Showing posts with label Delaware Theatre Company. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Delaware Theatre Company. Show all posts

Saturday, April 20, 2024

DTC's 44th Season Closer, "The Flatlanders," Certainly Doesn't Fall Flat

By Mike Logothetis
Theater reviewer Mike Logothetis grew up in North Wilmington, performing in school and local theater productions. He lives in Newark, but you can find him wherever the arts are good.

Delaware Theatre Company (DTC) closes its 44th season with the touching and funny play The Flatlanders by Bruce Graham. DTC has partnered with 1812 Productions to present this new composition about what it takes to keep the flame alive when everything else is, quite literally, falling apart.
The Flatlanders now playing at DTC.
Photo by Matt Urban, NüPOINT Marketing.

The show is a World Premiere for playwright Graham, who won the Rosenthal Prize for his play Coyote on a Fence, two Barrymore Awards for Something Intangible and Any Given Monday, and the Joseph Jefferson Award for The Outgoing Tide. He has received grants from the Pew Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation plus was a past winner of the Princess Grace Foundation Statuette.

“We couldn’t be more excited to bring our audiences another world premiere production,” says Matt Silva, Executive and Artistic Director of DTC. “New work is important. So is laughter.”

And there is plenty of laughter – smart, corny, and edgy – to be found in The Flatlanders.

Travelers Ronnie (Jennifer Childs) and Michael (Scott Greer) must break into a remote cabin in the Poconos during a blizzard to ride out the storm. The two “flatlanders” from Philadelphia are in a committed 14-year relationship which is about to become wedded bliss (maybe?) in a day’s time. While taking stock of what the cabin can provide them, the couple also takes stock of their relationship.

Childs, the producing artistic director of 1812 Productions, and Greer are partners on stage and off. Besides both performers having celebrated solo careers, the couple has performed and created works together at 1812 Productions, Arden Theatre Company, Cape May Stage, and many more.

That deep personal connection is shown in the way the actors interact on stage. Timing and side glances and sighs and exasperations all feel very real to the audience. There are “no bars” or “hotspots” at the cabin so this typical modern couple must converse without modern distractions. The only outside voice is from DJ Skip on WJUL, whose bad jokes and anachronistic playlist constantly add a bit of humor to the situation.

But the lead characters provide plenty of great jokes and physical gags themselves. From Ronnie making one-point lists – plus the ever-growing IOU list to reimburse the owners of the cabin – to Michael gradually revealing his kinks (with help from a prop box), there’s always something happening on stage holding your attention.

The soon-to-be newlyweds discuss past successes, current failures, and future desires. Their banter ebbs and flows from normal, banal topics to conquering personal fears to upending societal norms. It’s a contemporary play and the topics are relevant but delivered with biting wit.

The main theme of the show can be summarized by a burst of dialog when Ronnie posits that maybe being married instead of just being together will lead to boredom. She says she knows what buttons to push now. Michael counters that they’ll find “new buttons to push” and they will be better for the growth. As he puts it, they are already feeling “the seven-year itch times two” but he is happy. No need to radically change what they’re doing now…maybe just tweak a few things here and there.

Michael’s statement “All of this will clear up and we’ll be fine” takes on a double meaning when considering the storm swirling outside and the reckoning happening inside the cabin – i.e., there will be resolution.

The production is directed by multi-time Barrymore Award winner Matt Pfieffer, whose work has appeared at Arden Theatre Company, the Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival, Theatre Exile, People’s Light, and many others. The three scenes are nicely segmented and compartmentalized. Pfieffer keeps the movement and dialog moving, but not so fast as to miss the point.

The performance schedule of The Flatlanders is: Wednesdays (2:00pm), Thursdays (7:00pm), Fridays (8:00pm), Saturdays (2:00 & 8:00pm), and Sundays (2:00pm) through May 5. Tickets start at $32 while discounts are available for students, groups, and military members/veterans. The show runs approximately 80 minutes with no intermission. 

There will be pre-show Viewpoints on Wednesdays at 1:15pm during the run, plus talkbacks after Thursday performances. The April 27 2:00pm performance includes American Sign Language (ASL) interpretation. 

Call 302.594.1100 or visit to purchase tickets or for performance information. Delaware Theatre Company is located at 200 Water Street in Wilmington.

Don’t be a “DQ” and make plans to catch this show!

Sunday, September 24, 2023

Celebrating "Noises" Produced by Delaware Theatre Company

By Mike Logothetis
Theater reviewer Mike Logothetis grew up in North Wilmington, performing in school and local theater productions. He lives in Newark, but you can find him wherever the arts are good.
Noises Off at Delaware Theatre Company.
Photo by Matt Urban.

Delaware Theatre Company (DTC) opens its 2023-2024 season with the zany British comedy Noises Off. Nominated for multiple Tony and Drama Desk Awards including Best Play, the show lampoons the life behind the scenes of a theater production during its 10-week run. 

Creator Michael Frayn wrote his “farce from behind” as a one-act play before it was commissioned as a full-length version. Obviously, the laughs were extended across the current three-act production.

Each of the three acts of Noises Off contains a performance of the first act of a fictional sex farce (Nothing On), which is ridiculous in its premise. The audience experiences insider viewings of this “play within a play” at three distinct times: Act I is a technical rehearsal; Act II is during a matinée one month into the run; and Act III happens near the end of the production tour. 

But the twist in this tale is that the viewpoint changes from the front of the house to the back (Act I to Act II) before reverting to the front again (Act III). If that sounds confusing, it makes more sense to the audience than to the characters on stage. Those poor souls have no clue what is happening — except spinning comedic gold!

The ability to experience the front and the back of things is due to the brilliant work of Colin McIlvaine. His wonderful set demonstrates why he is a Barrymore-nominated scenic designer. The bilevel, multi-door set works (and “doesn’t work”) in clever ways, including rotating 180 degrees so the audience catches the action behind the (stage) action.

In Act I, Nothing On actors Belinda (Karen Peakes), Brooke (Elise Hudson), Dotty (Grace Gonglewski), Freddie (Ian Merrill Peakes), Garry (Justin Jain), and Selsdon (Anthony Lawton) cannot seem to follow cues, remember lines, or hit their marks during a tech rehearsal from Hell which makes director Lloyd (David Bardeen) more fraught by the moment. Bardeen is wonderful in slowly swallowing his building rage and providing notes to his troupe as they flub scene after scene. Assistant Stage Manager Poppy (Bi Jean Ngo) must obediently clean up the messes and do Lloyd’s bidding to keep things rolling. The overworked Stage Manager Tim (Brenson Thomas) does everything from fixing sets to running surreptitious errands to making PA announcements to performing understudy duties.

