Saturday, October 29, 2011

Dancers, Acrobats...and Openings

There will be a lot of tumbling and tapping at Fairfield University's Quick Center for the Performing Arts early in November. First, on Saturday, Nov. 5, at 8 p.m., the Compania Flamenca Jose Porcel graces the stage, shwocasing the dance's gypsy and Arabic-Egyptian origins


The following weekend, on Saturday, Nov. 12, the National Acrobats of the People's Republic of China will be flying, flipping and tumbling. The troupe has performed internationally, combining classical ballet, tumbling and hand-to-hand balancing, as well as some eye-boggling spinng of plates, juggling of umbrellas and riding of bicycles.



For tickets to either event call 203-254-4010 or go to http://www.quickcenter.com/

______________________________________________________________________

Up in Storrs, Mike Reiss's "I'm Connecticut" will get it's world premiere on December 1 at the Connecticut Repertory Theatre.

Reiss, a Peabody award-winner and four-time Emmy award-winning writer for The Simpsons, is also a Connecticut resident. He's created a sharp, satirical love story that has the young swain, Simsbury-bred, asking the pungent question: "What, really, is a Nutmegger?" The show stars Joyce DeWitt and Jerry Adler.

                                       Jerry Adler stars as “Grampa” alongside Joyce DeWitt,
                                       who plays “Polly,” in Connecticut Repertory Theatre’s
                                        world premiere of
I’m Connecticut playing
                                                         Photo by Gerry Goodstein.

For tickets, call 860-486-4226 or go to http://www.crt.uconn.edu/

_______________________________________________________________________

It's a comedy within a musical, or vice-versa. It's the critically acclaimed "The Drowsy Chaperone," and it's opening at the Little Theatre of Manchester on November 4 and will run through the 20th. "Chaperone" is the story of a reclusive fan of Broadway musicals who one night starts to play a cast album of his favorite musical, only to have the musical's characters appear in his apartment, complete with all of the foibles, fears and obsessions common to theater-folk.

For tickets call 860-647-9824 or go to http://www.cheneyhall.org/

________________________________________________________________________

Need something else to do on Friday, Nov. 4? Well, you can wend you way up to the Burton Leavitt Theatre to see the Windham Theatre Guild's production of William Finn's quirky 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, which runs through Nov. 19. Join (quite literally) the nerds, nuts and spelling-bee prima donnas (and the equally off-center adults runng the Bee) as they battle for spelling laurels -- can you spell "palaestra"?

For tickets call 860-423-2245 or go to http://www.windhamtheatreguild.org/

_________________________________________________________________________

Make sure to check out all of the reviews, theater news, casting calls, theater listings and general information about Theater at www.ctcritics.org

For film reviews, go to http://susangranger.com/

Friday, October 28, 2011

Review - "Belleville" - Yale Repertory Theatre

Catharsis Interruptus
If Aristotle had been among the members of the opening night audience for The Yale Repertory Theatre’s world premiere of Amy Herzog’s “Belleville,” he probably would have left the theater shaking his head and mumbling, “Read my Poetics, damnit!” That’s because this by and large artfully written and well-produced domestic tragedy, commissioned by the Rep, makes you care about the lead characters and then, instead of opting for some form of resolution that would allow for release of pent emotions, leaves you hanging…in French, no less.

This is a shame, for the first eighty or so minutes of this one-act play directed by Anne Kaufman are humorous, disturbing and at times riveting, as the married life of Zack (Greg Keller) and Abby (Maria Dizzia) is placed under a microscope and dissected.

Maria Dizzia as Abby


The young American couple is living in a section of Paris called Belleville (not much is made of this – they could just as easily be living in Sheboygan), renting a three-room apartment owned by Alioune (Gilbert Qwuor), originally from Dakar, and Amina (Pascale Armand). Abby is a frustrated actress currently teaching a yoga class to students who don’t show up and Zack is a doctor working for an unnamed organization seeking to mitigate AIDS in children. But all is not as it seems, as is evident from Herzog’s point of attack, which has Abby arriving home early to find Zack, who should be at work, satisfying himself by watching pornography.


Maria Dizzia as Abby and Greg Keller as Zack

As this exercise in domestic dysfunction proceeds, we come to understand that Abby is haunted by her parental past, and Dizzia’s portrayal of this young woman on the brink of a nervous breakdown is pitch-perfect, with body language telegraphing abrupt shifts of mood and dialogue delivery ranging from clipped sarcasm to controlled hysteria. As a balance to Dizzia’s mercurial performance, Keller gives us a husband fighting to maintain some equilibrium in his storm-tossed marriage.

