Margaret Mann

Prime Time

Review of Marjorie Prime, New Haven Theater Company

“We have all the time in the world” is a phrase used by “primes,” synthetic humanoid entities that act as companions and consolations to humans in the, perhaps, not so distant future of Jordan Harrison’s Marjorie Prime, playing through Saturday at New Haven Theater Company. In the play, the first prime we meet is a replica of Marjorie’s husband, Walter (Ryan Hendrickson). Marjorie (Margaret Mann) is in her ‘80s and her husband died some time ago, but his replica has a thirtyish appearance that makes him look younger than Tess (Susan Kulp), Marjorie’s only living child, a middle-aged woman married to Jon (Marty Tucker).

The disparate ages might make for the stuff of futuristic comedy, but that’s not what Harrison is going for. Though there is amusement here, it tends to come from a certain deadpan humor in the face of unpleasant truths. Marjorie is losing her memory and most of her interest in life, and she may be sliding toward dementia. Walter is an aid in trying to keep her focused on events in her life, to maintain the fragile sense of identity that memory gives us. In the care facility where Marjorie resides, conversation with Walter is encouraged. Primes store what they are told and can converse about a past they never lived, based solely on memories imported or inputted from others.

Tess finds it all off-putting. Not only that she’s faced with a father-replica younger than herself, but, worse, that Marjorie may be trusting and confiding in Walter Prime more than her own flesh-and-blood family. Much of the play has to do with the effort to find common ground in lived experience; the way, for instance, that Marjorie, when younger and more herself, disapproved of Jon as a husband for Tess, though now she has warmed to him; or the way the family dog and its replacement—Tony and Tony 2—are remembered; or the way that Tess still feels embattled by her view of her mother, even if that woman is no longer fully present.

MP-GW-marjorie-code-no-tag_edited.jpg

As the play goes on, there will be additional primes, each a bit more surprising than the last. And there’s a traumatic story about Damien, the son Marjorie and Walter lost, that comes up early and returns late in the play. The way little bits of information circulate is key to the effect here, letting us reflect on how we store up facts about others in our lives, and how we trot out stories of favors and slights we received as though they add up to a life. They don’t, and Tess is finding herself up against it: wondering if any of it matters, and what purpose sociability and chatter serve other than as distractions.

Watching her mother’s decline unmoors Tess more and more, and Susan Kulp plays her with grim and pinched features and an irritation that moves toward despair. Her transformation to a selfless serenity, late in the play, without benefit of makeup or costume change, is striking. Margaret Mann gives Marjorie a feisty charm that sets the tone we come to expect from the play, which is why the second act is so unsettling. We see how far a cry a prime is from the being it tries to replicate. In the third act, we might almost begin to believe in primes as substitutes for the troublesome humans we have lost. A factor that comments on the way we tend to sanitize our memories of the deceased.

Jon, played by Marty Tucker with a staunch affability that crumbles effectively in a story of a fateful visit to Madagascar, at one point says that, if he died before her, he would want Tess to find someone new. The possibility of new people never quite intrudes into this somewhat claustrophobic play where characters seem to want only what they’ve already known. Through interaction with humans, the primes strive to become more imbued with their assigned identity. Humans, on the other hand, can only look forward to loss of identity and death. Meant to be consolations and company, primes in Marjorie Prime come to seem an affable memento mori.

As Walter, Ryan Hendrickson has perhaps the toughest role. As the only character we see only as a prime, Hendrickson’s Ryan comes to seem the most “natural,” a way of being unfinished and full of potential that, while true of humans as well, makes the primes seem eternally hopeful beings. In the last scene, aided by significant lighting effects, we might feel that all we are, or were, is fated to end up in an animatronic display case for all time. Is that better or worse than a portrait gallery? Jordan Harrison’s Marjorie Prime lets you make up your own mind about that, and Trevor Williams’ tight production at New Haven Theater Company doesn’t tip its hand, one way or another.

The primes have all the time in the world, to learn facts and to deepen their responses. Our time to determine who we are and achieve it is much more limited, and there’s no way to be sure what will survive, nor even what constitutes who we were in the minds of others. One thing’s for sure: living on as a memory in a mortal being is no way to achieve immortality. The primes may be just what we need as eternal witnesses of trivial existence, as if all our photos of pets and meals and travels and events could exist forever in a searchable database tagged with our individual DNA. Well, why not?

 

Marjorie Prime
By Jordan Harrison
Directed by Trevor Williams

Cast: Ryan Hendrickson, Susan Kulp, Margaret Mann, Marty Tucker

Stage Manager/Board Op: Stacy Lupo

New Haven Theater Company
February 28-March 2 & March 7-9, 2019

Prime Mover: New Haven Theater Company opens Marjorie Prime

Preview of Marjorie Prime, New Haven Theater Company

New Haven Theater Company returns this week with Jordan Harrison’s thought-provoking play Marjorie Prime. Set in an indeterminate point in the future, the play engages with the ways, in the 21st century, technology has become an increasingly intimate part of our lives. The play premiered in Los Angeles in 2014, won the Horton Foote Prize for Outstanding New American Play in 2016 and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.

MP-GW-marjorie-code-no-tag_edited.jpg

Marjorie, played by NHTC member Margaret Mann, is a widow in her 80s, plagued with failing health and lapses of memory. Her daughter Tess, played by NHTC member Susan Kulp, and son-in-law Jon, played by guest actor Marty Tucker, have enlisted a “prime,” a synthetic humanoid entity, to be Marjorie’s companion. The prime (played by guest actor Ryan Hendrickson) wears the appearance of Marjorie’s deceased husband Walter as he was in his thirties. He serves to focus Marjorie’s memory and help with her grief, though Tess fears an over-reliance on a relationship that isn’t real.

Marjorie Prime runs at the NHTC stage in the English Markets Building, February 28-March 2, and March 7-9, at 8 p.m.

For director Trevor Williams, the play is “very human and sometimes chillingly inhuman.” Williams confesses to be “drawn to nonhuman roles” and that may be the reason directing the play for NHTC fell to him. He was the brains behind “the baby console” in the company’s production of Smudge, and he played the showboating chimp Oscar in NHTC’s production of Trevor. The possibilities of putting onstage characters who aren’t quite people intrigues him. As does Marjorie Prime and the previous NHTC offering, fall 2018’s Love Song, both of those plays featured a sense of a domestic normality made darker and somewhat alarming by the ways the people in the plays cope with what Williams called “some kind of lack: a child, a spouse, memory, sanity.” In each case some potentially workable but also potentially dysfunctional solution is found and made dramatically interesting.

