Saturday, April 30, 2011

Quick Hit Review: Autumn Sonata -- Yale


Autumn Sonata
Yale Rep
By Ingmar Bergman
Directed by Robert Woodruff
Based on a literal translation by Wendy Weckwerth
Summary:
Eva (Rebecca Henderson) invites her estranged mother, Charlotte (Candy Buckley) to visit after Charlotte's longtime friend dies. She agrees and visits Eva and her pastor husband, Viktor (Olek Krupa), for the first time in seven years. She's surprised to find that Eva has been harbering hated for the mother who abandoned her family to pursue her career as a classical pianist. Eva also has another surprise:  her sister, Helena (Merritt Janson), who is handicapped by illness, and whom Charlotte had placed in a home, also lives at the parsonage. A clash of perceptions and needs brings on a cacophony of emotions
Highlights:
The performances are good. Some projections of the characters and action behind the scenes taking place (Peter Nigrini, design) nicely evoke imagery of the film on which this play is based.

Lowlights:
This is a real downer. Imagine saying or hearing everything that ever irritated you about your mother and having someone list it in detail for you (and on Thursday at 4:00 you....). The long mauldlin monolgues are a bit much to keep evoke sympathy or keep our attention. The attempt to mesh film and stage doesn't really work (a picture's worth a thousand words?). The gray film Viktor tells us he felt had settled on his existance is only too strongly felt in the two-hour-and-10-minute production without intermission. You might even think you can see it in the gray scrim/screen on which the action taking place upstage (Riccardo Hernandez, set design) is framed.

More information:
Autumn Sonata runs through May 8 at Yale Rep. Tickets range from $10 to $85 and are available online at www.yalerep.org, by phone at 203-432-1234, and in person at the Yale Rep Box Office, 1120 Chapel Street, at York Street).  Student, senior, and group rates are also available.

Quick Hit Review: Urinetown -- Connecticut Rep

Ken Clark and Andrea McArdle. Photo by Dana Haddad

Urinetown
CT Rep at Harriet Jorgensen Theatre
Music and Lyrics by Mark Hollman
Book and Lyrics by Greg Kotis
Directed by Paul Mullins
Chroeography by Gerry McIntyre

Summary:
A water shortage has made it illegal to urinate, except in official facilities. They are owned by corporate mogul Caldwell B. Cladwell (Bob Walton) and #9 is operated by Peneope Pennywise (Andrea McArdle) and her assistant Bobby Strong (Ken Clark), Those who break the rules, or who can't come up with the cash to pay for using the facilities are carted off to Urinetown by Officer Lockstock (Robert Thompson, Jr.) and his sidekick, Officer Barrel (Kevin Coubal). Everything changes, however, when Bobby meets Cladwell's beautiful daughter, Hope (Alison Barton), and begins a revolution to free the people. Trying to figure all of this out is Little Sally (Alexandra Perlwitz).
Highlights:A really tight, whimsical book, clever lyrics and catchy music. This production has some clever gags original to it, including one triggered by McArdle's history with the musical Annie. It's a treat to get to se her on a Connecticut stage. Clark and Barton lend nice voices to the lead roles and standing out, in a minor role, is Coubal. He brings an over-the-top panache to the role remniscent of the characters in the original Broadway production and appears to be having a lot of fun doing it. The cast nicely executes the choreography -- the Cop Song is particularly nice.

Lowlights:The pace is off and a number of the jokes are lost.

More information:The run concludes tonight at 8. Info at www.crt.uconn.edu.


Borenstein Steps in as Long Wharf Interim

Long Wharf Theatre has contracted with AMS Planning and Research to secure the services of Joshua Borenstein to serve as interim managing director.

Borenstein will serve at the theatre until a permanent successor is named. The Board of Trustees will begin the process of selecting a search firm to find the theatre’s next managing director.

Borenstein most recently served as Long Wharf's associate managing director, responsible for the day-to-day operations of the organization, including finance, human resources, contract negotiations, labor relations, and facilities. He previously served as interim managing director in 2006.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

You're Invited Behind the Scenes at Westport's Beyond Therapy Rehearsal



Westport Country Playhouse has released this video, taped in rehearsal, offering a look at the upcoming production of comic master Christopher Durang’s Beyond Therapy, with insight from Mark Lamos, Westport Country Playhouse artistic director; David Kennedy, Playhouse associate director who directs and cast members Jeremy Peter Johnson and Nicole Lowrance.

Beyond Therapy
opens the Playhouse’s 80th birthday year and plays from April 26 through May 14. The wickedly funny comedy looks at the days and nights of the young and single.

After a disastrous first date, Bruce and Prudence seek solace in therapy---despite both their therapists being stark raving mad. And that's only the beginning of their problems. In Durang's topsy-turvy world, life is a potent cocktail of sexual mix-ups, relationship neuroses, and a serious lack of impulse control. The play contains adult content and language.
For more information or tickets, call the box office at 203-227-4177, or toll-free at 1-888-927-7529, or visit Westport Country Playhouse, 25 Powers Court, off Route 1, Westport. Tickets are available online at www.westportplayhouse.orghttp://www.westportplayhouse.org">www.westportplayhouse.org>.

Hartford Children's Theatre Presents Teen Show '13'

The cast of 13. Photo Credit: Thomas Giroir
In the tradition of "Glee," Clueless and Mean Girls comes 13, a new
musical about the one thing we never stop doing - growing up. With a
blast of high voltage energy, an all-teen cast navigates the ups and
downs of turning 13.

Fresh from New York City, the new kid in town is
desperate to fit in, survive middle school and get all the "cool kids"
to attend his impending bar mitzvah. Every day he faces a new teen
trauma: cell phones and rumors, first dates and first kisses, cliques,
clashes and crushes. Featuring a brightly infectious rock score from
Tony Award-winning composer Jason Robert Brown, 13 is a fresh, funny and
touching rites of passage story that all ages can relate to.

Performance dates and times are as follows:
Friday, April 29 at 7 pm; Saturday, April 30 at 2 pm & 7 pm; Sunday, May
1 at 2 pm; Friday, May 6 at 7 pm; Saturday, May 7 at 2 pm & 7 pm;
Sunday, May 8 at 2 pm; Friday, May 13 at 7 pm; Saturday, May 14 at 2 pm
& 7 pm and Sunday, May 15 at 2 pm.

