Kathleen Chalfant is returning to Yale Repertory Theatre in the premiere of Amy Herzog's family drama "Mary Jane."
Chalfant appeared at the Rep in "A Delicate Balance," "All's Well That Ends Well" and the premiere of Sarah Ruhl's "Passion Play." She was in the Long Wharf Theatre production of "Wit" that transferred to New York. Her Hartford Stage appearances have included "The Paper Gramophone" and "Ghosts."
The title role in "Mary Jane"— a mother who must balance her life around the constant care she provides to her chronically ill child — will be played by Emily Donahoe (from Lucas Hnath's "The Christians" off-Broadway). Also in the cast: Miriam Silverman (from "The Moors" at Yale Rep last year), Shona Tucker (from "Eclipsed" at Yale Rep) and Vella Lovell. "Mary Jane" is directed by the legendary Anne Kauffman, who helmed the premiere of Herzog's "Belleville" at Yale Rep in 2011. Details at 203-432-1234, yalerep.org.
Mad Libs & Shakespeare
It only took 60 years — or 420, depending how you count — but Mad Libs, the self-proclaimed "world's greatest word game,' has finally gotten around to doing a special Shakespeare-themed edition. "Much Ado About Mad Libs" is in bookstores (and backseats of station wagons) now. A sample: "All's the world's a/an [noun], And all the men and women merely [occupation, plural]." There are radical reinterpretations afoot: "My [person in room, female]'s eyes are nothing like the sun." The recipe for the witches' brew in "Macbeth" is totally altered, beyond the point of reliable prophecy.
I'm gonna use only fancy 17th-century British words in my copy, so it'll look like Francis Bacon wrote it.
From "Anastasia" and "Assassins" to "Adagio and Fugue in C Minor." That's pianist Gary Chapman. He played in the orchestras for "Anastasia" at Hartford Stage last year and "Assassins" at Yale Rep this month. You can hear him play Mozart with Orchestra New England 7:30 p.m. April 22 at the Unitarian Society of New Haven. Details at orchestranewengland.org.
Make Me A Makeover
What's the current cocktail at Hartford Stage? There's always a special drink in the lobby, inspired by what's playing on the stage.
The concoction for "The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey" is called "The Makeover," because the show's 14-year-old title character likes to help out in a beauty parlor and is forthright about telling middle-aged New Jersey women what styles and fashions they need. The drink contains Dr Pepper (shorthand for individuality) and Maker's Mark, which sounds a bit like "makeover."
"The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey" is at Hartford Stage through April 23. Details at hartfordstage.org.
The second extension of the run of "Next to Normal" — now playing at TheaterWorks through May 14 — means that it will tie "Relativity," the twice-extended hit from earlier this same season, for total number of performances. That magic number is 51. According to Freddie McInerney, TheaterWorks' director of marketing and communications, "'Next to Normal' will without a doubt be at least our No. 2 all-time best performer."
Attendance for "Relativity" was 8,779. At this point, "Next to Normal" will outsell 2014's "Woody Sez" (7,092 attendances over 44 performances), 2010's "High" (7,081 attendances, 48 performances) and 2013's "Becoming Dr. Ruth" (6,381 attendances, 44 performances).
Rob Ruggiero, the director of "Next to Normal" and the producing artistic director of TheaterWorks, says "We had high hopes for this production but demand has outpaced our expectations. I couldn't be more thrilled. I thought about doing this play for a long time but honestly it was a daunting project for an organization our size. It's clear from the community's response that this was a very good choice for TheaterWorks and Hartford."
It Was A Very Good Year
Hope you have pleasant memories of the 2013-14 theater season, because it's coming back big-time. Several of the key names in the 2017 International Festival of Arts & Ideas lineup — saxophonist Jimmy Greene, composer Martin Bresnick, pipa player Wu Man and musical theater creators Aaron Jafferis and Byron Au Yong — were all part of the 2013 fest as well. This year's festival runs June 3 to 24 in New Haven.
In 2013, Goodspeed Musicals presented Stephen Schwartz's "Snapshots." This year they're doing a new version of "Rags," for which Schwartz wrote the lyrics.
Hartford Stage has announced that an Athol Fugard play, "Statements After an Arrest Under the Immorality Act," will end its 2017-18 season. The last major production of a Fugard play in the state was "The Shadow of the Hummingbird" at Long Wharf in the spring of 2014. Long Wharf also did an Amy Herzog play, "4000 Miles," that season; Yale Rep is holding the premiere of Herzog's "Mary Jane" this month. In 2013, Ivoryton Playhouse had a new play by "The Simpsons" TV writer Mike Reiss; this summer they have another one, "I Hate Musicals — The Musical."
And so on. Four years ago seems like tomorrow. Who says '13 is unlucky?
Upcoming At Downtown Cabaret
Bridgeport's Downtown Cabaret Theatre's 2017-18 season will include "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" Sept. 22 through Oct. 15, "Phantom" (the Arthur Kopit/Maury Yeston musical, not the Andrew Lloyd Webber one) Nov. 17 through Dec. 10, Lorraine Hansberry's "A Raisin in the Sun" Feb. 2-18, "Priscilla, Queen of the Desert" April 27 through May 20, 2018 … and, in the March 16 through April 8 slot, this curiously phrased and incredibly obvious item: "A rock opera by the creators of 'Evita' and 'Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.'" For legal reasons, the company can't come out directly and say the title yet, but suffice to say that the co-creators of 'Evita" and 'Joseph…' only did one other show together, and it involves a certain superstar savior.
The last time DCT did "Phantom," in 1999, the theater was still an Equity company casting out of New York; Christine was played by the then-unknown, now-renowned Kelli O'Hara. For several seasons now the Downtown Cabaret musicals have been staged by the Bridgeport Theatre Company. Details of the 2017-18 season are at dtcab.com.
Nottage In Connecticut
Lynn Nottage has won the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for Drama for her play "Sweat." Nottage's work is well-known in Connecticut, particularly her African-American, early 20th-century city-life drama "Intimate Apparel." That play was seen at Connecticut Repertory Theatre in 2012, at Westport Country Playhouse in 2015 and will be part of the 2017-18 season at West Hartford's Playhouse on Park.
Nottage is a graduate of the Yale School of Drama. This is her second Pulitzer Prize; she won in 2009 for "Ruined," which was developed at the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford.
One of the two finalists for the Pulitzer drama prize this year was "A 24-Decade History of Popular Music" by Taylor Mac. One decade of that 24-hour piece, "The '90s," world-premiered at the International Festival of Arts & Ideas in 2015. Mac will be part of a talk (also featuring Bassem Youssef) at this year's Arts & Ideas festival, 3 p.m. June 24 at the Yale Art Gallery.