Anthony Chase

Theater Talk Host

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

This week's Theater Talk conversation starts with GIVE 'EM HELL, HARRY (originated by Buffalo's own James Whitmore) these days starring David Lundy at the New Phoenix Theatre, but only through October 29. Meanwhile, CHRISTMAS IN JULY at the Alleyway concerns a group of gay men who meet at a summer resort and become fast friends. The playwright, Matthew Crehan Higgins, is director of Buffalo's Pride Center, and the cast is all gay, but interestingly, the director is not, it's Lisa Ludwig, and Anthony has some thoughts on why that is. And there's also a story or two about Sophie Tucker, the last of the "red hot mamas" whose career is, basically, a history of 20th century entertainment, from an Edison wax cylinder through vaudeville to television.

FINDING NEVERLAND's national touring opening at Shea's was a long time coming, starting back in the 1990s when outgoing President of Shea's, Anthony Conte, and producer Albert Nocciolino, raised the money to build a backstage large enough to handle touring Broadway shows. Another piece of the puzzle was getting state tax relief for producers willing to technically rehearse their shows in NY State. Then, it helped that the producer of FINDING NEVERLAND (based on a Miramax film) was UB graduate Harvey Weinstein. Add in award winning director Diane Paulus who has a wonderful, creative and critical eye for spectacle, and pretty soon you've got magic, fairy dust, and all. It's a very good night at the theater.

Michael Murphy, formerly of the prestigious the Old Globe in San Diego picked up the reins this week from Tony Conte who left the organization in great financial shape and with three viable venues - Shea's PAC, the Smith theatre, and Shea's 710 Main.

photo courtesy of Jim Bush

Red Thread Theatre's presentation of Robert Waterhouse's LOUISIANA BACCHAE, based on the Euripides play, sets the Greek classic in the mysterious bayou backwaters, the land of gris gris and voodoo with a very sensual depiction of Dionysus (played by Greg Howze) and his Bacchae cult.

Richard Lambert

What is a dramatic comedy? Well, it's a drama that tackles serious issues, but has a healthy dose of laughs to keep things moving along. LIPS TOGETHER, TEETH APART deals with social isolation, suicide, and AIDS, but, there ARE laughs, in a fine production with a stunning set by 2016 Artie Award winning Paul Bostaph. Meanwhile, Ujima Theatre and Buffalo United Artists collaborate on a story of a white playwright pretending to be black in THE SUBMISSION. And the Irish Classical Theatre presents Tennessee Williams' SWEET BIRD OF YOUTH, about a gigolo/drifter in the company of a faded movie star attempting to win back the love of his youth. DEAR LYDIA, at the Alleyway, a new play about a house-bound advice columnist, is also mentioned this week.

Mary Kate O’Connell, a vivid presence in the Buffalo theater scene with a magnetic stage presence and a luscious soprano voice, has long been known as Western New York’s First Lady of Musical Theater. The guiding force behind O’Connell & Company, Mary Kate, accompanied by Rosy, her ever-present little dog, will be honored this Friday evening, September 16, with a star in the "Plaza of the Stars."

Photography by David Hou.

At the Stratford Festival in Ontario, THE HYPOCHONDDRIAC,  based on THE IMAGINARY INVALID by Molière, is a new version of that classic by Richard Bean with lots of gags and a bit of history, too, as Argon is being played by "Moliere" himself.

Photography by David Hou.

Antoni Cimolino's direction of Shakespeare's MACBETH at the Stratford Festival has been so well received that it's been extended to November 5.

The Stratford Festival is in full swing and, like The Shaw Festival, continues well into the early fall. Ibsen's play JOHN GABRIEL BORKMAN was a highlight of a recent visit. Occasionally Theater Talk mentions particularly fine acting moments in the movies, and FLORENCE FOSTER JENKINS has several, and not all by Meryl Streep! Locally, Buffalo hosted a prestigious theater critic, Bonnie Marranca, at Hallwalls, and you can hear about that as well.

By coincidence, two regional theater companies have presented Shakespeare's THE TAMING OF THE SHREW, at the same time, and both close this weekend. Chautauqua wraps up their "gender bender" take (the shrew is a guy) tonight. Shakespeare in Delaware Park concludes Sunday evening with their "pirate" themed version.  Meanwhile, check out Torn Space Theater for some pushing-the-boundaries performance art this weekend (see below for details).

