Onstage/ Classic and contemporary
Touring cast of Once
By David Lindsay-Abaire
Director: Bob Waterhouse
Starring: Eileen Dugan, Lisa Ludwig, Peter Palmisano, Geoff Pictor, Anne Gayley, and April Jones
David Lindsay-Abaire’s Tony-nominated play that won actress Frances McDormand a Best Actress Tony for her role as feisty Southie Margie comes to Kavinoky this month with Eileen Dugan in the starring role. “This play is about class and the decisions forced on people by their economic environments,” says director Bob Waterhouse. “The characters we meet are for the most part Southies—working class folk living in South Boston.”
In the play, a desperate and unemployed Margie swallows her pride to ask her former Southie boyfriend—now a married and successful doctor who has moved out of the neighborhood—for work. “The confrontation between this prosperous couple, who are having marital problems, and Margie, who is desperate, becomes the meat of the play,” says Waterhouse. “Our loyalties to the characters repeatedly shift as we wonder who is telling the whole truth and what is motivating the characters. Margie regards Mike as ‘lace curtain’—someone who has come to regard himself as too good for his former neighborhood, and Mike, meanwhile, regards Margie as someone who is weighed down by her own bad choices.”
Given the roles neighborhood loyalty and pride play in this piece, Waterhouse thinks Good People will “ring a lot of bells in Buffalo, where old working class neighborhoods are still tight with loyalties between people who, like families, stick together regardless of whether they actually like each other or not. There are many layers to these people, and we, in the audience, come to see parts of them they are unlikely to admit to themselves. But truth is always complicated where love and money are concerned.”
The play also has resonance for Waterhouse who grew up not in Buffalo, but England, where he became aware of a “fierce north/south division” when he visited the poor Leeds neighborhood where his father grew up. “When I would go up to Leeds to see my grandparents, I would play with the local lads and they would tease me about my uppity accent,” he recalls. “My uncle was the kind of man who would look at my hands and tell me I had never done a day’s work—this was at age ten, when I was already tainted by ‘boook reading’; (sic)—the idea of anyone doing anything different from those you grew up with, and especially decisions involving professions that took you away from the culture in which you grew up, was regarded with something close to hostility. This play is very true to the suspicious, resentful nature of people who feel trapped by their own environments.”
Good People runs March 7–30 (kavinokytheatre.com, 716-829-7668).
Road Less Traveled Productions
By Denis O’Hare and Lisa Peterson
Director: David Oliver
Starring: Matt Witten
When Road Less Traveled Productions (RLTP) artistic director Scott Behrend emailed An Iliad to Matt Witten in December 2012, Witten was immediately interested. “Classical Greek theatre and literature have always held a certain mystique for me,” says the actor. “I had never done a one-man show before, but since I already had such a profound interest in the material, it took very little convincing to take this on.”
Taking it on, in this case, meant memorizing roughly 100 minutes of material, a four-and-a-half-month-long process that Witten began in January 2013 so that he had the script committed to memory before he began rehearsing the three other shows he was in this season. “My goal was to work on one page per day and memorize it the following day,” says Witten, who will play more than ten characters throughout the piece. “Each time I learned one part of the script—there are seven parts in all—I would spend a few days working on that part before moving on to the next one. The key was reciting everything I had already learned and then moving into the next page. That way, I was able to establish continuity for myself which made things easier as I went along.”
The show is a modern and classical retelling of Homer’s epic poem, which Witten says is about the horrors of war, the endurance and resilience of the human spirit, and our daily struggle with rage. “The play makes us question our violent tendencies as humans and it helps us see past them,” Witten says, adding, “Throughout the play, selections from the Robert Fagles’ translation of Homer’s Iliad are spoken aloud. Getting to recite those passages in Homer’s verse—dactylic hexameter—is one of my very favorite parts of this show.”
Given the show’s mix of modern and classical styles, Witten hopes it will attract a range of theatergoers. “The audience gets to experience a wide range of emotions during this play, so it should have a fairly broad appeal. You don’t have to be a student of Homer to understand what’s happening,” he assures. “And it will be directed by David Oliver, which would be reason enough for me to see this show. He is one of the most interesting, unconventional, and thought provoking theater artists that I know, and it’s my pleasure to work with him again.”
An Iliad runs March 7–30 at Road Less Traveled Productions (roadlesstraveledproductions.org, 716-629-3069)
Book by Enda Walsh
Music and lyrics by Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová,
Shea’s Buffalo Theatre Touring production
Amazingly, nearly every Broadway touring show that comes to Shea’s has a local connection, and Once is no exception. The Tony-winning—it took home eight in 2012—show’s production stage manager is Daniel S. Rosokoff, a 1984 Williamsville East graduate who, after recently selling his Manhattan apartment, has once again made Williamsville his home base. Once marks the fifth touring production Rosokoff has traveled with to Shea’s, following Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, The Full Monty, The Addams Family, and Sister Act. (When in town, he recommends wings and pizza to his colleagues, as well as sponge candy, a treat his parents often bring to him when they visit him on the road.)
“Once is a wonderful story about love, relationships, and the healing power of music with a real-life ending,” says Rosokoff. Specifically, the movie-turned-musical tells the tale of heartbroken Irish musician Guy and Czech immigrant Girl who are drawn into a powerful week-long relationship complicated by their love of music and their growing love for each other.
“One of the special things about this show is our amazing cast of thirteen actor/musicians, as well as their six understudies,” Rosokoff says. “Not only do the actors act, sing, and dance (the traditional requirements for a musical) but they are also the orchestra for the show. Everything heard musically from the stage is played by this talented, gifted group of performers.”
Once is also a partially interactive show that invites audience members onstage before the show and during intermission to mingle and get refreshments from the working bar, an element which expands Rosokoff’s role. “Stage management is expanded to include all aspects of bringing the patrons onstage as well as helping them to have a new experience in a theater, seeing the theater from the actors’ points of view,” Rosokoff explains. “One of the most common comments the audience has while onstage is that they have seen a million shows here [at this theater] but have never been onstage before. It’s fun to watch them enjoy something that I now take for granted. I can honestly say it is one of the best shows I’ve worked on in my twenty-five-plus-year career as a stage manager.”
Once plays March 25–30 at Shea’s (sheas.org, 716-847-0850).
•A.R. Gurney’s Buffalo Gal opens March 21 at New Phoenix (newphoenixtheatre.org, 716-853-1334).
•Stones in His Pockets runs through March 23 at Irish Classical Theatre (irishclassicaltheatre.com, 716-853-4282).
•Lancaster Opera House has sequels! King O’ The Moon (Over the Tavern: Part II) runs February 28–March 9, and Nunsense II, March 21–30 (lancopera.org, 716-683-1776).
•Subversive Theatre opens Arthur Miller’s A View From the Bridge March 13 (subversivetheatre.org, 716-408-0499).
•Robin Hood opens March 21 at Theatre of Youth (theatreofyouth.org, 716-884-4400).
•Torn Space offers Mud beginning March 20 (tornspacetheater.com, 716-812-5733).
• Porgy and Bess is at Shea’s March 11–16.
•The Who’s Tommy runs through March 30 at MusicalFare (musicalfare.com, 716-839-8540).