All the characters have their personality flaws up front for all to see — on stage and backstage. Garry can’t state anything definitively; Freddie falls to pieces when things get hairy; Brooke sticks to the script too closely; and Selsdon is a hard-of-hearing alcoholic with a penchant for forgetting his closing line. Speaking of mangling dialog, Dotty’s character changes a somewhat standard line so badly over the course of the show, it ends up as: “It’s good I can’t see far with this leg.”

Most theater productions have their share of infighting and clandestine romances. Acts II and III reveal souring relationships between the Nothing On cast plus the set and props failing. In Act II, the audience sees how the fallout of numerous romances and off-stage problems affect the action on both sides of the stage. 

While the actors remain determined to cover up the mounting chaos during Act III, it’s not long before the players must invent some hysterical ad-libs to reach a new ending. Let’s hope Noises Off director Jennifer Childs didn’t have to deal with Lloyd’s problems while wrangling her actors.

The show is somewhat dated, but still timeless in its cleverness and originality. The dialog is tight and the physical comedy will draw plenty of chuckles. Who knew that looking for a lost contact lens could bring down the house? Sometimes things get a little confusing, but stick with it and it’ll start to clear up. Come to DTC for a hearty laugh at the theater and maybe score a plate of sardines!

The performance schedule of Noises Off is Wednesdays (2:00pm), Thursdays (7:00pm), Fridays (8:00pm), Saturdays (2:00 & 8:00PM except September 23 for Opening Night – 8:00pm only), and Sundays (2:00pm) through October 8. 

Tickets start at $32, and discounts are available for students, groups, and military members/veterans. The show is roughly 2.5 hours long with one 15-minute intermission plus an entertaining pause between Acts II and III. 

There will be pre-show Viewpoints on Wednesdays at 1:15pm during the run plus talkbacks after Thursday performances. Call 302.594.1100 or visit to purchase tickets or for performance information. Delaware Theatre Company is located at 200 Water Street in Wilmington.

Monday, April 17, 2023

Theatre Review: Man of La Mancha | Delaware Theatre Company

By Mike Logothetis
Theater reviewer Mike Logothetis grew up in North Wilmington, performing in school and local theater productions. He lives in Newark, but you can find him wherever the arts are good.

Delaware Theatre Company (DTC) closes its 43rd season with the excellent and heartwarming Man of La Mancha. Winner of five Tony Awards including Best Musical, Man of La Mancha features adventure, romance, and rousing classics like “The Impossible Dream” and “I, Don Quixote.” Set during the Spanish Inquisition, the titular Man of La Mancha embarks on an ambitious quest to right all wrongs in the world.

The show was written by Dale Wasserman with music by Mitch Leigh and lyrics by Joe Darion. It is skillfully directed by DTC Executive Director Matt Silva. Unique to DTC’s production, the sweepingly epic score is brought to life by the performers themselves – all actor/musicians who play their instruments live on stage. Simply stated, they are masters of their substantial crafts.

The opening number (“Prison Scene”) exhibits the cast’s vast range of musical, vocal, and acting chops on a magical set designed by Chris Haig. The setting is a dungeon with articulating stage parts, platforms, stairs, entryways, and steaming floor gates. Literally, the stage is set for an epic theatrical adventure.

And DTC’s Man of La Mancha delivers in a grand way. The story is captivating, the pacing is tight, the acting is superb, and the music is timeless. The company had the audience in the palm of its collective hand, delivering a great Opening Night performance.

When Miguel de Cervantes (Scott Langdon) and his manservant (Victor Rodriguez, Jr.) are thrown into the dungeon by the Spanish Inquisition, doom pervades the scene. Their fellow prisoners attack the newcomers and are eager to steal the contents of a large trunk Cervantes has brought with him. However, a sympathetic criminal known as “the Governor” (Nichalas Parker) suggests setting up a mock trial instead. Only if Cervantes is found guilty will he have to hand over his possessions. Cervantes immediately pleads guilty, but then asks if he may offer a defense in the form of a play, acted out by him and all the prisoners. The “Governor” agrees, and the prisoners watch Cervantes transform into Alonso Quijana – an old gentleman who has read so many books of chivalry and thought so much about injustice that he has lost his mind and set out as a knight-errant. Quijana renames himself “Don Quixote de La Mancha” and goes off to find adventures with his squire, Sancho Panza. The pair tilt at windmills and later take refuge at an inn Quixote swears is a castle.

Langdon and Rodriguez portray Don Quixote and Sancho Panza with prowess. Quixote’s wobbly knee and shattered mind is captured beautifully by Langdon with his powerful stage presence and voice. The role is difficult because the actor must inhabit a political prisoner playing an old man believing he is a chivalric knight. Langdon deftly shifts from mindset to mindset plus delivers superb singing in solo and ensemble pieces. The wonderful physical humor and sincerity Rodriguez imbues into Panza is matched only by his soaring vocals. To quote a line from Panza in the show, “I like him.”

Of course, any great quest must have a damsel and Sierra Wilson towers in her portrayal of Aldonza/Dulcinea. Don Quixote sees the inn’s serving wench and part-time prostitute Aldonza and declares that she is his lady, Dulcinea, to whom he has sworn eternal loyalty (“Dulcinea”). Aldonza is confused and annoyed by Quixote’s persistence but comes around to his kindness by providing him a token of her esteem – an old dishrag. Wilson tempered her powerful voice when required and raised it to stratospheric heights in moments of passion. She commanded you to watch her whenever she was on stage.

Back in the story, Don Quixote’s niece has gone with his housekeeper to seek advice from the local priest, who realizes that the two women are more concerned with the embarrassment Quijana’s madness may bring them than with his actual welfare (“I’m Only Thinking of Him”). Self-serving people want to return Quijana to his home, end the charade of Quixote, and have the old man quietly live out the rest of his life.

What happens to Quixote, Quijana, and Cervantes
plus the ancillary characters on stage  won’t be revealed herein. Suffice it to say there are epic battles, both verbal and physical; personal growth; and hope springing from despair. I can say with confidence that many theatergoers will be humming “The Impossible Dream” walking out through the lobby after the curtain drops.

Other highlights of the show include Josh Totora’s performance of “Barber’s Song” as a one-man band; the four-man guitar-playing arrangement (with percussion) during “Little Bird, Little Bird”; the brilliant effects during “Knight of the Mirrors”; and the overall motion of the action. Kudos to director Silva for keeping things dynamic on stage with insightful physical instructions for his players.

The performance schedule of Man of La Mancha is: Wednesdays (2:00pm), Thursdays (7:00pm), Fridays (8:00pm), Saturdays (2:00pm & 8:00pm), and Sundays (2:00pm) through April 30. Tickets start at $29 while discounts are available for students, groups, and military members/veterans. The show is roughly two-and-a-quarter hours long with one 15-minute intermission. There will be pre-show Viewpoints on Wednesdays at 1:15pm during the run plus talkbacks after Thursday performances. Call (302)594-1100 or visit to purchase tickets or for performance information. Delaware Theatre Company is located at 200 Water Street in Wilmington.

