Anthony Chase

Theater Talk Host

Listen for Theater Talk, Friday morning at 6:45 and 8:45 during Morning Edition.

Photography by David Hou

While August is traditionally the month for taking a vacation, that message hasn't gotten to the theaters!

Shakespeare in Delaware Park Facebook Page

Director Kyle LoConti's MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING at Shakespeare in Delaware Park has too much respect for the text to keep going for the easy laughs using cheap sexual innuendos and obscene gestures. No, for that you'll hve to get over to see SILENCE: THE MUSICAL, held over one more weekend due to popular demand. On the other hand, for something family friendly, try THE ODYSSEY at Artpark, and speaking of family, Heather Fangsrud has a tender and funny story of growing up in a very religious family in KNOCK KNOCK, JESUS CALLING.


| Photo: Karli Cadel/The Glimmerglass Festival

This week Anthony went to NYC to take in Lincoln Center's MY FAIR LADY (with Michael Yeargen's high energy set and on Sundays Kerstin Anderson's big voice) as well as the similarly structured PRETTY WOMAN: THE MUSICAL at the Nederlander, and another play by Joshua Harmon (a Shaw for our times) called SKINTIGHT starring Idina Menzel. Peter went to the Glimmerglass Festival, equidistant from Buffalo and NYC, attracting an audience which appreciated the seldom seen Janacek opera THE CUNNING LITTLE VIXEN, the new Pulitzer Prize winning SILENT NIGHT, and a youthful WEST SIDE STORY with a (literally) show-stopping version of "America" with lyrics by Stephen Sondheim.

CTC (Chautauqua Theater Company)

Theater Talk promotes gender inclusion in the arts and this week recognizes three strong women. Eleanor Jean Murray who recently passed away at the age of 95 was a driving force behind the Studio Arena Theatre (now Shea's 710 Theatre). Chelsea Marcantel has another of her plays on stage at Chautauqua called AIRNESS. And 2018 Artie-nominated Heather Fangsrud presents her one-woman play KNOCK KNOCK, JESUS CALLING about growing up gay in a Jehovah's Witness family.

Cheryl Gorski

There is a wide variety of theater offerings this early July, from the innocent ALICE IN WONDERLAND in East Aurora's Hamlin Park (an outdoor event), to the definitely 18+ SILENCE! THE MUSICAL at the Alleyway, some farce (HERE LIES JEREMY TROY) at Desiderio's Dinner Theatre, KING LEAR closes this Sunday at (free) Shakespeare in Delaware Park and something different at Chautuaqua: AIRNESS about an air guitar contest!

Haldan Kirsch / The Chautauqua Daily

In 1859, Dion Boucicault wrote a hit melodrama about the fate of AN OCTOROON in the antebellum south. Today, BJJ (a young black playwright) writes his own version, but when the white actors in his adaptation quit, BJJ decides to take on the role of the racist plantation overseer himself. Seen at Shaw last summer, there are only four performances left at Chautauqua through Sunday. In Buffalo, BUA's "summer camp" offering is SILENCE! THE MUSICAL based on "Silence of the Lambs" (really!) while at MusicalFare MURDER FOR TWO pits two great musicians, Phil Farugia and Joseph Donohue III, in a (musical) battle of whodunit.


Shakespeare in Delaware Park

Strong women's roles may be a rarity in Hollywood, but not here on Western New York stages, including the three daughters of King Lear over at Shakespeare in Delaware Park and the various roles in the very timely and topical SLUT, played by students from Buffalo's Academy for Visual and Performing Arts at the Manny Fried Theater. Also note Rebecca Ritchie's IN THE BEGINNING (the "real" story of Eve, Lillith, and "the serpent") up at the Kenan Center, paired up with Mark Humphrey's DAYROOM.

www.shawfest.com

In collaboration with a fellow classicist, Artistic Director of The Shaw Festival Tim Carroll, Stephen Fry presents three takes on "The Greek Myths." MYTHOS: GODS covers the origins of our well known Zeus, Athena, Prometheus, et. al. but he also has an evening called MYTHOS: MEN and MYTHOS: HEROES. Meanwhile, Shakespeare in Delaware Park opened an equally ambitious play, KING LEAR, which runs through July. And, closing this Sunday are the sublimely acted LADY WINDERMERE'S FAN at Irish Classical and a series of short, experimental, existential plays called WE'LL ALWAYS HAVE CASABLANCA: Flashbacks in the Fog, at tiny Rust Belt Books on Grant Street.


