Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Quick Hit Theater Review: Oblivion -- Westport Country Playhouse

Katie Broad and Aidan Kunze. Photo: Carol Rosegg
Oblivion
By Carly Mensch
Directed by Mark Brokaw
Westport Country Playhouse

By Lauren Yarger
What's it All About?
Well, that may be up to you..... Pam (Johanna Day), a successful HBO documentary exec and Dixon (Reg Rogers), a burned out corporate lawyer who has suffered a breakdown, find themselves in a crisis when their teenage daughter, Julie (Katie Broad), decides to become a Christian. The couple doesn't believe in setting any rules -- right and wrong is all relative any way -- but when Julie lies about where she was (at a church retreat instead of checking out mom's alumni, Wesleyan) they decide they had better do some parenting and get their daughter back on track.

Dixon is a little more willing to hear his daughter's side. He has a little bit of a tie with religion, coming from a Jewish background, and he is the only one Julie will speak to. She and her mother have a relationship that borders on contempt -- at least where Julie is concerned.

Pam is downright bigoted in her disregard of who who might be weak-minded enough to allow themselves to be brainwashed by religion (her parents were two Marxist professors). Socially awkward Julie's exploration of Jesus comes through hanging out with her only friend, Bernard (Aidan Kunze), whose family attends some kind of Baptist Church there in Brooklyn, and who is filming Julie for a film project.

Deeper in the plot about the religious experience is a message about the fact that we all worship something. Pam needs to be in control -- she goes to great lengths to worm information out of Bernard; Dixon loves his weed and is hard at work on something else he worships: a pornographic novel about a middle-aged man and a teen girl. Bernard worships a film critic named Pauline and a number of scenes involve his speaking out the letters he has written her in the hopes she will view his film. And Julie just wants to feel something. Anything.

What are the highlights?
Mensch (she writes for TV's "Weeds" and "Nurse Jackie" in addition to plays) has a gift for contemporary -- and funny -- dialogue. The characters deal with some very real emotions. There is a lot of funny stuff here, especially the really awful chapter Dixon reads about his protagonist and the French ambassador's daughter....

Rogers is the most comfortable in the skin of his character here. He enjoys the aging hippy who needs to find some way to take responsibility. This character has the most range of the four.

What are the Lowlights?
The play is interesting and keeps us engaged, but never delivers. We're left wondering what it all means, especially when Julie's intense conversion, which has propelled the action, isn't fully explained. Bernard's church is a little weird -- there is a bunch of Eastern and transcendental stuff thrown in there which has nothing to do with Christianity and Julie doesn't seem to really know who Jesus is. Her explanation of being a Christian: "You agree to believe in Jesus even though he's not really there..." The piece puts me in mind of other plays that tend to express the questions about religion the authors have in real life, but doesn't offer any answers (because they don't have them either).

Character development isn't too deep. Julie is hostile, but all the way through, not just toward her mother. She doesn't seem very fun to be around, so it's not hard to believe she doesn't have many friends. But why is Bernard an exception? We don't know. Bernard is kind of dorky and only has one moment where he seems to have a backbone (and Kunze doesn't seem at ease in the role). The technique of having Bernard write to Pauline is overused. Day seemed to be tripping over a bunch of her dialogue. Brokaw, with numerous Broadway directing credits, doesn't use a strong enough hand in directing to bring it all together. Even if he did, the play itself doesn't seem to know where it's headed.

Neil Patel's set is disappointing. All scenes take place on an all-in-one location that at first glance looks like the gym/library of a school with the back wall lined with cubby holes. Later, parts of it are used for the family's house, the basketball court at school, a movie theater, etc.

More information:
This world premiere of Oblivion runs through Sept. 8 at Westport Country Playhouse, 25 Powers Court, Westport. Tickets and info: 203-227-4177, toll-free at 1-888-927-7529, www.westportplayhouse.org,

Westport Country Playhouse will host two special events, “Teen Night” and “Mom’s Day Off,” in conjunction with Oblivion.

“Teen Night” on Wednesday, Aug. 28, will offer an opportunity for teens who are interested in any aspect of theater to meet in the Playhouse Green Room for pizza and soda at 6:30 pm, learn about the show, and have an intimate Q&A session with Broad and Kunze. They will talk about their experiences in the professional theater business and what it’s like to originate a role in a world premiere. Each teen attending will receive one complimentary ticket and 50-percent discounted tickets for their guests (parents or friends).

