Curtain Call: Best Equity theatre of 2018

Did you see these shows? Here are snippets of what I said about some of my favorites. It looks like the Ridgefield theaters have made quite a mark for themselves.

Eva (Julia Estrada) sings “You Must Love Me” to Juan Peron (Ryan K. Bailer) in Evita. — Andrea Valluzzo photo

Evita” by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice opened at ACT (A Contemporary Theatre) in Ridgefield. In my five-star review I wrote: “This is not like anything else that you’ve seen before … What’s so different about this production? Directed by ACT’s artistic director Daniel C. Levine what was old is now new again. With the precision of a plastic surgeon, he transforms a former seven-time Tony Award-winning musical into a stunning more youthful, more Latin, and more relevant production … oh, the difference once the old is gently pulled away and the new shines through fresh and young.”

Mamma Mia!” by Catherine Johnson played at ACT in Ridgefield. It was the organization’s inaugural production and it was sensational. Here’s what I said: “A full Equity theater, this cast is truly as professional as they come. Directed by the theater’s artistic director Daniel C. Levine, it’s not surprising that this show is flawless. After all, Levine appeared on Broadway as well as in the Broadway National Tour of this show. He knows this musical inside out and it shows.”

Kiss” by Guillermo Calderon played at the Yale Repertory Theatre in New Haven. I wrote: “Certainly, actors and directors know well how to ‘intensify’ and ‘embellish’ a playwright’s words. Oh, what can get lost in translation and oh, the consequence of those interpretations … The important thing to remember in seeing this play is that you must not take anything for granted. It is continually filled with surprise and shock. It certainly ranks among the most unforgettable plays that I have ever seen. I encourage anyone who loves theater, is in the theater, or studies theater, to see this play.”

Where All Good Rabbits Go

Where All Good Rabbits Go” by Karina Cochran opened at Thrown Stone Theatre in Ridgefield. It was described as a “beautiful meditation on illness, grief, and personal transformation…” I wrote that “it lives up to its accurate description … Because this work seems so simplistic, it is easy to buy into its comic surface. However, this falls straight into the realm of absurdity. It looks funny on the outside, but actually it is quite seriously about coping with illness, and learning how to deal with the loss of a loved one.”

Paradise Blue” by Dominique Morisseau played at Long Wharf Theatre’s main stage. Here’s what I said about the production. “Overall, there’s so much good about the performances of these fine actors and the strong character development that the playwright has sketched in detail and filled in with vibrant color, that it’s a shame that there are important missing elements. Theater goers will sense the influence of Ibsen’s strong willed women and will hear the lyrical language of August Wilson.”

A Flea in Her Ear” by Georges Feydeau played at the Westport Country Playhouse. I wrote: “C’est Magnifique … this new version makes it quite clear that when a French woman gets a flea in her ear — translated as she suspects her husband is cheating on her — then that flea is going to be taken care of. The setting is Paris in 1907, Raymonde discovers a pair of suspenders belonging to her husband, which have been mailed to him from a shady hotel. She asks her friend Lucienne to help her get to the bottom of this. They create an anonymous perfumed love letter to set up a rendezvous to catch husband Victor in the act. As all farces go, things don’t happen the way the ladies planned. Misunderstandings, mistaken identities and plenty of slamming doors keep the audience entertained.

Second Chance

Second Chance” by Mike Vogel played at Seven Angels Theatre in Waterbury. I wrote: “The second act is where the guts of the show comes to life and where the audience sits up and pays closer attention. This is when the playwright shows there’s more to this play than a sitcom happening. It is here when we see there is more to the central characters than first gleaned…The focus on aging with all its challenges is always present, and makes this production perfect fare for the sandwich generation dealing with elderly parents as well as for baby boomers, who are now senior citizens.

The Legend of Georgia McBride” by Matthew Lopez opened at TheaterWorks in Hartford. Here was a sensational show about a straight man who specializes as an Elvis impersonator who eventually pretends to be a drag queen in order to get a job. His wife is pregnant and he needs to get paid for being an actor.

Make Believe” by Bess Wohl played at Hartford Stage. Here’s what I had to say about it: “It doesn’t take long for the children to realize that Mom is not coming home soon. Chris says that she might have died, or been kidnapped. They listen carefully to the answering machine, obediently not answering the phone. They have been taught well. However, these messages and the “let’s play house” game, reveal serious problems and issues with their parents … As the children begin to imitate their parents, the disruptiveness of the marriage and family are revealed … The acting is superb … [The children eventually become adults and have kept some of the traits developed in their unfortunate childhoods].”

Office Hour” by Julia Cho played at Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven. I wrote: “Is anyone safe anywhere? Doubly charged with timeliness and believability, there’s nowhere to hide once the shooting starts … Since we can’t hide from it (the violence, the racism, the pain), we ought to address it. ‘Looking at this thing and not turning out, or doing something else, or distracting yourself, but just carving out this space and time to think about it — that’s all the play asks,’ said Cho in an interview. By the time the play ends, you have to acknowledge that Cho has us all in this violent mess together — all of us, even the shooter.”

About author
Joanne Greco Rochman is an active member in The American Theatre Critics Association. She welcomes comments. Contact: [email protected]

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