The CT Rep 'Crucible' Cast; TheaterWorks' 'Under Consideration' List

Play Time

It’s wintertime, and the plays have gotten shorter.

“A Hunger Artist,” the Sinking Ship company’s Kafka concatenation at HartBeat Ensemble’s Carriage House Feb. 1 to 4, is 70 minutes long. So is the quantum mechanical romance “Constellations” at TheaterWorks through Feb. 18. “Office Hour,” Julia Cho’s school violence meditation at Long Wharf Stage II in New Haven is a whopping 85 minutes long. Hartford Stage’s book-filled “Feeding the Dragon” (which ends Feb. 4) is a comparatively epic hour-and-a-half.

Not an intermission in sight. “Constellations” makes fun of its short length in a pre-recorded announcement that starts to tell you to go to the bathroom while you still can, then decides that you needn’t really bother.

If the groundhog does not see his shadow — or even if he does — you can soon expect your theater experiences to start casting longer shadows. The next Hartford Stage show, “Murder on the Orient Express,” is a 2 hour and 15 minute train ride. Previous productions of Suzan-Lori Parks’ “Father Comes Home from the Wars Parts 1, 2 & 3,” which Yale Rep is staging anew March 16 through April 7, have clocked in at close to three hours.

Arena Fever

It’s a trend! A round trend!

For its production of Arthur Miller’s witch-hunting opus “The Crucible” Feb. 22 through March 4, Connecticut Repertory Theatre is turning the thrust stage of its Nafe Katter Theatre into an arena-style performance space, with some audience members seated on the stage.

TheaterWorks just stunningly reshaped its whole auditorium into an arena for “Constellations.” Who could be next? (We like you as you are, Bushnell.)

Besides a shape, “The Crucible” also has a cast. As is its custom, CT Rep will mingle a couple of professional actors amid the otherwise student-based cast.

The pros are Broadway and regional theater vets James Sutorius (who’ll play Danforth, the deputy governor at the Salem Witch Trials) and Michael Rudko (who’ll be Giles Corey, who with his wife Martha was accused of witchcraft).

Student actors from UConn’s MFA acting program are Mauricio Miranda (John Proctor); Erin Cessna (Elizabeth Proctor); Tristan Rewald (Reverend Hale); Rob Barnes (Reverend Parris); Sierra Kane (Ann Putnam); and Angela Hunt (Tituba). Undergraduate UConn acting students in the cast include Nick Nudler (Judge Hawthorne); Zack Dictakis (Thomas Putnam); Elizabeth Jebran (Rebecca Nurse); Justin Jager (Francis Nurse); Rebekah Berger (Abigail Williams); Carly Polistina (Mary Warren); Gillian Pardi (Betty Parris); Tabatha Gayle (Susanna Walcott); Pearl Matteson (Mercy Lewis); Aidan Marchetti (Cheever); Ryan Rudewicz (Herrick); and Hunter Monroe (Hopkins).

That’s a lot of people to stuff onto that arena stage. Director Paul Mullins might need to use witchcraft. Crucial “Crucible” details are at crt.uconn.edu.

Whittling Nine Down To Five

TheaterWorks has a tradition of issuing a long list of plays “under consideration” for its next season. The list is inserted into playbills of current shows, and the audience gets to vote on what they might like to see. It’s a ritual loaded with loopholes and qualifications (“Remember,” the theater cautions, “new opportunities often present themselves, so this list is subject to change”), but it still feels like valuable outreach for input.

This year’s list consists of three possible musicals — “Bridges of Madison County,” “Fun Home” plus an unknown “new undiscovered musical” — and nine plays: Lucas Hnath’s “A Doll’s House Part 2,” “Anna Ziegler’s “Boy,” Deanna Jent’s “Falling,” Patricia Wettig’s “F2M,” Simon Stephens’ “Heisenberg: The Uncertainty Principle,” James Anthony Tyler’s “hop tha A,” Annie Baker’s “John,” Neil LaBute “The Money Shot” and Martin Zimmerman’s “On the Exhale.”

Nothing here that will disturb TheaterWorks’ well-honed reputation as a theater that reveres contemporary playwrights and tackles provocative subjects. The best-known shows on the list — “Doll’s House 2,” “Heisenberg” and “Fun Home” — were all on Broadway but aren’t exactly commercially driven tourist fare. Also note that there are nearly as many female playwrights on the list as male ones. Quite the teaser; start getting excited for 2018-19. Details at theaterworks.org.

Goodspeed’s Seasonal Mood Swings

Goodspeed Musicals has been in the habit of announcing its forthcoming Norma Terris Theatre season during its January Festival of New Musicals, but this year’s announcement, which was on the fest’s printed schedule, got postponed. Goodspeed Executive Director Michael Gennaro told me that it was still falling in place and that he wouldn’t rush it. A good thing, since the cherished Norma Terris slots go to promising new musicals in development. Gennaro did tell me that there will be three shows at the Terris this year — some years there’ve been only two.

If you haven’t already read about it elsewhere in the Courant, Goodspeed Musicals has replaced one of the announced 2018 shows at its main Goodspeed Opera House venue. “The Drowsy Chaperone” will replace the planned “Bullets Over Broadway,” due to, well, “Bullets” being by Woody Allen. This was for the third and final slot in the season, Sept. 21 through Nov. 25, so you’ve got plenty of time to get used to the change. Details at goodspeed.org.

RIP Joan Baker

Joan Baker, a respected local performer and political activist, died on Jan. 18 in Wethersfield. Nearly 50 years ago Baker and her husband Nelson Baker (who died in 1986) co-founded Hartford’s Open Stage Company. The company embraced the then-nascent concept of race-blind and color-blind casting. The company’s inaugural show, in October 1968 at the Church of the Good Shepherd, was an intriguing double-bill of the one-acts “The Shewing Up of Blanco Posnet” by George Bernard Shaw and “Pigeons” by Lawrence Osgood. Baker was also in shows for The Center Players, the Repertory Theatre of New Britain, Park Road Playhouse and others.

Baker had three children, one of whom is the celebrated actor Mark Linn-Baker of TV’s “Perfect Strangers,” the movie “My Favorite Year” and numerous Broadway and off Broadway shows.

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