Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Theater Review: Catch Me if You Can -- The Bushnell

The Catch Me if You Can Tour Company, Photo By Carol Rosegg
Larger-Than-Life Story Gets Over-the-Top Treatment
By Lauren Yarger
The true story of a teenager who plays a game of Catch Me if You Can with the FBI is already larger than life, but this musical, making a tour stop at the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts in Hartford, takes it way over the top by adding full-scale musical numbers, kick-line choreography and glitzy costumes.

Maybe the show's creative team sensed something nipping at its own heels: the need to be even more sensational than the popular autobiography by Frank Abagnale, Jr. and the film based on it starring Leonardo Di Caprio as the young white-collar criminal who eluded the FBI for years back in the 1960s while he forged checks and documents in the course of impersonating an airline pilot, a doctor and a lawyer.

The stage adaptation (with a book by Terrence McNally) is told as though it were a TV special complete with a band on stage (Music Direction by Matthew Smedal), video projections (designed by Bob Bonniol) and some spectacular lighting effects designed by Kenneth Posner. David Rockwell designs the set.

Frank (Stephen Anthony) looks up to his father, Frank Abagnale, Sr. (Dominic Fortuna), a successful New Rochelle businessman who used his charms to win the affections, among many suitors, of his beautiful war bride, Paula (Caitlin Maloney). When his father’s charms start to fade and he is under investigation by the IRS, Paula seeks comfort elsewhere and teenager Frank leaves to make his fortune in New York City and to do what he can to get his father back on his feet and reunited with his mother.

He quickly discovers a talent for fraud and starts writing doctored checks. He perfects the art along with document forgery and starts cashing checks under different names (a chorus line of girls dressed as a Swiss army knife, a bottle of ink and a container of glue are deemed necessary to help tell this part of the story by Director Jack O’Brien and Choreographer Jerry Mitchell). 

His scheme attracts the attention of the FBI, especially Agent Carl Hanratty (Merritt David Janes), who figures out Frank’s pattern and starts to close in. Frank throws him off the trail by assuming the identity of a Pan Am pilot. Not only does he manage to get a lot of stewardesses (costumer William Ivey Long dresses them in revealing, very short uniforms while Frank sports a glittering version of a pilot’s jacket), but he also flies free. He hops a plane to visit his father, who has been reduced to hanging out in bars since his wife has taken up with his best friend, but he refuses help from his son.

As the game of “Catch Me if You Can” intensifies, Frank changes identities and becomes an emergency room doctor (complete with a chorus line of miniskirt-clad nurses) where he meets the girl of his dreams: Brenda Strong (Aubrey Mae Davis), a young nurse who also ran away from her past. Frank convinces her to return to New Orleans and reconcile with her parents (D. Scott Withers and Amy Burgmaier). Frank wants a life with Brenda, so he declares that he also is a lawyer and accepts Strong’s invitation to join the family firm.

His engagement announcement gives Carl the clue he needs to pick up the trail of the young con artist with whom he has developed a relationship through the years, particularly through phone calls at Christmas when the two lonely men touch base. Without giving too much away (and you probably have seen the movie any way….) the real Frank Abagnale, Jr. today is one of the FBI’s leading authorities on secure documents, fraud and embezzlement. 

This show is a musical that should be a play. The story is interesting enough on its own to carry a production. If we really need music, Marc Shaiman’s score, mostly forgettable, large production numbers, fits McNally’s book, but the concept is all wrong. There’s an ensemble of more than 30 people up there to tell what really is the story of two men. Hanratty’s part gets lost in the hoopla and so does the developing relationship between him and Frank, who suddenly starts to see the honest government agent as a better person to worship than his con artist father. At two hours and 45 minutes the show could easily stand some trimming.

In this tour, the vocals are adequate, with stand-out Anthony lending the strong tenor and stage presence needed to pull off his lead role with style (until Matt Lenz, who recreated O’Brien’s original direction, has him sobbing quite excessively in one scene and gives new comic meaning to the lyrics “Stop your sobbing kid before I shoot. Your nose is running on my only suit.”

Mitchell’s original choreography, added to and recreated here by Nick Kenkel, is in need of some serious rehearsal, too. The ensemble isn’t together on execution or in syncing their moves.

Catch it while you can, through June 2 at The Bushnell, 166 Capitol Ave., Hartford. Performances: Wednesday through Thursday at 7:30 pm; Friday at 8 pm; Saturday at 2 and 8 pm; Sunday at 1 and 6 pm. Tickets $20-$65: (860) 987-5900; www.bushnell.org.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Connecticut Critics Circle Announces Nominations for 2013 Theater Awards

Nominations have been announced for the best of Connecticut's 2013-2014 season by the Connecticut Critics Circle.

Awards will be be presented at the annual gathering of the state's theater community, this year on Monday, June 10 at Long Wharf Theatre, 222 Sargent Drive, New Haven, beginning with a reception at 6:30. Awards and entertainment follow at 7:30.

The event is free and open to the public, but an RSVP is required to steve.scarpa@longwharf.org. This is the annual event "where theater folks from across Connecticut can annually all gather to schmooze and celebrate their work." Don't miss it!

