Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Lights Are on at the Mark Twain House

Upcoming events:
Thursday, Nov. 1, at the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center, 77 Forest Street, Hartford; 5:00 p.m. reception, 5:30 pm discussion. FREE event! To register, call 860-522-9258, Ext. 317.
 
Nook Farm Book Talk, a collaboration between The Mark Twain House & Museum and the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center, continues with Poganuc People, Harriet Beecher Stowe's loosely based autobiographical work.
Stowe depicts the life and times of a small Puritan town, Poganuc, based on her childhood in Litchfield, Connecticut. It features colorful characters like Miss Dolly and Colonel Davenport, local politics, small town religiosity, and anecdotal recipes for life.
 
 
Friday, November 2, 7:00 p.m. reception, 8:00 p.m. conversation. Tickets are $25, and can be obtained by calling 860-280-3130 or 860-232-0050.
A conversation with six authors, "Come Out Writing: Queer Authors Tell All," will take place at The Mark Twain House & Museum on Friday, Nov. 2, and explore the particular problems and strengths that the fact of being gay brings to the writer's art.
All proceeds from the event benefit the museum and True Colors, the Hartford-based non-profit organization that provides support, education and advocacy for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth, adults and families.
Participants include novelist, actor and filmmaker James Lecesne; poet and journalist Bessy Reyna; playwright Jacques Lamarre; author Frank Anthony Polito; writer Tanisha McMillan; and novelist Jennifer Lavoie.
 
Campbell
Deadline is Monday, Nov. 5, for six-week classes starting next week. Tuition is $500. Call 860-280-3130 to register.

Susan Campbell on Non-Fiction, Mary-Ann Tirone Smith on Fiction: We're extending the deadline for registering for our popular six-week fall writing classes: The new deadline is Monday, November 5.
Campbell is the longtime columnist and award-winning author of Dating Jesus: A Story of
Smith
Fundamentalism, Feminism and the American Girl; Smith is the similarly acclaimed author of Masters of Illusion and Girls of Tender Age.
The six sessions of each class will run at the same time in separate classrooms -- from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday evenings in the Mark Twain House Museum Center, beginning Nov. 7 and running to December 19 (no class Nov. 21).

Frances Sternhagen, David Marguiles Among Cast for Script in Hand Reading of Joe DiPietro Comedy at Westport Playhouse

David Maguiles
Casting has been announced for Westport Country Playhouse’s Script in Hand playreading of “Over the River and Through the Woods” by Tony Award-winning playwright Joe DiPietro, a comedy about a single, Italian-American guy who visits his beloved, though annoying, grandparents every Sunday for dinner.

Scheduled for one-night-only on Monday, Nov. 12 at 7 pm, the cast includes Matthew Amendt, Nicole Lowrance, David Marguiles, Frances Sternhagen, Maria Tucci, and Lenny Wolpe. Director is Anne Keefe, Playhouse artistic advisor.

Tickets to the Script in Hand playreading are $15. Tickets for the reading and post-performance dessert reception with the cast in the Playhouse’s Sheffer Studio are $50 ($15 for reading plus a $35 donation for reception). The reception will include Italian desserts and Prosecco. 
Frances Sternhagen
Playwright Joe DiPietro won two Tony Awards for co-writing “Memphis,” which also received the 2010 Tony, Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle awards for Best Musical. He wrote the book of the current Broadway musical, “Nice Work If You Can Get It.” His other plays and musicals include “I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change” (the longest-running musical revue in Off-Broadway history); “The Toxic Avenger” and “The Thing About Men” (both winners of the Outer Critics Circle Award for Best Off-Broadway musical); the much-produced comedy “Over the River and Through the Woods”; “The Art of Murder” (Edgar Award winner for Best Mystery Play); and the Broadway musical “All Shook Up.” His drama “Creating Claire” debuted at George Street Playhouse in 2010. His work has received thousands of productions across the country and around the world. 

Director Anne Keefe served as artistic director of Westport Country Playhouse, with Joanne Woodward, in 2008 and as associate artistic director from 2000-2006, also with Ms. Woodward. She co-directed with Ms. Woodward the Westport Country Playhouse production of “David Copperfield,” and directed many Script in Hand playreadings. 

Upcoming Script in Hand playreadings include the romantic comedy, “The Philadelphia Story” by Philip Barry, on Monday, December 10, 7 p.m. “The Philadelphia Story” has been a play, a film, and, as “High Society” with music and lyrics by Cole Porter, a Broadway and movie musical as well. Other Script in Hand playreadings will take place on Mondays, February 11 and March 11, titles to be announced.

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 24/7 at www.westportplayhouse.org. Stay connected to the Playhouse on Facebook (Westport Country Playhouse), follow on Twitter (@WCPlayhouse), view Playhouse videos on YouTube (WestportPlayhouse) or get an insider’s peek on The Playhouse Blog (www.theplayhouseblog.org).

October Monthly, Weekly Metro-North Tickets Good Through Nov. 5

As of 2 pm, Metro-North will restore limited service on its Harlem Line between North White Plains and Grand Central Terminal. The service will operate every hour. Hudson and New Haven Line continue to be suspended. 

See www.mta.info  for full details.  Off-peak fares will be in effect. Customers should hold onto their October monthly and weekly tickets; they will be valid for travel through Monday, Nov. 5.

Updated November Listings at The Kate

Event: NT Live: Timon of Athens
Date: Thursday, November 1
Time: 7:00 p.m.
Price: $20 Adults
Event: Beauty Lou & The Country Beast
Date: Saturday, November 3
Time: 12 pm and 3 pm
Price: $10 child/ $14 adult
Event: Michael Johnson
Date: Saturday, November 3
Time: 8:00 p.m.
Price: $25 orchestra/$20 balcony
Event: Otello Encore
Date: Tuesday, November 6
Time: 12:55 p.m.
Price: $25
Event: Janis Ian
Date: Thursday, November 8
Time: 7:30 p.m.
Price: $40
Event: Stoned Soul Picnic
Date: Friday, November 9
Time: 8:00 p.m.
Price: $35 Center Orchestra/ $32 Side and Balcony
Event: Kaki King
Date: Saturday, November 10
Time: 8:00 p.m.
Price: $25
Event: The Tempest
Date: Saturday, November 10
Time: 12:55 p.m.
Price: $28
Event: Patty’s Green
Date: Sunday, November 11
Time: 3:00 p.m.
Price: $10
Event: Tempest Encore
Date: Tuesday, November 13
Time: 12:55 p.m.
Price: $25
Event: Kate Classic: Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner
Date: Thursday, November 15
Time: 2:00, 4:00 and 7:00 p.m.
Price: $8
Event: Tom Paxton
Date: Friday, November 16
Time: 8:00 p.m.
Price: $35/$38
Event: The Comcast Children’s Series Presents: Little Princess Christmas
Date: Sunday, November 18
Time: 3:00 p.m.
Price: $10 Child/ $16 Adult
Event: One Little Wish
Date: Friday, November 23- Sunday November 25
Time: 7:30 p.m. on 11/23; 1:00 p.m. 11/24& 25
Price: $40 Adults/ $30 Students and Seniors
Event: Grand Slambovians
Date: Friday, November 30
Time: 8:00 p.m.
Price $27

Review of The Last Romance at Seven Angels

Ron Crawford and Marie Wallace. Photo courtesy of Seven Angels Theatre
I wasn't able to reschedule a performance of The Last Romance at Seven Angels Theatre following an injury that haulted the opening night performance at intermission, but colleague Bonnie Goldberg has forwarded a link to her review which you can read at http://bonniegoldberg.blogspot.com. Thanks Bonnie!

The show runs through Nov. 11.

For tickets and information: 203-757-4676 or online at www.sevenangelstheatre.org. Performances are Thursday at 2 pm, and 8 pm., Friday at 8 pm, Saturday at 2 pm and 8 pm and Sunday at 2 pm.

