Tuesday, October 29, 2013

'Godfather' Dan Lauria in Conversation with Scot Haney

Full disclosure: I am totally connected as the planner of this event -- but you should know about it! -- Lauren

You loved him as the father on TV’s “The Wonder Years.” Now meet him in a new role: The Godfather.

Actor Dan Lauria, in conversation with Channel 3’s Scot Haney, will discuss his career and the collection of children’s stories he created for his godson, Julian, at a special event Thursday, Nov. 7 at the Mark Twain House and Museum, 351 Farmington Ave., Hartford.

The star of A Christmas Story, the musical, playing at The Bushnell Nov. 12-17, will sign copies of his book, “The Blue Hair Club and Other Stories,” the first in the Godfather Tales Series, following the program with Haney, which begins at 6 pm. Proceeds from the books’ sales benefit a charity assisting single moms and Julian’s education. Books (geared toward kids aged 5-10) may be pre-ordered at http://shop.marktwainhouse.org/ or 860-280-3136.

A Christmas Story’s famous “leg lamp” will be on hand, along with “Ralphie’s” pink bunny suit from the show for photo ops with the kids. Drawings will be held for tickets to the show at The Bushnell and for CDs of the musical’s soundtrack. Refreshments, including some “Oh, fudge!,” courtesy of the show, will be served and kids from the cast of A Christmas Story will be on hand to read excerpts from the book.

The event is being presented free of charge. Questions or more information: bookauthorpub@yahoo.com.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Theater Review: The Underpants -- Long Wharf

Steve Routman, Jeff McCarthy, 
Jenny Leona and Burke Moses. Photo: T. Charles Erickson
A Silly-Fun Farce from Steve Martin Pulls Up at Long Wharf
By Lauren Yarger
Crowds gather in hopes of catching a glimpse of the King as he passes by during a parade, but the real sight of the day ends up being a woman caught with her drawers down in The Underpants, a light-hearted farce by comedian Steve Martin.

The play, adapted from German playwright Carl Sternheim’s 1911 farce Die Hose, is playing at Long Wharf Theater through Nov. 10, then will get a second run Jan. 9 –Feb. 9, 2014 at Hartford Stage which is co-presenting. Long Wharf’s Gordon Edelstein directs.

While stretching on tip-toe to get a better view of the king, Louise Maske (Jenny Leona)  loses her underpants -- and the respect of her uptight, disapproving husband, Theo (Jeff McCarthy), who fears the embarrassment could cost him his job. This is just one more in a long list of things his wife of just a year hasn’t done right, he complains while criticizing her housekeeping. With an order to have his wieners ready when he gets home, he storms out.

What she lacks in the way of esteem from her husband, who hasn’t touched her since their wedding night for fear they will conceive a child they can’t afford, however, Louise more than makes up for in the undying admiration from some gentlemen who got a glimpse of her underpants at the parade.

The first to show up at her door is handsome Frank Versati (Burke Moses who delightfully puts us in mind of Harvey Korman playing a smarmy leading man opposite Carol Burnett), a poet who wants to rent a room that the Manskes have for rent. The underpants incident has given him his muse and changed his world, he tells her, as he pledges his devotion. She agrees to rent him the room.

Unbeknownst to Louise, Theo also has rented the room to shy, nerdy Benjamin Cohen (Steve Routman), who insists he is not Jewish and that his name is spelled with a “K.” He too witnessed the underpants incident, and thanks to the tools of his barber’s trade – a quickly produced mirror while he was lying on the ground – he got quite an eyeful of what the underpants left uncovered and now he is smitten with Louise as well.

Theo decides they can share the room and orders his wife to take care of all the men’s needs….

Meanwhile, upstairs neighbor and confident Gertrude Deuter (Didi Conn) decides that Louise should have an affair and makes her friend a new set of underwear worthy of a seduction. The young wife discovers that she does have some physical cravings and welcomes Versati’s attentions. A couple of things get in the way of their romance, however, despite Gertrude’s agreeing to serve as watchdog for Theo’s arrival at home: Versati seems more interested in composing poems about loving Louise instead of doing anything about it, and Cohen vows to prevent anything from happening between the would-be lovers.

Things get even more complicated when the apartment gets rented again to oldtimer Klinglehoff (George Bartenieff), who thinks seeing the fallen underpants might only have been a hallucination. Theo’s interest in his wife also is rekindled when he realizes that all of the rent money he has collected could provide the means for him and his wife to have a baby after all….

All the elements of farce are here, including a silly story where “chaos ensues” and multiple doors (Lee Savage, design) with some nifty and effective staging on entrances through them by Edelstein. He keeps the pace quick and sharp – essentials for a successful farce.

Routman displays superior physical comedy skills and sounds a little like Wally Cox, which makes us chuckle even more. Leona manages to keep Louise likable and has wonderful rapport with Conn who enjoys playing the nosy neighbor indulging in a vicarious affair. And best of all, McCarthy manages, in intonation and delivery, to sound a lot like Steve Martin.

Martin’s skillful adaptation makes the tale modern, even though we know by the costumes and hair (Jess Goldstein and Charles LaPointe, design) that we are in the early 20th Century.

 “Sternheim’s play is ribald, self-referential, and quirky. I hope I have retained those elements and assured my place in heaven – I mean, served the playwright’s intentions,” Martin wrote in his introduction to the play.

For information about the show’s run at Hartford Stage: (860) 527-5151; www.hartfordstage.org.

Catch The Underpants at Long Wharf’s mainstage theater, 222 Sargent Drive, New Haven, before they come down Nov. 10. Performance times vary. Tickets $54.50-$79.50: www.longwharf.org; (203) 787- 4282.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Theater Review: Mrs. Mannerly -- TheaterWorks

Dale Hodges and Raymond McAnally. Photo: Lanny Nagler
Remember Your Manners About Laughing Out Loud in Public Places
By Lauren Yarger
Dale Hodges and Raymond McAnally reprise roles as etiquette expert Mrs. Mannerly and her 9-going-on-10-year-old student in Jeffrey Hatcher’s brisk and funny memoir play opening the 2013-2014 season at TheaterWorks, Hartford.