Tickets are $18 for Adults & $13 for Seniors & Students 17 and under and
are available online at www.hartfordchildrenstheatre.org. Call
860-249-7970 for more information.

13 ALL TEEN PIZZA AND KARAOKE PARTY * Friday, April 29 Post Show
Kids 11 and up are invited to help the cast of 13 celebrate opening
night with a "kids only" pizza and karaoke party immediately following
the Friday, April 29 performance! The fun starts as soon as the curtain
falls with pizza from Hartford's Woodland Pizza and Sergeant Pepperoni
and continues on until 9:30 pm with karaoke and prizes from cool places
like Abercombie and Fitch, American Eagle, Ben and Jerry's, Target, etc.
Admission is FREE!

OMG TEEN TIME! * Saturday, May 7 at 1:00 pm
Teens arriving early to the Saturday, May 7 performance of 13 will have
the opportunity to participate in totally cool activities just for them.
Teen girls will want to grab their BFF's and find their way into the
chair of Nails By the Corner salon owner and manicure specialist Khang
Vu for super cute nail art. Teen boys will have a rad time playing
large screen Wii on our awesome projection screen. All the fun and
games will be followed by the 2 pm performance of 13!

Check Out May Events at the Palace

Spring into fun this May at the Palace Theater, where the shows are in fullbloom. Tickets and gift certificates can be purchased by phone at 203-346-2000, online at www.palacetheaterct.org,or in person at the Palace Box Office, 100 East Main Street in Waterbury. Groups of 20 or more qualify fordiscounted rates and should call the Group Sales hotline at 203-346-2002.

Junie B. Jones (Best for grades K-5)
Tuesday, May 3 – 9:30 am &11:30 am
Based onBarbara Park’s popular children’s book series, this new musicalstars the precocious Junie B. Jones stars in a colorful, funny, fast-paced playabout new friends, new glasses, the annual kickball tournament, and othervarious first-grade angst-ridden situations.

CONNECTICUT STUDENT FILM FESTIVALFriday, May 13 – 4:00pm – 8:00pm
An “Oscars-like” event, celebrating theyearlong work of middle and high school students, who were engaged in a varietyof innovative, cutting-edge film programs in Connecticut. A panel of judges comprised ofindustry professionals and college faculty will review the student submissionsand present awards in the categories of “Outstanding PSA,”“News Report,” “Animated Short,” “Middle SchoolShort,” “Historical Short,” “Documentary Short,”and “Fictional Short.  Admission is free.

OH WHAT A NIGHT OF DOO-WOP & ROCK 'N' ROLLSaturday, May 14 – 8:00pm
Take a stroll down memory lane with Kenny Vance & The Planotones, as they share the stagewith a variety of doo-wop and rock n’ roll acts from the 50s and 60s,including The Heartbeats, Harold Winley’s Clovers, The Passions, andoriginal lead singer of the Angels, Linda Jansen. Sponsored by Naugatuck Savings Bank and WATR Radio 1320AM.
Connecticut Virtuosi presents Giacomo Puccini’s TOSCA
Friday, May 20 – 8:00pm
A fully staged co-production of Puccini’s operaticmasterpiece performed by the Connecticut Lyric Opera in original Italianwith English sub-titles. Puccini’s music soars to match the drama andemotion of this opera, which is a tale of passion, betrayal, and love.

KEYS TO OUR FUTURE: VEGAS STYLESaturday, May 21 – 8:00pm
A Palace Theater year-end fundraiser featuring duelingpianists New Haven'spopular Keys to the City. Talentedartists provide interactive entertainment while taking musical requests andperforming songs by Elton John, Billy Joel, the Beatles and more!

Premier Concerts presents RAY LAMONTAGNE & THE PARIAH DOGSWednesday, May 25 – 8:00pm
Fresh off their Grammy win for “Best ContemporaryFolk Album,” Ray LaMontagne & The Pariah Dogs kick off their 2011tour with special guests Brandi Carlile and the talented Secret Sisters assupport.

Premier Concerts presents CHICAGOThursday, May 26 – 7:30pm
The first American rock band to chart Top 40 albums infive decades, the Grammy Award-winning Chicago perform their hits  "You're the Inspiration," "IDon't Want to Live Without Your Love," "Once in a Lifetime," andmany more.

HSO Offers Free Musical Dialogues Concerts This Spring

HSO French Horn Quartet (Left to Right: Andrew Spearman, Hilary Ledebuhr, Emery Tapley & Barbara Hill

Musicians from the Hartford Symphony Orchestra will perform three free community concerts this spring as part of the Musical Dialogues Series. Musical Dialogues is a concert series designed to bring live, instrumental music to new segments of the Greater Hartford community and beyond. Staged in intimate, public settings, the performances feature an array of diverse musicians and conversations with the artists:

HSO MUSICAL DIALOGUES: ONCE UPON A HORN
with the HSO Horn Quartet: Barbara Hill, Emery Tapley, Hilary Ledebuhr & Andrew Spearman
Saturday, May 7, 2011│ 2:00 p.m. 
Hartford Public Library (Main Street, Hartford)
To celebrate Mother’s Day Weekend, the HSO Horn Quartet will perform “Once Upon A Horn,” a free, family concert of music based on classic and contemporary children’s books.  Featuring music inspired by such stories as Robert Munsch’s Love You Forever, Aesop’s Fables, and the poetry of Willa Cather, this concert will demonstrate the connection between music and story-telling to both adults and children alike. 