CT Rep's Intimate Apparel is a Go for Tonight

Esther Mills (Khetanya Henderson) with Mr. Marks (Harrison Howard Haney) in a scene from Connecticut Repertory Theatre’s production of Intimate Apparel, by Lynn Nottage, playing now through Nov. 4 in the Studio Theatre, Storrs. For tickets and information, call 860-486-2113 and visit www.crt.uconn.edu. Photo by Gerry Goodstein.
CT Rep's preformance of Lynn Nottage's Intimate Apparrel is on for tonight in the studio at 7:30 pm. Info: 860-486-2113 or http://crt.uconn.edu/.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Storm Updates for Connecticut Theater/Arts

Check here for the latest regarding cancellations, schedules due to the Hurricane Sandy storm.

IVORYTON PLAYHOUSE has cancelled the first two preview performances of THE KITCHEN WITCHES on Wednesday, Oct. 31. One preview performance on Thursday Nov. 1  still possible before opening on Friday, Nov.  2. Check back for update.

YALE REP cancels Monday’s Preview Performance of Marie Antoinette. If you have tickets for Monday night, they will be honored for an alternate performance. Tickets exchanged without fees when the box office reopens on Tuesday or Wednesday.

--- METRO NORTH trains, NYC subway service and LIRR service will be shut down as of 7 p.m. Sunday. Additionally, final bus service end at 9 p.m.
For additional information on closings:
http://www.nhregister.com/articles/2012/10/28/news/doc508ae2a7ef4b3418399038.txt

For school closings:
http://www.ctnow.com/weather/closings/

Connecticut Weather Updates:
http://www.weather.com/weather/right-now/Hartford+CT+USCT0094

Friday, October 26, 2012

Quick Hit Theater Review: Chicago -- The Bushnell

Chicago
The Bushnell
Music by John Kander
Lyrics by Fred Ebb
Book by Fred ebb and Bob Fosse
Choreography Ann Reinking

What's it about?
A bunch of murderesses in late 1920s Chicago populate the cellblocks waiting for their trials. Mama (Kecia Lewis-Evans), the matron, takes good care of her girls and for the right price, puts in a call to lawyer Billy Flyn (John O'Hurley) to come up with a sensational defense that will interest the press and tabloid reporters like Mary Sunshine (D. Micciche). The current star of murder row is Velma Kelly (a terrific Amra-Faye Wright who played the role on Broadway), but she is usurped by new sensation Roxy Hart (Christie Brinkley), who is still supported by mousy husband, Amos (Ron Orbach), even though she is accused of murdering her lover.

What are the highights?
Well, first there is the fabulous score and really clever lyrics. It's a Kander and Ebb triumph, one-upped only by their more recent Scottsboro Boys. Several performers here are high caliber. Wright sounds like she was born to sing this role (and at times, she sounds a lot like Chita Rivera, the original Velma, too. It's a treat.) Lewis-Evans has a great vocal instrument (and she makes us chuckle with some fresh interpretations on Mama's songs.) O'Hurley is fun as the suave, yet sleasy attorney and lends a nice vocal voice to his tunes as well. Orbach (a cousin of Jerry Orbach, who was the original Billy Flynn) definitely gets noticed for his fine, sensative portrayal of the almost invisible, unappreciated Amos.

What are the lowlights?
Christie Brinkley, who played this role twice on Broadway, gives it a professional effort (adopting a speaking voice that sounds a lot like original Roxie Gwen Verdon), and she looks terrific, but singing and dancing don't come naturally to the former supermodel. Solos can be tedious. Micciche is too tall for the part and is costumed in an outfit that's a little too on the masculine side. There's also some kind of distracting reverb in the sound mix on some numbers.

More information:
This quick-stop tour plays at the Bushnell, 166 Capitol Ave., Hartford, through Sunday, Oct. 28. For tickets and performance information call 860-987-5900 or visit www.bushnell.org.

Theater Review: Something's Afoot -- Goodspeed


The cast of Something's Afoot. © Photo by Diane Sobolewski

It’s Not a Whodunit. It’s a Whydunit?
By Lauren YargerThe biggest mystery surrounding Something’s Afoot isn’t who’s murdering guests at a posh estate on a remote island. It’s why Goodspeed would decide to present a revival of such a flawed musical when there are so many other more deserving shows out there. It’s not a whodunit. It’s a whydunit? 

The musical Something’s Afoot originally was produced at the Goodspeed Opera House in 1973. It later opened on Broadway in 1976 and closed after 61 performances (critics haven’t been fans), but in what is really a mystery, it went on to have a run in London where it was nominated for an Olivier Award in 1977. It’s puzzling, since this supposed spoof of Agatha Christie mysteries isn’t very funny and the music and lyrics don’t fit the mood (score, lyrics and the book are credited to James McDonald, David Vos and Robert Gerlach, with additional music by Ed Linderman).

This production, conceived by Casey Hushion, but directed by Choreographer Vince Pesce when she had to pull out because of an illness in her family, doesn’t solve the mystery of how to make the show work either. Pregnant pauses wait for punch lines that are dead on arrival; musical numbers go on forever and a character’s cry of “one more time” isn’t exactly welcome.

In the middle of the action (and I use the term liberally) actors are singing songs titled “I Don’t Know Why I Trust You (But I Do),” “Dinghy,” and “The Legal Heir” with lyrics like “Pooh, pooh, stiff upper lip,” and “remember Queen Victoria” while unbelievably doing things like whirling about, leaping up on furniture or twirling spears….

Add to these problems the following: ensemble singing that’s off-key; a character actress who shouldn’t be cast in a singing role; an ensemble that doesn’t seem to have come together as one (an understudy went on for one of the leads on opening night); and a still-in-rehearsals feel to a production that’s been running in previews for nearly a month. Now you have a clue as to what the real crime is.

But enough said about what doesn’t work. A perfect storm like this is pretty unusual at the Opera House. Let’s just leave it at that and take a quick look at the story and some of the things that do deserve a pat on the back.

It’s 1935 (the actors are dressed in stereotypical period costumes by Designer Tracy Christensen) and one by one, guests arriving at the isolated Rancour Retreat (set designer Adrian W. Jones creates a stately mansion) end up dead. The first to go is Clive (Ron Wisniski), so we assume the butler didn’t do it. But who did?

Could it be the maid, Lettie (Liz Pearce), the caretaker Flint (Khris Lewin) or family physician Dr. Grayburn (Peter Van Wagner)? Perhaps it’s Nigel Rancour (Benjamin Eakeley who lends a nice voice), the nephew of the retreat’s owner who sent invitations to all of the guests for an unknown reason. Or could it be the lovely, young Hope Langdon (Julia Osborn -- I saw understudy Alyssa Gagarin) who becomes romantically involved with Geoffrey (Hunter Ryan Herdlicka) who unexpectedly turns up at the retreat amidst the thunder, rain and murder? Cue the spooky organ music…(Michael O’Flaherty music directs and conducts the seven-member orchestra.)

Also under suspicion are Lady Grace Marley-Prowe (Lynne Wintersteller, who has a very nice singing voice) and Army Col. Gillweather (Ed Dixon whose humor helps break things up a little). Will amateur detective Miss Tweed (Audrie Neenan) crack the case before the last victim is dragged off to the library?

No spoliers here. You’ll just have to find out for yourself.

Something's Afoot runs through Dec. 9 at Goodspeed Opera House, 6 Main St., East Haddam. Performances are Wednesday at 2 and 7:30 pm, Thursday at 2* and 7:30 pm; Friday at 8 pm; Saturday at 3 and 8 pm; Sunday at 2 and 6:30 pm* (*Sunday 6:30 through Nov. 4; Thursday 2 pm begins Nov. 8). Tickets range from $35.50-$73.50 (860)-873-8668 or www.goodspeed.org.

Special offers:

Trick or ‘Tini Package: Wed, Oct 31, 7:30 pm. Looking for an alternative to sitting home handing out
candy? This frightfully good Halloween special includes a ticket to the evening show and specialty martini for only $46 per person.

Food Drive: Monday, Nov. 19. Two-for-one tickets for select seats to the 2 & 7:30 pm performances with a generous non-perishable food donation to benefit the East Haddam Food Bank.

