If you ask me..

“Deathtrap”

Legacy Theatre in Branford through June 18th

By Tom Holehan
Connecticut Critics Circle

“Deathtrap”, a Thriller at Legacy Theatre. Ira Levin’s 1978 modern classic, “Deathtrap”, is one of those rare mysteries that actually works on stage. It’s a perfectly crafted thriller with precisely timed surprises, reversals and twists. All these years later, there have been few, if any, stage mysteries that have had successful Broadway runs like “Deathtrap’ which ran for four years. There’s a reason for that. Mysteries are not easy to write and they also aren’t a breeze to stage, either.

The much-produced “Deathtrap” is currently onstage at the beautiful new Legacy Theatre, now in its second season in Branford. This jewel box theatre is an ideal setting for “Deathtrap”whose locale is the cozy Westport, Connecticut home of Sidney Bruhl (Philip Callen), a once-famous playwright who hasn’t produced a hit in years. Into his hands drops “Deathtrap”, a mystery written by Sidney’s student, Clifford Anderson (Bryce Smith). Simply put, the play has Sidney seething with jealousy. He invites Clifford over to discuss his work, a move that has Sidney’s wife, Myrna (Marian Sage), fearful that her husband has murder on his mind. To reveal more is to spoil the delicious surprises Mr. Levin has concocted for the evening.

Any good production of “Deathtrap”must employ both pacing and timing. Sadly at Legacy, under Mark Zeisler’s sluggish direction, this becomes a thriller without many thrills. It starts slowly and comes alive only in fits and starts.

Callen has the makings of an excellent Sidney, he resembles the late (and notorious) Jeffrey Epstein which actually works in this case. However, while strong on playing sinister, his Sidney lacks the character’s malicious wit and biting humor. Sage, one of the bright spots in Legacy’s “Oedipus Rex” last season, does not really capture Myrna’s nervous energy and Smith’s Clifford is merely superficial and unsurprising.

The juicy role of Helga ten Dorp (Mary Ann Frank), the celebrity psychic next door, should jump-start the proceedings as soon as she enters. Unfortunately, Frank also slows down the action with muffled dialogue and dropped lines diminishing the character in the process.

The best aspect of Legacy’s “Deathtrap” is Jamie Burnett’s gorgeous set design, a reconverted stable perfectly realized with exposed beams, high-end furniture and fieldstone fireplace. Burnett, who has been a talented New Haven area artist for years, also designed the lighting, which is terrific especially during the play’s stormy climax. Adam Jackson’s sound design is also essential here. It should be pointed out that I did attend the first public performance of the play and there were few if any glaring mishaps by the cast. Still the restrained direction and reticent, tension-free performances don’t do this wonderfully tricky play any favors.

“Deathtrap” continues at the Legacy Theatre, 128 Thimble Island Road in Branford, through June 18th and masks are optional. For further information, call the box office at: 203.208.5504 or visit: www.legacytheatrect.org.

Tom Holehan is one of the founders of the Connecticut Critics Circle, a frequent contributor to WPKN Radio’s “State of the Arts” program and the Stratford Crier and Artistic Director of Stratford’s Square One Theatre Company. He welcomes comments at: tholehan@yahoo.com. His reviews and other theatre information can be found on the Connecticut Critics Circle website: www.ctcritics.org.

Celebrating Pride Month

What is Pride Month?

“Say it loud, gay is proud.”

Source: History.com, Library of Congress, Wikipedia
By Barbara Heimlich
Editor

LGBTQ Pride Month 2022 in the United States began on Wednesday June 1st and ends on Thursday, June 30th.

What does LGBTQ stand for?

LGBTQ stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ).

Why is there a Pride month?

Pride Month celebrated each year in the month of June to honor the 1969 Stonewall Uprising in Manhattan. The Stonewall Uprising was a tipping point for the Gay Liberation Movement in the United States. In the United States the last Sunday in June was initially celebrated as “Gay Pride Day,” but the actual day was flexible. In major cities across the nation the “day” soon grew to encompass a month-long series of events.

What was the Stonewall Uprising in Manhattan?

The Stonewall Riots, also called the Stonewall Uprising, began in the early hours of June 28th, 1969,  when New York City police raided the Stonewall Inn, a gay club located in Greenwich Village in New York City.