David Cooper

Sunday night's Tony Awards big winner was THE BAND'S VISIT, which ultimately may not "tour well" but racked up 10 different awards, including Best Musical. Glenda Jackson was gracious and political as she declared that "America is always great!" But so is Canada, particularly at The Shaw Festival, where Anthony enjoyed MYTHOS: GODS, part of a one man trilogy starring PBS favorite Stephen Fry, and Peter enjoyed GRAND HOTEL, starring the rubber jointed Michael Therriault as "Otto Kringelein."


wbfo.org

The 28th annual Artie Awards presented by WNED|WBFO were a big success with a larger audience than ever resulting in more proceeds from the event collected to support Erie County Medical Center's HIV/AIDS and Immunodeficiency Services, a charity for which various theater companies have been collecting for months. In addition, performers from LOVE NEVER DIES (currently at Shea's) will put on LATE NIGHT WITH THE CAST, a benefit concert to raise money for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, tonight, June 8 at 11:00 p.m. at the Alleyway Theatre’s Main Street Cabaret, 672 Main Street. See the list of nominees and winners along with photographs here.

The Artie Awards, which celebrates the Buffalo's theater community and raises money for ECMC's Immunodeficiency Clinic will be held this year on Monday, June 4. The red carpet photography (including a shoe cam!) begins at 7:00 p.m. (when the bar opens) at Shea's 710 Theatre! (You can follow the action live with WBFO on Twitter.) Also note that five days after the Artie Awards it's LATE NIGHT WITH THE CAST, a benefit concert to raise money for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, featuring members of the national touring company of Love Never Dies, one night only June 8 at 11:00 p.m. at the Alleyway Theatre’s Main Street Cabaret, 672 Main Street. 


If you missed the Facebook Live coverage announcing the 2018 Artie Award nominations featuring Anthony Chase, Charmagne Chi and Amy Jakiel (who will be your on-stage emcees at the WNED|WBFO Artie Awards, Monday, June 4, 2018, red carpet at 7 p.m., show starts at 8 p.m.), then you can watch here. You can see the list of nominations here or scroll down this post.


MusicalFare

Audiences love being "in on the joke." Sometimes a character "breaks the fourth wall" and speaks directly to us. Another "meta-theatrical" device is the "play within a play" where actors take on roles as, well, actors putting on a play. A superb example is Sara Ruhl's hilarious STAGE KISS currently at The Shaw Festival's Royal George Theatre. And then there's something else, where the jokes come from the fact that everyone is aware that it's a play but nobody openly acknowledges that. It tickles something fierce in BASKERVILLE, a comedic re-telling of the Sherlock Holmes story, with only five players taking on dozens of roles.

Road Less Traveled Productions

If you think that theological discussions are a bore, wait until you see THE CHRISTIANS where the debate on the question - "Is there a hell?"  - will keep you in your seat. WBFO reporter Jay Moran had a conversation with director Scott Behrend. And actors Dave Hayes as the pastor, Lisa Vitrano as his long suffering wife, Aaron Moss as the young minister, Steve Jakiel as the elder, and Victoria Perez as the congregant with big concerns will get you thinking. For something a little more soap opera/melodramatic try BLACKBERRY DAZE at the Robeson, for zany comedy try the Kavinoky's THE FOREIGNER, and for a swirl of graceful aerial charm, try STELLALUNA at Theatre of Youth.

MusicalFare

PHANTOM OF THE OPERA at Shea's features the stellar designs of the late, great Maria Bjornson. In between shows many cast members went next door to the Alleyway Theatre for a revue to raise money for the WNED|WBFO Artie Awards' favorite charity, the ECMC HIV/AIDS and Immunodeficiency Services. The Tony Awards nominations are out and there are some surprises. And ONCE, at MusicalFare, blossoms on a smaller stage, just the size for which it was originally intended. Renee Landrigan as "Girl" and Amy Jakiel as "Reza" are outstanding in a very talented cast.