The nominees are:

Outstanding Production of a Play

“Almost, Maine                                                        TheaterWorks

”American Night”                                                       Yale Rep

Clybourne Park                                                        Long Wharf

“Marie Antoinette”                                                     Yale Rep

“The Dining Room”                                                    Westport Country Playhouse

“Twelfth Night”                                                          Hartford Stage

Outstanding Production of a Musical

“A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder”             Hartford Stage

“Carousel”                                                                   Goodspeed

“Hairspray”                                                                 Connecticut Repertory Theatre

”Joseph & the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat”     Summer Theatre of New Canaan (STONC)

“Next to Normal                                                        Music Theatre of Connecticut (MTC)

“The Immigrant”                                                         Seven Angels

Outstanding Director of a Play

Shana Cooper, “American Night”                              Yale Rep 
                               
Gordon Edelstein, “Satchmo at the Waldorf”             Long Wharf

Mark Lamos, “The Dining Room”                             Westport Country Playhouse

Rebecca Taichman, “Marie Antoinette”                     Yale Rep

Jenn Thompson, “Abundance”                                   Hartford Stage

Eric Ting, “Clybourne Park                                      Long Wharf   

Darko Tresnjak, “Twelfth Night”                               Hartford Stage

Outstanding Director of a Musical

Kevin Connors, “Next to Normal                             MTC

Semina DeLaurentis, “The Immigrant”                      Seven Angels

Melody Meitrott Libonati, “Joseph . . . ”                    STONC

Terrence Mann, “The Pirates of Penzance                Connecticut Repertory

Rob Ruggiero, “Carousel”                                          Goodspeed

Darko Tresnjak, “A Gentleman’s Guide…”               Hartford Stage

Outstanding Leading Actress in a Play

Maureen Anderman, “The Year of Magical Thinking”    Westport Country Playhouse

Mary Beth Fisher, “Dear Elizabeth                          Yale Rep

Roxanna Hope, “Hedda Gabler”                                Hartford Stage

Marin Ireland, “Marie Antoinette”                             Yale Rep

Liv Rooth, “Venus in Fur”                                         TheaterWorks

Brenda Withers, “Abundance                                   Hartford Stage

Outstanding Leading Actor in a Play

Mikhail Baryshnikov, “Man in a Case”                      Hartford Stage

Bill Camp, “In a Year With 13 Moons”                     Yale Rep

Paul Giamatti, “Hamlet”                                             Yale Rep

Edward Kassar, “Other People’s Money”                   Ivoryton Playhouse




Jamil A. C. Mangan, “The Mountaintop”                   TheaterWorks

Rene Millan, “American Night”                                 Yale Rep

John Douglas Thompson, “Satchmo at the Waldorf”        Long Wharf

Outstanding Leading Actress in a Musical

Lena Mary Amato, “Hairspray”                                  CT Rep
 
Corrine C. Broadbent, “Joseph”                                 STONC

Juliet Lampert Pratt, “Next to Normal                      MTC Mainstage

Teal Wicks, “Carousel”                                              Goodspeed


Outstanding Leading Actor in a Musical

Max Biantz, “The Immigrant”                                   Seven Angels

Christopher DeRosa, “Joseph”                                   STONC

Jefferson Mays, “A Gentleman’s Guide…”               Hartford Stage

Kevin Meaney, “Hairspray”                                        CT Rep

James Snyder, “Carousel”                                           Goodspeed

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Play

Monica Santana, “In a Year With 13 Moons”            Yale Rep

Jeanine Serralles, “Tartuffe”                                       Westport Country Playhouse

Sara Topham, “Hedda Gabler”                                   Hartford Stage



Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Play

Jarlath Conroy, “Hamlet”                                           Yale Rep

David Greenspan, “Marie Antoinette”                       Yale Rep

Adam Green, “Twelfth Night”                                   Hartford Stage

Marc Kudisch, “Hamlet”                                            Yale Rep

Jordan Lage, “Ride the Tiger”                                    Long Wharf




Sam Redford, “Hedda Gabler”                                   Hartford Stage

Kevin Tighe, “Curse of the Starving Class”               Long Wharf


Bruce Turk, “Twelfth Night”                                      Hartford Stage

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Musical

Tessa Faye, “Good News”                                           Goodspeed

Jenn Gambatese, “Carousel”                                      Goodspeed

Beth Glover, “Good News”                                       Goodspeed

Lisa O’Hare, “A Gentleman’s Guide…”                   Hartford Stage

Hanna Kaplan, “Hairspray”                                       CT Rep

Chilina Kennedy, “A Gentleman’s Guide…”            Hartford Stage

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Musical

Ken Barnett, “A Gentleman’s Guide…”                    Hartford Stage

Alex Gibson, “Pirates of Penzance                           CT Rep

Jeff Kready, “Carousel”                                             Goodspeed

Scott Ripley, “Hairspray”                                           CRT

Barry Shafrin, “Good News”                                     Goodspeed

Brett Stoelker, “Next to Normal                                Seven Angels

Outstanding Ensemble

Marty Bongfeldt, John Flaherty, John Little, Michael McGurk, Jo Anne Parady, “Ancestral Voices”   MTC

Jimmy Davis, Daniel Jenkins, Leroy McClain, Alex Muggridge, Lucy Owen, Melle Powers, Alice Ripley, “Clybourne Park Long Wharf

Heidi Armbruster, Chris Henry Coffey, Keira Naughton, Jake Robards, Charles Socarides, Jennifer Van Dyck, “The Dining Room” Westport Country Playhouse

