Monday, November 30, 2015

Living on Love Continues at Seven Angels

Stephanie Zimbalist and Steve Vinovich. Photo: Paul Roth

Living on Love, by Joe DiPietro, based on the play Peccadillo by Garson Kanin and directed by James Glossman continies through Dec. 6 at Seven Angels Theatre, Waterbury. For a feature on Stephanie Zimbalist, starring as opera dive Rachel DeAngelis, click here.

Performances are Thursday-Sunday at 8 pm with matinees at 2 pm on Thursdays and Saturdays. Tickets $39 to $57 depending on day or night of performance. Doors and Devil’s Corner Bar open one hour before curtain. Box Office: 1 Plank Road, Waterbury, CT; 203-757-4676;,

Friday, November 27, 2015

Connecticut Arts Connections

Courtesy of the Mark Twain House

Sunday, Dec. 6, 11 am to 4 pm., people will flock to The Mark Twain House and six distinctive area homes for a famous Connecticut holiday tradition: The Friends of The Mark Twain House and useum Holiday House Tour. These homes will be opened for viewing for the 35th year of this event. Each will be decorated for the holidays and will feature live music and floral arrangements, provided by area florists. The Twain mansion will be decorated for a 19th-century Christmas with the Samuel Clemens family. The tour takes about three hours and requires some driving, but all the houses are not far from one another. This year's homes are:

Mark Twain House and Museum, 351 Farmington Ave, Hartford
The Campbell/Collada Home, 176 North Beacon Street, Hartford
The Modifica Home, 80 Kenyon Street, Hartford
The Kirkland/Howard Home, 132 Balbrae Drive: The Mansion, Bloomfield
The Paydos Home, 140 Balbrae Drive: The Mansion, Bloomfield
The Bicknese/Quinteiro Home, 223 Terry Road, Hartford
The Stampul/Newton Home, 258 North Whitney Street, Hartford

Advance tickets are $30 each and may be obtained by calling (860) 247-0998 or by clicking here. Tickets will be $35 each on the day of the tour, Sunday, December 6, and can be purchased at The Mark Twain House and Museum and each participating home.

For more information and to see photos of the homes click here.

Jeff Verney, President of Group Retiree Products and Services, which is part of United Healthcare's United Retiree Solutions division, was recently named Chairman of the Hartford Symphony Orchestra Board of Directors. Verney succeeds James Remis, who served as Chair from 2011-2015. Verney has been a member of the HSO Board of Directors since 2012. In addition to serving as Chair of the HSO Board of Directors, he is also Chairman of the Board of Renbrook School, an independent day school in West Hartford, and a Warden of St. John’s Episcopal Church in West Hartford. A musician himself, Verney writes and records rock music with his band.

Online submissions are being accepted beginning today through Jan. 8 for the 2016 YALE INSTITUTE FOR MUSIC THEATRE. Under the leadership of Artistic Director Mark Brokaw, two original music theatre works will be selected for the 2016 Institute’s summer lab, which will take place June 12–26 in New Haven. Online applications are being accepted now through January 8, 2016, 11:59PM (EST) at The Yale Institute for Music Theatre accepts applications for projects at various stages of development but focuses on work that is ready to be explored musically and dramatically with performers and directors. Submissions cannot have had a professional production. Book musicals and other imaginative music theatre projects are welcome. Only composers, book writers, or lyricists who are current graduate students; or who have graduated from an accredited degree-granting institution (undergraduate or graduate) no earlier than May 2010; or who are current Yale students (undergraduate or graduate) are eligible to apply. More info:; 203-432-5348.

"James Baldwin: The Price of the Ticket" at Cinestudio: Dec. 9 at 7:30 pm.The Trinity College Chapel Community presents a free screening of this award-winning, recently restored film, with director Karen Thorsen present.