“Mom’s Day Off,” on Saturday, Aug. 31 at 3 pm and Wednesday, Sept. 4 at 8 pm will offer tickets at $30. On Aug. 31, moms will kick off the performance with a mimosa toast on the Playhouse patio. On Sept. 4, the audience is invited for a lively post-performance salon discussion of the thought-provoking play in the Smilow Lounge on the mezzanine level.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Theater Review: Julius Caesar -- Elm Shakespeare Company

Jeremy Funke and Paul Pryce. Photo: Courtesy of Elm Shakespeare.. 
A Brisk Julius Caesar in Edgerton Park
By Tom Holehan
It's a brisk and relevant Julius Caesar currently playing under the stars in New Haven's gorgeous Edgerton Park. The modern dress production is the Elm Shakespeare Company's 18th season offering and it lives up to the group's well-earned reputation of presenting fresh, no-frills productions of classical works. What a good way to close out the summer theatre season.

More than most plays in the Shakespeare canon, Julius Caesar may equip itself the best to a modern dress rendering. The political intrigue that involves brothers Cassius and Brutus who, worried that Caesar has become too powerful, plan their own coup with a military takeover could speak directly to the events currently unfolding in Egypt.
Co-directed by theatre legend Alvin Epstein and Elm Shakespeare Company founder and Artistic Director James Andreassi, this Julius Caesar barely stops for breath as nefarious plots are hatched and the brothers entice a cabal of willing murderers in their devious plan. Epstein and Andreassi understand that once the deed is done, the tempo must pick up: blood flows and retribution begins. Their production is played without intermission and comes in well under two hours. At times, it may be too fast but with commanding actors in most of the leading roles, this Julius Caesar still rules.

Andreassi has given himself one of the play's best roles in Marcus Brutus and he plays the conflicted warrior with great power and insight. Also fine is Damian Buzzerio whose Cassius nearly browbeats Brutus into his lethal decision while Tracy Griswold's smug yet regal Caesar makes you understand why he is able to sway the populace.
Paul Pryce's enthusiastic Mark Antony is a vital presence though the famed "Friends, Romans and Countrymen..." is rendered a little too obvious and quickly here for my liking. It lacks political savvy though Pryce is charismatic enough to make it somehow still work. In the large supporting cast Jeremy Funke impresses in no less than three roles but some of the smaller roles stick out by being played by actors with far less experience.

Elizabeth Bolster's well-tailored suits for the men and sharp clothes for the women define this modern-dress Shakespeare with style. She is also credited with the handsome scenic design which simply but effectively sets a stage for royal intrigue. Jamie Burnett's lighting works beautifully under a starry sky at Edgerton but I do question the use of a roving follow-spot to sporadically highlight an actor. It seems oddly out of place but remains a minor blip. This is still a strong, straight-forward and accessible production of Shakespeare's great historical drama.

Julius Caesar continues at Edgerton Park, 75 Cliff St., New Haven through Sept.1. Admission is free - donations accepted

Tom Holehan is one of the founders of the Connecticut Critics Circle, a frequent contributor to WPKN Radio’s “State of the Arts” program and Artistic Director of Stratford’s Square One Theatre Company. He welcomes comments at: tholehan@yahoo.com. His reviews and other theater information can be found on the Connecticut Critics Circle website:www.ctcritics.org.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Calling Tiny Tim! Hartford Stage to Hold Kids Auditions for A Christmas Carol

Hartford Stage's A Christmas Carol with  Bill Raymond and children. Photo:  T. Charles Erickson
Hartford Stage will be holding auditions for child actors for the Tony Award-winning theater's 16th annual production of A Christmas Carol - A Ghost Story of Christmas on Tuesday, Sept. 17 and Wednesday, Sept. 18, from 3 to  6 pm each day. Callbacks will be on Friday, Sept. 20.

Auditions are for Non-Equity children of all ethnic backgrounds, 5-13-years-old. Children, who wish to audition may not turn 14 years of age until after Dec. 28, 2013.  Rehearsals begin Tuesday, Nov. 12, with performance dates from Friday, Nov. 29, through Saturday, Dec. 28. 