The raid sparked a riot among bar patrons and neighborhood residents as police roughly hauled employees and patrons out of the bar, leading to six days of protests and violent clashes with law enforcement outside the bar on Christopher Street, in neighboring streets and in nearby Christopher Park.

Fed up with constant police harassment and social discrimination, angry patrons and neighborhood residents hung around outside of the bar rather than disperse, becoming increasingly agitated as the events unfolded and people were aggressively manhandled. At one point, an officer hit a lesbian over the head as he forced her into the police van— she shouted to onlookers to act, inciting the crowd to begin throw pennies, bottles, cobblestones and other objects at the police.

Within minutes, a full-blown riot involving hundreds of people began. The police, a few prisoners and a Village Voice writer barricaded themselves in the bar, which the mob attempted to set on fire after breaching the barricade repeatedly.

The fire department and a riot squad were eventually able to douse the flames, rescue those inside Stonewall, and disperse the crowd. But the protests, sometimes involving thousands of people, continued in the area for five more days, flaring up at one point after the Village Voice published its account of the riots.

The Stonewall Riots served as a catalyst for the gay rights movement in the United States and around the world.  The 1960s and preceding decades were not welcoming times for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Americans. For instance, solicitation of same-sex relations was illegal in New York City.

LGBT individuals flocked to gay bars and clubs, places of refuge where they could express themselves openly and socialize without worry. However, the New York State Liquor Authority penalized and shut down establishments that served alcohol to known or suspected LGBT individuals, arguing that the mere gathering of homosexuals was “disorderly.”

Thanks to activists’ efforts, these regulations were overturned in 1966, and LGBT patrons could then be served alcohol. Engaging in gay behavior in public (holding hands, kissing or dancing with someone of the same sex) was still illegal, so police harassment of gay bars continued and many bars still operated without liquor licenses—in part because they were owned by the Mafia.

It was an unlikely partnership. but in the 1960s being forced to live on the outskirts of society and the Mafia’s disregard for the law, the two made a profitable, if uneasy, match.  Where the law saw deviance, however, the Mafia saw a golden business opportunity.

A member of the Genovese family, Tony Lauria, a.k.a. “Fat Tony,” purchased the Stonewall Inn in 1966 and transformed it from a bar and restaurant that attracted straight clientele into a gay bar and nightclub. Run on the cheap, Stonewall was known for being both dirty and dangerous: It operated without running water behind the bar, glasses were “cleaned” by being dunked in tubs of dirty water, and toilets regularly overflowed. The club also lacked a fire or emergency exit.

Despite its less-than-ideal conditions, Stonewall quickly became a popular destination in the gay community—even something of an institution. It was the only place where gay people could openly dance close together, and for relatively little money, drag queens (who received a bitter reception at other bars), runaways, homeless LGBT youths and others could be off the streets as long as the bar was open.

Some scholars have argued the infamous Stonewall riots that sparked the nationwide LGBT movement were as much a resistance against the mob’s exploitation of the gay community as they were a struggle against police harassment and discriminatory laws. Indeed, a handwritten message in chalk on a boarded-up window of the Stonewall Inn after the 1969 riots read, “Gay Prohibition Corupt$ Cop$ Feed$ Mafia.” Two of the main gay-rights organizations that came out of the riots, the Gay Activists Alliance and Gay Liberation Front, actively championed getting organized crime out of gay bars.

Annual LGBTQ+ Pride Traditions

Today, celebrations include pride parades, picnics, parties, workshops, symposia and concerts, and LGBTQ Pride Month events attract millions of participants around the world

Memorials are held during this month for those members of the community who have been lost to hate crimes or HIV/AIDS. The purpose of the commemorative month is to recognize the impact that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals have had on history locally, nationally, and internationally.

The first Pride march in New York City was held on June 28th, 1970, on the one-year anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising. The concept behind the initial Pride march came from members of the Eastern Regional Conference of Homophile Organizations (ERCHO), who had been organizing an annual July 4th demonstration (1965-1969) known as the “Reminder Day Pickets,” at Independence Hall in Philadelphia. At the ERCHO Conference in November 1969, the 13 homophile organizations in attendance voted to pass a resolution to organize a national annual demonstration, to be called Christopher Street Liberation Day.

As members of the Mattachine Society of Washington, Frank Kameny and Lilli Vincenz participated in the discussion, planning, and promotion of the first Pride along with activists in New York City and other homophile groups belonging to ERCHO.