Celebrate Kwanzaa: Saturday, Dec. 12 from 10 am to  1 pm at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art. Celebrate world holiday traditions at the Wadsworth Atheneum during the Festival of Trees and Traditions. Make ornaments inspired by the collections that celebrate Kwanzaa, Winter Solstice, Christmas, Hanukkah, and Three Kings Day. More info:

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Actress Stephanie Zimbalist Really is Living on Love

By Lauren Yarger
For actress Stephanie Zimbalist, starring in a play called Living on Love seems appropriate since she seems to live on a lot of love in real life.

The actress, who has starred in numerous stage and TV roles, but who is most widely known for her stint as private eye Laura Holt on TV's "Remington Steele," is starring in the Connecticut premiere of the comedy Living on Love, opening this weekend at Waterburys Seven Angels Theatre  -- a place she loves.

She has known Seven Angels' Artistic Director Semina DeLaurentis for years and one day her friend handed her a script that she had been considering as a starring vehicle for herself: Joe DiPietro's Living on Love. 

That's one of the reasons she loves Semina, Zimbalist said -- her willingness to put other above herself, even though she is an amazing actress herself. Zimbalist said she found DeLaurentis' performance in Nunsense "electrifying."

"We are thrilled and honored to have Stephanie return to the Seven Angels stage, especially for our 25th Anniversary season," DeLaurentis said. "I think she will be wonderful as Raquel. Besides being such a talented actress, I think her experience and background will bring such an understanding and a richness to the role."

OK. There's a lot of love there -- even if Zimbalist's character doesn't always find it on stage. DiPietro's play with music is based on Peccadillo by Garson Kanin. Zimbalist plays an opera diva who discovers that her larger-than-life maestro husband has become enamored with the lovely young lady hired to ghostwrite his largely fictional autobiography. To retaliate, she hires a handsome, young scribe of her own. Sparks fly, silverware is thrown and romance blossoms in the most unexpected ways.

Zimbalist agreed even though she hasn't been working much recently. Part of the reason for that, she will tell you is because she doesn't play the games necessary to keep an actress at the forefront of the competition in Hollywood. She doesn't do BOTOX® or plastic surgery to try to look younger, which you have to do "if you want to be in the race," she said.

"I don't look in the mirror a lot."

She doesn't say that as a joke. She means it. Zimbalist has always been comfortable being herself and her confidence, joined with a genuine humility that comes across in interviews and on stage, make her popular with women. She strikes us as real, as someone we know, or want to be, and we love her -- a notion that makes her laugh, but in an appreciative way.

She really doesn't need to take roles at this stage in her career. She was fortunate and worked a lot when she was young. If there were some roles she didn't get, "then I never got to play them" she says without any longing for what might have been. A lifestyle of always chasing more or what's popular isn't a priority for her, she said. There's that confidence kicking in....

So why Seven Angels? Perhaps the most appealing part of doing Living on Love was the chance to come to the family home she loves in Connecticut. She and her long-haired dachshund,  Scampi, would have the chance to live in the home of her beloved grandfather, Efrem Zimbalist, a celebrated violinist, composer, and teacher and director of the Curtis Institute of Music. Her father, actor Efrem Zimbalist, Jr, who starred in TV shows like "77 Sunset Strip" and "The FBI," as well as playing a recurring guest role on "Remington Steele" opposite daughter, Stephanie, is buried at the homestead.

His passing in 2014 is another reason why the actress hasn't worked much recently. There have been memorials and other business to take care of, and she's needed a time of emotional healing.

"He was my best friend, so it's hard."

But with all the love involved, she said yes to Seven Angels. Working "keeps my blades sharp," Zimbalist said, and in the case of  Living on Love, the process has seemed more like spending time with friends she loves than working.

"It's a lark," she said of Joe DiPietro's play, which had a run last season in New York featuring opera star Renee Fleming in her Broadway debut.