Eric Bryant, Laura Esposito, Lucas Hall, Jess Watkins , “Almost, Maine” Hartford TheaterWorks

Outstanding Debut

Alexis Molnar, “Harbor”                                            Westport Country Playhouse 

Nathan J. Russo, “Oliver”                                           Ivoryton Playhouse

Jubilant Sykes, “Breath & Imagination”                     Hartford Stage

Outstanding Choreography

Parker Esse, “Carousel”                                              Goodspeed

Gerry McIntyre, “Hairspray”                                      CT Rep                                     

Anne-B Parson, “Man in a Case”                               Hartford Stage

Peggy Hickey, “A Gentleman’s Guide…”                 Hartford Stage

Vince Pesce, “ Good News”                                       Goodspeed

Doug Shankman, “Joseph”                                         STONC

Outstanding Set Design

Wilson Chin,

            “Tartuffe”                                                       Westport Country Playhouse
            “Abundance”                                                  Hartford Stage

Alexander Dodge,

“A Gentleman’s Guide…”                             Hartford Stage
            “Twelfth Night”                                              Hartford Stage

Riccardo Hernandez, “Marie Antoinette”                  Yale Rep
Posey Knight, “His Girl Friday”                                 CT Rep
Michael Schweikardt,

            “Carousel”                                                       Goodspeed
            “Tryst”                                                             TheaterWorks

Michael Yeargan, “The Dining Room”                      Westport Country Playhouse

David Zinn, “In a Year With 13 Moons”                   Yale Rep

Outstanding Costume Design

Gabriel Barry, “Marie Antoinette”                             Yale Rep

Linda Cho,

“A Gentleman’s Guide...”                               Hartford Stage       
            “Twelfth Night”                                              Hartford Stage

Olivera Gajic, “Pirates of Penzance                          CT Rep

Ilona Somogyi, “Tartuffe”                                          Westport Country Playhouse
Fabio Toblini, “Hedda Gabler”                                   Hartford Stage



Outstanding Lighting Design

Christopher Akerlind, “Marie Antionette”                Yale Rep

Mary Jo Dondlinger, “Almost, Maine”                     TheaterWorks

John Lasiter, “ Carousel”                                           Goodspeed

Matthew Richards, “Tartuffe”                                   Westport Country Playhouse

Philip Rosenberg
                           “The Year of Magical Thinking”    Westport Country Playhouse
                           "A Gentleman’s Guide…”               Hartford Stage

Jennifer Tipton   “Man in a Case”                               Hartford Stage

Jennifer Tipton and Yi Zhao, “In a Year With 13 Moons”            Yale Rep
 
Outstanding Sound Design

Michael Attias, “In a Year With 13 Moons”              Yale Rep

Tei Blow, “Man in a Case”                                         Hartford Stage

Leah Gelpe, “January Joiner”                                     Long Wharf

Matt Hubbs, “Marie Antoinette”                                Yale Rep

Keri Klick. “Hamlet”                                                  Yale Rep            

 

Theater Review: Twelfth Night -- Hartford Stage

The cast. Photo: T. Charles Erickson
The Staging is So Delicious, It’s the Food of Love
“If music be the food of love, play on,
Give me excess of it; that surfeiting,
The appetite may sicken, and so die.”
By Lauren Yarger
Hartford Stage’s presentation of Twelfth Night, directed by Darko Tresnjak, is so sumptuous, so pleasing to look at and so cleverly staged that it’s possible our appetite for any other setting for William Shakespeare’s classic might be slaked.

Before we even begin the tale of Viola (Kate MacCluggage who starred in Hartford Stage’s Bell Book and Candle), shipwrecked and believing that her twin brother, Sebastian (Joe Paulik) has been lost at sea when she assumes the role of Cesario, a male servant to Duke Orsino (Lea Coco), we’re mesmerized by the setting of Illyria: a circular, green foliage-covered, English hedge maze, bordered by shrubs and a colorful backdrop designed by Alexander Dodge.

Viola emerges water-soaked from the depths of the hedge. Orsino, languishing in his bath tub, rises up out of the center of the maze, as does a wooden globe. Both double later respectively as a putting green and a prison. The object of Orsino’s affection, Olivia (Stacey Yen), and her ladies in waiting (Hartt students Celina Lopez, Katherine Schenker and Arielle Solomon who probably most appreciate the quote “O, had I but followed the arts…”) gracefully leap over wooden bridges linking the tops of the rings of the maze while Malvolio (Bruce Turk), walks below in the trenches offering up a hand to help his mistress.

The ensemble is attired in costumes that evoke a 1920s theme while also giving a sense of the flowing gowns and formal attire from the Elizabethan period when the play first would have been performed. Equally at home here are sword fighters Cesario and Sir Andrew Aguecheek (an amusing Andrew Green), the fool, Jeste (Che Avende, who performs some of non-era specific original music composed by Sound Designers David Budries and Nathan A. Roberts), sporting a Harlequin clown outfit with black and white diamonds and red accent and Olivia in her flowing flapper-esque gown. Costumer Designer Linda Cho marks her 40th collaboration with Tresnjak on this production. Craig Handel choreographs the fight.