Auditions are by appointment only, and there are a limited number of appointments available.  To schedule an audition call 860-520-7103 Monday through Friday between 10 am and 5 pm or email artistic@hartfordstage.org. Audition location and requirements will be discussed when parents or guardians call to arrange an appointment.   

A Christmas Carol is by former Hartford Stage Artistic Director Michael Wilson and has been presented annually since 1998.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Mark Twain Happenings from Shakespeare on the Lawn to Twain on the River



As You Like It by William Shakespeare will be performed by the world-renowned tragi-comedians The Castle Theatre Company of Durham University, UK on the lawn at the Mark Twain House Saturday, Sept.r 14 from 2 to 4 pm.

Bringeth lawn furniture and blankets! Rain or shine! Ree Will (Shakespeare) offerings accepted.

Castle Theatre Company is one of the oldest theatre companies in Durham University. Set amidst the grounds of Durham's beautiful and ancient Castle, part of the city's World Heritage Site, the company has produced theatre of the highest quality for three decades. The company holds strong to a tradition of producing a 'Summer Shakespeare' performance, which offers outdoor theatrical entertainment in the gardens of Durham Castle, before embarking on a national tour to some of England's finest stately homes and large estates to perform to audiences across the country and around the world.

Take a Ride on the Essex Steam Train, Riverboat with Mark Twain this Weekend

This Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 24 and 25, Mark Twain will create a unique experience, riding along and interacting with visitors on the Essex Steam Train & Riverboat in Essex, CT.

Mark Twain, one of Connecticut's most famous residents, will visit the train and riverboat to do what he does best - entertain crowds with storytelling and humor. Always with a smile, always with wit, Mr. Twain plans to make the "Passengers from the Past" experience fun and exciting. A tip for your ride aboard the Becky Thatcher riverboat: be sure to ask Mr. Twain about the Tom Sawyer character the riverboat is named after.

The "Passengers from the Past" experience is new to the Essex Steam Train this year, and is designed to take passengers back in time alongside popular historic figures. Prior "riders" included President Lincoln and Mary Todd Lincoln, as well as William & Helen Gillette. The special passengers are personified by some of the most renowned historic figure actors in the country. Visitors will get to spend quality time on the steam train and riverboat with some of the most interesting people in history. There are no additional fees for the "Passengers from the Past" experience.

Info here: http://www.essexsteamtrain.com/passengers.html.
Tom Lee

GILGAMESH: Love, Death & Power in Ancient Iraq
A reckless king seeks to become immortal and confronts all that it means to be human. What happens next in this thrilling epic -- Gilgamesh: Love Death & Power in Ancient Iraq -- will be relayed with consummate skill by Master-Storyteller-in-Residence Tom Lee Sunday, Sept. 22, at 2 pm. It's the first of an adult trio of "Grown-Up Storytime" appearances by the noted storyteller for adults, who has thrilled audiences at the museum in past years. 

Admission is $15; 90 minutes, not suitable for children.

An additional program ("Prince Ring" on Dec. 15) is suitable for children ages 7 and up! ($6). Tickets:
860-280-3130. 

Monday, August 19, 2013

Theater Review: Time Stands Still -- TheaterWorks

Liz Holtan, Matthew Boston, Tim Altmeyer and Erika Rolfsrud. Photo: Lanny Nagler
A Look Through the Lens of Love and War
By Lauren Yarger
When photo journalist Sarah (Erika Rolfsrud) looks through the rectangular viewfinder on her camera to cover the anguish of people caught in the horrors of war, Time Stands Still. She can’t figure out how to make that happen with the fast-moving slideshow of tragedy and emotions in her own life, however, in Donald Margulies’ 2010 Tony-nominated play getting a run at TheaterWorks, Hartford.

Director Rob Ruggiero brilliantly focuses on the domestic tension between Sarah and her long-time, live-in boyfriend and fellow foreign correspondent, James (Tim Altmeyer), giving the play depth beyond its obvious question about the ethics of journalists being voyeurs on the sidelines of tragedies. The battleground at home produces far more serious wounds than anything these two experienced in actual war zones.

Sarah was wounded in a car bombing in Afghanistan which left her in a coma and killed her interpreter, Tariq. Now, with an injured arm and leg and a face scarred by the shrapnel (Special Makeup Design by Joe Rossi), Sarah returns to their Brooklyn apartment to recover (Luke Hegel-Cantarella designs the terrific loft.)