Mrs. Mannerly is Hatcher’s recollection of being a nerdy, Little-League-challenged kid who finds his calling in mastering the table settings, napkin folding, dinner conversation and social graces taught by Mrs. Mannerly, an elderly woman who has seen generations of kids pass through her manners class offered at the local YMCA. Lighting Designer John Lasiter provides a nice “switch” effect which Jeffrey uses to stop and start action between his memory, spoken to the audience as an adult, and the action taking place against a “Greetings from Steubenville, OH” postcard when he was a youngster in 1967 (set design by Brian Mehring).

Jeffrey, dressed in knickers (costume design by Rebecca Senske), arrives for his first class, along with classmates Ralph, Chuckie, Kim and Jamie (all also played by the talented McAnally), who compete for the honor of earning a silver spoon pin, given by Mrs. Mannerly for exceptional displays of etiquette knowledge. Those who mess up, by asking “What?” instead of “I beg your pardon?” for example, are fined a quarter, however.

Kim quickly masters the art of arranging silverware and glasses in the correct manner with the precision of a sniper assemble his rifle in the dark for a kill. Chuckie morphs into brown noser, Ivy League wannabe “Charles,” and awkward Ralph tries to master the art of conversation while wiping his ever-draining nose. Unengaged, gum-chewing Jamie takes it all in stride with a “whatever” attitude.

McAnally, directed here by Ed Stern, gives an amusing performance as the collection of kids. The scene where he meets up with an older, more experienced girl for the dance portion of the etiquette lessons is particularly funny. Using just the different eye glasses worn by the two characters for props, McAnally manages to have a humorous makeout session with himself that leaves both the couple and the audience rolling on the floor.

As the other kids are expelled from the class for various offenses, Jeffrey suddenly realizes he might be the only one who has what it takes to shine and earn a perfect 100 on the end-of-course exam given in front of the ladies of the Daughters of the American Revolution. A feat that never has been accomplished before.

The teacher and student start to develop a relationship outside of class, but Jeffrey finds Mrs. Mannerly’s denial that she’s ever been to Chicago, and her panicky reaction every time the city’s name is mentioned, very mysterious. He knows she was there years ago, because he saw a program from a theater where she starred during her actress days as Helen Anderson Kirk. Just what is Mrs. Mannerly hiding and will it interfere with Jeffrey’s pursuit of a perfect score on the etiquette test?

The play is fun with a run time of less than 90 minutes. It could use a few tweaks -- some of the hyperbole is exaggerated a bit too much and the story gets off track at times – but overall, it’s entertaining.

Hodges shines in a scene where the perfectly coiffed (wig design by Kelly Yurko) woman lets her hair down while belting back Scotch at the bar housed below the apartment she rents. She tends to shout and whine a little too much for an etiquette expert, however. Hodges and McAnally, who have a good on-stage rapport, performed these roles in a previous production of Mrs. Mannerly in Cincinnati.
Mrs. Mannerly runs through Nov. 17 at TheaterWorks, Hartford. Peformances: Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays at 7:30 pm; Fridays and Saturdays at 8 pm; Weekend Matinees at 2:30 pm. Tickets $15-$50 (860) 527-7838; www.theaterworkshartford.org.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Dance, Theater Combine for The Witching Hour

Miceli Productions Photography
Heart-thumping tales of women and men accused, tried and convicted of witchcraft in mid 17th-century Connecticut are cast from the past into the present through a newly re-imagined staging of “The Witching Hour,” a dance-theater piece by The Ensemble of Judy Dworin Performance Project.

A free, pre-Halloween preview will be presented on Tuesday, October 15 at noon at the Old State House, 800 Main Street.

Performances of “The Witching Hour” are Friday and Saturday, November 1 and 2, at 7:30 p.m. at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art’s Aetna Theater.

This historically informed work won the National Award of Merit from the American Association of State and Local History after its premiere in 2007. It revisits what happened in Windsor, Hartford and Wethersfield, Conn. when witchcraft was punishable by death – predating by nearly half a century the notorious trials in Salem, Mass. – and when rigid Puritan authority censored the outspoken and bedeviled the herbalists, midwives and indentured servants, among others, who practiced cherished folk traditions.

Vividly depicting how fears of difference can turn dangerous, and how designating scapegoats seems to appease the hysteria of mob mentality and other social ills, “The Witching Hour” invites comparison to contemporary problems of prejudice and persecution, such as bullying, intolerance, and gender injustice.

Stories of Connecticut’s accused witches are told by the character of Katherine Harrison (performed by guest actor and dancer Lesley Farlow), which is based on a real-life Wethersfield landowner who escaped hanging through banishment. Among those stories is the first witch trial in Colonial America, resulting in the hanging of Alse Young of Windsor in 1647 at the site where Hartford’s Old State House was built.

Larger than life size puppets by Anne Cubberly that she created for the original production, which was a collaborative venture with Connecticut Landmarks, will be seen in a lobby installation.

Dance-theater artist Judy Dworin believes that the arts can serve as a catalyst for change. In works produced by the Judy Dworin Performance Project and created by Dworin in collaboration with associate artistic director Kathy Borteck Gersten and The Ensemble, questions of history, equality, and social justice, and the potential for transformation within the individual and society at large, are thought-provokingly explored in a blend of movement, spoken word, song, and visual elements.

