Sunday, February 18, 2018

CATCH THE STARS AT THE KATE






Are the stars out tonight?  You won't care if it's cloudy or bright, as you stroll down the vividly red carpet at the Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center at 7 p.m. on Sunday, March 4 for the Oscars Party 2018.

Kate, herself, accepted that prestigious statue a record four times, from nominations a dozen in all. She would surely love this gala celebration at her namesake theater, affectionately known as The Kate, in her signature hometown, Old Saybrook, especially knowing the proceeds will benefit presentations of both arts and culture all year long.

Prepare to don your holiday fare for this festive party where the likes of Meryl Streep (and Tom Hanks) will be feted for their performance at the Washington newspaper "The Post" and the disclosure of the Pentagon Papers surrounding U. S. involvement in Vietnam, Gary Oldman will be saluted for his wartime portrayal of the British statesman Winston Churchill in the "Darkest Hour," Daniel Day-Lewis for his final gripping performance as a clothes designer who discovers love in an unlikely place in "Phantom Thread" and the persistent determination of Frances McDormand, the mother of a slain daughter, who will not allow her girl's killer to escape punishment in "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri."

Whether you cast your vote for the confused teenager coming of age, captured by Saoirse Ronan, in "Lady Bird," the controversial mother-daughter relationship of Allison Janney and Margot Robbie in the ice skating attack of “I, Tonya," the sacrificing and idealistic attorney "Roman J. Israel, Esq." portrayed by Denzel Washington or the self seeking soul of a young boy's sexual hungers by Timothee Chalamet in "Call Me By Your Name," you will have much to cheer for that night.

As for The Kate, prepare to enjoy gourmet offerings from the Saybrook Point Inn's Fresh Salt, both savory and sweet, appetizers to desserts.  Chocolate Oscar statuettes might magically appear, in the special candy treats available to nibble all night long, as every good movie needs.

Hold on to your socks for the incredible silent auction items available for bidding like a special wine dinner for 6, specially prepared with pairings by Saybrook Point Inn chefs, a Nikon Cool Pix S6900 Camera with 32 GB SD Card, a framed, autographed concert poster by Graham Nash from his performance at the Kate and a round of golf (18 holes) with cart and lunch at Black Hall Club, Old Lyme.

According to Oscar event chair Diane Hessinger, “This event has always been volunteer-driven and I’m so proud of what we’ve accomplished over the past eight years to support The Kate. Not only is it a very fun evening, but it’s a perfect way to pay homage to our namesake, Katharine Hepburn and raise funds to expand the arts on the Connecticut shoreline.”  This year’s event will be held in memory of long-time and dedicated volunteer Beverly Whalen who gave generously of her time and helped launch this event.

This year an extra exciting item is courtesy of Becker's Diamonds & Fine Jewelry of Old Saybrook.  For $20, you can purchase a Mystery Red Box, that will include a gift certificate to Becker's and one lucky purchaser will win a stunning bracelet, 14K gold with forty-nine diamonds. 

Devin Carney, state representative and Art Carney's grandson, will once again bring a genuine Oscar to hold for photos as he shares the stage with Michael Mcguire,  a member of The Kate’s Board of Trustees, while TV anchor Ann Nyberg, from WTNH, will be offering commentary from the television station periodically throughout the evening.

For tickets ($75), please call The Kate,  300 Main Street, Old Saybrook at 877- 503-1286  or online at 

Come celebrate 90 years of movie magic with guest host Jimmy Kimmel with all the sass and sizzle of the stars.   

Monday, February 12, 2018

BUSHNELL WELCOMES “THE BODYGUARD” TO ITS MUSICAL DOORS



                                          DEBORAH COX IN "THE BODYGUARD"

Who can forget the dangerous sparks that ignited the screen when Whitney Houston’s superstar portrayal of singer Rachel Marron collided with Kevin Costner’s former Secret Service Agent Frank Farmer who is hired as her bodyguard.  Rachel is being stalked by a crazed fan and Frank is in place to stand by her and protect her, even if it means sacrificing his own life. He is still reeling from his failure to save the President from a killer and reluctantly accepts this assignment.

