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Monday, March 30, 2009

“Icarus” imaginative inventive production at CRT

STORRS- Like a cross between “Rosemary’s Baby” and “Alien,” the wildly imaginative, creative interpretation of “Icarus” is playing at the studio theater at the Uconn’s Connecticut Repertory Theatre Wednesday through Sunday.
Based on the ancient Greek myth of Icarus, the boy who flew too high on feathered wings, this show is definitely the stuff of nightmares for young children, while giving lingering, hypnotic impressions to adults.
Set in ancient impoverished Crete, King Minos is desperate for an heir, but his Queen Pasephae is without child.
Rather than sacrificing the white bull to appease the wrathful ocean god Poseidon, Minos allows his queen’s wish and does not sacrifice the bull, with dire consequences.
She is impregnated by the bull giving birth to a half-man, half-bull monster, the Minotar, which is imprisoned in a death-trap labyrinth.
The fighting behind the screen between the Minotar and villagers is well done, and the labyrinthine moving walls are inspired.
The king’s inventor, Daedalus, has his own set of problems. His son, Icarus, dreams of his dead mother, who died because of Daedalus’ greed in catching too many fish.
Daedalus eventually loses favor with the king who banishes Daedalus and Icarus to a deserted island. When Daedalus invents the wings to escape, he warns his son not to fly too close to the son, but just like a teenager, Icarus pays no attention until it is too late.
This show uses puppetry as an augmentation to the action, rather than as the main characters, to impressive effect.
The gigantic white bull is truly ominous and terrifying, juxtaposed as it is next to the flirty, petulant queen who is in way over her head. Played by equity actor Lyn Kagen, who looks much like a young Heddy Lamar, she gives a transfixing performance as the dazed and disappointed queen.
When Pasephae gives birth her screams of agony are intense, and while not graphic, it is definitely not for young kids.
Robert Rosado is convincing and moving as the devastated king who ruins his world with his stubborn, privileged superiority, unable to bend and so is broken.
Sarah Murdoch who plays Neucrate, Daedalus’ wife and Icarus’ mother, is ethereal and lovely as the doomed beloved.
The story is simple, but the production is not. The music is excellent, from the simple guitar, to the recorded orchestral compositions, to Metallica, with sound designed by Emily Tritsch and sound and music mixing by Stefano Brancato. Brancato directed “Icarus” as well and adapted and co-created the show with Michael Bush.
Bush designed the puppets, which, in addition to the imposing white bull, included the stunning Poseidon, the delicate, inspired seagulls, and the other ancillary and glorious puppets.
The costumes by costume designer Mitchell Travers, were like living creatures themselves — with leather and rope bodices, intricate stitching, and detailed but loose tailoring, each fit the various characters as if they were born to wear them, including Icarus’ exquisite white knit tunic and fabulously darted white pants.
The solid and movable set by Jeanette Drake was minimalist but effective.
The show is at times top heavy with narration, but as the play progresses, the payoff is an amazing, hypnotic, and original achievement.


3 Stars
Theater: Connecticut Repertory Theatre
Location: Studio Theater, 802 Bolton Road, Storrs.
Production: Adaptation written and co-created by Stefano Brancato and Michael Bush. Directed by Stefano Brancato. Puppet designer Michael Bush. Scenic designer Jeanette Drake. Lighting designer Alex Goldberg. Sound designer Emily Tritsch. Sound and music mixing by Stefano Brancato. Costume designer Mitchell Travers. Technical direction by Ed Weingart. Production stage manager Tamsen Brooke Warner.
Running time: 2 hours including one intermission.
Show Times: Wednesday, and Thursday at 7:30 p.m., 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, with a 2 p.m. matinee Sunday, through Apr. 5.
Tickets: $13 to $26. Call 486-4266 of visit their Web site at
Scott Cooke … Icarus
Robert Rosado … Minos, the king
Lyn Kagen … Pasephae, the queen
Fergus Walsh … Daedalus, Icarus’ father
Zach Dorn … Old Man
Sarah Murdoch … Neucrate, Daedalus’ wife
Michael Truman Cavanaugh … Minotar/Lifter
Zane Roberts … Strong man/King’s snooty attendant
Joseph Therrien … Lead narrator
Zoe Besmond de Senneville … Second narrator and mad woman
Seth Koproski … Third narrator
Anastasia Brewczynski ... Fourth narrator/Rouser
Lauren Horoszewski … Fire dancer

