Total Pageviews

Monday, November 24, 2008

"Seafarer" at TheaterWorks poetic and visual

HARTFORD - Irish men behaving badly are featured in "Seafarer" at TheaterWorks. Set in a dingy Dublin tenement on Christmas Eve, four men and a stranger play poker for significantly high stakes, in Conor McPherson’s comedy "The Seafarer."

The men are in various degrees of slovenly alcoholism, drinking stout, whiskey, and some sort of rock-gut liquor. There are two brothers, Richard and James "Sharkey" Harkin, played by Edmond Genest and Dean Nolan, a friend named Ivan Curry, played by John Ahlin, and Nicky Giblin, played by Chris Geneback, who is living with one of the Sharkey’s ex-wife or girlfriend.

They all have working class Irish brogues, and swear words are clearly the adjective of choice, making a regular appearance every third word or so, along with the colloquialisms, such as "bonnet" for "hood" of a car and "spot on" for "dead-on."
The language can be poetic and visual at times, such as went Curry complains that when his wife yells at him, "the force of her voice pins you up against the wall."

Or when Richard says that Sharkey has a "recklessness in his heart" which he says is his undoing.

The household is a domestic nightmare, with cringe-worthy plumbing problems, gross hygiene, questionable crockery, and occasionally even the air seemed to smell rank.
Outdoors it isn’t much better, and the men run outside in intervals to chase away the local winos from the neighborhood, leaving Sharkey to be confronted by Mr. Lockhart, who knows way more about his life than any total stranger should.

Nicky brings the notably well dressed stranger, Lockhart, played by Allen McCullough, who turns out to be bad indeed - he can’t tolerate the sound of music, but has no difficulty sitting on top of the burning coal stove.

McCullough was convincingly menacing, but his Irish accent was unstable. Somehow that doesn’t matter though, because of his other-worldliness, it makes him stand apart more.

The play drags some in the first act, but picks up momentum during the second, during the card game. The dialog is rough, and the discussions are graphic. Although it is labeled a comedy, it isn’t always funny, despite some amusing lines, mostly delivered by Genest’s Richard, as when Richard says to Nicky that he can tell he is thinking: "because I can hear your brain crunching."

As the play develops these seemingly loser men become surprisingly lovable and even somewhat heroic, almost imperceptibly - which is the real gift of this play.

Three Stars
Theater: TheaterWorks
Location: 233 Pearl St. Hartford.
Production: Written by Conor McPherson. Directed by Henry Wishcamper. Set design by Adrian W. Jones. Costumes designed by Anne Kenney. Lighting design by Matthew Richards. Sound designed by Bart Fasbender. Dialect coach Stephen Gabis. Fight choreography by Mark Olsen.
Running time: 2 hour, 30 minutes, plus a 15-minute intermission
Show Times: Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. Matinees on Saturdays and Sundays at 2:30 p.m. Extra Sunday evening shows at 7:30 p.m. The show will run through Dec. 21.
Tickets: Unassigned seating is $37; $47 on Friday and Saturday nights. Center reserved seats $11 more. $10 student rush tickets at showtime with valid ID (subject to availability). For tickets call 527-7838 or visit their Web site at
Edmond Genest ... Richard Harkin
Dean Nolan ... James "Sharkey" Harkin
John Ahlin ... Ivan Curry
Chris Genebach ... Nicky Giblin
Allen McCullough ... Mr. Lockhart
By Kory Loucks
Journal Inquirer
The world is all at sixes and sevens in CRT’s production of "The Skin of our Teeth"

STORRS - Predictions of the end of the world have been greatly exaggerated - despite current economic conditions. Fear and uncertainty in an unpredictable world, and the fact that history repeats itself, are a couple of the recurring themes that run through Thornton Wilder’s Pulitzer prize-winning play "Skin of Our Teeth."

Originally opening in 1942 at the Schubert Theatre in New Haven, this production at the University of Connecticut’s Connecticut Repertory Theater is one that isn’t regularly on the local theater circuit.

