Category Archives: New Jersey Repertory Company

NFL player rails against head injuries in new play ‘Halftime With Don’

Don Devers, a retired NFL player and widower, who now lives alone in a sparsely furnished apartment sleeping in an upholstered recliner and living on Pringles and Gatorade, is at the center of Ken Weitzman’s “Halftime With Don,” the latest world premiere play to be staged by the New Jersey Repertory Company in Long Branch.

Devers, wonderfully played by Malachy Cleary, has chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative disease found in people who have taken repeated blows to the head. He can’t really know this for sure because he needs to be dead before his brain can be studied.

His symptoms include disorientation, memory loss, social instability, erratic behavior, and poor judgment — but don’t get the idea this two-act play that continues through July 30 is a downer. You might find yourself getting a little misty-eyed at times, but there are plenty of laughs and by the end you’ll be smiling.

Devers says football is not a contact sport, it’s a collision sport. Although his mother forbade him to play, he did anyway, in secret. Not a marquee player, he was known for helping players he knocked down get back up — and warned them he’d do it again if they got in his way.

Yet every single day he misses playing ball and would do it all again. And that can make it hard to sympathize with his illness, at first. But who among us hasn’t made choices that aren’t good for us and we ultimately pay the piper?

Like King Lear railing against the storm, Don rails against the loss of his mind, his deteriorating body and erratic rages, and decides enough is enough. He comes up with a plan for the approaching Super Bowl Sunday.

His self-imposed isolation from the world is broken by Ed Ryan (Dan McVey) who comes knocking at his door eager to meet Devers, his idol and substitute father figure from childhood. Having recently lost his job, he’s hoping Devers will give him the ol’ inspiring half-time locker room speech that gets him back in the “game.”

Lori Vega is making a superb NJ Rep debut as Devers’ potty-mouth daughter Stephanie, an accountant with attitude, who is heavily pregnant by a married football player with a family he intends to keep.

Stephanie moved her father into an apartment closer to her and hired the nurses he refuses to let in to take care of him. Nor does he want to see his daughter. But not for the reason she thinks.

Rounding out the cast is Susan Maris, who plays Ed’s wife  Sarah. She, too, is pregnant and the two women bond immediately. But Ed and Sarah? Communication has been a bit rough recently.

A bit more info from the playwright on how Don and Stephanie got along before their estrangement, and why Sarah and Ed don’t seem to click as well as a couple would be helpful.

Nicely directed by Kent Nicholson (including the best use of Post-It notes I’ve seen on stage), the two-hour play moves along on the small two-level set designed by Jessica Parker and lit by Jill Nagle. Patricia E. Doherty designed the costumes.

This article first was published in the June 22-29, 2017 print edition of The Two River Times. 

 NEW JERSEY REPERTORY COMPANY

179 Broadway, Long Branch

Performances 8 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays; 3 and 8 p.m. Saturdays, and 2 p.m. Sundays through July 30. 

Tickets are $46 and available at 732-229-3166 or online at njrep.org.

As part of the National New Play Network Rolling World Premiere, following the production of “Halftime with Don”  at NJ Rep, the play will be performed at B Street Theater in Sacramento, CA.,  and Phoenix Theater in Indianapolis, IN.

 

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NJ Repertory’s ‘& Juliet’ has world premiere

From left, John FitzGibbon, Jacob A. Ware and Nadia Brown in "& Juliet." (PHOTO: SuzAnne Barabas)
From left, John FitzGibbon, Jacob A. Ware and Nadia Brown in “& Juliet.” (PHOTO: SuzAnne Barabas)

A young, cutting-edge theater director finds himself rebooting his career at a small conservative college in a sylvan setting in the world premiere of “& Juliet” by Robert Caisley at the New Jersey Repertory Theater in Long Branch.

Charlie Vaughn (Jacob A. Ware) is moving boxes of books, theater cards and, of course Yorick’s “skull,” into his office as the new

semester begins. He soon is joined by David Hughes (John FitzGibbon), a theater professor who has taught at the college for 30 years and had expected to move into the corner office with the grand view himself. Continue reading NJ Repertory’s ‘& Juliet’ has world premiere

‘Multiple Family Dwelling’ play about family secrets

Two couples are deep into the booze following a long afternoon at a birthday party for an 8-year-old girl. The light-hearted conversation, though, begins to veer off course. A slight insult here. A confusing comment there. Innuendo everywhere.

From left, Tia (Dana Brooke) plans to move to move into the second floor apartment in the home of James (Dustin Charles) and Kelly (Maria Couch), with her fiancé.

Then there’s awkwardness as one couple starts making out. That would be Tia (Dana Brooke) and her fiancee Stuart (Jared Michael Delaney) who plan to move into the second floor apartment in the home of Kelly (Maria Couch) and James (Dustin Charles), a married couple who bought the place hoping gentrification gets there soon, real soon. It was their daughter Olivia’s party.

It made me think a little about “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolff,” another play with two drunk couples, an unseen child and toxic relationships that thrive on taunting, nefarious games and  emotional abuse.