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

“A Chorus Line” feels dated

HARTFORD — Superlatives abound whenever “A Chorus Line” is mentioned — “Longest Running Broadway Show Ever” — “Best Musical Ever” — Pulitzer prize-winning musical — nine Tony Awards, and the list goes on.
Despite these accolades, unfortunately this 1975 musical, playing at the Bushnell’s Mortensen Theater through Sunday, feels dated and dull.
It originally hit the scene when the old-fashioned musicals, with their stylized glamour and glitz, were fading, and a new, grittier theater scene was emerging.
“A Chorus Line” is a bit of a transition piece in Broadway history, bridging the gap of the past to the future. As one of the characters observes — Robert Goulet is out, and Steve McQueen is in.
The musical must have been revolutionary in its time with the dancers revealing their personal lives, coming out of the closet and so forth, but in 2009 it feels like an Oprah episode with some high kicks.
The show starts out with a bang with some incredible dancing by the ensemble cast, but then stagnates into one monologue followed by another. And then another.
Set in 1975, a group of 17 dancers are auditioning for a show. The director in the musical, Zach, played as well as could be expected by Sebastian La Cause, goes into the audience during a dance audition and starts creepily asking the dancers to talk about their personal lives, like it is a therapy session. And one by one by one by one all seventeen to various degrees, tell their sad, angst-ridden, depressing tales. Half as many would have gone twice as far.
The music, by Marvin Hamlisch, is kind of a combination of a 1970’s television variety show — “The Jackie Gleason Show” with his June Taylor Dancers comes to mind, and part disco, with synthesizers and sparkly mirrors.
When the director selects which dancers he wants, it feels eerily similar to the reality television shows of today, like “Project Runway” and “Top Design.”
The adult language and topics are definitely for mature audiences only.
There are the emblematic, however time-worn songs “One” “What I Did for Love,” “Dance: Ten; Looks; Three,” and “The Music and the Mirror,” but they aren’t enough to pull this show through those deadening monologues.
No doubt “A Chorus Line” definitely had its day, but it’s not today.


2 Stars
Theater: The William H. Mortensen Hall at the Bushnell Memorial Center
Location: 166 Capitol Ave. Hartford
Production: Originally co-choreographed and directed by Bob Avian. Book by James Kirkwood and Nicholas Dante. Music by Marvin Hamlisch. Lyrics by Edward Kleban. Music direction by John C. O’Neil.
Running time: 2 hours, with no intermission
Show Times: Wednesday, Thursday, and Sunday at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., with matinee performances Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m., through Mar. 29.
Tickets: From $20 to $65. Call 860-987-5900 or visit their website at Adult language, for mature audiences only.
Sebastian La Cause … Zach
Robyn Hurder … Cassie
Gabrielle Ruiz … Diana
Shannon Lewis … Sheila
Anthony Wayne … Richie
Mindy Dougherty … Val

Monday, March 23, 2009

Broadway comes to Ivoryton in “Godspell”

