Onstage: Leading ladies
A Delicate Balance
Earlier this season, New Phoenix Theatre audiences saw Josephine Hogan perform masterfully as the legendary Vivien Leigh in Vivien, a collaboration with Red Thread Theatre in which the iconic actress was preparing to appear in Edward Albee’s A Delicate Balance.
Unfortunately, Leigh passed away before she could do the show, but not so oddly enough, Hogan herself will star in that Albee vehicle this month in an Irish Classical Theatre Company production.
Red Thread originally planned to produce Balance, but ultimately found themselves lacking funds and an adequate venue. At the same time, ICTC wanted to stage another Albee play. Their last had been 2005’s very successful Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf (starring Jack Hunter and Hogan). “Originally, we were to do Three Tall Women, but could not find the ideal cast,” says ICTC artistic director Vincent O’Neill. “Albee is notoriously choosy about having the right cast, director, and designers. We changed plans and decided to do A Delicate Balance instead. In auditions for our production, Derek [Campbell, the director] cast Josephine and Colleen Gaughan, who are both members of Red Thread.”
Campbell, who directed Albee’s The Goat, or Who is Sylvia? in 2010, says the cast “reads like a ‘who’s who’ of local acting talent.” Along with Hogan, Gaughan, and O’Neill, Balance features Maureen Ann Porter (The Hostage), Morgan Chard, and Peter Palmisano (the latter two recently starred in the Kavinoky’s Black Tie with Hogan).
A Delicate Balance, Campbell says, tells the story of “a wealthy, dysfunctional family comfortably ensconced behind the walls of a private estate. When best friends Harry and Edna show up unexpectedly, seeking refuge from a mysterious and unexplained panic attack, their presence threatens the orderly scheme of things.”
The Pulitzer Prize-winning A Delicate Balance opens April 19 at the Andrews Theatre. (853-5282)
Come Back, Little Sheba
Lately, audiences have been benefiting from Kelli Bocock-Natale’s directorial skills with New Phoenix and Buffalo United Artists, but let’s not forget she’s a compelling actor, as well. Her last major role was in the dynamic one-woman show Sophie Tucker: Last of the Red-Hot Mamas, which she performed for both MusicalFare and Irish Classical. She finally returns to the stage as Lola in New Phoenix’s Come Back, Little Sheba, directed by her husband, Joseph Natale.
Come Back, Little Sheba is a “story of marital frustration which erupts in violence,” Natale says. “Doc and Lola had an indiscreet affair. She became pregnant and, compelled to marry her, Doc gave up his medical studies and settled down to a life of quiet desperation with his frowsy, but loving wife. Doc’s sobriety is tested when a young college student becomes their boarder. She brings new life and long dominant hostilities to the surface of Doc and Lola’s troubled marriage.”
Along with Bocock-Natale, the cast includes Richard Lambert [New Phoenix executive director] as Doc, Jen Leibowitz (Jewish Repertory’s The Last Night of Ballyhoo) as Marie, and Mike Seitz (BUA’s Avow).
Come Back, Little Sheba continues through April 21 at the New Phoenix Theatre on the Park. (853-1334)
To fulfill the Alleyway’s mission to produce new plays, literary manager Joyce Stilson travels frequently. One of her favorite spots in New York City is the 42nd Street Theatre Row complex, where she saw a production of Voice Lessons. Playwright Justin Tanner “was totally approachable and very enthusiastic about Alleyway producing [Voice Lessons],” says Stilson, explaining that, in the play, “a community theater actress wannabe gets a windfall and decides to spend her new found dollars on voice lessons. In the process, she falls for her coach and her ego goes amuck. This is very tough comedy. It’s realistic with a twist of dark. Just my kind of ha-ha.” Stilson plays the lead.
Directed by Alleyway founder/executive director Neal Radice, Voice Lessons plays April 5–21 at the Alleyway. (852-2600)
Tracy Letts, whose play August: Osage County won the 2008 Pullitzer Prize for Drama and the Tony Award for Best Play, is an emerging force on the theater scene. Local audiences first saw Letts’s work in November with Road Less Traveled’s production of Superior Donuts. We get a second helping this season as American Repertory Theater of Western New York presents his first play, Killer Joe.
ART artistic director Matthew LaChiusa believes Killer Joe represents “what Letts is all about. Letts paints us a world full of anti-heroes, sociopaths, frauds, or, more accurately, a new breed of American role models.”
Directed by LaChiusa, the five-person cast includes Patrick Cameron (TOY’s Ben Franklin’s Apprentice) and Jessica Wegrzyn (RLTP’s A Light Lunch) as siblings who want to have their mother killed for the insurance, and David Mitchell (ART’s Laughter on the 23rd Floor) as the hitman.
“Killer Joe is a violent, nasty play with loads of dark humor,” LaChiusa says. “There are some scenes that will either make folks leave or laugh. Whichever way one leans in taste, this piece will haunt all who see it. Oh, and by the way, it will forever change the way you view fried chicken.”
Killer Joe opens on April 13 at Buffalo East, 1410 Main Street. (634-1102)
Native son A. R. Gurney offers another play at Road Less Traveled; Ancestral Voices opens April 20. Featuring a cast heavy with leading ladies, including Katie White and Marie Costa, Buffalo Laboratory Theatre presents Machine Stops 2.0 by BLT artistic director Taylor Doherty from April 13 to 28.
For more reviews and news about WNY theater, join Spree theater previewer Darwin McPherson on Eyewitness News This Morning on WKBW-TV and buffalospree.com.