The primes in the play, Williams says, serve “as companionship and as consolations: they interact with their employers and store up memories.” Tell a prime a story from your childhood or from—as in Marjorie’s case—about some events from your marriage and the prime will accept the story as gospel, recalling forever those exact details.

Much of the play revolves around how humans interact with this new class of beings. The misgivings about having one’s life stored in synthetic memory banks—as with our online lives—certainly plays into Harrison’s concerns. That’s the chillingly inhuman aspect that Williams spoke of. But there’s also much attention to how the tales we tell form our identities for ourselves and others. What survives us in the minds of others? What happens when we forget our loved ones, or when contrary recollections are in conflict? At one point Tess, exasperated with Jon, says she might need a “reprogrammable spouse.” That’s the very human side of the story, where the frustrations of mortality and the shelf-life of our memories undermine even our most enduring relationships. There’s also the question of manufactured memories—versions of an event that we pretend to have to avoid recalling the truth.

For Williams, the play “shows us what happens when we choose what facts to record, in our digital lives or in the stories we tell each other. Now, when truth and what it means to be human are all becoming so mutable, for better or worse, this story compels us to reflect on the choices we’ve made and, perhaps, those we’ve yet to make.”

The play, in three acts with an epilogue, runs for approximately 80 minutes and has been given a thrust space unusual for NHTC productions, increasing the sense of intimacy in the company’s black box, which has recently been expanded to include a backstage area.

Marjorie Prime is bound to affect viewers differently depending where they are in their own lifetimes. For some of the cast, the story is almost dystopian, showing us a less-human future that undermines ideas of each individual’s irreplaceable uniqueness. Others stuck up for the optimism of the play, its sense that maintaining human memory through art, through recordings, through artificial intelligence is a positive aspect of the human instinct for survival, making the future more human, whatever we take that to mean.

Tickets can be purchased at the New Haven Theater Company site, here.

52038549_10157350182797642_2260859046468780032_o.jpg

New Haven Theater Company includes Erich Greene, George Kulp, Susan Kulp, Margaret Mann, Deena Nicol-Blifford, Suzanne Powers, Steve Scarpa, Christian Shaboo, J. Kevin Smith, John Watson, and Trevor Williams

 

Marjorie Prime
By Jordan Harrison
Directed by Trevor Williams
February 28-March 2, March 7-9, 2019

 

The Greatest Thing You'll Ever Learn

Review of Love Song, New Haven Theater Company

The bond between siblings gets an interesting and amusing rendering in John Kolvenbach’s Love Song, in a production by New Haven Theater Company, co-directed by Margaret Mann and John Watson. Beane (Christian Shaboo) seems bipolar, leading a lonely existence in a shabby room. His successful sister, Joan (Susan Kulp), likes sounding off to her husband Harry (George Kulp) about “nincompoops” and incompetent interns at the office, while swilling large wine pours. Harry has a detached complacency, playing devil’s advocate against his wife’s peremptory judgments because “that’s what conversation is.” Beane suddenly appears in their elegant living room and agrees to subject himself to some kind of psychological evaluation Harry pulled, Joan claims, from Cosmo or the like. Soon, the way Beane’s mind works becomes a source of considerable amusement for the audience and a matter of some consternation between the fractious couple.

Beane’s encounter with Molly (Jo Kulp) turns his world upside down. His manic side becomes very much evident as he nearly hyperventilates over a turkey sandwich while at lunch with Joan and engages his waiter (a bemused Erich Greene) with varied queries. The highpoint—a peak for both the play and Beane—arrives when Beane sings the praises of sex and Molly, inspiring a bout of amorous cooing between Joan and Harry. Shaboo—who once played a would-be cult leader in Drew Grey’s The Cult at NHTC—capably takes the energy up a notch and becomes almost rapturous. It’s here that Love Song lives up to its title, with Kolvenbach creating a truly lyrical language for Beane’s flight.

Molly (Jo Kulp) and Beane (Christian Shaboo) in New Haven Theater Company’s production of Love Song

Molly (Jo Kulp) and Beane (Christian Shaboo) in New Haven Theater Company’s production of Love Song

We expect a crash and, sure enough, it comes, but not before we get a wonderful scene of middle-aged lovers rediscovering the spark through playing hooky, role-playing, and becoming enamored with being in love. The Kulps do a fine job of transforming Joan from a workaholic to a borderline alcoholic to a sex kitten, while Harry shows off his knack for fun while also retaining his essential Harryness. It’s a centerpiece matched by a scene between Molly and Beane that takes off in a somewhat different direction, a shared fantasy of meeting naked in the pond in a park, that—perhaps—tries a bit too hard to become poetic but which Shaboo and Kulp orchestrate with spellbinding rhythms.

A late scene between Beane and Joan lets us see what’s been at stake all along. Describing the scene would no doubt make it sound creepier than it is, but Joan’s monologue to Beane takes stock of the arc we’ve traveled. Joan and Beane—neither of whom might be fully wound—share a kind of symbiotic relation that works because Joan keeps Beane in reality just enough, while Beane helps Joan feel the thrill of what lies beyond the safe boundaries. As Molly said earlier, in a toast with Beane, “here’s to the end of literalisms.” A cup, in other words, isn’t just a cup.

Kolvenbach wants to imagine a world where love and passion can illuminate mundane lives with the feeling of flight and freedom. The catalyst might be a glimpse of someone different, or it may involve a sustained fantasy of the ideal soul mate who knows what you could never say. As Molly, Jo Kulp provides much of the spirit here; she’s as demanding in her way as Joan, but also full of an outsider’s sense of purpose, even at times dangerous. Her contempt for the sentimental closets where most people have squirreled away their keepsakes of identity and for the pretensions of minimalists are darkly pointed. When her vision infuses itself into Beane’s naïve outlook it remakes the world for him, and that in turn stretches his sister’s—and perhaps the viewer’s—sense of possibility.

With its set divided between Joan’s and Harry’s comfortable living room and Beane’s derelict room, Love Story even looks bipolar. The soundtrack of musical selections is apt and enjoyable, and the light/sound cue that creates a significant oppression in Beane’s room is handled quite effectively. All in all, there’s a lot to love about Love Song, not least the company’s way with the lyricism and bite of Kolvenbach’s script, the Kulp family’s engaging spirit, and Shaboo’s haunted disconnect from the normality we prize even as it kills us slowly with boredom.

