The Howard – Theater Review “The Age of Innocence” Hartford Stage

Theater: Hartford Stage
Play:    The Age of Innocence
Adapted for the Stage: Douglas McGrath
Reviewed by: Howard Steven Frydman

The hallmark of excellence, the test of greatness, is consistency” – attempted by many, achieved by few.  I so rightly state that this achievement of excellence has been justly reached by The Hartford Stage. I have just returned from a performance of the “World Premiere of The Age of Innocence” at the Hartford Stage, directed by Tony Award Winner Doug Hughes, and starring four-time Tony Award Winner Boyd Gaines and the original Ariel in the “The Little Mermaid” on Broadway- Sierra Boggess, and in my humble opinion this production is “a class act”, simply exquisite, a craft of on stage acting skills, set design, period costumes, that is not to be missed in your lifetime. 

As I have mentioned many times in past articles, I have been so overjoyed by this renaissance of the past few years at The Hartford Stage- this consistency of excellence, major kudos go out to both Artistic Director Darko Tresnjak and Managing Director Michael Stotts and the entire staff and team at Hartford Stage for making every production so memorable and exceptional. As they say “Seeing is believing” – let me tell you my thoughts about this production of “The Age of Innocence” and then come out to see it for yourself and judge that all I state is true.

Boyd Gaines

Boyd Gaines

Firstly, “The Age of Innocence”, which won a Pulitzer Prize in 1921 for author Edith Wharton – does not feature big production numbers, no duels or lightsabers, no big special effects- just the rituals of a privileged world – during the times she is writing about, the upper-crust, well-to-do  New York society aka “Gilded Age” – a  term taken from one of Mark Twain’s novels, The Gilded Age: A Tale of Today.  Secondly, I additionally state, this is a quiet piece, the audience is quiet- listening, you are eagerly awaiting to hear every single word spoken by each actor.  In fact, though there is no on-stage curtain to rise, on the onset of Boyd Gaines’ slow walk upon the darken stage at plays opening and his “genuine” portrayal of The Old Gentleman” – I immediately felt that I too had  literally  stepped back in time as well to this “Age of Innocence”.

Andrew Veenstra

Helen Cespedes and Andrew Veenstra

Wharton’s tale, presented here in association with the McCarter Theatre Center and adapted for the stage by Oscar, Tony, Emmy Nominee Douglas McGrath, has at its heart, a tragic romance, where noble characters confront powerful obstacles. Liken to her previous novel “Ethan Frome” – Wharton utilizes her signature theme – something that is “at hand” yet is “from me” – questioning one’s hopes, desires and even reputations. New York, the 1870’s Gentry set – meet gentleman lawyer Newland Archer, (Andrew Veenstra) recently engaged to pampered “blue blood” princess May Welland (Helen Cespedes). All is blissful, both their families see this union as a continuation of their “upper crust” lineage, until Newland is introduced to May’s cousin, the Countess Ellen Olenska and falls for her hook, line and sinker. The Countess,  (Sierra Boggess) who most recently has returned to New York from Europe after escaping her own heartless marriage, is in a dilemma herself, where one’s social place is every thing, she cannot divorce nor act on her burgeoning love for Newland. The Wharton stated situation – a love triangle- love et-han yet from-me.

Sierra Boggess (front), Sara Norton, Deirdre Madigan

Sierra Boggess and Andrew Veenstra

As already stated, this production sets a gold standard for excellence, from set designer John Lee Beatty’s crystal chandelier laden “bird-cage” scenic backdrop, Linda Cho, who we took note of for her costumes designs  in “Anastasia”, once again repeating her outstanding period piece designs, to the on stage performance of pianist Yan Li. To our actors – bravo all. I simply note here our four leads, Gaines, Boggess, Veenstra and Cespedes- yet I convey a deep bow to cast-mates, Darrie Lawrence, Deirdre Madigan, Haviland Morris, Josh Salt, Tony Ward, Nick Wyman and the ensemble of Hartt students, Sara Norton, Daniel Owens, Sara Schwab and Alessandro Gian Viviano – excellent and impressive performances all!

