The reading of Edwin Sanchez's "The Merit System" Oct. 20 at the Mark Twain House and Museum in Hartford was both a good cause and a good script. The play, published in 2016, is a sort of modern-day "Pygmalion" with an assimilation twist.
The friendly, community-driven reading was a benefit for Puerto Rican hurricane relief. Sanchez and his husband drove from their upstate New York home to attend the event, which had been set up with the help of Hartford playwright Jacques Lamarre and members of Hartbeat Ensemble.
"The Merit System" reading starred Roberto Sanchez (no relation to the playwright) and a sparkly Carina Alencar, with ample comic relief from Cynthia Martinez. The reading raised around $1,000 for United4PuertoRico.
Another Connecticut arts venue has announced a benefit for Puerto Rican relief. Comic hypnotist Jim Spinnato will donate half of the proceeds from his Nov. 3 show at Mohegan Sun Casino's Comix Comedy club to Save the Children's Hurricane Maria Fund.
'Gentleman's Guide' Glided Home
It still kills. "A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder" returned to Connecticut Oct. 20 and 21 for three performances at the Palace in Waterbury. This was the show's second national tour, the first having come to The Bushnell last season. The murderous music-hall-styled musical comedy's premiere was, of course, at Hartford Stage in 2012.
The director of this new non-Equity tour is the show's original choreographer Peggy Hickey. She has hewed closely to Darko Tresnjak's original staging, on sets that appear to be the same as in the previous tour. James Taylor Odom acquits himself admirably as most of the doomed D'Ysquith clan; he's got just the right chipmunk cheeks and wide smile for the roles. Blake Price had the right mix of scruffy and social-climbing. The whole show was very tightly blocked and maintained the velvety feel of the original.
The "Gentleman's Guide" tour is working its way through New York state and New Jersey and won't be back in New England (Orono, Maine, to be precise) until April 2018. It won't be long now until the performance rights trickle down to small theater companies, which will take this show in new directions. It was lovely to see it in its old form one more time at such lush digs as the Waterbury Palace.
The O'Neill Needs Your Musical
The Eugene O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford is accepting submissions for its 2018 National Music Theater Conference, now through Nov. 10. This is the 41st NMTC and the first under its new artistic director, Alexander Gemignani.
Among the details: "No agent is required. We encourage women and artists of color to submit. Both electronic and hard copy applications are accepted."
Full guidelines and applications are at theoneill.org.
Where Are They Now?
Constantine Maroulis (the villain in "The Most Beautiful Room in New York" at Long Wharf last season) just played Che in "Evita" at North Shore Music Circus in Massachusetts and will soon be in the off-Broadway musical "Bulldozer."
Christiane Noll (TheaterWorks' "Next to Normal," Goodspeed's "The Baker's Wife" and "Mack and Mabel" is part of a "developmental lab" in New York for the new musical "October Sky," based on the 1999 Jake Gyllenhaal movie.
Tina Landau (the Yale grad and renowned director, who recently helmed "Deathless" at Goodspeed) co-conceived and is directing the eagerly awaited "SpongeBob SquarePants, The Musical," which begins previews Nov. 6 at the Palace Theatre in New York City. The pop-song-based show has been doing pop-up events around New York City.
Michael Wilson, former Hartford Stage artistic director, will direct a benefit performance of Stan Zimmermann's "Right Before I Go," raising funds and awareness for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and the JED Foundation. The performance is at New York City's Town Hall theater Nov. 2.
Two directors who've been active at the Yale Rep — Rebecca Taichman ("Indecent," "Marie Antoinette") and Anne Kauffman ("Mary Jane," "Belleville") — have been made "resident directors" at New York's Roundabout Theatre Company.
The Edgerton Edge
Hartford Stage and Long Wharf Theatre both have premieres on their stages this month, and both were supported by Edgerton New Play Awards.
So what are those? The awards have been around for more than a decade, funded by the Edgerton Foundation and bestowed by the national organization Theatre Communications Group. The prizes specifically support longer rehearsal periods needed to develop new plays.
"Fireflies" at Long Wharf and "Seder" at Hartford Stage received their awards this year. Last year, several Connecticut shows benefited from Edgerton Awards, including "Napoli, Brooklyn" at Long Wharf and three plays at Yale Rep: "Imogen Says Nothing," "Mary Jane" and "Scenes from Court Life."
Westport Reads And Woody Sez
Now read this: The two plays to be recited this fall in Westport Country Playhouse's Script in Hand playreading series are Robert Anderson's 1960s comedy anthology "You Know I Can't Hear You When the Water's Running" on Nov. 13; and Stephen Dietz's "Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure" Dec. 11. Each reading is done just once, on a Monday at 7 p.m. Fun choices, and in the best Script in Hand tradition of finding once-popular, well-liked scripts that just aren't getting done these days. (Ken Ludwig's been hogging the Sherlock Holmes shows these days, with "Baskerville" and "The Game's Afoot.")
The cast for the "You Know I Can't Hear You When the Water's Running" reading — Boyd Gaines, David Beach, Kristen Hahn, Michael McCormick and Kathleen McNenny — all have at least one Westport Playhouse credit and several Broadway ones, mostly in comedies. Gaines starred in notable 1990s Broadway revivals of "She Loves Me" and "Company" and McNenny was in Westport's "Beyond Therapy."
In other Westport Playhouse news, the theater will present "Woody Sez," starring David Lutken, Jan. 9 to 20. Lutken starred in the Woody Guthrie biomusical when it was at TheaterWorks in 2014. It was recently announced that Lutken will star in "The Will Rogers Follies — A Life in Revue" at the Goodspeed Opera House next year. The rest of the "Woody Sez" cast in Westport will be David Finch, Katie Barton, and Leenya Rideout. Details at westportplayhouse.org.