A Teachable Moment — on Steroids

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45 Minutes from Broadway
 

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BY BRUCE APAR
When Bruce The Blog Watches… People Act!

GoJo Clan Productions Presents
OLEANNA
by David Mamet
With Duane Rutter, Julia Boyes
Directed by Robin Anne Joseph
Julia LaVerde, Production Stage Manager
Duane Rutter, Technical Director/Lighting & Sound Design
Michael Serpe, Fight Choreographer

Through March 17, 2019
Westchester Collaborative Theater
23 Water Street
Ossining, New York 10562

Order Tickets Online
$25 General; $20 Students + Seniors

As I was watching this barn burner of a stage drama, I found myself furiously scribbling in my notepad the choice morsels of dialogue that spring from the fertile and probing mind of Pulitzer-winning playwright David Mamet, best known for his trenchant take-down of hucksterism, Glengarry Glen Ross, which gave us the immortal line, “Coffee is for closers only.”

Julia Boyes is Carol, a college student, and Duane Rutter is John, her professor up for tenure. Photos by Robin Anne Joseph

In Oleanna, Mr. Mamet’s target is not disingenuous salespeople, but rather what he deems an equally offensive stain upon our social order: elitist educators and the system that justifies their abuse of power wielded over students. 

That’s the fulcrum of his premise. On either end is a college professor, John, up for tenure, and a student, Carol, with low self-esteem, who summons the resolve to not only challenge her teacher but to jeapordize his career.

[It is somewhat uncanny that this Grade A production opened mere days before news broke of the college admissions scandal, which is nothing if not a grotesque symptom of how the powerful in an elite class can oppress the powerless in an underclass.]

OLEANNA pic 4

Things start to go south when Carol takes exception to how John comports himself during a meeting. They see the situation from opposing points of view. It’s up to each audience member to decide who to side with. Couples who see the play rarely agree on whose position each supports.

Oleanna‘s battle royale pits institutionalized, patriarchal power against the highly subjective perception of what words mean. Hanging in the balance are what appear to be the author’s ambivalent musings on the sexual subtext of how we communicate with each other, both verbally and non-verbally.

When the professor drops phrases such as “white man’s burden” and “copulating” during  a private meeting with his female student, is he being racist or sexist? To her, yes! To him, no! And so it goes, until the explosive climax, when their irreconcilable values devolve into the very human failing of primal flailing.

This intimate, powerful production proves that you don’t need big theaters to house big performances, which is what Duane Rutter and Julia Boyes deliver with impressive intensity and tightly focused theatricality. To not be riveted by their work throughout is to not be awake throughout.

The two talented actors could not be in better hands than those of Robin Anne Joseph, one of the finest theater directors in this region. Her keen insight into human behavior poignantly authenticates any production under her watch.

[NOTE: The author of this review is a paid marketing consultant for local businesses, including GoJo Clan Productions, who also regularly reviews local theater.]

Oleanna ArtsWestchester screen shot 2018-12-27 at 9.17.49 PM 300dpi

 


Bruce “The Blog” Apar promotes local businesses, organizations, events and people through public relations agency APAR PR. He also is an actor, a community volunteer, and a contributor to several periodicals. Follow him as Bruce The Blog on social media. Reach him at bruce@aparpr.co or 914.275.6887.

Relationships Take Center Stage, One Act at a Time

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45 Minutes from Broadway
 

Online + Print Syndicated Reviews of Theater in the Hudson Valley
Covering the Region’s Leading Stages — from Ridgefield to Armonk to Elmsford to Pleasantville to Ossining to Philipstown to Stony Point to New Paltz

BY BRUCE APAR
When Bruce The Blog Watches… People Act!