Once again I remark that with many of Darko’s production’s, such as “Anastasia” and “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder”,  “The Age of Innocence” is ready for its welcome debut on Broadway and is keenly affixed with a “Darko Seal of Excellence”. In the parlance of “The Age of Innocence” I also strongly urge the Hartford Stage to please inaugurate a “Walkway of Fame” in front of the theater, designating permanent public monuments to achievement of those, actors, producers, writers who have graced the Hartford Stage, with a first star going to none other than Darko Tresnjak- he has strongly earned this honor  of Excellence- what say all? 

Tickets for the Hartford Stage production of “The Age of Innocence” are on sale now and can be purchased by calling (860) 527-5151 or by visiting http://www.hartfordstage.org. The production runs through Sunday, May 6th. Weeknight and evening performances begin at 7:30 p.m. Matinee performances are Saturdays, Sundays and select weekdays at 2 p.m.

Howard Steven Frydman is General Manager and Executive Director of BATV – Channels 5, 95 & 96 and a member of the CCC. Please feel free to contact Mr. Frydman with your thoughts and ideas at Howards2424@gmail.com

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The Howard – Theater Review “The Revisionist” at Playhouse On Park

 

Theater Review by Howard Steven Frydman

Play:                         THE REVISIONIST
Theater:                   Playhouse On Park
Playwright:             Jesse Eisenberg 
Director:                  Sasha Bratt

Only 19 days and counting to see, in my minds eye  a most important, emotionally charged  and oh so relevant artistic production on the consequences of Nazi Germany’s exterminating of Jews, of lost family, the heart wrenching need to reconnect and choices one makes. “Playhouse on Park”,  as part of their 9th season, presents the New England premiere production of “The Revisionist, by Jesse Eisenberg, Directed by Sasha Bratt, and starring Carl Howell, Sebastian Buczyk and the most beguiling Miss Cecelia Riddett, 

Cecelia Riddett as Maria and Carl Howell as David In The Revisionist.

Thank you “Playhouse on Park” for extending this excellent rallying call to all to “Never Forget” during this Holocaust Remembrance Week. As we remember the 6 million Jews and millions of others who perished during the Holocaust, I strongly urge you to see “The Revisionist” – a “not to be missed” emotionally charged theater event that reflects on a saved child’s life, what makes a family and ultimate decisions made.

Cecelia Riddett as Maria and Carl Howell as David In The Revisionist.

My own father, Yankle Jack Max Frydman was a misplaced Polish child of the holocaust. In a similar tale as described in “The Revisionist”, Nazi troopers descended on his home town of Maltch, Poland one Saturday morning and herded all the town’s Jews onto empty cattle trains and to awaiting  Concentration Camps and its Final Solution. He was the sole survivor of his family.  No pictures to Remember them – only memories, of grandparents, parents, a brother who he fondly remembered in a fine Polish Cavalry soldier’s uniform astride his mount and the grist mill that the family owned and that still exists even today. Ghosts of memories. I once asked if he wanted to go back to Poland to revisit, his answer in his unfaded Polish accent – “Why”?

“The Revisionist” takes us to Szczecin, Poland and the small apartment of widowed 75 year old Maria who spends her days repeatedly answering phone calls from tele-marketers. A survivor herself of the holocaust, she recalls seeing her young brother shot in the head for the crime of inadvertently sneezing on a Nazi soldier, as they overtook and occupied her Polish town, forcing Jews from their homes and unto the streets. A lonely survivor by chance when Maria’s mother gives all their worldly possessions to their housekeeper in an effort to save Maria’s life.

