November 9, 2006

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Moving forward, or not
Nashua Theater Guild tackles stagnant lives in Savage in Limbo
By Heidi Masek hmasek@hippopress.com

Savage in Limbo might hit a little close to home if you are in your 30s and stunted by an inability to take action.

The ensemble show is set in a Bronx bar where a group of 32-year-olds “have for one reason or another unfulfilled lives, and haven’t been able to advance in the direction that they would have liked to,” said director William McGregor.

McGregor has been able to discuss the staging via e-mail with author John Patrick Shanley, who has won Pulitzer, Tony and Oscar awards and written screenplays including Live From Baghdad, Moonstruck, and several stage plays. It took McGregor a couple years to get a company to stage the play, which he thinks was because of the subject and language. He asked Shanley about the obscenities. “His response is really basic... ‘For me this is a story that relates to a certain period of time in my life and this is what it sounded like,’” McGregor reported. The F-bomb is used frequently and there’s some sexual innuendo, so generally standard speak for a bar full of depressed people. But also, McGregor thinks many community theater boards are looking “strictly to entertain rather than sort of hold a mirror up to the audience.” But he thinks there’s been a movement in New Hampshire in the past year of a new guard “starving to do something that makes a difference.”

McGregor, of Lowell, was originally from Detroit, and until now stuck to working with Boston and Cape Cod theater groups.

Savage In Limbo
by John Patrick Shanley
Presented by Nashua Theater Guild, 320-2530, nashuatheatreguild.org
Nov. 10-11, 17-18, 8 p.m. $12.
Old Town Hall, Meetinghouse Road, Bedford.

Pro musicians, NH premiere
New Thalian founder brings jazz version of Gilbert and Sullivan

It took director Beth Ann O’Hara eight years to get the rights to stage Hot Mikado, a jazz and swing version of the Gilbert and Sullivan satire. “I retired five years ago but I saw this show in London ... I was determined to bring it to New Hampshire,” said O’Hara, founder of New Thalian Players.

This is Hot Mikado’s New Hampshire premiere. Rob Bowman and David Bell wrote it for Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C., when music could not be found to revive the 1940s version. They use jazz, blues, gospel and swing but also Sullivan’s music and much of Gilbert’s “brilliant and witty dialogue,” with contemporary jokes, O’Hara said.

“It’s all based on social commentary,” O’Hara said. It’s tradition to update the lyrics of a song, which New Thalian has done about “people who will never be missed in society.”

The comedy of errors involves two lovers in Japan separated by an arranged marriage. The Lord High Executioner plans to marry Yum-Yum, who is actually in love with the disguised son of the Mikado.

O’Hara has been planning this in her head for the past eight years so she has the details down.

“The voices had to be very strong, and jazz voices are not easy to find,” O’Hara said. Kennedy Pugh returned from Colorado, where he had moved, to be in the show. Bruce Smith of Nashua is a professional big band singer. Pinkerton graduate Joel Mercier did shows with New Thalian as a teenager and has returned from New York as musical director. He and assembled professional musicians for Hot Mikado!’s live band.

Judging by O’Hara’s track record, this will most likely be a meticulously costumed, staged and performed show. She has a lifetime achievement award from the New Hampshire Theater Association.

Hot Mikado!
Nov. 10, 11 at 8 p.m.; Nov. 12 at 2 p.m. $12-$15.
Stockbridge Theatre at Pinkerton Academy in Derry. 1-888-TIX-4ALL.
There will be T-shirts and a raffle to benefit the fund for the family of Officer Briggs.

Aunt Dan and Lemon
Sunny title, disturbing questions

Wallace Shawn’s Aunt Dan and Lemon is the first of a series of his plays exploring his questions about ethics, the value of human life and the rationalization of atrocities. Young recluse Lemon admires the Nazis and tells the audience why through flashbacks to Lemon’s childhood when she was greatly influenced by the political arguments of a family friend, Aunt Dan. Shawn later wrote, about the controversy in his 1985 play, that sometimes, “The difference between a perfectly decent person and a monster is just a few thoughts.”