Meet the Cast: Take part in a lively discussion with the cast after the Thursday evening performances on Nov. 1, 15 and 29. Meet the Cast events are free with a ticket to that evening’s performance.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Intimate Apparel Opens at CT Rep's Studio Theater

Esther Mills (Khetanya Henderson) with Mr. Marks (Harrison Howard Haney) in a scene from Connecticut Repertory Theatre’s production of Intimate Apparel, by Lynn Nottage, playing now through Nov. 4 in the Studio Theatre, Storrs. Photo by Gerry Goodstein.


Connecticut Repertory Theatre will present Intimate Apparel Oct. 25 – Nov. 4, as the first show in its Studio Works Series in the Studio Theatre on the Storrs campus. For tickets and information, call 860-486-2113 or visit www.crt.uconn.edu.

At 35, Esther is lonely. A skilled African-American seamstress in 1905 Manhattan, she makes exquisite undergarments for clients.  Strong, practical and confident Esther resists her landlady’s insistence on marriage for marriage’s sake while cautiously allowing an unexpected friendship, filled with longing, to grow between her and her fabric merchant, an immigrant Jew.
 
After exchanging letters with a West Indian laborer, Esther finally accepts his invitation and marries this man she has never met. Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Lynn Nottage stitches a tale of romance, greed and ambition – and also a tender story of seeking real friendship across the vast social gulf separating a seamstress and a socialite, the yearning of inter-racial as well as inter-faith love, and the persistence of spirit as Esther tries to craft a life as beautiful as one of her camisoles.

Intimate Apparel offers both a historical exploration into the black experience in America in the beginning of the 20th century, as well as a personal exploration into how societal constructs directly affect an individual’s opportunities and choices.

Intimate Apparel won the 2004 New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award for Best Play, the American Theatre Critics/Steinberg New Play Award and the Outer Critics Circle Best Play Award. Nottage has received a MacArthur “Genius” Grant (2007), two NAACP Theatre Awards for performance and the PEN/Laura Pels International Foundation for Theater Award for a playwright in mid-career (2004). Nottage won the OBIE Award for Fabulation, or the Re-Education of Undine and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama for Ruined in 2009. In 2010, she received the Distinguished Playwright Award.

For tickets and information, call 860-486-2113 and visit www.crt.uconn.edu.

All the World's a Stage -- and a Dress at Hartford Stage

Courtesy of Hartford Stage
The theme for Hartford Stage's 2012/13 season, "All the World," is being represented in the "map dress" made entirely out of paper, on display in the theater lobby. 

Hartford Stage costume department's Susan Aziz and Barry Sellers collaborated on the map dress made entirely out of paper. Barry arrived at the idea after purchasing an oversized book of antique maps. Inspired by the colors and images, he brought the idea of a paper map dress to Costume Shop Manager Matt Smart. 

Barry made a pattern for a practice dress out of white butcher paper and used various paper punches to simulate lace and detailed trim. He then teamed up with Susan to print map images from a large scale printer used for blueprints and then use those print-outs as "fabric" for a dress. Susan had the idea to wad up all the paper maps then smooth them out before sewing them together, which gave texture to the dress.

The paper map dress is on display in the Harford Stage lobby through December 2012.

Berenstein Bears Launch Family Series at Westport Playhouse

Courtesy of Westport Country Playhouse
“The Berenstain Bears LIVE in Family Matters, The Musical” will launch the 2012-13 Family Festivities Series at Westport Country Playhouse on Sunday, Nov. 11 at 1 and 4 pm.

Tickets are $18. The new musical is an adaptation of three of The Berenstain Bears’ most beloved books: “The Berenstain Bears Learn about Strangers,” “The Berenstain Bears and Too Much Junk Food,” and “The Berenstain Bears’ Trouble at School.” Using the iconic stories and imagery of the original books, “The Berenstain Bears LIVE in Family Matters” stresses the importance of honesty, health, safety, and family. Adapted from the popular works by Stan and Jan Berenstain, and produced by Matt Murphy Productions, the presentation is recommended for ages 4 and up.

One hour before each performance, Westport’s Wakeman Town Farm will host a pre-show activity focused on healthy food. 

In conjunction with the Family Festivities Series, the Playhouse is hosting a book collection for Read to Grow, Inc., a statewide nonprofit organization that helps parents take an active role in their children's literacy development by providing free children's books to families with limited access and to community resources that serve them. At each Family Festivities performance, bins will be located in the Playhouse lobby for donations of gently used and new children’s books which will be given to families and programs in the greater Fairfield County area through Read to Grow.

The Family Festivities Series will continue with “Angelina Ballerina, The Musical,” on Sunday, Dec. 9, featuring a feisty little mouse with big dreams of becoming a prima ballerina. “Fancy Nancy, The Musical,” on Sunday, Jan. 27, finds Fancy Nancy and her friends auditioning for their very first show, “Deep Sea Dances”; “Junie B. Jones,” on Sunday, Feb. 10, stars outspoken, precocious, lovable Junie B. Jones in a new musical about new friends, new glasses, sugar cookies, and the annual kickball tournament; “How I Became a Pirate,” on Sunday, March 3, is a musical adventure about young Jeremy Jacob, who is recruited by Captain Braid Beard and his mates to join the pirate crew on a quest to bury their treasure; and “The Little Engine That Could™ Earns Her Whistle,” on Sunday, April 7, a new musical that portrays Watty Piper’s timeless tale about hard work, self-confidence, friendship, and believing that anything is possible. 

Everyone in the audience requires a ticket. For more information or tickets, call 203-227-4177, 1-888-927-7529, visit Westport Country Playhouse, 25 Powers Court, off Route 1, Westport; www.westportplayhouse.org.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Hartford Stage Announces Young Playwright Winners

Hartford Stage has announced the winners of the Annual Young Playwrights' Competition, Write On, for students in grades 9-12, and this year's winners are Abigail Kehoe, Alyssa Slotnick, Christopher Snow, Joe Buchek and Jonas Shivers. 

Abigail Kehoe - Classical Magnet School - Grade 12
Abby Kehoe is a senior at Classical Magnet School in Hartford, where she is taking a playwriting class and slowly warming to this dialogue-heavy literary medium. Flash fiction, poetry, and novels are her usual forte, but she is hopeful that this opportunity will expand her writing repertoire and make her a better-rounded thespian. Abby is currently stage-managing Classical's production of Iphigenia 2.0 and preparing for National Novel Writing Month in November, where she will be attempting her first complete novel.

 Alyssa Slotnick - Lewis S. Mills High School - Grade 12
Alyssa Slotnick is a senior at Lewis Mills High School in Burlington, CT. She has a love of both reading and writing, as well as an interest in photography. She is currently taking AP English at her high school as well as several other English classes. Throughout high school she has had an interest in writing short fiction, and though playwriting is a new genre for her, she is very excited to use Write On to its full potential in exploring and learning a new type of writing.

Christopher Snow - Global Communications Academy - Grade 9
Christopher Snow was born in Hartford, CT, and has always been interested in art, film, media direction and production, acting, fashion, and interior design. He had the good idea of doing Write On because he sees it as good start in the art industry, starting with playwriting.

Joe Buchek - Hall High School - Grade 11
Joe Buchek is a junior at Hall High School. He has never written a play before this one and hopes to learn from this workshop.

Jonas Shivers - Hall High School -Grade 12
Jonas Shivers is a senior at Hall High School in West Hartford. Jonas has a large background in technical theater working on a lot shows throughout his four years at Hall, including but not limited to, Moon over Buffalo, Romeo & Juliet, House of Blue Leaves, Our Town, The Children's Hour, Cheaper by the Dozen, and Under a Better Sky. He likes to write short stories. Jonas also is an actor, musician, DJ, and a freestyle skier in the winter. 

Students were asked to submit an idea inspired by a topic that is important to them and relevant in their world and for these selected playwrights, Hartford Stage's Education Department will help with the rest. Winning playwrights sit in on rehearsals for Hartford Stage's Brand:NEW Fall Festival of New Works, participate in writing workshops lead by Hartford Stage's Aetna New Voices Fellow, and see their own plays performed for the public by professional actors and directors. This year, the writers in the Write On program will work with Aetna New Voices Fellow, Matthew Lopez (The Whipping Man).