While Wilder’s "Our Town" is an oft-produced perennial favorite, "Skin of Our Teeth" is more of a mouthful to chew.

Wilder really went wild with this play, breaking with all sorts of conventions, at times having his characters speak directly to the audience and breaking through that invisible fourth wall. This just wasn’t done and must have been shocking and completely unprecedented in its time.

He also deals with themes like: "It’s a dog eat dog world," "Life as we know it can change in an instant," and "history is doomed to repeat itself."
The characters are archetypes, always tricky to make personal, here played by professional actors and undergraduates.

When the play begins in fact there is a short video by filmmaker Fergus J. Walsh featuring the characters as two-dimensional paper puppets stiffly moving through their world - an apt visual for this allegorical play.

Biblical, historical, and poetic allusions abound. First set in the home of the Antrobus’, the mister and misses played by Christopher Oden and Victoria Adams-Zischke, are the Adam and Eve, then Noah and his wife as the Biblical archetypes, with the servant and temptress Sabine and narrator played by with irreverent energy by Julia Coffey.

Gladys and Henry Antrobus are the children, played with youthful naivete by Sarah Murdoch and with scapegoat anger by Daniel O’Brien.

Think of it as a theatrical lecture, where the actions and statements make little logical, linear sense but are servants to Wilder’s conceits.

For example, be prepared to hear the Mrs. Antrobus announce their 5,000th wedding anniversary, and observe a wooly mammoth and dinosaur, played by Michael Truman Cavanaugh and Lauren Horoszewski, try to escape the impending ice age in the Antrobus’ living room, while Mr. Antrobus is busy inventing the wheel, the lever, algebra, and the alphabet. The man has his hands full, while wife in apron guards home and hearth.

Act II is set at an Atlantic City boardwalk beautifully rendered by scenic designer Issac Ramsey, with asymmetrical bathhouses, where Mr. Antrobus (in Greek Antrobus means "human") has just been elected president of the Fraternal Order of Mammals at their 600,000 annual convention. The costumes too in this act are a riot of colors and off-kilter socks, by Katarina Urosevic.

Act III is set back at the Antrobus’ home after a seven year war that decimated just about everything. Mr. Antrobus says war is easy compared to peacetime everyone goes back to their old selfish ways.

Many characters are introduced throughout the play, such as the officious broadcast official played by Zachary Kamin, along with muses, refugees, conventioneers, and the past-knowing fortune-teller played by Rachel Rosado.

When O’Brien’s Henry breaks out of character and apologizes for attempting to kill the character of his father, his confusion and distress felt legitimate and real. He was riveting.

Chance, confusion, and hazards are all mixed up into this soup-to-nuts play where the world is all sixes and sevens.

What goes around comes around in this thought-provoking, well-performed play.


3 Stars
Location: Harriet S. Jorgensen Theatre, Jorgensen Road, Storrs.
Production: Written by Thornton Wilder. Directed by Helene Kvale. Scene design by Issac Ramsey. Costume design by Katarina Urosevic. Lighting design by Jen Rock. Sound design by Wilson Tennermann. Production stage manager Mary P. Costello. Technical direction by Scott Bartley. Voice and text direction by Krista Scott. Puppet design by Rebekah Eyre. Movement direction by Kristin Wold. Film by Fergus J. Walsh.
Running time: 2 1/2 hours with one intermission.
Show Times: Wednesday, and Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., and a Saturday matinee at 2 p.m. through Dec. 3 through 6. No performances are scheduled for Thanksgiving week.
Tickets: Range in price from $11 to $28. Call the box office at 860-486-4266 of visit their website at

