Anthony Chase

Theater Talk Host

Listen for Theater Talk, Friday morning at 6:30 and 8:30 during Morning Edition.

The 25th Annual Artie Awards, Buffalo's celebration of local theater, will be held on Monday, June 1, 2015 at 710 Main ("the old Studio Arena") for the first time. The event will be hosted by actors Charmagne Chi (recently in "Carousel") and Amy Jakiel (recently in "She Loves Me") with Artvoice theater editor and Theater Talk co-host, Anthony Chase.  Doors (and bar) at 710 Main will open at 7 pm; the Artie Awards show begins at 8 pm.  The modest admission fee helps support the Immunodeficiency Clinic at ECMC.

Kelli Bocock-Natale is two for two (her previous Macbeth was a knockout) as a winning director of Shakespeare at the New Phoenix Theatre.  Bringing Shakespeare's inventive language to 21st century ears demands every ounce of love and attention that a director can muster, and aided by an eye-catching (though minimal) set from Paul Bustaph and an appropriately magical, mystical soundscape by Tom Makar, Bocock-Natale "brings it" (including a new twist on the ending) to "A Midsummer Night's Dream" (through May 23).

With so many regional stages it's bound to happen that some productions are uneven, and this week while "Carousel" (MusicalFare thorugh May 17) was generally disappointing, "The Beauty Queen of Leenane" (Irish Classical through May 17) was helped by Kristen Tripp Kelley.  Anthony enjoyed "Rust Belt Grotesque" (ART InTheBox through May 23) and the musical "She Loves Me" (Kavinoky through May 24).  And Theater Talk is very much looking forward to Kelli Bocock-Natale's direction of "A Midsummer Night's Dream" (New Phoenix Theatre through May 23).

The 69th annual Tony Award nominations were announced Tuesday morning by co-hosts Mary-Louise Parker, past Tony winner, and Bruce Willis (yes, since you just asked yourself, he's going to make his Broadway debut in the upcoming "Misery"). The awards will be handed out on June 7th in a live telecast from Radio City Music Hall, co-hosted by Kristen Chenoweth and Alan Cumming. 

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The 2015 Pulitzer Prizes were announced early this week and "Between Riverside and Crazy" by Stephen Adly Guirgis won for drama, a work written with Buffalo actor and UB teacher Stephen McKinley Henderson in mind.

This week Anthony interviewed Steven McKinley Henderson in an "Inside the Actor's Studio" format and enjoyed Henderson's memories about Broadway, Hollywood, The Regional Theater Movement, The Black Arts Movement, and August Wilson. 

Two actors with Buffalo roots who "made it big" will share with acting students next week. Roslyn Ruff, Broadway star active on TV and in film (The Help) comes back to Buff State on Monday, April 13 at 4 p.m. to conduct a workshop in The Flexible Theatre for young actors in any medium. Roslyn will then engage in a discussion with the general public at 5:30 p.m. 

As the nomination period for the Tony Awards draws close, Anthony ventures to Broadway to take in the musical "On the 20th Century" with Kristen Chenoweth and Peter Gallagher, "The Audience" with Helen Mirren as Queen Elizabeth II, and "Disgraced" presenting the real lives of Disney princesses - and it's NOT for children (just those who once were).  Meanwhile, both stages at the Alleyway Theatre Complex are busy.

Our western tradition of theater began with the Greeks, and for them, theater was community theater.  When Sophocles, Euripides, or Aeschylus saw their plays, it was a community  effort.  To this day, Greek philosophy, politics, religion, ethics, medicine, and, of course, community theater, are an integral part of who we are.  This week Theater Talk notes several community offerings including "The Boys Next Door" presented by both the Lancaster Regional Players at the Lancaster Opera House and The Western Door Playhouse at the Woodbox Theatre in Niagara Falls,  "The Odd Couple" presented by

Pre-dating the TV show "Seinfeld" ("the show about nothing") by 100 years, Oscar Wilde's most popular (and unfortunately last) play "The Importance of Being Earnest" moved one contemporary critic to write that he had enjoyed the play but found it empty of meaning.  Nobody cares when you have delightful verbal fencing written by a master with lines such as:  “To be natural is such a very difficult pose to keep up,” “All women become like their mothers. That is their tragedy. No man does, and that is his”  and "I hate people who are not serious about meals.