To borrow from the play’s most famous quote, Tresnjak’s greatness (he was artistic director of the Old Globe Shakespeare Festival in San Diego before taking the helm at Hartford Stage) is thrust upon the ensemble resulting in some standout performances for minor characters in addition to the featured turns by Green and Turk (who, as one of the most brooding Malvolios ever, does a really memorable bit trying to force a smile): Miles Spencer-Davis as drunken Sir Toby Belch; Jennifer Reagan as Olivia’s plotting maid, Maria; and another Hartt student, Josh Boscarino, as Valentine and a priest. Loved the conspirators hiding down in the hedge with heads (and drink glasses) popping in and out as Malvolio walks into their trap. 

While the staging is great, this version lacks some chemistry between the players, however. We’re not convinced about Viola’s love for Orsino (or his growing, unnerving attraction to Cesario, the page he believes to be a man), the underlying sparks between Maria and Toby or that Olivia is excited to find herself married to Sebastian rather than Cesario.

Mistaken identity, plots for revenge and love combine for a romantic comedy that is music to look at, though. Let it play on and on. Well, until June 16 at least. That will be the last day you can catch Twelfth Night at Hartford Stage, 50 Church St., Hartford. Performances: Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday at 7:30 pm; Friday and Saturday at 8 pm; Matinees Sunday and select Wednesdays and Saturdays at 2 pm. Tickets $26.50-$93.50 with discounts for groups and students (show recommended for 12 and up). (860) 527-5151; www.hartfordstage.org.

Here's a  fun time lapse video showing the construction of the fabulous set for Twelfth Night:

Theater Review: A Couple of Blaguards -- Long Wharf

Howard Platt amd Jarlath Conroy. Photo courtesy of Long Wharf.

A Bit of Blarney Seasons This Savory Irish Stew
By Lauren Yarger
Two brothers reminisce about growing up as A Couple of Blaguards in Limerick, Ireland in a mix of humor and moving vignettes written by real-life siblings Frank McCourt (“Angela’s Ashes”) and Malachy McCourt (“A Monk Swimming”).

Bringing the brothers to life at Long Wharf Theatre are Howard Platt (who also directs) as Malachy and Jarlath Conroy as Frank. The two share memories, burst into song and evoke laughter as they recreate moments from their shared childhood.

The cast of characters include their rather scary grandmother, a fire-and-brimstone-preaching priest, an intimidating insurance collector and others, created by the quick donning of a shawl, a collar or a cap. Their story moves from Ireland to their experiences as immigrants in America for the second act (a 90-minute, no-intermission format probably would serve better than the two hours broken by intermission).

McCourt thickens his stew with some moving, sadder memories that bring out the flavor: there is a poignant retelling, for example, of the death of their brother and of how Frank and Malachy “play” having a wake for him. The pathos and comments on trivial everyday matters combine to take us on a pleasant stroll down an emerald-colored memory lane.

The show predates either of the McCourt brothers’ most famous works, “Angela’s Ashes” and “A Monk Swimming.” The brothers first performed it in the 1970s for family and friends. 

“Malachy stood behind the bar and told his customers stories. I stood before the blackboard and told my students stories. At holiday gatherings we told our families stories. They said, ‘Why not get together, cobble these stories into a script and tell the world,’” Frank said.

A Couple of Blaguards runs through June 2 at Long Wharf theatre, Stage II, 222 Sargent Drive, new Haven. Performances: Tuesday and Wednesday at 7 pm; Thursday and Saturday at 8 pm; Wednesday and Sunday at 2 pm. Tickets $40 (203)-787-4282; www.longwharf.org.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Directors Set for O'Neill's Playwrights Conference

Wendy C. Goldberg, Artistic Director of the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center’s National Playwrights Conference, announced today directors of the eight projects selected for development at the 2013 Conference.

The directors are Kent Thompson, Artistic Director of the Denver Center Theater Company; the Goodman Theatre's Playwright in Residence Seth Bockley; Associate Artistic Director of Seattle Repertory Theatre Braden Abraham; Giovanna Sardelli; Geordie Broadwater; Director of New Play Development at Playwrights Horizons Adam Greenfield; Michael Rau; and Goldberg.

Goldberg remarked, "It's wonderful to welcome back some National Playwrights Conference alums as well as a number of new directors to our summer. It's exciting to have the next generation of new play directors with us to help shape and tell these timely new stories."

The Solid Sand Below
by Martín Zimmerman
Directed by Kent Thompson
Performances: July 3 at 8:15pm; July 4 at 8:15pm

Samsara
by Lauren Yee
Directed by Seth Bockley
Performances: July 5 at 7:15pm; July 6 at 8:15pm

A Great Wilderness
by Samuel D. Hunter
Directed by Braden Abraham
Performances: July 10 at 8:15pm; July 11 at 8:15pm

Little Children Dream of God
by Jeff Augustin
Directed by Giovanna Sardelli
Performances: July 12 at 7:15pm; July 13 at 8:15pm

The Oregon Trail
by Bekkah Brunstetter
Directed by Geordie Broadwater
Performances: July 17 at 8:15pm; July 18 at 8:15pm

All the Roads Home
by Jen Silverman
Directed by Adam Greenfield
Performances: July 19 at 7:15pm; July 20 at 3:15pm

Evanston: A Rare Comedy
by Michael Yates Crowley
Directed by Michael Rau
Performances: July 24 at 8:15pm; July 25 at 8:15pm

Lost Lake
by David Auburn
Directed by Wendy C. Goldberg
Performances: July 26 at 7:15pm; July 27 at 8:15pm

Schedules are subject to change. Tickets go on sale Wednesday, June 5. Please call the O’Neill Box Office at (860) 443-1238 or visit www.theoneill.org for times, prices and reservations.