Ridgefield Theater Barn Presents
AN EVENING OF ONE-ACT PLAYS
by C.J. Ehrlich, Ed Friedman, Pat Lennon, Ellie Martino, Ginny Reynolds, Bob Zaslow 
With Kristen Aug, Chris Cenatiempo, Maya Jennings Daley, Lori Franzese, Elayne Gordon, Larry Greeley, Timothy Huber, Valerie Huegel, Daschel Knuff, Cathy Malloy, Kristi McKeever, Taffy Miller, Christine Mitchell-Robinson, C.J. Morsey, Matt Pagliaro, Eli Rose, Craig David Rosen, Stephen Ross, Chhanda Som, Emily Volpintesta, Kylie Wolff 
Directed by Shawn Tyler Allen, Brian DeToma, David Fritsch, Nick Kaye, Nancy Ponturo, Erik Tonner, Alexis Vournazos,
Paulette Layton, Production Manager
Linda Seay, Stage Manager
Helen Hedemann, Backstage Manager
Mark Hankla, Lighting Manager
Carol Mark, Sound Coordinator
Bob Ottulich, Light Board Operator
Marie Ottulich, Sound Board Operator

120 minutes, not including 15-minute intermission
Through March 30, 2019
Ridgefield Theater Barn
37 Halpin Lane
Ridgefield, Connecticut 06877

Order Tickets Online
$35 General; $28 Students + Seniors + Veterans


Short plays – typically running no longer than 15-20 minutes — are an increasingly popular format for local stages. Audiences favor them too. That was evident by the full house and enthusiastic reaction on display when I caught the eight entertaining pieces that form Ridgefield Theater Barn’s An Evening of One Act Plays. (This warm and welcoming venue has comfortable cabaret seating, so feel free to bring along your own eats and drinks.)

Part of the appeal of one-act productions is the variety of subject matter that fills the stage in a rapid-fire, two-hour span.

Ridgefield One Acts-Miss Match

Chris Cenatiempo portrays a cross-section of Millennials who try to win the favor of Emily Volpintesta (as Eliza) in “blackout” sketches staged in between the seven one-acts. All photos by Paulette Layton

In this well-paced production, we witness the following…

  • a lonely suburban mom looking for love in the wrong places
  • a young man stumbling through the confessional as he stumbles through pubescence
  • a hapless single guy with a lot of questions about love and marriage
  • a young couple for whom love is poignantly color blind
  • three sisters in a museum for whom art is much more than paintings on a wall
  • a second-rate screenwriter concocting a slapdash scheme to land a second-rate actress for his next script, to the chagrin of his wife
  • middle-age female lovers who have distinctly different recollections of how they met, which are re-enacted by younger versions of themselves, to hilarious effect
Ridgefield One Acts-How We Met

Valerie Huegel (Marie) and Taffy Miller (Tess) compare notes in How We Met, one of the evening’s standout pieces, with their younger selves portrayed to hilarious effect by Maya Jennings Daley (Young Marie) and Chhanda Som (Young Tess). Written by Ellie Martino and directed by David Fritsch.

There’s a lot to take in and enjoy, by turns refreshing, illuminating, diverting, and just plain funny. What distinguishes this particular assemblage of otherwise unrelated playlets is a connective tissue in the form of blackout sketches, collectively titled Miss Match/Mismatch.

They are eight interstitial pieces sandwiched before and after each of the one-acts, featuring the same two actors: Emily Volpintesta and Chris Cenatiempo. He nimbly portrays a cross-section of Millennial types, all of whom are romancing her. It is a smart device, well-conceived and authored by Paulette Layton, that pulls the evening together nicely while providing the equivalent of a fine meal’s intermezzo that serves to cleanse the palate before the next course arrives.

Ridgefield One Acts-Bless Me Father

Larry Greeley is Father David Coughlin Power and Daschel Knuff is Brendan Larkin in Bless Me Father by Pat Lennon, directed by Brian DeToma, about a young man stumbling through pubescence and the confessional.

Song segues also are used to good effect during the evening’s quick set changes. It all adds up to a top-notch production that shows off local writing and directing talent, and mixes the seasoned stage presence of veteran actors with the apprenticeship of young actors, who are to be encouraged for their hard work and worthy efforts.

ridgefield-one-acts-waiting-for-hugot-e1552430445279.jpg

In Waiting for Hugot, by C.J. Ehrlich, directed by Shawn Tyler Allen, Lori Franzese (Lizzie) has her hands full dealing with delusional screenwriter-husband Timothy Huber (Clark).


Bruce “The Blog” Apar promotes local businesses, organizations, events and people through public relations agency APAR PR. He also is an actor, a community volunteer, and a contributor to several periodicals. Follow him as Bruce The Blog on social media. Reach him at bruce@aparpr.co or 914.275.6887.