 

Love Song
By John Kolvenbach
Directed by Margaret Mann and John Watson

Cast: Erich Greene, George Kulp, Jo Kulp, Susan Kulp, Christian Shaboo

New Haven Theater Company
November 8-10 & 15-17, 2018

New Haven Theater Company Plays a Love Song

Preview of Love Song, New Haven Theater Company

When it comes to selecting plays, the New Haven Theater Company goes for whatever the entire company approves. The troupe is entirely democratic in its selections, though sometimes a work selected takes a while to get a production. If a play is likely to be done by a bigger theater anywhere in the vicinity, it’s unlikely that the small production capacities at NHTC will get the rights. That’s the case with Love Song, by John Kolvenbach, the first show of their 2018-19 season and the 17th production that the venerable New Haven company has staged at their performance space on Chapel Street. The run begins this Thursday and continues through two weekends.

According to the directors of the show, Margaret Mann and John Watson, the process of choosing a play begins when someone in the company pitches a choice they are willing to direct. And much of the talk at that point, Watson said, is about “our audience, fairly sophisticated people who see a lot of theater and who may also know some of the players.” One feature of that familiarity is that audience members may have ideas for the company. In fact, Love Song was first suggested by a friend of former company member Megan Chenot. Getting the rights caused a delay and now that the time has come, the show goes forward without Megan and her husband Peter, both longtime members of NHTC who have gone west, to the San Francisco area. Never fear, the show, which always seemed a good match for the company, has found suitable casting.

LoveSongGraphics3-1200wcropped.jpg

The Chenots weren’t the only couple in the company. The married couple in the production—Harry and Joan—will be played by the Kulps, George and Susan. And Molly, the love interest for Beane, Joan’s brother, will be played by the Kulps’ daughter, Josey, last seen in Urinetown (2012), the only musical the company has done. Beane will be played by Christian Shaboo, who has often taken leading man or love interest roles, as in Proof (2016), Shipwrecked! (2014) and Our Town (2013). George Kulp directed NHTC’s final show of last season, Neil Simon’s farce Rumors, which featured Susan as one of the more memorable characters. George was responsible for the truly impressive set built in the company’s space at the English Markets building, and part of that set will serve as the living room of the home of Joan and Harry in Love Song.

Susan Kulp and George Kulp

Susan Kulp and George Kulp

The other section of the set is decidedly more derelict, and that’s where Beane lives. The play, which Mann and Watson call, “provocative, funny, sexy,” while eliciting “serious thoughts,” involves the relationship between the siblings and how that plays out when a new person—dubbed a “mystery woman”—comes into Beane’s life. The couple in the play are in a longtime marriage, and their dialogue, Mann said, is “a dance, brittle and amusing.” Watson stressed that the company cannot be held accountable for how playing a couple onstage affects the Kulps as a couple offstage. Both directors praised their cast, actors “with a good grasp of who they are playing” and “how to land it.”

Josey Kulp and Christian Shaboo

Josey Kulp and Christian Shaboo

Speaking of siblings, fans of NHTC will remember that Watson played a single-man looking for love while more than a bit burdened by a sister in The Last Romance, the mature love story that began the 2016-17 season. Mann played the love interest in that one, a single lady with a dog. Together, the two directed last season’s tersely funny two-hander The Dumb Waiter, by Harold Pinter, featuring Trevor Williams and Erich Greene, who returns in Love Song as (wait for it) a waiter.

For Mann and Watson, collaborating as directors seems to work well, since neither felt entirely sure which did what. Watson said that Mann takes care of the more detailed aspects of the show, “a lot of things I don’t handle,” and that she “covers the bases” while he is more reactive. Mann, however, sees Watson as the one “more plotted out beforehand,” while she “likes to see things up and moving.” What it comes down to, on Love Song at least, is that Watson brings “the vision” of knowing how he wants things to play, while Mann is attentive to what’s missing or what needs encouragement.

In any case, they both see the script, which runs through 11 scenes in a continuous 90 minutes, as “funny as hell” and “dark, but not depressing.” The main question, Watson said, is “can Beane be healed” from the effects of some earlier damage, “and how will that affect others?” As Mann said, “there is baggage all over the place” between the siblings, with Harry acting as a strong support for his brother-in-law. In the end, she said, we don’t necessarily know “what then,” and, in a certain sense, it’s “not over,” but we have grounds to be optimistic.

When asked about how they know a play will work for the company, Mann said, “the goal is something really good that we can do a good job with,” a play, Watson said “that’s not fluff, or a sitcom, something with enough to chew on.” Mann complimented Kolvenbach’s ear for dialogue which she characterized as “idiomatically idiosyncratic.” And dialogue, more than action, is what makes the plays NHTC produces work. The main criteria for a play being done by New Haven Theater Company—a troupe of 11 most of whom also direct—is that it suits their company and their audience. Both have grown and changed over the years, but NHTC has maintained a keen sense of how to keep doing what they do well.

 

Love Song
By John Kolvenbach
Directed by Margaret Mann and John Watson

 

New Haven Theater Company
Thursday, Friday, Saturday, November 8-17, 2018

For tickets and more info, go here




Mature Attraction

Review of The Last Romance, New Haven Theater Company

Joe DiPietro’s The Last Romance is a quiet little drama about taking a chance, late in life. Its best feature is attention to the kind of small distinctions that can make a big difference in how people learn to accept and trust one another.

NHTC member John Watson plays Ralph Bellini, an Italian-American widower who suddenly, in his 80s, becomes sweet on a woman he sees with her pet dog in a park he ventures into by chance. Soon he’s trying his best to chat her up, using all his resources of gentle joshing and kidding, turning on the charm. The object of his interest, Carol Reynolds, played by NHTC member Margaret Mann, is not so warm or inclined to be charmed. She’s a bit prickly, a bit distracted. But she’s not indifferent to the attention.

As played by Watson, Ralph is indeed a likeable guy, the kind we would expect to have many casual friends. In fact, the only other major person in his life at this point is his sister Rose Tagliatelle, played by Janie Tamarkin, a bossy but also needy woman who never married. Ralph and Rose are the only siblings left of a large family. They’re settled in their ways and Rose can’t help wondering what’s up with her brother in taking a shine to a complete stranger.

And it’s not just doubts about the value of romance so late in life that Rose shows. There’s a subtle sense of this odd couple coming from different walks of life that she is well aware of. Mann’s Carol is WASPY and more than a bit uptight—her repeated phrase “for shame!” should give you an idea. She speaks of having cared for a husband struck down by a stroke. The main connection between her and Ralph seems to be that they are survivors. They paid their dues in marriages, and they’re still here, and that means, maybe, that something good may yet come their way.