An over attentive Jamie, feeling guilty because he suffered a breakdown and was back in the states when Sarah was injured, drives her crazy with his attempts to help. His traumatic experience and Sarah’s brush with death have him re-thinking priorities in his life and he wants to settle down, get married and have children – a previously forbidden subject in the household. He doesn’t want to “dodge bullets or step over dead children” any more, he tells her. He is willing to forgive Sarah’s past infidelity with Tariq so they can have a future together.

Sarah isn’t so sure, however. Tariq was more than just a war-time fling for her, but the sudden domestic bliss of the couple’s editor, Richard (Matthew Boston) and his much-younger, naïve wife, Mandy (Liz Holtan who adds much-need and superbly acted humor to the plot) make her wonder if she shouldn’t go ahead and accept Jamie’s proposal. Thinking about what she does for a living has Sarah wondering about ethics, especially when blissful new mom Mandy questions her motives about how she can stand by and observe without doing anything to help.

“The camera is there to record life, not change it,” Sarah replies, tersely. “If I let it get to me, how could I do my job? I’m there to take pictures.”

It does get to her, though, as she suffers flashbacks, But telling the story truthfully, without interference is most important to her and she wants to get back to her job regardless of its difficulties and dangers.

She’s especially not happy with Jamie’s reporting for a book Richard wants them to write about the experience. Jamie seems more interested in writing another, lighter piece about horror films than telling about what happened in Afghanistan and when he finally writes up the car-bomb account, he leaves Tariq out of it, to Sarah’s frustration. The damage to their relationship, which started way before the bombing, just might be harder to fix than her physical injuries.

The play is a well written, thought-provoking piece from the Pulitzer-Prize winning and Connecticut playwright with a strong ensemble. Particularly smart is a photo exhibit in the lobby of a number of famous and award-winning photographs similar to the kind Sarah might have been taking. Viewing them before and after the show gives added insight into the character and into the role of photojournalists and in a way, makes time stand still as you reflect.

Time Stands Still closes out the 2012-2013 season at TheaterWorks, 233 Pearl St., Hartford. It runs through Sept. 15, Performances: Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays: 7:30 pm; Fridays and Saturdays: 8 pm; Weekend Matinees at 2:30 pm. Tickets $17-$63: 860-527-7838; www.theaterworkshartford.org.

CT Arts Connections: Dan Sullivan to Retire as Head of O'Neill's Critic Institute

The Eugene O’Neill Theater Center announced today that Dan Sullivan, faculty member of the National Critics Institute (NCI) since 1977 and its Director since 1999, will retire as head of the long-standing summer program for theater critics. He will remain on the faculty. A replacement has not been announced.

  • Arts advocate and philanthropist Howard J. Aibel of Weston will be honored with the Westport Country Playhouse Leadership Award at the theater’s annual fundraising gala on the evening of Monday, Sept. 16. As previously announced, the Playhouse’s annual gala, entitled, “Sophisticated Lady: A Gala Evening Honoring Phylicia Rashad,” will also honor the Tony Award-winner, who directed Westport Country Playhouse’s A Raisin in the Sun last fall. Information or ticket purchases: Elizabeth Marks Juviler, special events coordinator, at 203-227-5137, ext. 123, or ejuviler@westportplayhouse.org.

  • Downtown Cabaret Auditions for Children's Company:
  • WEDNESDAY SEPT 4TH open call 5 to 9 pm
    Male and female musical theatre performers, *ages 16+
    Child actors under 16 will be seen for Annie Jr. at a separate audition
     Headshot/photo and resume required (email to auditions@downtowncabaret.org)
    Seeking Strong actors that can sing and move well.
    Two songs (up tempo and ballad). Have a 16 bar section ready.
    Accompanist provided. Bring sheet music in correct key.
    A dance call to establish basic movement skills may take place, please bring appropriate shoes
    2013/2014 Season includes:
    “How I Became a Pirate” Oct. 5-27
    “Annie Jr.” Nov. 10- Dec. 29
    “The Littlest Mermaid” Jan. 11 - Feb. 16
    “Robin Hood” March 1 - 30
    “Aladdin” April 12 - May 18 

  • Kate Classic: Long Day's Journey into Night 
  • Date: Tuesday, August 20
    Times: 2pm & 7pm
    Price: $8
    Katharine Hepburn received her ninth Best Actress Oscar nomination for playing Mary Tyrone, a depressed, unstable addict in the movie version of Eugene O'Neill's drama, "Long Day's Journey Into Night". It is one of Katharine Hepburn's most famous performances (she herself considered this one her best) and it won her Best Actress at Cannes in 1962.
    Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center, 300 Main St., Old Saybrook. 877-503-1286; www.thekate.org.