IVORYTON — Why take a train or drive into New York City when just an hour away at the historic Ivoryton Playhouse you can see a top notch Broadway-quality production of “Godspell” for a fraction of the price of Broadway tickets.
What a show. The youthful cast supplies enough energy to light up a town, and they invest every bit of enthusiasm and joy they have to their various parts.
“Godspell” is an archaic form of the word “Gospel,” and the musical is based on the on the Gospel of St. Matthews, with parables and teachings from the bible, such as the story of Noah and the Ark, the Prodigal Son, and central to all is the story of Jesus and his eventual betrayal by Judas, his death, and rebirth.
The show begins with the cast members dressed in dark and somber clothing, speaking as philosophers about thought and logic, when John the Baptist, played by Chris Gleim, who also makes a fine and tormented Judas, enters and sings the simple and beautiful “Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord.”
Next thing you know, everyone is dressed in a riot of greens, blues, oranges, purples, and yellows, and love is in the air.
All of the songs, which range from ballads, to rock, to vaudeville, and even some rap, are really fantastic, with lyrics and music by Stephen Schwartz, but probably the one most recognized because it made it to the music charts in its time, is “Day by Day.”
The 1970 musical was first conceived as a master thesis by John Michael Tabela at Carnegie-Mellon University and took off from there, moving to off-Broadway, a film in 1973, eventually heading to Broadway in 1976, and has been on the community and church theater circuit ever since.
Jesus, lovingly played by Joshua Isaacs, narrates the acted-out biblical stories. The rest of the cast members, who are identified by their real names and also play various parts in the bible, are on stage for the entire two acts.
Tiana Checcia gives a fine clear performance singing “Day by Day,” while Elisabeth Cernadas who sings “O Bless the Lord My Soul” has a lovely voice you want to hear again.
Robert W. Scwartz Jr. too is super in his rendition of the powerful showstopper “All Good Gifts,.”
Not to leave anyone out of this fine ensemble group, Brent Barker sings the closing first act song, the rousing “Light of the World,” and Patrick H. Dunn is potently energetic singing “We Beseech Thee.”
Starting the second act with a bang is Nicole Heriot who does a campy, vampy bit singing the sultry “Turn Back, O Man.” Jorie Janeway sings the lovely and melancholy “Where Are You Going?” with backup by the perky and pert Hillary Ekwall.
Just as in the original production, at intermission the cast members gather near the stage and offer wine to the audience — a nice touch.
The set, designed by Daniel Nischan, is dominated by a massive, impressive chain link fence, a simple but useful backdrop for the actors to variously play with, struggle against, and climb.
What a great way to say goodbye to winter and welcome in spring in this upbeat, life-affirming, timeless production of “Godspell.”