Judy Dworin was a 2012 honoree at the Connecticut Women’s Hall of Fame induction ceremony that celebrated women of “Voice and Vision.” That same year the Judy Dworin Performance Project received an Award of Merit from the Connecticut League of History Organizations for “In This House,” a work inspired by the history of the 1678 Joshua Hempsted House in New London. In 2010, the Judy Dworin Performance Project was presented with the Hartford Courant Tapestry Award for its efforts at bridging diverse community sectors, which includes teaching and mentoring children in the Hartford Public Schools, children of incarcerated parents, and inmates of York Correctional Institution, the state’s sole prison for women.

Ticket prices are $25, $15 for seniors and Let’s Go! Members and $10 for students. To purchase tickets call (860) 527-9800. Tickets will also be available at the door.

The Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art is located at 600 Main Street; the entrance to the Aetna Theater is through the museum’s Avery Memorial, across from the Traveler’s building on Atheneum Square North.

Judy Dworin Performance Project is able to present this timely performance thanks to the Department of Economic and Community Development’s CT Office of the Arts, Greater Hartford Arts Council’s United Arts Campaign, Simon Konover Fund, and Connecticut Humanities (CTH). CTH is a non-profit affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities that funds, creates and collaborates on hundreds of cultural programs across Connecticut each year. CTH brings together people of all ages and backgrounds to express, share and explore ideas in thoughtful and productive ways. From local discussion groups to major exhibitions on important historical events, CTH programs engage, enlighten and educate. Learn more by visiting www.cthumanities.org. Special thanks are extended to Connecticut Landmarks, Connecticut’s Old State House, Hartford Public Schools, and Trinity College.

For curious folk, here are a few related sites and sources pertaining to “The Witching Hour”:

Judy Dworin Performance Project:

Witches and Witchcraft: The First Person Executed in the Colonies:
Connecticut Witch Trials and Posthumous Pardons:

Research Guide to Colonial Witchcraft Trial Materials at the Connecticut State Library:

“The Witch of Blackbird Pond” by Elizabeth George Speare (1908-1994)
Winner of the Newbery Medal in 1959.
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Buttolph-Williams House, Wethersfield:

The Music of Johnny Cash Plays Over at Seven Angels

Photo courtesy of Seven Angels.
Ring of Fire-The Music of Johnny Cash

through Oct. 20 at seven angels Theatre, 1 Plank Road, Waterbury

Created by Richard Maltby Jr., Conceived by William Meade
From the iconic songbook of Johnny Cash comes this unique musical about love and faith, struggle and success, rowdiness and redemption, and home and family. More than two dozen classic hits—including “I Walk The Line,” “A Boy Named Sue,” “Folsom Prison Blues,” and the title tune—performed by a multi-talented cast, paint a musical portrait of The Man in Black that promises to be a foot-stompin’, crowd-pleasin’ salute to a uniquely American legend! Richard Maltby, re-conceived his Johnny Cash tribute specifically for a five-member ensemble, and making its Connecticut premiere at Seven Angels.

"Most of the songs in the show are songs people already know. And yet put together in an evening, they tell a story. Johnny had the soul of a poet, and when you listen to these songs together you hear something in them that is surprising. It's the story of America.” -- Richard Maltby Jr.

For tickets: https://www.choicesecure03.net/mainapp/eventschedule.aspx?Clientid=SevenAngels

Don’t miss these special food and drink nights and matinees.
Friday, 10/11 Sweet Maria’s Night
Saturday, 10/12 Fascia’s Chocolate Night
Friday, 10/18, Wine & Martini Night
Sunday, 10/20 Sundaes on Sunday

Oh, What a Night! Jersey Boys at the Palace

Brandon Andrus, Nick Cosgrove, Jason Kappus and Nicolas Dromard. Photo: Jeremy Daniel

Jersey Boys at the Palace, Waterbury, through Oct. 13

Directed by two-time Tony® Award-winner Des McAnuff, Jersey Boys won the 2006 Tony® Award for “Best Musical,” the 2006 Grammy Award® for “Best Musical Show Album,” the 2009 Olivier Award for “Best New Musical,” the 2010 Helpmann Award for “Best Musical” (Australia), and continues to break box office records on Broadway and across North America. It has been seen by over 16 million people worldwide (as of September 2012). Jersey Boys is written by Academy Award® -winner Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, with music by Bob Gaudio, lyrics by Bob Crewe and choreography by Sergio Trujillo.

Jersey Boys is the story of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons: Frankie Valli, Bob Gaudio, Tommy DeVito and Nick Massi. The musical details how a group of blue-collar boys from the wrong side of the tracks became one of the biggest American pop music sensations of all time. They wrote their own songs, invented their own sound, and sold 175 million records worldwide - all before they were 30.

Jersey Boys opened at the August Wilson Theatre on Broadway to critical acclaim on November 6, 2005. The musical’s First National Tour opened to rave reviews in San Francisco on December 1, 2006, played a record-breaking run in Los Angeles and is still breaking house records in cities across North America. Jersey Boys is currently playing in New York; London; Las Vegas; Brisbane, Australia; and across the US on two National tours, and it is coming soon to Adelaide, Australia; Singapore; and Johannesburg, South Africa.

The Original Broadway Cast Recording of Jersey Boys, produced by Bob Gaudio, was recently certified Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America. The cast recording is now available on Rhino Records. Jersey Boys: The Story of Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons (Broadway Books) is the official handbook to the smash Broadway hit. Seasons Greetings: A Jersey Boys Christmas, a new holiday CD featuring international cast members of Jersey Boys, produced by Bob Gaudio, is now available on Rhino Records.

Jersey Boys is produced by Dodger Theatricals, Joseph J. Grano, Tamara and Kevin Kinsella, Pelican Group, with Latitude Link and Rick Steiner.

Performance schedule, prices and cast are subject to change without notice. For more information, visit www.JerseyBoysTour.com orwww.palacetheaterct.org.