Julia Coffey ... Sabina
Victoria Adams-Zischke ... Mrs. Antrobus
Christopher Oden ... Mr. Antrobus
Sarah Murdoch ... Gladys
Daniel O’Brien ... Henry
Peter Mutino ... Mr. Fitzpatrick
Catherine Yudain ... Telegraph boy, Usher, Crowd
Jeremy Garfinkel ... Doctor, Conveener
Aaron Johnson ... Professor, Conveener
Zane M. Roberts ... Refugee, Conveener
Jordan J. Jones ... Homer, Conveener
Alison Barton ... Miss E. Muse, Ivy
Cayla Buettner ... Miss T. Muse, Chair Pusher
Brittany Green ... Miss M. Muse, Crowd, In Chair
Zachary Kamin ... Refugee, Broadcast official
Tom Foran ... Judge Moses, Defeated Candidate
Rebecca Ricker-Gilbert ... Refugee, Crowd, Hester
Scott Cooke ... Refugee, Lifeguard, Fred Bailey
J. D. Gross ... Announcer
Rachel Rosado ... Fortune Teller
Robert Rosado ... Crowd, Mr. Tremayne
Michael Truman Cavanaugh ... Mammoth
Lauren Horoszewski ... Dinosaur

Monday, November 17, 2008

"South Pacific" an enchanted evening at the Opera House Players

EAST WINDSOR - Now that most of the leaves have fallen and the days are noticeably shorter and colder, what better way to spend an evening than in the tropics?
The Opera House Players production of "South Pacific" has all the elements of a classic musical, including many unforgettable songs, such as "Some Enchanted Evening," "I’m Gonna Wash that Man Right Out of My Hair," "Bali Ha’i," and the beautiful love song "Younger than Springtime."

The timing couldn’t be better for this production of the award winning 1949 musical since it opened just after Veterans Day and is running through Thanksgiving weekend.
The musical is set on an island in the south pacific during World War II, where some of the soldiers based on the island are getting ready to entertain the troops during the Thanksgiving holiday, while others are preparing for a secret strategic battle against the Japanese.

There are two romances, one between perky Ensign Nellie Forbush, played with naïve enthusiasm by Janine Flood, and an older French plantation owner, Emile de Becque, played with appropriate reserve and a decent French accent by Michael Corman.
The other is a romance between a youthful Lt. Joseph Cable, USMC, played by Dallas Hosmer, looking like a young, blond Elvis Presley, and an island girl, Liat, played by Taryn Scozzari.

Flood plays Nellie with a confidence and homespun Little Rock corniness that is delightful, and feels quite genuine when she sing songs such as “Cockeyed Optimist.”
This well-cast musical, directed by Lesley Gallagher, is a sexy, tender, and romantic production, with lots of kissing.

The acting is stronger than the singing, which isn’t to say the singing isn’t good, but the acting is perfectly natural and believable.

It’s also a lot of fun, with comic relief provided by Paul Aherne who plays Luther Billis and Reva Kleppel, playing the pigeon-English speaking Islander, Bloody Mary.
Aherne has a fine strong voice, and looks almost too good in coconuts, while Kleppel precisely captured the feeling of a straight talking, manipulative (in a good way) entrepreneur.

The two Polynesian children are outstanding. Pearl Matteson who played Ngana and Nicolas Cote who played Jerome. Their parts are small, but important, and they make the show special singing their sweet "Dites-Moi" and their adorable skipping dancing.
The musical confronts serious issues, such as preconceived prejudices and racism, which gives the show depth and prevents it from becoming too syrupy-sweet.

Racism is highlighted in the song "You’ve Got to be Carefully Taught," sung with sarcasm and anger by Hoyer’s Cable. It’s sad to think that racism is still relevant almost 70 years after this musical was first produced.

The cast and crew clearly worked hard to put this show together and all did a yeoman’s job. A general recommendation to the cast is to remember to have fun when fun is to be had, and to make the comedy even broader.

The pace of the singing and dialog and the transitions between the two could speed up a tad, especially in the beginning. Often in musicals the orchestra overwhelms the singers, but that is never the case in this production, with musical direction by Deborah Curylo.
The painted backdrop of a beach with islands, by Chimera Costume and Scenic Services, sets the tone of a tropical island with a Tiki lounge feel, complete with palm trees that are both painted and free-standing.
The numerous scene changes are all done smoothly and quickly. The lighting, designed by Diane St. Amand, and sound too are excellent, particularly with the radio reception, which had to be technically challenging to arrange, but works.
If you can’t afford to take a trip to the islands this year, and who can these days, "South Pacific" at the Opera House Players is the next best thing to being there.