My advice is to “sit aquí” at DTC and enjoy the show!

Monday, February 6, 2023

Theatre Review: One Man, Two Guvnors | Delaware Theatre Company

By Mike Logothetis
Theater reviewer Mike Logothetis grew up in North Wilmington, performing in school and local theater productions. He lives in Newark, but you can find him wherever the arts are good.

If you’re searching for an energetic jolt of live entertainment, look no further than the Delaware Theatre Company (DTC) and its production of the hilarious One Man, Two Guvnors. It’s a romp wrapped in a musical farce. And, if you’re lucky (or unlucky?), you may end up on stage as part of the action.
DTC's production of One Man, Two Guvnors.
Photo by Matt Urban/NüPOINT Marketing

One Man, Two Guvnors
is an English adaptation of Servant of Two Masters, a 1743 commedia dell’arte work by Italian Carlo Goldoni. In 2011, English playwright Richard Bean replaced the Italian period setting of the original with 1963 Brighton, added original music by Grant Olding, and created a worldwide hit. The play was the launch vehicle for James Corden in America. In June 2012, Corden won the Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Play.

In this DTC production, the lead role of Francis Henshall is played skillfully by DJ Gleason. The easily confused Henshall makes his own life complicated by taking on more than his simple mind can handle. Gleason masterfully dances between scripted lines and improvisation while his character tries to please all parties involved in his current predicament. An argument that Henshall has with himself — which somehow turns violent — is a highlight of the show.

In a nutshell, the always-peckish Henshall becomes separately and concurrently employed by two men: gangster Roscoe Crabbe (Karen Peakes) and Stanley Stubbers (Jake Blouch), an upper-class buffoon. Henshall tries to keep his “guvnors” apart to avoid each of them learning that he is also working for someone else. 

Muddling events, Roscoe is really twin sister Rachel Crabbe in disguise. Roscoe had been killed by Rachel’s boyfriend…who is none other than Stanley. Complicating things further is local mobster Charlie the Duck (John Bellomo stood in for Peter DeLaurier on Opening Night) who has arranged an engagement between his daughter Pauline (Renee McFillin) and Roscoe. But Pauline only has eyes for actor Alan (Dave Johnson), the son of her father’s attorney (Bruce Graham). Amongst the chaos, Henshall has his romantic eye on Charlie’s bookkeeper Dolly (Kelly McCaughan). With Henshall in the middle, the chaotic swirl of characters keeps missing each other’s actions and antics. Thankfully, the audience sees it all.

The snappy writing by Bean modernizes the classic farce and upgrades much of the humor for today’s audiences. Between the cleverly terrible metaphors, there is substance to the script, however wacky the plot may be. For instance, the virginal Pauline so often misses the point that she is described as “unsoiled by education.” The second act’s deep discussion of debilitating and deadly diseases has more alliteration than this sentence…and is hysterical.

But, as in any farce, stage timing and physical comedy must shine. They do. Trembling octogenarian waiter Alfie (Brian McCann) steals a riotous lunch scene through physical humor alone. Feminist Dolly is overtly sexual and playful when being seduced. Alan’s passion for acting is so deep that he often prompts the audience to recognize his entrances before speaking or changes his spot mid-line to gain better light. The air of misguided entitlement around Stanley’s every movement is palpable.

Kudos to Colin McIlvaine for his inventive scenic design. His wonderful inside and outside sets allow for the wacky physical comedy to shine while keeping the world grounded in period reality.

Live music by Nero Catalano (Emmett Drueding stood in on Opening Night) and Andrew Nelson added a party atmosphere inside the theater. Scene changes meant live ditties with plot points mixed in with the song lyrics — not to mention guest musicians from the cast. Get ready for an energetic kazoo solo!

The cast regularly breaks the fourth wall with an infectious sense of wink-wink mischief. The audience seems to be intimately involved in the capers on stage, with the actors in on the joke. It’s as if everybody in the theater wants to squeeze one more laugh out of a gag. It’s all very, very funny.

One Man, Two Guvnors is the last show for 
outgoing Artistic Director Bud Martin. 

The performance schedule of One Man, Two Guvnors is: Wednesdays (2 p.m.), Thursdays (7 p.m.), Fridays (8 p.m.), Saturdays (2 & 8 p.m.), and Sundays (2 p.m.) through February 19. Tickets start at $29 while discounts are available for students, groups, and military members/veterans. The show is roughly two-and-a-half hours long with one 15-minute intermission. 

 There will be pre-show Viewpoints on Wednesdays at 1:15 p.m. during the run plus talkbacks after Thursday performances. Call (302)594-1100 or visit to purchase tickets or for performance information. Delaware Theatre Company is located at 200 Water Street in Wilmington.

Tuesday, March 8, 2022

Another World Premiere in Delaware with the Fantastical "Other World" at DTC

By Charles "Ebbie" Alfree, III

(L-R): Charnette Batey, Jamen Nanthakumar & Bonnie Milligan star
Other World. [Photo by 
Matt Urban, NüPOINT Media]
Something rare is occurring at the Delaware Theatre Company…an original musical is making its World Premiere. In an age when most musicals being produced are revivals (including the reinvented versions) or shows based on a musician’s or band’s catalogue, a popular book, or film, or on a historical figure, the Delaware Theatre Company is breaking from trends with their production of Other World.

With a book by Tony nominee Hunter Bell, and music and lyrics by Jeff Bowen and Ann McNamee, Other World takes the audience on a journey beyond what most would expect from a musical. Add visionary director, Adrienne Campbell-Holt, and the cutting-edge choreographer, Karla Puno Garcia, and the show becomes a video game spectacle!

The musical begins with a group of gamers playing the widely popular Other World video game. The players are in their respective homes around the world and have never met in person but have created a friendship 
— a 'cybercommunity' devoted to the game. This bond is threatened when the company behind Other World decides to cancel the game with only a 48-hour notice. One member of the gamer's community Sri, played by Jamen Nanthakumar, has a special relationship with Other World: Besides being his favorite video game, his deceased mother also co-created it when he was a child.

Although Sri has isolated himself in his home for the past three years, working remotely and only playing Other World, the cancelation of the game has driven him to leave his home and visit the man with whom his mother co-created the game. When Sri arrives at the man’s house, he is greeted by Lorraine, played by Bonnie Milligan, the co-creator’s daughter. She explains to Sri how the two met when they were younger and that her father has passed away.

She invites Sri to explore her father’s workroom in the garage and talks of her dislike of the game. Rather, she enjoys going out with friends and watching reality shows. While in the garage, Sri stumbles upon the computer used to build Other World and it opens a portal that transports Sri and Lorraine into the actual game. Now the two must face the game’s challenges to open the portal home before Other World ends forever.

