A (Burnt) Toast to Love & Marriage, On the Rocks

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Syndicated Stage Reviews in Print + Online
BY BRUCE APAR

When Bruce The Blog Watches… People Act!

Penguin Rep Theatre Presents
CLEVER LITTLE LIES
A Play by Joe DiPietro
Directed by Thomas Caruso
Joe Brancato, Founding Artistic Director
Andrew Horn, Executive Director
Through Sunday, July 22
7 Crickettown Road
Stony Point, New York 10980
Order Tickets on Website

In its first few moments, sitcom-style comedy Clever Little Lies grabs audience attention right away, with one of the most revealing wardrobe changes you’ll ever see on stage. It is done modestly but just provocatively enough to elicit vocal appreciation from amused patrons.

The fast-paced play, starring Richard Kline of TV classic Three’s Company, and written by Tony-winner Joe DiPietro, is at Penguin Rep in Stony Point (Rockland County) through Sunday, July 22. (For tickets and information, call 845.786.2873 or visit PenguinRep.org.)

Billy (left, Jordan Sobel) has his work cut out dealing with (from l) wife Jane (Bridget Gabbe), mom Alice (Jana Robbins) and dad Bill, Sr. (Richard Kline) Photo by Chris Yacopino

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Einstein Was Great, But Was He Good?

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Bruce caricatureBruce The Blog Beyond Broadway  

BY BRUCE APAR

When Bruce The Blog Watches… People Act!

Penguin Rep Theater Presents
RELATIVITY
By Mark St. Germain
Directed by Joe Brancato, Artistic Director, Penguin Rep
Andrew M. Horn, Executive Director, Penguin Rep
Through June 10, 2018 (Thursdays-Sundays)
7 Crickettown Road
Stony Point, New York 10980
845.786.2873
Order Tickets on Website

He is more myth than man, the Babe Ruth of brainiacs. Who doesn’t know the name Einstein? It’s as much a word as it is a name, a synonym for genius.

Apart from his celebrated scientific work, though, who was Albert Einstein the man? That’s a relative question, one that nimble playwright Mark St. Germain explores with wit, historical veracity and theatrical verve in his one-act play “Relativity.” It can (and should) be seen through June 10 at Penguin Rep, a professional theater of consistently high quality in Stony Point, Rockland County.

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The Return of Talented Mr. Ripley, Believe It or Not

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Bruce caricatureBruce The Blog Beyond Broadway  

BY BRUCE APAR

When Bruce The Blog Watches… People Act!

Hudson Stage Company Presents
New York Premiere of
Switzerland
By Joanna Murray-Smith
Directed by Dan Foster
Executive Produced by Denise Bessette & Olivia Sklar

Through May 5, 2018 (weekends)
Whippoorwill Hall Theatre at North Castle Library
Kent Place
Armonk, New York 10504
914.271.2811

Order Tickets on Website
or
Call 800.838.3006

The riveting drama Switzerland, now playing at Hudson Stage in Armonk through May 5, is a “two-hander.” That’s theater lingo for a play with two actors. If there seems to be more than two characters on stage in this novel idea for a drama, it’s a testament to actors Peggy J. Scott and Daniel Petzold, and to playwright Joanna Murray-Smith.

The trio brings to life a captivating conceit inspired by real-life crime writer Patricia Highsmith, who was quite a character in her own right. If her name isn’t instantly familiar, it’s likely two of her celebrated works are: The Talented Mr. Ripley was adapted into a Hollywood hit movie starring Matt Damon, and Strangers on a Train is an Alfred Hitchcock classic.

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I Love ‘I Hate Hamlet’

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BY BRUCE APAR

When Bruce The Blog Watches… People Act!

I Hate Hamlet
By Paul Rudnick
Directed by Melinda O’Brien
Presented by M&M Performing Arts Company

Through March 4, 2018 (weekends)
Lyndhurst Mansion
635 South Broadway (Route 9)
Tarrytown, New York 10591
914.631.4481

Order Tickets on Website
or
Call 914.631.4481

Watch Interview with Tal Aviezer, Mikel Von Brodbeck, Melinda O’Brien

(From left) Tal Aviezer, Mikel Von Brodbeck, Melinda O’Brien are the actors, directors and producers behind I Hate Hamlet and Hamlet at Lyndhurst Mansion in Tarrytown. 


Let’s face it, folks. Not everyone loves Shakespeare. Not even all actors.

Andrew Rally is one of them. In fact, where there’s a Will, there’s a way Andrew will find to avoid acting in one of those famously timeless plays. And for good reason. Shakespeare tests, to the fullest, an actor’s mettle, and Andrew is strictly a TV actor.

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Howling at Sherlock’s Hilarious ‘Hound’

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Bruce caricatureBruce The Blog Beyond Broadway  

BY BRUCE APAR

When Bruce The Blog Watches… People Act!

The Hound of the Baskervilles
Adapted from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s novel
By Steven Canny and John Nicholson

Directed by Mark Shanahan

Through May 13, 2017 (weekends)

Whippoorwill Hall Theatre at North Castle Library
Kent Place, Armonk, New York 10504
(914) 271-28811

Order Tickets on Website
or
Call 1-800-838-3006


In the gut-busting production of The Hound of the Baskervilles now doubling over audiences at Hudson Stage in Armonk, there are some 20 characters on stage–but only three actors.

How does that work? Like clockwork! More precisely, like a crazy, cuckoo clock with sleight of hands that move at lightning speed–forward, backward and wayward. 