Elvira Returns in Noel Coward’s Comedy Classic

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45 Minutes from Broadway
 

Online + Print Syndicated Reviews
Covering the Region’s Leading Stages — from Ridgefield to Armonk to Pleasantville to Ossining to Philipstown to Stony Point to New Paltz

BY BRUCE APAR
When Bruce The Blog Watches… People Act!

M&M Performing Arts Company Presents
BLITHE SPIRIT
by Noel Coward
With Kathy Files DiBiasi, Kate Gleeson, Kelly Kirby, Kur Lauer, Elizabeth Mialaret, Melinda O’Brien, Larry Reina
Directed by Michael Muldoon
Emmy Schwartz and Nan Weiss, Stage Managers
100 minutes, performed without intermission

Through March 31, 2019
Lyndhurst Mansion
635 South Broadway
Tarrytown, New York 10591

Order Tickets Online
$40 General; $35 Students + Seniors

Watch Bruce The Blog TV Interview with
Blithe Spirit Director Michael Muldoon

This timeless farce by the inimitable writer, actor and bon vivant Noel Coward has a ghost or two gliding about, wreaking havoc – and lots of silly fun.

But there are more than 40 “ghosts” surrounding the stage as well. That’s because the audience is seated along three walls of the stately Grand Picture Gallery of the national historic landmark Lyndhurst Mansion in Tarrytown. Much of the action takes place within this encircled area, placing the audience so intimately close that when an actor is pouring a martini, a spectator sitting there is within arm’s reach of the libations.

Novelist Charles Condomine (Larry Reina) is caught between his current spouse, Ruth (Kelly Kirby, left), and his ghostly wife Elvira (Melinda O’Brien). Photos courtesy M&M Performing Arts Company

The setting is perfect for the premise. As research for his next book, novelist Charles Condomine has summoned a medium, Madame Arcati, to conduct a séance in his English country house. But he didn’t count on the Madame reeling in the ghost of his late wife, Elvira, who is having a high time of it, blithely flitting about as she torments Charles’s  flustered second wife, Ruth, who can neither see nor hear Elvira, as Charles is able to. That creates funny bits of comic business, when Charles is arguing with Elvira, but Ruth assumes she’s being insulted.

Reina Reigns

As eccentric and urbane Charles, forced to frantically play referee between his warring wives, Larry Reina reigns supreme in a canny performance brimming with coiled energy and panache. Keeping up with him as haughty and exasperated Ruth is the stately and polished Kelly Kirby. Melinda O’Brien is perfectly ethereal and coquettish as Elvira, floating about the room, above it all in her flowing, full-length chemise.

The principals are strongly supported by Kate Gleeson as exuberant Madame Arcati and by Kurt Lauer and Elizabeth Mialaret as the Condomines’ friends.

Bon Mots Savored Like Bonbons

Full of delicious bon mots that the actors savor like bonbons — mots – such as “I like long walks, especially when they are taken by people who annoy me” — Noel Coward’s sophisticated satire is handled with flair to spare, a tribute to veteran director Michael Muldoon, who milks the shenanigans to full effect. (For a short video interview with Mr. Muldoon, https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fbruceapar%2Fvideos%2F10216749983075669%2F&show_text=0&width=560” target=”_blank” rel=”noopener noreferrer”>Click Here.)

A co-production of M&M Performing Arts Company and Red Monkey Theater Group, Blithe Spirit is playing in repertory with Chekhov’s masterpiece The Seagull on weekends through March 31. Ticket information: MMPACI.com.

Blithe Spirit runs through March 31 at Lyndhurst Mansion, in repertory with Chekhov’s masterpiece The Seagull. (top, from left) Kathy Files DiBiasi (Edith), Kate Gleeson (Madame Arcati), Kurt Lauer (Dr. George Bradman), Elizabeth Mialaret (Violet Bradman); (below, from left) Kelly Kirby (Ruth Condomine), Melinda O’Brien (Elvira), Larry Reina (Charles Condomine)


Bruce “The Blog” Apar promotes local businesses, organizations, events and people through public relations agency APAR PR. He also is an actor, a community volunteer, and a contributor to several periodicals. Follow him as Bruce The Blog on social media. Reach him at bruce@aparpr.co or 914.275.6887.