3½ Stars
Location: Ivoryton Playhouse, 103 Main Street, Ivoryton, CT
Production: Written by John Michael Tabela. Music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz. Directed by Lawrence Thelen. Choreography by Lisa Niedermeyer. Musical direction by John S. DeNicola. Scenic designer Daniel Nischan. Lighting designer and production manager Doug Harry. Costume designer Pam Puente.
Running time: 2 hours plus 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 Apr. 5.
Tickets: $35 for adults, $30 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
Joshua Isaacs … Jesus
Chris Gleim … John/Judas
Tiana Checchia … Tiana
Patrick H. Dunn… Patrick
Elisabeth Cernadas … Elisabeth
Jorie Janeway … Jorie
Robert W. Schultz Jr. … Robert
Hillary Ekwall … Hillary
Brent Barker … Brent
Nicole Heriot … Nicole
SOMERS — What a treat it is to attend the Somers Village Players’ 32nd annual dinner theater production, held at Joanne’s Café and Banquet House.
Their spring production is a 1988 award winning comedy by Neil Simon called “Rumors.”
For $33 you get a delicious banquet meal of succulent roast beef with gravy, salad, pasta, garlic and butter green beans, roasted red new potatoes, plus coffee or tea and dessert, followed by a effervescent play by a skillful, energetic group of talented actors.
The great thing about dinner theater is, you don’t have to stress out about getting your bill from the waiter to make it to the show in time.
In this play, which is set in present-day suburban New York, guests arrive to the house of the city’s deputy mayor, to celebrate he and his wife’s 10th wedding anniversary.
One by one his guests learn that the deputy mayor shot himself in the ear, the servants have all disappeared, and the wife is missing in action.
First to discover the earlobe situation are the deputy mayor’s lawyer, Ken Gorman, played energetically by stage veteran Ron Blanchette, and his wife Chris Gorman, played by the Kathy Welsh.
Welsh looks remarkably like Imogene Coca from the old Sid Caesar television show, and is every bit as talented as the famous comedian.
When she calls her husband an idiot, you really believe it. Also funny is when Welsh, as Chris Gorman, exclaims in exasperation, “I can’t believe I shaved my legs for this!”
“Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive,” as Sir Walter Scott says, and nothing could be truer, or sillier, in this witty, wild romp of a farce, where attempts to dissemble unweave almost as quickly as they are created.
This is a true ensemble character-driven play. Each actor gets to have his or her moment in the sun to indulge in silly banter.
Included in the slapstick fun is the jealous crystal-worshipping wife, Cassie Cooper, played with a sexy pout by Linden Ela; her officious, ambitious politico husband Glenn, played with believable stiffness by Alexander Crowell; the sarcastic wife Claire Ganz, played by Darlene LaPointe; and her stiff-necked, starving accountant husband Lenny, played by the Mark Depathy.
Also amusing is the know-it-all therapist Ernie Cusak, played by David Crowell, and his kooky wife Cookie, played by Trish Urso. Urso practically steals the show in her ridiculous 60-year-old Polish outfit, her ditzy, dazed smile, and her periodic back-spasms — she’s hysterical.
Urso and Crowell make an amusingly unctuous and overbearing couple when they refer to each other as “popsy and puppy,” then “cupcake and monkey.”
The play is a mishmash of slapstick, mystery, character humor, and more one-liners than you can shake a Q-tip at (you must see the play to understand that one.)
Be forewarned that there is plenty of profanity in this scandalous farcical play, so it is not recommended for young children.
The show on Saturday, Mar. 28 is already sold out, but other evenings still have seating available, so be sure to call for tickets to attend this fun and complete night of entertainment.


3 stars
Theater: Somers Village Players
Location: Joanne’s Café and Banquet House, 145 Main Street, Somers
Running time: About 2 and ½ hours with one intermission.
Show Times: Friday and Saturday though Apr. 4. Social hour starting at 6 p.m. Dinner at 7 p.m. Show at 8 p.m.
Tickets: $33, including dinner, with cash bar. Call 860-749-0245 for reservations. Tickets still available for all nights except Saturday, Mar. 28.
Production: Written by Neil Simon. Directed by Gus Rousseau. Produced by Betty Domer. Stage manager Sue Moke.
Actor …. Character
Kathy Welsh … Chris Gorman
Ron Blanchette … Ken Gorman
Darlene LaPointe … Claire Ganz
Mark Depathy … Lenny Ganz
David Crowell … Ernie Cusak
Trish Urso … Cookie Cusak
Alexander Crowell … Glenn Cooper
Linden Ela … Cassie Cooper
Cheryl Samborski … Officer Welsh
Peter Desaulinier … Officer Pudney

