Showing posts with label Chapel Street Players. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Chapel Street Players. Show all posts

Monday, September 24, 2018

Cuckoo for Chapel Street's Latest Production

By Carol Van Zoeren

In the program’s Director’s Message, Brian Touchette states his objective is to immerse the audience in the world of the play. He begins even before the play starts by cleverly presenting the curtain speech as a letter from Nurse Ratched, welcoming the audience to participate in this “group therapy session” while also reminding us to turn off our cell phones. 

The cast of Chapel Street's Cuckoo's Nest.
Photos by Peter Kuo.
He furthers this with a gorgeous set that evokes a decaying industrial setting, rusty, dirty and dented, with incongruously cheery Christmas lights in the “Control Room”. He pairs Chief Bromden’s monologues with mechanical imagery and sound that augment the Chief’s terror of the destructive machines that consumed his family, his tribe and his sense of self.

Touchette more than succeeded in immersing me in the world of the play. Yes, I was fully invested, but was also especially gratified that these elements highlighted many themes of the play that I might have otherwise missed.

For those unfamiliar with the play, or the 1975 movie starring Jack Nicholson and Louise Fletcher, a brief plot synopsis: Randall P. McMurphy is committed to a psychiatric ward after “a couple of hassles down at the Work Farm and the Court ruled that I’m a psychopath.” The ward is ruled by Nurse Ratched. A war for control ensues between McMurphy and Ratched, with both tragic and uplifting results. But this plot is merely a vehicle for deep examination of how institutions can destroy, how power can corrupt, and how one can both lose and win at the same time.

OK, enough of the English 101 essay. This is a community theater review, so let’s talk about the performances.

Scott F. Mason is a talented actor with whom I have shared the stage, and I was delighted to see him play McMurphy. Mason portrayed the bravado that has carried McMurphy through every hardship, and also well conveyed moments of doubt when he realizes the power of the forces aligned against him. My only quibble with the entire production is the choice for him to use a deeply gravelly voice throughout. This was distracting, at time made his lines difficult to understand, and generally detracted from the authenticity of the character.

As Nurse Ratched, Shelli Haynes embodied the iron fist beneath the velvet glove (thinking of the cheery Christmas lights in the Control Room). Ratched’s highest priority is control and power. Haynes expertly played Ratched’s repertoire of tools  sing-songy comfort, intimidation, emotional blackmail, flat-out baiting. In the context of Touchette’s design, I realized that Ratched intentionally sacrifices her most vulnerable patient so she can goad McMurphy into an attack that will secure her victory over him. Power corrupts. Yes, it was there all the time. But without the rusty set, I might have missed that.

As Chief Bromden, Arthur D. Paul broke my heart. As mentioned above, the video and sound accompaniment helped reveal the deeper meaning of his poetic monologues. So too did his demeanor  frightened and confused, yet hopeful. In the Act II scene between Chief and McMurphy, when Chief reveals that indeed he can hear and talk, it was simply beautiful to see genuine affection develop between these two flawed men. It set us up to accept Chief’s final act of kindness, not to let his friend live as a vegetable. And, again thanks to Touchette’s overall concept, It is not lost on me that Chief escapes after shorting out the power of the machine, thereby reclaiming his own strength.

In direct contrast how Ratched beats people down to service her need for total control, McMurphy is all about building people up. It is touching that Dale Harding (Alan Harbaugh) eventually finds the courage to convince Chief to leave.  McMurphy convinces the excruciatingly fearful Billy Bibbit (Stephen Ross Ashby) to embrace life, even though this leads to both of their downfalls.

The other patients  Scanlon, Cheswick, Martini (Josh Pelikan, Frank Newton, Andre Wilkins)  are clearly delineated with their own individual quirks, but also serve collectively as a kind of Greek chorus. This was notable in group therapy scenes when the three moved and reacted in sync, and most poignant when they try to convince themselves that the lobotomized McMurphy is just a mock-up, a dummy, and the real McMurphy escaped.