This monumental 1992 film has now transferred its musical magic and magnificence to the stage as “The Bodyguard The Musical,” written by Alexander Dinelaris, flies head first to Hartford.  It will land  at the Bushnell Center for the Arts, offering it from Tuesday, February 20 to Sunday, February 25.

When Frank Farmer (Judson Mills) originally appears at Rachel’s mansion, the famous singer (Deborah Cox) resents his intrusion into her life.  Unaware that she has received a growing number of death threats, she believes she is safe with her sister Nicki (Jasmin Richardson) as her writing partner and her ten year old son Fletcher (Douglas Baldeo, alternating with Kevin B. Jones III) by her side.

Reluctantly Rachel acknowledges her need for protection, allowing Frank to equip her home with security.  As he asserts his control over the situation, the pair clash as Rachel tries to dominate.  Her sister Nicki, out of jealousy, wants to usurp Frank’s attentions and soon a romantic
triangle emerges to complicate the already tenuous situation.  Meanwhile Frank has become a father figure for young Fletcher.

As the suspense builds, the air is filled with a glorious parade of stunning songs and dazzling dances, complete with sequined costumes, like “Queen of the Night,” “Greatest Love of All,” Saving All My Love for You,” “I Will Always Love You,” “All the Man I Need,” “I’m Every Woman,” “One Moment in Time” and “I Wanna Dance with Somebody.”

The stalker is dangerously close, as Rachel performs while on tour and at the Oscars, and he is always a threat to her and to those close to her. Thea Sharrock directs this romantic thriller that showcases Whitney Houston’s great hits with fancy feathers and flair.

For tickets ($37.50 and up), call the Bushnell, 166 Capitol Avenue, Hartford  at 860-987-5900 or online at www.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.

Enter the world of excitement and intrigue in a superstar singer’s life as risk and romance both come knocking at her door.

COME SEE MUSICALS ON PARADE IN NORWICH









While the masks of comedy and tragedy date back to the ancient Greeks, the joyful addition of music to the mix didn't arrive until the 19th century, in England with Gilbert and Sullivan and in America with Harrigan and Hart.  The ground-breaking sounds of such classics as "Showboat" and "Oklahoma" pushed the medium over the top.  Now Eric Rockwell and Joanne Bogart are taking a novel look at that platform of entertainment in a combo of tribute and spoof with their "The Musical of Musicals The Musical"  being aired at the Chestnut Street Playhouse in Norwich until Sunday, February 25.

What better way to salute musicals of the past than with a tongue-in-cheek, slightly jaundiced peek at the masters of their craft.  Starting with Richard Rogers and Oscar Hammerstein, Rockwell and Bogart create a scenario where a young woman June (Corey Gonzales) can't pay her rent and wants Billy (Marc Bibeau) the hero to dramatically save her, while Abby (Maureen "Moe" Pollard) offers friendly matronly advice and Jitter (Justin Carroll), the villainous landlord, is full of threats.  Replace the epic "Oklahoma," with "Corn" and you are half way up to an elephant's eye.  Here the cob is celebrated in Kansas in August, love is in the air and everyone enjoys a symbolic ballet, ah shucks!

The theme continues  with a nod to Stephen Sondheim as the troupe ventures into the woods, in this case a New York apartment, where a crazed artist threatens June to pay her rent or else pose for paintings.  With echoes of "Into the Woods,"  "Sweeney Todd" and "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum,"  Sondheim is lambasted with meat pies galore.

The joyful tunes of Jerry Herman in such treasures as "Mame,"and "Hello, Dolly!" are twirled around the dance floor in a swank apartment owned by Abby who only takes a moment to introduce her knicker kneed nephew Billy to Jitter and the world of high society. Here Dear Abby is the life of the party.