Theater Review: The Most Happy Fella -- Goodspeed

Mamie Parris and Bill Nolte. Photo: Diane Sobolewski
Bill Nolte Leads a Delightful Production of The Most Happy Fella!
By Lauren Yarger
Bill Nolte's portrayal of an Italian vineyard owner who wants to get married in early 1950s California is so charming in Goodspeed's production of The Most Happy Fella, that it's hard not to run up on stage at the end of the Frank Loesser musical and propose.

The saga is solidly helmed by Rob Ruggiero with choreography by Parker Esse and despite a book (by Loesser) that sometimes leaps around some huge gaps, this revival is a sweet romance made delightful by Nolte's portrayal of Tony Esposito and a strong performance from Mamie Parris as his love interest, Rosabella.

When Tony first sees Rosabella in the diner where she is a waitress, he is too shy to ask her out, so he leaves her a jeweled tie pin and a note. (The really cool diner set juts out onto the stage decorated with grape vines and trellises that later become Tony's vineyard. Set Design by Michael Schweikardt with lighting by john Lasiter).

A penpal correspondence turns into a marriage proposal with Rosabella arriving in San Francisco's Napa Valley with only a photo of the man she has agreed to spend the rest of her life. Everyone in the town, and all of his workers are happy for the well-liked man who speaks with a heavy accent as he proclaims himself The Most Happy Fella with, "I'm a wanna get married!" except for Tony's sister, Marie (Ann Arvia), who is used to taking care of her brother herself and wonders just how much he knows about Rosabella.

There's another problem that threatens Tony's happiness too: convinced Rosabella never would be interested in an older, rough-around-the-edges guy, he sent her a photo of his much younger, fit and handsome foreman, Joe (Doug Carpenter) instead. Rosabella's arrival and the wedding festivities are harshly interrupted when Tony is severely injured in an accident. She marries him any way, despite the fact that she has is horrified to discover he is so old -- and the fact that she has a sudden, urgent attraction with Joe.

In the weeks that follow, Rosabella tries to adjust to caring for Tony and to life in the valley, where the arrival of the postman (John Payonk) causes the whole town to sing and dance with joy. Tony senses her loneliness and offers her waitress friend, Cleo (Natalie Hill), a job. She strikes up a friendship with shy, vulnerable vineyard worker Herman (Kevin Vortmann).

Meanwhile, Rosabella's feelings for Tony begin to deepen and she finally finds the words to tell him that she loves him "Like a Woman Loves a Man" and wants their marriage to become more intimate. A sudden revelation threatens their happiness, however, and Tony wonders whether "She's Gonna Come Home Wit Me."

The singing here is excellent, particularly Nolte's operatic voice and Parris and Carpenter, who sing the overly melody, "Don't Cry." The quartet of Herman, Jake, Clem and Al (Vortmann, Danny Lindgren, Noah Aberlin and Eric Ulloa) delights with "Standing on the Corner," which brings a groan of recognition from the audience as the only song really well known form the score.

The musical is a rollercoaster of emotion. One minute we're smiling a bunch of happy people dancing with excitement (with twirling, if rather bland looking skirts from Costume designer Thomas Charles LeGalley) over swell mozzarella, or singing about the beautiful sunset and the next we're wringing our hands over whether these two will get together and creeping out over that weird obsession Marie has for her brother.

Tony and Rosabella are well developed and we like them and root for them in what is one of the compelling love stories on stage (I'll marry you, Tony -- and please, please, Goodspeed, can you cast him as Tevye in next season's Fiddler??) The other characters are kind of sketched in roughly and the large leaps of what is happening in the story line make us wish someone would revisit this book and fill it out.

The Most Happy Fella plays at Goodspeed's Opera House, 6 Main Street, East Haddam, through Dec. 1. Wednesday at 2 and 7:30 pm, Thursday at 7:30 pm. (with select performances at 2 pm.), Friday at 8 pm, Saturday at 3 and 8 pm and Sunday at 2  pm (with select performances at 6:30 pm). The Thanksgiving week schedule will be Nov. 25 at 2 and 7:30 pm, Nov. 29 at 2 and 8 pm, Nov. 30 at 3 and 8 pm and Dec. 1 at 2 and 6:30 pm.  Tickets: 860-873-8668; goodspeed.org.

Theater Review: Big Love -- CT Repertory

Photo by Gerry Goodstein.
Current Themes Drive Adaptation of Ancient Play
By Lauren Yarger
The year: 463BC. Aeschylus writes a play called The Suppliants about 50 sisters who flee forced marriages in Egypt and seek help from a king in Argos. 

The year: 2000 AD. Charles Mee writes Big Love, an adaptation of the play which has 50 sisters escaping forced marriages in Greece and seeking help from a wealthy villa owner in Italy.

The message of the latter, presented by CT Repertory at UConn’s Nate Katter Theatre, is that the plight of women hasn’t changed all that much over the centuries.

Here the 50 sisters, led by Lydia (Briana Maia), Olympia (Marisa Desa) and Thyona (Olivia Saccomanno) are outraged by their father’s authority to force them to marry their cousins, Nikos (James Jelkin ), Constantine (Anthony J. Goes ) and Oed (Colby Lewis) against their will. They hijack a boat and sail to Italy, where they mistake a villa, owned by Piero (Mark Elliot Wilson), for a hotel and arrive to the tune of “You Don’t Own Me” (sound design by Brandon Purstell).

Lydia strikes up a friendship with Piero’s effeminate nephew, Guiliano (Darek Burkowski), who tells her she and her sisters will have to appeal to his uncle for help. Piero is reluctant at first to risk his own property and position to help strangers who aren’t even family. But his mother, Bella (Libby George), likes them and since she throws a lot of tomatoes, he agrees.

The grooms, stood up at the altar, aren’t giving up so easily, however, and they land in an assault attack via helicopters (lighting design by Erika Johnson) to take their brides by force (to the tune of “I’m Too Sexy for My Shirt”). Piero offers to negotiate on the girls’ behalf, but his compromise of allowing only half of the women to be forced into marriage isn’t acceptable, especially to Thyona, facing a dark future with the brute and abusive Constantine.