The play has been blocked, lit, rehearsed and now all we need is an audience this coming Thursday, March 12th for the opening of Oscar Wilde's "The Importance of Being Earnest" at Buff State where Theater Talk co-host reverses roles in more ways than one. Now Anthony Chase will be on stage, not in the audience, playing "Lady Bracknell" in high heels, wig, and very stylish clothes.  "Arrivals and Departures" by Alan Ayckbourn opened at the Kavinoky, and the other two openings were Nobel prize winning playwright Eugene O'Neill's "The Hairy Ape" at Torn Space and Steve Martin's "Picasso at the Lapin Agile" at ART In The Box on Linwood Avenue.

Two plays discussed in this week's Theater Talk re-imagine two classics. "After Miss Julie" takes Swedish playwright August Strindberg's very dark "Miss Julie" and moves it to Britain in 1945 after a Labor Party Victory.  In both plays Julie has a one night affair with a man from a lower class and ultimately sees suicide as the only way to move forward.  That opened last night at the Irish Classical Theatre and runs through March 22.

By coincidence, a number of theaters this weekend feature mothers and mother figures (all with varying levels of dysfunction).  Having Tyne Daly pass up the chance to spend a winter in Buffalo (go figure!) that opened the door for local talent Anne Hartley Pfohl to star in Terrence McNally's "Mothers and Sons" at the Alleyway Theatre.  (The address is One Curtain Up Alley in the shadow of Shea's huge backstage.)

Just back from the Kennedy Center in our nation's capitol, Anthony reports that while the cast of Lerner & Lowe's "Gigi" is first rate, the direction is not.  They've got a month to fix things before opening on Broadway.

Openings this week include "The Mystery of the Silver Chalice" - a play at 710 Main where the audience directs the plot - "Beau Jest" at Jewish Repertory in which a Jewish girl hires an actor to play her boyfriend when she goes home to see the parents and "Million Dollar Quartet" which looks at the birth of rock'n'roll. It's at Shea's but for two days only.

At the age of 80, Australian comedian Barry Humphries is retiring his character "Dame Edna Everage" after a 2015 farewell tour. Anthony flew out to Los Angeles to catch a show last week, but Buffalo/Toronto audiences can wait until early April when the tour comes to the Royal Alexandra in Toronto.

Having just seen A.R. Gurney's "Family Furniture" at the Kavinoky Theatre, Anthony Chase noticed strong parallels with Edward Albee's "A Delicate Balance" back on Broadway, especially upper class families who can talk a lot, but not about their problems.

Of last week's two openings, A.R. Gurney's "Family Furniture" at the Kavinoky (D'Youville campus)  is "soulful" while Alan Ayckbourn's tightly plotted "Snake in the Grass," a Red Thread Theatre production at the Marie Maday Theatre (Canisius College), is the "thriller."

In common with the great Anton Chekhov, playwrights Alan Ayckbourn and Buffalo's A.R. Gurney both make effective use of small sets which serve multiple purposes as well as indirect action - the off stage drama churning beneath the service. In Ayckbourn's "Snake in the Grass" two sisters reunite after the death of their abusive father.  In Gurney's "Family Furniture" a mother might have engaged in an infidelity, but nobody is talking, at least not directly, in the drama set in Buffalo in the 1950s.