By all estimates, there were three to five thousand marchers at the inaugural Pride in New York City, and today marchers in New York City number in the millions. Since 1970, LGBTQ+ people have continued to gather together in June to march with Pride and demonstrate for equal rights.

Has the gay rights movement been successful?

The gay rights movement in the United States has seen huge progress in the last century, and especially the last two decades. Laws prohibiting homosexual activity have been struck down; lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals can now serve openly in the military. Same-sex couples can now legally get married and adopt children in all 50 states.

It has been a long and bumpy road for gay rights proponents, who are still advocating for employment, housing and transgender rights.  The fight for equality has not ended.

Facts about the struggles and milestones of the Gay Rights Movement:

  1. The first documented U.S. gay rights organization was founded in Chicago in 1924.

Henry Gerber, a German immigrant, founded the Society for Human Rights, the first documented gay rights organization in the United States. During his U.S. Army service in World War I, Gerber was inspired to create his organization by the Scientific-Humanitarian Committee, a “homosexual emancipation” group in Germany.

Gerber’s small group published a few issues of its newsletter “Friendship and Freedom,” the country’s first gay-interest newsletter. Police raids forced the group to disband in 1925. But 90 years later, the U.S. government designated Gerber’s Chicago house a National Historic Landmark.

  1. The pink triangle was co-opted from the Nazis and reclaimed as a badge of pride. Before the pink triangle became a worldwide symbol of gay power, it was intended as a badge of shame. In Nazi Germany a downward-pointing pink triangle was sewn onto the shirts of gay men in concentration camps—to identify and further dehumanize them.

In 1972, The Men with the Pink Triangle, the first autobiography of a gay concentration camp survivor, was published. The next year, post-war Germany’s first gay rights organization, Homosexuelle Aktion Westberlin (HAW), reclaimed the pink triangle as a symbol of liberation.

  1. Three years before Stonewall (1966), a protest for gay rights started in another New York City bar. After pouring their drinks, a bartender in Julius’s Bar refuses to serve John Timmins, Dick Leitsch, Craig Rodwell, and Randy Wicker, members of the Mattachine Society who were protesting New York liquor laws that prevented serving gay customers.

These men, members of the Mattachine Society, an early organization dedicated to fighting for gay rights, staged a “sip-in”—a twist on the “sit-in” protests of the 1960s. The trio visited taverns, declared themselves gay, and waited to be turned away so they could sue.

Although the State Liquor Authority initially denied the men’s discrimination claim, the Commission on Human Rights argued that gay individuals had the right to be served in bars. For the next few years in New York, the gay community felt empowered. Police raids became less commonplace and gay bar patrons, while still oppressed in society, had recovered their safe havens.

  1. Police used a 19th-century masquerade law to arrest people dressed in drag. Many men dressed as women, often referred to as drag queens, were locked up on charges of masquerading and indecent exposure at the National Variety Artists’ Exotic Carnival and Ball held at the Manhattan Center in 1962. Police and detectives herded the costumed guests into police wagons in front of the ball. 

In the 1940s, ‘50s and ‘60s, LGBTQ people were regularly arrested for violating what became known as the three-article rule—or the three-piece law. The rule stipulated that a person was required to wear at least three gender-appropriate articles of clothing to avoid arrest for cross-dressing. It was referenced everywhere—including in reports about arrests in Greenwich Village in the weeks and months leading up to the 1969 Stonewall Riots.

The problem is, the law technically never existed.

Instead, accounts suggest that police generally used old, often unrelated laws to target LGBT people. In New York, a law commonly used against the LGBTQ community dates to 1845 and was originally intended to punish rural farmers, who had taken to dressing like Native Americans to fight off tax collectors.

  1. On the night of the Stonewall Riots, police barricaded themselves inside the bar. After midnight on an unseasonably hot Friday night in 1969, the Stonewall Inn in New York City’s Greenwich Village was packed when police officers entered the bar. As they began making arrests, patrons started to resist and push back.

What ensued was an uprising that would launch a new era of resistance and revolution.

Close to 4 a.m. on June 28th the mob of protestors outside the Stonewall had grown so large and unruly that the original NYPD raiding party retreated into the Stonewall itself and barricaded themselves inside. Some rioters used a parking meter as a battering ram to break through the door; others threw beer bottles, trash and other objects, or made impromptu firebombs.

No one died or was critically injured on the first night of the Stonewall Riots, though a few police officers reported injuries.