Yet there are dragons hiding in the shadows, and the play’s emotional drive inevitably leads to their revelation, and this is where things start to fall apart, for there’s a certain hollowness at the core of the drama. For all the emotional sturm und drang, when all is revealed it seems both beside the point and just a tad unbelievable, as in, you mean to say you’ve been married to him for this long and never realized…?

Then there’s the inexplicable denouement – a dramatically false exit followed by the landlords cleaning up the apartment and speaking to each other in French. It’s a picture-perfect example of anti-climax, leaving the audience to stew in its own emotional juices.

Belleville” satisfies on a number of levels but the sum experience is much like biting into a chocolate-covered cherry only to find the center holds nothing but air.

Belleville” runs through Saturday, Nov. 12. For tickets or more information call 203-432-1234 or go to http://www.yalerep.org/.

Make sure to check out all of the reviews, theater news, casting calls, theater listings and general information about Theater at http://www.ctcritics.org/

For film reviews, go to http://susangranger.com/

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Re-Imaging "Cabaret"



                                      Eric Scott Kincaid as The Emcee. Photo by Jim Schilling



When a Broadway musical gets transcribed to the big screen it inevitably gets “opened up,” that is, scenes with locations left to a theater audience’s imagination are shot on location; a trip merely alluded to in dialogue is filmed with the breeze ruffling the primary actors’ well-coifed hair. Consider “Cabaret,” the Kander and Ebb musical made into a Hollywood musical in 1972 – what was left in the shadows on Broadway was up there on the big screen for all to see.

However, when a venue such as MTC Mainstage decides to stage “Cabaret,” given the physical layout of the 45-seat theater, down-sizing is in order, but that may not be a bad thing. As a matter of fact, it may allow the essence of the musical to become manifest, shriven of unessential “production values.”

Kevin Connors, MTC’s co-founder and executive artistic director, recently spoke about the staging of this classic musical, which opens Friday, Nov. 4, at MTC. He first commented on the decision to produce a “big” musical, such as “Cabaret” at MTC, known more for its presentation of two- or three-character “chamber” musicals.


                                                                Kevin Connors
“This is our 25th season,” Connors said, “and we wanted to do something ambitious, something outside the box for us. We wanted to take a ‘traditional’ musical and come at it in a different way, give it our own approach. By the very nature of our stage, everything we do here is very intimate.”

Take away all of the floss and fluff, Connors suggested, and the musical is really about seven characters, with primary focus on the somewhat fragile British songbird, Sally Bowles, and the na├»ve American, Cliff Bradshaw, who fall in love, and Fraulein Schneider, who runs a boarding house, and one of her tenants, Herr Schultz, a Jewish fruit-shop owner…all set against the rise of the Nazi party.

“This all takes place in the early 1930s,” Connors said, “when Germany was going through a huge economic crisis -- not unlike what is going on now. There seemed to be a polarization of the very wealthy and the very poor. The middle class was disappearing. There was high unemployment; people were losing their jobs. On one end was the Communist party, with its own answer about how to fix this, and on the other end of the spectrum was the Nazi party, with its own answer. All of this is kind of bubbling beneath the surface, with the German people trying to maintain some semblance of everyday life.”

The proximity of the audience to the actors (eight, in this case) at MTC, Connors suggested, allows his production to really focuses on the conundrums the musical’s characters must deal with. What do they need to do to survive, what should they do in the face of incipient oppression and racism, what will they allow other people to do to keep German society from shattering? What are they willing to do to keep their hearts and somewhat shoddy, shaken souls intact?


                          Ryan Reilly as Cliff Bradshaw and Melissa Carlile-Price as Sally Bowles
                                          Photo by Regina Medwed/Capitol Photointeractive




“The whole convention of ‘Cabaret,’” Connors said, “is that it takes place in a club. Even in a big production, I never got the sense that the club was the size of, say, the Lido de Paris or the Casino de Paris, one of those big Las Vegas-like showrooms. It’s a club where people go to hang out and have a good time, and the relationships between these people are intimate, which to me says ‘smaller.’ It’s a place where people go to have a good time and leave their cares at the door, as the Emcee suggests in the opening number.”

Mention of the Emcee led to a discussion of character interpretation. Connors said that the Emcee in this production, played by Eric Scott Kincaid, is a bit closer to Joel Gray’s interpretation of the character than that of Alan Cunning, who appeared in the 1998 revival.

