Onstage / Contemporary and classic for March
Our latest batch of theater previews
A View From The Bridge opens March 3 at The Kavinoky Theatre
New Phoenix Theatre
By Ken Urban
Director: Kelli Bocock-Natale
Cast: Richard Lambert, Jimi McMaster, Candace Whitfield
Opens March 24 (newphoenixtheatre.org, 853-1334)
Grieving Philip hires a dying clairvoyant woman to deliver a message to his wife in the afterlife—and then begins receiving letters describing events only his wife could know. And yet, “The Correspondent is one of my more realistic plays,” maintains playwright Ken Urban, a Caryl Churchill admirer who says his plays often take the form of experimental storytelling. “The subject matter of my plays revolves around thorny ethical issues and characters striving to understand what the good or right choice is.”
Urban got the idea in 2009, when he learned of a website hawking an Afterlife Telegram service, the same type Philip takes advantage of. “I couldn’t believe such a thing existed,” the playwright says. “I kept thinking: what state of mind must you be in to believe in such a thing? I realized that in a state of extreme grief, in that place of pain, you will do anything to make that pain subside, even believe in an Afterlife Telegram, something that you might recognize as a scam in a normal state. This play is a departure for me in the sense that it could be considered old-fashioned, something which could not be said about my work in general.”
Once written, the play had its world premiere in winter 2014 at New York’s Rattlestick Theatre, and was published soon after. “John Guare [Six Degrees of Separation] did a talkback after a performance during the New York run, and he said that there used to be lots of ghost stories on stage in the earlier part of the twentieth century. I was definitely thinking about the Henry James novella, The Turn of the Screw.”
An accomplished playwright who decided he was a playwright at age twenty—“the kind of insane decision you can make when you’re twenty”—Urban’s work spans both comedy and drama, and he was recently awarded residency with the prestigious New Dramatists in New York, a high honor. “When you are inducted, there is a welcoming event during which a current member gives a speech about you,” Urban shares. “Stefanie Zadravec gave a beautiful speech about my work, and I will treasure that night for the rest of my life.”
New Phoenix opens The Correspondent on March 24 (newphoenixtheatre.org, 853-1334).
The Motherf*cker with the Hat
Road Less Traveled Productions
By Stephen Adly Guirgis
Director: Victoria Perez
Cast: Greg Howze, Anthony Alcocer, Rosa Fernandez, Rolando Gomez, Melinda Capeles Rowe
Opens March 10 (roadlesstraveledproductions.com; 629-3069)
If the title isn’t warning enough, “There will be cursing,” confirms Victoria Perez, who directs this month’s production of The Motherf*cker with the Hat at Road Less Traveled Productions (RLTP). “I curse up a storm, but when I was reading the script, even I thought, ‘Oh shit, there’s a lot of cursing,’ but it wouldn’t be real if there wasn’t, because that’s the way these specific people talk. Stephen Adly Guirgis does an amazing job making them real, because even though the title is Motherf*cker with the Hat, it’s about these people trying to get better at life, and loving each other, and being kind to each other.”
More specifically, the show centers around Jackie, a former drug dealer who’s just been released from prison and is returning to girlfriend Veronica, a functioning addict (“the first thing we see her do is snort a line of cocaine,” says Perez), and the workforce. For several reasons, it doesn’t prove easy.
Perez is excited to direct the show, because it’s realistic New York, it’s multicultural, and it’s familiar: “I feel like I grew up with these characters. Cousin Julio—anybody who’s Puerto Rican has a cousin like that. My family has battles with addiction. It’s so authentic, with all the Spanish words that are mixed in, the cultural things. I felt like it was in my living room, with my upbringing, and, then, on top of that, the way New York City people relate to each other and talk; it can be very rough, but it’s invigorating, just like living in New York.”