Kavinoky Theatre Facebook page

PHANTOM UNMASKED, a benefit concert and part of the fundraising efforts of the WNED/WBFO Artie Awards to benefit ECMC’s HIV/AIDS Immunodeficiency Services, ($20 donation minimum) featuring cast members from the touring company of THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, “singing songs they’re totally not right for from their favorite 1990s Broadway musicals” is up one night only, April 30 at 7:30 p.m. at the Alleyway Theatre, One Curtain Up Alley (852-2600).  Tonight's openings are THE CHRISTIANS at Road Less Traveled, THE FOREIGNER at the Kavinoky, and of course PHANTOM at Shea's, while last night it was WOMEN ON THE VERGE OF A NERVOUS BREAKDOWN (another Yazbek musical) at UB.

www.uchicago.edu

Polish-American playwright Martyna Majok just won the  2018 Pulitzer for Drama with her COST OF LIVING. She's in excellent company. The past four winners have been: SWEAT, by Lynn Nottage; HAMILTON, by Lin-Manuel Miranda; BETWEEN RIVERSIDE AND CRAZY, by Stephen Adly Guirgis; and DISGRACED, by Ayad Akhtar. Gratulacje Martyna!

Subversive Theatre Collective

The Subversive Theatre's tradition of exposing life's inequalities continues with THE FULL MONTY, opening tonight, based on the 1997 movie. It follows six unemployed men, four of them former steel workers, who decide to form a male striptease act that will be better than The Chippendales because they will go "the fully monty" (strip all the way). The Subversive Theatre connection is that it deals with serious subjects such as unemployment, fathers' rights, depression, working class culture, and suicide. But it IS a comedy.

Shea's Performing Arts Center

All three Shea's venues are busy, busy,busy. Andrew Lloyd Webber's new (2017) Broadway musical SCHOOL OF ROCK is on tour at SPAC;  Anthony remembers when Buffalo's Suzy Benzinger was an intern at the old Studio Arena, now Shea's 710, where Buffalo Opera Unlimited is presenting a Bernstein Tribute tonight; and Shea's Smith Theater is the venue for LIT 401: A School Shooting in One Act (a reaction to the Virginia Tech slayings) a play still relevant which opens on Thursday. It turns out there's quite a story behind the fabulous bridal gowns on stage during SIGNIFICANT OTHER (BUA at the Alleyway) and Peter finally got out to Desiderio's Dinner Theatre.

It was a shock to the theater community when we learned of the passing of Michael Lodick, beloved member of the Buffalo theater community, director and designer associated with the New Phoenix, American Repertory and Subversive theaters, who died of an apparent heart attack on Friday at the age of 68. He will be missed. But, "the show must go on" and meanwhile, the Alleyway stage is chock full of talented young people putting on a zany, high energy show called SIGNIFICANT OTHER, wonderfully directed by Chris Kelly. Then another troupe of even younger performers will be at Shea's for Andrew Lloyd Webber's SCHOOL OF ROCK (based on the movie starring Jack Black) which opens on Tuesday.

Anthony had great fun at the red-carpet opening of the Jimmy Buffet musical ESCAPE TO MARGARITAVILLE and some fun (but wanted more laughs) at Ken Ludwig's adaptation of MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS in Hartford. Also a tip: When in NYC, visit "Feinstein's 54 Below" for performances by Broadway's greats. Back home Peter was impressed by Pulitzer prize winning THAT CHAMPIONSHIP SEASON (lots of testosterone over at the New Phoenix) as well as Theatre of Youth's latest Junie B. Jones adventure, and both Anthony and Peter are looking forward to BUA's production of SIGNIFICANT OTHER with a younger cast, as the script demands, at The Alleyway (opens tonight).

