Stage Notes Connecticut Theater News & Reviews

Tom Lenk From 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer' Starring In 'Buyer and Cellar' At TheaterWorks

Which actor from "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" will be starring in a solo show in Hartford? Think geek.

Thomas Lenk, best known for his role as geekster Andrew Wells in the television series "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and its spinoff "Angel," will take on a superpower of another sort.

He'll step into the vortex of Barbra Streisand's personal universe in Jonathan Tolins' comedy "Buyer and Cellar" that plays Hartford's TheaterWorks with previews beginning Jan. 8, opening on Jan. 15 and playing through Feb. 14.

Lenk's other TV roles have included "Witches of East End," "Joey," "House," "Six Feet Under," "Eli Stone" and "How I Met Your Mother."

His film credits include the horror comedy "The Cabin in the Woods," "My Girlfriend's Boyfriend" and Josh Welhan's terrific film adaptation of "Much Ado About Nothing."

On stage he starred in both the Broadway and original Los Angeles casts of "Rock of Ages" and in the West Coast premiere of "Book of Liz." He regularly performs live comedy in Los Angeles and on tour with his solo comedy show, "Nerdgasm." Information: theaterworkshartford.org and 860-527-7838.

Critical Conditions

What do theater critics do when they get together? Argue, see shows and listen to theater folks talk about their upcoming shows.

Last week's gathering of the American Theatre Critics Association in New York had all of the above. There was much talk about inequities of women on the American stage — and backstage, too. (Diversity is also an issue facing the association itself on many levels.)

Among the New York stage performers at a luncheon with the critics was Marlee Maitlin, who is in a revival of "Spring Awakening" — and looking fab at 50 — and Marlo Thomas, who recalled her time at Hartford Stage in the '90s in "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf." (She was a powerful Martha opposite a terrific Robert Foxworth as George.)

Tony Award-winning director (and former artistic associate at Hartford Stage in the mid-'90s) Bartlett Sher talked about his upcoming Broadway revival of "Fiddler on the Roof." He said that the current refugee crisis brings a special resonance to the production. The show's lyricist, Sheldon Harnick, 91, agreed and talked about the universality of the enduring musical, now 50 years old. (Harnick's musical "A Wonderful Life" is wrapping up its run at the Goodspeed Opera House in East Haddam.)

Kathleen Chalfant talked about shaving her head for the world premiere of the Pulitzer Prize-winning "Wit" at Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven 15 years ago. She said that wearing a bald cap wouldn't do in her role as a woman who has cancer because in an intimate theater such as Stage II, the artificiality would be noticeable. So she shaved her head and remained that way for its many productions in New Haven, New York and elsewhere for four years. She said the authenticity of being bald gave her a special connection to people with cancer who came backstage. "But I'm grateful that I don't have to be bald anymore."

Scrooged Again

Veteran character actor Bill Raymond (in films "Lincoln" and "Michael Clayton," and in TV's "The Wire") returns as Ebenezer Scrooge for all public performances of Hartford Stage's "A Christmas Carol: A Ghost Story of Christmas." Raymond will have played the role in 16 of the 18 annual editions. The show begins previews Nov. 27, opens Dec. 4 and plays through Dec. 27

Buzz Roddy (TV's "Law & Order," "30 Rock") returns to portray Scrooge during the student matinee performances.

Adapted and originally directed by Michael Wilson, the production is directed by former Hartford Stage associate artistic director Maxwell Williams ("The 39 Steps," "Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike," "Reverberation").

The cast also includes Kristen Adele, Robert Hannon Davis, Johanna Morrison, Michael Preston, Alan Rust, Noble Shropshire, Terrell Donnell Sledge, Charlie Tirrell and Gillian Williams.

Student actors from The Hartt School at the University of Hartford include Greg Benedict, Michael Buckhout, Morgan Dean, Andrew Lemieux, Riley Lassin, Krystin Lilly, Stephen Mir, Ella Mora, Asha Potter, Jordan Simpson, Alexander Settineri, Nicole Vazquez and Mac Westcott.