3 1/2 Stars
Theater: Opera House Players
Location: 107 Main Street, Broad Brook
Production: Music by Richard Rodgers. Book by Oscar Hammerstein II and Joshua Logan. Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II. Direction and choreography by Lesley Gallagher. Music direction by Deborah Curylo. Producer and costumes by Moonyean Field. Lighting design by Diane St. Amand. Scenery by Chimera Costume and Scenic Services.
Running time: 2 1/2 hours, with a 20-minute intermission
Show Times: Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., Sundays at 2 p.m. through Nov. 30.
Tickets: $20, seniors over 60 and youth under 12 pay $12. Call 860-292-6068 or visit their website at

Janine Flood ... Ensign Nellie Forbush
Michael Corman ... Emile de Becque
Dallas Hosmer ... Lt. Joseph Cable, USMC
Reva Kleppel ... Bloody Mary
Paul Aherne ... Luther Billis
Samuel Greene ... Capt. George Bracket, USN
Michael May ... Cmdr. William Harbison USN
Giovannie Copeland Mendez ... Stewpot
Aaron Mulmeyer ... Professor
Ricardo B. Plamenco III ... Radio OP Bob McCaffrey
Tammy Young Cote ... Lt. Genevieve Marshall
Khara C. Hoyer ... Ensign Lisa Manelli
Emily Stisser ... Ensign Connie Walewska
Brianna Mello ... Ensign Bessie Noonan
Taryn Scozzari ... Liat
Pearl Matteson ... Ngana
Nicolas Cote ... Jerome
Marc Gallagher ... Voice of Lt. Buzz Adams

Monday, November 10, 2008

"The Latest Mrs. Adams" a bargain of fun

ENFIELD - Bowling balls, mistaken identities, and ghosts have never been so funny as they are in the Valley Repertory Company’s production of "The Latest Mrs. Adams."

The play, written by George Tibbles, is kind of a combination of a television situation comedy and an homage to the 1930’s screwball comedies.

Set in a Connecticut town 59 miles outside of New York City, Sam Adams, has just married for the second time, to Lily - she being the latest Mrs. Adams.

They move into his family’s farmhouse, only to discover his deceased wife’s mother, Betsy Jefferson, is still living there, along with Sam’s uncle, the irascible John Quincy Adams, and perhaps the ghost of the first Mrs. Adams.

Sam, played with enthusiasm and appropriate exasperation by Mark Vogel, wants the in-laws out, but Lily, a New York City dress designer, has a big heart and wants to help them.

She even invites the homeless drunkard living under the bridge, Ethan Allen, played with delightful deadpan humor by Jason Fregeau, to come in from the cold and stay with them a while.

Complications ensue when Ethan Allen abruptly dies in his bedroom, and Betsy and John Quincy try to claim credit for murder, while bowling balls periodically roll down the stairs, and the ghost of the first Mrs. Adams, played with dancing grace by Elizabeth Mathieu, flits about the stage.

The cast is terrific and talented, from Lily, played with caring compassion by Patty Coope Piellucci, the grammatical perfectionist Betsy, played with ditzy confidence by Jan Albetski, the half-blind lecherous old grouch John Quincy, played to perfection by Jim Byrne, Jr., to the local constable, Enrico Rossini, played with silly officiousness by Logan Lopez.

From the first entrance of Fegueau’s Ethan Allen, where he is dressed like a giant ace bandage with a newspaper hat, he has the audience in stitches. Byrne’s John Quincy, with his hat with flaps, is quite funny too, not so much with one-liners, but with his timing and his conviction that the second Mrs. Adams is a hooker, and her daughter is one of her "girls."

The comedy has lots of sight gags, as well as some literary highbrow humor as well. While Ethan Allen is still alive, Lily’s daughter, Camille Littleton, played by Laura Wittenberg, says to her mother, that the old Connecticut farmhouse reminds her of something out of Balzac.