For Ralph, dreams of romance seem to always come back to opera. He auditioned once at the Met, and director Trevor Williams handles effectively the operatic moments in the play, so that we get a strong impression of the youth and gifts that Ralph looks back on (with thanks to a cameo from Christian Shaboo). Mann’s Carol is a harder sell. It’s not clear exactly what she sees in Ralph, since she’s so slow to open up. But she does make it clear—and here changes in her wardrobe help to make the case—that she greatly appreciates being romanced again, after having pretty much given up on it.

As such there’s a nice contrast between Carol and Rose, both still hopeful—in Rose’s case, it’s hoping that the husband who left her will return—and both trying to live without illusions. Which generally means they’re quick to spot others’ unreal hopes. The question hovering in the air, as with any romance, is whether this is going to end happily ever after or whether some kind of deal-breaker will surface.

New Haven Theater Company finds in this simple and direct story a good vehicle for its actors, with Janie Tamarkin’s support adding a touch of authentic Brooklyn. In the end, DiPietro’s play seems to suggest we’re creatures of habit, but if so, it shows how some habits come from stronger ties than others. The Last Romance is a realistic romance that shows that getting what you hope for might not be for the best.

Three more shows: tonight, tomorrow and Saturday.

The Last Romance
By Joe DiPietro
Directed by Trevor Williams

Cast: Margaret Mann, Janie Tamarkin, John Watson

Additional voices and video by Christian Shaboo & Peter Chenot
Lighting Design: Peter Chenot

New Haven Theater Company
November 10-19, 2016

A Chance for Late Romance

Preview of The Last Romance, New Haven Theater Company

The New Haven Theater Company returns this week with their fall offering. The play chosen by the democratic company, Joe DiPietro’s The Last Romance, was proposed by NHTC member Margaret Mann, last seen in the NHTC production of Doubt. Like Doubt, The Last Romance is a play for a small ensemble, in this case three actors: Mann, as Carol Reynolds; NHTC member John Watson—last seen in the staged reading of Incident at Vichy a few weeks ago, and in last season’s celebrated run of Bus Stop before that—as Ralph Bellini; and Equity actor Janie Tamarkin as Rose Tagliatelle.

As Mann well knows, it’s not easy finding good parts for actors over 60. And to find a play in which all the characters are well above middle-age is even more unique. Most theater-goers in the New Haven area seem to fit that demographic, so why not a play that, as Mann says, treats the possibility of romance between elders as “the same as between much younger people.” She describes the play as “a small play about the one thing that can change everything.” Finding someone is never easy, and DiPietro’s play shows both the luck and chance involved, as well as the obstacles.

Ralph is an opera-lover who once even got a call-back to sing at the Met—the kind of thing one is liable to look back on in later life as a big, lost chance. Now a widower who takes a walk every day, Ralph happens to take his walk at a different time, in a different direction, and that small change causes him to meet Carol, a widow who likes to take her beloved chihuahua to a particular dog park. Mann sees the play as taking a serious—though at times funny—look at “the intersection of lives, later in life,” with “a little bit” of class considerations as well. The play’s setting is not really specified, Mann says, but the NHTC team are thinking of it “as happening in Wooster Square.”

Directing the show is NHTC member Trevor Williams, also seen in Vichy and Bus Stop, who hasn’t directed for NHTC before, but who, still in his thirties, is bringing a more youthful view to the play, according to Mann. Mann directed Almost, Maine for the company in November 2013 and, like that play, Last Romance takes place in “an imagined space” that represents different settings—in this case three, though mostly the dog park.

Margaret Mann, John Watson, Janie Tamarkin, The Last Romance

Margaret Mann, John Watson, Janie Tamarkin, The Last Romance

For Mann, acting is “a chance to step out of my own skin” while enjoying the pleasure of working with other actors. She admits she had “to sell” the play a bit to her colleagues in NHTC, but Watson was also intrigued with the play, and the chance to “play our age” as characters with distinct, “well-written speech patterns.” There’s “a lot of talking over” in the dialogue, and much of the play’s effect should be in its naturalness.

“The characters feel like people you’ve met,” Mann says, and, while the play touches on “aging, illness and loss,” it’s decidedly “not morbid but realistic and touching.” The humor, she says, is “not silly or nasty, but sweet.”

“It’s about trying something new, when you’re stuck,” Mann says of the interactions between the characters, and the risks and rewards of getting to know new people after a lifetime amidst familiar ways.

Any show with “last” in the title is apt to make us think about how much time we have left, but that question is even more relevant to those who have already lived most of their lives. Don’t miss out on last chances, and don’t miss out on New Haven Theater Company’s The Last Romance, showing for the next two weekends at the English Building Markets, November 10-12 and 17-19, at 8 p.m.

 

The Last Romance
by Joe DiPietro
Directed by Trevor Williams
New Haven Theater Company

Casting Doubt

Review of Doubt, New Haven Theater Company

John Patrick Shanley’s Doubt, staged by the New Haven Theater Company, directed by George Kulp, is a play about suspicion, rather than “doubt,” and from that a lot follows. The famous play, set at a Catholic school in the Bronx, concerns a priest, Father Flynn (Steve Scarpa), a school principal, Sister Aloysius (Margaret Mann), and a school teacher, Sister James (Mallory Pellegrino), and the title might invite the idea that the play is about doubting one’s vocation within the clergy, or perhaps about faith in general. But Shanley wants to probe touchier topics than that. So he concocts a play in which a priest is suspected by a tough nun of molesting a young student, a black boy we never see. My doubts aren't about the characters but rather about the play.

Since the play was written and first staged after proof of priests’ sexual misconduct and molestation of their students became a scandal and an outrage, the “automatic” assumption for its audience is that Father Flynn, with his longer-than-usual fingernails and tendency to sugar his tea (he must be decadent!), has tried to seduce Donald Muller, a boy who Sister James observed acting “strange” after a private conference with Flynn. She also smelled wine on the boy’s breath.

“Doubt,” as a theme, comes in right there. Do we agree with the unflinching, unbending, humorless and ever-vigilant Sister Aloysius who is certain Flynn is—to use the term of the time of the play’s setting (1964), though the word is never used—a deviant? Or do we doubt it? That is the situation, and, as such, would seem to be a question of evidence rather than conscience. How do we make up our minds about behavior we have not observed? How do we read a person’s character? What do we use as evidence? Can we ever overcome “reasonable doubt”?