HSO MUSICAL DIALOGUES: ON CONNECTICUT NATURALISM
with the HSO Earth Trio: Jeffrey Krieger, cello; Greig Shearer, flute; Gary Chapman, piano
Tuesday, June 7, 2011
5:30 p.m. | Artist Forum at Firebox Restaurant with cellist Jeffrey Krieger and composer Michael Gatonska
7:00 p.m. | Concert at The Studio at The Billings Forge Community Works (Broad Street, Hartford)
“On Connecticut Naturalism” celebrates the beauty of Connecticut’s natural resources through a concert of contemporary masterworks performed on electric cello, amplified flute and “prepared” piano (a piano with objects inserted into the strings to create unusual sound effects). Program highlights include Le Merle Noir (The Blackbird) by Olivier Messian; George Crumb’s Vox Balanae (Voice of the Whale) for three masked players inspired by the singing of the humpback whale; and On Connecticut Naturalism by Connecticut composer Michael Gatonska, which originates from notes taken while "in the field" hiking and bicycling through Connecticut. Audience members will get the opportunity to meet and mingle with the performers at a pre-performance cocktail hour and open forum at Firebox Restaurant.

HSO MUSICAL DIALOGUES: JAZZ FOR PEACE
with the HSO Jazz Quartet: Timothy Moran, alto sax; Rick Rozie, bass; Gene Bozzi, drum set; Walter Gwardyak, piano
Saturday, May 21, 2011│ 12:30 p.m. 
Bushnell Park (Hartford, CT)
On Saturday, May 21, the Connecticut Peace Walk will start at West Hartford Center at 11 a.m. and conclude at Bushnell Park in Hartford at 12:30 p.m., where the HSO Jazz Quartet will perform a program of music celebrating peace and diversity.  Archbishop Desmond Tutu will serve as the grand marshal of the 2011 Connecticut Peace Walk; Tutu received the 1984 Nobel peace prize for his work against apartheid in South Africa.
Ticket Information: Free Admission.  For more information, please contact the HSO Community Engagement and Education department at (860) 246-8742 x.328 or visit www.hartfordsymphony.org.

Yale's Festival of New Plays

Yale School of Drama presents the sixth annual Carlotta Festival of New Plays, May 6 to 14 at the Iseman Theater (1156 Chapel Street, New Haven). The Festival is comprised of three fully-produced plays by graduating playwrights performed in repertory with twelve performances over 10 days. 
The plays featured in the sixth annual Carlotta Festival of New Plays are Blacktop Sky by Christina Anderson, Passing by Dipika Guha, and The Tall Girls by Meg Miroshnik.

The Festival includes a Professionals Weekend on May 13-14 specifically tailored to theatre industry professionals. The Professionals Weekend package will include tickets to all three Carlotta Festival shows, a Friday afternoon happy hour, a Friday evening post-show cocktail party, and Saturday morning breakfast and panel discussion. 

The panel discussion on Saturday, May 14 is also open to the public.

The Festival is named for Carlotta Monterey, the widow of Eugene O’Neill, who chose Yale University Press as the publisher of her late husband’s masterpiece Long Day’s Journey into Night. The proceeds from this publication support playwriting at Yale University.   

ABOUT THE PLAYS AND THE PLAYWRIGHTS

Blacktop Sky
By Christina Anderson
Directed by Devin Brain

Set design by Tim Brown
Costume design by Rebecca L. Welles
Lighting design by Hyun Seung Lee
Sound design by Elizabeth Atkinson
Dramaturgy by Anne Erbe

Cast: Will Cobbs, Winston Duke, Sheria Irving

Klass, a homeless young Black man, sets up residence in the courtyard of a housing project where Ida Peters lives. Triggered by a fatal confrontation between a local street vendor and the police, Klass and Ida quickly develop a precarious bond against the backdrop of a restless neighborhood. Inspired by the Greek myth "Leda and the Swan," Blacktop Sky examines the intersection of love, violence, and seduction.

Christina Anderson’s plays include DRIP, Inked Baby, Sweet Brown Ginger and The W8 Play. Her work has been produced or developed at American Conservatory Theater, Penumbra Theatre Company, About Face Theatre, Playwrights Horizons, Crowded Fire, Ars Nova, and other theatres across the country. Yale School of Drama productions include Man in Love and Good Goods; at Yale Cabaret: Hollow Roots. Awards and honors include Schwarzman Legacy Scholarship awarded by Paula Vogel, Susan Smith Blackburn nomination, Lorraine Hansberry Award (American College Theater Festival), Van Lier Playwriting Fellowship (New Dramatists), Wasserstein Prize nomination (Dramatists Guild), and Lucille Lortel Fellowship (Brown  University). Ms. Anderson has a BA from Brown University with honors in creative writing. For more information, visit christinaranderson.com.

Passing
By Dipika Guha
Directed by Charlotte Brathwaite

Set design by Julia C. Lee
Costume design by Mark Nagle
Lighting design by Yi Zhao
Sound design by Michael Vincent Skinner
Projections Designer Sarah Lasley
Dramaturgy by Kate Atwell

Cast: Lucas Dixon, Laura Gragtmans, Hannah Sorenson, Max Roll

On an unnamed island, an ill-matched English couple tries to make a home. Just when their existence is rocked by the loss of a baby, a girl indigenous to the island alters the course of their lives. Passing is a war over memory and narrative. It is an examination of how we encounter the most traumatic events of our histories through museums, art, and theatre.

Dipika Guha’s plays include The State of Affairs (Yale School of Drama), The Betrothed (Yale School of Drama, Wellfleet Harbour Actors Theater), and Passing (Yale Cabaret). Shorter plays include Habeas Corpus (workshopped at City College London) and In the Red, White and Blue (Theatre 4, New Haven). She is an ensemble member of GoodBelly Collective,a company of theatre makers at Yale whose work includes Bones in a Basket and Erebus and Terror. She has been a recipient of the Eugene O’Neill Scholarship, the Adele Kellenberg Fellowship and the Frank Knox Memorial Fellowship at Harvard University. She taught Playwriting both at Fairfield University and at Cooperative Performing Arts High School in New Haven through the Yale O’Neill Playwriting Program. She studied English at University College London and is a graduate of the Young Writers Programme at the Royal Court Theatre. This summer she is a writer on the  Old Vic New Voices T.S. Eliot Exchange and will be working as a Teaching Artist for Yale School of Drama/Yale Repertory Theatre’s Dwight/Edgewood Project.