Norah Girard, 5, from Longmeadow, Mass., and Max McGowan, 7, from West Hartford, will play Tiny Tim in alternating performances.

Additional youth actors cast (in alternating performances) include Tiana Bailey, 11, of Bloomfield; Ella Bernarduci, 12, of Avon; Atticus Burrello, 11, of Ashford; Lily Bucko, 13, of Haddam; Charlize Calcagno, 5, of Burlington; Luciana Calcagno, 7, of Burlington; Celine Cardona, 9, of Meriden; Sophia Friedman, 11, of West Hartford; Lily Girard, 10, of Longmeadow, Mass.; Nicholas Glowacki, 9, of West Hartford; Tyra Harris, 9, of Bristol.

Also: Emma Kindl, 10, of Marlborough; Audrey Linquist, 6, of Canton; Aidan and Dermot McMillan, 12, of Middletown; Addison Pancoast, 6, of Rocky Hill; Ethan Pancoast, 10, of Rocky Hill; Ankit Roy, 10, of Ellington; Jane Shearin, 13, of Newtown; Fred Thornley IV, 10, of Colchester; Sophia Rose Tomko, 12, of Somers; Jack Wenz, 12, of West Hartford; Sammy Wetstein, 12, of Simsbury; Julia Weston, 9, of Hartford; and Tilden Wilder, 9, of Simsbury.

A Connecticut Signature

Off-Broadway's Signature Theatre will be featuring several shows with Connecticut connections.

Currently on stage is "Incident at Vichy" by longtime Connecticut resident Arthur Miller and directed by Michael Wilson, the former artistic director of Hartford Stage. The production has been extended twice, now playing through Dec. 20 at the Irene Diamond Stage at The Pershing Square Signature Center on 42nd Street, New York City.

"Angel Reapers" by Martha Clarke and Alfred Uhry and directed and choreographed by Clarke — which premiered several seasons back at the Jorgensen Theatre on the UConn campus in Storrs — begins performances Feb. 2.

And performances begin April 26 for the premiere of "Daphne's Dive," by Quiara Alegría Hudes, whose Pulitzer Prize-winning "Water by the Spoonful" was commissioned, developed and premiered at Hartford Stage. The show is directed by Wesleyan University grad Thomas Kail, who also staged the hit "Hamilton," now on Broadway.

"Love & Money" by Connecticut resident A.R. Gurney, which began performances at Westport Country Playhouse in August, played the Signature in September. The show was staged by Mark Lamos, artistic director of the playhouse.

Short Takes

>>Kids, get out those laptops. Hartford Stage is accepting scripts for its annual Young Playwrights for Change Competition for Connecticut middle school students. This year's theme is: "What do you want to change about the world?" The top three plays will have a staged reading at Hartford Stage's Youth Studio. The theater will also offer free writing workshops to help interested participants develop their ideas into 10-minute plays. The workshops will be held at various schools in Connecticut, and middle school students are welcome to attend workshops near them. The deadline is Jan. 1 for play submissions. The winning play will be submitted to represent the state in the national Young Playwrights for Change competition hosted by Theatre for Young Audiences (TYA/USA) and American Alliance for Theatre and Education (AATE). Information: hartfordstage.org/young-playwrights-change. For additional information on the contest or writing workshops, contact Krista DeVellis, resident teaching artist, at 860-520-7264 or kdevellis@hartfordstage.org.

>>Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, female rights advocate and accomplished business leader Sheryl WuDunn will receive the sixth annual Visionary Leadership Award from New Haven's International Festival of Arts & Ideas. The award will be presented at a luncheon Jan. 26 at noon at New Haven's Omni Hotel. In conjunction with her honor from the festival, WuDunn also will be awarded the Poynter Fellowship in Journalism from Yale University.

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