This all sounds like a very depressing evening. Indeed, that was what I expected. So I was pleasantly surprised at how funny the show is. The cast expertly plays up the comedy and was rewarded with raucous outbursts of laughter from the sold-out opening night audience. Coupled with the uplifting elements in otherwise dire circumstances, Chapel Street’s Cuckoo’s Nest offers a deeply satisfying exploration of the worst, and best, of humanity.


Monday, April 23, 2018

A Chemist Recalls Her Admiration of "The Memory of Water"

Vi played by Susie Moak. Photo by Peter Kuo.
By Carol Van Zoeren
The Memory of Water, now showing at Chapel Street Players in Newark through April 28, 2018, was written by Shelagh Stephenson and is directed by Kathleen Kimber.

Three sisters come together before their mother's funeral, each haunted by her own demons. The three each have different memories of shared childhood events, causing constant, and often very funny, bickering about whose memories are true. As the three women get together after years of separation, their hidden lies and self-betrayals begin to surface.

As is often the case, the eldest sister, Theresa, is the "responsible one." Lori Ann Johnson clearly conveys Theresa’s resentment 
— that her family has always forced her to subsume her own needs to cover up family dysfunction. In one uncomfortable (though perhaps overlong) scene, Johnson expertly shows us Theresa’s inner battle whether to reveal a family secret that she has kept for decades and at great emotional cost.

Middle sister Mary (Susan Boudreaux) is superficially the "successful one." In her professional life, yes. In her personal life, not so much. Mary works hard to distance herself from her mother. Perhaps this is why mother Vi (Susie Moak) only interacts with Mary in dreamlike sequences. Boudreaux navigates the emotional roller coaster well. The opening scene of Act II between Moak and Boudreaux is especially moving. 

Youngest daughter Catherine (Cyndie Romer) is the "free spirit." But her pot smoking and binge shopping are clearly cries for the attention she never got as a child. And attention she still doesn’t get from a committed, loving partner. Romer skillfully shows us the vulnerability hiding behind the bravura.

All of this sounds like a real downer, right? But no! There are wonderful bon mots, put-downs and zingers, delivered with deadpan, spot-on comic timing. And, a hysterical scene when the somewhat stoned sisters play dress up with Mom’s outlandish wardrobe. It is simply wonderful to see an ensemble (which includes Dave Hastings and Frank Newton) gel. It’s clear that they enjoy being on stage together, and that is all to the credit of director Kathleen Kimber.

I really enjoyed this production, but I've gotta say, I’m not sure the British accents were necessary and sometimes got in the way of enunciation, especially of rightfully tossed off bon mots which the audience sometimes couldn’t hear clearly. Yes, the playwright is British and the script included a number of British terms and slang. Just saying I might have made a different choice for an American audience.

Reflecting on the play itself, I was impressed with the frequent touchpoints on memory, which rose organically from the dialog. For example, that Vi suffered from Alzheimer's. And that Mary is treating a patient with amnesia. And especially the concept that human memory isn’t just some repository of information, but is used to ensure survival. Indeed, the differences in how the sisters remember their childhood demonstrates that each remembers it in the way she must, for her own well-being.

And, OK, full disclosure. I’m a chemist and my favorite molecule is water. It touches me to the core that the title of this play is not so much about how we remember water, but rather how water remembers us. That which birthed us, remembers us. Playwright Shelagh Stephenson was known to draw inspiration from science. 

And to that I can only say (Britishly) — Huzzah!

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Chapel Street Tells a Dark Tale in "The Pillowman"

By Mike Logothetis

(L-R): John Barker, Steve Connor, Jimmy Van Buren. 
Photo by Peter Kuo.
Somewhere at the confluence of Poe, Kafka and Tarantino lies Martin McDonagh’s spellbinding play,The Pillowman. While some would label this as black comedy, I believe it is more dramatic realism. The feelings I had when processing the Chapel Street Players production on my walk home from the theater dealt more with unhealthy realistic possibilities than with sinister “what ifs.”