The Tall Girls
By Meg Miroshnik
Directed by Mike Donahue

Set design by Matt Saunders
Costume design by Nick Mramer
Lighting design by Hyun Seung Lee
Sound design by Jennifer Lynn Johnson
Dramaturgy by Benjamin Fainstein

Cast: Monique Barbee, Joshua Bermudez, Miriam A. Hyman, Brenda Meaney, Marissa Neitling, Carmen Zilles

Welcome to Poor Prairie, the dusty, desolate town where fifteen-and-a-half-year-old Jean has been exiled as caretaker for her wild-child cousin, Almeda. It’s a grim, dangerous place to eke out an existence as a teenage girl—until a handsome man with a past arrives, a brand-new basketball in tow. As the town’s girls come together to form a team set on making it out of Poor Prairie, a murky committee of townspeople threatens to stamp out girls’ sports altogether. Inspired by the flourishing and decline of high school girls’ basketball teams in the 1930s rural Midwest, The Tall Girls asks: Who can afford the luxury of play? What is the cost of childhood? And who is responsible for keeping the promise of social mobility that sports make in this country?

Meg Miroshnik’s productions at Yale School of Drama include The Droll (dir. Devin Brain) and Ah, Americans! (directed by Charlotte Brathwaite); and at Yale Cabaret: Good Words (directed by Andrew Kelsey) and A Portrait of the Woman as a Young Artist (directed by Devin Brain). The Droll {Or, a Stage-Play about the END of Theatre} was selected for inclusion in the 2011 Pacific Playwrights Festival (directed by David Chambers) at South Coast Repertory. Her play The Fairytale Lives of Russian Girls is the 2011-2012 Kendeda Graduate Playwriting Award winner and will be produced by Alliance Theatre in 2012.  Meg's work has been produced or developed by Perishable Theatre, Brown New Plays Festival, WordBRIDGE Playwrights Laboratory, A.R.T. Institute, Powerhouse Theatre, and published in Best American Short Plays, 2008-2009 (Applause, 2010). She was a visiting instructor in theatre at Wesleyan University in the fall of 2010 and a visiting teaching artist at New Haven’s Cooperative Arts and Humanities High School. Upcoming projects include a new adaptation of the libretto for Shostakovich’s opera Moscow, Cheryomushki (re-orchestration by Gerard McBurney, directed by Mike Donahue) for Chicago Opera Theater’s 2012 season, a workshop at The Kennedy Center, and a commission for a new play for South Coast Repertory. Meg is originally from Minneapolis.

Mark Twain House Invites Polite Princesses to Mother's Day Weekend Tea

Princesses of all ages are invited to join Mark Twain's daughters Susy, Clara and Jean as they serve up a delightful Mother's Day Weekend Princess Tea Party 2 pm Saturday, May 7.

A tea service featuring sweet and savory treats will be offered in the Mark Twain Museum Center followed by a special performance by The Hartford Children's Theatre and a visit with the authors of the "Mom's Choice" Gold Award-winning children's book Merrilee Mannerly and Her Magnificent Manners.
Hartford Children's Theatre, Connecticut's premier home for theatre for children and families, will provide the girls portraying the famous author's beloved daughters. In addition, HCT kids will perform the short play The Princess & The Dragon. In the play, a very mean princess lives in a kingdom near a dragon that loves ballet and plays the piano. Can this gentle dragon help tame the fire-breathing princess? This delightful comedy teaches us all that even the grumpiest creatures can learn good manners.

As an added treat, we get to meet another princess with some bad manners. Connecticut authors Mary Cashman and Cynthia Whipple, the authors of "Merrilee Mannerly and Her Magnificent Manners," have created a story about a girl who befriends a princess from a land with no manners. Together Merrilee and Princess Posy, with the help of Grandmother's Manifesto of Magnificent Manners, learn all about how to host the most perfectly pleasing party. 
Copies of the book will be for sale and can be personally autographed for your princess. Merrilee Mannerly recently won the Gold level award from the Mom's Choice Awards in the Children's Picture Book category. The Mom's Choice Award is a national award that recognizes "the best in family-friendly media, products and services."

An added bonus for mothers will be a chance to visit the American Storytellers: Norman Rockwell & Mark Twain exhibition, featuring dozens of classic Norman Rockwell illustrations that depict the joys of childhood.

Princesses are invited to wear their favorite princess dress and bring her favorite doll or stuffed animal. Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for children or Mark Twain House & Museum members. Tickets can be purchased by calling 860-280-3130. For more information on the event or The Mark Twain House & Museum, visit www.MarkTwainHouse.org. For more information on Hartford Children's Theatre and their programs, visit www.hartfordchildrenstheatre.org.  And to learn more on Merrilee Mannerly, visit  www.merrileemannerly.com.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Feature: Matthew Lombardo

Playwright’s Real-Life Drama and Journey of Faith
By Lauren Yarger
When his play closes on Broadway this Easter Sunday, the irony of the timing won’t be lost on author Matthew Lombardo.

After all, High, starring Kathleen Turner as Sister Jamison Connelly, a nun with a faith crisis of her own trying to help a young boy kick his crystal meth habit, was inspired by the real seven-year addiction that almost robbed the playwright of his career, his faith and his life. A last-chance plea to God for help saved all three, so it seems ironic, yet fitting, that the play’s final curtain should come on the day when the resurrection’s triumph over death is celebrated. Without what Lombardo calls his own “miracle,” neither the play, nor he would be here today.

“I never thought I would get this again,” he said, gesturing around the Booth Theatre where we talked the week before the show was scheduled to open Tuesday, April 19. The playwright had seen success very early in his career, having plays produced and writing for the popular television soap opera “Another World.”.

His breakout work in theater came with the production of Tea at Five, his one-woman play about Katharine Hepburn, who made her home in Lombardo’s native Connecticut. The play premiered in 2002 at Hartford Stage starring Kate Mulgrew and enjoyed a successful regional tour. At the same time, however, Lombardo’s addiction to crystal methamphetamines was spiraling out of control.

The worst thing you can do with an addiction is take it on tour, Lombardo said. Suddenly no one wanted to work with him. He lost his career, his home and almost all hope that anything could change. It was a dark place in which he’d never expected to find himself.