Another reason for both Perez and audiences to be excited about this show is the powerhouse cast, which includes RLTP first-timer and recent newcomer to Buffalo Melinda Capeles Rowe. “When I was doing Water by the Spoonful, [RLTP artistic director] Scott [Behrend] mentioned wanting to do this show, but was concerned about casting Veronica, and I said, ‘The moment I saw Melinda work on stage, I was astounded by her access to emotions. Buffalo is lucky to have her.’ She auditioned and Scott offered her the part on the spot. It’s such a freaking honor to work with this caliber of actors. It’s going to be wonderful, it’s going to be intense, it’s going to be rewarding.”
The Motherf*cker with the Hat opens March 10 at Road Less Traveled Productions (roadlesstraveledproductions.com; 629-3069).
A View from the Bridge
The Kavinoky Theatre
By Arthur Miller
Director: Robert Waterhouse
Cast: John Fredo, Debbie Pappas, Renee Landrigan, Adriano Gatto, John Kreuzer, David Lundy, Adam Yellen and Peter Palmisano
Opens March 3 (kavinokytheatre.com, 881-7668)
Like Death of a Salesman and All My Sons, both produced at Irish Classical the past two seasons, A View from the Bridge is classic tragedy visited on working Americans, and another Arthur Miller play in which self-deception plays a prominent role. “Many of Miller’s characters are undone when the narrative on which they have built their lives collapses under pressure,” says director Robert Waterhouse. “Miller claimed the play is based on a true story he heard from a longshoreman. A dock worker named Eddie prides himself on his willingness to protect illegal immigrants from Sicily so that they can work and feed their families, and, in his neighborhood, no greater betrayal can be imagined than that of an informant. To this code of honor Eddie adds another: the fatherly protection he extends to his niece, who, at seventeen, is dangerously close to expressing her sexuality and independence. The two codes collide, inevitably, when one of the immigrants in question woos the niece. Eddie’s pride and simplicity—and that crude, stubborn morality that refuses to see the complexity of emotions—is his undoing.
“Arthur Miller’s greatest plays share with Shakespeare’s the ability to speak to whatever age in which they are produced,” Waterhouse continues. “So, it is impossible to look at A View from the Bridge, about people whose fates are overshadowed by US Immigration and the threat of deportation, without thinking of Donald Trump or the extent to which immigrants in need have come to threaten a country that once owed its identity to the words inscribed on the Statue of Liberty. It is an intensely claustrophobic play, as the watchfulness of the state—the vigilance of officials and of prattling neighbors—invades every moment.”
David King’s design for the Kavinoky production will be simple and uncluttered, and play under the “shadow of Trump’s wall, to intensify the claustrophobia of characters,” says Waterhouse. The spare set will allow Miller’s text—a story of love, sex, betrayal, and human frailty—to take center stage.
A View from the Bridge opens March 3 at Kavinoky (kavinokytheatre.com, 881-7668).
ALSO PLAYING (IN ORDER OF CLOSING)
MusicalFare closes Ring of Fire March 5 at Shea’s 710 Theatre (musicalfare.com, 839-8540).
Jewish Repertory Theatre wraps up After the Revolution on March 5. (jewishrepertorytheatre.com, 888-718-4253).
Sophisticated Ladies closes March 5 at MusicalFare (musicalfare.com, 839-8540).
Buffalo Quickies continues through March 11 at Alleyway (alleyway.com, 852-2600).
Subversive Theatre closes Stop Kiss March 18 (subversivetheatre.org, 408-0499).
OPENING THIS MONTH
American Repertory Theater of Western New York opens Steve Martin’s The Underpants March 8 (artofwny.com, 634-1102).
The Seedbed opens at Irish Classical Theatre March 10 (irishclassicaltheatre.com, 853-4282).
Theatre of Youth presents Charlotte’s Web beginning March 18 (theatreofyouth.org, 884-4400).
Miss Nelson Is Missing! hits Lancaster Opera House March 31 for one weekend only (lancopera.org, 683-1776).
Buffalo Laboratory Theater opens Proof March 23 at Shea’s 710 Theatre (sheas.org, 847-0850).)
Playwright Donna Hoke writes about theater for Spree and Forever Young.