  1. Organizers of the first gay pride parade opted for the “Pride” slogan over “Gay Power.” The Stonewall Riots made clear that the LGBTQ movement needed to be loud and visible to demand change.

Five months after the riots, activists proposed a resolution at the Eastern Regional Conference of Homophile Organizations in Philadelphia that a march be held in New York City to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the raid. Their proposal was for an annual march on the last Saturday in June with “no dress or age regulations.”

When organizers were looking for a slogan for the event, a member of the planning committee, L. Craig Schoonmaker, suggested “Pride.” The idea of “Gay Power” was thrown around as well, but Schoonmaker argued that while gay individuals lacked power, one thing they did have was pride.

The official chant for the march became: “Say it loud, gay is proud.”

 

If You Ask Me

“Straight White Men”

Westport County Playhouse

By Tom Holehan
Connecticut Critics Circle

Playwright Young Jean Lee holds the distinction of being the first female Asian writer to land a play on Broadway. That play is “Straight White Men” and the contemporary comic drama is currently onstage at the Westport Country Playhouse. “Straight White Men” at Westport Country Playhouse, 25 Powers Court in Westport, continues through June 5.

Widower Ed (Richard Kline) is hosting his three sons for the Christmas holiday, writer Drew (Nick Westrate), banker Jake (Billy Army) and lost soul Matt (Denver Milord), who is also the oldest brother, a Harvard grad and the focus of conflict and drama in the play.

When reunited, the brother’s fall into old habits, horsing around and wrestling loudly as dad watches patiently.  Their mother was the brains of this group, seemingly, instilling values about what they owe society being privileged white men.  She even remakes a game of Monopoly into one called Privilege that is played briefly by Drew and Jake early in the play.  The theme of privilege is a prime one here, which asks questions of the men that they are not always prepared to answer.  Ultimately, the play seems to be leading to a big reveal regarding Matt’s life, but after several well-directed and acted confrontational scenes, we are just left thinking…”Huh!”

All the acting in “Straight White Men” is solid and the four men mesh beautifully as family members, no one stealing focus though, given his role, Mr. Milord is heartbreaking by the finale.  Mark Lamos’ customary polished direction is also strongly in evidence here.  Two other characters, listed as “Person in Charge”, work the crowd before the play has even begun and they are dynamic.

Gay Ashton Muñiz and Non-binary Japanese actor Akiko Akita announce defiantly pre-curtain that they are NOT straight white men and serve as guides throughout.  Once introduced, however, it seems odd to have them in a play that is otherwise fairly realistic.  Moreover, they are given precious little to do for the scene changes except to position the actors for reasons the still elude me.  Apparently, in early versions of the script, these characters were not included.  It would be interesting to know exactly why the playwright felt it important to add them.

Scenic Designer Kristen Robinson has a field day creating the man cave setting (Ed calls it a “family room) complete with bookcases, athletic trophies, a bar, leather couch and, of course, the requisite La–Z-Boy recliner.  It is prefect.  Though I cannot imagine straight men dancing as enthusiastically (or as accomplished) as these guys are called upon to do, Alison Solomon’s choreography is a home-run.

There are some roughhouse laughs and all-too-familiar brotherly recollections to enjoy in “Straight White Men”, but despite all the obvious talent to appreciate, the play (a brisk 90 minutes without intermission) still seems to promise much more than it actually delivers.

“Straight White Men” continues through June 5th. Masks and proof of vaccination are required. For further information, call the box office at: 203.227.4177 or visit: www.westportplayhosue.org.

Tom Holehan is one of the founders of the Connecticut Critics Circle, a frequent contributor to WPKN Radio’s “State of the Arts” program and the Stratford Crier and Artistic Director of Stratford’s Square One Theatre Company. He welcomes comments at: tholehan@yahoo.com. His reviews and other theatre information can be found on the Connecticut Critics Circle website: www.ctcritics.org.

Production Company to Film at Sterling House

Artists Ensemble Productions
May 27th, 28th, and 29th

Artists’ Ensemble Productions will be shooting TESTIMONIAL, a short film about a professor in the early stages of Alzheimer’s on May 27th, 28th, and 29th at Sterling House Community Center and in Boothe Park.

Writer and producer Jack Rushen, a Stratford native will be helming the production, directed by Dan Karlock, creator of many feature films and episodic television.