No one had, in fact. His high school friends in Wethersfield, CT might have voted him “Least Likely Not to Have a Drug Problem” he kidded. The clean-cut, good looking man from a loving Italian Catholic family didn’t party much in his youth,

“I was so anti-drugs all my life,” he said. “I never touched a drug until I was 36.”

So what changed the course of his life? While in Los Angeles, he fell in love with a man who was a meth addict.

“He was addicted to meth and I was addicted to him,” Lombardo said.

Ironically, after he was hooked, the other man entered a drug rehab program and as part of the treatment, was prohibited from having any contact with Lombardo.

Only two things had made him feel good, Lombardo said: the man he could no longer have and meth. He drew comfort from the one he still could have. He was tired of being “an all-American boy and doing the right thing,” he decided and began taking the drug every day.

Close with his mother, he would work hard to pull himself together for their daily phone chats. She didn’t know what was wrong, but she sensed something wasn’t right. At one point, in 2004, he thought about getting clean and confessed his addiction to his mother. She couldn’t believe it. It was just so unexpected.

He wasn’t able to quit and the habit got worse over the next three years. Finally, his sponsor told his family that they had to break all contact with Lombardo. His mother would play his voice messages over and over again to hear his voice, but couldn’t call him back.

That put Lombardo over the edge and caused a turning point. He calls it his miracle. He prayed to God and said “If you can get me into a cab and to the hospital, I will fight this.” The emotion from this moment in the playwright’s life shows up in a scene from High where Sister Jamison pleads with God to meet her half way.

He did get to the hospital where he slowly, but surely, started on the road to recovery. It wasn’t easy. Because meth “destroys your mind,” he was unable to tell between reality and fiction. While he was using, he never once connected that the drug was what had destroyed his career and was threatening his life.

As things became clearer, he recognized a pattern of addiction that had been present in his life from the time he was a small boy. Siblings also struggle with addictions, so he discovered he was battling a genetic disposition as well as other factors, he said.

Also coming into focus was a new relationship with God. The god he grew up with had been represented as distant and punishing, he said. During his seven years of drug addiction, he had turned his back on faith.

“The god I grew up with is different from the God I know today,” he said. Now, he’s personal.

Also helping on a personal level are the brothers in recovery he has met through his 12-Step Program, Crystal Meth Anonymous. He splits his time between New York and Ft. Lauderdale, where his sponsor is. These folks have helped him learn how to do everything all over again – sober. Even going to the store to buy a candy bar for the first time can be a daunting task, he said.

The 12-step program includes belief in a “higher power.” Lombardo smiles broadly when relating facts about medical professionals acknowledging that this belief seems to make it possible for someone to be healed.
“There’s nothing I can’t handle now because of my relationship with God,” he said.

Proof of this came yesterday when producers posted an early-closing for High following less-than-favorable reviews and sluggish ticket sales.
"Despite the closing, I remain eternally grateful for this amazing opportunity,” he said. “Audiences have been extremely supportive of this project and I am so proud to have collaborated with this extraordinary groups of artists."
Not a day goes by that he doesn’t receive a message from someone who has been touched personally by High and the struggles of its character, young Cody, driven to prostitution and possibly murder while addicted. Recently, Lombardo related, a man in his early 20s languished at the back of the theater after one of the previews. When Lombardo identified himself as the author, the man thanked him for writing the play, and became emotional, saying that his brother was one of the “ones that didn’t make it.”

The play starts with the addiction, but becomes about faith and how to “get out of our way to let the miracle happen,” Lombardo said.

High plays its final performance 3 pm Sunday (April 24). What’s next for the playwright besides welcoming newcomers to his 12-steap meetings?

He’s working on an adaptation of six Greek plays, a vehicle for his specialty – a dynamite woman's role to be tackled by a powerhouse actress of a certain age, like Hepburn, Turner and Valerie Harper who garnered a 2010 Best Actress Tony nomination for Lombardo’s Looped.

For the review of High in its premiere at TheaterWorks Hartford this season, visit http://curtainup.com/highct.html.
Information about help and treatment for methamphetamine and other addictions are available from the following resources:
• Crystal Meth Anonymous, a 12-step program http://www.crystalmeth.org//
• Find a meeting http://www.crystalmeth.org/find-a-cma-meeting.html
• Connecticut info http://www.ct.gov/dmhas/cwp/view.asp?a=2902&q=376512
• List of state resources http://www.methresources.gov/Index.html
• 12 Step Program http://www.12step.org/
• Celebrate Recovery, a church program http://www.celebraterecovery.com/

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Hair Comes to the Bushnell

Gavin Creel, Will Swenson, and the 2009 Broadway Cast of HAIR. Photo by Joan Marcus.

HAIR
Mortensen Hall
April 26-May 1

HAIR features songs like “Aquarius,” “Let the Sun Shine In" and "Good Morning, Starshine."
To purchase tickets visit The Bushnell Box Office at 166 Capitol Ave., Hartford, call 860-987-5900, or visit http://www.bushnell.org/.

The show contains mature themes including an anti-war message, drug usage, sex and a dimly lit 20-second scene with nudity. Parental discretion is advised.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Quick Hit Theater Review: The 39 Steps -- Hartford Stage

Christina Pumariega, Steve French, Robert Eli and Noble Shropshire. Photo by T. Charles Erickson

Alfred Hitchcock's The 39 Steps
Hartford Stage
Adapted by Patrick Barlow from the film, taken from the novel by John Buchan
Directed by Maxwell Williams

Summary:
A tongue-in-cheek retelling of the classic film about a man who stumbles upon an espionage plot to smuggle vital war time secrets out of England to Nazi Germany, complete with a chase aboard a speeding train. It will make you laugh whether you've seen the film or not and if you're a fan of the film or Hitchcock, there is a lot of humor especially for you.

Highlights:
Very clever staging and spoofy effects (including lighting with stick puppets). Robert Eli stars as the man pulled into the intrigue of dozens of characters -- some created at the literal drop of a hat -- played by the other three cast members: Steve French, Noble Shropshire and Christina Pumariega. All are skilled.

Lowlights:
The pace is off, so that some of the gags and sarcasm seem staged instead of spontaneous.