I have to confess that much of my doubt, with regard to Shanley’s play, comes from my sense that, in 1964, a nun of Sister Aloysius’s age would not be so likely to jump to such conclusions with such a flimsy pretext. What Shanley banks on is that his audience, in a very different time, won’t find a problem with the way she puts the scant evidence together, and he goes so far as to stack the deck further by providing the boy with a mother (Aleta Staton) all-too-willing to tell a principal and nun that her boy is “that way.” He's twelve years old!

But enough about my problems with what Shanley hath wrought in his Pulitzer and Tony winning play. What about the NHTC production? Since the play is dialogue-driven, with clearly marked situations, Kulp and his actors make the most of the straight-forward nature of the characters, with no attempt to slant us one way or another. Key to that neutral approach is Father Flynn. If he looks a bit guilty, if he acts a bit “questionable,” then we can decide accordingly.

Steve Scarpa as Father Flynn

Steve Scarpa as Father Flynn

Scarpa’s Flynn seems more outraged at insubordination and a nun’s meddling with his attempt to help a minority child, than he is at the allegations. Scarpa, in other words, plays Flynn “straight,” in all meanings of the term. He comes across as what his words suggest: a man who wants priests to be friends to their flocks rather than stern wardens. Would he give a boy wine to calm him? Possibly. Would he touch a boy in a manner that might be deemed (particularly by Sister Aloysius) too intimate—if only to wipe away the pain of the beatings given the boy by his dad? Possibly. Such possibilities float before us, and Shanley wants to use the politics of a later time when same-sex acts were no longer illegal as they were in 1964 to color our perception of the past. But Flynn's best line, that certainty is just an emotion, sounds a bit sophistic when offered in self-defense.

As Sister Aloysius, Mann is particularly well cast. She has a steely gaze able to scan the distance, looking upon the crash of civilization and all that is holy if students write with ballpoints rather than fountain pens or sing “Frosty the Snowman” at Christmas pageants. We have no doubt that, regardless of Shanley’s use of a topical theme, the good Sister would be doing her utmost to bring down her lax and condescending superior, if only because he represents a disturbing trend. She knows what’s best, and that’s that.

At the heart of Doubt—and that’s what makes it good theater—is the clash of wills. Mann’s Aloysius is the kind of quite correct Catholic that gives the others a bad name—and is happy to do so. But for her “evil” assumptions, Sister Aloysius is fully of her time, and not entirely unsympathetic. In her we hear the voice of every elder we’ve ever encountered who believes standards are declining. What's more, given that she truly believes what she assumes about Father Flynn, she must act.

Sister James is also well-conceived by Shanley. She’s the sweet, pretty nun, the kind whose very existence was being revolutionized by the Broadway smash (1959) and subsequent film, The Sound of Music (1965), so that being full of feeling and enthusiasm was deemed the best way to reach children raised with television. Aloysius is against all that, of course, and Pellegrino does a good job of getting across how Sister James’ meekness wars with her ambition. She wants to be a beloved teacher, but she doesn’t want to flaunt the edicts of her superior. Pellegrino’s very busy eyes say a lot when they’re avoiding all eye contact.

Margaret Mann (Sister Aloysius), Mallory Pellegrino (Sister James)

Margaret Mann (Sister Aloysius), Mallory Pellegrino (Sister James)

Doubt gets right the tensions within the hierarchy of power that make this battle one in which viewers might be tempted to break along gender lines, as priests and nuns follow different orders and the power of the priest is considerable. A telling moment is when Flynn, asked to come to Sister Aloysius' office, sits at her desk to preside over the meeting.

The role of Mrs. Muller, in her private conference with Sister Aloysius, is given a wise “I’ve heard it all before” reading by Aleta Staton, though I find the role as written a bit hard to grasp. What mother volunteers to someone like Sister Aloysius (and can anyone have doubts about her?) that her twelve-year-old son might “want to be caught” by a man like Father Flynn? None would, if she wants to keep the boy in the school. Maybe a mother a bit more dim or desperate might help sell Shanley’s improbable scene.

In the end, as “a parable,” Doubt wants to prod viewers to make up their own minds about the situation and its resolution. It could be said that neither Father Flynn nor Sister Aloysius gets the result desired. You may be pleased with the outcome, but I doubt it.

Doubt (a parable)
By John Patrick Shanley

Directed by George Kulp

Cast: Margaret Mann; Mallory Pellegrino; Steve Scarpa; Aleta Staton; Stage Manager: Erich Greene; Board Operator: Ally Kaechele

The New Haven Theater Company, March 5-7 & 12-14, 2015

Keeping It Real

With their latest offering, Donald Margulies’ Shipwrecked! An Entertainment: The Amazing Adventure of Louis de Rougemont (As Told By Himself), New Haven Theater Company have expanded their range yet again. While they are generally best with shows driven by dialogue and even—as with their entertaining take on Urinetown a few years ago—songs, one doesn’t usually associate them with special effects, and that’s what Shipwrecked! thrives on. The adventures of Rougemont (Christian Shaboo), directed by Peter Chenot, smack of the improbable world of coincidence of the 18th century novel, and, as a narrative, follow an arc of rise and fall very neatly. The story requires quite a number of small parts, lots of movement in different settings, and threats from storms, a giant octopus, Aborigines, and Australian prospectors, to say nothing of the frigid streets of London where immense condescension and adulation comes in waves. Driving all this is Rougemont, played by Shaboo with the earnest good humor of a narrator of fiction—indeed Rougemont speaks almost incessantly, interpreting for the viewer the elements of every scene as well as sharing his emotions and intentions as the story winds on. It’s an exhausting part—both verbally and physically (handstands, cartwheels and somersaults are featured)—and Shaboo keeps it all likeably interesting. We pull for Rougemont even as we suspect he’s pulling our leg.

The show is a theatrical production that never forgets it’s a theatrical production, and that suits NHTC where the means to bring off a piece are conditioned by a certain do-it-yourself ethic. In other words, Margulies’ play seems tailored for just such a company as NHTC. While a big budget production would no doubt be more effective in stimulating the suspension of disbelief that Rougemont’s story begs, it would also, I imagine, lose some of the feel of the “let’s pretend” aspect of the staging. Rougemont’s adventures feel more authentically presented when we see the puppet strings, as it were. And that’s because Rougemont never pretends that the staging is real, only that what he tells us actually happened.