Westport's 2014 Season Explores Different Facets of Love

Mark Lamos
Westport Country Playhouse Artistic Director Mark Lamos has selected plays by Noël Coward, Ingmar Bergman, Alan Ayckbourn, and Lynn Nottage for the theater’s 84th season.

“It's a season that will be rich and enriching,” said Lamos. “A rich variety of offerings, each exploring the different facets of love: passionate, cruel, remembered, longed-for, or hysterically silly. An enriching series of experiences for theatergoers who love theater worth talking about.”

The 2014 season will begin with Coward’s A Song at Twilight directed by Lamos, April 29 – May 17, 2014, a co-production with Hartford Stage. In this exquisite battle of wits, Coward explores the nature of passion, the cruelty of love, and the price of hidden secrets. The story tells of Sir Hugo Latymer, who, in his long career, has achieved more than most writers even dream of—money, fame, and a reputation beyond reproach. But his carefully constructed ivory tower is imperiled when a long-ago love threatens to shed a very public light into the most scandalous corner of his private past, a revelation that could bring it all tumbling down.

The second show, playing June 10 - 28, 2014, will be announced at a later date. Directed by Lamos, it will be either a comedy or a world premiere musical event.

Nora, Bergman’s adaptation of Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House, translated into the English language by Frederick J. Marker and Lisa-Lone Marker, will run July 15 – Aug. 2, 2014, directed by David Kennedy, Playhouse associate artistic director. A story of love, blackmail, and the little lies people tell.

A comedy by Playhouse favorite Ayckbourn, Things We Do for Love, will run Aug. 19 – Sept. 6, 2014. Replete with trademark Ayckbourn touches, this wickedly funny play questions just how sane anyone really is when it comes to love. Fastidious Barbara’s orderly, but solitary world is thrown into chaos when the arrival of her longtime friend Nikki and her fiancé ignites unexpected and violent passions.

Rounding out the season, Oct. 7 – 25, 2014, is Intimate Apparel by Pulitzer Prize winner Nottage (Ruined). The play explores how each choice people make is a vital stitch in the ornately and delicately embroidered fabric of their lives. The story weaves an intricate tapestry of the joys, sorrows, tragedy, and triumph of a gifted but lonely African-American seamstress in early 20th century Manhattan who's negotiating the choice between a love that is accepted and one that is true.

Information: 203-227-4177; toll-free at 1-888-927-7529; 25 Powers Court, Westport. Tickets: twww.westportplayhouse.org.

Elm Street's Julius Caesar Has Some Cast Changes

Paul Pryce. Photo courtesy of Elm Shakespeare.
Julius Caesar
Elm Shakespeare Company
Through Sunday, Sept. 1
Tuesday-Sunday at  8 pm. Free outdoor performances, Edgerton Park, 75 Cliff Street, New Haven. www.elmshakespeare.org; 203-874-0801.

Co-directed by Elm Shakespeare’s Artistic Director James Andreassi and Alvin Epstein
Cast: Tracy Griswold (Julius Caesar), Keely Baisden (Portia), Colin Lane (Metullus Cimber), Andreassi (Brutus), Paul Pryce (Mark Antony), Damian Buzzerio (Cassius), Robert Boardman (Decius Brutus) and Paula Plum (Casca).

Coming up:
Annual Gala and Auction to benefit the Elm Shakespeare Company
Thursday Aug. 29
5 to 8 pm, followed by the performance of Julius Caesar
Tickets for Gala: Friend $125, Patron $175: www.elmshakespeare.org; 203-874-0801. On-line Auction www.biddingforgood.com/elmshakespeare.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Theater Review: Dreamgirls -- Ivoryton Playhouse

Sheniqua Denise Trotman as Effie. Photo: Anne Hudson. 
Oh, My. I Said, Oh, My, This One’s a Dream
By Lauren Yarger
With a strong cast, a profusion of sparkling costumes and a nine-person band, Ivoryton Playhouse goes full out to produce a version of the musical Dreamgirls that really is a dream.