Entering into Maria’s quiet and lonely existence comes her second-cousin, David, a young, pot smoking, writer-blocked science fiction novelist, who has come all the way from New York to Poland in need of a “change of scenery” in an effort to re-edit and finally complete his latest work. Lonely Maria is overjoyed with this first time visit by any of the relatives, in fact her home is a shrine to their family, photos of family members hang on the walls and even a bad book review of David’s is displayed with honor. Though Maria has made plans for his visit, taken the week off from her volunteer job to show David the sights and sounds of Poland, prepared him a special welcome chicken dinner ( David is a vegetarian) and seeking a strong desire to get reacquainted as a family, David has other ideas that don’t include his elderly cousin as he states- “Blood is not important”.

Sebastian Buczyk as Zenon and Carl Howell as David in The Revisionist.

Miss Cecelia Riddett as the aged and tormented Maria is absolutely superb in her role, she tugs at our heartstrings one moment and brings us to laughter the next. In my mind’s eye, this production gently rests on her mighty shoulders and she steals this production hands down- bravo Miss Riddett. Carl Howell plays the obnoxious, lounging, unappreciative houseguest David to the hilt, often times reminding one of the plays actual author, Jesse Eisenberg. At one point of the play, I overhear an overzealous audience member loudly remark “I would have kicked his butt out in 30 minutes”- acting becomes real when it awakens true emotions. A “Howard Noticed You” Award goes out to Sebastian Buczyk who portrays Zenon, Maria’s driver and helper, I so enjoyed your rich Polish accent and must agree you had the most notable scene of the play – delicately shaving the legs of Maria at the plays midpoint- it brings a much needed humorous moment. And lastly a final thought-  I wish the author had also brought forth in this work, a mention of the disturbing and rising incidents of anti-Semitism, currently taking place in Poland and throughout Europe even now, over 73 years ago since the Holocaust, as they say- “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”.

Miss Cecelia Riddett.

Tickets for The Revisionist are $30-$40. Student, Senior, and Let’s Go Arts discounts are available. For tickets, or more information, please call the Playhouse on Park box office at 860-523-5900 x10 or visit www.playhouseonpark.org. Playhouse on Park is located at 244 Park Road, West Hartford, CT 06119.

Howard Steven Frydman is General Manager and Executive Director of BATV – Channels 5, 95 & 96 and a member of the CCC. Please feel free to contact Mr. Frydman with your thoughts and ideas at howards2424@gmail.com.

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The Howard – “Playing With Food” – Mark Twain House

 

Meet the 3 Angels – Giulia Melucci, Elizabeth Petruccione and the the enchanting Chef Rossi 

In fact, many have called them Jacques’s Angels- 

The story goes –

 Once upon a time, there were three women who went to the culinary academy. And they were each assigned very creative cooking duties and I wrote about them and turned their memoirs into three of the finest plays you have ever seen!! My name is Jacques”

Please join celebrated playwright, Jacques Lamarre, on April 18th at the Mark Twain House, as he introduces you to three world class chefs who’s lives have been turned into extraordinary theater productions. You’ve seen the plays based on their lives, now meet the Chefs!

 

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The Howard – Premiere Screening Tix I FEEL PRETTY starring Amy Schumer

 

BATV – TV5

You and a guest are invited to the premiere screening of Amy Schumer’s new film –

I FEEL PRETTY

The Screening will take place on April 17th, 7pm at Cinema City. For tickets please go the link below- first come first served. Please arrive early.

 

HARTFORD

Tuesday, 4/17 at Cinema City at the Palace at 7:00 PM  

Cinema City at the Palace
330 New Park Ave.

GO TO LINK BELOW

http://stxtickets.com/QPQsX68021

 

*Seating is first come, first served and not guaranteed: get there early*

In I FEEL PRETTY a woman who struggles with feelings of deep insecurity and low self-esteem, that hold her back everyday, wakes from a brutal fall in an exercise class believing she is suddenly a supermodel. With this newfound confidence she is empowered to live her life fearlessly and flawlessly, but what will happen when she realizes her appearance never changed?