Theater Review: Next to Normal -- MTC

(Left to right:) Jacob Heimer, Juliet Lambert Pratt, Elissa DeMaria and Will Erat. Photo: Kerry Long
Normal is Relative in Family's Battle with Depression
By Lauren Yarger
Music Theatre of Connecticut is presenting a really pleasing Connecticut regional theater premiere of Tony Award winner Next to Normal through Nov. 4 in Westport.

If you're wondering how that super truss framework that depicts the unfinished home and surging brain synapses of the nothing but "normal" household whose story won the 2009 Tony Award for Best Musical and the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Drama fits on the intimate stage, obviously, it doesn't. Scenic designer Nicholas Schwartz has opted for a gray backdrop with a few basic props. It works, because the story with book and lyrics by Brian Yorkey and edgy music by Tom Kitt stand up on their own and aren't dependent on flashy sets.

The story follows Diana (a terrific Juliet Lambert Pratt), a typical wife and mother, except that she's not. She has been combatting bipolar disorder and depression for years. Coping with the illness strains family relations as husband, Dan (Will Erat), tries to keep the family striving for "normal," neglected daughter Natalie (Elissa DeMaria) turns to drugs for escape and son Gabe (Logan Hart) encourages his mother to go off the meds that keep her from feeling alive.

Diana tries different doctors (all played by Tommy Foster) and different treatments to combat the illness, but without being able to confront its root cause, she can't find her way out of the spiral.

After shock therapy, Diana can't remember her family or details from their past that might help her heal and Dan isn't much help as his own memories of how things were are selective and embellished. Meanwhile, Natalie, scared that she'll end up like her mother, tries to push away a chance at happiness with boyfriend Henry (Jacob Heimer).

Director Kevin Connors has assembled one of MTC's  most talented vocal ensembles for this rock score (musically directed by David Wolfson who conducts a four-man band on the stage). Pratt is chilling as the woman trying so hard to please everyone, but who can't find the secret to her own happiness. She masterfully channels the desperation through body language -- she smiles, but her arms are dead weight as she completes a task; all color drains out of her face as the reality of her thoughts takes over.

Her rendition of "I Miss the Mountains" is heartbreaking. I found myself holding my breath as she threw the last of her meds in the trash -- and I've seen this musical more than once. It's compelling, moving, excellent theater and Pratt is a treat to watch. In addition, perhaps because of the more intimate setting and a fine performance by Erat, Dan's character seems to have more depth. All of the actors deserve kudos, both for acting and vocal performances. It's a solid presentation of a difficult work.

Some complaints: Connors goes for a less graphic presentation, sparing us the bloody scene at the end of act one where Diana slashes her wrists. As a result, we don't understand why she feels compelled to attempt suicide -- in fact a number of people in the audience were not aware that she had done so -- and Dan's moving song "A Light in the Dark" loses depth when he doesn't sing it while cleaning up the blood. There were a couple of technical glitches and any action that takes place with actors sitting on the stage is lost to many because of sight lines in the theater.

Don't let those things, or the "downer" subject matter get in the way of enjoying this performance, however, especially if you haven't seen this musical before. It's a breakthrough piece of theater.

Performances are Friday and Saturday at 8 pm; Saturday at 4 pm; Sunday at 3 pm. MTC is located at 246 Post Road East, Westport. www.musictheatreofct.com.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Joyce Jeffrey Replaces Injured Actress at Seven Angels

Joyce Jeffrey will play the role of Carol in The Last Romance at Seven Angels Theatre, Waterbury, this week. She replaces Marie Wallace who was injured in a fall from the stage during Saturday night's opening.

Wallace fell off the the stage right front part of the stage during a blackout at the end of act one. The second act and Sunday's matinee performances were cancelled. Ticketholders to those shows can exchange for other performances running through Nov. 11. Call the box office at 203-757-4676.

Wallace is doing well, Seven Angels' PR and Marketing Director, reports.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Theater Review: A Gentleman's Guide to Love & Murder

Heather Ayers, Ken Barnett and Jefferson Mays. Photo: Joan Marcus
A Rare Musical Premiere Offers Lighthearted Romp
By Lauren Yarger
Offering its first musical premiere since the 1996-97 season, Hartford Stage presents a tongue-in-cheek, Edwardian romp among the royals in A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder starring Tony-Award-Winner and Connecticut native Jefferson Mays (I Am My Own Wife) as eight different characters.

Mays plays all eight members of the D’Ysquith family being knocked off in zany ways by the ninth-in-line to the earldom they hold. Monty Navarro (Ken Barnett who starred in last season’s February House at Long Wharf) and his mother had been disinherited when she married his undesirable “Castilian” father, so Monty plots revenge. He wins a position in the firm of cousin Asquith D’Ysquith (Mays) and sets upon a murderous plan to eliminate each of the family members standing in his way to the title (including a couple of women, though it isn’t clear how they will inherit since royal titles seldom pass to women if men are available. You can read some info about this in the program.)

With a book by Robert L. Freedman that attempts to evoke the success of the tongue-in-cheek antics of Broadway’s The 39 Steps (Director Darko Tresnjak even borrows some of the bits like shaking clothes to simulate gusting wind), each earl bites the dust in humorous ways. (Price Walman, Rachel Izen, Heather Ayres and Kendal Sparks complete the ensemble, playing a myriad of minor characters in the tale, told in flashback form as Monty writes his memoirs in jail on the eve of his execution for murder.)

The story appears to be an adaptation of the movie “Kind Hearts & Coronets” by Robert Hamer and the 1907 novel “Israel Rank: The Autobiography of a Criminal by Roy Horniman” on which that was based. Neither of these works are credited in the program. Tresnjak does write notes there, however, about some of the process of development (some eight years) for Freedman, who also wrote lyrics, and collaborator, composer Steven Lutvak. Plot points and other details are changed (in the movie, it’s a Dukedom and the name is Chalfont) and the ways the family members meet their maker are different, so it’s not exactly the same, but star Alec Guinness plays the multiple roles there too in what is pretty much the same story. The musical, receiving its world premiere at Hartford Stage, was developed in part at the 2006 Sundance Institute Theatre Lab and is presented in association with the Old Globe Theatre in San Diego which will present the show next spring.

Meanwhile, complicating Monty’s plans to take his royal seat are romances with his feeling torn between adulterous lust for the beautiful Sibella (Lisa O’Hare), who spurned him to marry a wealthy rival, and his cousin Phoebe (Chilina Kennedy, who delights with a beautiful operatic soprano). All of the action takes place on an ornate proscenium stage designed by Alexander Dodge to accommodate among other things, a beautiful garden where bees attack and a winter wonderland pond where ice-skating turns deadly (and where corny choreography by Peggy Hickey makes a smile – and the ice -- crack). Linda Cho designs costumes that aren’t quite true to the period, but which accommodate the choreography.

Certainly, there are moments of humor. Mays throws himself into each of the roles, the most memorable of which are the creepy Rev. Lord Ezekiel D’Ysquith who takes a header off a tower (in a sewer-tumbling tribute to Javert in Les Mis by Dodge and projection, lighting and sound designers Aaron Rhyne, Philip Rosenberg and Dan Moses Schreier,) and Henry, a double-entendre speaking shy cousin whose duet “Better with a Man” with Monty is a hoot. He also makes us laugh as Lord Aldabert expressing his exasperation (and bringing to mind current presidential campaign themes) with “I Don’t Understand the Poor.”

Ayers shines as Lady Eugenia, the other half of a marriage-from-hell pairing with Mays as well.

The cast, musically directed by Paul Staroba, who conducts a six-member man in a pit beneath the stage (made possible by last season’s renovations), is strong vocally – though Barnett struggles at the very high end of his register.