Sterling House Executive Director, Amanda Meeson, commented, “We are honored that Jack and his team at TESTIMONIAL will utilize our beautiful, historic building for their film. For the last 90 years, Sterling House has continued to welcome and celebrate our arts community!”

TESTIMONIAL concerns a discouraged professor in the early stages of Alzheimer’s and the former student who visits him at his testimonial dinner. Through her kind words and actions, he finds his elusive self-worth.

Playing professor James Hilliard is Ted Yudain, a well-known community actor from Stamford. Ted has been seen in recent productions of “On Golden Pond,” and “My Fair Lady.

Playing student Allison Healy is Dana Dicerto, who has been seen in many films and area theater productions, recently playing in “Born Yesterday” at the Powerhouse Theater in New Canaan.

TESTIMONIAL serves as a dramatic presentation film as well as an awareness piece concerning the effects of Alzheimer’s and the importance of self-esteem of the people who suffer from it.

“It is a very sensitive piece,” says Rushen, who wrote the film as a short play while in the Theatre Artists’ Workshop some time ago. “We look deep into the soul of two needy people and find that peace of mind is not impossible to obtain.”

The play version of the film has been produced across the country and has won the “Standing Ovation Award,” which led to publication in “The Best Short Plays of 2019, published by Smith and Kraus.”

The film will be distributed to various schools and libraries across the country, as well as many film festivals.

A “Go Fund Me” campaign has been launched for production and distribution expenses and can be accessed by going to: https://gofund.me/331a06c9.

If You Ask Me

“Queen”

Long Wharf Theatre

By Tom Holehan
Connecticut Critics Circle

““Queen” ” is a Perceptive Finale for Long Wharf Theatre!!

A bittersweet evening of theatre which really has nothing to do with their current offering, New Haven’s Long Wharf Theatre is shutting down to explore outreach community efforts.  We will miss the venerable theatre with two recently renovated stages, but wish the management luck with this new venture.

Meanwhile,“Queen”, a perceptive and provocative new play by Amadhuri Shekar, makes some kind of history as the theatre’s final offering.  It is a worthy note to end on.

Produced in partnership with the National Asian American Theatre Company and transferring to off-Broadway later in June, “Queen”  is the story of two brilliant and ambitious women, Ariel, a researcher (Stephanie Janssen) and Sanam, a statistician (Avanthika Srinivasan) who are on the brink of being published for their major scientific breakthrough about bees and the role Monsanto chemicals played in the dwindling population of the insects.  When Sanam finds a flaw in her calculations, however, the women are asked to make small changes rationalizing that their basic concepts are solid and no one will know.

“Queen” is reminiscent of “The Lifespan of a Fact”, Jeremy Kareken’s play which looked at questions of ethics and hubris in the field of journalism.  The women have worked hard for years and are so close to being recognized they are tempted to finally take the easy road.  This includes their mentor, Dr. Philip Hayes (Ben Livingston), who is in line to receive accolades for his mentorship of the women.  But at what cost is your reputation? Your values?  “Queen” could not be timelier.  The initial, talky 20 minutes of the play eventually gives way to powerful questions, lively dispute and thought-provoking drama.

A solid group of actors, which includes Keshav Moodliar as a young man who takes a shine to Sanam, mesh beautifully and each have their moments to shine under Aneesha Kudtarkar’s direction.  But the women are the main course here and Janssen and Srinivasan are never better than when engaged in passionate, heartfelt debate.

Kudtarkar’s direction, though, has unfortunately been limited by an ill-advised scenic design.  Junghyun Georgia Lee’s simple setting comprised of a pentagonal arrangement of five tables presents some obstacles resulting in rather pedestrian blocking.  And the tables, when rearranged, do not easily adapt to suggest the many other settings required.  Luckily, Yuki Nakase Link’s precise lighting and Uptown Works’ sound design and original music do most of the heavy technical lifting for the play.  I saw no reason, also, for including audience members on stage forcing a production in the round and resulting more often than not in catching the backs of actors.

But the play is still the thing in New Haven and you will have plenty to discuss in “Queen” long after those final bows.  It’s a fond farewell to the historic Long Wharf stage.  “Queen” continues at Long Wharf Theatre through June 5th.