It's a rare theater company that has something on the boards over Christmas, but that's when the movies bring out some blockbusters, including an adaptation of Stephen Sondheim's "Into the Woods." Major stars fill the silver screen, including Meryl Streep as "The Witch" and Buffalo's own Christine Baranski as "The Stepmother."  Anthony reports that there are some differences between stage and screen versions, partly because gruesome elements can be comedic on stage while movies, which are only two dimensional, somehow seem "more real." On the other hand, effects such as levitation and magic

Two versions of “A Christmas Carol,” one with Mike Randall at the Sheridan-Parkside Community Center Theatre and one (32 years running!) at the Alleyway, continue as does “Miracle on South Division Street” by “Over the Tavern” playwright Tom Dudzick at the Roycroft Pavilion in East Aurora and “Jerry’s Girls” presented by O’Connell and Company at the Park School in Snyder.

With all of the theaters in the Buffalo area, is there competition for the same audience?  Not so, Anthony Chase tells Peter Hall. Each local theater has a niche market which it serves.  For example, the audiences for "A Christmas Carol" currently at the Alleyway Theatre (and it its 32nd production) will be looking for nostalgia and something for their kids.  Subversive Theatre's "The Guns of Christmas" at the Many Fried Playhouse is both a political statement and a moving portrayal of the horrors of war. And the BUA's "Santa Claus is Coming Out" at The Mainstreet Cabaret or "The Santaland Diaries" at the Road Less Traveled Theatre will appeal to yet a third kind of audience looking for something different.

"Cinderella" has dropped a lot of the 1950s schmaltz and with a new script by Douglas Carter Beane (and a great pair of shoes) this Rodgers & Hammerstein musical brings a lot of  sassy adult humor to Shea's Performing Arts Center,  but only through this Sunday, December 7th.  Down the block, BUA presents "Santa Claus is Coming Out," a story where Santa decides that, despite expectations, it's always better to do the right thing.  And across Main Street, for a little more edgy seasonal humor, Mark Sacco brings David Sedaris' "The Santaland Diaries" to the stage at Road Less Traveled (sti

Menotti's opera for all ages - "Amahl and the Night Visitors" - features a new production at the Riviera Theatre this Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.  The BPO and Neglia Ballet team up for Tchaikovsky's "The Nutcracker" Saturday and Sunday at Shea's where Rodgers and Hammerstein's "Cinderella" opens on Tuesday.  And on Wednesday, December 3rd, one night only at 710 Main Street, it's "4 Girls 4" with Maureen McGovern, Andrea McArdle, Donna McKechnie, and Faith Prince.

Even though snowfall in the actual theater district has been relatively light, half of the potential audience for shows is snowbound and under a travel ban which has led to a number of cancelations all week long.  We hope that this weekend has more shows up than dark. 

"End Days," "The Homosexuals," and "My Life on a Diet" may be closing, but "Lombardi" just opened at 710 Main Street and one of the great American tragedies, Arthur Miller's 1949 Pulitzer Prize winning "Death of a Salesman," continues at the Irish Classical Theatre.

Two American classics open tonight, Arthur Miller's "Death of a Salesman" at the Irish Classical Theatre and Tennessee Williams' "The Glass Menagerie" at the Lancaster Opera House, along with lighter fare including "Mamma Mia" at Shea's.

Arthur Miller's "The Crucible" opens Thursday and Lillian Hellman's "The Children's Hour" continues at The New Phoenix Theatre, two plays that delve into what chaos is caused when young girls tell adult lies. On a more upbeat note, "Ain't Misbehavin'" brings the music of Fats Waller to Musicalfare Theatre with a young, energetic cast.

Lillian Hellman's "The Children's Hour" from the 1930s is not a "modern" play, but in style harkens back to Henrik Ibsen's realist dramas.  With a controversial topic, a rumor of lesbianism at a girl's school, Buffalo Public Theatre opens tonight at The New Phoenix Theatre on Johnson Park.

While the first round of plays for most theaters are winding down, and before the next cycle, there is still plenty of theater.  And coming up, "Ain't Misbehavin'" at Musicalfare and "The Children's Hour" at New Phoenix Theater, which offers a very intimate experience.  "Blood Type: Ragu" is at the Smith, and is all about growing up Italian.

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