But my own petty internal arguments should not stop you from getting a ticket to this week’s final run of shows  because this is a play you should experience. Director J.W. Pukatsch puts his four main actors through a gauntlet of emotions because McDonagh’s script demands authenticity. While all the major players were excellent, the show is anchored by the stalwart performance of Jimmy Van Buren as the protagonist Katurian.

Writer Katurian’s 400 short stories (all but one unpublished) might be described as a how-to guide of “101 ways to skewer a 5-year-old.” The purportedly fictional stories have landed Katurian and his weak-minded brother Michal (Sean McKean) in prison, since the killings described in his simply-told fables have been replicated in the town where they live.

The policemen who interrogate Katurian – the disdainful Tupolski (Steve Connor) and his hot-headed partner Ariel (John Barker) – aren’t necessarily wrong in hating what their prisoner has written. These are sick, demented tales of torture written by a bruised man in a world the audience never sees outside of the prison walls. But do these lawmen deserve to be judge, jury and executioner on top of their detective roles?

Barker and Connor, as Ariel and Tupolski, turn the classic good cop/bad cop formula into a devilish vaudevillian routine. "Good cop" Tupolski toys with Katurian, giving him false impressions of understanding, sympathy and hope. "Bad cop" Ariel is an amalgam of the clichéd combustible, torture-happy cop with a secret past. The two have chemistry and perverse senses of humor that fit their surroundings. Neither seems to care a shred for humanity and force Katurian to continuously jump through hoops of their own manic creation.

Van Buren imbues the arrogant yet thin-skinned Katurian from his mercurial talking in the interrogation room to the more subdued time spent with his weak-minded brother in a holding cell. You want to root for Katurian, but the audience sees that he is not a wholly sympathetic character.

Katurian’s inflated sense of self-satisfaction when he tells a story – especially one of his stories – is pure arrogance. When the police criticize and threaten to destroy his writings, the passion boiling within Van Buren’s Katurian is palpable. Hard evidence, artistic merit, and Katurian’s insistence that the stories are pure fiction are all irrelevant. The police want him gone, but he will do anything save his stories (and their integrity).

The relationship between Katurian and his brother, the childlike Michal, is one where the able sibling has assumed a parental role. (What happened to the men’s mother and father is divulged within the play.)  Michal is at once innocent and unpleasant – a dichotomy captured well by actor McKean. But is Katurian the best role model for Michal? Their relationship is a unique one, to say the least, and the play exposes its lineage.

McDonagh leads the audience down a path, but not a predictable one. Its strength is in its imagery and how the principals deliver. The Pillowman is a difficult story to tell, but everything is executed admirably in this production.

The cast is rounded out by Joseph Pukatsch, Penelope Rose Teague, and Ashley Thompson in minor roles. Kudos to set designer and builder Patrick Brisiel for his inventive and effective backdrop and props.

As a playwright, McDonagh has a casual relationship with murder, mutilation and psychological aggrievement so audiences may be shaken by the events described and simulated in The Pillowman. The show contains strong language and adult situations.
The 2003 play received the 2004 Olivier Award for Best New Play, the 2004-5 New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award for Best New Foreign Play and two Tony Awards.

The limited run of The Pillowman ends this week, with 8:00pm shows on August 3, 4 and 5 at the Chapel Street Playhouse, 27 North Chapel Street in Newark. Parking is available on the street or in the small lot behind the building. Tickets are $18 adult; $12 senior; and $5 student and can be purchased online, via telephone 302.368.2480 or at the box office.  

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Wanna Give It a Go? Imaginary Mr. Marmalade!

By Guest Blogger, Kevin Regan
Kevin Regan is the Director of Multimedia and a player with CSz Philadelphia as well as a sometime performer, producer and other "p-words" with Wilmington's City Theater Company.