Once in the game, Sri and Lorraine meet and befriend Other World characters, including the game’s host/guide, Temula played by Charnette Batey and the cyborg, 1011, played by Seth Rettberg. Temula, 1011, and additional Other World characters assist the humans in the challenges created to open the new portal. The challenges lead to the final battle with the wicked Antagon, played by Ryan Andes. Antagon wants to open the portal for himself and take over Earth.

Mr. Nanthakumar beautifully manifests Sri’s shyness and fears of the outside world 
 a feeling that many can identify with since the beginning of the pandemic in 2020. He’s able to peel the layers of his character and make him a hero that wins over the audience. Ms. Milligan charms as the sassy Lorraine. Besides having a gorgeous singing voice, her timing is perfect for the funny quips Mr. Bell has written for her character.

Ms. Batey and Mr. Andes are fierce in their respective roles. She brings down the house with the final song of Act One, "My Journey Begins." She moves effortlessly while not only singing the inspiring song, but also performing a very precise battle scene. Mr. Andes exudes fear as the maniacal villain, always standing above the action and eliminating anyone who tries to stand in his way.

Ms. Batey and Mr. Andes, along with most of the Other World characters wear magnificent, futuristic costumes conceived and designed Tilly Grimes and Wētā Workshop. Cassie J. Williams perfectly matches the costumes with her stunning wigs, hair, and makeup designs.

In addition to the costumes, Wētā Workshop, along with Achesonwalsh Studios and the Other World production team 
 Mary Hamrick, scenic design; Grant Yeager, lighting design, Hidenori Nakajo, sound design; Lucy Mackinnon, projection design; and Rebekah Tisch, art director  have designed the incredible puppets and effects that delight throughout the show. Their collective talents bring the magnificent video game and its inhabitants to life.

Ms. Campbell-Holt has done an amazing job staging Other World. The show is a technical juggernaut, but at the core is a story about people wanting connection, being a part of the world, and finding their inner strength. She does such a great job balancing the fantasy and humanity aspects of the show.

Ms. Puno Garcia’s transcendent choreography incorporates Filipino martial arts in the extraordinary fight scenes, some disco hustle to one of the video game’s dance challenges, and even modern dance when two of the video game characters slink onto the stage.

Mr. Bell’s book could have easily become a total fantasy story and relied on the technical aspects of the production, but he has created complex characters who evolve as the story progresses. Matching his book with Mr. Bowen and Ms. McNamee’s thrilling and passionate score, the three artists have written an intriguing piece about family, connection, and love with the backdrop of a video game.

Other World a great show for the whole family to enjoy. See it before it closes on March 20!

For information and tickets, visit

Friday, February 11, 2022

Delaware Theatre Company Brings the "Other World" to Wilmington

Delaware Arts Info reviewer Charles "Ebbie" Alfree III got a rare treat to virtually sit down with the creative team of Other World, the World Premiere musical debuting at Delaware Theatre Company. 

He chats with Book Writer, Hunter Bell; Co-composer and Lyricist, Jeff Bowen; Director, Adrienne Campbell-Holt; Co-composer and Lyrcist, Ann McNamee; and Choreographer, Karla Puno Garcia. 

Other World begins at the Delaware Theatre Company on February 23, 2022. For information and tickets, visit

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Black Femininity Honored in Dara Meredith's Dance Premiere, "The Bridge of Our Roots"

Dara J. Meredith is a noted Choreographer, Director, and Educator. She is a Dance Instructor at Eleone Dance Unlimited in Philadaelphia and a longtime member of the Dance Faculty at Christina Cultural Arts Center in Wilmington, Delaware. 

We were honored to catch up with choreographer Dara Meredith and talk about the inception of her newest contemporary dance piece, the inspiration behind it, and what it symbolizes for her and many other Black women. 

The Bridge of Our Roots. Photo by Shannon Woodloe.
Commissioned by the Delaware Art Museum with support from Art Bridges, the soul-searching full-length dance work, The Bridge of Our Roots" is inspired by Southern Souvenir No. II (1948) — a riveting painting by Eldzier Cortor, depicting disembodied figures of Black women. The performance of "The Bridge of Our Roots" premieres at Delaware Theatre Company Friday, September 17, at 8:00pm with a post-performance discussion with the artists. Tickets are available HERE

What does "the Bridge of Our Roots" mean to you, and why did you choose it as the title of this work? 
Eldzier Cortor stated, "...the Black woman represents the black race and the continuum of life". It is my belief that Black women represent the bridge between Black culture and the European culture, and therefore serve as the foundation for continuity in American culture. Since slavery, the Black woman has been the nurturer, giver, and provider for her master and his family as well as her own family; it was evident through the recipes that fed their bellies, her breast milk that nourished their bodies, or the actual giving of her own body to create her own children and the bastard children that were created through the abuse of her master or anyone else who saw fit to have her.
Why did you feel compelled to create this piece?
This work encompasses the stories of so many little girls, and women who feel alone, misunderstood, or silenced by societal norms and the lack of empathy and understanding of what Black women have endured and continue to endure. When we get a chance to share a piece of our story, it is important to tell it in the most authentic and genuine way, to represent every ancestral and living woman whose screams and cries fall on deaf ears. I felt a need to represent what is not represented — me, us!

What was the most challenging thing about creating this performance? What did you love most about it?
The most challenging part was narrowing down what themes and stories I wanted to tell and making sure I did it in a way that not only told my story and emotional attachment to the work, but to represent all facets of black women in its multiplicities and abundance. It was unbelievable pressure to get it right, as well as live up to the magnitude and importance of the actual painting, Southern Souvenir No.  II.

What I loved most about creating this work is the journey of re-learning and shedding my own layers in a therapeutic process with beautiful Black women who were willing to do the same. The amount of support that we have received from each other made the process rich and layered with a sense of genuine humanity, and an offering for us each to recognize our own resiliency — because of and in spite of  our journey as Black women.
Is there imagery of [the painting] Southern Souvenir No. II incorporated into this piece? Where can audiences learn more about this critical work?
I incorporated the imagery of the dismantled parts of the Black female body on the painting. The nipples of the breast that Eldzier Cortor created in a more 3-D fashion emphasizes the way in which her breast was how she nourished the babies to create continuity. This repetitive movement that was created based on this imagery finds its way in every section of the work, creating its own continuity in the work. The painting itself is on display at the Delaware Art Museum and can be viewed until October 2021.

What do you feel are the hallmarks of Black femininity? How are they depicted in this performance?
One hallmark of Black femininity that is depicted in my work is the passion that Black women have to always prevail and overcome, despite any circumstance. We will make sure everything and everyone is taken care of, despite the hardships or adversity we may encounter. She is resilient, and if asked to be anyone else in the world, she stands proudly in her skin and would have it no other way in spite of her tumultuous ancestral past and the plight ahead.