HSO Wraps Up Season with Rites of Spring

Carolyn Kuan conducts the HSO.
Led by HSO music director Carolyn Kuan, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra will close the 2012-2013 Season performing Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring 100 years after its explosively controversial premiere at Unexpected Sounds on Thursday, May 30 – Sunday, June 2, 2013 at the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts.

Scandal and controversy surrounded the short-lived premiere production of the Rite of Spring. The story, set in ancient Russia, involves the sacrifice of a young girl who dances herself to death to ensure the return of spring. At its premiere in Paris on May 29, 1913, Stravinsky's extraordinary, complex, and strikingly modern music combined with Vaslav Nijinsky's unorthodox choreography, with toes turned in instead of out and arms and heads oddly bent, caused the audience to erupt in fury. Shouts, catcalls, whistles, even fisticuffs grew so menacing that often the orchestra could not be heard. The producer flashed the house lights on and off in a vain attempt to restore order; Nijinsky, when he was not on stage, pounded wildly on the scenery with his fists to keep the dancers together. No one could deny, however, the ferocious, overwhelming power of the music, and audiences could not help but be swept away by its awesome and wonderful maelstrom of exquisitely executed sound.

The HSO will honor this groundbreaking premiere 100 years later with four full performances of Rite of Spring, featuring more than 100 musicians onstage and a soloist from The Hartt School dancing the female sacrifice. As with the premiere in 1913, the first half of the program will feature excerpts from a traditional ballet, Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake¸ and will include performances by dancers from The Nutmeg Conservatory for the Arts.

The performances will open with Huang Ruo’s Concerto for Sheng, a Chinese mouth organ, as performed by international Sheng virtuoso Wu Wei. This concerto, as Rite of Spring did 100 years ago, highlights the unusual and unexpected sounds an orchestra can generate, and features unusual instruments- including conch shells!

The sets and costumes from the original production were designed and created by the mystical painter and professional ethnographer Nikolai Roerich. Three of the original costumes and a sketch by Roerich will be on display at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art in Hartford starting from May 29-June 23. Patrons who visit the museum from May 29-June 2 may present their admission receipt in person at HSO Ticket Services on May 29- 31 or at The Bushnell Box Office from May 29-June 2 to receive $5 off an adult ticket (does not apply to previously purchased tickets). Additionally, HSO audiences will be able to present their Rite of Spring performance ticket stub at the Wadsworth Atheneum from May 31-June 23 to receive $5 off museum admission. For more information about the Wadsworth Atheneum, please visit www.thewadsworth.org.

Sheng soloist Wu Wei, born 1970 in China, is a Distinguished Professor of the Shanghai Music Conservatory. In addition to many prestigious national and international competitions for traditional Chinese music, he won the “Musica Vitale Competition Germany” in 1996 and 2002, and the “Global Root” German world music prize in 2004. In 2011, he won the Herald Angels Award by Edinburgh International Festival. He has appeared as a soloist with many leading orchestras and ensembles, including the Berliner Philharmonic Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra under Gustavo Dudamel, Radio France Philharmonic Orchestra, Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra, BBC Symphony Orchestra, Tokyo Symphony Orchestra, and Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra, amongst many others.

Calendar Listing:
HSO MASTERWORKS SERIES:
UNEXPECTED SOUNDS: Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring
Featuring Carolyn Kuan, conductor; Wu Wei, sheng; Dancers from the Nutmeg Conservatory for the Arts and The Hartt School Dance Division
Thursday, May 30, 2013 │ 7:30 p.m.
Friday, May 31, 2013 │ 8:00 p.m.
Saturday, June 1, 2013 │ 8:00 p.m.
Sunday, June 2, 2013 │ 3:00 p.m.
Belding Theater │ The Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts
Program: Igor Stravinsky: Le Sacre du Printemps (The Rite of Spring); Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky: Selections from Swan Lake; Huang Ruo: “The Color Yellow” Concerto for Sheng and Chamber Orchestra
Ticket Information: Tickets to this concert range in price from $35.50-$70.50. Student tickets are $10. On Saturday, June 1, $25 tickets are available for patrons age 40 and under. To purchase tickets or for more information, please contact HSO ticket services at (860) 244-2999 or visit www.hartfordsymphony.org.

Wizards, Vikings, Dragons, Superheroes Take Over Long Wharf This Summer

Long Wharf Theatre’s education department, now celebrating its 30th year, is offering classes for students ages 7 to 13 with inventive classes, using pop culture to interest children in all aspects of performance. They also give students another option aside from traditional summer camp for enrichment and a good time.

For more information about Long Wharf Theatre’s education programs, visit www.longwharf.org. To sign up for a class, contact Tina Johnson at 203-772-8262 or via e-mail at tina.johnson@longwharf.org.