“I felt that the revival went in an uber-sexual direction,” Connors said. “They really took that element and pushed it, which was great, it really worked for that production. But given the intimacy of our theater I felt that our audience would be just a bit too close to make that work, so our Emcee has a little more ‘twinkle-in-the-eye’ sexuality.”

Given that most of MTC’s audience members will be familiar with the show, either in its stage or film version, Connors has also given some thought to audience expectations. He noted that everyone “thinks they know what Cabaret is about,” and focused on the musical’s signature song, the one that urges people to “Come to the cabaret,” to make his point.

“Everyone remembers that number, especially Liza Minnelli’s version, as such a ‘feel good’ number, but that is not what that number is about at all. It’s really a breakdown number for Sally.” In other words, she’s trying to save herself from tumbling into the abyss. “People associate the musical with wild, fun times in Berlin, but the show is really so much more substantive than that. It has a lot more dramatic underpinning than many people realize.”

Connors acknowledged that people will arrive at MTC with their own expectations, many of which may not gibe with what MTC is going to present, but he notes that “Everything we do here is a little bit different. I know that there’s a lot of curiosity about how we are gong to do this, to pull this off in a 45-seat theater. All I can say is, ‘Come and see.’”

What the audience will see, Connors suggested, is a powerful piece of theater, a study in human nature, a “well-documented slice of life.” He mentioned another of the show’s songs, “What Would You Do?,” and proposed that for him, it, rather than some of the show’s more familiar numbers, is the focus of the musical and it’s “message.”

“If you saw something going on around you that you thought was destructive,” Connors explained, “and you thought it was sending your entire world potentially spinning out of control, would you ignore it, would you go along with it or would you do what you could to stop it? The whole thing about ‘Cabaret’ is that in here life is beautiful, which means you can come in here and shut out what’s going on outside, but you can’t do that forever.” He paused and then added, “It’s a fascinating piece.”

“Cabaret” runs for three weekends from Nov. 4 through Nov. 20. For tickets or more information call 203-454-3883 or go to http://www.musictheatreofct.com/

Make sure to check out all of the reviews, theater news, casting calls, theater listings and general information about Theater at http://www.ctcritics.org/

For film reviews, go to http://susangranger.com/

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Some Confusion about Hairspray at DCT

Just received an email from Hugh Hallinan at DCT. Here it is, in full:

Dear Geary, 

It has come to my attention that the current production of HAIRSPRAY produced by the Bridgeport Theatre Company that opened at the Downtown Cabaret Theatre this weekend has caused a bit of confusion among our loyal patrons. 

Let me quickly get to the point and tell you that HAIRSPRAY is not a Downtown Cabaret production.  Earlier this year, the Bridgeport Theatre Company (BTC) was forced to leave their former home at the Playhouse on the Green, and has since been utilizing the Cabaret Theatre space to mount their productions.  HAIRSPRAY is the first of these shows.  

My biggest concern with facilitating BTC's use of the Downtown Cabaret Theatre was the possibility that it would create confusion among our patrons who might understandably assume that any show at the Cabaret was a DCT production.  While I made many efforts to avoid this, there has nonetheless been some frustration among patrons attempting to book tickets for HAIRSPRAY through the DCT box office or downtowncabaret.org. 

I would like to extend my apologies to Cabaret patrons who have been confused, frustrated or inconvenienced by the lack of communication on my part.  While we welcome the Bridgeport Theatre Company to use our stage for their production of HAIRSPRAY, BTC is NOT affiliated with the Downtown Cabaret Theatre.  BTC is an independent community theatre group that is renting the Cabaret Theatre to perform their shows this season.  BTC has their own online box office at bridgeporttheatre.org, or call 800 838-3006.  It is NOT possible to book tickets for BTC performances on the Cabaret website or through the Cabaret box office.

Downtown Cabaret is a professional theatre company which means our productions are held to a higher standard. Our actors and creative team are not volunteers, they are paid for their work.  So although we and BTC are in the same community, there is a significant distinction between professional theatre and community theatre!

Please continue to support the Downtown Cabaret Theatre as you always have!  You are the reason we are still here after more than 30 years.  We will soon be announcing our 2012 concert lineup and have just kicked off our 30th Children's season to rave reviews.  Please check out all of our upcoming events on our new website at downtowncabaret.org

Call the box office next week and use promo code CONFUSION! to get a FREE ticket when you buy three regular priced tickets to select performances of our Children's Theatre shows or Cabaret Nights concert series.   Box office hours are 11am to 2pm Tuesday through Friday and 9am to 3pm on Saturday and Sunday.