The musical, which was nominated for 13 Tony Awards on Broadway back in 1981 is a challenge for theater groups wanting to stage the tale of the rise of an African-American singing group (reminiscent of the The Supremes or The Shirelles) in the 1960s. Not only is the musical score by Henry Krieger (with lyrics by Tom Eyen, who wrote the book) difficult to sing vocally, but the actress who plays Effie always finds herself in the shadow of Jennifer Holliday, who won a Tony for a Best Actress for her performance. Her rendition of “(And I’m Telling You) I’m Not Going” was so dramatic that it is etched forever on the minds of anyone who saw it. 

Add to that Jennifer Hudson’s Academy Award-winning performance in the movie adaptation and suddenly finding an “Effie” who can anchor this show often proves to be a daunting job. Not just any actress can pull it off, even if she can belt.

Director Lawrence Thelen proves himself up to the challenge, however, with the casting of terrific nonEquity actress Sheniqua Denise Trotman from Huntsville, AL. Her “I’m Not Going” puts focus on the emotional pain felt by the character and is a powerhouse exploration of the lyrics. In between all that belting. Kudos.

Effie is lead singer of the Dreamettes singing group made up of Lorell Robinson (Ashley Jeudy, who just did a turn at Ivoryton in Footloose) and her best friend Deena Jones (Jennlee Shallow from Trinidad who has starred in The Lion King tours, Ragtime at the Kennedy Center and was the lead singer in Cirque d Soleil’s Las Vegas Vivo Elvis). They are signed as a backup group for Jimmy Early (a sensational Caliaf St. Aubyn) by shady manager Curtis Taylor, Jr. (Damian Norfleet) who wins Effie’s heart.

Effie’s songwriter brother, C.C. (Datus Puryear) helps Jimmy hit the top of the charts, but Jimmy’s manager, Marty (Colin Lyle Howard) , grows more and more annoyed with Curtis’ interference. Finally the girls split off to form their own act, the Dreams, but the break comes with a change: Curtis wants Deena to sing lead.

As Curtis turns his attention toward making Deena a star – and his next romantic conquest – Effie finds it harder to perform and starts missing appointments, or showing up late. Thelen stages a beautiful moment where Curtis and Deena discuss the future downstage as a devastated Effie looks on through the fog further upstage. Without notice, Curtis replaces her with another singer, Michelle Morris (Brennyn Lark Langhorn), and Effie becomes estranged from her lover, best friend and brother.

Years later, down to her last shot at making it in the music business, Effie allows Marty to try to revive her career with “One Night Only,” the latest pop hit penned for her by C.C.

The costumes designed by Njaye Olds) are amazing. There are so many, you can’t count, but they sparkle, flow (and in one number don’t cover very much) and help create the tone and era of the musical. Each one contains exquisite detail and is part of something larger. The Dreams, for instance, all wear beautiful dresses – each slightly different and accented in blend. Todd L. Underwood choreographs here (the original show was directed and choreographed by Michael Bennett).

St. Aubyn lights up the stage (even brighter than the pretty nifty lighting show designed by Marcus Abbot who also designs the sets) with a humorous and consuming performance as the singer who battles with delivering the more “white” sound booking venues want with the more free, rhythmic and black sound that bursts out of him. His performance is so engaging, in fact, that the audience has to remind itself to side with Lorell when she finally tells her two-timing lover they are through.

The band, relatively large for Ivoryton, is conducted by Musical Director Mike Morris who is Director of Music for the Hartt School Theater Division at University of Hartford.

This is one of the biggest musicals Ivoryton has ever produced. And one of the best. Don’t miss it.

Dreamgirls runs at Ivoryton Playhouse, 103 Main St., through Sept.1. Performances are Wednesday and Sunday at 2pm; Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 pm; Friday and Saturday at 8 pm.. Tickets are $40 for adults, $35 for seniors, $20 for students and $15 for children: 860-767-7318; www.ivorytonplayhouse.org.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Horse Extravaganza Show Extends Near Boston

The Travelers V / Les voyageurs V | Credits: JF Leblanc
Cavalia’s Odysseo, a $30-million horse show imagined by Normand Latourelle, one of the co-founders of Cirque du Soleil, has extended its run under the White Big Top at  201 Assembly Square Drive in Somerville, MA at the intersection of Interstate 93 and Route 28.