CLASS DESCRIPTIONS

HOGWARTS AFTER HARRY
July 8-12
9 am to 3pm
Ages 8-13
COST: $350
Students will be sorted into houses, learn to cast spells and make potions, meet some magical creatures, and even play a few games of Quidditch! All participants will tie-dye their own t-shirt to show house pride and make their own wand. Parents may come to an “Open House” on the final day to catch a glimpse into this magical world.

Pre and post class care is available for an additional $25 per week. Early drop off starting at 8:30 with late pick up until 5 pm.

VIKING TRAIN YOUR DRAGON
July 15-19
9 am to 3 pm
Ages 8-13
COST: $350 
Join us for the adventure of a lifetime: learning to be a Viking and training your very own dragon. Through a series of adventures and quests, each student will find their own dragon egg, which they must care for and train. Parents are invited to the last class for a sharing of epic proportions.

Pre and post class care is available for an additional $25 per week. Early drop off starting at 8:30 with late pick up until 5 pm.

AVENGERS TO THE RESCUE II
July 22-26
9 am to noon
Ages 7-10
COST: $195
Back by popular demand! Create your own superhero and form a team of Avengers with your classmates. Participants will create characters, go through superhero training, and work as a team to achieve their ultimate goal: to save the world! A final celebration will conclude this adventure: please make sure you stop by to congratulate your hero on a job well done.

FOLKTALES
July 29-Aug. 2
9 am to noon
Ages 10-13
COST: $195
Explore folktales and creation myths from around the world. Participants will create puppets, masks, and classroom totem pole. The class will culminate in a final performance for parents.

Shubert Theatre Calendar Listings

New Haven’s Memorial Day Concert
Sunday, May 26
5 pm

Orchestra New England performs in the City of New Haven 's annual "Memorial Day Concert" at the Shubert Theater - a FREE community event.Tickets are free and be can picked up at the Shubert Box Office the day of the concert (limit 4 per person).


WEST SIDE STORY
May 31–June 2, 2013
Friday 8 pm
Saturday 2 and 8 pm
Sunday 1 and 6:30 pm

LOCATION: Shubert Theater and Box Office, 247 College Street , New Haven CT; 800-228-6622; shubert.com.

What's Coming Up at the Mark Twain House?

The Mark Twain House -- The Clemens family on the porch, 1885. Credit: The Mark Twain House & Museum
Wednesday, June 5
A freed slave returns to Virginia at the onset of the Civil War to  spy on the Confederates in The Secrets of Mary Bowser, and the author of this combination of historical fact and ingenious speculation. Lois Leveen, will be on hand at a special 7 pm (note different time) edition of the Nook Farm Book Talks to tell all about it. The event is free, but registration is encouraged at info@StoweCenter.org or 860-522-9258, Ext. 317.

Saturday, June 8
Annual family-friendly Tom Sawyer Day -- this time with a medieval twist as "Tom Sawyer Day in King Arthur's Court." 10 am to 4 pm. The free event will include crafts and fun activities, magic with Joe Barney, a bouncy castle, medieval wildlife courtesy of the Connecticut Children's Museum, and even more magic with Daniel Greenwolf. Music will include troubadors such as Amy Gallatin and Stillwaters, The Donna Martin Duo, and the Horizon Blue Quartet. Discount tours of the Mark Twain House will be available at $10 for adults and seniors and $5 for children. And to top off the feudal splendor, Tom Sawyer and Becky Thatcher themselves will be visiting, courtesy of time travel, all the way from Hannibal, Missouri. Magical History Tour, as free buses transport visitors to another big celebration that day -- the Juneteenth Family Day at the Wadsworth Atheneum, run by the Amistad Center for Art and Culture. And our neighbor, the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center, celebrates Stowe's 202nd birthday with horse-drawn carriage rides, Abraham Lincoln, Henry Ward Beecher and Harriet herself.

Sunday, June 9
Freelancer and wordsmith Theresa Sullivan Barger will lead a Sunday Afternoon Writers' Workshop at The Mark Twain House & Museum on "The Freelancer's Life." The session, part of the museum's Writing at the Mark Twain House program, will run from 1 to 4 pm. Tuition is $40; call 860-280-3130 to register. The session is limited to 18. so early registration is encouraged. Workshops are open to all level of experience.

Wednesday, June 12
A fresh look at the way Twain is remembered through his homes as scholar Hilary Iris Lowe speaks on "Mark Twain's Homes & Literary Tourism."  Lowe is the author of the book of the same name, which untangles the complicated ways that Samuel L. Clemens's homes, now mainly museums, have come to tell the stories that they do. Her lecture is part of the museum's series "The Trouble Begins at 5:30," which is free and preceded by a wine-and-hors d'oeuvres reception at 5 pm. A booksigning will follow the event.

The house and museum at 351 Farmington Ave. are open Monday through Saturday, 9:30 am to 5:30 pm and Sunday, noonto 5:30 pm. For more information, call 860-247-0998 or visit www.marktwainhouse.org.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Quick Hit Theater Review: Next to Normal -- Seven Angels

Semina De Laurentis and Victor Hernndez. Photo: Paul Roth
Next to Normal
Music by Tom Kitt
Book and lyrics by Brian Yorkey
Music Director Zachary Ryan
Directed and Choreographed by Janine Molinari; Assistant Director: John T. Lynes; Costumes by Three-J's Stitching
Seven Angels Theatre

What's It All About?
Just a typical American family. Mom Diana (Seven Angels' Atristic Director Semina De Laurentis) makes lunch sandwiches for her loving husband, Dan (Victor Hernandez) and daughter, Natalie (Mandy Thompson) while gazing adoringly at her son, Gabe (Brett Stoelker), but from the first twisted chord of Tom Kitt's music, it's clear that not everything is normal in this suburban home. Diana, in fact, suffers from bipolar disorder, and when she stops taking her meds, her behavior affects everyone around her.

