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Onstage / Buffalo premieres six new plays

KILLER RACK by Neal Radice opens at Alleyway Theatre on September 14.


Every familiar title you love was once a new work that needed support. That’s because, as much as we love the familiar, theater can’t grow without new works. Nonetheless, they are notoriously tough sells for theaters whose patrons happily plunk down money for things they’ve seen before, but resist trying something new.


Despite this, many theaters remain committed to developing and producing new work, in New York, in cities across the country, and right here in Buffalo—and they persevere despite that “tough sell” problem. If you love theater, please make the time to see at least one new show this year. It may not be as polished as the latest Shea’s musical, but those shows all started in the same place. In order of opening (note: there are three in the Curtain Up! first slot of the season), here are the year’s entries, as reported at press time:



By Mark Humphrey

American Repertory Theater of Western New York, September 7–23

Synopsis: An accountant, through a twist of fate, discovers that he owes a large sum to a gangster, who is looking for payment in full. When the accountant tells the gangster that he can’t pay today, but will pay tomorrow, the gangster leaves behind a goon to keep the accountant “safe.” Over the course of the evening, the accountant and goon discover what has led them to this circumstance.

From Mark Humphrey: “There are two major themes at work here. One is how people are not necessarily what they seem at first glance, and [another is the way] some people feel they can treat people anyway they want. What gives them the right? This show came from a place in my psyche that, while not black, is definitely a dark shade of gray. Is it based on a true story? You decide.”

Tickets: artofwny.org, 697-0837


Killer Rack

By Neal Radice, based on the motion picture by Paul McGinnis and directed by Gregory Lamberson

Alleyway Theatre, September 14–October 7

Synopsis: In a world that prizes breast size over accomplishments, Betty Downer impulsively books enhancement surgery with the evil Dr. Libby Niptuck ... and then all hell breaks loose as singing, dancing, and musical mayhem are brought on by a set of monstrous mammaries!

From Gregory Lamberson: “Killer Rack, the motion picture, had a music score composed and performed by Armand John Petri and Joe Rozler. After the film was completed, Armand Petri kept insisting the story would work as an outright musical, and he pitched the idea to Neal Radice, who quickly wrote a stage adaptation. It’s hilarious and faithful to the original script. Neal is directing, and Paul and I can’t wait to see our baby transformed for the stage with a whole lot of singing and dancing. People who may not have given the film a second thought will embrace this stage version.”

Tickets: alleyway.com, 852-2600


Sons & Lovers

by Donna Hoke

Buffalo United Artists: September 15–30

Synopsis: As long as Ellen doesn’t openly acknowledge that husband Butch is a cheater or son Bill is gay, they’re just ... not. As long as Bill doesn’t introduce Marq to his mother, he can avoid commitment. It takes fantasy, farce, and one fabulous makeover before the truth flies free, and mother and son discover just how much they have in common.

From Donna Hoke: “I had a short comedy, Best Interests, in BUA Takes 10: GLBT Short Stories in 2015. It starred BUA company member Caitlin Coleman, and, after BUA artistic director Javier Bustillos observed that my writing voice was a good match for her acting voice, he suggested I expand the ten minutes into a full-length vehicle for Caitlin. I laughed it off, but, when he continued to encourage it, the idea took hold and became, after many iterations, Sons & Lovers. So glad he asked!” (For more information, see sidebar on page 39.)

Tickets: buffalobua.org, 886-9239


An Inch Short & A Day Late

By David Moran

American Repertory Theater of WNY, January 4–20, 2018

Synopsis: For James, Peter, Wade, and Angela, it was supposed to be a session to finish the last song of their upcoming EP, but with half-drunk/half hungover manager Bobbi pushing their buttons, it’s a short trip to revisit past mistakes that could become inspiration—or something more. Anything can happen when the music is loud, the bond is strong, and the words are true.

From David Moran: “Being in a band is like being part of a family, with all the dynamics and tensions. Instead of sitting at the dinner table, these five sit around instruments to talk about the day’s events. Sometimes, that leads to a song, but good songs can open wounds. No fame means no money, and real jobs before coming to practice. Sacrifices made to do this can lead to repercussions that you wouldn’t think of; that’s the human element that most of us don’t see. It’s pulling back the curtain and talking about what it means to grow up and go after the things you want, regardless of fear and heartbreak.

This play was a way to exorcise my own demons, think about my own mistakes and missed opportunities. It’s easy to think of millennials in a negative light, but we feel strong and think deep about everything in our lives. Sometimes those thoughts can be liberating as well as paralyzing; with all that pondering, we can let the very thing we want slip through our fingers.”

Tickets: artofwny.org, 697-0837


Beginning Again

By David Alan Brown

Alleyway Theatre, February 15–March 10, 2018

Synopsis: Roland has been kicked in the head and everything is going to be different now. But the murky corners of his love and loss can be cleansed with the abrasive power of light, insight, and self-examination. This new lyrical play is the winner of the 2016 Maxim Mazumdar New Play Competition. 

From David Alan Brown: “While the three seemingly random interactions of this play were active in my imagination for a long time, I didn’t really know what it was supposed to be about until I happened upon Roland Barthes’ Mourning Diary, which broke my heart. After further research on his work and the tendencies of grief, I began to weave together story, social criticism, symbolism, and other aspects of Barthes’ teaching. I highlighted these with powerful emotional moments, relishing how live performance can affect an audience. I’ve attempted to illuminate human struggle through artistic query, giving voice to the frustrations of life after tragedy, and, hopefully, offering a sense of hope and peace to all of us who experience it.”

Tickets: alleyway.com, 852-2600


The Rain Dogs Project

By various playwrights

American Repertory Theatre of WNY, May 10–25, 2018

Synopsis: Tom Waits has been painting an Americana landscape with his music over the past three decades. Many of his lyrics weave fictional individuals through nonfictional settings in the same “dirty reality” style as American short-story writer Raymond Carver and poet Charles Bukowski. The characters, the lives they lead, the dialogues, the monologues within Waits’ vast encyclopedia of songs lend themselves to being brought to life in a theatrical setting.

From ART/WNY artistic director Matthew LaChiusa: “The Rain Dogs Project utilizes the talents of local playwrights in a forum that bases one-act works on Tom Waits’ music. Each work will be based on one of Waits’ songs, and will coordinate with others to create a La Ronde feel as characters intercept one another along the Project’s journey.”

Tickets: artofwny.org, 697-0837     


Playwright Donna Hoke’s new play, Sons & Lovers, opens September 15 at Buffalo United Artists.


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