 

In Theaters April 20, 2018 Cast: Amy Schumer, Michelle Williams, Rory Scovel, Emily Ratajkowski, Aidy Bryant, Busy Phillips, Tom Hopper with Naomi Campbell and Lauren Hutton Director: Abby Kohn & Marc Silverstein Writer: Abby Kohn, Marc Silverstein

 

Producers: McG, Mary Viola, Nicolas Chartier, Amy Schumer Alissa Phillips, Dominic Rustam

 

TRAILER: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=2&v=cVx9EFK3DWE

WEBSITE: IFeelPretty.Movie

FACEBOOK: http://Facebook.com/IFeelPrettyMovie

TWITTER: http://Twitter.com/IFeelPretty

INSTAGRAM: http://Instagram.com/IFeelPretty #FeelPretty

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The Howard – Special Advance Screening SUPER TROOPERS 2

 

You are invited to the advance Hartford screening of Fox Searchlight’s highly anticipated film, SUPER TROOPERS 2 being held next week:


Tuesday, April 17

7:00pm

Bow Tie Palace

330 New Park Ave

Hartford, CT 06106

You and a guest are cordially invited to a special advance screening of SUPER TROOPERS 2

 This is not valid for admission.  Passes are required.


To download a pass for you and a guest, go to
www.foxsearchlightscreenings.com/WBAST2

 

Quantity is limited, passes will be available while supply lasts.  No purchase necessary.  Seating at the screening is first come, first served.  This film is rated R.

Synopsis:

Everyone’s favorite law enforcement team is back by popular demand with the long anticipated follow up to the cult comedy classic…SUPER TROOPERS.  When an international border dispute arises between the U.S. and Canada, the Super Troopers- Mac, Thorny, Foster, Rabbit and Farva, are called in to set up a new Highway Patrol station in the disputed area. Unconventional police work follows, and the result is…SUPER TROOPERS 2.

 

Credits:

Directed by:                                     Jay Chandrasekhar

Written by:                                      Broken Lizard

Produced by:                                   Richard Perello

Cast:                                                 Jay Chandrasekhar, Kevin Heffernan, Steve Lemme, Paul Soter, Erik Stolhanske, Lynda Carter, Emmanuelle Chriqui, Marisa Coughlan, Tyler Labine, Hayes MacArthur, Will Sasso with Rob Lowe and Brian Cox

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The Howard – Theater Review THE FANTASTICKS at Ivoryton Playhouse

 

 

Theater Review by Howard Steven Frydman

Play:                         THE FANTASTICKS
Theater:                   Ivoryton Playhouse
Music & Lyrics:       Harvey Schmidt and Tom Jones
Book by:                   Tom Jones
Director:                   Brian Feehan

It’s far out, its hip, it’s groovy, it’s FANTASTICK, and it’s a Ivoryton Playhouse happening! Shades of “Woodstock”- from all throughout New England, folks are “coming together” – even from my home base in the beautiful hamlet of Bloomfield, Connecticut, there is something comforting about driving through the outskirts of Ivoryton and finally reaching its heart – The Ivoryton Playhouse. For many, it’s a day planned either with a lawn picnic lunch or at a local eatery, photo with the theater’s well-worn wooden elephant and then standing by the vintage theater’s marquee designating its current production info and lastly making one’s way to the theater itself and what lies in jubilant wait. In this case the musical “The Fantasticks”, by Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt, which opens the 2018 season, directed and choreographed by Brian Feehan and starring the “way out” wonderful vocals of “the” David Pittsinger. See “The Fantasticks” – It’s outta sight” !!!