Nice orchestrations are provided by Jonathan Tunick, but Lutvak’s repetitive sounding music is not memorable and many of the individual tunes continue way too long. The show’s more-than-two-and-a-half-hour run time could be tightened considerably with some needed trimming and elimination. Prime candidates for the cutting block are the opening number titled “A Warning to the Audience” which seemed more like a place holder for “insert opening number here” than as a set up for the show, and the second-act opener “Why Are All the D’Ysquiths Dying?,” an unnecessary recapitulation of everything that has happened so far. Lutvak and Freedman’s many-syllabled, exposition-filled lyrics are far more complicated than the plot. Trust me.

Tresjnak brings the actors out into the house a couple of times via a horse-shoe extension around the back of those seated on floor level in front of the stage. It’s a nice touch and he adds some comedic panache to staging a scene where a trapped Monty keeps both love interests from seeing each other with opposite doors.

It’s fun theater, if not exactly new. And seeing a musical at Hartford Stage is almost as likely as eight members in the line to the earldom kicking off, so enjoy it while you can through Nov. 11 at Hartford Stage, 50 Church St., Hartford. Matinee performances are Sundays and selected Wednesdays and Saturdays at 2 pm. Evening performances are Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday at 7:30 pm; Friday and Saturday at 8 pm; Stay/Play Performance at 6:30 pm Oct. 31. Tickets range $26.50-$93.50 (860) 527-5151; www.hartfordstage.org.

Casting Set for Brand:NEW Fest at Hartford Stage

Casting is set for readings at the Brand:NEW Fall Festival of New Works Oct. 25 - 28 at Hartford Stage.

The Festival will include readings of five new plays by Octavio Solis, Bess Wohl, Dan O'Brien, Matthew Lopez andJanine Nabers, as well as a playwrights' panel Oct. 28 at 4:30 pm. Se Llama Cristina, by Octavio Solis and directed by Loretta Greco, will feature William Zielinski (The Lovely Bones, film), Nancy Rodriguez (The Tempest, Oregon Shakespeare Festival) and Felix Solis (Havana is Waiting, Cherry Lane Theatre). 

Oak Dale, by Dan O'Brien and directed by Elizabeth Williamson, will feature Michael Cullen (Cobb, Falcon Theatre). Reverberation, by Matthew Lopez and directed by Maxwell Williams, will feature Nick Westrate (the North American premiereof Tribes,) and Chris Perfetti (Sons of the Prophet, Roundabout Theatre Company). 

A Swell in the Ground, by Janine Nabers and directed by Hana Sharif, will feature Sofia Jean Gomez (Angels in America: Part 1&2, Signature Theatre Company), Patch Darragh (The Glass Menagerie, Roundabout Theatre Company) and Leroy McClain (Broadway's Cymbeline)

The schedule of events for Brand:NEW is as follows:

Se Llama Cristina: Thursday, Oct, 25 at 7:30 pm
American Hero: Friday, Oct. 26 at 7:30 pm
Oak Dale: Saturday, Oct. 27 at 2 pm
Reverberation: Saturday, Oct. 27 at 7:30 pm
A Swell in the Ground: Sunday, Oct. 28 at 2 pm

Brand:NEW readings will be at Hartford Stage's Rehearsal Studio 2 at 942 Main St., Hartford (the Residence Inn building). See all five readings for $25 ($20 for Hartford Stage subscribers) or individual readings for $10 each. Tickets are available by calling the Hartford Stage box office at 860-527-5151 or by visiting www.hartfordstage.org.

Cindy Wiliams Blesses Palace Theater with Performance in Nunset Boulevard

Cindy Williams. Photo: courtesy of the Palace
The Little Sisters of Hoboken have gone Hollywood in the highly anticipated, latest installment of Dan Goggin’s international smash-hit Nunsense franchise, Nunset Boulevard: The Nunsense Hollywood Bowl Show, which will be presented at the Palace Theater in Waterbury on Thursday, Nov. 8, at 7:30 pm.

The tour stars Cindy Williams (Shirley of “Laverne & Shirley” fame), who will reprise her role as “Mother Superior” from the Meadow Brook Theatre presentation of the original Nunsense. Tickets are $75 and $45 and can be purchased by phone at 203-346-2000, online atwww.palacetheaterct.org, or in person at the Box Office, 100 East Main St., Waterbury.

Nunset Boulevard follows the latest exploits of The Little Sisters of Hoboken, who have been invited to perform at the Hollywood Bowl. They are thrilled at the prospect until they arrive and realize that they are booked into the Hollywood Bowl-A-Rama - a bowling alley with a cabaret lounge - and not the famed “Bowl” they imagined. Things do not go as planned until The Sisters catch wind of the fact that Movie Producer James Todd is across the street auditioning for roles in his new movie musical about the life of Dolores Hart, the famous movie star who became a nun. The Sisters, thinking they are naturals for parts, race off to audition during their show’s intermission. Could this be their big break?

As part of a special fundraiser for the Abbey of Regina Laudis in Bethlehem, CT, where Sister Dolores Hart currently resides, a portion of ticket proceeds from the Palace’s presentation of Nunset Boulevard will benefit the Abbey’s New Horizons Fund. Before the show, Sister Dolores will meet and greet patrons in the orchestra lobby, and after the show, patrons who purchased a $75 ticket will be invited to attend a post-show reception meet-and-greet in the mezzanine lobby with star Cindy Williams, director Dan Goggin and other members of the cast.

At 5:30 pm, Emily’s Catering Group will prepare a preshow dinner in the Palace’s Poli Club, located on the Mezzanine level of the theater. The dinner is $40 per member and $50 per non-member, which includes tax, service fees, coffee, and tea. A cash bar is also available. Seating is limited, and reservations can be made when purchasing tickets through the Box Office.

Nunsense, the creation of Catholic-school-educated author/composer Dan Goggin, premiered in New York City at the Cherry Lane Theater in 1985, where it won four Outer Critics' Circle Awards, including “Best Off-Broadway Musical.” It then transferred to the Douglas Fairbanks Theater on 42nd Street, where it ran for over 10 years, and has been presented all over the world in over 8,000 productions, grossing more than $500,000,000. During its New York run,Nunsense became the second longest running musical in Off Broadway history, eclipsed only byThe Fantasticks. For more information, visit www.nunsense.com.

Win Two Tickets to See Broadway's Golden Boy


Golden Boy, starring Danny Burstein (South Pacific, Follies, "Boardwalk Empire"), Danny Mastrogiorgio, Seth Numrich (War Horse), Tony Shalhoub (Lend Me A Tenor, "Monk") and Yvonne Strahovski ("Chuck," "Dexter") begins previews Nov. 8. 

Set in the vivid world of prizefighting’s past, Golden Boy, Clifford Odets’ most popular play, is the story of Joe Bonaparte, a promising young violinist who forsakes his family and artistic dreams for the lure of fame and fortune in the ring. Bartlett Sher (Awake and Sing!, Joe Turner’s Come and Gone, South Pacific) directs this 75th Anniversary production in the Belasco, the same theater in which it premiered.

For a chance to win a voucher for two tickets to a performance, email your name, address (US only) and a comment about why you would like to see the show with "GOLDEN BOY" in the subject line by Friday, Oct. 26 at midnight (Eastern time) to masterworkproductions@yahoo.com. All responders will be entered in a drawing for the voucher (good through Dec. 13, 2012). Winner will be notified Saturday, Oct. 27.

Composition of HSO's Upcoming Schedule....

JAZZ AND STRINGS: FIRST LIGHT- A TRIBUTE TO FREDDIE HUBBARDwith Brian Lynch, trumpet; Gene Bozzi, artistic director and drums; Edward Rozie, bass; Walter Gwardyak, arranger and piano
Friday, November 2, 2012 │ 8:00 p.m.
Theater for the Performing Arts at the Learning Corridor│Free Secure Parking
The HSO will join with trumpeter Brain Lynch in a tribute to this 1971 album, considered to be a modern classic.