Complications arise, however, when Lydia truly falls in love with Nikos and vain, flighty Olympia discovers that she doesn’t mind being dominated by men all that much. And there are all of those pretty wedding gifts to consider… Thyona rallies the girls into sisterhood, however, and makes them promise to murder their husbands on the forced wedding night. When Lydia refuses to go along with the plan, she is put on trial for betrayal to her sisters and threatened with death.

There are a number of interesting thoughts conveyed from time to time with contemporary reference, particularly to current headlines about nations standing by (like Piero) while women are routinely raped in some countries or where mass genocide takes place. We also think of our own politicians unable to compromise and older, white men debating and deciding the rights of women. If you don’t lose concentration during the many really long monologues, there are some insights on life in any century to be gained, like when Constantine ponders how society has changed the rules of what’s right and wrong or on how to cope.

“Life is rape,” he tells Thyona. “No one asks to be born. No one asks to die. We are all taken by force, all the time. You make the best of it. You do what you have to do.”

The problem is staying with the dialogue and trying to make sense out of what is happening. Let’s start with the title: Big Love. Most people seated around me in the audience thought it had to do with Mormonism, given the popular TV show of the same name. Um, no, but there’s not a whole lot of love happening on the stage, so the title never does become clear.

Directed by Helene Kvale, these folks spend a lot of time throwing themselves flat onto mattress cushions (choreography by Marie Boyette), needed to protect themselves from the hard, marble looking stone squares that make up the villa’s terrace (set design by Tim Golebiewski). To show their frustration/anxiety about feeling like they are bashing into walls all of the time? Bella smashes a lot of tomatoes. Not sure why. All of this is too much work to try to figure out while watching a play about a bunch of characters who aren’t likable.

Production notes in the program help a little, but the information that we were supposed to be in 1964, indicated by scenic, sound and costuming choices amidst the VietNam War and the rise of feminism – a moment in time that was “touchstone between ancient Greece—home of Sappho, one of the earliest feminine voices – and America” came as a complete surprise. White Danksin type skirts with flowing robes (costume design by Pat Ubaldi ) signify the 60s? More confusion came when the girls, who supposedly had arrived in their wedding dresses, change to other wedding dresses for the forced ceremony…..

The creepiest part for me came when an elderly gentleman in the audience, who had remained very silent during the play -- even at some moments that brought general laughter from the rest of us -- suddenly laughed with delight when a mass murder took place. So who knows, even though this wasn’t my cup of tea, perhaps others will enjoy it. 

Thomas Brazzle, Alyson Danielczuk, Kaitlyn Gorman, Will Haden, Ryan Marcone and Susannah Resnikoff complete the ensemble

Big Love plays through Oct. 13 in the Nafe Kutter Theatre on the Storrs campus of UConn. Show dates and performance times vary and are subject to change: (860) 486-2113; www.crt.uconn.edu.

Note: Big Love is part of Mee’s “Remaking Project,” plays inspired by other works http://charlesmee.org/. This show contains nudity.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Some Seats Still Available for Mark My Words with Authors Baldacci, Turow, Grafton, Hoffman

Mark My Words: A Conversation with Sue Grafton, Alice Hoffman and Scott Turow 8 pm Wednesday, Oct. 9 at the Shubert Theater, New Haven

The Mark Twain House and Museum's Annual 'Mark My Words' event -- three wildly popular authors interviewed by a celebrity host -- has become a mainstay of the Connecticut literary scene.

The third conversation in the series features Sue Grafton, Alice Hoffman and Scott Turow.

Grafton's Kinsey Milhone alphabet mysteries ("A is for Alibi" was just the start); Hoffman's acclaimed novels, and her unexpected new guide to living; and Turow's tales of power and the legal life are so beloved and popular that these authors have a total of nearly 150 million books in print. All have produced numerous New York Times bestselling titles.

The on-stage conversation will be moderated by Baldacci, himself an author of massively popular and complex political thrillers. Baldacci is a devotee of Mark Twain's work - and a member of The Mark Twain House and Museum's Board of Trustees.

Hoffman has published 21 novels, three books of short fiction, and eight books for children and young adults. Her books - which include "Practical Magic," "Aquamarine" and "The River King," have been published in more than twenty translations and more than one hundred foreign editions.

Added bonus! This evening will be the national book launch of The Autobiography of Mark Twain, Vol. 2. Benjamin Higgins, the editor of the autobiography will be in attendance for a book signing.

Past events featured John Grisham, Baldacci, Jodi Picoult, Steve Berry, Sandra Brown and R. L. Stine.

Tickets: Orchestra & Box Seats, $68; Mezzanine, $48; and Balcony, $28; www.twainmarkmywords.com; 888-736-2663 (toll free) or 203-562-5666; Box Office, 247 College St., New Haven, Monday through Friday, 9:30 am to 5:30 pm., and Saturdays 10 am to 2 pm.

Coming up at the Shubert in New Haven


Mark My Words
Oct. 9  at 8 pm
This benefit for the Mark Twain House includes authors Sue Grafton, Alice Hoffman and Scott Turow in conversation with David Baldacci moderating.

Shubert Open House – Family Fun DayOct. 12 from 10 am to 2 pm
Free family-friendly activities including arts and crafts, face-painting, tours of the backstage areas and “graffiti” walls, refreshments, film shorts and popcorn. Free.

An Evening with David Sedaris
Oct. 21 at 7:30 pm
Tweaking the familiar until it warps; David Sedaris mines poignant comedy from his peculiar childhood, his bizarre career path, and his move with his lover to France. This New York Times' Bestselling author’s wickedly witty observations of the ordinary-bizarre are always sure to deliver insights and laughs.