Rougemont was a real person (Henri Louis Grin), his story cobbled together from the adventure stories he loved as a boy and facts about Australasia he found in libraries, but there is a certain mystery to it all as well. For while he was unable, in real life, to convince The Royal Geographic Society, his tale entertained and enthralled many. From those who want their epic adventures based in fact, there was an inevitable backlash. Indeed, Rougemont's fall from grace actually adds a certain believability to his story, so that its inclusion, while less “amazing” brings us back to reality.

Using a small proscenium as a backdrop—primarily as a space to project Drew Grey’s charming transparencies using the old magic lantern technique that would’ve been available to Rougemont—NHTC’s production gives us Rougemont’s story with the finesse of someone who can believe anything he wants his audience to believe. Doubtless seeing stagehands running about with banners to enact an octopus, he in fact sees an octopus. That, we might say, is the whole point of the story.

Shaboo is ably helped by NHTC members and some new recruits to round out the cast. Particularly welcome among the latter are the comic skills of Jesse Gabbard, as Captain Jensen, among other things, and welcome among the former is Mallory Pellegrino who plays an Aborigine maiden—who learns English surprisingly quickly—as charmingly as she played Emily in NHTC’s Our Town. Other highlights are Margaret Mann as Queen Victoria, quite intrigued by the fact that Rougemont rode a turtle, Erich Greene as Rougemont’s faithful hound—I can only imagine how tired his tongue must be after two shows in one day—Trevor Williams as an English prig, and Katelyn Marshall, as an Australian prospector. Everyone mentioned plays many other parts as well in the full meaning of ensemble.

Margulies’ play is an oddity. We could call it a celebration of theater and of make-believe, but it also seems to want Rougemont to be a hero, whether for adventures he didn’t have or for having the temerity of telling them as if he did—or perhaps for simply embodying the very principle of fiction: just because it didn’t happen that doesn’t mean it isn’t true.

The New Haven Theater Company’s production of Shipwrecked! is a fun family outing, and good time spent away from screens and computer-generated entertainment—for the sake of entertainment generated by shared imagination. Truly.

 

New Haven Theater Company presents Shipwrecked! An Entertainment: The Amazing Adventures of Louis De Rougemont (As Told By Himself) By Donald Margulies Directed by Peter Chenot

Featuring: Christian Shaboo as Louis de Rougemont Cast: Jesse Gabbard, Drew Gray, Erich Greene, Katelyn Marshall, Margaret Mann, Mallory Pellegrino Trevor Williams; Projection Design: Drew Gray; Stage Manager: Allyson Kaechele; Light Board Op: Mary Tedford

Thurs, May 1 and Thurs, May 8: 8 pm Fri, May 2 and Fri, May 9: 8 pm Sat, May 3 and Sat, May 10: 5 pm and 8 pm New Haven Theater Company at The English Building Markets 839 Chapel Street, New Haven $20, adults; $12, students, children

Note: The 8pm show on Saturday 5/10 will be a Pay What You Can performance. Secure your admission with a $5 online reservation, and then pay what you can at the door.

For tickets and information:new haven theater company

Shipwrecked! with New Haven Theater Company

Ensconced in their home at the back of the English Markets, the New Haven Theater Company now have the rights—and the right space—for their production of New Haven resident Donald Margulies’ Shipwrecked! An Entertainment: The Amazing Adventures of Louis de Rougemont (As Told By Himself). Margulies, a Pulitzer-winning playwright and a professor at Yale, first debuted the play in 2008, and there was a Long Wharf production that same year. Among the audience of the latter was Peter Chenot, who will be directing the NHTC production, which opens two weeks from today. For Chenot, the show accentuates the idea of the power of the imagination. With all the mechanics of the theater occurring onstage—including the sound effects of Foley art—the audience is not asked to suspend their disbelief in the usual fashion. Everything that Rougemont (Christian Shaboo) tells us, in his fantastic adventures involving, among other things, an attack by a giant octopus, is portrayed for the audience not as if it’s real but as if it’s an elaborate act of storytelling, happening before our very eyes.

Chenot was drawn to the play—which NHTC was initially slated to produce last spring at the Whitney Arts Center before the rights became unavailable—by the kinds of challenges and rewards it presents. It forces the troupe “to be more creative onstage” as well as “adding improv techniques” to their rehearsals—techniques that are part of the background of Chenot’s involvement with the group, as he’s a veteran of The Funny Stages, the improv comedy group that included Shaboo and Erich Greene, also a featured player in Shipwrecked! Also in the show is Margaret Mann, who directed Almost, Maine in the winter and was in the cast of NHTC’s production of Our Town, as was Mallory Pellegrino, also in Shipwrecked! and Almost, Maine. The NHTC regulars are joined by three debuts with the company: Jesse Gabbard, Katelyn Marshall, and Trevor Williams.

NHTC’s work on Our Town is an appropriate reference point, as Margulies himself references Thornton Wilder’s great play in his intro to Shipwrecked! The concept of theater freed of the effort to replicate realism in favor of imaginative flight unites both. As Chenot says, the stagehands are part of the play and seeing Drew Gray’s projections from an old-time magic lantern, or puppets made from found objects in two big steamer trunks onstage lets us know that the show is partly a matter of a willful redirection of reality. That element is significant for the story of Rougemont, a real person of Victorian England whose memoir chronicling his adventures was celebrated in his day, only to find the public turn against him when doubts about the veracity of his tale began to circulate.

Chenot likens Rougemont’s tale to the Odyssey where, famously, Odysseus tells his own “sea story” of strange lands and fantastic creatures. Uniting both is a love of storytelling for its own sake and the ability of a sailor to spin a yarn for the sake of his own skill. “For the players,” Chenot says, “it doesn’t matter if it’s true.” The troupe becomes “a family of believers in Rougemont” who are interested in the value of a good story and not in duping a gullible public.

NHTC is aiming the show for ages 8 and up, and indeed Shipwrecked! is the kind of show that might be said to be aimed at the child in us all, the one who is willing to be awed by reality’s potential to be more than we expect it to be. Is Rougemont a charlatan? Only if he doesn’t deliver the kind of entertainment we expect of the fabulous and incredible.

As Chenot comments, Shaboo, onstage the entire time as Rougemont, has to keep us enthralled and willing to follow his lead. A bit perhaps like the main character in NHTC’s most recent production, The Magician, Rougemont is trying to convince us that magic is what happens in our own minds, and this time all the sleight-of-hand will be right before our eyes.