MASTERWORKS SERIES: APPALACHIAN SPRING
with Carolyn Kuan, Music Director & conductor; Tony Spada, electric guitar
Thursday November 8, 2012 │ 7:30 p.m.
Friday, November 9, 2012 │ 8:00 p.m.
Saturday, November 10, 2012 │ 8:00 p.m.
Sunday, November 11, 2012 │ 3:00 p.m.
Belding Theater │ The Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts
Appalachian Spring has endured as one of America’s most beloved orchestral works, with its memorable conclusion based on the Shaker hymn, “Simple Gifts.” Hear Carolyn Kuan conduct the beautiful original orchestration, along with Dvořák’s Symphony No. 8, drawn from Bohemian folk music, and Daugherty’s Gee’s Bend, which takes its bluesy inspiration from the spirituals, quilts and quilters of Gee’s Bend, Alabama.

POPS SERIES: KING OF SWING with BIG BAD VOODOO DADDY
with Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, guest artists
Saturday, November 17, 2012 │ 7:30 p.m.
Mortensen Hall │ The Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts
Grab your “King of Swing” and “Go Daddy O” to see the HSO and guest artists Big Bad Voodoo Daddy take a New Orleans-style twist on the legendary big bands and swing orchestras as part of their Rattle Them Bones Tour. “Retro hep-cat cool.” – Rolling Stone. “The music picks up a beat and doesn’t let go.” – Everett Daily Herald.

SUNDAY SERENADES: FOUR CENTURIES IN FRANCE
with Leonid Sigal, artistic director and concertmaster; Michael Wheeler, HSO principal viola; Eric Dahlin, HSO assistant principal cello; Edward Rozie, HSO principal bass; Greig Shearer, HSO principal flute; Heather Taylor, HSO principal oboe; Curt Blood, HSO principal clarinet; Louis Lazzerini, HSO Assistant Principal Bassoon; Barbara Hill, HSO principal horn; Margreet Francis, HSO principal piano
Sunday, November 18, 2012 │ 2:00 p.m.
Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art
In conjunction with the exhibition Medieval to Monet: French Paintings in the Wadsworth Atheneum, enjoy four centuries of music by French composers Couperin, Pleyel, Debussy and Ravel performed by HSO principal musicians. These paintings, drawings and pastels, some rarely on view, represent every major period in French artistic practice from the 15th to the 19th centuries and include works by the country’s leading artists such as Poussin, Chardin, Boucher, Delacroix, Monet and Vuillard.

MASTERWORKS SERIES: PACHELBEL AND TCHAIKOVSKY
with Joel Smirnoff, conductor; Michael Wheeler, viola
Thursday, November 29, 2012 │ 7:30 p.m.
Friday, November 30, 2012 │ 8:00 p.m.
Saturday, December 1, 2012 │ 8:00 p.m.
Sunday, December 2, 2012 │ 3:00 p.m.
Belding Theater │ The Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts
Eminent Julliard String Quartet violinist and conductor Joel Smirnoff will make his HSO debut leading some of the most memorable string compositions in the world, as well as Tchaikovsky’s rich and evocative Symphony No. 1, “Winter Daydreams.”

HANDEL’S MESSIAH
with Richard Coffey, guest conductor; CONCORA- Richard Coffey, artistic director
Friday, December 14, 2012 │ 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, December 15, 2012 │ 7:30 p.m.
Asylum Hill Congregational Church
HSO and CONCORA come together in an intimate and inspirational setting to perform one of the most famous choral works ever written- Handel’s Messiah- featuring the sensational “Hallelujah Chorus.”
Ticket Information: $35 General Admission

POPS SERIES: HOLIDAY CIRQUE SPECTACULAR
with Carolyn Kuan, conductor; Cirque de la Symphonie, guest artists
Saturday, December 22, 2012 │ 3:00 p.m. & 7:30 p.m.
Mortensen Hall │ The Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts
The HSO’s holiday experience will rise to new heights as Cirque de la Symphonie performs on and above the stage. Hear holiday favorites while experiencing an awe-inspiring performance as the circus meets the symphony. Stunning aerial feats, strong-men, mind-boggling contortionists and juggling acts will take your breath away as HSO celebrates the magic and the spirit of the season with the ultimate holiday extravaganza.

MASTERWORKS SERIES: SYMPHONIE FANSTASTIQUE

with Carolyn Kuan, music director & conductor; Alexander Kerr, violin
Thursday, January 10, 2013 │ 7:30 p.m.
Friday, January 11, 2013 │ 8:00 p.m.
Saturday, January 12, 2013 │ 8:00 p.m.
Sunday, January 13, 2013 │ 3:00 p.m.
Belding Theater │ The Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts
Rachmaninoff’s Vocalise is one of the most romantic classical pieces ever written. Symphonie Fantastique changed the musical world and takes listeners to a place just as vivid, obsessive and passionate as it was in Berlioz’s day. Barber’s Violin Concerto is lyrically indulgent, from the composer who also wrote the beautiful Adagio for Strings. Join HSO and world-renowned violinist Alexander Kerr on this amorous musical adventure.
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Ticket Information: To purchase tickets or for more information, please contact HSO ticket services at (860)244-2999 or visit www.hartfordsymphony.org.
-Single tickets to the 2012-2013 Masterworks Series range in price from $35.50-$70.50.
-Single tickets to the 2012-2013 Pops Series range in price from $20-$67.50.
-Subscriptions to the 2012-2013 Sunday Serenades Series are $64; single tickets are $30 ($25 for HSO Subscribers and Atheneum members). Ticket price includes general admission to the Wadsworth Atheneum on the days of the concerts.
-Subscriptions to the 2012-2013 Jazz and Strings Series are $104 for center orchestra seating and $54 for general orchestra seating; single tickets are $40 for center orchestra seating and $20 for general orchestra seating.
-Tickets to Handel’s Messiah are $35 for general admission. Student tickets are available for $15.
-A limited number of $25 tickets are available for patrons age 40 and under at the Masterworks and Pops Series’ Saturday performances.
-Student tickets, available for Masterworks, Pops, and Jazz and Strings concerts, are $10.

The Hartford Symphony Orchestra’s 2012-2013 season is sponsored by Saint Francis Hospital and Medical Center. The Hartford Symphony Orchestra receives major support from the Greater Hartford Arts Council, the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, and the Connecticut Commission on Culture & Tourism. The 2012-2013 Masterworks Series is sponsored by MetLife Foundation and The Edward C. and Ann T. Roberts Foundation, with additional concert support from Cigna, Hartford Hospital, and the Katharine K. McLane and Henry R. McLane Charitable Trust. The HSO 2012-2013 POPS! Series is presented by United Technologies Corporation, with additional concert support from Hartford Hospital and Prudential Retirement. The 2012-2013 Sunday Serenades Series is sponsored in part by The Saunders Foundation Music Endowment at the Wadsworth Atheneum.

John Denver Tribute Plays at Downtown Cabaret

Courtesy of Downton Cabaret Theatre
Tribute to John Denver featuring Ted Vigil with special guest Steve Weisberg, Denver’s lead guitar player, plays Bridgeport’s Downtown Cabaret Theatre for two performances only Saturday, Oct. 27 at 5:30 and 8 pm. 

The 75-minute show will be performed without an intermission at the Downtown Cabaret Theatre, 263 Golden Hill St., Bridgeport. Doors will open 30 minutes prior to each scheduled performance. All Reserved tickets are: $33: 203-576-1636;  downtowncabaret.org; Box Office Hours: 11am to 4:30pm – Sundays thru Saturdays, open 90 minutes prior to scheduled performance times.

Goodspeed Announces 50th Anniversary Season Lineup

Goodspeed has announced the lineup for its 50th anniversary season.

Good News (Words and Music by B.G. DeSylva, Lew Brown and Ray Henderson) will run from April 12 – June 22; Jerry Herman’s Hello, Dolly! will run from June 28 – Sept.8; and Frank Loesser’s The Most Happy Fella will run from Sept. 20 – Dec. 1. on Broadway.

Advance season subscriptions are now on sale (860-873-8668). Single tickets go on public sale beginning Feb. 17, 2013.

Connecticut Arts Connections for the Week of Oct. 22

Dance-theater artist Judy Dworin's new work “Meditations from a Garden Seat,” will have its premiere at Charter Oak Cultural Center, Nov. 1-3. It is intended to "challenge common perceptions of the incarcerated by depicting their questing spirit, permanent sorrows, and joyous transformations within the barren confines of prison." General admission is $25, $15 for seniors and GHAC Let’s Go! members, and $10 for students. For more information, visit www.charteroakcenter.org or call 860-249-1207.