For further information, call the box office at: 203-693-9486 or visit: www.longwharf.org

Tom Holehan is one of the founders of the Connecticut Critics Circle, a frequent contributor to WPKN Radio’s “State of the Arts” program and the Stratford Crier and Artistic Director of Stratford’s Square One Theatre Company. He welcomes comments at: tholehan@yahoo.com. His reviews and other theatre information can be found on the Connecticut Critics Circle website: www.ctcritics.org.

If You Ask Me

“Zoey’s Perfect Wedding”

TheaterWorks Hartford

By Tom Holehan
Connecticut Critics Circle

This “Wedding” Far From Perfect

Like being stuck at an endless wedding reception where you don’t know many people, the DJ plays bad music and the rubber chicken is served late and cold, “Zoey’s Perfect Wedding” is not an event to savor. The comedy by Matthew López is currently onstage at TheaterWorks in Hartford and, well, you’ve been warned.

Mr. López drew praise and a Tony Award for his most recent play, “The Inheritance”.  It presumably has some merit even though I read as many mixed reviews as positive and its Broadway run was relatively brief.  I am more familiar with López’s work at Connecticut theatres where he has been embraced by both Hartford Stage and TheaterWorks over the last few years  Those plays, “Reverberation”, “Somewhere” and “The Legend of Georgia McBride”, were almost all as mediocre as “Zoey” which leads me to seriously question as to why this writer keeps getting produced so much?

Set in the Downtown Brooklyn Marriott hotel, “Zoey’s Perfect Wedding” covers one long evening (90 minutes, no intermission) as friends of the bride drink, bitch and moan about their lives.  There’s a married couple, Charlie (Daniel José Molina) with Rachel (Blaire Lewin) who is none too pleased that Zoey failed to select her as maid of honor.  Their gay friend, Sammy (Hunter Ryan Herdlicka), is in a committed relationship but clearly has a wandering eye.  As the trio dis the tackiness of the wedding and complain about their table position at the far outer edges, we learn about their turbulent relationships, fears and disappointments.  When Rachel quickly gets rip-roaring drunk with Sammy, she takes the mic and gives one of the very worst wedding toasts ever. Things quickly fall apart. As does the play.

What’s most annoying about “Zoey’s Perfect Wedding” are characters who resist empathy and include a smart-ass DJ (Esteban Carmona), a perky maid of honor (Hallie Eliza Friedman) and the miserable bride herself (Rachel B. Joyce).

Late in the evening, López seems to be trying to say something profound about marriage and relationships, but at this point in the game it has just been relentless arguments and insult jokes that fall flat.

It’s hard to pinpoint if the acting is really without distinction or are the actors just the unlucky victims of bad writing?  Only Mr. Molina seems authentic here with a low key performance anchored in pain. Lewin’s long, drunken monologue is funny and squirm-inducing, but otherwise her role is all over the map as is her sobriety which seems to come and go. Both Herdlicka and Carmona have clarity and volume issues throughout the play, Joyce is all grimaces and big faces a trait shared, unfortunately, by Friedman.

There is little evidence here of director Rob Ruggiero’s customary polish or pacing, but one bright spot is scenic and lighting designer Brian Sidney Bembridge’s spot-on recreation of a Marriott wedding hall.  The lighting fixtures, alone, are beyond perfect.  But you don’t leave humming the sets, as they say, and, all told, this is not a wedding to celebrate.

“Zoey’s Perfect Wedding” continues at TheaterWorks in Hartford through June 5th. For further information, call the box office at: 860-527-7838 or visit: www.theaterworkshartford.org.

Tom Holehan is one of the founders of the Connecticut Critics Circle, a frequent contributor to WPKN Radio’s “State of the Arts” program and the Stratford Crier and Artistic Director of Stratford’s Square One Theatre Company. He welcomes comments at: tholehan@yahoo.com. His reviews and other theatre information can be found on the Connecticut Critics Circle website: www.ctcritics.org.

Channel Inner Peace

Chamber Music Concert

Free and Open To Public

A free chamber music concert by Cameron Chase and David Bernat who will perform a violin and viola duet will take place on Tuesday, May 10th in the Stratford Library Lovell Room.

For those who like classical music it will be a treat, and for those who don’t or don’t know much about small chamber music this will be a positive learning experience.

They will play works by Bach, Mozart, Martinu, and Handel/Halverson.

Cameron Chase (a Stratford resident) and David Bernat are Juilliard School of Music students.  Cameron is a 3rd year student, and David is a graduate student in performance.

