalo to rescue Sarah, of course. The plan goes quickly awry when Barbara and David’s best artist client Maurice Koenig (Russell Fish) comes to dinner and meets Sophie in the flesh.

For tickets ($34) call the CT Cabaret Theatre, 31-33 Webster Square Road, Berlin at 860-829-1248 or online at www.ctcabaret.com. Performances are Friday and Saturday nights at 8 p.m., with doors opening at 7:15 p.m. Bring your own goodies or plan to buy treats at the concession stand onsite.

Come discover what half eaten sour balls and gefilte fish have to do with the price of art and sanity when Sophie Greengrass invades Manhattan. Oy Vey!