Review continues below photo…

 

 

Baskervilles trio

FUNNY GUYS (From left) Denis Lambert as Sherlock Holmes, Joe Delafield at Sir Charles Baskerville, Matt Ban as Dr. Watson. The trio of actors play some 20 characters in all.                               All photos by Rana Faure

This raucous confection not only makes bloody good fun of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s iconic sleuth and his sidekick Dr. Watson. The farcical play makes fun of its own clever contrivances. It even mocks its actors, who occasionally step out of character as themselves. Oh, don’t feel sorry for them. Not for one minute. In fact, it’s difficult at times to discern who is having more fun: The people on stage or the people in the audience. No matter. Fun it is, from beginning to end, and back again.

HEY, LET’S RE-RUN ACT I… IN HIGH SPEED

As Act II begins, the actor who plays Sherlock Holmes and a host of other characters (quick-change whirling dervish Denis Lambert) insists to his incredulous castmates that they re-run the first Act… in high-speed. Why? Because, complains the indignant Lambert, a supposed member of the audience during intermission tweeted that the actor slowed down the hijinks with his sluggish performance. To redeem himself, Lambert exhorts his sidekicks to race headlong through the highlights of Act I. And they oblige him. (It reminded me of the show-stopping musical number in Broadway hit “The Producers” that recaps the entire plot to that point. The music here is the melodic notes of laughter.)

Denis Lambert’s partners in crime-solving are Joe Delafield (Sir Charles Baskerville and others) and Matt Ban (Dr. Watson and others). They form a tight, nimble comedy troupe that performs with vaudevillian brio, donning and doffing headwear and outerwear, plus smoothly transporting props on and off stage to create the illusion of a much fuller cast of characters and settings. The fancy feet work they do is no easy feat, , and their collective efforts are to be vigorously applauded and admired, especially by other actors who amply can appreciate the challenging tasks at hand. The transformative costumes that constantly morph are a real stitch, the seamless handiwork of Jeni Schaefer and Charlotte Palmer-Lane.

Baskervilles 2

                                        SHERLOCK, YOU JEST! These guys get around, don’t they?                                             All photos by Rana Faure

KNOCK, KNOCK! WHO’S THERE?

“What can you deduce about that knocking?” asks Holmes of Watson, who replies, with unerring instinct, “It’s coming from the door.” That’s just a very light taste of the silly yet puckishly authentic repartee and gags that trigger guffaws aplenty.

If all this sounds veddy Monty Pythonesque, there’s good reason. The co-writers of “The Hound of the Baskervilles” – Steven Canny and John Nicholson, billed as “adaptors” to pay due homage to their muse, Sir Arthur – have extensive credentials as comedy writers for England’s BBC TV network. Whether it’s Monty Python or Benny Hill, the Brits love their comedy dry, punny and slapsticky, and they love their literature immortal, from Shakespeare to Sherlock to, well, Harry (Potter, not Prince).

Throughout the fast-paced romp of the Baskervilles, the suspenseful storyline somehow stays intact, providing a sturdy, timeless framework for tongue-in-cheeky wordplay, non-stop physical comedy, and whimsical winks at the audience, which winks back by gleefully going along for the joy ride.

The case they must crack is simply stated: Members of the wealthy Baskerville clan are being hounded to death by a rabid Rover. Holmes and Watson wend their way through the moors and the mire and some slippery sorts to solve the mystery. And the game’s afoot.

WHAT A HANSOM CAB THAT IS!

Kudos to director Mark Shanahan and choreographer Stephanie Card, who do a masterly job of keeping the action throttling forward at breakneck speed. That includes putting the actors through some bouncy paces as they ride in a horse-drawn, hansom cab and on a train. 

As is standard operating procedure for Hudson Stage and its producing team of Denise Bessette, Olivia Sklar and Dan Foster, the production is expertly staged, with tender loving care assigned to every aspect of stagecraft.

The sensual sound design, by Sean Hagerty, credibly creates a sense of place, whether it’s a howling hound or an ominous wind or a creaking door or mooing cows. The visual effects are fun to take in as well. For example, with the right balance of imagination and artistry, a household object placed on stage by the actor – such as a pail billowing steam — can adequately signify a sauna.

 

Baskervilles-11

WHO’S FRAMING WHOM? (From left) Matt Ban, Denis Lambert, Joe Delafield as… oh, who can keep track of them all. All photos by Rana Faure

THROWBACK THEATER

Before the play began, a smile came over my face at the sight of the elaborate set, another hallmark of Hudson Stage’s consistently tony style of theater. This time it is a gorgeously rendered recreation of an early 20th Century proscenium arch theater with carved wood columns and burgundy red curtains flanking the stage (scenery by David Arsenault.)

To someone who’s never been inside North Castle Library’s Whippoorwill Theatre – an eminently audience-friendly and actor-friendly performing space — odds are they’d be none the wiser thinking the current décor is the permanent stage. It’s that convincing. I thought to myself, “This is throwback theater!” Go to the Whippoorwill in Armonk, throw yourself back in the comfy seats, prepare to act like a hound, and howl.


Bruce Apar is Chief Content Officer of Pinpoint Marketing & Design, a Google Partner Agency. Its Adventix division helps performing arts venues, including The Schoolhouse Theater, increase ticket sales. He also is an actor, a community volunteer, and a contributor to several periodicals, including Westchester Magazine. Follow him as Bruce The Blog on social media. Reach him at bapar@pinpointmarketingdesign.com or (914) 275-6887.