Caveman, a play by Richard Maxwell, directed by Roy Faudree will be presented in Garmany Hall at Trinity College’s Austin Arts Center, Thursday, Nov. 15 at 7:30 pm and Friday and Saturday, Nov. 16 and 17 at 4:30 and 8:30 pm. Running time is one hour, with no intermission. Admission is free; seating is limited, however, so reservations are strongly recommended. 860-297-2199.

Due to illness, last Friday's Navaratri Festival concert, "B. Balasubrahmaniyan: Vocal Music of South India", was postponed until Friday, Nov. 2 at 8 pm in Crowell Concert Hall at Wesleyan University. The  Box Office is contacting all ticket holders; tickets for the postponed concert will be honored at the rescheduled concert.

Courtesy of TheaterWorks
FOCUS NEXT, is a juried show presented by TheaterWorks and Paper New England. Faculty from the Hartford Art School, University of Hartford, Central Connecticut State University, Wesleyan University, Trinity College and the University of Connecticut were invited to submit the work of BFA / BA students who best represented the strength of their programs. The artists included in FOCUS NEXT are either recent graduates or about to graduate: Hartford Art School - Sandy Chase, Akino Fukawa and Kaitlin Lennon; from Trinity College - Katherine Crescenzo,; from Wesleyan Uniiversity - Cordelia Blanchard; from UCONN - Katie Wild; Matthew Comeau and Taylor Lynch; and from CCSU - Alexa Fermeglia. Also on view throughout TheaterWorks first floor - large works by New Haven artist JD Richey. Now Through Nov. 11. Gallery Hours: Monday through Friday 9 - 3 pm. By appointment - and 90 minutes pre-show.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Seven Angels Matinee Cancelled After Actress Injured

Ron Crawford and Marie Wallace. Photo courtesy of Seven Angels Theatre.
Actress Marie Wallace was injured in a fall from the stage at the Opening Night performance of The Last Romance, a play by Joe DiPietro, at Seven Angels Theatre last night.

Today's matinee (Oct 21) has been cancelled. Ticket holders for both performances may exchange tickets for a different date.

The first act of the comedy/romance had just finished when, in the blackout into intermission, Wallace fell off the front stage right portion of the stage. Houselights came back up and theater staff rushed to her aid. An ambulance was called and the stunned audience was asked to exit into the lobby for intermission.

After about 10 minutes, personnel started setting up food service for what was supposed to be the post-show party. An announcement was made saying that Wallace was in "good spirits" and was being taken to the hospital. The second act was cancelled and the aidience invited to enjoy the food. Later the theater announced that today's matinee also would be cancelled.

Updates on Wallace's condition and any additional schedule changes will be posted here at The CT Arts Connection as they become available. The Seven Angels Box Office is located at 1 Plank Rd., Waterbury. For information call 203-757-4676.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Theater Review: Venus in Fur -- TheaterWorks

Liv Rooth and David Christopher Wells. Photo: Lanny Nagler
It Was A Dark -- and 50-Shades-of-Grey-Kind -of -- Night
By Lauren Yarger
It was a dark and stormy -- and 50-Shades-of-Grey-kind-of -- night. If that opening sentence piques your interest, you’re going to love David Ives’ play Venus in Fur opening the 2012-2013 season over at TheaterWorks Hartford. If not, you might want to stay home.

While thunder and lightning rage (thank light and sound designers John Lasiter, Vincent Olivieri and Beth Lake), playwright Thomas (David Christopher Wells) prepares to head home to his fiancée after a long day of frustrating auditions during which he hasn’t found an actress to play Vanda, the character in his adaptation of a 19th-century erotic novel about sadomasochism.

In walks a ditsy blonde, delayed by the storm, who begs for a chance to read for the part. Her name is Vanda (Liv Rooth), after all. She was born to play Vanda. Thomas finally agrees to read a few pages with her and find out whether “she can take direction.”

She quickly sets about setting the mood in the drab rehearsal room (Donald Eastman, set design) and getting into one of the many costume items she has brought in an oversized bag (Alejo Vietti, costume design).

Magically, the crass blonde is transformed into the polished woman from the erotic novel and Thomas, intrigued, eagerly steps into the role of the nobleman who begs her to dominate him. Vanda somehow seems to have the lines memorized and they begin an extended exploration of the script. Initially he sees it as a serious love story, but Vanda sees it as porn.

Rooth and Wells step in and out of characters, switching different voices – sometimes in mid sentence -- as Thomas and Vanda play the characters and step back to discuss their motivation or what might improve a scene in the play. 

While the characters in the play change roles – Vanda agrees to overpower her lover and make him her slave -- the dynamics between the in-charge playwright and worshipping actress also switch and the modern-day Vanda starts to sense that Thomas would welcome a firmer hand from her. As the “audition” progresses, truth is revealed about Thomas’ relationship with his fiancée and about why Vanda really is there with him.

The play is fun to watch because of the morphing between characters and there are some moments of humor. The thrust (pardon the pun) of the 90 minutes, however, is to provide a titillating glimpse into the word of sadomasochism. The dialogue from Thomas’ play is all about it as the nobleman details his abuse as a child by an aunt who opened his eyes to the world of domination. The language gets very specific as Vanda steps into the role of dominatrix. 

“There is nothing more sexual than pain, nothing more pleasurable than degradation,” he tells her.”

Meanwhile, the theme plays out in the present too as Thomas and Vanda’s relationship heats up when the balance of power shifts. (No one under the age of 18 is allowed for this show because of the adult language and sexual content.)

There really was an 1870 novella called “Venus in Furs” by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch for whom the kinky type of sex is named and the current blockbuster success of the “50 Shades of Grey” novels proves interest hasn’t waned. 

Ives’ play was a success both Off-Broadway and on, due greatly to the powerhouse, breakout performance of Nina Arianda who won this year’s Tony as Best Actress in a play for her turn as Vanda (Rooth was her understudy on Broadway).

Here, under the direction of Rob Ruggiero, the play seems less complex, the subtle changes more pronounced, the mystery more telegraphed. Rooth’s ditsy blonde seems forced and surprisingly there isn’t much sizzle between the actors who reportedly are romantically involved in real life.

But if you, as Thomas says, “go to plays for passion we don’t get in life,” get right over to the TheaterWorks Box Office.

Venus in Fur has been extended at TheaterWorks, 233 Pearl St., Hartford through Nov. 18; Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday at 7:30 pm; Friday and Saturday at 8 pm; Weekend matinees 2:30 pm (except Nov. 4 – no matinee and special evening performance at 7:30) Tickets $17 college student; $50 general admission; $13 extra for center reserved seating (860) 527-7838; www.theatreworkshartford.org.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Theater Review: A Raisin in the Sun -- Westport

Luka Kain, Lynda Gravátt, and Susan Kelechi Watson . Photo:. Charles Erickson
How it All Started -- Before Clybourne Park
By Lauren Yarger
A Raisin n the Sun has been a classic, telling of the American African experience at the dawn of the Civil Rights movement on Chicago's South Side, since it first debuted on Broadway in 1959 (the first play by an African-American woman to be produced on the Great White Way). While some plays that broke ground in the mid 20th century have seemed sleepy and a mere rehash of old concerns when they have been revived recently, that's not the case for Westport County Playhouse's neat production directed by Phylicia Rashad.
 
A focus on characters -- whose future legacy is the premise of the 2011 Pulitzer Prize winning play Clybourne Park -- makes this production of Lorraine Hansberry's work feel like a visit to old friends, or a smile-filled time of flipping the memories in a family photo album because we know how it all turned out. Rashad herself brings memories to the show: she won the 2004 Tony Award for best Actress for her portrayal of Ruth in the Broadway revival.
 