The local derelict Alan snickers and pleads with her to say something else lewd, to which she responds, "Charles Dickens," which really gets him going.

Lily figures out that Betsy misses her deceased daughter, the first Mrs. Adams, and so Betsy unconsciously becomes her and dresses up as her ghost, claiming that her daughter comes back because the doctor didn’t put the sheet over her face and her soul slipped out through her nose. Rather than treating the various characters with disdain, however, Lily shows them compassion and love, and they blossom under her caring affection.

The setting of the entire play is the farmhouse’s living room and dining area, solidly designed by Eric J. Albetski, however, there are a number of breaks between scenes as props are moved about.

It would be great to have some background music between scenes, rather than just dead silence. The scene changes don’t take all that long, but without any music, the time drags.

At $10 a ticket, the Valley Repertory Company’s production of "The Latest Mrs. Adams" is a bargain at twice the price, with just the right blend of comedy, mystery, and plot to keep you entertained all evening long.


Three Stars
Theater: Valley Repertory Company
Location: 100 High Street, Enfield
Production: Written by George Tibbles. Directed by Lisa Eaton. Produced by Celeste Estvanik. Technical direction and set design by Eric J. Albetski. Stage Manager Jason Fregeau. Lighting design by Ken Estvanik.
Running time: 2 hours, with one intermission.
Show Times: Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. through Nov. 22.
Tickets: $10, $8 for seniors over 60 and youth under 12. Call 860-749-4665 or visit their website at

Mark Vogel ... Sam Adams
Patty Coope Piellucci ... Lily Adams
Jim Byrne, Jr. ... John Quincy Adams
Jan Albetski ... Betsy Jefferson
Elizabeth Mathieu ... Abigail Adams
Jason Fregeau ... Ethan Allen
Laura Wittenberg ... Camille Littleton
Logan Lopez ... Enrico Rossini
"Pvt. Wars" a compelling introspective production

MIDDLETOWN - Although the play "Pvt. Wars" by James McLure is specifically about military veterans - their efforts to overcome adversities are experiences that all can identify with.

Set in the common room of a Veterans hospital, three psychiatric patients with different backgrounds share a common bond of trying to assimilate back into society. The fact that they can leave at any time is a theme that playwright James McLure returns to throughout the rich and interesting play.

Dana O’Neal plays Gately, the only character whose wound is visible, with a visible jagged long scar and bruise on his bald pate. Gately is working feverishly to repair a radio, whose parts are constantly pilfered by his two companions, the macho Silvo, played by Phil Godeck, and the patrician Natwick, played by Foster Reese.

Gately says if he can repair the radio, it is a sign that America's free enterprise system works, and would also mean that he can leave the hospital. O’Neal beautifully captures the essence of emotional instability in the character of Gately who frequently bursts into tears without much provocation, but also shows an emotional intelligence and keen insight into his the heart’s of his two friends.

Reese’s Natwick starts out almost too affected in his affectation, but improves as the play progresses. Natwick’s modus operandi is to initiate topics and then say: "I don’t want to talk about it." He isolates himself within himself, but then resents the fact that he is isolated. He is a know-it-all, and who hides in his mind, but is trapped by it too.

Natwick says: "I am an invention of myself," and that is his isolation.
When Gately says that coyotes mate for life, Natwick is compelled to one up him by saying that dolphins mate for life too. This isn’t true, since dolphins are notoriously promiscuous, but a telling insight into Natwick character, because this is how Natwick tries and fails to connect, through information rather than communication.

It is Gately who is the wise one, knowing just what to say at times. Natwick is trying to write an original poem, but constantly compares himself unfavorably to the likes of T. S. Eliot. When Natwick quotes from an Eliot poem: "Do I dare to eat a peach?" Gately is totally flummoxed by this and quizzes Natwick about the poem’s meaning. Just like trying to explain a joke, explaining a metaphor looses everything in translation, resulting in a hilarious exchange.

Similarly, the discussion of suicide that Natwick is contemplating and Gately is listening to, is hysterically, blackly funny, delivered with perfect timing, without missing the serious point.