How did you choose the music for this piece? How does it complement/play against the dancers' movements?
I chose music that evoked the emotion of what I wanted to say in each section. Some of the music led my decision to talk about a certain theme, such as "Everything Must Change", sung by Nina Simone. In other sections, I wanted to enrich what I already created. The music drives the point home and complements the movement.

I see that you included elements of singer Nina Simone and poet Ursula Rucker into this performance; who else is represented?
I included music by the Gulluah Choir — Songs of Hope and Freedom  which was the group of people (Gullah and Geechee People) Cortor researched and studied when creating this painting. The work also features a local poet from Philadelphia, Kai Davis, as well as the words of Iyanla Vanzant, Michelle Obama, and Stacey Abrams, with a gut-wrenching score from singer Moses Sumney.

There is so much about the Black experience  and specifically experiences of Black women— that are not often understood, realized, and/or acknowledged. How do you feel this piece speaks to those issues?
I think the work gives an inner look into not only the pain that is present, or why we feel ostracized, but also it represents the resiliency of the Black woman in spite of all she endures. This work explores themes of Sistahs Catching Sistahs, the 'angry Black woman' stereotype, the exploitation and commodification of Black bodies, childless mothers at the hands of police brutality, overwhelmed immunity, how to find healing, and the resiliency that comes from these struggles.

You note that this work speaks to experiences of Black women in the South; do you feel Black women in other areas of our country have similar, related, or different experiences?  
I think women in other parts of the country have a related experience through their histories, but experience it in the present slightly different. In the South, there is a sense of wanting to keep things as they were, so the blatant racism that exist is used in an effort to keep you in your place, whereas being in the North or West sometimes camouflages these same feelings in a way that seems more passive-aggressive, digestible, or sneaky. In other countries these are some of the same experiences and issues they face — being ostracized, abused, and separated at the hands of a patriarchal system and the male gaze.

What message(s) or feeling(s) do you want audiences to take away from this performance?
Every take away is different. I would want people of other cultures to walk away with a level of empathy and care that they move forward with while examining how they situate themselves in creating the change in the world that is necessary on the most micro level. 

I want Black men to walk away with an appreciation and understanding of how to foster more care for their mothers and grandmothers; just because they do everything does not mean it is healthy for them or that they should be taking care of everyone. I want them to examine their role in the family and how they take care of the Black woman in a way that creates balance and encouragement.  

For the Black girl and woman, I want her to walk away knowing that she is not alone in all that she embodies and experiences on every level. She is worthy and beautiful just the way she is, and others are here to support her journey in navigating life.

Was it challenging for you to create (or not create) during the pandemic? How did you handle that?
It was actually good for me to create during the pandemic, because I had time to sit and think about how I wanted to approach this work. It was almost as if the world stood still for a moment, and there was this perfect time and space to focus on something so timely and necessary given the climate in America at the time.

What are you working on next and where can audiences experience it?
I am working on the expansion of this project on a tour as well as the dialogue between this work and my other full-length show, "Beneath the Surface," which is about mental illness.   

What advice would you give to young and/or emerging artists of color? 
I would say, as artists of color, we have to speak our truths in its most authentic, raw, and genuine fashion, because if we don't tell our stories, we invite others to tell it for us. Historically we have to hold on to our cultural tradition of story telling and artist are the ones who get to uphold this tradition.  The revolution starts with us and we can't be afraid of our power and the power of our voice, as it liberates others to do the same!

Friday, January 31, 2020

Student Playwrights Honored in Playwriting Competition at Delaware Theatre Company

This post's content comes from a release from Delaware Theatre Company...

Delaware Theatre Company (DTC) is pleased to announce the five finalist plays and playwrights in the 2019-2020 Delaware Young Playwrights Festival (DYPF):
  • Distant Shores by Melody Fritz (Appoquinimink High School)
  • Fortunes by Zach Hitchens (Cab Calloway School of the Arts)
  • Coffee Shop by Nikolas Mandalas (Dover High School)
  • The Lost Kids by Lauren McAllister (St. Elizabeth School)
  • The Mind's Eye by Bridgette A. Rivers (St. Elizabeth School)
The five finalists will participate in a series of playwriting workshops with professional theatre artists to further refine their writing and ready their works for a public showcase performance on March 12, 2020 at 7:30 p.m. on the DTC stage.

This year's DYPF began in September 2019 with a kickoff workshop for Delaware teachers and students in Grades 8-12. From there, 55 students representing nine schools from all three counties throughout the state submitted their original plays for the first round. 

Each playwright received feedback about his or her play from a teaching artist of the DTC staff. Student playwrights then had the opportunity to revise their plays. Playwrights resubmitted their work for the second round, also known as the "competition round." From these entries, the five finalist plays were selected for additional development under the guidance of DTC’s team of theatre artists and educators.

Though not selected as finalists, six other plays and their playwrights are recognized with an honorable mention for the merits of their work. They are: The Vinyl by Asjah Brown (MOT Charter High School); Composition by Kylie Daisey (Cape Henlopen High School); Coffee and Confidants by Skylar Hass (Smyrna High School); A Glass Mask by Trinity Hunt (Cab Calloway School of the Arts); More Than an Eye by Hylea Lisenby (Cape Henlopen High School); and Wondering Goodbye by Katelyn Mock (Sussex Central High School).

Now in its ninth year of the relaunch of this acclaimed program, DYPF invites students in Grades 8-12 to write a play based on a theme inspired by one of Delaware Theatre Company's productions. This year's theme was inspired by a quotation from the Patrick Barlow adaptation of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, produced by DTC in December 2019. 

The quotation reads, “And so I say ‘Open Sesame,’ Bob. To all the real treasures of the world. All the true treasures!” These words, spoken by the character of Ebenezer Scrooge after his transformative night, served as a springboard for the DYPF theme: Write a play in which a character seeks, finds, or identifies his or her version of treasure as a result of life circumstances.

Through the use of a standards-based writing rubric, students created and shaped their original plays with regard to characters, conflict, dialogue, theme, and other dramatic criteria. Delaware Theatre Company celebrates the work of all 55 students in adding 51 new plays to the world of theatre through their participation in the 2019-2020 Delaware Young Playwrights Festival.

The mission of Delaware Theatre Company's DYPF is to provide students with an authentic audience for their creative writing and teachers with an innovative literacy program. Guided by passion and professionalism, DYPF uses educational resources, interactive workshops, personal feedback to every playwright, and public performances to engage students in the art of theatre through the act of writing a play. Both competitive and cooperative, DYPF fosters, respects, and celebrates the voices of young writers.

Friday, November 1, 2019

A New Play ‘Lands’ at Delaware Theatre Company

By Charles "Ebbie" Alfree, III

Harry Hamlin & Stefanie Powers play three roles
in Joshua Ravetch's play,
One November Yankee.
Photo by Matt Urban.
The second production of the 2019-20 Delaware Theatre Company (DTC) season is Joshua Ravetch’s engrossing new play, One November Yankee. The playwright, who also directs the two-person production, explores the unique relationship between three sets of siblings through three interwoven stories.