More information:
The 39 Steps runs through May 1 at Hartford Stage, 50 Church St., Hartford. Tickets are $23 to $69 with various discounts available and can be purchased by calling 860-527-5151 or by visiting www.hartfordstage.org.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Theater Review: A Steady Rain -- TheaterWorks

Kyle Fabel and Aaron Roman Weiner. Photo by Lanny Nagler
Steady Direction, Steady Performances
By Lauren Yarger
While watching Keith Huff’s A Steady Rain at TheaterWorks, I was reminded why I had enjoyed this play so much last season in New York, and it wasn’t because the Broadway production starred Hugh Jackman and Daniel Craig. It was because the play in thoroughly engrossing and keeps you on the edge of your seat – even when you’ve seen it already.

The gripping tale is the story of two men, childhood friends who have gone on to become Chicago cops together, and a storm of events that wash everything away almost in the blink of an eye. There was a steady rain when it all started, Joey (Kyle Fabel) remembers, and as the tale unfolds, we discover that tensions really had been swirling long before. A relentless pounding of both the friendship and the spiraling-down life of Denny (Aaron Roman Weiner) finally erodes both and sweeps them down the storm drain.

Racist Denny, convinced the department’s reversed affirmative action policies have denied him and his partner promotions to detective for the third time, earns extra money to provide for his family by shaking down prostitutes and pimps in the precinct. Joey, who is drinking himself to death, is saved when Denny and his wife make him feel like part of their family. When Denny sets Joey up on a blind date with a prostitute, however, the steady rain begins.

In the gripping and chilling aftermath of Denny’s built-up anger, a child’s life hangs in the balance, a serial murderer gains the upper hand, several people are killed, the bonds of marriage are tested, the partners’ friendship is strained and nothing will ever be the same. Huff’s writing draws you in, then stuns you with twists that reveal how a really bad day just got worse (there were some audible gasps from the audience) and challenges your definition of loyalty and protection.

The strong performances are tightly directed by Tazewell Thompson (who helmed Broke-ology and God of Carnage at TheaterWorks). The action all is through the dialogue: Donald Eastman’s set just uses a few chairs.

Catch it through May 8 at TheaterWorks at City Arts on Pearl, 233 Pearl St., Hartford. For tickets and information, call 860-527-7838 or visit http://www.theaterworkshartford.org/.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Lake Wobegon Comes to Waterbury

I enjoyed a pleasant evening listening to storyteller Garrison Keillor, known for his "A Prairie Home Companion" radio program at a performance last night at the Palace Theater in Waterbury. The beautifully restored theater, with its reminders of the past was a perfect setting for An Evening with Garrison Keillor. The author combined song, poems and stories about life at Lake Wobegon and time gone by. Keillor, fighting the sniffles all night from allergies, chatted for about two hours on subjects like getting older, trying to figure out the younger generation and remembering a simpler time of family vacations, women gathering at the local hair salon, fishing on the lake with is uncle Jack and a time seemingly free from worries we take for granted today. Next up at the Palace is Mandy Patinkin: Dress Casual on April 10. For information, visit http://www.palacetheaterct.org/. -- Lauren Yarger

Andrea McArdle Stars in CT Rep's Urinetown

Andrea McArdle will play Penelope Pennywise in Connecticut

Repertory Theatre’s production of Urinetown. Photo by Dana Haddad.

Connecticut Repertory Theatre (CRT) will present the musical Urinetown, featuring Broadway star Andrea McArdle, April 14-17 and April 27-30 in the Harriet S. Jorgensen Theatre on the Storrs campus.


The production closes the main stage season. With a book and lyrics by Greg Kotis, music and lyrics by Mark Hollman, Urinetown sends up corporate greed, ecological disaster and musical theatre itself, through hummable music, old fashioned dance numbers, and sharp humor. the musical won several Tony Awards, including Best Book of a Musical and Best Original Musical Score.


McArdle will star as Penelope Pennywise alongside Broadway veteran Bob Walton and newcomer Ken Clark. She first captured the hearts of theatergoers everywhere in 1977 when she originated the title role in the mega-musical Annie.
Please call 860-486-4226 for tickets or for more information. Please call or visit the box office for specific show dates and times because performance schedules vary and are subject to change. Tickets available online at www.crt.uconn.edu.

Scotland and Twain Shall Meet

As a boy in Kirkaldy, in the county of Fife, Scotland, Thomas Hubbard once bought a comic book version of Mark Twain's "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court" at the local railway station bookstall. Hubbard, today a highly regarded literary scholar, novelist and poet, wondered what that strange word "Connecticut" meant. Now he knows it well. Currently the Lynn Wood Neag Distinguished Visiting Professor in the Department of English at the University of Connecticut, he notes that one of Twain's last essays was on the child poet Marjorie Fleming, also a Kirkcaldy native: Her grave is just a few minutes' walk from that station bookstall. Hubbard will share his lifelong passion for Mark Twain and his Scottish connections in a free talk on Tuesday, April 19, at The Mark Twain House & Museum. A reception with wine and hors d'oeuvres will open the event at 5 pm, with the talk at 5:30. The event follows the format of the museum's popular "The Trouble Begins at 5:30" series, which offers free after-work talks each spring and fall. The house and museum at 351 Farmington Ave., Hartford are open Monday through Saturday, 9:30 am to 5:30 pm, and Sunday, noon to 5:30 pm. For more information, call 860-247-0998 or visit www.marktwainhouse.org.