Godeck’s is sensitive portrait of the man’s man, Silvo. If not for the war and his own life-altering wound, Silvo is the kind of man ill-prepared to delve into his inner psyche, and scares himself, and others, by frequently acting out. He is obsessed with sex, flashes the nurses often, and says at one point that "sperm has one hell of a sense of direction." Silvo does not, and therein lies his tragedy.

Each of the numerous scenes is like a mini play, punctuated with complete blackouts, which have an almost musical hypnotic rhythm to them, all seamlessly directed by Kathy Keena.

There are frequent sexual innuendoes and frank sexual talk, which makes this a show for adult's only. The program gives this show a PG-13 rating for language and sexual situations.

The newly formed Veterans Memorial Theatre Company is by veterans, dedicated to veterans, with plays about veterans, which doesn’t take sides, or deal directly with a political agenda. The theater at the Green Street Arts Center is an intimate studio space, with seating for about 55 people, which is perfect for this intense, well acted, fine play.


3 Stars
Theater: Veterans Memorial Theatre Company
Location: Green Street Arts Center, 51 Green St., Middletown
Production: Written by James McLure. Directed by Kathy Keena. Produced by Clark Bowlen and Michael Eck. Designed by Clark Bowlen. Stage managed by Ben Pitz.
Running time: 2 hours, with one intermission
Show Times: Friday and Saturday, Nov. 14 and 15 at 8 p.m.
Tickets: $15, $10 for veterans, seniors, and students. Call 860-623-6587 email them at

Dana O’Neal ... Gately
Phil Godeck ... Silvo
Foster Reese ... Natwick
Frank Schiavone ... Voice of Psychiatrist

Monday, November 03, 2008

The once and future king and queen reign supreme in Manchester Little Theatre’s "Camelot"

MANCHESTER - One thing that is consistently admirable about community theater is the spirit of community and teamwork, and the Little Theatre of Manchester’s production of "Camelot" is no exception.

This classic Tony Award-winning musical is set in medieval England, and is based on the King Arthur and the chivalrous Knights of the Round Table legend.

In this musical choreographer Todd C. Santa Maria also plays the wicked Mordred, illegitimate son of King Arthur, while the magician Merlin is played by set designer Fred T. Blish, and all the cast members pitch in to help with scene changes - even King Arthur, played by Mike Zizka, carries his own bench to and from the stage.
"Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them," as Shakespeare says in "Twelfth Night."

King Arthur hits all three categories, being born to greatness, but not knowing it, has it thrust upon him when he pulls the sword, Excalibur, from the stone, and eventually, reluctantly accepts and embraces his fate as the once and future king of legend.

The play begins when a youthful King Arthur, played by the awesome Mike Zizka, meets his betrothed queen, Guenevere, well played by Alysa Auriemma.
Auriemma has lots of spunk and plenty of flirty sass to spare, along with a lovely singing voice, which ranges from sweet to powerful.

Zizka is fantastic as Arthur. He believably inhabits the part’s transitions, from reluctant ruler, to smitten lover, to compassionate and heartbroken man.

Also terrific and amusing is Art Bradbury as the ditzy and loyal King Pellinore.

Bradbury’s Pellinore has some amusing lines such as: "Sometimes when I get my teeth into something, I have to leave them there." Bradbury infused his part with energy and life, as did the previously mentioned Blish as the all too little seen Merlin.

Santa Maria’s Mordred is marvelously over-the-top evil, although his "dagger as nail file" business is a bit over-used. He is the perfect foil as the "medieval delinquent" to Arthur’s fledgling attempts at civilizing a barbaric world.

Arthur wryly observes to Mordred: "The saying, ‘blood is thicker than water was invented by undeserving relatives.'"

While he has a good singing voice, unfortunately Jonathan Escobar’s Lancelot du Lac leaves a lot to be desired. He is the only character who does not speak with an accent, the others all English - his would have been French - but that isn’t the main problem.

It’s tough to play someone who considers himself to be perfect, as Lancelot does, but simply being uptight doesn’t cut it.

