Saturday, December 03, 2011
Jerry Adler and Joyce DeWitt in Mike Reiss' "I'm Connecticut" at Connecticut Repertory Theatre through Saturday
Hysterical sitcom play "I'm Connecticut" at CRT
by Kory Loucks
STORRS — Ever realize that Storrs has no stores? Ever wonder why there are so many grapes on the state seal, although we aren’t really known as the wine growing Capitol of the nation, while being best known as the Insurance Capitol of the World-a rather dubious accolade, to be sure.
These and other Connecticut conundrums are examined, diagnosed, turned upside down and backwards in the hysterically funny world premiere of Mike Reiss’ “I’m Connecticut,” the much anticipated new play that didn’t disappoint at University of Connecticut’s Connecticut Repertory Theatre.
Reiss is a co-writer of the animated television phenomena, “The Simpsons” and has been for most of the show’s existence. He is also writes children’s books and was at UConn’s children’s book fair awhile ago when CRT Managing Director Frank Mack challenged him to write a play about Connecticut, and this is it.
“I’m Connecticut” follows the life of brain researcher Marc, (Harris Doran) a young Jewish Connecticut native from Simsbury who moves to New York City and searches for love. Marc lives with his grandfather, played by Jerry Adler of HBO’s Soprano’s fame, who in the show is starting to show symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.
Marc meets Diane, an adorable Maggie Sulka, a receptionist at a speed dating service, and tries to impress her with his tragic life story, which is a total fabrication.
He gets caught in his web of his lies and blames it on the state he hails from — Connecticut.
Doran is confidently wimpy as the Jewish nerd who jumps from New York City to Storrs and back with the help of the magic of theater. He breaks through the fourth wall at times and speaks directly to the audience, with amusing results.
Joyce DeWitt plays Polly, the grandmother of Diane, as well as Grandpa’s first wife Judith, with a zippy enthusiasm and chutzpah that is just terrific. She is instantly recognizable as Janet Wood from the television sitcom “Three’s Company.” It’s great to see her still being her perky self.
Polly and Grandpa meet and have a sweet flirtation of their own, and argue as if they have been married for years. When DeWitt plays grandpa’s first wife in a wheelchair, she is completely believable and heartbreaking as the ill and dying woman. It is the saddest and sweetest moment in this otherwise lighthearted and gag-filled play.
Marc has a co-worker, Kyle, played by Michael John Improta, who is Marc's know-it-all friend who loves birthday cake, so everywhere he goes, he tells people its his birthday so he can get free treats. The character feels like one right out of a sit com, which isn’t a bad thing.
Darrell Hollens plays the pompous speed-dating manager who gets his comeuppance in the end.
The rest of the fine supporting cast is made up of secretaries, waiters, baristas, speed-daters, and a droll Mark Twain. They even play states that look much like cartoon characters.
Paul Mullins directs this farcical fun play that is actually quite technically complex, with technical direction by Gordon Sanfacon.
They incorporate some incredible, magical video projections that add much to the enjoyment of this production.
Some of the one-liners, and there are many, aren’t as successful as others, but it appears that Reiss took a kitchen sink approach to this show, throwing everything out there to see what sticks, and most of it does.
It is so funny at times that on opening night the actors didn’t always pause long enough for the laughs to subside — not a bad problem to have and something that will probably improve in the far too short run of this funny, funny show.
The real tragedy of this comedy is that “I’m Connecticut” is only running through Saturday, so do all you can to get tickets and see this new play that all residents in “the land of steady habits” should see.
Theater: Connecticut Repertory Theatre
Location: Harriet S. Jorgensen Theatre, Jorgensen Road, Storrs.
Production: Written by Mike Reiss. Directed by Paul Mullins. Scenic design by Michael Anania and Matt Iacozza. Lighting design by William R. Albertelli. Sound design by Steven Magro. Production design by Allison McGrath and Greg Purnell. Technical direction by Gordon Sanfacon. Music direction by Ken Clark. Choreography by Posy Knight.
Running time: 1 hour and 15 minutes with no intermission.
Show Times: Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., and
a Saturday and Sunday matinee at 2 p.m. through Dec. 10.
Tickets: Range in price from $6 to $29. Call the box office at
860-486-4266 of visit their Website at www.crt.UConn.edu.
ACTOR ... CHARACTER
Harris Doran ... Marc
Joyce DeWitt ... Polly, Judith
Jerry Adler ... Grandpa
Maggie Sulka ... Diane, Georgia
Michael John Improta ... Kyle
Darrell Hollens ... Manager
Alyson Danielczuk, Kaityn Gorman, Will Graziano, Harrison Greene, Hanna Kaplan, Briana Maia, Ryan Marcone, Molly Martinez, Coles Prince, Adam Schneeman, Bryan Sworstedt, Tiffany Vinters ... Ensemble