Local theaters large and small are hitting their stride this March, with exquisite productions of dramatic works, including some one acts that begin innocently and then augur down into deep despair, such as DISGRACED at Road Less Traveled and 'NIGHT MOTHER (Brazen-Faced Varlets). Even the musicals have endings that, while we know what's coming, are still tragic, including the wait-listed JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR at American Repertory and SPRING AWAKENING at Shea's 710. But no matter where you go, you will be impressed with the productions.

Buffalo Challenger

The Paul Robeson Theatre's 50th anniversary season continues with Mikki Grant’s 1970’s musical revue DON'T BOTHER ME, I CAN'T COPE on stage through March 25, 2018 (note that several shows are already sold out).  It's a particularly fine month for theater in Buffalo with excellent ensemble performances from the Robeson, to the Kavinoky (BEN BUTLER), to the Irish Classical (THE NIGHT ALIVE), to Shea's (Anthony found the touring production of SOMETHING ROTTEN much more engaging than the original Broadway show).

Public Radio WBUR, Boston

S-M-L describes the stages mounting musicals (which take us back in time) discussed on this week's Theater Talk. There's the smallish but always intense Paul Robeson Theatre's DON'T BOTHER ME, I CAN'T COPE, created by Micki Grant in the turbulent early '70s; the medium sized Musicalfare Theatre's SMOKEY JOE'S CAFE with songs from the '50s by Lieber and Stoller, and the large Shea's Performing Arts Center's SOMETHING ROTTEN, about the first musical created in the '90s (the 1590s). 

A widower, Roland, played by David Hayes at the Alleyway isn't in touch with his feelings, but he's feeling something bad as he's BEGINNING AGAIN in a brand new play by David Alan Brown. Disturbing and confusing, but it will stay with you for days and days, FAR AWAY's dystopian world at war with itself allows director Dan Shanahan and Scenographer Kristina Siegel to really spread their wings at Torn Space Theater. And JITTERS, a bit like NOISES OFF, is hilarious dinner theater in the "if it can go wrong it will go wrong" tradition at Desiderio's Dinner Theater.  Sue Toomey stars. Anthony had the chicken.

www.shawfest.com
David Cooper

The three openings this week are BEGINNING AGAIN ("sounds existential") at the Alleyway Theatre, FAR AWAY ("creepy") at Torn Space, and MASTER HAROLD...AND THE BOYS ("a very short run") at Shea's 710 Theatre. And, Anthony reports on stars on and off Broadway: Mark Rylance, Uma Thurman, Blair Brown, Marsha Mason, Donna Murphy, and Buffalo's own Roslyn Ruff.


Joan Marcus

Marital infidelity is central to the plots of the two big theater offerings on Main Street, but the doctor-waitress affair is steamy at Shea's in WAITRESS while the infidelity in THE CONSTANT WIFE at the Irish Classical seems to lack any passion. For a good "family drama" drop in on the four employees at a soon-to-close auto plant as they balance self-interest with concern for their break-room "family" in the very powerful SKELETON CREW at the Paul Robeson Theatre. For more on WAITRESS, listen to a story by WBFO's Eileen Buckley about the character "LuLu" played by two local girls.

While things slowed down considerably over the holidays, the theater community came back with a one-two punch and a number of thought provoking dramas about uncomfortable subjects, many written by and directed by women.

In Hollywood, female screenwriters and directors may be "news," but here in Western New York this month it's clear that a woman's place is in the theater, especially when it comes to handling "difficult" subjects. As part of the International Women's Voices Theater Festival, Lara D. Haberberger is directing one acts, Kelly Beuth directs Paul Vogel's HOW I LEARNED TO DRIVE, Katie Mallinson directs Jennifer Haley's THE NETHER,  Paulette D. Harris directs Dominique Morisseau's SKELETON CREW, and Lynne Kurdziel -Formato directs MAMMA MIA!

Young Simon's life is way over-scheduled while The Boy at the Edge of Everything is bored. Their lives intersect at Theatre of Youth. And, while the wife may be constant at Irish Classical, her husband is anything but. Coinciding with the #MeToo movement, Paula Vogel's tale of predatory older man/younger woman opens at Subversive Theatre with "How I Learned to Drive", and in the netherworld of VR and avatars, if they're not "real," are heinous crimes and misdemeanors of any consequence?

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