Dan tries to keep things together and pretends everything will be normal. Natalie feels neglected and loses herself in her studies, new boyfriend, Henry (Johnny Newcomb), and drugs while Gabe encourages his mother to stay off her meds. When the drugs don't seem to work, the doctor (Daniel C. Levine) suggests an even harsher treatment: shock therapy.

What are the Highlights?
Kitt's score and Brian Yorgey's book and lyrics combine for one of the deepest and moving shows to hit a Broadway stage. It's not the typical subject matter for a musical (the theater suggests that it is appropriate for children 16 and up), but you should take advantage of an opportunity to see this excellent rock musical, which won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. That sandwich-making scene in the opening act is terrific as directed by Janine Molinari with De Laurentis skillfully portraying the frenzied breakdown as Diana tries to cope. Later she also belts out a lovely version of "I Miss the Mountains." Hernandez conveys love and confusion (especially in singing the song "He's Not Here.") Thompson lends a full range of vocal ability and Stoelker is spot-on (could have sworn I was watching original Broadway cast member Aaron Tveit) as the boy who pulls his mother deeper into the darkness. He nails "I'm Alive."

Two elderly women bopping to the beat of the exit music.

What are the Lowlights?
Sound (Matthew Martin, design). Voices don't blend well, there is popping in the speakers and everyone is shouting. The tempo is off at times. Lighting (Matt Guminski, design) is too dim. Yes, we get that the lighting reflects Diana's moods, but sometimes she's feeling a little too dark for us to see what's going on in the two levels of the house (Erik D. Diaz, scenic design). Because the house is built out of frames on such a small stage, it looks as though Natalie and Henry are practicing music on top of the roof instead of in a studio.

More information:
Next to Normal runs through June 9 at Seven Angels Theatre, 1 Plank Road, Waterbury. Tickets: http://sevenangelstheatre.org/.

Special events:
Sweet Maria’s Night, May 31
Fascia’s Chocolate Night, June 1
Wine & Martini Night, June 7
Sundaes on Sunday June 9

There will be a talk back session Sunday, June 9 after the performance with a panel facilitated by the Wellmore Group. The discussions will include a Q&A session about mental health and its impact on people and families, and about the mental health issues portrayed in the show.

(No performances Memorial Weekend, May 23-27)

Theater Review: Clybourne Park -- Long Wharf

Daniel Jenkins, Alice Ripley, Melle Powers, Alex Moggridge, LeRoy McClain, Jimmy Davis and Lucy Owen. Photo: T. Charles Erickson
Racism Takes Up Residence in Clybourne Park, both Past and Present
By Lauren Yarger
Have you heard the one about a little white man thrown in a jail cell with a big black guy? If not, you can catch this, and a few other offensive jokes over at Long Wharf Theatre, where they pepper the dialogue in Bruce Norris’ Clybourne Park, the Pulitzer-Prize winning play that explores themes of racism, gentrification and the way Americans relate to each other.

Norris borrows a character from Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun to link stories set in a house in the Clybourne Park section of North Chicago through the decades. In 1959, Russ and Bev (Daniel Jenkins and Tony Award winner Alice Ripley) have sold their home (beautifully designed with bungalow wood trim and detail by Frank Alberino) and are packing for the move. Well, Russ isn’t really doing any of the packing. He’s been sitting around in a funk while Bev supervises her housekeeper, Francine (Melle Powers), who does the work.

 
Their pastor, tipped off by Bev’s concern about her husband stops by, but Russ isn’t willing to listen to his preaching. He’s still bitter about the death of his son, who committed suicide after his experiences in the Korean War.
 
 
The discussion really gets ugly when Hansberry’s character Karl Linder (Alex Moggridge) and his wife, Betsy (Lucy Owen) show up to say the neighborhood association has countered the offer Russ and Bev accepted on their home because the buyers are “colored” (they are, in fact, the Younger family from A Raisin in the Sun). 
 
He tries to elicit the support of Francine and her husband, Albert (Leroy McClain) in making a case that black families really don’t want to live in Clybourne Park. Tempers flare and some unpleasant truths are exposed about the era’s collective prejudice with regards to race, vets returning from war and physical handicaps (Betsy is deaf and references are made to a mentally challenged individual who bags groceries at the local market).
 
Fast forward to 2009. The home, now a shell of its former self, covered in graffiti, is destined for demolition by the white couple, Lindsey and Steve (Owen and Moggridge) who have just bought it. They arrive with their attorney, Kathy (Ripley) to meet about a petition they have received by neighbors concerned about the height of the proposed new home (and in reality, about the gentrification of the now black neighborhood as whites seek affordable property within commuting distance to the city). 
 
Lena (Powers), the great niece of the home’s first black owner, and her husband, Kevin (McClain) show up with their attorney, Tom (Davis) to try to protect the integrity of the neighborhood, where Kathy also has roots, it turns out.
 