"He has a nice rhythm in his writing," she said of the playwright. "It's easy to learn," though she did voice a little concern about being able to memorize as quickly as her costars (Steve Vinovich, R. Bruce Connelly, Michael Irvin Pollard, Alex Glossman and Ali Breneman)

"Steve and I have wanted to work together forever," she said. And working again with old friends has been another thing to love.

"Jim (Glossman, a friend from Zimbalist's days at Brown Ledge Camp in Mallett's Bay, VT) is a wonderful director," she said. They have worked together on shows at Shadowland Theatre in Ellenville, NY, She also loves being reunited with lighting designer Richard Currie, also a Brown Ledge chum.

Doing what she loves with people she loves in a place she loves. Yes, Zimbalist is the embodiment of living on love.

Living on Love opens Saturday night and runs through Dec. 6 Performances are Thursday-Sunday at 8 PM with matinees at 2 on Thursdays and Saturdays. No show on Thanksgiving. Tickets $39 to $57 depending on day or night of performance. Doors and Devil’s Corner Bar open one hour before curtain. Box Office: 1 Plank Road, Waterbury, CT; 203-757-4676;,

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

It's A Wonderful Life Told in Radio-Play Form

Herstory Theater, in partnership with The Mark Twain House and Museum, presents the holiday classic It's A Wonderful Life performed in the style of old-time radio theater, including a sound effects artist!

This third annual holiday presentation takes place on Saturday, Dec. 5 at in the Lincoln Financial Services Auditorium at The Mark Twain House and Museum. There are two performances 2 and 5 pm. The play is written by Joe Landry and is directed by Virginia Wolf.

George Bailey, Zuzu, Clarence the Angel, and grumpy old Mr. Potter are turning Hartford into Bedford Falls this year! Come relive the story of a man who gets to see what life would have been like if he had never been born. (And there's even a Twain connection--when Clarence is pulled out of the water, he dries off his copy of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer!)

When the film It's A Wonderful Life was released in 1946, it was not an immediate popular or financial success. However, it's reputation grew over the years, and a clerical error resulting in the loss of its copyright protection resulted in it being shown widely during the Christmas season every year. It has become a phenomenon, and many don't feel that their holiday season is complete without watching it.

Now, there's a very unique opportunity to revisit this wonderful story--in a fun, live radio-show performance, complete with a foley (sound effects) artist! The performance is 90 minutes, and there is no intermission.

Tickets are $10: 860-247-0998; and click on Events.

Herstory Theater is a non-union, professional theater company based in Connecticut providing educational performances that are suitable (and inspirational) for schools, museums, historic societies, libraries, and any groups who are interested in history.

Yale School of Drama to Present Aeschylus Play

Yale School of Drama will present The Oresteia by Aeschylus, directed by Yagil Eliraz, Dec. 12–18 at the Iseman Theater, 1156 Chapel St., New Haven.

The Oresteia original music by Matthew Suttor, features scenic design by Fufan Zhang, costume design by An-lin Dauber, lighting design by Elizabeth Green, sound design by Pornchanok Kanchanabanca, projection design by Michael Commendatore, dramaturgy by Davina Moss, and stage management by Helen Muller.

The cast includes Sebastian Arboleda, Andrew Burnap, Anna Crivelli,Ricardo Dávila, Edmund Donovan, Melanie Field, Jonathan Higginbotham,Annelise Lawson, Sydney Lemmon, Jonathan Majors, and Elizabeth Stahlmann.

About the play:

Aeschylus’s 2,500-year-old trilogy of plays chronicles a society’s struggle to break the cycle of sacrifice, revenge, bloodshed, and punishment that plagues them. Ted Hughes’s powerful translation imbues The Oresteia with a burning contemporary relevance as it examines this struggle through the most personal microscope—the family cell—and stretches its primal and painful conflicts to their extremity. What is Justice? And what is our individual and collective responsibility to carry it out?

Performances are 8 pm from Saturday, Dec. 12- 18. There will be no performance on Sunday, Dec. 13. Tickets, $15-$25:; 203- 432-1234, Box Office, 1120 Chapel St. at York Street).