The overflowing passion, commitment, and self-denial needed to strive for perfection, along with the naïvely arrogant self-confidence to think he is perfect, is missing, and instead a stiff and wooden rigidity unsatisfactorily fills the void.
Its difficult to imagine what Guenevere sees in him, as the part demands, but Auriemma does the heavy lifting here and rises to the occasion.

The scenes change from forest, to castle, to forest, and field, and director Michael J. Forgetta wisely chooses to have the set be suggestive rather than elaborately realistic - instead investing their budget into a myriad of period costumes by David Addis. Notable are Morgan Le Fey and her courtesans who were dressed in earthy, wood-nymph garb, as well as the king and queen’s many glittering raiments.

As sweet and cute as the middle school children in the play were, why did Forgetta choose them to play predominant ensemble parts meant for adults? It is disconcerting and distracting, and makes the production at times feel like a school play rather than the semi-professional musicals that the Little Theatre of Manchester consistently produces.

The musical direction by the capable Paul Coffill was great, but a little loud when the actors were singing quieter ballads. The gorgeous, romantic Lerner and Loewe songs, such as "If Ever I Would Leave You," "The Simple Joys of Maidenhood," "What Do the Simple Folk Do?," and the inspiring signature song "Camelot," are all beautiful and uplifting.

Although there are some imperfections in "Camelot," in the end the King and Queen, Zizka and Auriemma, carry the day.


2 1/2 Stars
Location: Cheney Hall, 177 Hartford Road, Manchester
Production: Books and lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner. Music by Frederick Loewe. Directed by Michael J. Forgetta. Musical direction by Paul Coffill. Choreographer Todd Santa Maria. Stage Manager Marguerite Kelly. Set designed by Fred T. Blish. Lighting design by Jared R. Towler. Sound design by Advanced Lighting and Sound. Costumes by David Addis.
Running time: 3 hours, with one intermission
Show Times: Thursday, Nov. 6, and Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. Sundays at 2 p.m., and through Nov. 16.
Tickets: $21 - $28. Call the box office at 647-9824, or visit their Web site at

Mike Zizka ... Arthur
Alysa Auriemma ... Guenevere
Jonathan Escobar ... Lancelot du Lac
Art Bradbury ... King Pellinore
Todd C. Santa Maria ... Mordred
Marge Kelly ... Morgan Le Fey
Fred T. Blish ... Merlin
Doug Stoyer ... Sir Dinidan, Courtesan of Morgan Le Fey, Ensemble
Scott Ironfield ... Sir Lionel, Squire Dap, Guilliam, Rogue Knight
Diane Lareau AmEnde ... Lady Sybil, Herald, Ensemble
Ann Azevedo ... Lady Anne, Courtesan of Morgan Le Fey, Ensemble
Andreanna Buccheri ... Page, Courtesan of Morgan Le Fey, Ensemble
Charles Burns ... Clarius, Bliant, Rogue Knight, Ensemble
Donato DiGenova ... Sagramore, Colgrevance, Courtesan of Morgan Le Fey, Rogue Knight, Ensemble
Jason Fazzino ... Horrid the Dog, Court Jester, Tom of Warwick
Yvonne Jacques ... Lady Clothilde, Ensemble
Patri-Ann Morgan ... Page, Courtesan of Morgan Le Fey, Ensemble
Joan Notghi ... Lady Jane, Courtesan of Morgan Le Fey, Ensemble
Cassie Wood ... Nimue, Courtesan of Morgan Le Fey, Ensemble
"The Rainmaker" shines at the Ivoryton Playhouse

IVORYTON - The charming old facility that is now the Ivoryton Playhouse was built in 1911 as a recreation hall. It evolved into the first self-supporting summer stock theater in the country. It has expanded well beyond summer stock today, and offers quality theatrical productions throughout the year.

The Ivoryton Playhouse is located about an hour from the Manchester area. Probably one of the more enjoyable ways to spend the intermission between acts is to view the many photographs of famous actors who graced the Ivoryton Playhouse’s stage through the years.