Oct. 25-27
Friday 8 pm; Saturday 2 and 8 pm; Sunday 2 pm
One of the most enduring shows of all time, Godspell features music by Stephen Schwartz, composer of Wicked. This timeless tale Jesus, friendship, loyalty and love is filled with popular hits like Light of the World and Day by Day.

Shubert Theater and Box Office, 247 College St., New Haven; 203-562-5666; shubert.com

Rolling Stones Show Rocks Downtown Cabaret

Satisfaction. Photo: Courtesy of Downtown Cabaret
Bridgeport’s Downtown Cabaret Theatre opens its 2013-2014 season with Satisfaction: A Rolling Stones Tribute, the international touring tribute show dedicated to the Rolling Stones, the “World’s Greatest Rock & Roll Band.” Performances are scheduled on Saturday, Oct. 5 at 5:30 and 8:30 pm and Sunday, Oct. 6 at 5:30 pm.

Satisfaction has been in production and touring since 2001 with more than 1600 performances. It is the only full time touring show of its kind in the world. The likes of Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and supporting cast bring a colorful performance to over 50 years of classic hits.

The Downtown Cabaret Theatre is located at 263 Golden Hill St., Bridgeport. Reserved tickets are $47: 203-576-1636; downtowncabaret.org .

This Week's Connecticut Arts Connections

Mitzi Gaynor.
Photo: Courtesy of Edgerton
The Edgerton Center for the Performing Arts at Sacred Heart University inaugurates its 2013-2014 American Legend Series with Mitzi Gaynor – in an Interview Live On Stage of the Edgerton Center for the Performing Arts on the Campus of Sacred Heart University in Fairfield Sunday, Oct, 27 at 3 pm. Gaynor’s appearance will be in the style of an ‘Actors Studio’ presentation hosted by Jerry Goehring, executive director of The Edgerton Center. In addition to video clips of her career, the afternoon will feature a talkback with the audience.
Tickets: $25 - General Public; $15 - Senior Citizens/Faculty/Staff; $10 - Students:  203-371-7908 (Mondays through Fridays from noon to 4 pm; box office located in the lobby of the Edgerton Center; EdgertonCenter.org.

The 2013-2014 American Legend Series also includes Surviving Mommie Dearest - A Conversation with Christina Crawford Saturday, Nov. 23 and Linda Lavin- Interview Live On Stage Sunday, April 13, 2014.
Also coming up: Edgerton opens its 2013-2014 Retro Concert Series with Elvis Presley, Jr. - Burning Love Tour Saturday, Oct. 12 at 8 pm.
  • The Mark Twain House and Museum has received a $10,000 grant from the First Niagara Foundation in support of several free public programs created to share the legacy of Mark Twain and other iconic American authors with the community. The grant will fund the lecture series "The Trouble Begins at 5:30" as well as the "Nook Farm Book Talks." Both of these free programs are designed to encourage community members to participate in engaging and entertaining cultural activities centered on Mark Twain, his legacy, and the rich history of the Hartford neighborhood he called home.
  • Join Cinestudio and Hartford Stage for a showing of Roman Polanski's film "Macbeth" at Cinestudio at 7:30 pm Wednesday, Oct. 9, followed the next evening by a performance of Macbeth, directed by Darko Tresnjak, at Hartford Stage at 7:30 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 10.Tickets for Polanski's "Macbeth" at Cinestudio are $9 at the door. Tickets for Macbeth at Hartford Stage are available with a $15-off discount using promo code MACBETH15. (Discount offer valid for Thursday, Oct. 10,only. Offer not valid on Super Savers. Fees apply.) There will be a post-show discussion immediately following the Hartford Stage performance with Cinestudio Co-founder James Hanley and other special guests. Polanski's rarely seen film is often thought to be a reaction to the brutal murder of his wife Sharon Tate and their unborn child by followers of Charles Manson. Shot on the bleak Northumberland coast, is it a brooding and brutal cri de coeur, startling in its immediacy in the wide screen 35mm film format (UK/US, 1971. 120 minutes.)http://www.cinestudio.org/.
  • Wesleyan University’s Center for the Arts presents the 37th annual Navaratri Festival, celebrating the traditional culture of India with performances by some of the country's leading artists, from Thursday, October 10 through Sunday, October 13, 2013 on the Wesleyan campus in Middletown. A special Navaratri Festival subscription package is available, which features a 15 percent savings on all three ticketed performances in Crowell Concert Hall: B. Balasubrahmaniyan (Friday, Oct. 11 at 8 pm), Shashank Subramanyam (Saturday, Oct. 12 at 8 pm), and Aparna Ramaswamy (Sunday, Oct. 13 at 3 pm). The Navaratri Festival subscription is available for $36 for the general public; $29 for senior citizens, Wesleyan faculty/staff, and non-Wesleyan students; and $18 for Wesleyan students: 860-685-3355; Box Office located in the Usdan University Center, 45 Wyllys Ave., Middletown; http://www.wesleyan.edu/boxoffice.
  • Long Wharf Theatre’s $3.8 million Mainstage renovation project designed by Gregg, Wies and Gardner has been selected as an award-winner in the Build New England Awards Program 2013, run by ACG of Massachusetts, The Association of Commercial and Institutional Builders, an established trade organization.

Downtown Cabaret Children's Theatre Opens Season with How I Became a Pirate

John Stegmaier as Captain Braid Beard, Ashley DePascale as Scurvy Dog, Lance Anthonym as Sharktooth. Photo: Axel Hammerman
The Downtown Cabaret Children’s Theatre in Bridgeport introduces its new Fall season of cabaret-style theatrical productions for children and their families with How I Became a Pirate, about young Jeremy Jacob who is digging in the sand at North Beach when he is enthusiastically greeted by Captain Braid Beard and his gang of jolly Pirates. Jeremy soon finds himself recruited to help find the perfect spot to bury the Pirates’ treasure.