Thank you as always for your continued support and again my apologies for the confusion.

Sincerely,

Hugh Hallinan
Executive Producer
Downtown Cabaret Theatre

It doesn't take much to read between the lines here.

Make sure to check out all of the reviews, theater news, casting calls, theater listings and general information about Theater at http://www.ctcritics.org/

For film reviews, go to http://susangranger.com/

Saturday, October 22, 2011

"Priscilla"...and more

Trying to fight your way north on the Merritt or I-95 during rush hour? Bored out of your mind? Road rage rising? I have a palliative. It's the cast recording of Priscilla - Queen of the Desert.




The show recieved mixed reviews when it opened, but it's still running on Broadway. It's based on a 1994 Australian film starring Terence Stamp and deals with three drag queens who decide to set out for the Outback to find a new life. The score is Disco-driven and includes "I Love the Nightlife" and "I Will Survive." Just slip in the DVD, crank down the windows, crank up the volume, smile -- and blow some kisses -- as road warriors look your way. I'm thinking of finding an appropriate headdress to wear as I trek north -- perhaps something inspired by Carmen Miranda.

********************

Into the Stones?

Downtown Cabaret Theatre is reprising Satisfaction: The Rolling Stones Experience, a musical tribute to The Rolling Stones. Not exactly my cup of tea, but if you can't get any satisfaction, you might want to give it a shot - the venue is cabaret format, whuch means you can bring chicken wings, wine or pizza to enhance your theater experience. For more information, or tickets, call 203-576-1636, or go to http://www.dtcab.com/

********************

Fairfiel University's Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts

Wow -- there's a whole lot going on at the Quick Center in the next three months. Some highlights:

On November 4 and 5, re-live the classic Orson Welles "War of the Worlds" 1938 broadcast, with a Connecticut twist -- want to hear about aliens invading Westport or devouring denizens of Darien? It sounds like a hoot.

There are lectures and young artists on the schedule, as well as the National Acrobats of the People's Republic of China and Met Live in HD productions of Wagner's "Siegfried" (Nov. 13), Philip Glass's "Satyagraha" (Nov. 19), Handel's "Rodelinda," (Dec 9), and the world premiere of "The Enchanted Island" (Jan. 21).

A Miles Davis fan? Check out "The Miles Davis Experience" on Nov. 11 --

A John Malkovich fan? He's performing in "The Infernal Comedy: Confessions of a Serial Killer" on Nov. 15 (What? You we're expecting him to do Peter Rabbit?)

There's also a lot of music -- The Ahn Trio will be performing on Dec. 4

The Ahn Trio


-- there's the Fairfield University Fall Jazz Concert (Gonzaga Auditorium) on Dec. 8 -- the New Haven Symphony Orchestra performs "A Victorian Christmas," also on Dec. 8, and Handel's "Messiah" on Dec. 15.

Plus...the Church Basement Ladies are back with "Away in the Basement" (Dec. 16).

For a full listing of all that's going on at the Quick Center, go to http://www.ctcritics.org/  Click on "Theater News" -- Quick Center -- Fall Season.

You'll also find reviews of plays and the latest casting calls at http://www.ctcritics.org/

Friday, October 21, 2011

"Horror!:...and more

Horror!

Are you a virgin?

In the parlance of the Rocky Horror Show, that's someone who has not seen the show, or the movie. I lost my virginity about 15 years ago down in New Jersey when I attended a midnight screening of the film. It was, to say the least, an experience or, given I'm a child of the 60's, a "happening."



For all of you virgins out there, you have the opportunity to correct this embarrassing situation by trucking on up to the Phoenix Theater Company in New Britain, where the Rocky Horrow Show is playing on weekends thru Oct. 29. Dress appropriately (I went as a monk!) in clothes you won't mind getting a bit soiled -- or wet. The Company will be handing out what they call "participation bags" (Don't ask -- Just go!)

What's it about? Well, there's this young couple and these space aliens, a castle and...oh, the hell with it. Just go...and enjoy. The show is being presented at Trinity-on-Main, 69 Main St., in New Britain. For tickets call 860-229-2072 or go to http://www.trinityonmain.org/

Want More Chills?

The Ivoryton Playhouse (celebrating its 100th anniversary) is offering The Woman in Black, by Stephen Mallatratt, based on the Susan Hill Novel, as its "treat" for Halloween.


