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  • Writer's pictureAnthony Chase

Theater News - 3/10/19

Javier Bustillos and Lisa Kron, author of "Fun Home"



Playwright/actress Lisa Kron (pictured) and composer Jeanine Tesori won the 2015 Tony award for Best Score for their musical Fun Home, making them the first female writing team to win that award. Kron also won the Tony for Best Book, and the show won for Best Musical. Now Musicalfare brings the regional premiere of this fascinating piece to Shea’s 710 Theatre, May 9th – 19th. Directed by Susan Drozd, who did a fantastic job directing Violet in 2017 (music also written by Tesori), Fun Home will star Chris Handley, Michele Benzin, Renee Landrigan, LauRen Alaimo, and Steve Copps. Tesori’s major works include Caroline, or Change; Shrek The Musical; and Thoroughly Modern Millie. Back in the ‘80s, known as Jeanine Levenson, she co-wrote the musical Galileo which premiered at Studio Arena. Back in 1989, Kron and others founded the theater company The Five Lesbian Brothers. She’s married to Pulitzer Prize finalist Madeleine George, whose latest play, Hurricane Diane, is now playing at the New York Theatre Workshop.

One of the most anticipated new plays of the current Broadway season was The Lifespan of a Fact which starred Cherry Jones, Bobby Cannavale, and Daniel Radcliffe. Written by Jeremy Kareken, David Murrell and Gordon Farrell, the play closed its limited engagement this past January. Farrell, who is on the faculty of NYU’s Dramatic Writing Department, has a long history of working for the Alleyway Theatre. He and Neal Radice co-wrote the Sherlock musical trilogy: Sherlock in Love (1996), Sherlock Alone (1998) and Sherlock Forever (1999). Prior to that, the theater produced Farrell’s plays The Voice of America (1991), Alice Again (1992), and A Tin Star Over Tombstone (1993). Now Farrell and the Alleyway have entered into an ongoing relationship whereby the theater will serve as first developer of his new works.

Coming up for Curtain Up, the premiere of Farrell’s latest play, Navigators, to be directed by Radice, starring Tom Owen, and Chris Handley. And prior to that, Farrell’s Girls Who Walked on Glass, an immersive theater event will play at the Alleyway May 30th-June 22nd. This amazing collaboration deal might well have been struck at the Broadway opening party of Lifespan, which Radice attended. Amid all this activity, Radice is indeed getting ready for retirement, but only from his administrative duties. He indicates he could be hired for directing or other creative tasks. He is also the chair for this year’s Curtain Up! which will be held on September 20th.

SuiteCase Productions will present Edward Albee’s play, Occupant, for two performances only, March 29 & 30 at 8 p.m. in the Burchfield Penney Art Center’s Tower auditorium. The play traces the life of American sculptor Louise Nevelson. No stranger to playing larger than life personalities (Callas in Master Class, Golda Meir in Golda’s Balcony, Emily Dickinson in The Belle of Amherst, for which she won an Artie), Christina Rausa will play Nevelson, co-starring with Daniel Lendzian. Interestingly, the play was supposed to premiere off-Broadway in 2002 starring Anne Bancroft (who, by the way, also played Meir in Golda on Broadway in 1977), but she fell ill and the production was canceled. The play finally premiered in 2008 in a production starring Mercedes Ruehl (Bancroft had died in 2005) and directed by Buffalo’s Pam MacKinnon. For tickets for Occupant at the Burchfield, call 878-6011 during museum hours.

Ruben Santiago-Hudson’s play Lackawanna Blues opened this week at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles. The play premiered in 2001 at the Public Theater in New York. This is the true story of Santiago-Hudson growing up in Lackawanna during the 1950s and ‘60s. It is a one-man show in which he portrays over 20 characters. The Mark Taper is running a special discount offer if you mention code LAKEERIE (get it?). The play has never been produced in Buffalo. There were talks years ago about Studio Arena doing the show. It would be a perfect fit for Shea’s 710 Main. Did you know that Santiago-Hudson and Jimmy Janowski went to high school together? Coincidentally, Janowski is now appearing in a one man show, The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey, in which he plays nine characters. There must be something in the Lackawanna water.

Urgent! Final performance Saturday, March 9th at 2 p.m. at the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library auditorium, A Conversation with Oxycontin, a new play written and directed by Eileen Dugan, presented by Red Thread Theatre. The play is part of The Opiate Project, an ongoing theatrical exploration of the effects of opioids in WNY. The production features Dan Urtz, Lisa Hinca, James Cichoki, Alexia Guzman, and Aubrey Dempsey. Admission is free. The production will then tour to several schools and community centers throughout WNY.

Arthur Miller’s After the Fall is next up at Subversive Theatre, in a co-production with Post-Industrial Productions. Directed by Bob Van Valin, the show will star Darryl Hart, Bethany Burrows, Elliot Fox, Kate Parker, Brendan Cunningham, Kathleen Rooney, Alex Rubin, Amanda Vink, Rebecca Sliwa, and Jessica Tokarski. It runs March 14th – April 6th.

Never too early to think summer, Shakespeare in Delaware Park opens its 44th season on June 20th with The Tempest, directed by Saul Elkin, starring Dave Marciniak as Prospero, Christine Turturro as Miranda, and Brendan Didio as Ferdinand. And to give us all a head start, the 25th Annual Fabulous Feast & Auction, will celebrate the nuptials of Miranda and Ferdinand with Prospero presiding over the festivities on April 13th in The Atrium @ Rich’s. For tickets, call 856-4533.

O’Connell & Company will celebrate its 25th anniversary in 2020, and the whole year will feature remounts of past hits, beginning with Glorious!, followed by Lucky Stiff, and Steel Magnolias. The company will kick off the 2019-20 season with Young Frankenstein!

10,000 Maniacs will hold a benefit concert on Wednesday, March 20th at 7:30 p.m. at the Irish Classical Theatre Company. The concert will raise funds to produce a new CD entitled W.B. Yeats Poems: Words and Music. Steven Gustafson, Jerry Augustyniak, John Lombardo, Jeff Erickson, and Mary Ramsey will perform numbers from their extensive catalogue. Tickets are $50. Call 853-ICTC.

Coming up next at TOY, The Jungle Book, appropriate for ages 6 and older. Directed by Chris Kelly, the show stars Dan Torres, Bobby Cooke, Brendan Didio, Lissette DeJesus, Rick Lattimer, and Matthew DiVita. Artie Award winner Ken Shaw has created a set based on the concept of a jungle-gym (see below). The show opens March 16th.


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