Monday, March 09, 2009

“Arsenic and Old Lace” good old-fashioned fun

MANCHESTER — If good old-fashioned fun is what you’re after, look no further than the Little Theatre of Manchester’s production of “Arsenic and Old Lace,” running at Cheney Hall through Sunday.
This play started as a huge hit on Broadway beginning in 1941, and then was made into a wacky film by the same name, directed by Frank Capra and starring the inimitable Cary Grant.
It was based on a real murderess who lived right here in Windsor, Conn. Playwright Joseph Kesselring had heard of a case where a woman was convicted of poisoning elderly gentlemen and taking their money.
Hardly the stuff of comedy, but Kesselring wrote the play, somewhat based on the case, moving the locale to Brooklyn, New York.
Two sisters, Abby and Martha Brewster, harmoniously played by Debi Freund and Sara Logan, live alone in a large old home next to a church and cemetery. Their nephew, Mortimer Brewster is played with curmudgeonly sarcasm by Daniel Gilbreath.
What starts out as sarcasm raises to the level of astonishment and incredulity when he learns that his aunts have developed the nasty “habit” of knocking off lonely old men with arsenic and strychnine-laced elderberry wine, with “just a pinch of cyanide,” Martha says with glee.
Mortimer, who visits his aunts, has the unhappy profession of having to review plays for a newspaper, which he explains accounts for his miserable attitude. He is also in love with the girl next door, the parson’s daughter, Elaine Harper, played by Alysa Auriemma, who manages to squeeze every possible inch of life out of a rather feckless role.
Into this mix comes the long-lost elder brother, a real bad guy recently escaped from a mental institution for the criminally insane in Indiana, Jonathan Brewster, played with evil menace by Nick Demetriades.
He along with his alcoholic plastic surgeon sidekick, Dr. Einstein, played by Charles Merlis, attempt to move back into Brewster’s childhood home. Merlis, with his German accent and wild standup hair, captures the wacky, almost surrealistic over-the-top kookiness of this play.
The set is solidly designed by Fred T. Blish, who makes a stairway that any home would be proud to have.
It needs to be solid, too, because Mortimer’s other brother, Teddy Brewster (Sal Uccello) regularly charges up the stairs, blowing a trumpet at the landing, and digging Panama canals in the basement, thinking he is President Theodore Roosevelt. Uccello is funny and believable as the delusional, harmless Teddy.
A painted backdrop out the bay window stage left oddly features a mountain scene, which seems out of place considering the play is set next to a cemetery and a church in Brooklyn, N.Y.
The lighting, by Meghan Ryan, and the sound, by Adam Hartley are fine and well timed, with musical interludes enhancing the scary parts and the intense exchanges. Often music can be a distraction in plays when in the middle of a scene, but it works here, probably because it is such a farcical premise.
Occasional dated references to people such as Judith Anderson, an Australian actress well known when the play was written, left the audience behind, but the character humor in this black comedy will always be timeless.
“Arsenic and Old Lace” which runs through this weekend, is one funny, frivolous frolic down memory lane.


3 Stars
Location: The Little Theatre of Manchester, Inc. at Cheney Hall, 177 Hartford Road, Manchester.
Production: Written by Joseph Kesselring. Directed by Michael Forgetta. Stage managed by Lee Hammitt. Produced by Chuck Burns. Set designed by Fred T. Blish. Sound designed by Adam Hartley. Lighting designed by Meghan Ryan.
Running time: 2 1/4 hours, with one 15-minute intermission
Show Times: Friday, and Saturday at 8 p.m. Sunday at 2 p.m. through Mar. 15.
Tickets: $16 — $23. Call the box office at 860-647-9824, or visit their website at
Debi Freund … Abby Brewster
Sara Logan … Martha Brewster
Daniel Gilbreath … Mortimer Brewster
Alysa Auriemma … Elaine Harper
Nick Demetriades … Jonathan Brewster
Charles Merlis … Dr. Einstein
Sal Uccello … Teddy Brewster
Michael May … Officer O’Hara
Jim Ryan … The Reverend Dr. Harper/Lt. Rooney
Timothy M. Rowe … Officer Brophy
Keith Giard … Officer Klein
Jared R. Towler … Mr. Gibbs/Mr. Witherspoon