Ian Lowe and Steve L. Barron - Photo by Anne Hudson

This is an old-fashioned ghost story (and a big hit in London -- it's been running for 23 years in the West End). Of course, it's set on an English moor, where Arthur Kripps, a young solicitor, arrives to settle an estate -- simple enough, but not quite. Oh, the horrors that the past enshrouds and the evil lurking in the most innocent of objects.

The play opens Nov. 2. Fort more information, call 860-767-7318 or go to http://www.ivorytonplayhouse.org/.

Want More Thrills?

Magic. Comedy. Romance. Adventure!

It's all here in Spencers Theatre of Illusion, which will be presented at Fairfield Univeristy's Quick Center on Sunday, Oct. 30.




The Spencers (Kevin and Cindy) are a husband and wife team who put on a show with a lot of elaborate stage illusions and audience particpation. Are they good? Well, they've been named "Performing Arts Entertainers of the Year" for six consecutive years and were recently named "International Magicians of the Year." Sounds good to me. The Quick Center's press release offers this: "They continue to redefine 'magic' for a new generation, delivering drama, spectacle, interaction, danger and personality with each unforgettable performance."

For tickets or more information call 203-254-4010 or go to http://www.quickceter.com/

A History of Theater in Fairfield

The Fairfield Museum and Historical Center has a new exhibit: BRAVO! A History of Theater in Fairfield County.


The installation includes some of Katherine Hepburn's old stage costumes, and a lot more. For more information go to www.fairfieldhistory.org/exhibitions/

Also, as part of the festival, Falcon Repertory Company, Inc., is co-producing a live exhibit and performance for the museum. Thinking Outside the Box is a festival of ten-minute plays that features local actors, directors and playwights. Rehearsals, which will take place from November through February, are open to the public, with performances scheduled for the beginning of March. For more information go to http://www.falconrep.com/.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

A Hot Ticket...and more

One of the hottest tickets of this theater season is most likely going to be for Long Wharf’s production of “Krapp’s Last Tape,” starring Brian Dennehy. Tickets went on sale this past Saturday for the Nov. 29 – Dec 18 run. As might be expected from playwright Samuel Beckett, it’s a dark, one-act play that has Krapp celebrating his 69th birthday by reviewing a tap made in his younger years and then making a tape to commemorate his 69th year.


Brian Dennehy in the role of Krapp -
photo by Richerd Hein

Of Krapp, Beckett once wrote: "Krapp has nothing to talk to but his dying self and nothing to talk to him but his dead one." For tickets or more information you can call 203-787-4282 or go to http://www.longwharf.org/


Something quite interesting is going on over at Hamden High School. The school’s theater company, the Mainstage Ensemble, will be staging Bertolt Brecht’s The Caucasian Chalk Circle for two weekends beginning Thursday, November 3. The play is a parable about a peasant girl from the Russian Caucus region who finds a baby that has been left behind during a revolt.




The play draws on both the biblical story of Solomon and Chinese myths as it focuses in on the nature of motherhood. The play is an interesting choice for a high school cast – should be interesting to see if the students can pull it off. For more info, call 407-2040 (extension 3102) or email the theatre at hhsmainstage@yahoo.com. More information can also be found at their website, http://www.hamdenmainstage.org/.


There are two productions of “Cabaret” opening on Friday, Nov. 4. One is at the Brookfield Theatre for the Arts, the other at MTC Mainstage in Westport. The Brookfield production has a full cast, while the MTC version has been scaled down to a cast of eight and has been “re-imagined” for the rather intimate venue. I’ll be sitting down with Kevin Connor’s, MTC’s executive artistic director, and the show’s director, to talk about what changes have been made to the classic musical – the interview will appear here early next week. In the interim, for tickets to the Brookfield production, call 203-775-0023; for tickets to the MTC production, call 203-454-3883.


Change of plans for Square One Theatre Company in Stratford. The play originally scheduled for a Nov. 4th opening has been deep-sixed and in its place the venue will be offering A. R. Gurney’s “Ancestral Voices,” which will open Nov. 4 (lots of stuff happening that Friday!). For tickets, call 203-375-8778. Director and co-founder Tom Holehan explained via email that the cancellation was due to "a minor nightmare" having to do with "miscommunication between us and the leasing company."


Monday, October 17, 2011

Review: "Twelfth Night"

Why do some actors feel compelled to spew Shakespearean dialogue as if heavy hands were working their diaphragms as bellows? It does the play no good service, as is evident in the Westport Country Playhouse’s somewhat uneven production of Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night,” which recently opened under the direction of the Playhouse’s artistic director, Mark Lamos.
           