Michael Murphy of the highly regarded Old Globe Theatre in San Diego has been chosen as successor to Anthony Conte, president of Shea's Performing Arts Center (and the Smith Theatre and Shea's 710 Main). 

Up at the Shaw Festival in Niagara on the Lake, Ontario, the delish serving of revenge in meat pies that is Sondheim's SWEENEY TODD: THE DEMON BARBER OF FLEET STREET was fulfilling to a bit-too-ecstatic opening night crowd. Meanwhile, Chicago's Goodman Theatre is trying out WAR PAINT, a new musical starring Patti LuPone and Christine Ebersole as cosmetics titans Helena Rubinstein and Elizabeth Arden. The back and forth sparring will get tightened up, says Anthony, and in the meantime the music is Broadway worthy.

MASTER HAROLD AND THE BOYS packs a lot of drama into 90 minutes at the Shaw Festival's Courthouse Theatre in a play, set in the 1950s, that looks at many issues, including apartheid.  Classically trained but a "behind the scenes" Hollywood star, Marni Nixon, who sang for stars who couldn't, passed away this week. And the Buffalo Infringement Festival 2016 has too many offerings to list, so you'd be wise to visit the website.

This week we have three openings to celebrate! Tonight, it's THE PROFANE, a play by Zayd Dohrn, presented by Chautauqua Theater Company, directed by Vivienne Benesch.

This Tuesday, Shakespeare in Delaware Park uses their "down time" between shows (The Winter's Tale ends Sunday night, July 17 and The Taming of the Shrew opens on July 28) to "put on a show" with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra.

If you want to see strong women on stage, this is the time. Michele Marie Roberts stars in Tim Rice & Andrew Lloyd Webber's EVITA now at MusicalFare Theatre in Amherst through August 7. Across town, Lisa Vitrano takes charge as Paulina who speaks truth to power in THE WINTER'S TALE at Shakespeare in Delaware Park (through July 17).

If you like the expression "Winter is coming" then you'll want to know that in Shakespeare in Delaware Park's THE WINTER'S TALE (now through July 17) there are at least two deaths, although both off stage. Death by grief and death by bear.

THE WINTER'S TALE by Shakespeare, a late comedy/romance is sometimes called one of the "problem plays" because Act I is so dramatic and sad while Act II is miraculous and uplifting. It opened last night at Shakespeare in Delaware Park. And you have only three days to catch DIRTY ROTTEN SCOUNDRELS with an all star cast who bring their "A game" and oodles of energy to the Lancaster Opera House. Lots of fun.

Andrew H. Walker/REX/Shutterstock June 12, 2016 | 07:11PM PT

Repression can be the actions of government, society, or an individual of subduing someone or something by force. But when it is the action or process of suppressing a thought or desire in oneself so that it remains unconscious, that can lead to explosive and tragic outcomes as we saw last Sunday at a gay night club in Orlando. Modern theater, ever since Nora slammed the door and walked away from repression at the end of Ibsen's play THE DOLL HOUSE, has dealt with the topic. And so, in a way, it was so apt that America's celebration of what is best in live Theater, the Tony Awards, followed on the heels of the horror.

AN IDEAL HUSBAND a comedy by Oscar Wilde (one of G.B. Shaw's favorites) presented by The Irish Classical Theatre runs through June 26 at the Andrews Theatre at 625 Main Street, with a cadre of accomplished Buffalo actors. Meanwhile, DIRTY ROTTEN SCOUNDRELS is presented by Second Generation Theatre Company at the Lancaster Opera House, 21 Central Avenue, through June 26. The 26th Annual Artie Awards presentation was a big success with over 19 awards given. And, up for only two performances, Nickel City Opera presents SHOT!

Niagara-on-the-Lake's Shaw Festival presents MRS. WARREN'S PROFESSION and it is skillfully staged and directed as if this pro-feminist play were being produced in a gentleman's club, which, indeed is how the first production came to be for this censored work. And, it's the Shaw production that will make its way across the border to 710 Main Theatre in the late fall. An excellent choice based on the opening which Peter and Anthony saw over the weekend. Remember, 710 Main is where the Artie awards will be presented on Monday, June 6 at 8 p.m. (bar opens at 7). Meanwhile, Shaw's great friend Oscar Wilde, will have his play AN IDEAL HUSBAND (one of Shaw's favorites) open tonight at the Irish Classical Theatre (625 Main). And don't forget that O'Connell & Company is presenting Sondheim & Furth's COMPANY at The Park School in Snyder.