The mask of Sir Phantom Jitter is firmly in place as Andrew Lloyd Webber sails into "Aspects of Juanita" who is, remarkably, still in need of rent money and of being rescued.  She needs to become a super nova in the spirit of "Evita" and "Jesus Christ Superstar" if she has any hope of surviving.

With "Cabaret"  and "Chicago" in the limelight, tribute is paid to that great song writing team of Kander and Ebb, as June is still without a sou to her name. Will she need to sell her body to end her debt as Prohibition rages and guilty pleasures abound?  Tune in and see for yourself. Hunter Parker gets into the spirit of the spoof with enthusiasm and energy in her direction.

For tickets ($15-75), call the Chestnut Street Playhouse, 24 Chestnut Street, Norwich at 860- 886-2378 or online at www.boxofficechestnutstreetplayhouse.org.  Performances are Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.

Come discover the fate of the well flaunted musical in the hands of these actors as they sing and dance to their hearts' delight.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

COME ENTER PINTER’S COMIC AND DRAMATIC WORLD WITH NHTC




Nobel Prize-winning English playwright Harold Pinter wrote creative works for over five decades.  Some of his voluminous works have been deemed “comedy of menace” and the current offering by the New Haven Theater Company easily fits into that category.

With Pinter’s “The Dumb Waiter” being entertained weekends until Saturday, February 10, we meet Gus (Erich Greene) and Ben (Trevor Williams) who are in a cellar, marking time, waiting for something to happen.  But what? Gus is fidgety and more than a little anxious.  He is filled to overflowing with questions, inquirys he throws hither and yon at Ben, who apparently could care less.

Ben is preoccupied with his newspaper.  He is reclined on a cot, oblivious to Gus’s many concerns. Occasionally he will toss out the hint of a startling news story, about a man being run over by a truck or a girl who killed a cat.  Both men are occupying themselves until their assignment begins.  But what assignment is that?

In this enclosed space, with spates of dialogue, we learn early on that Ben is in charge and Gus is clearly at his mercy.  Even the innocent request to make a cuppa tea almost leads to fisticuffs.  Frustrations boil to the surface, especially when an envelope mysteriously appears under the door and written requests for exotic food like Greek and Chinese suddenly appear in the dumb waiter.

A level of anxiety grows and the pair increase the volatility of their emotions.  Gus wants food and they both want their instructions.  Even though the stove has no gas, the level of tension in the room threatens to explode.  What will happen next?  They each have a gun that is all too readily at hand.  John Watson directs this fifty minute drama of growing anxiety with a tight hand.  Both men are controlled like tight rubber bands ready to snap.

For tickets ($20), contact New Haven Theater Company, 839 Chapel Street, New Haven, at the rear of EBM Vintage, a nifty consignment shop where you can look for bargains before and after the curtain.  Performances are February 8, 9 and 10 at 8 p.m.

Come meet Gus and Ben, two blokes who are at each other’s throats, as they prepare for the known and unknown, as best they are able, while the audience listens in to the unpredictable events.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

FOLLOW THE “FIELD GUIDE” TO THE YALE REP’S WORLD PREMIERE


A RUSSIAN BEAR DOING STAND-UP COMEDY    PHOTO BY JOAN MARCUS


Brushing up on your Russian literature, namely  the works of Fyodor Dostoevsky, would help your understanding of this  decidedly different interpretation of “The Brothers Karamazov” created by the ensemble group Rude Mechs.  Commissioned as a world premiere by the Yale Repertory Theatre, it meets the performance group’s mission of producing original, live works “peppered with big ideas, cheap laughs and dizzying spectacle.”

This is the third time Rude Mechs, located in Austin, Texas, has been invited to the Yale Rep, previously with “Now Now Oh Now” and “The Method Gun.” Today with “Field Guide,” the group will explore the different relationship of father to sons until Sunday, February 17.

Fyodor Karamazov is not about to win any Best Father of the Year Awards.  He marries and discards wives without concern or care, and treats his sons as if they do not exist.  No one would blame the boys in question for being less than affectionate and more than steeped in anger and resentment for this patriarch. Their disdain even borders on plots to permanently eliminate the old man.