Emma Orr and Thomas Russell
You have a mere three chances to see Mr. Marmalade by Noah Haidle, at Chapel Street Players in Newark this weekend. That means you should keep that babysitter you have scheduled, but cancel whatever you planned for the evening. Then you can spend the night laughing hysterically at Lucy and her imaginary friend, Mr. Marmalade, while wondering what the hell your kids are doing.

Mr. Marmalade is an extremely dark comedy about children, for adults. Directed by CSP veteran J.W. Pukatsch, it explores a theme that has been tackled by everyone from Stephen Sondheim (Children Will Listen) to everyone's favorite 1980s Anti-Drug PSA ("I learned it from watching you...") — that our children are internalizing everything we say and do.

Lucy, who is played to perfection by Emma Orr, is a lonely four-year-old with a healthy imagination. As long as your definition of "healthy" includes sex, drugs and the occasional dildo thrown in for good measure. She creates a world based on all of the unseen men her mother brings into their home. This amalgamation is transformed into her friend, Mr. Marmalade, played with equal parts charm and sleaze by Thomas Russell, to create the bigger-than-life character. Think The Cat in the Hat, if Dr. Seuss was a sadist and you'll begin to get the picture. His addictions, bombastic temper and self-centeredness do little to alleviate the little girl's loneliness.

The whole show takes place in the family living room over the course of one night, while Lucy's mother Sookie (Tricia LaRock) is on a date. Lucy interacts with both real and imagined characters, including the disinterested babysitter (Rachel Diamond), Mr. Marmalade's hilarious and often injured assistant Bradley (Jimmy Van Buren) and a very real five-year-old named Larry (Andrew Dluhy), who might have more baggage than Marmalade himself. Lucy & Larry will have to work to find a way to exist in the harsh reality of our adult world.

Pukatsch does an amazing job utilizing the simple family room set, representing the four-year-old's reality, in both fantastic and pragmatic scenes. Especially poignant is the dance scene with Lucy and Mr. Marmalade while Bradley croons a la a 1940s nightclub. Orr, as well as Dluhy, is exceptional as an adult actor playing a child without ever becoming "cartoonish." And Russell's morally lacking Marmalade will make you wonder if you picked the right person to babysit your kids tonight.

Unfortunately, a lot of theaters go dark in the summer months for fear that the audiences cannot be lured away from vacation. I applauded Chapel Street Theater for putting up this show, even if it is only for a short three-day run. I implore you to leave the beach behind for a day and see this adult world through the eyes of a four-year-old this weekend. Mr. Marmalade is playing Thursday (7/10), Friday (7/11) and Saturday (7/12). All showtimes are 8:00pm.

Now STOP READING THIS and buy your tickets at

Thursday, September 26, 2013

At Chapel Street, it's Hitchcock with a Twist

The Chapel Street Players have never backed down from putting on challenging shows, but THE 39 STEPS poses a special kind of challenge: Take a 1935 Alfred Hitchcock movie and recreate it on stage using just four actors and a few props. If you haven’t seen the film, it’s got well more than four characters. And multiple settings, including the outside of a moving train, the Scottish countryside, and the London Palladium. The sometimes mad dash to deliver almost every line in the film and change the set to fit the scenes is hilarious, and you end up with something that is part tribute, part parody, and very funny throughout. 

Taking on the roles are Tom Trietly, in the only single-character role as Richard Hannay,  a hapless Englishman who finds himself a murder suspect after inviting a doomed German spy to stay at his home for the night. She’s the first of three love interests for the “dashing, wavy-haired” Hannay, all played by Anna Keane, who delivers over-melodramatic (as intended) spy, sheltered country wife, and 1930s firecracker smoothly. All of the other characters are played by Bethany Miller, billed as “Clown 1,” and Andrew Dluhy, as “Clown 2.” Despite their minor-sounding billing, these two carry the show with a rapid-fire succession of characters, including vaudeville performers, police, spies, train conductors, and townsfolk of all kinds. Often within the same scene, with more than one of their characters present. There’s plenty of gender-bending and over-the-top accents, with Miller stealing most of her scenes.