Merrimack Repertory, a professional theater company in Lowell, Mass., is tackling Shawn’s work with Melia Bensussen, producing director of Emerson Stage, directing. She was working at the Public Theatre in New York City when Aunt Dan and Lemon premiered there in 1986.

“What I remember was the brilliance of Wally Shawn’s language and ideas: after I left the theater, I felt that I saw the world more clearly, if darkly, and had been given a new understanding of something that eluded me.”

Shaun is known for his films Vanya on 42nd Street and My Dinner with Andre. The Merrimack cast includes Allyn Burrows, Kyle Fabel, Tamara Hickey, Dee Nelson, Carmen Roman and Jeanine Serralles, most of whom have performed off Broadway and at several regional professional theaters.  

“His point jumped out in 1985, just as it does now: it is cumbersome and strenuous to lead a moral life, but without it, without the constant assessing of each of our own actions, we are in danger of, quite simply, losing our souls. I pursued this production because it gives us all something very strong to think about: the price of our own comfort and our responsibilities as citizens at all times in the world. I think it’s clear to all of us that the world is undergoing a large and turbulent transition.… I also think it’s great entertainment to watch, as the story, the language and the character are both familiar and utterly foreign at the same time,” Bensussen said. 

Aunt Dan & Lemon
Merrimack Repertory Theatre
Wednesday-Sunday nights through Nov. 19, also Wednesdays and Sundays at 2 p.m., and Saturdays at 4:30 p.m. $25-$55; $15 for students, 10 percent discount for seniors. (978) 454-3926, merrimackrep.org.  Half off rush tickets, Wednesday-Friday 5-8 p.m. for that night’s show.
50 E. Merrimack St., Lowell, Mass.    

History repeating
L.A. Theatre Works brings 1950s drama, radio style

When the stage show of Herman Wouk’s 1951 post-World War II novel The Caine Mutiny was on Broadway in 1954, the Army-McCarthy hearings began in Washington, D.C., and the Korean War was going on.

L.A. Theatre Works is bringing its tour of The Caine Mutiny radio theater show to Portsmouth.

“I think we’ve all been struck by how topical and relevant The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial trial is today,” actor Bill Brochtrup said. Brochtrup is known for his role in NYPD Blue and has several stage and TV credits. The wartime drama questions where moral obligations lie. “The play has a lot of twists and turns and leaves you really being able to see both sides of this story, the court marshal and this mutiny, in a really interesting light,” Brochtrup said.

“The L.A. Theatre Works has a commitment to bringing top film and television stars to its productions. Grant Shaud was memorable as the original boss on Murphy Brown – that pestering know-it-all Miles Silverberg. John Vickery’s broad background ranges from The Lion King on Broadway to the television series Frasier. Directing these fine actors will be Tony award-winning John Rubinstein. This is a rare opportunity for our community to see first-class actors in a meaty classic that still resonates today,” said Patricia Lynch, executive director of The Music Hall.

The play addresses only the court-marshal trial, unlike the novel and the film with Humphrey Bogart. “The radio style has been great. It gives us a chance to focus on the words and story,” Brochtrup said. It’s staged with a sound-effects artist, and some actors playing more than one role, as would happen in a radio play. L.A. Theatre Works brought two other radio-style shows on tour including the Scopes Monkey Trial. Brochtrup said The Caine Mutiny was chosen because it’s less known these days, topical, and courtroom dramas lend themselves to the radio format.

Brochtrup performed for a summer in North Conway as a college student.

The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial
Presented by L.A.. Theatre Works
The Music Hall, 104 Congress St., Portsmouth, 436-2400
Nov. 11, 8 p.m.; Nov. 12, 2 p.m. $20-$38.

Post-show panel, Nov. 12, “Responsibility and Conduct in Times of War,” moderated by Jon Greenberg, executive editor of New Hampshire Public Radio. Panelists: John Hutson, president and dean at Pierce Law, commentator on military, human rights, and rule of law on NBC Nightly News, Newshour, Nightline, CNN, CNN International, C-SPAN, BBC; Zack Bazzi, New Hampshire National Guard soldier who recorded his experiences in Iraq for the documentary The War Tapes; Douglas Wheeler, professor of history emeritus, UNH, consultant for the U.S. government on foreign affairs.