Rude Mechs comes with a complete ensemble of actors:  Lowell Bartholomee as the father Fyodor, the vulgar, money grubbing seducer of young women, Thomas Graves as the intellectual, often philosophizing son Ivan, Lana Lesley as the brave soldier Dmitri who is engaged to one woman while actively pursuing another and needs his inheritance quickly, Mari Akita as the kind, faithful son who is studying to enter the monastery and who dances, Robert S. Fisher as the bastard son Smerdyakov who is ignored even more than his legitimate siblings and Hannah Kenah as s trio of characters, two desirable ladies who are sought after, Katya and Grushenka, and the servant Grigory.

In this quite unusual work, look for stand-up comedy about such diverse topics as forever stamps and ziplock bags and even a joke or two by a giant bear, theories about the existence of no ugly women, pleas for receiving promised legacies, violent family reunions, cardboard furniture that moves mysteriously, greed, jealousy and a giant Bounce House.  The world of the Karamazov Brothers is definitely bizarre and will not be to everyone’s theatrical palate. Shawn Sides directs this inventive riff of Russian literature.

For tickets ($12-99), call the Yale Rep, 1120 Chapel Street, New Haven at 203-432-1234 or online at www.yalerep.org. Performances are Tuesday to Saturday at 8 p.m. and Saturday at 2 p.m.

Enter the menagerie at your own risk, as many of the animals bite, as good and evil battle for all the winnings and a giant well deserved glass of vodka.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

PLAY WITH YOUR FOOD CELEBRATES LOVE!




ALLAN ZELLER AND KIMBERLY SQUIRES ON STAGE

Lunch hour usually consists of a sandwich, tuna fish and bean sprouts on whole wheat grain bread or a ham and cheese with
mustard on rye, but it can be so much more.  Let Fairfield County’s unique entertainment vehicle, PLAY WITH YOUR FOOD, show you
just how much more it can be.  Like a three ring circus of fun, PLAY WITH YOUR FOOD opens at noon with a delectable gourmet
meal, 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 Zeller
Love is definitely in the air as Valentine’s Day looms around the rose festooned corner. What happens when a couple, about to 
celebrate “24 Years” together, decide to evaluate the roller coaster ride that has been their marriage.  Leslie Ayvazian offers up 
this 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 rich 
comedy by Albi Gorn, “A Family Affair.”  Will a young couple digest the marital advice or run from the scene in terror as
they 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 WITH
YOUR FOOD tempt you to expand your cultural horizons.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

"PARABLE OF THE SOWER” MUSICALLY SOARS AT QUICK CENTER




TOSHI REAGON LEADING HER COURAGEOUS CAUSE
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 TIME FOR “LOVE LETTERS” THAN VALENTINE'S DAY




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.

SHARON WASHINGTON REVEALS THE SECRET TO “FEEDING THE DRAGON”




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. 

"CONSTELLATIONS" OFFERS A WORLD OF POSSIBILITIES



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.

Come discover if Roland and Marianne are destined to be together as the universe juggles and reconfigures their fate at every turn.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

VIOLENCE CAN ERUPT IN JULIA CHO’S “OFFICE HOUR”



GINA (JACKIE CHUNG) CONFRONTS DENNIS (DANIEL CHUNG)
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

"THE LAST ROMANCE" WALTZES INTO THE CT CABARET




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.

WONDERFUL THEATER ABOUNDS IN HARTFORD AND WATERBURY



THE CAST OF "BEEHIVE" RELIVING THE 1960'S AT WATERBURY'S
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 or
www.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 nominated
musical 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 Shirelles 

would have been pining for boys and teenyboppers would have been in their glory.  Now you have 

the 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

A LOOK BACK TO THE BEST OF THEATER IN 2017


                           CT REPERTORY'S PRODUCTION OF "1776" AT UCONN

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.
KELLY BOUCHER AS KATE HEPBURN AT CT CABARET IN BERLIN