Monday, February 20, 2017

CT Theater Review: A Moon for the Misbegotten -- Playhouse on Park

Elise Hudson and Anthony Marble. Photo: Meredith Atkinson
This Production is Anything but Misbegotten
By Lauren Yarger
The plays of Eugene O' Neill bring the frailties of human relations and raw emotion to the surface and it's hard not to be moved. Playhouse on Park's production of A Moon for the Misbegotten is no exception.

The play is a follow-up to what is happening with Jamie Tyrone, Jr. (Anthony Marble), whom we met in O'Neill's Pulitzer-Prize winning drama Long Day's Journey into Night. He copes with his mother's death the way he deals with everything -- by drowning his sorrows in alcohol -- and pays a visit to drinking buddy Mike Hogan (Conan McCarthy), who is a tenant on the Tyrone-owned farm (the front porch of the property provides the set, designed by Emily Nichols). Harsh taskmaster Hogan already has run off three sons, including his youngest, Mike (Michael Hinton), who got away like the others did with the help of their hulking and unattractive sister, Josie (Elise Hudson).

Hogan isn't sure Jamie will honor a long-ago agreement to sell him the land he farms and fears the young man might do business instead with rich friend T. Stedman Harder (Thomas Royce Daniels), so Hogan convinces Josie that she should trap Jamie in a compromising position. The father will conveniently return at daybreak with witnesses and demand that Jamie marry his daughter.

Jamie and Josie bond, however, and the evening doesn't go as planned.  Jamie, though drawn to Josie, deludes himself about pursuing an acting career in New York and tells her about trying to find his way through grief and sadness with a prostitute. Josie also may not have been telling the truth about herself. She has never really admitted that she loves Jamie. She has allowed the town to believe she has been loose with her virtue -- a difficult lie in 1923 -- but one that allows her to avoid the truth: no man wants her.

It's a touching evening of self loathing and loving and groping for a hand in the dark. It could be a bummer, but from the pen of Nobel Laureate O'Neill, we have one of the finest plays about the human capacity for love and generosity ever written.

While this is really Jamie's story, this production, directed by Joseph Discher, shines the moonlight on Josie. At first glance, Hudson appears miscast. She's too pretty and lithe to be the over-sized, unattractive Josie we expect, but her feisty, complex portrayal soon wins us over and has us rooting for her.

All of the performances are very good and keep us watching despite an almost three-hour run time with an intermission (the first act seemed very long). Hudson and McCarthy have an excellent rapport on stage and it's easy to see that through the insult-riddled banter between father and daughter, there's real affection beneath the dirty and dusty surface (costumes designed by Collette Benoit). She grows softer when interacting with Jamie (played with aching sadness by Marble).

One pet peeve: herbal cigarettes and a pipe are used. We really don't need them lighted in small theater spaces. The props themselves suffice unless actual smoke is called for in the plot.

A Moon for the Misbegotten plays though March 5 at Playhouse on Park, 244 Park Road, West Hartford. Tickets are $30-$40: 860-523-5900 x10;

Sunday, February 5, 2017

CT Theater Review: The Comedy of Errors -- Hartford Stage

The cast of The Comedy of Errors. Photo: T. Charles Erickson
The Comedy of Errors
By William Shakespeare
Directed by Darko Tresnjak
Hartford Stage
Through Feb. 12

By Lauren Yarger
What's It All About?
Shakespeare's comedy (well. one of them) about twins and mistaken identity, this one set on an island off the coast of Greece in 1965.  Darko Tresnjak offers a playful take including songs from the modern era ("Never on a Sunday") and exotic dance numbers.

Tyler Lansing Weaks and Ryan-James Hatanaka play twins who are separated and grow up as Antipholus of Syracuse and Antipholus of Ephesus. Their twin servants, Dromio of Syracuse (Alan Schmuckler) and Dromio of Ephesus (Matthew Macca) also are separated. When the Syracuse guys arrive in Ephesus, there is room for lots of mistaken identity, especially for Adriana (Jolly Abraham), the wife of Antipholus of Ephesus and Luciana (Mahira Kakkar). Adriana's sister and the object of Antipholus of Syracuse's affections.

What Are the Highlights?
It's different. Musicians Louis Tucci and Alexander Sovronsky (Composer/Music Director/Arranger) play Mediterranean tunes boat side on  a dock-like set designed by Director Darko Tresnjak in front of a hilly Greek backdrop. Getting some spotlight in the talented ensemble are Joanna Morrison as abbess Aemilia and Noble Shropshire as the twins' father, Aegeon, and Tara Heal as Nell, an amusingly overweight kitchen maid.

90 minutes, no intermission. Perfect for this type of romp.

What Are the Lowlights?
The comedy and exaggerated sound effects are forced and the slapstick doesn't work. The transition from the opening of "Never on a Sunday" is too stark to the strains of the Bard's language.

More Information: 
The Comedy of Errors runs through Feb. 12 at Hartford Stage, 50 Church St., Hartford.  Perfromance times vary. Tickets are $25-$90:

Additional credits: 
Choreography Peggy Hickey; Costume Design Fabio Toblini; Lighting Design
Matthew Richards; Sound Design Jane Shaw; Associate Scenic Designer Colin McGurk; Hair and Wig Design Tom Watson; Makeup Design Tommy Kurzman; Fight Choreographer Greg Webster; Voice and Text Coach Claudia Hill-Sparks; Assistant Director Allison Gold; Assistant Scenic Designer Stephen Carmody; Assistant Lighting Designer Michael Blagys; Assistant Sound Designer Natalie Houle; Assistant Wig Designer Tommy Kurzman.

Additional cast:
Angelo Brendan Averett, Louis Butelli, Paula Leggett Chase. Michael Elich, Kalob Martinez, Lauren Bricca, Jamaal Fields-Green, Daisy Infantas, Evan McReddie, Monica Owen, Tyler Pisani

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