This sea-faring musical features such songs as “A Good One To Boot,” “Green Teeth,” “I’m Really Just a Sensitive Guy,” “You’ve Got to Talk Like a Pirate” and more.

How I Became a Pirate plays through Sunday, Oct. 27 at the Cabaret, 263 Golden Hill St., Bridgeport..
Performances are scheduled on:
Saturday, Oct. 5  at noon
Sunday, Oct. 6 at noon
Saturday, Oct. 12 at noon and 2:30 pm
Sunday, Oct. 13 at at noon and 2:30 pm
Saturday, Oct. 19 at noon and 2:30 pm
Sunday, Oct. 20at noon and 2:30 pm
Saturday, Oct.26at noon and 2:30 pm
Sunday, Oct. 27at noon and 2:30 pm

All seats are $20 (general admission ONLY). Advance tickets: Box Office, 203-576-1636; downtowncabaret.org; mail: c/o Downtown Cabaret Children’sTheatre, 263 Golden Hill St., Bridgeport, CT 06604.

Backstage Pass: Take a Tour of the Palace Theater

Interior of the Palace. Photo: Louis Belloisy
The Palace Theater in Waterbury is offering the public an up-close-and-personal opportunity to explore the 90-year-old venue’s historic design and backstage secrets by offering monthly, guided tours starting today from 11 am to noon.

Scheduled to take place the first Friday of every month, each tour begins promptly at 11 am and runs for approximately one hour. The tours are led by Palace Theater Ambassadors, a core group of volunteers specially trained in the theater’s rich history, and are $5 per person. A special boxed lunch and tour package is also available for $20 per person. Twenty-four hour advance reservations are required to participate in the lunch and tour package.

Built in 1920 and recorded in the National Register of Historic Places, the Palace Theater is known for its grand architectural design. Designed in a Renaissance Revival style, the building features an eclectic mix of Greek, Roman, Arabic and Federal motifs along with marble staircases, gilded domed ceilings, cut glass chandeliers and intricate plaster relief details that make the Palace one of the most striking performing arts spaces in the state.

To make a tour reservation, contact Marketing and Public Relations Officer Sheree Marcucci at 203-346-2008.

October Events at the Kate in Old Saybrook

Event: Salt Marsh Opera presents: Don Pasquale
Date(s): Oct 04 - Oct 06
Time: 7pm Friday, 3pm Sunday
Prices $55/$65
Info Marked a comic masterpiece at its Paris premier in 1843, Donizetti's Don Pasquale remains equally fresh and funny today with Salt Marsh Opera's full-scale production. With a full orchestra and a talented cast of singers, Don Pasquale will enchant audiences of all ages with gorgeous music and hilarious plot twists Don't miss this marvel.
Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center
300 Main Street
Old Saybrook, CT 06475
Phone: 877-503-1286
Website: www.thekate.org

Event: MET in HD: Eugene Onegin 
Date: Saturday, Oct. 05
Time: 12:55 pm (Simulcast)
Price: $28
Info: Anna Netrebko and Mariusz Kwiecien star as the lovestruck Tatiana and the imperious Onegin in Deborah Warner's new production of Tchaikovsky's fateful romance. In this adaptation, the audience is pulled into the lives of characters from every walk of life, as the show moves episodically from old-fashioned farmhouses to elegant and extravagant ballrooms.
Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center
300 Main Street
Old Saybrook, CT 06475
Phone: 877-503-1286
Website: www.thekate.org

Event: MET in HD Encore: Eugene Onegin 
Date: Tuesday, Oct. 08
Time: 12:55 pm
Price: $25
Info: Anna Netrebko and Mariusz Kwiecien star as the lovestruck Tatiana and the imperious Onegin in Deborah Warner's new production of Tchaikovsky's fateful romance. In this adaptation, the audience is pulled into the lives of characters from every walk of life, as the show moves episodically from old-fashioned farmhouses to elegant and extravagant ballrooms.
Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center
300 Main Street
Old Saybrook, CT 06475
Phone: 877-503-1286
Website: www.thekate.org

Event: NT Live: Othello 
Date: Wednesday, Oct. 09 
Time: 7:00 pm
Price: $20
Info: The National Theatre presents a major new production of William Shakespeare's celebrated play about the destructive power of jealousy.
Olivier Award-winning actor Adrian Lester (Henry V at the National Theatre, BBC's Hustle) takes the title role.
Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center
300 Main Street
Old Saybrook, CT 06475
Phone: 877-503-1286
Website: www.thekate.org

Event: John Lennon Re-Imagined featuring The Nutopians
Date: Thursday, Oct. 10
Time: 7:30 pm
Price: $45
Info: One day after what would have been John's 73rd birthday, the Nutopians (formerly the John Lennon Song Project) return to the site of their 2010 sellout debut performance. A unique and compelling 8-piece ensemble that celebrates the genius and artistry of John Lennon with exquisite renditions of songs from his Beatles and his solo years, the band has inspired a whole new appreciation for the icon's music.
Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center
300 Main Street
Old Saybrook, CT 06475
Phone: 877-503-1286
Website: www.thekate.org

Event: Michael Johnson
Date: Friday, Oct. 11
Time: 8:00 pm
Prices: $20/$25
Info: His voice will immediately identify him as the man who sings "Bluer Than Blue", "Give Me Wings", "That's That", "This Night Won't Last Forever" and other landmark songs. But more than all of that, his music shows a diversity, depth and heart that only come from years of dedication to a labor of love.
Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center
300 Main Street
Old Saybrook, CT 06475
Phone: 877-503-1286
Website: www.thekate.org

Event: John Mayall
Date: Saturday, Oct. 12 
Time 8:00 pm
Prices: $70/$75
Info: John Mayall, revered blues innovator and legendary progenitor of the white-boy British blues--whose band, the Bluesbreakers, has at one time or another contained such names as Mick Fleetwood, Mick Taylor, Peter Green, John McVie, Coco Montoya, and Eric Clapton; comes to the Kate. Mayall's life and career have inspired countless musicians - come see why!
Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center
300 Main Street
Old Saybrook, CT 06475
Phone: 877-503-1286
Website: www.thekate.org