Trietly is goofily charming as Hannay, presenting the protagonist as a sympathetic, relatively normal guy thrown into a world of thrills and intrigue. 

Few shows are as fast-paced and fun as THE 39 STEPS, and CSP’s four stars deliver the entertaining show it’s meant to be. If you don’t think of Hitchcock as fun, you’re in for surprise. You may never look at his (often darkly comic) classic films the same way again.

The 39 Steps runs from September 20 - 28, 2013. To purchase tickets, go to

This review was originally published in Stage Magazine.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Real Thing at the Chapel Street Players

Tom Stoppard’s 1982 play, The Real Thing, is a beautifully constructed kaleidoscope which shows us how relationships ebb and flow and gives us the fly-on-the-wall view that would never be possible to have in real life.

The play has so many British cultural references that the cast took the challenge and all mastered some very good British accents and Thomas Russell, who played Billy, mastered a natural and convincing Scots accent. They pulled off the Stoppard word-play quite blithely even though the full and mostly American audience on opening night did not always understand the joke.

The characters are mostly actors and playwrights and it is perhaps for that reason that they find it so hard to communicate in a straightforward manner. Two philanderers in the crowd even find it impossible to tell their spouses they want to leave them until they finally get caught (Phew!). Before long, though, one of the flighty lovebirds decides they need to stray from the new relationship.

Stoppard could have been and supposedly was writing about his own life. He left his first wife to take up with an actress in one of his plays. But whether or not he meant to write a biographical essay, he went quite deeply into the psychological aspects of relationships, illustrated their shortcomings, and ended his play with an optimistic view of love.

Jeremiah Dillard as Henry and Georgiana Staley as Annie (above)did a wonderful job of showing how the first blush of love wears thin quickly in a passionate affair. Their development after they move in together is what makes the play an absorbing study of life and love. When Brodie the soldier appears in their flat after years of influencing Henry and Annie from afar, they both realize where their priorities lie. Their final scene provides an end to their constant search for something better.
The Real Thing runs September 21st, 22nd, 27th, 28th, 29th at 8 p.m. and September 23rd at 2 p.m.


Saturday, November 12, 2011

Chapel Street Players present Beauty Queen of Leenane

Beauty Queen of Leenane is a neat and tight play by Martin McDonaugh, a child of Irish parents born in London where his family had emigrated just as the families of his Leenane must do in the 1989 setting. The characters he presents are also quite finely drawn.

Maureen, played with great energy by Kerry Kristine McElrone, is forty and feels as if life has passed her by. She is the youngest of three and the only maiden sister who, of course, got stuck with the harridan mother, Mag. Mary Catherine Kelley’s Mag was comic and tragic, following the intricate web that so many of us have in our relationships. She is sometimes funny and attractive and sometimes so aggravating that I was tempted to say, “Stop it” from the audience. The two actresses adroitly tossed off their alternating sweet and sours until it was hard to tell who was good, honest and true and who was a conniver.

Enter neighbor Ray Dooley, the kind of guy who is always friendly but ever-so-slightly annoying, who comes over and you immediately wish him gone. Patrick Cataract gives him a certain innocence and gentle appeal and you wonder why he seemed to be a fly on the wall to our lonely but attractive Maureen.

Maureen sets her sites on Ray’s older brother Pato, a warm and congenial guy played by David C. Hastings. Pato was not sure if Maureen’s pursuit of him was because she loves him or because she wanted to aggravate her mother. His letter to Maureen is a wonderful palette of his emotions and doubts and he delivered it in a monologue that deserved a standing ovation. (Unfortunately, our audience was terribly quiet on Friday, but it didn’t hurt the play’s quality).

The drama unfolds with revelations from everyone – with each of the characters unfolding those details they had so carefully kept under their hats during the first half of the play. Credit to McDonaugh for such a great script and for the actors and director Sean Kelly for making sure they didn’t reveal too much too soon. The next performances are November 12, 17, 18 and 19 at 8 p.m. at the Chapel Street Players on Chapel Street in Newark.