Stefanie Powers and Harry Hamlin play the siblings. Maggie and Ralph contemplate their respect and loyalty toward each other as they prepare a major art exhibit; Margo and Harry confront a life-and-death situation as they travel to a family wedding; and while on a hike, Mia and Ronnie come to terms with a past family tragedy that has fractured their relationship. Through the stories, Ravetch skillfully writes of the love and rivalries that typically occur between siblings and the joys and tribulations that come with being in a family.

Although Powers and Hamlin are best known for their film and television work, both are superb on stage. Playing multiple roles requires both actors to demonstrate a range of emotions during the 90-minute performance. Powers plays a staunch art museum curator (Maggie) and a strong-willed amateur pilot (Margo); Mr. Hamlin plays an eccentric artist (Ralph) and an aspiring author (Harry); and they both play bereft hikers (Mia and Ronnie). Powers and Hamlin exquisitely convey vulnerability and strength, making their performances heartbreaking and powerful. However, they also find humor in their characters, helping alleviate the play's heavy subject matter.
Scenic designer Dana Moran Williams has created a startling and effective set. A small yellow plane 'crashed' into the middle of the stark stage serves as a constant reminder of not only the situation that binds the characters, but also a symbol of when their lives are crashing down, they must depend on each other. In addition to some other minor set pieces, a screen on the side of the stage projects videos and pictures of the characters’ current setting and state-of-mind between scenes, which prepares the audience for the next act.

Coping with the pressures of working together, comforting each other during a catastrophic time, and reconciling a strained family relationship, Ravetch does a remarkable job conveying the ups and downs siblings face during a lifetime. It’s not often we have such a distinguished playwright and director work on a new piece in the First State -- and have two extraordinary actors bring it to life every night, so get your tickets today before One November Yankee closes on November 10!

For tickets and additional information, visit or call 302.594.1100.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

"HONK" If You Like DTC's New Family Production -- We Do!

By Guest Bloggers Erin, Ellie & Maggie Lacey
Erin is a mom of 4 kids and works as a Business Processor for Point to Point Wealth Management in Wilmington. When not at work or home, she can usually be found costuming her kids' shows at the Delaware Children's Theater. Ellie is an 8th Grade Vocal Major and Maggie is a 7th Grade Piano major at Cab Calloway School of the Arts.

Have you ever felt like an ugly duckling, like you are different and you don’t fit in? That pretty much describes me from age 9 to age 16. Gangly, with a bad perm and glasses, I devoured stories like The Ugly Duckling to help keep the hope alive that some day I would fit in. 

The HONK cast rehearses "Wild Goose Chase" at Delaware Theatre Company. 
Photo by Ann Marley.
Because of this, I was very excited to get to meet two of the stars of Delaware Theatre Company’s Honk: The Ugly Duckling Musical to hear about what makes this show so special. I was extra excited to have my daughter Ellie with me to ask all the questions.

Kim Carson from Hellertown, Pennsylvania, plays Ida, a mom trying to keep her ducks in a row. Camiel Warren-Taylor from West Chester, 
Pennsylvania, is “Downy”, Ugly’s sassy sister.  Kim is a veteran of DTC and is the winner of the 2018 Barrymore Award for Outstanding Performance in a Musical as Helen in Fun Home at the Arden Theatre Company. 

She said that being a mom to 2-year-old Johnny has made her understand her role as Ida, Ugly’s mother, in a different way. “Bud [our director] asked me if I would be as emotional when Ida thinks Ugly is dead, and I think that those emotions are just so much closer to the surface now” she said. Camiel likes how Ugly handles the teasing and taunting from the others. She said that she has been teased for her name, but she as she says, “There is a reason for my difference and it makes me special.” Camiel is a spitfire with big dreams, and I can’t wait to see her make her DTC debut.

My daughter Ellie, at age 14, is in 8th Grade, and from what I can tell, middle school hasn’t gotten easier since I was an ugly duckling. She loves this show because of its message of inclusion and forgiveness. “More than ever, we need to accept people for who they are and celebrate diversity,” she says. “It’s important for parents to know that their kids will be all right, even if they are different.”

Honk: The Ugly Duckling Musical is the kind of show that is so entertaining that you don’t really notice you are getting a lesson along with it. The music is interesting enough to keep adults' attention and kids will love the adorable characters. 

Honk: The Ugly Duckling Musical opens April 17 and runs through May 12, 2019. Delaware Theatre Company is offering a “relaxed performance” on April 30 for ducklings and their families who would like a sensory-friendly performance. 

Tickets start at $25 ($20 for student tickets with valid ID) and can be purchased at or by calling 302.594.1100.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Totally Awesome Players & Delaware Young Playwrights Festival Hit the DTC Stage

DTC's Totally Awesome Players.
Photo courtesy of Delaware Theatre Company.
The content of this post comes from Delaware Theatre Company's email newsletter...

Totally Awesome Players Performs Two Original Plays
Over 25 years ago, Charles Conway, Danny Peak and some brave young actors  with support from the Delaware Foundation Reaching Citizens with Intellectual Disabilities (DFRC)  began this inspiring ensemble of kids called the Totally Awesome Players (TAP) Program. This troupe, and its newer cohort, TAP 2 ensemble founded in 2012, employ acting skills and the creation of a play to increase the collaborative skills and active creativity of adults with intellectual disabilities.

Now, the group of adults still meets weekly to collaborate with one another and put on a show. This season, as always, began with a theme: Time to Change, brainstorming how our lives can change in small ways and large ways, and how we react to the changes that we are unable to control. 

From there, the group of 33 performers and nine volunteers devised two original plays: The Best Laid Plans, a story of four students in detention exploring the paths their lives might take, and One, Two, Three, Change, a woman’s journey of positive small changes that transform into larger life changes.

The players worked tirelessly from November to March, not only improving their acting and memorizing skills, but retaining and growing the fundamental pillars of the program established back in 1992: You Can’t Be Wrong 
 a brainstorming rule that encourages any and all ideas, and No Negatives  toward yourself or others.

On Monday, March 18, 2019 the ensemble will share their original works on the DTC mainstage in the culminating performance. Admission is $5, and a reception follows the performance. 

The TAP troupes meet weekly, and participants create, write, rehearse and perform a play. These original plays are presented on the mainstage of DTC and other community venues. The program has also offered in-school workshops at the Howard T. Ennis School, a school for students with significant disabilities located in Sussex County and Kent County Community School in Dover.

The winners of the Delaware Young Playwrights Festival.
Photo courtesy of Delaware Theatre Company.
DTC Fully Produces Five Student Plays
The Delaware Young Playwrights Festival (DYPF) is a program designed to provide an outlet for Delaware students in Grades 8-12 to get the professional playwright treatment. DTC brought in designers and professional actors to bring their plays to the stage with lights, projections, sound, costumes and props.