If You Ask Me

“Decades in Concert: Spirit of the Sixties”

Downtown Cabaret Theatre

By Tom Holehan
Connecticut Critics Circle

Decades in Concert”, Nostalgia at DCT

Like visiting with an old friend after far too long a break, a return to Bridgeport’s Downtown Cabaret Theatre conjured up fond memories as my husband and I took our table upstairs, set out the finest in charcuterie boards, poured a glass of wine and drank in the nostalgia offered by the venerable music venue.  Currently onstage is “Decades in Concert: Spirit of the Sixties” and I can guarantee you will sing-along.

Modeled very much after the tried and true jukebox musical as well as all those “Decades Musicals” made famous at the Cabaret years ago, “Decades in Concert” continues their long tradition of presenting entertaining journeys back in time and rediscovering the great music of a particular period.

The current production doesn’t attempt to improve on something that obviously ain’t broke.  Therefore, we have a quartet of four top singers, who obviously enjoy each other’s company (they were all featured in the Cabaret’s previous Seventies revue), and for the next two hours or so proceed to sing their hearts out.

Everton George, Mikayla Petrilla, Robert Peterpaul and Saige Bryan are the talented quartet put through their paces with dozens of songs and almost as many costume and wig changes while singing such classics as “Turn, Turn, Turn”, “Bad Moon Rising”, “The Times They Are a-Changin’”, “You’ll Never Walk Alone”, “Son of a Preacher Man”, “I’m Black and I’m Proud”, “These Boots Are Made for Walking”, “Satisfaction” and “Piece of My Heart”.

The best numbers, however, are the medleys that end each act.  A Motown songbook concludes the exuberant first act and a glorious medley of Beatles music is the perfect curtain for act two.  I mean, honestly, is there anyone who DOESN’T love the Beatles??

In all, the singers work better together than as soloists, but there were no complaints among the joyful, on-their-feet crowd I sat with last weekend.  Multi-media projections from the period recycle clips you’ve no doubt seen many, many times before, but it certainly sets the mood and, with the volume cranked up easily to 11, you won’t miss much.

Axel Hammerman’s endlessly busy lighting and Lesley Neilson-Bowman’s period perfect costuming also keep you firmly in the 1960s.

No, nothing revolutionary or original here since the Cabaret obviously knows their audience.  This is familiar comfort food as theatre and the wine and cheese, plus some great music, all went down very easily.

“Decades in Concert: Spirit of the Sixties” continues at the Downtown Cabaret Theatre through May 15th. For further information, call the box office at: 203-576-1636 or visit: www.mycabaret.org

Tom Holehan is one of the founders of the Connecticut Critics Circle, a frequent contributor to WPKN Radio’s “State of the Arts” program and the Stratford Crier and Artistic Director of Stratford’s Square ne Theatre Company. He welcomes comments at: tholehan@yahoo.com. His reviews and other theatre information can be found on the Connecticut Critics Circle website: www.ctcritics.org.

 

Christos Anesti (Χριστός Ανέστη) – Greeks greet each other with this starting after midnight on Easter Sunday.

This phrase means, “Christ is Risen

Orthodox Easter
Sunday, April 24th

Orthodox Easter is celebrated on the Sunday after the first full moon after Passover (between April 4th and May 8th.) For millions of people around the world, Easter this year falls on Sunday, April 24th.

Orthodox Christians celebrate Easter later than most in the western world. Because they use a different calendar to work out what day Easter should fall on, Orthodox churches in some countries including Greece, Cyprus and Romania base their Easter date on the Julian calendar.

The Julian Calendar was designed by Julius Caesar in 45 BC – basing a year on the time it takes the Sun to go around the Earth. The Gregorian Calendar was created by Pope Gregory in 1582 to fix some of the glitches in the Julian Calendar as astronomy became more accurate.

In eastern Orthodox Christianity, the preparations begin with Great Lent, 40 days of reflection and fasting, which starts on Clean Monday and ends on Lazarus Saturday. (Monday, March 7th, and ends on Saturday, April 23rd)
Clean Monday refers to believers being cleaned of their sins during Lent. Lazarus Saturday falls eight days before Easter Sunday and signifies the end of Great Lent, although the fasting continues into Holy Week.

Next comes Palm Sunday, one week before Easter, remembering the entry of Jesus Christ into Jerusalem, followed by Holy Week, which ends on Easter Sunday.