Also this season:

Women Beware Women
By Howard Barker and Thomas Middleton
Directed by Leora Morris
Jan. 23–29, 2016

The Carlotta Festival of New Plays
May 6–14, 2016 

Gay Men's Chorus Home for the Holidays

The Hartford Gay Men’s Chorus will perform its annual holiday concert, Home for the Holidays 8 pm Friday, Dec. 4, and Saturday, Dec. 5 at the Aetna Theater at The Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art in Hartford.

Home for the Holidays will be presented in two acts and feature yuletide classics such as “We Need a Little Christmas,” “Rocking Around the Christmas Tree,” “Please Come Home for Christmas,” “Feliz Navidad” and “Home for the Holidays.”
Recently appointed Artistic Director Michael Winslow says Home for the Holiday swill “take you on a nostalgic trip down memory lane, reminding you of quality time spent with loved ones.”
Winslow is Choir Director at Connecticut River Academy at Goodwin College. Prior to coming to Connecticut, he served as the Show Choir Director at Mt. Zion High School in Central Illinois for six years. Winslow is a graduate of The Hartt School at the University of Hartford in West Hartford, where he was a member of the Chamber Singers, directed by Richard Coffey. He studied piano with Luiz DeMoura Castro. Winslow is also a freelance arranger, soloist, and adjudicator.For more information, visit
All tickets for Home for the Holidays are $30, with general admission seating. The Aetna Theater at The Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art is located at 600 Main St., Hartford. Tickets: 860-527-5151; /

Monday, November 9, 2015

Theater Review: Jimmy & Lorraine -- Hartbeat Ensemble

Vanessa Butler. Photo: Andy Hart

Musings on Politics, Sexuality, Racial Tension by Major Literary Voices
By Lauren Yarger
Hartbeat Ensemble, with a mission to “create provocative theater” that connects the community beyond barriers of class, race, geography and genders, find a good match in Talvin Wilks’ play Jimmy and Lorraine.

The Jimmy and Lorraine here are authors James Baldwin and Lorraine Hansberry. Their friendship, played out against the backdrop of racial tension in the United States in the ’50s and ’60s sets the stage for what Wilks subtitles a “musing.”  He uses text from biographies, journals, personal correspondence, plays, novels, interviews, essays and media clips, projected onto Maruti Evans’ simple set with video design by Andrew Reardon.

Jimmy (Aaron Pitre) achieves fames as an essayist and social critic. His “Notes of a Native Son,” for example, probed what it was like to be black at the dawn of the Civil Rights Movement. He also wrote about sexual tensions and was an advocate for gay rights Christopher Hirsh portrays Lucien Happerberger (among a slew other characters), with whom Baldwin had a relationship.

He and Lorraine (Vanessa Butler), who would go on to write A Raisin in the Sun, the first play written by a black woman to be produced on Broadway, team with other prominent African Americans in the arts to try to convince the Kennedy administration to take a moral stand against segregation. They find Bobby Kennedy (Hirsh) clueless and unwilling to hear what they are saying.

The story is told in four parts, some incorporating flashback. The musings are:

  • On Life and Love
  • The Summit
  • Which Battles to Fight
  • On Love and Loneliness: the aftermath

Director Brian Jennings masterfully integrates the action with the clips and even adds some dance which enhances scenes. The 97 minute play is presented without intermission.

Along with the presentation of Jimmy and Lorraine, HartBeat presents its Guided Conversation Series, which will invite our community to participate in an honest dialogue about race, art and politics.