Monday, June 27, 2011

Chapel Street Actor wins National Competition

DEartsinfo congratulates Chapel Street Players and Patrick Cathcart.

Patrick Cathcart won the top prize for lead actor in the American Association of Community Theatre competition. Cathcart played Edward Albee's crazy character, Jerry, who both horrifies and
fascinates Peter, the quiet businessman played by Brian Turner.

The one-act was directed by Andrew Mitchell for Chapel Street Players and won the Delaware State competition and then the Eastern States Theatre Association festival before taking the show to the national level.

This was Delaware's first national theatre prize!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Monster Mash-Up on Chapel Street

By Mara Goodman, PR Intern, Arts in Media
Feeling silly?  In the mood to shed a layer of skin and let out your inner monster?  Then Chapel Street Players' production of House of Frankenstein by Martin Downing (directed by Scott F. Mason) would be your best bet for entertainment this weekend! Vampires, werewolves, and other freaks roam the stage of this whimsical play, as each one visits Dr. Frankenstein’s castle in an effort to "normalize" themselves.  But how does one stop sucking blood and turning into a furry, raging canine when the clock strikes midnight?  While it seems that our friendly, monster-making scientist from Mary Shelley’s dark piece could have the answer, he may have lost his flair since his last experiment.

And don’t let the title scare you—this show is humorous. Watching a group of monsters that wish to escape their freakiness and come to the freakiest place is an automatic, ironic, recipe for disaster. Catastrophe is inevitable and quite comical as Frau Lurker warns everyone who dares that “those who enter Castle Frankenstein never leave.” And the notion of danger is challenged by humor as the character deemed Phantom of the Operaor POOwarns of his powers, yet demonstrates cliché magic tricks, pulling a never-ending bandana, a rabbit, and flowers out of his shirt sleeve. 

This show does have its charm. It's the little surprises that made it lovable: the kooky music of Bewitched, Monster Mash, and The Aadams Family that rang in the background and the pop-culture references to Facebook, Brad Pitt, and Justin Bieber reminded us that even vampires love their access to the Internet.  My favorites were the vampires, who take turns flipping each other off halfway through the second act, and whose French accents make them “wampires” instead of “vampires.”

And, did I mention that the show was done completely in black and white? Perhaps the most impressive parts of this production were the set and costumes, all doused in cobwebs and candles, leaving traces of scientific failure all around the room. There wasn't one part of this performance that wasn’t done up completely.  Harry Talbots, the werewolf, was covered in leather head to toes, and Igor, a resident of Frankenstein’s castle, stood hunchback the full two hours…if that’s not commitment to a role, then what is?

So, if you’re trying to figure out what to do on Friday the 17th, or Saturday the 18th, this would definitely be a fun show to check out. Don’t expect anything sober or serious, just lighthearted fun and freakiness!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof heats up Chapel Street

Pulling off a Tennessee Williams play about southern social mores in the 1950s wasn’t easy in the 1950s, but doing it in 2011, on the 56th anniversary of the play’s first production, is quite a feat.

Jamie Cunningham is most ambitious in trying to portray a culture not his own with its intricate balance of family power, sexuality and avarice in the mid-twentieth century South. His directing skills are evident in his advice to Francesca Vavala who played the toughest role of Margaret. She keeps up her southern accent and quiet tones in character – through the lion’s share of the first act while her husband, Brick – played with practiced aloofness by Jim Burns - sips his liquor and tried to numb himself to her banter and pleas.

Big Daddy (Raymond Harrington) and Big Mamma (Judith A. David – whom you would recognize in her street clothes as the perennial Chapel Street volunteer) are brash and bigger than life as patriarch and matriarch ruling over the huge plantation and their children.