Monday, March 02, 2009

“Pericles” a melodramatic morality tale for the ages

STORRS — “Pericles” is one Shakespeare play even regular Shakespeare-goers are unlikely to have seen. Playing at the Connecticut Repertory Theater at the University of Connecticut, this play has it all — incest, murder, passion, fighting, poverty, treachery, and even a resurrection with a touch of Frankenstein.
It is really a morality play of black and white, good versus evil, with Perciles, played by the ultra-fit Michael Sharon, as the virtuous prince enduring tragedy after tribulation, kind of like Hercules meets Job.
At the Connecticut Repertory Theater they use a combination of student actors with professionals, and here Sharon and the narrator, played by Clark Carmichael, fill the bill more than adequately.
Let’s face it — Shakespeare’s language is pretty dense stuff, but CRT, here under the direction of Dale AJ Rose, does a laudable, at times remarkable job of making sense of the convoluted action and plot.
In this play Pericles travels to a the land of Antioch to attempt to marry king Antiochus’ daughter, the king played by Brooks Brantly, bedecked in many red feathers, while his daughter is played by Caroline Gombe.
Pericles discovers the secret that the king is having an incestuous relationship with his daughter, and before they kill Pericles for discovering their secret, he flees. He goes to Pentapolis where he falls in love and marries Thaisa, played by Meghan O’Leary. He fights to win her hand in a terrific match against three suitors, wrestling, battling, and engaging in a spectacular sword fight with real sharp, heavy swords, with fight direction by Greg Webster.
Additionally in the same scene the four combatants participate in a rhythmically choreographed piece with wooden poles that defies description, but is intricate, perfectly timed, and incredible to see — choreography by Hillel Meltzer.
Then it’s off to Tyre, but not before his wife dies in childbirth, or at least appears to die, on the high seas. The child, Marina, is given to the care of Dionyza and her husband Cleon in Tarsus. When Marina grows up, the evil Dionyza becomes jealous of her, tries to have her killed, but not before Marina is abducted by pirates who sell her to a brothel.
Here the brothel has a distinct exotic Bertolt Brechtian air, with wild costumes, designed by Sachiko Komuro, and fabulous wigs. In fact all of the clothing would look very much at home in any Star Trek episode.
There are other twists and turns in the plot, but suffice it to say, this is one melodrama to end all melodramas, and this large and capable cast does it’s best to help make the complex and intricate language come to life with larger than life visualizations of what is transpiring.
When Sharon’s Pericles, who really couldn’t be better or more intense, is caught in an ocean tempest, a huge white cloth, like a giant sail, is waved down from the ceiling onto the ground to become the ocean, half drowning him.
Similarly when the narrator, John Gower, naturalistically played by Clark Carmichael, explains that many a suitor was decapitated, we see the heads. Thanks for that.
The set, with its half-moon near the ceiling, and simple blue floor, was unostentatious, by Michael Franklin-White, and was a perfectly suitable backdrop for the varied and intricate lighting effects, by Chad Lefebvre. The music too was well timed and heightened the dramatic moments, composed by Spencer Emanuel.
As well-acted and directed as the show is, it is strangely not at all emotionally engaging — perhaps because of the melodramatic, larger-than-life sweep of the morality tale.
However, the entire cast worked beautifully together, many playing multiple roles, to make this rather obscure Shakespeare play one that any Shakespeare lover should not miss.


3½ Stars
Theater: Connecticut Repertory Theatre
Location: Nafe Katter Theater, 802 Bolton Rd., Storrs
Production: Written by William Shakespeare. Directed by Dale AJ Rose. Scenic design by Michael Franklin-White. Costume design by Sachiko Komuro. Lighting design by Chad Lefebvre. Music composed by Spencer Emanuel. Movement and fight choreography by Greg Webster. Choreography by Hillel Meltzer.
Running time: 2 1/2 hours plus one 15-minute intermission.
Show Times: Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 p.m., and Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., with matinees Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m. through March 8.
Tickets: General admission $11 to $29. Call 860-486-4266 or visit their website at
Michael Sharon … Pericles, Prince of Tyre
Clark Carmichael … John Gower, the presenter
Brooks Brantly … Antiochus, the king of Antioch
Caroline Gombe … King Anitochus’ daughter; a Bawd
Ryan Guess … Cleon, the governor of Tarsus
Gretchen Goode … Dionyza, Cleon’s wife
Ali Periwitz … Marina, Pericle’s daughter
Philip AJ Smithey … Simonides, the king at Pentapolis
Meghan O’Leary … Thaisa, Simonides’ daughter
Phillip Korth … Lysimachus, the governor of Mytilene
Robbie Thompson, Jr. …. A Pander
“To Kill a Mockingbird” moving interpretation of a classic at the HSC