 

Shipwrecked! An Entertainment: The Amazing Adventures of Louis De Rougemont (As Told By Himself) By Donald Margulies Directed by Peter Chenot

Showtimes: Thurs, May 1 and Thurs, May 8: 8 pm Fri, May 2 and Fri, May 9: 8 pm Sat, May 3 and Sat, May 10: 5 pm and 8 pm

New Haven Theater Company At The English Building Markets 839 Chapel Street, New Haven

$20, adults; $12, students, children

For tickets and information:new haven theater company

New Haven Maine-stays

The New Haven Theater Company’s production of Almost, Maine makes a virtue of its minimalist set to create a kind of fantasy space where all the action takes place. That’s fitting because Almost, Maine almost takes place in a real place, but John Cariani’s script likes to interject little fabulistic touches that let characters be symptoms as much as people. Which is a way of saying that the point of each of the nine vignettes that comprise the play is that love makes everything different. We might think we’re normal people in normal situations, but when love gets involved, magical or bizarre or at least unusual things happen, and the way we talk about what we’re going through has to make use of metaphors and imagery. So if Glory (Jenny Schuck) is carrying a broken heart, or a man (Erich Greene) has been reduced by the loss of hope, well, Cariani’s play is going to treat such things literally. Which means you may be like Phil (Steve Scarpa) and Marci (Anna Klein), who have come to the end of their relationship—waiting for the other shoe to drop.

The NHTC has the knack of playing things with a straight-forward gusto that lets us in on the joke while also being as forthright as these characters need to be. It’s fun to watch pratfalls of emotion (fall in love, get it?) overtake two beer-drinking buddies, Randy (Peter Chenot) and Lendall (Christian Shaboo) because the guy-ness of these guys is so vivid. It’s fun to watch Steve, a guy who can’t feel pain (Scarpa) get hit with an ironing board by someone else’s wife (Deena Nicol) who has just the right air of annoyed woman doing laundry on a Friday night. Scarpa takes a page from Dustin Hoffman’s autistic fellow in Rain Man to make us feel both sympathy and amusement.

And that’s the key note of the evening. Every one of these characters is suffering in some way—I particularly liked Chenot as Jimmy, the sad sack behind a wall of downed Buds who cheerily confronts Sandrine (Anna Klein) who ditched him months ago and is now on the way back to her bachelorette party (ouch!)—and yet the comedy is always there too. So whether it’s a couple (Mallory Pellegrino and Christian Shaboo) whose bags full of love seem rather wildly disproportionate or two snow-sports friends (Jenny Schuck and Peter Chenot) who suddenly discover there are such things as indoors sports, there is usually an outcome that seems for the best.

Directors Megan Chenot and Margaret Mann should be happy with the pacing of their evening, and the Chenots’ incidental music adds very appropriate touches to backgrounds and transitions—I particularly liked the banjo that adds a jauntiness to the proceedings. Nothing goes on too long, though some scenes are more developed than others—Scarpa and Klein’s scene felt the most real—and not all the scenes end with love triumphant: Greene’s Man gets the most biting lines in the play about how leaving someone with just a little hope can be like stealing their oxygen bit by bit, and Deena Nichol dragging a wheelie suitcase away while saying “yes, yes” stabs as well.

NHTC have found another dialogue-driven entertainment that showcases their grasp of regular folks in irregular circumstances—a strength of their Our Town as well. Added to the regulars of the company are newcomers who add a lot, replacing some who have left our town for other horizons.

Almost, Maine plays again tonight at 8 p.m. and next Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. at the English Building Markets on Chapel Street.

Almost, Maine Written by John Cariani Directed by Megan Chenot and Margaret Mann

Peter Chenot, Erich Greene, Anna Klein, Deena Nicol, Mallory Pellegrino, Steve Scarpa, Christian Shaboo, Jenny Schuck

Original music written and performed by Megan and Peter Chenot Technical production: George Kulp and Drew Gray

New Haven Theater Company at English Building Markets 839 Chapel Street

Almost, Maine is Almost Here

The latest offering from the New Haven Theater Company goes up this Thursday night and plays for the next two weekends. Following on the warm, fuzzy feeling that their production of Our Town inspired in the fall, the folks at NHTC have jumped into a more contemporary play about a fictitious town: Almost, Maine, by John Cariani. Co-directed by Megan Chenot (the Stage Manager in Our Town) and Margaret Mann (Mrs. Soames in Our Town), Almost, Maine finds NHTC returning to the same space—in the back of the English Building Markets on Chapel—where they staged Our Town, to take us to another “almost” town. Mann says the troupe really “bonded like a family” during the Our Town run, and remarks that she’s never been part of a theatrical group where “the entire company gets along” so well, all committed to making “the best production possible.” The group wanted to find a new vehicle quickly while still riding the good vibes from Our Town, both among the company and from the NHTC’s fans and supporters. Megan Chenot knew of the popular winter play Almost, Maine, having staged it with high school students during her time at Cheshire Academy. It’s a family friendly play, language-wise, and Mann calls it “funny and refreshing.” And it’s one of the most staged plays in our nation’s high schools since its first successful run—in Portland, Maine—in 2004. The play was recently staged at TheatreWorks in Hartford.

Set in a small town in Maine, the play brings together 8 different vignettes, 4 in each act, framed by a prologue, interlogue, and epilogue. Each of the segments presents a couple finding love, losing love or grappling with love in some way, and all are happening more or less simultaneously on a winter’s night around 9 p.m. Mann characterizes the dialogue as “charming and real,” and Chenot—who is also a member of the musical duo Mission O—has written incidental music to help with the transitions.

Mann volunteered to work with Chenot when the latter proposed the play but didn’t want to direct it solo. Mann has found that the process of working with her NHTC colleagues in this capacity has let her “direct the way I would like to be directed.” Which is a way of saying that she doesn’t see this as a production she controls but rather one where collaboration is the method. It’s all about “encouragement, and trying things.” Chenot praises her co-director for being “patient, kind, and so observant of every important nuance.”

NHTC has developed a great feel for ensemble work as the same dedicated players appear again and again in their productions. Almost, Maine will feature 8 actors playing 17 characters, which means everyone gets at least two roles. That element of the staging—seeing actors change roles before your eyes—adds to the entertainment in such an intimate space as the English Building Markets. The scenic design is fairly minimal—with some of the props for sale in the Market itself—but there will be a scrim for an important special effect: the Aurora Borealis.  And, of course, snow.

According to Mann, the play is very definitely set in Maine—way up in Maine. Maybe to the point where our sense of “north” becomes somewhat mythic. In any case, it’s a play that seems to strike a chord with contemporary Americans, especially—perhaps—those who know what cold is. And those are the people who might enjoy a warm night of theater with the friendly faces of the New Haven Theater Company.