Hansberry was inspired to write A Raisin in the Sun by her family's battle against racial segregation in Chicago. The Younger family is awaiting the arrival of an insurance check that could change their lives and get them out of the "rat trap" they rent. It's crowded. Sharing the apartment are matriarch Lena (Lynda Gravátt), daughter Beneatha (Edena Hines), son Walter Lee (Billy Eugene Jones) and his wife, Ruth (Susan Kelchi Watson), their son, Travis (Luka Kain) who has to make his bed on the living room couch. Each has a different idea of how the $10,000 left after the death of Lena's husband should be used, but most vocal is Walter Lee. He wants to leave behind his job of a "yes, sir," "no, sir," chauffeur it to invest in a liquor store with a couple of buddies.
 
Lena, making plain to Walter Lee that she is the head of the family, decrees that part of the money wil be used to finance Beneatha's dream to be a doctor and another part will finance a dream she shares with Ruth: a home of their own. Walter Lee's drinking hasn't helped the growing estrangement between him and his wife and she has plans to abort the baby. Moving up might just keep the family together. The dream almost turns into a nightmare, however, when Lena puts a down payment on a house in the all-white neighborhood of Clybourne Park.
 
Karl Linder (John Hemphill), president of the neighborhood's "welcoming committee," pays a visit and makes it clear that the Clybourne Park folks don't want any of "you people" bringing down the values of their homes. He offers to buy the Youngers out of their agreement -- a proposition that first angers the family, but later might be necessary when Walter Lee makes a huge mistake and invests some funds in a scheme with sidekick Bobo (Alvin Crawford).
 
Meanwhile, Benny struggles to find an identity, the extremes of which are represented in the two men she dates: Joseph Asagai (Hubert Point-Du Jour), a fellow student from Nigeria who encourages her to embrace her roots and George Murchison (Gabriel Brown), a sort of nerdy guy who has assimilated himself into the white culture.

The decisions they make and the effect give the play its name, taken from the poem “Harlem” by Langston Hughes, which includes the lines: “What happens to a dream deferred? Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun?” Clybourne Park by Bruce Norris is a response to A Raisin in the Sun and reprises the Linder character. (You can see Clybourne Park here in Connecticut May 8- June 2 at Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven).

Performances are good (David Blackwell associate directs), with actors clothed in period (and African) garb by costume designer Esosa on Edward Burbridge's detailed set that show a worse-for-wear apartment. Gravátt propels the show as the wise, faith-grounded matriarch who wants something better for her children and Watson delivers a layered Ruth full of warmth and depth.

A Raisin in The Sun plays through Nov. 3 at the Playhouse, 25 Powers Court, Westport. Ticket and performance information: 203-227-4177; www.westportplayhouse.org.

Other news about the show:

Westport Country Playhouse will present “A Day for Community,” on Sunday, Oct. 28, when all tickets will be $15 for the 3 pm matinee performance. Following the performance, there will be a “Post-Show Conversation: A Day for Community” centered on the theme of community as reflected in Hansberry’s play, featuring David J. Dent, professor of journalism at New York University, and Larri Mazon, chair of the Bridge Building Ministry at the Council of Churches of Greater Bridgeport. Additional guests to be announced. Before the performance, there will be a reception in the Playhouse lobby.

Theater Review: Satchmo at the Waldorf -- Long Wharf

John Douglas Thompson. Photo: T. Charles Erickson
Satchmo Blows in to Long Wharf for a High-Note-Hitting Backstage Chat
By Lauren Yarger
It’s 1971, Louis Armstrong has just finished a performance at New York’s Waldorf-Astoria and we all are invited backstage as the great trumpet player takes a few minutes to record some of his memoirs for his autobiography. 

Thanks to a masterful performance by John Douglas Thompson, directed by Gordon Edelstein, the years – and any questions we might have about the man behind the mask of the legend – soon fall away as we are drawn in to Satchmo at the Waldorf, a new play by Terry Teachout, at Long Wharf Theatre’s Stage II.

The intimate setting of Armstrong’s dressing room (Lee Savage, design) makes us feel right at home, while revealing things about the star his audience doesn’t get to see when he’s performing on stage: there’s the oxygen tank from which he immediately inhales after his performance, and the prescription meds that tell us Satchmo’s health is failing, for example.

“How did I get so old,” he wonders.

He changes clothes (Ilona Somogyi, costume design) and reflects on the career that finally landed him at the hotel’s famed Empire Room.

The story is a harmony of biography, history and character – lots of that – peppered with humor and language – lots of that too (the show posts a warning that it is for mature audiences).

Satchmo shares details about his beginings and manager, Joe Glaser, who rescued him from Chicago’s Al Capone mob, made him a star, then in Armstrong’s eyes, betrayed him. There also are thoughts about three failed marriages and a fourth success with current wife, Lucille. Along the way there is a long uphill fight as Armstrong builds a career in racially segregated America and criticism from other black celebrities, like Dizzy Gillespie and Miles Davis, who call him a “Tom” for smiling and dancing around to please the white man.

Satchmo tells a different story, however, of surviving in a world where he wasn’t allowed to stay at hotels where he entertained because of Jim Crow laws, where the blacks who worked in the kitchen often were the ones who made sure he got a meal and where even bathrooms weren’t available to the non-white who is considered the greatest jazz musician of the 20th century. 

Besides embodying Armstrong, Thompson also expertly steps into the characters of Glaser and Davis, aided by lighting changes (Stephen Strawbridge, design), to give their perspectives on events. It keeps the 90 minutes brisk and engaging.
Adding to the atmosphere are some snippets of music (John Gromada, sound design) to give a sense of the high-note piercing trumpet playing and scat singing that made Armstrong so popular and took hits like “What a Wonderful World” and “Hello Dolly” to the top of the charts (the latter passing the Beatles for the number-one slot).

Thompson gives one of the most complete portrayals of a character you will ever see on stage. The performance is enhanced by a very good script by Teachout, who wrote the play following the completion of his biography about Satchmo: “Pops: A Life of Louis Armstrong.” Teachout skillfully avoids the pitfalls that often make these biographical pieces sound like someone repeating a bunch of facts. He knows what those are like and how to avoid them since he is the theater critic for the Wall Street Journal.

This one is a don’t miss. Go get jazzed in the wonderful world of John Douglas Thompson at the Long Wharf through Nov. 4 on Stage II; Tuesday and Wednesday at 7 pm; Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 8 pm; Matinees Wednesday and Sunday at 2 pm, Saturday at 3 pm. Tickets are $45-$65 www.longwharf.orgor 203-787-4282.

Pulitzer Prize-winner Quiara Hudes on Tap at O'Neill Event Tonight

The National Playwrights Conference and the National Music Theater Conference, programs of the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center, will be the focus of an evening at the Martin E. Segal Theatre Center at the City University of New York. The event, on Monday, October 15th, is free and open to the public and begins at 6:30 pm at the Martin E. Segal Theater Center at 365 Fifth Ave., New York.

The evening, “The O’Neill Center: A Safe Haven for Playwrights,” will welcome Pulitzer Prize-winner Quiara Hudes (Water by the Spoonful, In the Heights), Tony Award nominee Barbara Walsh (Company, Falsettos), and other artists associated with the O’Neill. The event will feature readings from plays and musicals recently developed there and reflections on the O’Neill’s storied past. Wendy C. Goldberg, Artistic Director of the O’Neill’s National Playwrights Conference, and Paulette Haupt, Artistic Director of the O’Neill’s National Music Theater Conference, will discuss upcoming programs, submission information, and the O’Neill’s plans for the future. Moderated by Helen Shaw.

The O’Neill is currently accepting scripts for development during the 2013 National Playwrights Conference. Applicants may submit works to the O’Neill’s Open Submissions Process through Friday, Oct. 26, 2012. The 2013 National Music Theater Conference will be accepting applications from Nov.1 through Dec., 2012.

Visit http://www.theoneill.org/summer-conferences for application and guidelines. Direct any questions about the conferences to Anne G. Morgan, Literary Manager at (860) 443-5378 ext. 227 or email litoffice@theoneill.org.
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Lauren Yarger with playwright Alfred Uhry at the Mark Twain House. Photo: Jacques Lamarre)

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