Stage Notes Connecticut Theater News & Reviews

A Temporary Derailment At Hartford Stage; Yale Rep Casts 'Father Comes Home'

Hartford Stage had to cancel its Feb. 17 performance of “Murder on the Orient Express” due to an undisclosed “technical issue” involving the show’s complex train-car setting. It was to be the third preview performance of the show, which runs through March 18.

“Murder on the Orient Express” has the same set designer, and much of the same cast, as it had when the show premiered last year at the McCarter Theatre in New Jersey.

If you had to miss the Saturday train, Hartford Stage will find you seats at another performance. Details at 860-527-5151,

Birbiglia’s Back

Mike Birbiglia, who’s made Connecticut a real part of the development of his one-man comedy/theater shows in recent years, is returning to the state for a performance at 8 p.m. May 5 at College Street Music Hall in New Haven. His thematic live shows typically are recorded as comedy album and broadcast as TV comedy specials.

The new show is currently being billed as “The New One.” In honor of it Birbiglia is airing a five-episode podcast called “The Old Ones” where he discusses his previous shows, among them “Sleepwalk With Me” and “Thank God for Jokes.” Guests on the podcast so far have included Judd Apatow, Pete Holmes and John Mulaney, along with members of Birbiglia’s family. (HIs brother Joe, apparently, mans the merchandise table at some shows and gets mistaken for Mike.)

This is the third time Mike Birbiglia has brought “The New One” to Connecticut. He did earlier versions of the piece at the Funny Bone in Manchester over a year ago and at Foxwoods Resort Casino in November. Tickets for the College Street show go on sale Feb. 23. Details at 03-867-2000,

The Scorecard

Yale Repertory Theatre’s production of Suzan-Lori Parks’ war epic “Father Comes from the Wars Parts 1, 2 & 3,” which runs March 16 through April 7, is notable because it reunites Parks with director Liz Diamond, who directed several premieres of Parks’ works back in the ‘80s and ‘90s.

The show is a co-production with American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco. The cool cast, just announced, lets ACT, the Rep and the Yale School of Drama all represent. Part One features Chivas Michael (from the Rep’s “Caucasian Chalk Circle” and “A Doctor in Spite of Himself”) as Leader; Rotimi Agbabiaka (who has a lot of California regional theater credits) as Second; Safiya Federicks (who has regional credits on both coasts) as Third; YSD student Erron Crawford as Fourth; celebrated actor/director/teacher and ACT veteran Steven Anthony Jones as The Oldest Old Man; YSD student James Udom as Hero; Eboni Flowers (“Too Heavy for Your Pocket” in New York and Alabama) as Penny; and recent YSD grad Julian Elijah Martinez as Homer.

Part 2 stars ACT regular Dan Hiatt as The Colonel; Tom Pecinka (“A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and “Cloud 9” at Hartford Stage, “Arcadia” at Yale Rep) as Smith; and Udom again as Hero.

The actors who play the Leader and the numbered characters in Part One all play Runaway Slaves in Part Three, with Gregory Wallace (who teaches acting at YSD but has logged decades as a company actor at ACT) as Odyssey Dog; Udom’s Homer is now known as Ulysses; and we also see the returns of Martinez as Homer and Flowers as Penny.

San Francisco-based singer and songwriter Martin Luther McCoy performs as The Musician. Besides Diamond as director, the creative team includes choreographer Randy Duncan, scenic designer Riccardo Hernandez (“Much Ado About Nothing” at Hartford Stage, “Assassins” and numerous others at Yale Rep) and two YSD students: costume designer Sarah Nietfeld and sound designer Frederick Kennedy. Details at 203-432-1234,

Where Are They Now?

Caroline O’Connor will star in a London revival of the Kander/Ebb musical “The Rink” May 25 through June 23. Since 2014, O’Connor has been associated with the musical “Anastasia,” from its premiere at Hartford Stage to its current Broadway run. She plays the Countess.

American Theatre Wing bestowed 2018 Jonathan Larson Grants on several musical theater creators who developed works at the now-defunct Yale Insititute for Music Theatre: Andrew R. Butler and Andrew Farmer (“Blessing”) and Mark Sonnenblick (“Ship Show”). The grants are to composers, lyricists and librettists just beginning their professional careers.

Terrence Mann, who runs the Nutmeg Summer Series at Connecticut Repertory Theatre, takes on the title role in “Jerry Springer — The Opera,” a cult hit throughout Europe for the past 15 years that is only just getting a New York production. Presented by The New Group, it’s running through March 11 at the Pershing Square Signature Center on 42nd Street.

Theater Reads

Fiction: The folks at R.J. Julia Booksellers in Madison turned me on to a fine Young Adult novel, “Ready to Fall” (Farrar, Strauss & Giroux, 2017) by Marcella Pixley, about a depressed kid named Max. He’s recovering from a family crisis, so he’s sent to a private school where they’re staging a steampunk variation on “Hamlet.” He makes a fast friend when they scream “To be or not to be” in an empty theater. The theater stuff doesn’t really kick in until halfway through the book, but when it does it hits hard.

Non-fiction: “The Untold Story of Smoketown — The Other Great Black Renaissance” by Mark Whitaker (Simon & Schuster, 2018) is a history of African-American culture in Pittsburgh. It begins with an appreciation of “the best-written, widest selling and most influential black newspaper in America: The Pittsburgh Courier,” and ends with a solid chapter on playwright August Wilson, whose Century Cycle brought the people and rhythms of Pittsburgh to theatergoers around the world (with a boost from Connecticut’s Yale Repertory Theatre and Eugene O’Neill Theater Center.) It’s one of the most richly detailed shortform accounts of Wilson’s career that I’ve read.

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