HARTFORD — Just about everyone has read the novel “To Kill a Mockingbird,” written in 1960 by Harper Lee, or has seen the movie by the same name starring Gregory Peck. It really is a story of our American heritage.
Matthew Modine stars as Atticus Finch, in the Hartford Stage Company’s production, and he does an admirable job filling some pretty big shoes as the honorable, good man and single father doing his best to be fair and hopeful, against the majority who believes that racism is right.
Set in the south during the great depression of the 1930’s, it’s a tale of poverty, racism, and the justice system, told through the eyes of a young tomboy nicknamed Scout.
In this adaptation by Christopher Sergel, the grown up Scout, played by Hallie Foote, narrates the story, where her father, the lawyer Atticus Finch, defends a black man, Tom Robinson, accused of raping a young poor white woman, Mayella Ewell.
Finch says he feels sorry for Mayella, wellplayed by Virginia Fell, but not sorry enough to allow her lies to ruin a black man’s life. That man being Tom Robinson, played with quiet integrity by Douglas Lyons, whose only crime was being kind to a woman whose life is so miserable and lonely.
Mayella’s racist father, Bob Ewell, is played by Mike Boland is completely believable as the ignorant, arrogant, self-important bigot.
Little Scout is spunky and forthright, earnestly played by Olivia Scott. When she pulls on the barrette she is forced to wear, or beats up a schoolboy because he insults her, she is convincing and full of life. And when the men attempt to lynch Robinson and Scout stops them by simply talking about one of the men’s children and her friend, it is powerful and moving.
Also notable was little Dill played by Andrew Shipman. Based on the real life Truman Capote who was Harper Lee’s next door neighbor as a child, Shipman’s Dill is precocious and a little trouble-maker, adorable in a bow-tie and Dennis-the-Menace hair.
Some of the actors play more than one role, which is fine, but when Nafe Katter plays both Judge Taylor and Boo Radley’s father, Nathan Radley, the two characters don’t look different enough from each other, and it is momentarily confusing.
The southern accents are all fine for the most part, but the problem is that the drawal naturally begs for a slower, more laid back pace, and that is not what we get here.
Perhaps director Michael Wilson is concerned about keeping the show moving, but whatever the motivation, the pace is New York City fast, making the play feel rushed at times, and sometimes difficult to understand.
Moments worth pausing for are steam-rolled over. When Robinson’s wife, played by Daralyn Jay, receives some devastating news, her one moment of agony and despair is swept away before it has a chance to fully unfold.
Better to have the confidence in the material that the story deserves, and slow down some to fully flesh out the emotional intensity inherent in the play.
Probably also for time considerations, the closing statements of the defense during the court scenes are the only ones heard. While they are powerful, and well presented by Modine’s Finch, still it would have been worth it to hear what the prosecutor had to say.
The set in first act was the front of the Finch home and a courtroom in act two. It is a simple clean design that works, by Jeff Cowie.
Even though Modine is the star attraction here, this is really Scout’s show, and Scott, with her earnest innocent performance, makes this show shine.


3 Stars
Location: Hartford Stage Company, 50 Church Street, Hartford.
Production: Adapted by Christopher Sergel from the novel by Harper Lee. Directed by Michael Wilson. Scene design by Jeff Cowie. Costume design by David C. Woolard. Lighting design by Rui Rita. Original music and sound design by John Gromada.
Running time: 2 hours with one 15-minute intermission.
Show Times: Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., with matinees performances Sundays, selected Wednesdays and Saturday s at 2 p.m. through April 4.
Tickets: start at $23. Call 860-527-5151 or visit their website at
Matthew Modine …Atticus Finch
Hallie Foote … Jean Louise Finch
Olivia Scott … Scout
Henry Hodges … Jem
Virginia Kull … Mayella Ewell
Mike Boland … Bob Ewell
Charles Turner … Reverend Sykes
Douglas Lyons … Tom Robinson
Pat Bowie … Calpurnia