Such delivery – words ejected on a gush of air – does not allow for any intonation, inflection or nuance, and is one of the primary reasons why modern American audiences find Shakespeare “difficult.” It need not be so.


David Schramm and Jordan Coughtry
Photo by Photo by T. Charles Erickson


More experienced, or secure, actors, and there are several up there on the Playhouse’s stage, know how to “work” a Shakespearean line so that the music, or the humor, or the bite is made manifest. When these actors are on stage, the production seems to light up; when they are not, it becomes somewhat turgid.
Perhaps that is why the production seems a tad schizophrenic – it wants to be many different things all at once (consider Tilly Grimes’ costume design -- what era, pray tell, are we attempting to evoke here?). When Lamos allows the whimsy and playfulness inherent in the play to come forward, the actors seem to be charged. Body movement is more natural, interaction more engaging. There are many such moments and they often involve Sir Toby Belch (David Schramm), Feste (Darius De Haas), Sir Andrew Aguecheek (Jordan Coughtry) and Maria (Donnetta Lavinia Grays). In fact, one of the high points of the first act involves these four as they taunt Malvolio (David Adkins), who is protesting their revelry. They bid him goodnight in song, the tune alluding to the Von Trapp children saying goodbye to guests in “The Sound of Music.”
           
Would that such playfulness suffused the production, but such is not the case. When ribaldry is on the menu, things work fine, and certain character set-pieces, especially Malvolio’s discovery and reading of a forged letter and his subsequent appearance in yellow stockings cross-gartered, are the equal of any I’ve seen in other productions of the play. However, the same cannot be said of the staging of the mistaken identity and love interest scenes, and this has to do with chemistry (and the aforementioned spewing of lines).


Mahira Kakkar and Lucas Hall
Photo by T. Charles Erickson
           
Earnest as they are, Mahira Kakkar as Viola, Lucas Hall as Orsino, Susan Kelechi Watson as Olivia and Rachid Sabitri as Sebastian simply do not generate any sparks as frustrated lovers, and the overt homosexual yearnings of Antonio (Paul Anthony Stewart) for Sebastian seem a total misreading of Shakespeare’s lines (and the spirit of the age in which they were written), a misreading that is reinforced in the final image of the play: the young lovers happily drifting off as Feste gestures towards Antonio who, bereft, sits on the sand and pines.
           
Oh, yes – the sand. It occupies stage left, a cascade of sand in which is embedded a smashed chandelier and an empty picture frame, with several beach balls thrown in for good measure. This part of Andrew Boyce’s scenic design looks like it was meant for a staging of an Ionesco play, however his use of gossamer curtains is artful, and Robert Wierzel’s lighting design is dead-on: moody when it needs to be and joyful as called for.

Watching this production of “Twelfth Night” is like watching a gosling attempt to take flight for the first time. It has the wings and it yearns to soar – it rises and you ache to see it take flight. But it doesn’t. It tries again, and it seems for a moment that it has broken free, but gravity wins.
           
“Twelfth Night” runs through Saturday, Nov. 5. For tickets or more information call 203-227-4177 or go to www.westportplayhouse.org.  

Thursday, October 13, 2011

"Another Opening..." Plus "Wicked" Women

It’s fall, which means it’s theater season here in Connecticut, and new productions are opening as fast as the leaves are falling. Here’s just a sampling:

Over the Tavern, by Tom Dudzick, recently opened up at Seven Angels in Waterbury. It’s about a slightly dysfunctional family dealing with a son who’s too smart for his own – and the Catholic Church’s – good. Richard Christiansen, of the Chicago Trib, called the play “A hilarious and touching depiction of 1959 Americana.”

Also currently running is City of Angels out at the Goodspeed Opera House. It’s a musical spoof of 1940s detective movies, with parallel stories of a crime fiction writer and his “creation,” a shamus who just won’t shut up…or stay on the page.

It’s been some time since the Westport Country Playhouse has staged a play by the Bard, but hopefully the wait will have been worth it. Twelfth Night opened Oct. 11 under the direction of Mark Lamos, the Playhouse’s artistic director.

Mahira Kakkar and Lucas Hall. Photo by T. Charles Erickson

As with most of Shakespeare’s comedies, there’s a lot of ribaldry and mistaken identities, as well as a pair of yellow stockings cross-gartered (trust me – wear them and the ladies will swoon). Should be a lot of fun. (A review of the play will appear here next week).