Once again, an attempt to discuss issues in a civilized fashion is thwarted by underlying prejudice (this is where those ugly jokes get told) and before it’s all over, blacks, whites, women, gays and just about everyone else can consider themselves offended by this group which tries to be oh, so politically correct and polite. In the midst of the confusion, a construction worker (Jenkins) discovers a footlocker linking present with past and proving that while some things have changed in this nation with regards to prejudice, we still have a long way to go.
 
 
Clybourne Park won last year’s Tony Award for Best Play as well as the 2011 Pulitzer and Olivier. Despite the accolades, this play can tend toward boring at times, even though it is well written and witty and runs only two hours (it doesn’t seem as sharp as other Pulitzer winners to me, but I’ve never won one, so who am I to judge?) Directed by Eric Ting, there also is something missing in the dynamic between characters, though the dual roles are well done by all of the players. (Ripley, usually a dynamo on stage, seems stilted here to me.) The characters say their lines, but there is no energy fueling the electric nature, or undercurrent of what they are saying.
 
The conversation will continue off stage, however. Long Wharf Theatre and the New Haven Free Public Library have announced “Stage. Page. Engage,” a series of community conversations taking place in May about the complex issues of race and real estate in the city of New Haven.
 
Local historians Colin Caplan, Tom Ficklin, and Clifton Graves will discuss the evolution of the particular city neighborhood where the conversation is being held. In addition to the local historians, people from each neighborhood are encouraged to attend and offer their own personal perspectives on the place where they live. Ting will introduce each neighborhood exploration with a scene from Long Wharf Theatre’s production of Clybourne Park, presented by local actors. 
 
All talks are free and open to the public:
  • Saturday, May 18, 1 pm at the Stetson Library, 200 Dixwell Ave. 203-946-8119, with Ficklin and Graves.
  •  Monday, May 20, 6 pm at the Mitchell Library, 37 Harrison St., 203-946-8117, with Ficklin and Caplan.
  •  Tuesday, May 28, 6 pm at the Wilson Library, 303 Washington Ave., 203-946-2228, with Caplan.
  •  Saturday, June, 1 p.m. at the Fair Haven Library, 182 Grand Ave., 203-946-8115, with Ficklin and Caplan.

Clybourne Park runs through June 2 on the Mainstage at Long wharf Theatre, 222 Sargent Drive,
New Haven. Tickets are $40-$70: 203-787-4282: www.longwharf.org. See a video trailer for the show here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J0kH26YKcTo.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Theater Review: The Dining Room -- Westport

Jennifer VanDyck and Jake Robards. Photo: Carol Rosegg
The Dining Room
By A.R. Gurney
Directed by Mark Lamos
Westport Country Playhouse

What's It All About?
A poignant and funny look at generations of folks whose lives made stops or overlapped in an opulent dining room. The actors (a fine ensemble of Heidi Armbruster, Chris Henry Coffey, Jake Robards, Charles Socarides and Jennifer Van Dyck) play various owners and servants in the home over the years, often portraying the same characters at different ages (including juveniles). It's a look back at different times and a sobering realization that some things don't change.

What are the highlights?
Director Mark Lamos coaxes compelling performances from the ensemble and maintains a brisk pace which keeps the quiet piece (less laugh-out-loud than some of Gurney's other works) from inducing yawns (which this play can trigger i the wrong hands).

Scenic Director Michael Yeargan paints everything in a blue gray color -- the walls, furniture, floors and all -- in a stroke of genius that allows the lives of the room' inhabitants to be the real color the house offers.

What are the Lowlights?
A tad confusing from time to time to figure out who's who and what year we're in, but not enough to throw us off for long.

More information:
This is the season opener (the 83rd) for Westport Country Playhouse. An extra performance has been added on Sunday, May 19, at 3 pm Performances are Tuesday at 8 pm, Wednesday at 2 and 8 pm, Thursday and Friday at 8 pm, Saturday at 3 and 8 pm and Sunday at 3. Ticket prices start at $30: (203) 227-4177,1-888-927-7529, Westport Country Playhouse, 25 Powers Court, off Route 1, Westport, www.westportplayhouse.org.

Mandy Patinkin to Appear at Long Wharf



A special ONE NIGHT ONLY engagement
Friday, June 7
8:00 p.m. performance
Tickets: $125
(includes complimentary pre-show cocktail)

LONG WHARF THEATRE
BOX OFFICE: 203-787-4282 | WWW.LONGWHARF.ORG

Harriet Beecher Stowe Center Offers Salon Program on Mental Health

Salons at Stowe Mental Health:
Stigmas, Stereotypes & Solutions
May 16 5-7 p.m.
Harriet Beecher Stowe Center
Harold Schwartz Sara Frankel
How prevalent is mental illness in our community?
Is mental health treatment accessible to all?
How can we support individuals and families struggling with mental health issues?


Join the discussion with
Harold I. Schwartz, M.D.,
Hartford Hospital Institute of Living and
Sara Frankel, J.D.
National Alliance on Mental Illness Connecticut.

Click here for more information

RSVP or 860-522-9258, ext. 317.
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77 Forest St., Hartford, CT 06105
860-522-9258
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Lauren Yarger with playwright Alfred Uhry at the Mark Twain House. Photo: Jacques Lamarre)

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