Also in the eastern Orthodox Church, Easter must happen after the Jewish festival of Passover – as in the Easter story, Jesus celebrates Passover before his death.

Going to church is obviously an important part of the celebrations and important services start from Good Friday. The most important prayers are in the early hours of Easter Sunday when celebrations begin, church bells ring and fireworks and crackers go off to mark Christ’s resurrection.

After the fasting of Lent, traditions often revolve around food.

In Greece, Orthodox Christians traditionally eat roasted lamb on a barbecue spit and Tsoureki, a sweet Easter bread.

GETTY IMAGES Tsoureki Greek Bread For Greek Easter

They also break their fast with a traditional soup called Magiritsa, which is made of lamb, rice and dill before the main feasting begins on Sunday.
Serbian Orthodox families traditionally enjoy appetizers of smoked meats and cheeses, boiled eggs and red wine. The Easter meal consists of chicken noodle or lamb and vegetable soup followed by spit-roasted lamb.

GETTY IMAGES Magiritsa Easter soup
In Russia Orthodox Christians break their fast with a traditional Paskha Easter cake.
As in the western Church, eggs are a symbol of Easter and of new life. At Easter, eggs are dyed red to represent the blood of Jesus that was shed on the cross for the redemption of all men.

GETTY IMAGES A traditional Paskha cake

If You Ask Me

“Lost in Yonkers”

Hartford Stage

By Tom Holehan
Connecticut Critics Circle

Simon Revival Is a Hit in Hartford

After a decidedly uneven season thus far, Hartford Stage has suddenly stuck gold with an immensely satisfying revival of Neil Simon’s “Lost in Yonkers”. The icing on the cake here is that the production is anchored by a star, Marsha Mason, taking on a crucial role. Mr. Simon would be proud.

Unlike many of Simon’s plays these days (the current Broadway revival of “Plaza Suite” comes to mind), “Lost in Yonkers” has not dated at all. In fact, the Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize winner seems more relevant than ever in these trying times. Set in 1942, two teenage brothers (Gabriel Amoroso, Hayden Bercy) are sent to live with their stern grandmother (Ms. Mason) and mentally challenged Aunt Bella (Andrea Syglowski, superb) while their widowed father (Jeff Skowron) sets out across the country to work off a debt. Grandma Kurnitz, who has run the candy store below her apartment for years, lost two children early on which has made her unloving and a strict disciplinarian to her remaining four children, all now emotionally damaged adults.

All the acting here is first-rate beginning with Mason who conveys years of pain and bitterness with a steely look or a directed head turn, acting at its best and most effective. Syglowski, in the key role of Bella, never hits a false note and her triumphant challenge to her mother late in the play is delivered with just the right amount of fear, desperation and grit.

The able Mr. Skowron has the job of delivering the lion’s share of exposition at the opening making sure that Grandma is a fierce legend before she even steps on stage. Ne’er-do-well Uncle Louie (Michael Nathanson channeling movie gangsters of the period) is terrific and, in a small, mostly one-joke role, Liba Vaynberg registers as his lonely sister whose vocal oddities garner big laughs.

Amoroso and Bercy, who really do hold their own in a company of polished adult actors, could slow down their delivery for clarity and learn to hold for laughs, but they are still a charming duo who also benefit from actually looking like brothers.

The homey apartment setting by designer Lauren Helpern is all wallpaper, chintz and doilies with the bonus addition of a fantastic art deco neon sign hanging over the set advertising Grandma’s candy store below. An-Lin Dauber’s costumes are right on-target as is Aja M. Jackson’s warm lighting design.

Beautifully co-directed by Ms. Mason and Rachel Alderman, this is one of Simon’s best plays. Sentimental but not maudlin, funny but not just a string of cheap one-liners. What a joy to sit in the theatre and see a well-made play with a gifted company of actors playing characters both humane and witty that one truly cares about. This is the definition of a crowd-pleaser. Go.

“Lost in Yonkers” continues at Hartford Stage through May 1st. For further information, call the box office at: 860-527-5151 or visit: www.hartfordstage.org.

Tom Holehan is one of the founders of the Connecticut Critics Circle, a frequent contributor to WPKN Radio’s “State of the Arts” program and the Stratford Crier and Artistic Director of Stratford’s Square One Theatre Company. He welcomes comments at: tholehan@yahoo.com. His reviews and other theatre information can be found on the Connecticut Critics Circle website: www.ctcritics.org.