Event: Kate Classic: Sylvia Scarlett
Date: Wednesday, Oct. 16
Time: 2pm, 4pm, 7pm
Price: $8
Info: Sylvia Scarlett is a 1935 romantic comedy film starring Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant, based on The Early Life and Adventures of Sylvia Scarlett, a novel by Compton MacKenzie. Directed by George Cukor, it was notorious as one of the most famous unsuccessful movies of the 1930s. Hepburn plays the title role of Sylvia Scarlett, a female con artist masquerading as a boy to escape the police.
Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center
300 Main Street
Old Saybrook, CT 06475
Phone: 877-503-1286
Website: www.thekate.org

Event: Art Garfunkel SOLD OUT
Date(s): Oct 17 - Oct 18
Time: 7:30pm Thursday / 8 pm Friday
Price: $42
Info: Be a part of "An Intimate Evening with Art Garfunkel" as you join an acoustic rehearsal with songs, anecdotes, prose and a unique audience Q&A session.
Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center
300 Main Street
Old Saybrook, CT 06475
Phone: 877-503-1286
Website: www.thekate.org

Event: Tim Shelton & New Found Road
Date: Saturday, Oct. 19
Time: 8:00 pm
Price: $25
Info: After leading one of the most popular and exciting Bluegrass and Acoustic
bands in recent years, bandleader and co-founder of NewFound Road, Tim
Shelton has created an exciting new show that encompasses Americana, Soul, Country and Roots music.
Famed music critic and writer, Robert K. Oermann stated "there's not a more soulful singer in Bluegrass than Tim Shelton".
Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center
300 Main Street
Old Saybrook, CT 06475
Phone: 877-503-1286
Website: www.thekate.org

Event: Mystic Ballet presents G.R.A.B.
Date: Sunday, Oct. 20
Time: 3:00 pm
Prices: $30/$35
Info: Mystic Ballet's intention is to take hold of the audience - exhilarate, inspire and awaken the spirit, with a tapas of diverse flavors to please the most discerning palate. Experience the best of contemporary dance with 4 works by today's most poignant choreographers.
Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center
300 Main Street
Old Saybrook, CT 06475
Phone: 877-503-1286
Website: www.thekate.org

Event: National Theatre: MacBeth
Date: Thursday, Oct. 24
Time: 7:00 pm
Price: $20
Info: Broadcast by the National Theatre of London:
National Theatre Live will broadcast Manchester International Festival's electrifying production of Macbeth, with Kenneth Branagh (My Week With Marilyn, Hamlet) in his first Shakespeare performance in over a decade as Macbeth, and Alex Kingston (Doctor Who, ER) as Lady Macbeth.
Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center
300 Main Street
Old Saybrook, CT 06475
Phone: 877-503-1286
Website: www.thekate.org

Event: Hollywood All-Stars
Date: Friday, Oct. 25
Time: 8:00 pm
Price: $35
Info: Take advantage of a rare opportunity to see and hear musicians who've played with Sting, The Allman Brothers, Sypro Gyra, Celine Dion, Stevie Wonder, Blood Sweat & Tears and Sheryl Crow (to name just a few) when The Hollywood All-star Band performs in the intimate setting of the lovely, Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center on Friday, October 25th at 8pm.
Portion of the Proceeds to Benefit the Charter Oak Family Fund .
Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center
300 Main Street
Old Saybrook, CT 06475
Phone: 877-503-1286
Website: www.thekate.org

Event: Cash is King
Date: Saturday, Oct. 26
Time 8:00 pm
Prices: $30/$32
Info: "Cash Is King" an extraordinary Johnny Cash Tribute Show that brings you back to the era of Johnny Cash and the Tennessee Three with a focus on the Sun Records and 60's Prison concerts time period. Ever since the Award Winning bio-pic "WALK THE LINE" there has been an ever growing interest in the music of Johnny Cash. People who never had the chance to witness Cash live now have an opportunity to relive the magic and experience what once was.
Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center
300 Main Street
Old Saybrook, CT 06475
Phone: 877-503-1286
Website: www.thekate.org

Event: MET in HD: The Nose Date: Saturday, Oct. 26
Time: 12:55 pm
Price: $28
Info: William Kentridge stormed the Met with his inventive production of Shostakovich's opera during its inaugural run in 2010. Now Paulo Szot reprises his acclaimed performance of a bureaucrat, whose satirical misadventures in search of his missing nose are based on Gogol's comic story.
Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center
300 Main Street
Old Saybrook, CT 06475
Phone: 877-503-1286
Website: www.thekate.org

Event: The Big Book Club Frighteningly Delicious Author Event
Date: Sunday, Oct. 27
Time: 10:30am-3pm
Price: $55
Info Join bestselling authors for a Halloween event including gourmet lunch! Hear lively presentations by Suzanne Palmieri (Hayes), author of The Witch of Little Italy and I'll Be Seeing You; B.A. Shapiro, author of The Art Forger; Brunonia Barry, author of The Lace Reader and The Map of True Places; and Roberta Isleib (aka Lucy Burdette), author of the Key West Food Critic murder mysteries. Psychic Medium Angelina Diana will talk about spirit communications and perform random readings throughout the audience. Meet authors Paul Ferrante, Last Ghost at Gettysburg, Sydney Sherman, You Are Not Alone, and a coven of other writers. There will be book signings, interactive puzzle painting by The Drunken Palette and more fun activities to benefit the Terri Brodeur Breast Cancer Foundation. Ticket price includes a gourmet box lunch and dessert. Cash bar, themed cocktails.
Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center
300 Main Street
Old Saybrook, CT 06475
Phone: 877-503-1286
Website: www.thekate.org

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