After months of writing and editing, the culminating performance was attended by 175 people and honored all 83 students who wrote plays this season. Congratulations to everyone involved!

Delaware Young Playwrights Festival Winners
  • The Lines of Our Lives Jordyn Flaherty, Charter School of Wilmington
  • In All Honesty | Jalyn Horhn, MOT Charter High School
  • (A Little Bit) of the Book of Exodus | Tristen Hudson, St. Elizabeth School
  • Senior Year Shakespeare | John Morrison, St. Elizabeth School
  • Star Signs and Book Shops | Madelyn Thomas, St. Elizabeth School

Thursday, September 20, 2018

DTC Presents A Bruce Graham World Premiere in "Sanctions"

By Charles "Ebbie" Alfree, III

The Delaware Theatre Company (DTC) opens its 40th season with Sanctions, a World Premiere play by Bruce Graham. This timely piece touches upon controversial topics discussed daily in the news.

Graham focuses on the darker side of college football — revealing the questionable business decisions that occur off the field and behind the scenes.  It’s a gritty inside view of the challenging choices that some people make to ensure a successful team, regardless of the cost.

Catharine K. Slusar and Edward O’Blenis in Sanctions.
Photo by Matt Urban.
Graham has written a gripping play with four layered characters challenged by ethical and moral dilemmas about gender, race, and sexual assault. The superb cast features Catharine K. Slusar, in a terrific DTC debut, as the tenured English professor Claire Torrance, who is not only a great fan of the university’s football team, but is also the players’ educational supervisor.

While Claire has recently lost her beloved father, with whom she attended football games throughout her life, and is grappling with a personal scandal in her marriage. Now, she faces a choice of what is more important  the love of the game, educating students or protecting the welfare of the student body.

Slusar gives a textured performance. She’s able to bring a vulnerability to the strong role, delivering a completely formed character. The superb supporting cast includes Susanne Collins as the naïve freshman; Abby Barton, who works for Claire’ tutoring program, but also befriends Clair; Kimberly S. Fairbanks as the stern head of Claire’s department; Tonya Mann, who is not phased by Claire’s previous accomplishments, but is concerned about her current actions and comments; and Edward O’Blenis as the university’s go-getting recruiter, Ronald Hitchens, who works closely with Clair.  

O’Blenis is quite engaging as the ruthless Ronald, who will stop at almost nothing to form a winning team. He and Graham’s interactions intensify to a point that is easily palpable.

The stirring cast is led by director (and DTC Producing Artistic Director) Bud Martin who has created a pace that never lulls but continues to reveal unexpected twists and turns. He’s able to do this with the help of the exquisite set by Dirk Durossette, which provides the scenes for Claire’s and Tonya’s offices; seats in the stands; and Claire’s living room, and the play moves seamlessly without having to move sets and reconfigure the stage.

Graham has done a fine job of capturing the senstive issues and themes around the #metoo movement and university scandals that have recently and sadly continue to make headlines.

Sanctions closes on September 30 2018. For tickets, visit or 302.594.1100.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

A Dazzling ‘Circus’ Comes to Delaware Theatre Company

By Charles "Ebbie" Alfree, III

The Delaware Theatre Company (DTC) ends its 2016-17 season with the American premiere of the London smash hit family musical, Hetty Feather. Emma Reeves’ adaption of Jacqueline Wilson’s beloved book about a headstrong orphan girl’s adventure to find her true home will delight young theater goers. However, the mature themes of abandonment and loss in the story will also intrigue adult audience members.

The Cast of Hetty Feather. Photo by Matt Urban, Mobius New Media.
Hetty, played by the wonderful Clare O’Malley, is on a quest through Victorian England searching for her birth mother. Being an unwed woman during this time, Hetty’s distraught and sadden mother had no choice but to leave her infant daughter at London’s Foundling Hospital (a public institution for abandoned children).

Shortly after arriving at the hospital, Hetty is sent to a foster home in the countryside where she spends the first six years of her life. The headstrong heroine never loses her insatiable desire to find her birth mother, even though she forms a strong bond with her foster mother and three brothers. While living with her foster family, Hetty develops a keen imagination that will later serve her well.  

Hetty, like all foundling children, must return to the hospital following her sixth birthday. Under the stern supervision of Matron Bottomly (chillingly played by Michael Philp O’Brien), life at the hospital is cruel and unforgiving. Living in such harsh conditions, Hetty becomes even more driven to find her legitimate place in the world, but to get there she must go on a journey that will take her to bleak places where she must face tumultuous situations.
Photo by Matt Urban, Mobius New Media.
Director Bud Martin has created a charming, yet sinister, production that at times delights as well as frightens. His brilliant ensemble cast creates their characters on a circus set which provides a great juxtaposition to Hetty’s plight.
O’Malley and O’Brien — along with their stellar co-stars (Terry Brennan, Dave Johnson, Rachel O’Malley, and Karen Peakes) — have the daunting task to act their parts while performing circus stunts. For most of the show, the actors are hanging from flowing sheets or a ring that dangles above the center of the stage. It’s amazing how effortlessly they make it look to stay in character as they climb, swing and perform high above the stage.The cast is flawlessly costumed by Katie Sykes. Her understated costumes, some including a hint of a clown suit, not only capture the grim look of the poor during the Victorian period, but also let her circus set shine. The stage was built so the fantastic musicians (Liz Filios and Josh Totora) have an area to create mood music and flow easily in and out of scenes. In addition to playing their instruments, Filios and Totora provide the vocals for most of Bendi Bower’s score, leaving the actors to focus on their characters and circus stunts.
Hetty Feather isn’t your traditional family show or musical, but that makes it a special treat for the whole family. DTC recommends the show for children ages 7 and up. Hetty Feather runs through May 14. 

For tickets and additional information, call 302.594.1100 or visit

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Exploring the Change of Times at Delaware Theatre Company

Photo by Matt Urban/Mobius New Media. 
By Charles "Ebbie" Alfree, III
The Delaware Theatre Company closes their 2015-16 season with Nell Benjamin's The Explorers Club, a delightful farce that kept the audience in stitches. Although I'm not a huge fan of this genre, I did appreciate the witty writing, the superb performances of the ensemble cast (expertly directed by Bud Martin) and the stunning costumes and set.

The play takes place in London in 1859 at the prestigious all-male Explorers Club. On this particular day, the members must decide if they will accept their first female candidate (Karen Peakes) who recently discovered a legendary Lost City. Comedy mayhem ensues as members recount their adventures and discoveries, while dealing with their current situation.

Ms. Peakes is wonderful in her dual roles -- Phyllida Spotte-Hume, the explorer who is ready to take on the "good ol' boys club" to become the first female member -- and as Countess Glamorgan, Phyllida's hoity-toity, high society sister coping with the consequences of Phyllida's adventures. 