The Ivoryton Playhouse is like the Holy Grail of Theater, with faded head-shots of such luminaries as Tallulah Bankhead, Alan Alda, Buddy Ebsen, Mae West, Treat Williams, Elaine Stritch, and many, many more - some whose faces are more familiar than their names, which are listed along with the plays they starred in at the Ivoryton Playhouse.

It probably isn’t accurate to call the Ivoryton Playhouse a community theater in the strictest sense, since some of the actors are professional; however, it is a fine combination of professional and amateur actors.

Their last regular season production for 2008 is the "The Rainmaker."

Written by N. Richard Nash, "The Rainmaker," ran on Broadway in 1954, and might be most familiar as the classic movie by the same name, starring Burt Lancaster and Hartford native Hepburn.

The play is set somewhere in the west on a cattle farm during a drought in August of some year in the middle of the last century.

A father, H.C. Curry, and his two sons, Jim and Noah Curry, pray for rain, as well as for a husband for H.C.’s daughter and the boy’s sister, Lizzie Curry.

It is set in a time when getting "hitched" was essential to a woman’s identity, in the view of society. At the time, if you were a woman and didn’t get married you were labeled a spinster and an old maid, and consequently, a failure.

Elizabeth Erwin plays Lizzie with just the right balance of intelligence and self-doubt. She gets all gussied up to have dinner with the town’s divorced deputy, File, sensitively played by Timothy Fannon, who doesn’t show. She lashes out in frustration and embarrassment to her father, saying: "I don’t want you to lasso me a husband."

H.C. is indulgent and caring with his children, and is played with palpable love and kindness by Larry Lewis. The younger and slower Jim is played with sweet effervescent energy by John Noel, while Danny Kirkwood plays the eldest brother, Noah, the exasperated, practical disbeliever of the family.

Into this family scene walks a fast talking con man named Starbuck who promises he can make it rain for $100, and so begins the dreamers and believers versus the practical realists.

"My method is like my name, all my own," exclaims Starbuck, played with a flood of energy and charisma by Colin Lane. He comes in like a tidal wave feeding the family full of the dreams and hopes they are all starving for.

Lane is just right for the role, but his Australian accent (or is it Irish?), which is barely detectable in the first act, blossoms in act two, while his western twang fades out more than in. Not that that matters too much, since it only accentuates his con artist persona.

David Cardone rounds out the cast as the observant and caring Sheriff.

The solid set by Dan Nischan is divided into thirds, with a sheriff’s office, barn, and the family’s living room. The costumes are all good, by costume designer Pam Puente, except Lizzie’s dressy dress looked like something that would be worn to a garden party today, and is too low cut for a modest gal like Lizzie.

The recorded musical interludes played between scenes are fine, except when the music starts before the scenes end, or worse still, plays in the middle of the love scene, when it is really distracting. In film it works, not so much in live theatre.

Perhaps it derives from watching award shows where the music kicks in when the actors’ acceptance speeches go on for too long, but here it is jarring, and takes away from what the actors were saying.

Those minor points aside, overall "The Rainmaker" is a touching, old-fashioned evening of heart-felt entertainment in a very special venue.


3 Stars
Location: Ivoryton Playhouse, 103 Main Street, Ivoryton, CT
Production: Written by N. Richard Nash. Directed by Julia Kiley. Stage manager Johanna K. Levai. Set design by Dan Nischan. Costumes by Pam Puente. Lighting designed by Tate R. Burmeister.
Running time: 2 hours with one intermission.
Show Times: Wednesday and Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturdays at 8 p.m., with Wednesday and Sunday matinees at 2 p.m. through Nov. 16.
Tickets: $30 for adults, $25 for previews and seniors, $20 for students, and $15 for children 12 and under. Call the box office at 860-767-7318, or visit their website at

Elizabeth Erwin ... Lizzie Curry
Colin Lane ... Bill Starbuck
Timothy Fannon ... Deputy File
Danny Kirkwood ... Noah Curry
Larry Lewis ... H.C. Curry
John Noel ... Jim Curry
David Cardone ... Sheriff Thomas