Someone once said to me if you see a musical once why see it again? – you know the music, the plot, the characters, go see something new. Well I’ll tell you three reasons why you should rethink that bummer bit of loco-NO-tion. Firstly, just like a good book – it’s fun to revisit with old characters even from the 60’s. Case in point- this wonderful rendition of “The Fantasticks”. As many of you are aware, the show was first performed “Off Broadway” in May, 1960 at the Sullivan Street Playhouse, and ran for 42 years and 17,162 performances, making it the world’s longest running musical. In fact it helped launch the careers of Jerry Orbach, Liza Minnelli, Elliott Gould, F. Murray Abraham, Glenn Close, Keith Charles, Kristin Chenoweth, Bert Convy, Eileen Fulton, and Elliott Gould. Reason two- the outstanding music by Harvey Schmidt and Lyrics by Tom Jones- there is no way you won’t be humming the lilting “Try to Remember” or “Soon It’s Gonna Rain” as you make your way home after the performance.

Mr. David Pittsinger

The third reason, Mr. David Pittsinger aka “The Voice” – whenever David is on stage- all eyes are on him- what a commanding figure and what a deep, profound, lavishly rich, spellbinding baritone – ie- WOW!!! Those in the know, have been fortunate to see this talented operatic singer at The Ivoryton in past productions including, Emile de Becque in South Pacific and as Don Quixote in “Man of La Mancha”- so I urge you now to see this most “happy” fella!!

Ryan Bloomquist and Kimberly Immanuel

Now for those of you who have not had the opportunity to see “The Fantasticks” in its 42 year run or may have indeed seen it every year for the past four decades- the tale is as simple and enchanting as falling in and out of Love itself. The genesis – a boy named Matt (Ryan Bloomquist) and girl named Luisa (Kimberly Immanuel) – how sweet – their two warring mothers Hucklebee (Patricia Schulman) and Bellomy (Carly Callahan) who order their children not to speak to each other – how downbeat. Please note that in the original production the feuding folks entailed fathers! Don’t tally, this is not a tale of woe as our narrator El Gallo (David Pittsinger) quickly muses – for in reality our two moms are indeed plotting – but they only war in the eventual thought that both their children will fall in love. Awwww!! Yet in the brightest of day and darkest of night, when truths exposed can love live on? Hmmm? I won’t tell! Additional cast includes the “old actor” Mortimer portrayed by Will Clark and his trusty sidekick Henry played by R. Bruce Connelly. Romance, memorable music and a chance to hear that glorious “Voice” of David Pittsinger – please make your way to Ivoryton Playhouse and to this endearing oh so classic production. Enjoy!!

For Ticket information please contact The Ivoryton Playhouse box office at 860-767-7318 or by visiting their website at http://www.ivorytonplayhouse.org.

Howard Steven Frydman is General Manager and Executive Director of BATV – Channels 5, 95 & 96 and a member of the CCC. Please feel free to contact Mr. Frydman with your thoughts and ideas at howards2424@gmail.com.

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The Howard – Theater Review – The Legend of Georgia McBride – TheaterWorks

 

Theater Review by Howard Steven Frydman
 
Production:               THE LEGEND OF GEORGIA MCBRIDE
Theater:                      TheaterWorks
Written by:                 Matthew Lopez
Director:                      Rob Ruggiero

Shakespeare said it all when he proclaimed “The plays the thing” – meanwhile in the immortal words of Dame Edna Everage aka Barry Humphries, “Well hello possums— ya know a man’s got to do what a man’s got to do. A woman must do what he can’t”. With a nod to both Willie S. and the Devine Miss E. now comes one heck of a gender-bender production that you will find both humorous and oh-so tender- TheaterWorks presents – in living technicolor “The Legend of Georgia McBride”.

“Legend of Georgia McBride” at TheaterWorks starring Austin Thomas.