The latter part of October offers a host of new plays. On the 21st, The Yale Repertory Company will present the world premiere of Amy Herzog’s Belleville. It’s about an American couple living in Paris whose “perfect” marriage falls apart when the wife comes home unexpectedly to find…well, you’ll have to see the play. Not for the younger set – there’s strong language, nudity and what is somewhat euphemistically termed “adult content.” (A review of the play will appear here.)

The following week, “Ain’t Misbehavin’,” opens (Oct 26) at Long Wharf Theatre and Moliere’s The Miser opens (Oct 27) at the Connecticut Repertory Theatre in Storrs.


The musical revue is a tribute to “Fats” Waller and many other black artists who fueled the musical portion of the Harlem Renaissance in the 20’s and 30’s. It’s rhythmic and raunchy,  with a hell of a finale.

Moliere’s satire deals with a penny-pinching father and his children who conspire to break free from the parental (cheap) chains. Of special note in the play is Moliere’s use of asides -- comments by an actor directed to the audience that none of the other characters are supposed to hear. Well, Moliere doesn’t honor the convention – in essence there’s a lot of: “Who the hell are you talking to?”

Finally, early November (the 4th) brings us Cabaret at Westport’s MTC Mainstage. I’m really looking forward to this production, given the ‘intimate’ nature of MTC’s venue. Don’t know how I’m going to feel being mere inches away from the Kit Kat Klub’s girls – it’s a question of how aesthetic distance is handled, and I’m eager to see the answer. (A review of the musical will appear here.)



“Wicked” Women

Also of great interest is the first presentation of the Edgerton Center’s (Sacred Heart Univ.) 2011-12 Broadway Series. On Saturday, Oct. 22, the Center will be hosting Women of “Wicked,” featuring Dee Roscioli,


Dee Roscioli

who played Elphaba on Broadway in “Wicked.” She will be joined by other women who have performed in the musical for an evening of Broadway music and backstage insights. For those who love Broadway – and/or “Wicked”—it sounds like a must-see evening (two performances at 6 and 9 p.m.).

For more theater news, plus reviews of current shows and Connecticut casting calls, go to www.ctcritics.org

Sunday, October 9, 2011

For the Kids

There's a lot going on right now for young theatergoers.

First the irrepressible Bert Bernardi and Jimmy Johansmeyer of Pantochino Productions are staging "Cinderella Skeleton - The Musical" at Arts Hall from Oct. 21 through the 30th.

Mary Mannix as Cinderella Skeleton

For those of you who haven't seen a Bernardi/Johansmeyer production, it's always a hoot for all members of the family. Most of the productions are takes on British panto (pantomime) -- songs, buffoonery and slapstick -- with a storyline that's easy for young folks to follow. I've attended their productions in the past and the kids in the audience have always been dancing in the aisles -- they love it.

For more information or tickets you can go to http://www.cinderellaskeleton.com/

Next, Fairfield University's Quick Center will be hosting "Masked Marvels and Wondertails" at 1 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 16.

"Masked Marvels" features Michael Cooper, who, as the Center's press release describes, "is a one-man extravaganza combining breathtaking handcrafted masks, original stories of courage and wonder, outlandish stilt dancing and a physical repertoire that ranges from the madcap to the sublime."

Michael Cooper as one of his "Marvels"

The show is sure to have young jaws dropping and eyes agape as Cooper weaves his highly visual magic.

You can call 203-254-4010 for tickets or go to http://www.quickcenter.com/

Thursday, October 6, 2011

"In the Heights" and Westport Country Playhouse

News

“In the Heights,” which won big at the Tony Awards in 2008, will be running at The Palace in Waterbury Nov. 4 – 5. It’s a high-energy show with Latin-laced rhythms and a solid book about the value of “home.” Think “Our Town” with salsa. For tickets call 203-346-2000.

Westport Country Playhouse is well into its 2011 season, but plans are already in place for next year’s productions, and it looks like a very interesting season. The Playhouse is leading off with Sondheim’s “Into the Woods” – one of my favorites -- to be directed by Mark Lamos, the venue’s artistic director. He’ll also be directing the world-premiere comedy, “Harbor,” by Chad Beguelin, and the Playhouse’s associate artistic director, David Kennedy, will helm the staging of Moliere’s “Tartuffe.”
Outside directing talent will fill out the bill. First, Nicholas Martin, who has directed many Broadway and Playhouse productions, will guide the staging of “The Year of Magical Thinking,” featuring Maureen Anderman. The play’s based on Joan Didion’s award-winning book. The Playhouse will also be offering Lorraine Hansberry’s “A Raisin in the Sun,” to be directed by Phylicia Rashad.
Phylicia Rashad

She won the Drama Desk and Tony Award for Best Actress for her performance as Lena Younger in the Broaddway production of the Hansberry play, and also directed it for the Ebony Repertory Theatre.