Yale Rep Presents Autumn Sonata

Yale Rep presents the US premiere of Ingmar Bergman’s Autumn Sonata, directed by Robert Woodruff, based on a literal translation by Wendy Weckwerth April 12-May 7 at Yale Repertory Theatre, 1120 Chapel St. New Haven. Charlotte (Candy Buckley), a celebrated classical pianist who has forged a successful career at the expense of her family, attempts to reconcile with her daughter Eva (Rebecca Henderson), whom she has not seen in seven years. Over the course of one evening, they confront their darkest feelings and resentments. A tightly-wound psychological study of the complicated relationship between mothers and daughters, Autumn Sonata reveals that living and loving—like mastering notes on a piano—are skills that must be practiced every day. Tickets range from $10 to $85 and are available online at www.yalerep.org, by phone at 203-432-1234, and in person at the box office, 1120 Chapel St. at York Street. Student, senior, and group rates are also available.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

HSO Musicians Play Benefit for Japan's Earthquake Victims

Who: Musicians from the Hartford Symphony Orchestra

What: Musicians from the Hartford Symphony Orchestra will perform a Japan Earthquake Relief Charity Concert on Saturday, April 9 at 6 pm at the Unitarian Meeting House in West Hartford. Organized by Ruriko Kagiyama and her husband, HSO Principal Violist Michael Wheeler, all proceeds from this concert will go to the American Red Cross’ relief effort in Japan.

When: Saturday, April 9, 2011 at 6 pm.

Where: Unitarian Meeting House, 50 Bloomfield Ave., West Hartford

Ticket Information: All donations are being made to the American Red Cross. (Please make checks payable to “American Red Cross.”) Tickets are not for sale; admission is your donation.

Dream Play Puppets at UConn

Original puppets in Connecticut Repertory Theatre’s Studio Works production of A Dream Play, a Puppet Arts Production in the Studio Theatre on the Storrs campus. For tickets and information visit www.crt.uconn.edu or call 860-486-4226. Photo by Gerry Goodstein.

MTC Presents Frank Sinatra Musical

Johnny Orenberg and Jillian Schoche. JohnnyJillian.jpg

Music Theatre of Connecticut (MTC) presents My Way: A Musical Tribute to Frank Sinatra by David Grapes and Todd Olson, a musical revue featuring more than 50 songs recorded by "Old Blue Eyes" through April 17.


"There are musical legends who have made an indelible mark on our culture, and Frank Sinatra is one of them," says Kevin Connors, director of "My Way: A Musical Tribute to Frank Sinatra" on the MainStage. "This tribute show doesn't attempt to impersonate Sinatra, but celebrates his music and style, transporting the audience to the era of supper clubs, vintage Las Vegas and the perfect martini."


My Way: A Musical Tribute to Frank Sinatra includes songs like "The Best is Yet to Come," Theme from "New York, New York, "Fly Me to the Moon," "Strangers in the Night," "How About You?," "I Get a Kick Out of You," "I’ll Be Seeing You," "It Was a Very Good Year," "I’ve Got the World on a String," "Dream," "The Lady is a Tramp," "Chicago," "Let’s Get Away From It All," "Love and Marriage," "High Hopes," "One For My Baby," "All of Me," "My Funny Valentine," "Young at Heart," "Summer Wind," "That’s Life" and many more.


The cast includes Johnny Orenberg, Jillian Schochet, Jodi Stevens and Robert J. Townsend. "My Way: A Musical Tribute to Frank Sinatra" is directed by Connors, executive artistic director and co-founder of MTC. Musical direction is by Max Haymer, with musical staging by Marty Bongfeldt and Connors. Sets are by Scott Holdredge, lighting by Joshua Scherr, costumes by Diane Vanderkroef.


My Way: A Musical Tribute to Frank Sinatra will be performed Fridays and Saturdays at 8 pm, with matinees Saturdays at 4 pm and Sundays at 3 pm at MTC MainStage Studio Theatre, 246 Post Road East (Colonial Green/Lower Level) in downtown Westport. Tickets are available by calling 203-454-3883 or visiting http://www.musictheatreofct.com/. Each performance is followed by a wine and cheese reception where the audience is invited to meet the actors and production team. Tickets are $25-$45 ($5 off for seniors and students.)

An Evening with Garrison Keillor Monday at the Palace

Humorist celebrity speaker and National Public Radio personality Garrison Keillor will captivate audiences with his dry sense of humor, class, and charisma when the Palace Theater in Waterbury presents An Evening with Garrison Keillor on Monday, April 4 at 7:30 pm. True to his popular radio form, Keillor will share hilarious anecdotes about growing up in the American Midwest, the people of Lake Wobegon, and “late-life fatherhood.” Minnesota-born and raised, Keillor is the living embodiment of the Midwestern spirit. Each week, he shares his thoughtfulness, old-fashioned values, and dry humor through his legendary, critically-acclaimed radio show "A Prairie Home Companion." More than 3 million listeners on more than 450 public radio stations listen to the show each week, and millions more discovered the show through the hit 2006 film adaptation, which starred Keillor, Meryl Streep, Lily Tomlin, and Lindsay Lohan. Keillor has received numerous awards for his extensive repertoire, including a Grammy Award for his recording of Lake Wobegon Days. He has also received two Cable ACE Awards and a George Foster Peabody Award. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and recently was presented with a National Humanities Medal by the National Endowment for the Humanities. In 1994, he was inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame at Chicago's Museum of Broadcast Communications. PBS’ acclaimed series, American Masters, honored Keillor by airing the documentary, The Man on the Radio in the Red Shoes, which follows Keillor through a year of taping A Prairie Home Companion and meeting his many fans throughout the United States. He has appeared at Wolf Trap, Carnegie Hall, and other major concert halls as a member of The Hopeful Gospel Quartet, and he has performed on his own in one-man shows across the country and on tour broadcasts of A Prairie Home Companion. His shows are undoubtedly sell-out events, as the popularity of Lake Wobegon and A Prairie Home Companion continues to grow around the country, as audiences of all ages become exposed to this Midwestern sensation. Before the show, a 5:30 pm pre-show dinner will be held in the Poli Club, located in the Mezzanine Level of the theater. Dinner is $40 per member and $50 for non-members, which includes tax, service fee, coffee and tea. A cash bar is also available. Seating is limited and reservations may be made when purchasing tickets through the Box Office. Tickets for An Evening with Garrison Keillor, which is sponsored by Bank of America and WSHU Public Radio Group, can be purchased by phone at 203-346-2000, online at www.palacetheaterct.org, or in person at the Palace Theater Box Office, 100 East Main Street in Waterbury. Groups of 20 or more qualify for discounted rates and should call the Group Sales hotline at 203-346-2002.

Registrations Open for Kids Summer Theater in Westport

From the 2010 MTC Summer Theatre Camp production of The Wizard of Oz.