And a delightful discovery for me was the perfect southern gentleman that Andrew Mitchell conjured up as Gooper, the older son of the family. He was cool, calm and conniving -- quietly leading his wife and brood of no-neck monsters --ably played by five children -- of whom Steve Ashby (Buster) did a great job with what Tennessee Williams had written as Dixie’s lines in the play.

By the way, Mitchell’s direction of Zoo Story is the winner of the ESTA competition and will be going to national competition.

Shows April 22 – May 7, 2011.


Sunday, February 27, 2011

Rabbit Hole at the Chapel Street Players

(Photo of Kate Brennan and Jason Fawcett by David Sokolowski)

What incredible risks Anthony Bosco took for the new Chapel Street Players production of Rabbit Hole by David Lindsay-Abaire! First of all, the cast were almost all new to CSP. Secondly, he was taking on a play which the playwright himself had just adapted for a movie with Nicole Kidman. And thirdly, he is the father of two small children taking on a play about how a couple deals with the death of their child.

But on opening night on February 25, his willingness to take risks paid off. Kate Brennan as Becca and Jessica Rowland-Eppler as her sister Izzie had the audience so involved one lady couldn’t resist mumbling in response to their rants. And when it became clear that the clothing that Becca was folding so carefully had belonged to her four-year-old son who had died months earlier– it was hard to decide whether to laugh or cry.

Howie, Becca’s husband, played by Jason Fawcett, seems to be cool, collected and ready to kiss his wife back to normal. But even he has a limit to his patience. It is easy to empathize with him until Izzie raises suspicions about just how he might be coping.

Performances by Marlene Hummel, who plays Becca’s unrestrained mother, and Neil Redfield, who plays the hapless youth Jason, are catalytic. They force Howie and Becca to break their controlled postures and vent their grief.

The play presents each character against contrasting personalities. Becca’s neurotic quelling of her grief is highlighted by her exchanges with her carefree and shockingly direct sister Izzie -- Howie’s calm control is upset gradually by his warm but outspoken mother-in-law and all four of them react intensely to Jason’s apologetic entry into their lives.

In spite of all the grief and ranting, the play ends with a note of hope. The actors were so good that it is hard to resist the urge to call and see how they are doing. Performances are 8:00 p.m. on February 25, 26, March 4, 5, 11, 12. Matinee 2:00 p.m. March 6 and 12.


Saturday, November 20, 2010

Comic Potential at the Chapel Street Players

From the moment the lights go up, you can’t help but notice Jacie (Courtney Wallace) give a broad but quiet smirk as she plays the nurse on a hackneyed production with the unctuous doctor, the sobbing mother and the son who is being told he will have to lose his foot.

And suddenly, the doctor is not only unctuous, but full of ‘u’s, reassuring the mother and son that he will ‘umputate just below the unkle’….and then the exasperated director rants that his techs must fix this actoid, a robotic actor. And make sure he stays away from the fax!

Wallace’s Jacie is the light that keeps the stage going as she plays an actoid with a heart – a heart that begins to warm to the company director’s nephew. She is wonderful, spewing past scripts on cue for any event she had not been prepared for, and the results are fantastic – like pushing a button on a Chatty Kathy.

This futuristic comedy had a slow start on opening night but everyone seemed to warm up to the enthusiastic audience. Courtney Wallace has that rare ability to act like an actoid and really act within her spurts of role – including outrageous hamming and miming.

Mike Freeberry as Adam Trainsmith had perfect pacing – first keeping a shy and quiet demeanor as he visits his uncle’s production set and then blossoming into an inventive writer as he falls for Jacie the actoid and realizes his own Comic Potential.

Dina Bogino and Bill Starcher not only provided excellent comedy in the smaller roles, but their synthetic actoid acting was perfectly done – with exact repeats and total freeze motion.

The set was brilliant. Joseph Pukatsch built a great backdrop of moveable pieces that converted into different sets in seconds with excellent work by Robert de Remigio’s crew. This absolutely made the second act – allowing us to zip back and forth between scenes as if we were watching the sort of futuristic television production playwright Alan Ayckbourn envisioned.