 

To add to the warmth: NHTC invites its audience to bring new or gently used winter clothing, to be donated to a local charity, as well as unopened cat food and clean blankets and towels, to be donated to the Purr Project of New Haven.

Almost, Maine by John Cariani Directed by Megan Chenot and Margaret Mann

The English Building Markets 839 Chapel Street, New Haven

November 14-16 and 21-23 at 8pm Tickets are $20 For more information, visit www.newhaventheatercompany.com

The Changing Same

Like more than a few of us, I suspect, I had never seen a production of Thornton Wilder’s Our Town. It’s one of those classic texts that it’s easy to be pretty sure we know all about without bothering to see it. I do recall reading it aloud, round-robin style, in English class in 11th grade. A budding literary sophisticate, I scorned much of it, and I can still remember my main objections: its normative assumptions about what makes for “regular folks” in the good ol’ U.S. of A. seemed to me not only dated but insufferably corny. If you went to school any time after 1964, it was simply too hard to accept a town that’s all-white, and where the “other” is signified by Polish Catholics across the train tracks. Sure, the actual setting of the play is the end of the 19th century to the eve of World War I (and it was first produced in the era of fascist sympathies pre-WWII), and Wilder is quite aware that the world he is depicting was already history. Still, for any child of the Sixties, the play was simply too retrograde, its fond evocation of how parents repeat themselves in offspring just, y’know, Squaresville, man. And that’s one of the things about Our Town—it tends to, and is intended to, inspire thoughts about how time passes and about the changes and the sames of ye olde status quo. There’s a priceless moment where the elderly presider over the local soda fountain reminisces about how it was once possible for a dog to take a nap in the middle of Main Street in the middle of the afternoon, undisturbed. Ah, the good old days—now there’s horses and carriages everywhere and even those encroaching horseless carriages! While no one in a contemporary audience would remember anything like that, we all have similar recollections that date us. Who still remembers milk delivered to the door? Newspapers routes? Wilder wrote the play not to preserve the past, conservatively, but to show that whatever we know as “normal” is going to go the way of all flesh right into the graveyard, eventually.

Which is a way of saying: Don’t judge a play by its first Act. Sure, Our Town starts homey enough to fit squarely in some kind of Will Rogers-type recollection about what life was like when everyone in town knew everyone else’s ancestors, but by the end it has let in the space of the beyond. Back before outer space was the answer to our striving beyond the quotidian earth, it was possible to let “eternity” be the common Unknown looming over us all, and Wilder does a good job of bringing the time beyond time into the play—by making it just as homely and familiar, but with a key difference. The dead know what we don’t know, and what they know reveals at last what has been implicit all along: the perspective of the Stage Manager is “from beyond the grave”—like poets and saints, seeing the length of an individual human life as the speck in the span of the ages that it is.

The New Haven Theater Company’s production, directed by Steven Scarpa, in a spare playing space in a big, high-ceiling room at the English Building Market, its set consisting of two groups of three chairs and a quartet of black monoliths that look like pillars holding up the sky and like monuments to the dead, gives us a straight-forward rendering of Wilder’s script that lets us appreciate how much specificity there is in the play’s seemingly generic approach. Grover’s Mill is a town with an identity, and it's great the way the NHTC production lets us imagine the town the way the play wants us to.

Helping greatly with that task is our Stage Manager (Megan Chenot). Rather than the usual benign old codger who is supposed to keep us apprized of the whos and whats of the town, Chenot has the fresh forthrightness of those tour guides you might see leading a bunch of prospectives, their families, and random shutterbugs around Yale’s campus. She’s got the skinny on everything and delivers it all with the kind of amused forbearance we expect from grade school teachers. It’s like the whole town is her “class” (us too) and she wants to lead them along the path to greater knowledge, no matter how painful it may be. Chenot creates a very warming, reassuring effect, and that helps, particularly as there’s likely to be much sniffling and wiping of eyes by the time Act Three ends.

Other reflection on this well-cast show—special mention of the perfect match of Mallory Pellegrino for the role of Emily Webb. The heart of the play comes in Act Two when Emily and George Gibbs, the boy next-door, finally realize what their lives have been leading to. Pellegrino shows just the right mix of bashfulness and smart-girl knowingness not only to win over George—the town’s top athlete, bound for agricultural college—but everyone else as well. It’s a moment that seems so sincere and intimate it justifies everything the Stage Manager is trying to show us.

Other fine touches from this familiar ensemble: Margaret Mann’s comic turns as a professor eager to take us back to the Pleistocene in explaining the town’s interest, and as everyone’s maiden aunt in the wedding scene, gushing with the kind of fulsomeness that makes cliché both comical and real; Christian Shaboo, as George, seems young enough to be as unselfconscious as George is; George Kulp and Susan Kulp play the Webbs with a familiarity that seems as if we’re actually in their home, and the awkward, prenuptial visit of George to his future father-in-law is comic, and almost lets in lots of things best left unsaid; as Doc Gibbs and his wife, J. Kevin Smith and Deena Nicol have a more weary hominess than the Webbs—with the Doctor having to make housecalls (who remembers that ancient custom?), and his wife fantasizing about a trip to Paris as though it were on the other side of the earth; the families’ breakdown at the graveyard feels genuine rather than stagey, a big plus; Peter Chenot, as deliveryman-about-town Howie Newsome, is as real as the imaginary (to us) carthorse he leads around.

Perhaps the most forward-looking aspect of Wilder’s play is when George and Emily, in their respective bedrooms in their respective parents’ next-door houses, try to set up a means of surreptitious communication, if only to study together. Do we need look any further for an early version of the urge to text and share files? And when the Stage Manager comments on the fact that most people end their lives married, it’s a rather obvious reflection that—in these parts, anyway—more people than ever, even those who eschew heterosexual coupling, have that opportunity.

The more things change, the more they stay the same, I reckon.

 

Our Town By Thornton Wilder Directed by Steven Scarpa Produced by George Kulp Production Design by Drew Gray Stage Management by Mary Tedford

Cast (in order of appearance): Megan Chenot; J. Kevin Smith; Sam Taubl; Peter Chenot; Deena Nicol; Susan Kulp; Christian Shaboo; Josie Kulp; Spenser Long; Mallory Pellegrino: Margaret Mann; George Kulp; Donna E. Glen; Erich Greene; Jim Lones; Rick Beebe; Jesse Jo Toth

English Building Market 839 Chapel Street

2013, September 19, 20, 21; 26, 27, 28 8 p.m.