Tickets, priced from $34.50-$139.50 are on sale through Aug. 25:  www.cavalia.net or by calling 1-866-999-8111.  VIP tickets (Rendez-Vous package) offer the best seats in the house, buffet-dinning before the show, open bar, deserts during intermission and an exclusive visit of the stable after the show. The Rendez-Vous package prices range from $154.50 to $219.50.

To give life to this extraordinary equestrian adventure, Cavalia created a 17,500-square-foot stage, in the middle of which rise two hills each three storeys tall. Some 10,000 tons of rock, earth and sand are trucked in and then sculpted to create the vast space of freedom where human and horse come to play in complicity.

Above the stage hangs an imposing technical grid capable of supporting 80 tons of equipment including, a full-sized merry-go-round. Odysseo presents a “live 3-D” voyage with extremely high-definition computer graphic images that transport the audience across the world’s most beautiful landscapes. To project these
breathtaking graphic backdrops on an immense cyclorama the size of three IMAX screens, Odysseo uses 18 projectors simultaneously.

The dream begins in a misty, enchanted forest where horses graze and frolic under a sky of rolling clouds and a setting sun. Horses, riders, acrobats and musicians embark on a soulful journey that leads them from the Mongolian steppes to Monument Valley, from the African savannah to Nordic glaciers, from the Sahara to Easter Island.

Among the sites on this grand voyage are urban stilters,  a troupe of African acrobats, horses powering angelic aerialists in a four-person silks act that takes them into the skies, an African harp called a Kora and purebred Arabian horses directed by inaudible vocal commands from their kneeling trainer.

The scenes follow the seasons; at times, the horses and people become too numerous to count. The Odysseo epic wraps up with a fantastic crescendo as the stage is inundated with 80,000 gallons of water in just a few minutes. A virtual waterfall overhangs the resulting lake, in which horses, riders and artists join to frolic, leaving behind them the traces of their splashes and an astonished audience.

Fun Facts:
  • Odysseo features 63 horses of 11 different breeds including the Appaloosa, Arabian, Canadian, Holsteiner, Lusitano, Oldenburg, Paint Horse, Quarter Horse, Spanish Purebred (P.R.E.) and armblood.Headquartered in Montreal.
  • The horses are from Spain, Portugal, France, The Netherlands, Germany, The United States and Canada.
  • There are 47 artists - riders, acrobats, aerialists, dancers and musicians.
  • The artists are from around the world including the United States, Canada, Brazil, France, Belgium, Guinea, Russia, Spain and Ukraine.
  •  There are 350 costumes and 100 pairs of shoes and boots in the show. Artists may have up to seven different costumes.
Cavalia Inc. is an entertainment company that specializes in the creation, production and touring of innovative shows for audiences of all ages. Founded by Latourelle, the company has an expertise in equestrian and performing arts, and is known for cutting-edge technology, multimedia and special effects. Cavalia, seen by some 4million people across North America and Europe since its 2003 debut, celebrates the relationship between humans and horses by loosely recounting the evolution of this bond.

The website for Odysseo says information about tour stops in Washington, DC and Seattle is coming.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

A Midsummer Night's Dream -- CT Free Shakespeare

A Lively “Midsummer” Presented Under the Stars
By Tom Holehan
There was life last week on the grounds of the woebegone American Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford where Director Ellen Lieberman continued her annual presentation of “accessible Shakespeare” this time with a fast and lively production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Shakespeare’s popular tale of mismatched lovers lost in a forest of fairies, sprites and changelings looks right at home on the theatre grounds with majestic tall trees framing the stage. The trees helped considerably as Doug Frawley’s bland scenic design doesn’t begin to suggest the enchanted forest required for the classic.