News Plus Linda Eder

NEWS

You may think that staged readings lack the dynamics of a fully staged production, but a staged reading – where the actors simply (no, not ‘simply’) deliver their lines – often sitting on stools without benefit of costumes, props or sets – can be extremely satisfying. That’s because you, as an audience member, have to “fill in the blanks,” which means you are totally engaged, you’re an intimate part of the performance.

A staged reading also highlight the actor’s craft – how voice, intonation and body “language” can convey a world of meaning.

If you don’t believe me, why not take in the Aglet Theatre Company’s staged reading of August Strinberg’s “Dance of Death,” on Saturday, Oct. 22.  As described in Aglet’s press release, it’s about “a marriage gone diabolic.”  Think Victorian “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf”

Give it a shot – then go out for cocktails and discussion – It’s at the TriArts Sharon Playhouse – call 860-435-6928 for tickets or more information.

Benefit

There’s a benefit scheduled for the Hartford Children’s Theatre on Friday, Oct. 28, that offers a lot of sizzle. Matt Cavenaugh and Jenny Powers, husband and wife, will be performing “Direct From Broadway” at the Marquee (
960 Main Street
), in the heart of Hartford.

Buy a ticket and you get a one-hour open bar and hors d’oeuvres. Rev it up with a Red Carpet Level Ticket and you get a pre-show champagne reception with the stars, plus other goodies.

Powers was last seen on Broadway as Rizzo in the revival of “Grease,” and Cavenaugh got a nod from the Outer Critics’ Circle and Drama League for his performance as “Tony” in the revival of “West Side Story.” In other words, these folks know what they are doing with regards to selling a Broadway song. Sounds like the makings of a scintillating night.

For more information or tickets, call 860-249-7970 or go to http://www.hartfordchildrenstheatre.org/

As an a aside



For those of you interested in different takes on Broadway musical standards, you might want to check out Linda Eder’s “Broadway My Way.” Eder is a true “belter,” so listening to the whole CD in one sitting might be a bit too much, but if you dip into it you’ll find some amazing performances. Of special note is her take on “Man of La Mancha.” Listen to it and you’ll want to go out and tilt at windmills.

Monday, October 3, 2011

News on Monday, Oct.3

News

Long Wharf Theatre is running its 5th annual Discovery Day on Saturday, Nov. 19. Billed as a “fun family (kids ages 3 and up) open house event,” it will allow kids to become their own special kind of superhero. Under the guidance of two “headmistresses,” the kids will learn a little bit about theater and acting as well as have the opportunity to make masks…and a whole lot more. Sounds like a lot of fun – for more info call 203-787-4284 or go to http://www.longwharf.org/.

Things are happening up in Hartford. First, Hartbeat Ensemble is celebrating its 10th anniversary by running an encore performance of “Flipside!” – it’s the story of a Hartford teen named Bo and an undercover Narc named Nick -- the human side of the “War on Drugs.” Performances: Oct 13 – 29 on the ground floor of  The Hollander Building –
410 Asylum St
.
For tickets or more info call 860-548-9144.

Meanwhile, Playhouse on Park will be staging Arthur Miller’s “An Enemy of the People” from Oct 12 thru Oct. 30. This is Miller’s adaptation of Ibsen’s 1882 play, “En folkefiende” (gotta love “folkefiende” – how tame and ‘vanilla’ “an enemy of the people” sounds in comparison), which Ibsen wrote after people got all bent out of shape after they saw his “Ghosts.” The Playhouse’s production features Michael McKenzie

Michael McKenzie
                                                                                                                               
as the upright Dr. Stockman, a man who flies in the face of prejudice and ignorance to do what’s right (we all know what happens to those guys). For more info or tickets go to www.PlayhouseOnPark.org.   

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Moving Away From "Dead Tree" Reviews

I love the theater, and for the past four or five years I've been privileged to reviews plays for the Brooks Community chain of newspapers. Alas, the relationship is coming to an...almost...end. "Budgets," the editors say, dictate that reviews such as mine are no longer cost effective.

So I turn to the electronic media. as many of my compatriots have. I step off into...whatever is out there.

My blog will provide news about what is going on in Connecticut theater, as well as reviews of current plays. Comments, of course, are always welcome.

Take a breath...hit a key...and here we go.