Hot Heels, wigs and a fake eyelash wink to director Billy Wilder’s Tony Curtis and Jack Lemon in “Some Like It Hot”, Dustin Hoffman’s turn in Tootsie, Tyler Perry as “Madea” and Robin Williams as Mrs. Euphegenia Doubtfire – and now we valiantly introduce Miss Georgia McBride- a man on a journey of discovery- learning what a man has to do to pay the rent, keep his job, take care of his expectant wife, sing like Elvis, and even pay for a Pizza- and yes, reluctantly, – being schooled to portray a woman. In TheaterWorks newest production of Matthew Lopez’s “The Legend of Georgia McBride”, directed by Rob Ruggiero, witness the frantic fun results of one guy’s musical journey into womanhood – and let me tell you folks it’s a real DRAG!!!

Austin Thomas and Samaria Nixon-Fleming in “The Legend of Georgia McBride”.

Here’s your “oh aha moment”- D.R.A.G. – “Dressed As Girl” – our friend Willie S. again – in “Merrie Olde England”, actors in “The Bards” plays were all male with the youngest male performers portraying females in drag. For “Legend of Georgia McBride” folks are indeed in drag, add in a whale of a tale, shades of Déjà vu, about a courageous “straight” guy who finds himself boot high in troubles and finding his salvation as a Drag Queen Diva. As a son of the Golden Age of television, “Georgia McBride” actually reminds me of a sitcom from the 70’s & 80’s, think “Bosom Buddies” which made a star out of Tom Hanks, and Peter Kastner in “The Ugliest Girl in Town” – each with themes of the misadventures of young men, trying to find success working and ultimately seeking livelihood, via quirky situations, disguised as a woman. Speaking of Sitcoms, Jim Parsons who plays Sheldon in “The Big Bang Theory” is set to star in an upcoming film version of “The Legend of Georgia McBride”- as they say “the more things change, the more they stay the same”!

Jamison Stern as Miss Tracy Mills and Austin Thomas as Casey.

In “Legend” we are introduced to Casey, (Austin Thomas) a mediocre Elvis impersonator, young, straight, married to now-pregnant Jo (Samaria Nixon-Fleming) who soon finds himself out of work- only 6 folks came to watch him sing – what a “Hound Dog” of a dilemma! What’s a guy to do? Enter Drag Queen veteran Miss Tracy Mills (Jamison Stern) who has come to the aid of her cousin Eddie, (J.Tucker Smith) – “It’s me, your Cousin Bobby”, at his run down Florida bar – “Cleo’s”, replacing “Elvis”, bringing along her “larger than life” Drag Show” including saucy soul-sista “Miss Rexy” (Nik Alexander). Along the way, Miss Tracy also finds she has taken on the added role of teaching Casey how to be the star of the Drag Queens. A Legend is born. Hmmm- wouldn’t this set up make a great tv sitcom ?

Jamison Stern as Miss Tracy Mills and Austin Thomas as Casey.

Indeed, if this was a weekly tv series, it could run for years- love-able characters that tug at your heart. “Legend of Georgia McBride” is sensitive, smart and unequivocally charming. I do have to admit during many of the lip-singing sequences- I had a hard time guessing who they were imitating- I guess I’m getting too old to know today’s singing stars- but who cares, the singing dub was delightful and set the audience to cheering. Major kudos go out to the entire cast including our Drag star in training Austin Thomas, a five star “Hello Possum” salute to our delightful Miss Tracy as portrayed by Jamison Stern and a big “Howard Noticed You” Award to Nik Alexander – ya stole the show and you know it!! An exciting production that is not to be missed- Pure entertainment- as only Hartford’s TheaterWorks can do! Enjoy!

Nik Alexander In The Legend of Georgia McBride.

Howard Steven Frydman, actress Johanna Morrison and Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin.

“The Legend of Georgia McBride“ is currently being produced at TheaterWorks, City Arts on Pearl, 233 Pearl Street, Hartford, CT. For tickets or info call TheaterWorks at 860.527.7838. Run Dates: March 16th through April 22nd, 2018.

Howard Steven Frydman is General Manager and Executive Director of BATV – Channels 5, 95 & 96 and a member of the CCC. Please feel free to contact Mr. Frydman with your thoughts and ideas at howards2424@gmail.com.

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