This is in-your-face, endlessly enthusiastic Shakespeare with enough good actors and high spirits in the large company to win over even those who still don’t quite “get” the Bard. Handsome Mark Friedlander makes for an appealingly love-struck Lysander matched well with the adorable Caitlin Chuckta as Hermia. Jonathan Holtzman’s Oberon and Saluda Camp’s Titania are both well-spoken who suggest the otherworldly without a lot of fuss and CFS regular Eric Nyquist is a ball of energy as the exuberant Puck. The clear crowd-pleaser of the evening, however, was Ian Eaton’s delightfully hammy Bottom. He probably gets away with more than the law should allow here, but the audience I sat with was not complaining.

Pyramus and Thisbe, the hilarious play-within-a-play that caps the production, goes on far too long but, again, the crowd would have probably enjoyed even more. There are also extended dance and song sequences that could have been trimmed and pity this poor company that doesn’t even get a rest at intermission as they lead group sing-alongs while passing buckets for donations. Frankly, I could have used a break from this fun but aggressive production, but there is no denying that Ms. Lieberman knows her audience very well.

 A Midsummer Night’s Dream will continue at McLevy Green in Downtown Bridgeport through Aug. 11. For further information call 203-916-8066 or visit:www.ctfreeshakespeare.org
 
Tom Holehan is one of the founders of the Connecticut Critics Circle, a frequent contributor to WPKN Radio’s “State of the Arts” program and Artistic Director of Stratford’s Square One Theatre Company. He welcomes comments at: tholehan@yahoo.com. His reviews and other theatre information can be found on the Connecticut Critics Circle website:www.ctcritics.org.

Theater Review: Grease -- New Canaan


Courtesy of New Canaan
Grease Rocks Under the Stars in New Canaan
By Tom Holehan
Grease, the much-produced 1950s rock and roll musical and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the Shakespeare perennial (especially at this time of year), are both being offered al fresco this summer by the Summer Theatre of New Canaan and Connecticut Free Shakespeare. Pack your picnic basket and enjoy the night breezes…if not the productions!

Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey struck musical theatre gold with Grease, which opened on Broadway in 1972, had a few revivals, countless National Tours and a certain blockbuster film version whose popularity continues to baffle me to this day. The simple story about some not-too-tough high school greasers and the women they love includes the main romance between virginal new girl Sandy Dombrowski (STONC’s perky Sharon Malane) and bad boy ladies man Danny Zuko (Christian Libonati, working awfully hard). Complications, as they say, ensue and the dubious moral of  Grease still seems to say: Embrace your inner slut and the boys will love you. Nice.

At STONC, the cast is knocking themselves out to entertain and the mugging and extreme “face acting” going on is broad enough to be comfortably observed from the parking lot. Director Melody Meitrott Libonati leaves little to the imagination and everyone seems to be trying just a little too hard. It would have been nice if the actors were encouraged to take a step back and find some truth in these cartoonish characters. You’d also like them to relax a tad and enjoy their characters instead of forcing them so on us with such gusto.

The nifty score, however, is still fun to hear and audience members sang along with the familiar, infectious music. The most successful performance of the evening was Cristina Farruggia as mean girl (with a heart of gold, ‘natch!) Betty Rizzo. Farruggia may look mature enough to join the cast of “The Real Housewives of New Jersey”, but her powerhouse singing of “There Are Worse Things I Could Do” late in act two may be the production’s highlight. Adam Hill’s Teen Angel does a decent job with “Beauty School Dropout” finding the wit within the lyrics and Elysia Jordan brings real feeling to “Freddy My Love”. David Hancock Turner’s compact but pistol-hot orchestra continues to impress and this Grease manages to entertain despite itself.

Grease continues at the Summer Theatre of New Canaan through August 11. For further information or ticket reservations, call the theatre box office at 203.966.4634 or visit: www.stonc.org. For further information call 203.916.8066 or visit: www.ctfreeshakespeare.org
 
Tom Holehan is one of the founders of the Connecticut Critics Circle, a frequent contributor to WPKN Radio’s “State of the Arts” program and Artistic Director of Stratford’s Square One Theatre Company. He welcomes comments at: tholehan@yahoo.com. His reviews and other theater information can be found on the Connecticut Critics Circle website:www.ctcritics.org.
C O N N E C T I C U T
--- A R T S ---
C O N N E C T I O N

Lauren Yarger with playwright Alfred Uhry at the Mark Twain House. Photo: Jacques Lamarre)

Blog Archive

Copyright Notice

All contents are copyrighted © Lauren Yarger 2009-2016. All rights reserved.