Photo by David Cooper.

The 26th Annual Artie Awards nominations have been published, recognizing the Artie Committee's top five choices for a variety of categories, from Best Actor and Best Actress to Best Production to Best Lighting, 19 categories in all.  And everyone is invited to the Artie Awards Show, Monday June 6, 2016  at 710 Main Theatre -  red carpet at 7:30, the show starts promptly at 8:00 p.m.  And, while "win-win" is an overused phrase, this time it's apt: The Shaw Festival and 710 Main Theatre (operated by Shea's Performing Arts Center) have a five year deal to bring the Shaw Festival's unquestioned excellence to Buffalo audiences, starting with G.B. Shaw's MRS. WARREN'S PROFESSION this fall.

LOVE LETTERS by Buffalo's A.R. "Pete" Gurney closes this Sunday night at 710 Main, so you still have some time to soak up some major star power - Ali MacGraw and Ryan O'Neal - in an intimate and very moving one act play presented by two old friends. Powerful performances from the ensemble make FARRAGUT NORTH at Road Less Traveled Theatre -  a compelling night of drama and talk about timely! It's all about behind the scenes machinations in an election year.

As FARRAGUT NORTH at Road Less Traveled shows us the hubris of a political campaign, DETROIT 67 at the Paul Robeson Theatre updates RAISIN IN THE SUN themes to the riots of 1967, and JUDGMENT AT NUREMBERG at The New Phoenix Theatre asks the question "how far would you go to to make your country great again?" - powerful dramas are on multiple stages this month in Buffalo.

DIRTY DANCING, the musical based on the Patrick Swayze movie, continues at Shea's Performing Arts Center with five more performances, closing with a 7 p.m. show on Sunday, May 8. Buffalo-born playwright A.R. "Pete" Gurney's LOVE LETTERS opens with "Love Story" stars Ali MacGraw and Ryan O'Neal at the intimate space of 710 Main Theatre and it opens Wednesday May 11 and runs through May 22.

If you missed Anthony's cameo in the movie THE AMERICAN SIDE (starring Matthew Broderick and showcasing the City of Buffalo in all of the location shots) then pencil in a trip to 710 Main where Hollywood stars Ryan O'Neal and Ali MacGraw (of LOVE STORY) will appear in Buffalo-born A.R. Gurney's LOVE LETTERS.  Need a little Vegas in your life? Buffalo's own Eric Jordan Young IS Sammy Davis Junior in CELEBRATING SAMMY: BROADWAY TO VEGAS with the BPO at Kleinhans, Saturday night at 8 p.m.

In this 100th anniversary of the Easter Uprising which ultimately led to the independent Irish Republic of today, there is considerable interest in the great Irish poet, playwright, and political activist William Butler Yeats. THE YEATS PROJECT: TWO PLAYS BY W.B. YEATS combines the dramatic direction of Irish Classical's Vincent O'Neill, Torn Space's visually arresting sets (Dan Shanahan), and movement by Lehrer Dance (Jon Lehrer). It opens tonight at the Andrews Theatre.

Musicalfare Theatre's talent pool is so deep that it's offering two musicals at once: AVENUE Q at 710 Main and HOW TO SUCCEED IN BUSINESS WITHOUT REALLY TRYING at Musicalfare Theatre's home in Amherst on the Daemen College campus. AVENUE Q is a wonderful collaboration between Musicalfare and Shea's Performing Arts Center, and could point to a healthy future for a Buffalo landmark.

The Jewish Repertory Theatre opened COMPULSION OR THE HOUSE BEHIND with a veteran cast presenting the story, based on real life, of "Sid Silver" trying to produce a play about "The Diary of Anne Frank" and meeting resistance which only feeds his paranoia. The most "sane" character on stage is Anne Frank, represented by a Michele Costa designed puppet, ably manipulated and voiced by Amelia Scinta.

Long anticipated but absolutely worth the wait, OF MICE AND MEN at The New Phoenix Theatre offers a peak performance; Buffalo Quickies at The Alleyway might be their best in 25 years; Playwright Terrence McNally speaks tonight (a BUA Funder at the TR Site) and tomorrow (free event at Buff State).