Music Theatre of Connecticut School of Performing Arts is now registering for Summer Theatre Camp. From first read-through of the script to opening night in just three weeks.


Each of the three shows rehearses for three weeks (Mondays through Fridays, 9:30 am to 3:00 pm) and culminates in two public performances of a fully-staged, costumed, directed and choreographed production. Summer Theatre Camp is for students 7 and up, and rehearsals will take place at Music Theatre of Connecticut, 246 Post Road East (Colonial Green, Lower Level) in Westport. Tuition is $895 per camp.


To register, visit http://www.musictheatreofct.com/ or call 203.454.3883. Disney's Aladdin Junior Edition is June 27-July 16. All of your favorite characters are here in this stage adaptation of the Disney hit, including Aladdin, Jasmine, and of course, the Genie. Filled with magic, mayhem, and flying carpet rides, audiences' spirits will soar with excitement. Most of all, the tuneful, Academy award-winning score with songs including "A Whole New World" and "Friend Like Me."


Disney's Camp Rock: The Musical is July 18-August 6. This summer at camp was supposed to be all about the music and having the time of their lives. But the new, flashy Camp Star across the lake now threatens Camp Rock’s very existence. To keep the doors open, Mitchie steps up, rallies her fellow Camp Rockers, and gets them into top shape for the ultimate showdown. This new musical based on the hit Disney Channel Original Movies has over a dozen songs, including “This Is Me,” “Can’t Back Down,” “It’s On,” and “We Rock.”


The MTC Original Musical Sleeping Beauty is August 1-20. MTC's own original adaptation captures the magic of the original tale while adding a few contemporary twists to keep the story fresh with today's audiences.


For more information or to register, call Music Theatre of Connecticut at 203.454.3883 or visit http://www.musictheatreofct.com/

Big To-Do for Much Ado

Shakespeare on the Sound, Connecticut’s premier outdoor summer theater company presenting free Shakespeare in the park hosts a gala tonight for its 16th summer production, Shakespeare’s comedy Much Ado About Nothing, under the direction of Joanna Settle.

Stew and Heidi Rodewald will again create music and songs for the upcoming production. "A Big To-Do for Much Ado" is tonight at 6:30 at the Woodway Country Club (540 Hoyt Street, Darien. The event raises funds for the production and the company’s ongoing educational outreach programs.

Much Ado About Nothing will play two locations on Long Island Sound, Pinkney Park in Rowayton and Baldwin Park in Greenwich. Performance dates and further details will be announced shortly.

Memorial Service for Max Wilk in Southport April 9

A memorial service celebrating the life of Max Wilk will take place April 9 at 3 pm at the Pequot Library in Southport. The ceremony will feature music and various speakers who were close to Wilk. Light refreshments will be served following the service.

Max Wilk, author, playwright, film and television writer, and dramaturg for the National Playwrights Conference at the O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford for nearly three decades, died Feb. 19 in his home in Westport at 90.

While at the O’Neill, Wilk helped both emerging and established playwrights refine their plays, working with some of modern theater’s top luminaries. He graduated from the Yale School of Drama, served in the military and had an impressive career as a writer, playwright and screenwriter. Wilk was the author of 19 books, four films, three produced plays and countless television shows and magazine articles.

The O’Neill also is planning a gathering in honor of Wilk during its 2011 summer season, more details to follow.

The Pequot Library is located at 720 Pequot Avenue Southport.

Mandy Patinkin Dresses Casual at Palace


Emmy Award-winning actor and Broadway legend Mandy Patinkin will perform an exclusive Connecticut engagement of his critically acclaimed theatre concert, Mandy Patinkin: Dress Casual, at the Palace Theater in Waterbury Sunday, April 10 4pm.

Mandy Patinkin: Dress Casual presents the acclaimed actor, singer and storyteller in what critics are calling his most electrifying role to date: concert performer. From Irving Berlin and Stephen Sondheim to Cole Porter and Harry Chapin, Patinkin, accompanied by the incomparable Paul Ford on piano, takes audiences on a dazzling musical journey they won’t soon forget.

As a Tony and Emmy Award-winner, Patinkin has an extensive list of theatre credits that include Broadway, Off-Broadway and regional theater. He won a Tony for his 1980 Broadway debut as “Che” in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Evita and was again nominated in 1984 for his starring role in the Pulitzer Prize winning musical Sunday in the Park With George. He returned to Broadway in the Tony Award-winning musical The Secret Garden (1991), appeared as Marvin in Falsettos (1992) and in 1997 played a sold-out engagement of his one-man concert, Mandy Patinkin in Concert. Patinkin’s other solo concerts, Celebrating Sondheim and Mamaloshen, have been presented on Broadway, Off-Broadway and have toured the US.

In 1995, Patinkin won an Emmy for his critically acclaimed performance in the CBS series “Chicago Hope,” and recently starred in the CBS series “Criminal Minds” as FBI profiler “Jason Gideon” and in the Showtime Original Series “Dead Like Me.” His most popular feature film credits include The Princess Bride, Yentl, and Ragtime, to name a few.

In 1989, Mandy began his concert career at Joseph Papp's Public Theater, coinciding with the release of his first solo album, Mandy Patinkin. Since then he has toured extensively, appearing to sold-out audiences across the U.S., Canada, London and Australia, performing songs from writers including Stephen Sondheim, Rodgers and Hammerstein, Irving Berlin, Randy Newman, Adam Guettel and Harry Chapin, among others. In 1990, he released his second solo album entitled Mandy Patinkin In Concert: Dress Casual on CBS Records.

Tickets for Mandy Patinkin: Dress Casual, presented by Darter Specialties and sponsored by Bank of America and STAR 99.9FM with support from WSHU Public Radio Group, can be purchased by phone at 203-346-2000, online at www.palacetheaterct.org, or in person at the Palace Theater Box Office, 100 East Main St. in Waterbury. Groups of 20 or more qualify for discounted rates and should call the Group Sales hotline at 203-346-2002.
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Lauren Yarger with playwright Alfred Uhry at the Mark Twain House. Photo: Jacques Lamarre)

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