Daniel Fredrick charms as the Club's diffident president, Lucius Fretway, who is nominating Phyllida (and it might not just because of her work, but that he also has a crush on the beautiful explorer). He and the great Dave Johnson, Luigi the native of the Lost City, share a few exciting scenes involving flying cocktail glasses. Harry Smith is brilliant as the over-the-top adventurer, Harry Percey, who also falls for the gorgeous Phyllida.

Equally impressive to the performances are the period costumes by Wade Laboissonniere that allow the actors to move freely during some very physical scenes, and the magnificent set by Alexis Distler. From the moment I walked into the theater and saw the two-floor wood-paneled set with a bar and exquisite furniture, I was transported to a bygone era.

The Explorers Club isn't exactly my cup of tea, but it IS an impressive production for the whole family to enjoy! The play runs through May 22. 

For tickets visit or call 302.594.1100.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Best of 2015: Holly's Picks

WDL's Memphis. Photo: Kristen Romero

2015 was another great year for Delaware theater, with big changes (The DuPont Theatre was sold by the DuPont Co. to The Grand in January, and Delaware Theatre Company began actually developing shows for Broadway for the first time) and big excitement -- I don’t think I went to a single show in ‘15 without a full audience. I might even go so far as to say that Delaware is in the middle of a theater Renaissance, from Community theater on up.

I get get to catch every show of 2015 -- I don’t cover Delaware Theatre Company for Stage anymore, so I’ve missed a few highly praised productions -- but I did catch a lot of great productions. Here are my top picks:

Best Drama: Nora, Delaware Theatre Company -- One of the DTC shows I did catch was Nora, based on Ingmar Bergman’s A Doll’s House, a gripping story of a Victorian-era woman learning to assert her independence. It’s productions like this that are are putting Wilmington on the map.

Best non-musical comedy: Steel Magnolias, The Candlelight Theatre -- TCT is known for high-quality musicals, so it was a surprise that my favorite of their ‘15 season was their non-musical production of Steel Magnolias, a comic drama with an all-woman cast.

Best Shakespearian: Love’s Labour’s Lost, City Theater Company -- CTC had two big shows in 2015, and while “American Idiot” got more hype, “Love’s Labour’s Lost” was the real winner for me. With an immersive stage setup and a rock soundtrack, this was not a typical production of Shakespeare by any stretch, but it was the most successful non-traditional production I’ve seen yet.

Best Summer Production: Evil Dead The Musical, Bootless Stageworks -- Bootless’ Summer Splatter Series is a Wilmington tradition, and a highlight of the summer. They’ve done Evil Dead before, but this year it was at their new location at St. Stephen’s Church on Broom Street, and showed that Ryan P.J. Mulholland may have been born to play Ash.

Best Family Show/Most Fun: Shrek The Musical, Wilmington Drama League -- With a huge all-ages cast retelling the uplifting story of triumphant misfitittery, Shrek was way more fun than I expected it to be.

Best Touring Show: Camelot, The Playhouse -- Despite rumors that The Playhouse would no longer focus on Broadway touring shows, the 15-16 season is packed with big Broadway shows. My favorite of 2015 was Camelot - the updated version of the classic musical had some of the most stunning visuals of the year.

Best Show Overall: Memphis, Wilmington Drama League -- WDL stepped their game up to a whole new level with Memphis, the Broadway musical about the birth of rock ‘n roll. Everything hit the right note: the diverse cast was amazing, the sets were atmospheric, the story was a lesson in American history as well as a lesson in the roots of rock music. Truly a Community production that was up there with the professional theaters.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Delaware Theater Company’s "Diner" Serves Delectable Entertainment

Ari Brand, Matthew James Thomas, Derek Klena, Ethan Slater,
and Noah Weisberg. Photo by Matt Urban, Mobius New Media.
This past weekend, Delaware Theater Company (DTC) opened yet another New York City-bound production, Diner, the musical. Based on Barry Levinson’s iconic 80’s film, the musical (for which he also wrote the book), has music and lyrics by multi-Grammy Award-winner, Sheryl Crow and is directed by three-time Tony Award-winner, Kathleen Marshall.

Set in Baltimore during 1959, Diner follows the lives of six 20-something men – Ari Brand (Eddie), Aaron C. Finley (Billy), Derek Klena (Boogie), Ethan Slater (Modell), Matthew James Thomas (Fenwick) and Noah Weisberg (Shrevie). The longtime friends contemplate love, marriage, sex, success, family life, the future, and other issues, while hanging at their favorite diner.

Eddie is experiencing cold feet with his upcoming nuptials to Elyse (Tess Soltau) on New Year’s Eve. The lovelorn Billy is trying to win the heart of career-minded Barbara (Brynn O’Malley). Boogie, the consummate ladies man, is increasing his debt by making ill-advised bets with back-alley bookies. Modell goes along with his friends’ antics, but is the first to flee when things go awry. Fenwick, a trust-fund baby, is a free spirit rebelling against his family, but running out of money. Shrevie, a music lover, is finding his marriage to Beth (Erika Henningsen) isn’t all bliss.

While the men meet at the diner, the ladies also meet to discuss their sides of the situations. Elyse is preparing for her wedding as well as for a football test her fiancé is administering to prove her love to him. If she passes the test, they will walk down the aisle by the end of the week; if not, wedding bells won't ring for this couple. Barbara is a headstrong businesswoman trying to make it in the male-dominant broadcasting field. Climbing the corporate ladder interests her more than settling down to raise a family with Billy. Finally, the housewife Beth is trying to keep her marriage from falling apart, while still having her own identity. Essentially, these ladies are pioneering what will become the feminist movement in the next decade.  

Sure, the story of the musical isn’t groundbreaking material, but the show is about entertaining the audience, and Ms. Marshall has assembled a group of actors who are ready to entertain! 

The charismatic ensemble cast is superb as they perform on DTC’s most ambitious set in its 37-year history. The production’s multifaceted set by Derek McLane moves and transforms to become the diner, a salon, a movie theater and the outside of a church, where one of the most compelling of Ms. Crow’s numbers is performed. Mr. Thomas’s erratic performance of I Got No Home is shocking, but heartfelt as he sings about his rebellious lifestyle and the treatment he receives from his family.

Ms. Crow has written a score full of exuberant, foot tapping 50’s style music (What Would You Bet? and Gotta Lotta Woman) sprinkled with sumptuous ballads (Tear Down This Home and I Can Have It All). Best known as a leading rock-n-roll artist, Ms. Crow proves she can seamlessly transfer her musical talents to the stage!      

Diner offers up a slice of life from a bygone era that is always fun to visit. A time when an app on a smartphone can’t be used to figure out the actor in a Hitchcock film, but instead friends have a lively discussion to unveil the correct thespian.  

Diner fans can enjoy an extended run through January 3, at Delaware Theater Company. Visit or call 302.594.1100 for additional information and tickets.