  •  November 13: Sexuality, Black Literature, and the Civil Rights Movement. Participants Reverend Da Vita McCallister, Connecticut Conference Church of Christ 
  • November 20: Hansberry What If? Participants: JoElle Murchison, Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion Efforts, Travelers; Shaun Biggers, MD; Stephen Latham, Director, Interdisciplinary Center for Bioethics, Yale School of Medicine

Jimmy and Lorraine runs through Nov. 22 at Hartbeat Ensemble's Carriage House Theater, 360 Farmington Ave., Hartford. Performances are v. 22: Thursday through Saturday at 7:30 pm; Sundays at 2 pm. Tickets $25. No One Turned Away for Lacks of Funds tickets also available at the door on the day of the performance: (860) 

Monday, November 2, 2015

Theater Review: Liberace! -- Ivoryton

Daryl Wagner. Photo: Courtesy of Ivoryton Playhouse
The Candelabra Burn Brightly for This Star as Liberace Tickles the Ivoryton
By Lauren Yarger
Impressionist Daryl Wagner gives a stunning performance as entertainer Liberace! at Ivoryton Playhouse.

Wagner, who worked for the real-life “Mr. Showmanship” in Las Vegas as a pianist and singer, has played him for more than 20 years across the world in the renowned “Legends In Concert” show, as well as many productions that he arranged and produced himself. With a script by Brent Hazelton, Liberace! is a satisfying medley of impersonation, piano playing and biography --  a combination Director Jacqueline Hubbard said was difficult to cast until she saw Wagner.

Between the 1950s and ’70s, Władziu Valentino Liberace (known as Lee to his friends) was the highest-paid entertainer in the world and the toast of Las Vegas. In a plot device where the entertainer returns from heaven for one more day to reflect on his life, we discover a young boy who studies classical piano to appease his unloving, judgmental father. He succeeds, but doesn’t find personal satisfaction in his music until he develops his own style, combining classical with fun – to the delight of his audiences.

Against a setting of three arched curtained areas surrounded by standing and hanging candelabra (set design by Daniel Nischan), Wagner sits at a grand piano center stage to play musical numbers as diverse as a Rachmaninov concerto to "I'll Be Seeing You," "Three Little Fishies," and "The Boogie Woogie."

Liberace’s life story is played in between notes and we discover why the entertainer adopted his outlandish, flamboyant costumes (provided by Wagner), the candelabrum that always graced his piano, and the devastation he feels behind probes into his private word, which included closeted homosexual relationships and death from AIDs-related complications.

Wagner embodies the entertainer and looks and sounds very much like the real Liberace. The script incorporates some fun audience participation opportunities and Wagner seems as much at ease with his fans as Mr. Showmanship did.

While entertaining and engaging, Hazelton’s script, developed in cooperation with the Liberace Foundation for the Performing and Creative Arts, makes the mistake of many biographical stage plays – trying to include every possible moment from the subject’s life. The result is a script that is far too long at two hours and 45 minutes and which seems drag for almost half an hour as additional biographical details get tacked on after Liberace performs a sensational Gershwin medley which should be the ending.

Wagner is not to be missed, though. The actor, who served as resident conductor at Chicago’s Goodman Theatre and conducted Bernadette Peters in the national tour of Dames at Sea, gives a polished glimpse into the world of the beloved, besparkled and tormented entertainer we knew simply as Liberace.

Liberace! tickles the Ivoryton through Nov. 15 at the playhouse, 103 Main St., Ivoryton. Performances are Wednesday and Sunday matinees at 2 pm. Evening performances are Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 pm, Friday and Saturday at 8 pm.. Tickets $42 for adults, $37 for seniors, $20 for students and $15 for children. (860) 767-7318;

Review: Rear Window with Kevin Bacon -- Hartford Stage

Kevin Bacon, Robert Stanton and Melinda Page Hamilton. Photo: Joan Marcus.

Wow, What  a Set! But Rear Window Adaptation Fails to Pull Back the Curtain on Suspense
By Lauren Yarger
If you’re expecting the characters that Grace Kelly, Jimmy Stewart and Thelma Ritter made famous in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1954 film – or just a sharply written, suspenseful plot -- you’ll be disappointed in Keith Reddin’s adaptation of Rear Window playing at Hartford Stage.