On the radio
• Listen to L.A. Theatre Works performances via WGBH 89.7 the first Sunday of each month at 10 p.m. during the Arts and Ideas program.
• For a weekly dose of L.A. Theatre Works broadcasts, stream them from KPCC, Southern California’s public radio station, on Saturdays, at scpr.org/programs/latw/.


11/2/2006 Access to the ancients

10/26/2006 Aida on a Nashua stage
10/19/2006 Children of a Lesser God brilliantly played
10/12/2006 A true love triangle
10/05/2006 Curtain Calls
09/28/2006 Bringing people back to life
09/21/2006 Getting judged
09/14/2006 Long strange journey
09/07/2006 Curtain Calls
08/31/2006 Curtain Calls
08/24/2006 Putting kids in charge
08/17/2006 Curtain Calls
08/10/2006 All theater, all summer
08/03/2006 A Jesus musical, reworked
07/27/2006 A match made in Maine
07/20/2006 Variations on a theme
07/13/2006 I Hate Hamlet
07/06/2006 Serious theater
06/29/2006 L.A. in Peterborough
06/22/2006 Da Vinci to Rube Goldberg
06/15/2006 Peter Bridges remembered
06/08/2006 From Hairspray to monkeys
06/01/2006 Special Theatrics
05/25/2006 Live Brit-com
05/18/2006 Evil stepsisters earn the yuks
05/11/2006 A message to mom
05/04/2006 Meet the cast
04/27/2006 'I hope i get it'
04/20/2006 Find yourself in Yonkers
04/13/2006 Nashua rocks The Wiz
04/06/2006 Nashua rocks The Wiz
03/30/2006 Cabaret is Mnchester bound
03/23/2006 A 42nd Street detour
03/16/2006 Actor-director wants your ideas
02/23/2006 Yellow Taxi's Theater Festival opens March 1
02/16/2006 Herding CATS
02/09/2006 An actors' studio
02/02/2006 A thing about love
01/26/2006 Spring theater season warming up
01/19/2006 Gearing up for the big night
01/12/2006 This Phantom is not a menace
01/05/2006 Jim Kelly, sci-fi writer and alternate historian
10th anniversary at Capitol Center
10 Ways To Survive The Audition
A Chorus Line
A Figaro Worth Cheering
A 'Living Newspaper' on stage
A tale of two wives
A Tribute To Music
Actorsingers Deliver On Superstar
Beauty and the Beast
Bedford Off-Broadway Gets Spooky
Being The Beatles, 1964 The Tribute
Bringing NYC to Wilton
Creating the venue from antiques
Crimes Of The Heart
Curtain to rise on Dana Center
Dana Center Takes Center Stage
Ensemble elevates Palace’s Godspell
From stage to the silver screen
Great play, too bad it’s over
Greater Tuna
Humble Boy
It’s cabaret, hear it sing, joke, tease
It's Child's Play
Jesus Christ Superstar
Kids Tackle Edgar Allan Poe
Local boy hits the big time, doesn’t lose his head
Lowell theater opens with a winner of a satire
Madco welcomes Boston actor-director
Meet John Sefel, Director
Meet Suzanne Delle, Yellow Taxi’s driver
Music Man to run three weekends
New Thalian Players
Palace announces 2005-06 season
Peterborough Players’ Solidarity is solid gold
Plaid
Plaid (II)
Playing with man’s best friend
Proud of the Peacock
Racy, crazy blast at the Palace
Reviving His Passion
Robert Dionne, The man behind the Majestic
Rosemary Dann
Secrets Every Smart Traveler Should Know
Short-Attention Span Theater
Side Show
Sideshow slips sideways
Spending The Summer On Stage
Stages of learning
Steel Magnolias
Suessical: The Musical
Theater Of The Imagination
Theater Kids Without A School
Theater in the park draws big
The Drawer Boy
The Festival
The Five best shows of 2005
The Prisoner Of Second Avenue
The Russian/American Kids Circus
The Senator Wore Pantyhose
The Tony Awards, they're grrrrreat
The Warmth Of The Cold
Three nights, three shows at the Palace
Tosca

Under the Caribbean with the little mermaid

Wake up to ‘night Mother