This play, based on a short story also titled “It Had to Be Murder” by Cornell Woolrich which inspired the film, is dark, weak and at times even corny, but has sold out here because it includes star Kevin Bacon as the wheel-chair bound man who thinks he sees a neighbor murder his wife.

Where the film contains compelling characters who have interesting relationships with each other, this stage adaptation is more about trying to find a window into the souls of  Hal Jeffries (Bacon) and Sam (McKinley Belcher III), a young, black man who has shown up to take care of “Jeff” after meeting him in a bar.

Jeffries had been one of the best crime reporters around before he became house-bound in his New York City apartment. Now, when he isn’t hobbling around on a broken leg received in some mysterious way, he sits around drinking and looking out of his rear window observing the lives of his neighbors who are visible in their apartments across the way. Among them are a young, scantily clad woman, a troubled couple and workmen in a vacant apartment (portrayed by the ensemble: Dan Bender, Erik Bloomquist, Ashley Croce, Roy Donnelly, Barbara Gallow, Jon Garrity, Caitlin Harrity, William Squier, Quinn Warren).

When Jeff looks out the window, the walls of his apartment melt away and the going-ons in the other apartments come to life in individual panes thanks to Alexander Dodge’s phenomenal set design, expertly lighted by York Kennedy. The disappearing, reappearing and rotating abilities of the towering set really are jaw dropping and make it the most exciting part of the show (and one of the most amazing we have seen on a Connecticut stage).

Catching Jeff’s attention in particular, is Mrs. Thorwald (Melinda Page Hamilton), a sad wife, obviously disenchanted with her husband (Robert Stanton) and his unwanted advances. When Jeff picks up on some unusual circumstances and suspects that Thorwald has murdered his wife, he calls friend and police detective Boyne (John Bedford Lloyd) to investigate to no avail. If anything, Jeffries has angered the possible murderer and alerted him to what he might have seen.

Jeffries seems to slide deeper into his alcoholic stupor, imagining conversations with his neighbors and seemingly uncaring about putting Sam in harm’s way when he asks him to help investigate. The police aren’t exactly welcoming of African Americans in 1947, you see (when they play is set and evidenced by Linda Cho’s period costumes). There’s additional subtext to the story as well, that Jeffries is taking advantage of Sam, with whom he might have a closeted sexual relationship – also not popular in 1947.

Though we expect a psychological thriller, thanks in part to an excellent opening scene staged by Director Darko Tresnjak, where, sans the usual curtain speech, suspenseful music (sound designed by the excellent Jane Shaw) draws us toward the stage where projections (designed by Sean Nieuwenhuis) fade to scary, blood red. Instead the plot veers off to become a look into the window of Jeff’s soul – accomplished in part through flashbacks where we see him in relationship with his former wife, socialite Gloria (also played by Hamilton) --  and into Sam’s struggle against prejudice and injustice.

The mystery here focuses on whether or not Jeffries has imagined the whole murder in an alcoholic hallucination and on the relationship between him and Sam. The suspense of whether Thorwald killed his wife and got rid of the body – and whether he will eliminate Jeffries for witnessing that act – are sort of lost, especially with pre-confrontation dialogue between the two in Jeff’s imagination. No amount of the pounding suspenseful music convinces us otherwise.

One scene where Mrs. Thorwald calls to Jeffries from the grave is comical rather than suspenseful. After a while, we even draw a curtain on the awe of those fabulous sets as the constant movement – in one case to allow for a scene just a few line of dialogue long – becomes distracting in the 85-minute, no intermission staging.

Rear Window runs through Nov.15 at Hartford Stage, 50 Church St., Hartford. This run is sold out with a limited number of standing room and last-minute seats available. Performances are Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Sunday evenings at 7:30 pm.; Fridays and Saturdays at 8 pm; Saturdays and Sundays at 2 pm. Tickets $25-$95.  (860) 527-5151;

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