Continue reading ‘Multiple Family Dwelling’ play about family secrets

‘Mad Love’ at NJRep continues thru Nov. 20

Alex Trow and Graham Techler in "Mad Love" at New Jersey Repertory Theater, Long Branch, NJ
Alex Trow and Graham Techler in “Mad Love” at New Jersey Repertory Theater, Long Branch, NJ

“Mad Love,” a romantic comedy for cynical times, according to its subtitle, is about people trying to connect — first intimately, then socially.

One could say it’s usually better to get to know a person before you jump into bed with them, but that’s not the way things always work in these modern times.

This four-character, 90-minute play is by Marisa Smith,  whose “Saving Kitty” was staged in 2013 at the New Jersey Repertory theater in Long Branch, NJ, is directed by Evan Bergman.

Continue reading ‘Mad Love’ at NJRep continues thru Nov. 20

London’s first black Othello in ‘Red Velvet’ at NJ Shakespeare Theatre

Red Velvet by Lolita Chakrabarti. The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey 2016. Directed by Bonnie J. Monte. Pictured left to right: Lindsay Smiling and Victoria Mack. In background: Shannon Harris and John Little. Photo credit: Jerry Dalia.
Pictured left to right: Lindsay Smiling and Victoria Mack. In background: Shannon Harris and John Little. (Photo credit: Jerry Dalia)

New Jersey Repertory’s new play “Iago,” about a post-World War II love affair amongst three needy London stage actors and their love triangle, tonight is joined by the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey’s NJ premiere of “Red Velvet,” set in the mid-1800s about the true-life story of Ira Aldridge, the first  black actor to appear as Othello on the London stage.

This is so cool. When you’ve seen the entire Shakespeare canon multiple times, getting a new look at one of the world’s favorite playwright always is interesting . Continue reading London’s first black Othello in ‘Red Velvet’ at NJ Shakespeare Theatre

New Jersey Rep’s ‘Iago’ continues to Sept. 25

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As if there weren’t already enough intrigue, backstabbing and  romance going on in Shakespeare’s “Othello,” a new play called “Iago” puts a modern twist on the tale with its New Jersey premiere at the New Jersey Repertory Company in Long Branch.

A four-character drama loosely based on the grand love affair between Lawrence Oliver and Vivien Leigh, it’s set mostly in England from 1947 to 1957, taking us behind the scenes when the play was the thing that mattered the most. Continue reading New Jersey Rep’s ‘Iago’ continues to Sept. 25

‘For Worse’ at NJ Rep focuses on wife who won’t leave husband

Ed Kershen and Kristin Griffith. Three decades of marriage and three daughters later Peter has an epiphany and informs his wife that he is in love with another woman whom he has been having an affair with for the past three years. He assumes his wife will leave, but she doesn't, and to make matters worse his girlfriend gives him an ultimatum. Peter’s choices in life are put to the test as he questions the meaning of love, friendship and betrayal. The cast includes Ed Kershen, Kristin Griffith, Daniela Mastropietro and Angie Tennant and is directed by Evan Bergman.
Ed Kershen and Kristin Griffith play a couple crisis in “For Worse” at NJRep in Long Branch, NJ. (PHOTO: SuzAnne Barabas)

Deborah Rennard, the writer of “For Worse,” running through April 10 at New Jersey Repertory Company in Long Branch, has seen her share of troubled marriages. She was, after all, the actress who played JR’s secretary on TV’s hit show “Dallas” from 1978-1991.

(If you don’t know “Dallas,” ask your mom or click here)

Her four-character, two-hour world premiere has a twist she might not have seen on that TV set: a man who confesses to his wife of nearly 30 years (and three daughters) that he has been having a four-year affair with a much younger woman and plans to leave.

Continue reading ‘For Worse’ at NJ Rep focuses on wife who won’t leave husband

Ken Ludwig version of Sherlock Holmes at McCarter Theatre

Ken Ludwig's "Baskerville" with, from left, Jane Pfitsch, Gregory Wooddell as Sherlock Holmes and Stanley Bahorek opens at  McCarter Theatre in Princeton (Photo by Margot Schulman.)
Ken Ludwig’s “Baskerville” with, from left, Jane Pfitsch, Gregory Wooddell as Sherlock Holmes and Stanley Bahorek, opens March 10  at McCarter Theatre in Princeton. (Photo by Margot Schulman.)

Two regional theaters in New Jersey are opening world premieres in the next couple of weeks. And one thing we know for sure, there definitely is no such thing as too much Sherlock Holmes.

McCarter Theatre in Princeton is hosting the world premiere of Ken Ludwig’s  “Baskerville, A Sherlock Holmes Mystery,” his take on Arthur Conan Doyle’s “The Hound of the Baskerville.” You can count on lots of laughs from the playwright who also penned “Lend Me a Tenor” and “Moon Over Buffalo.” Performances March 10-29. Buy tickets here.

Continue reading Ken Ludwig version of Sherlock Holmes at McCarter Theatre

Dan Lauria prefers living playwrights, and now he is one

I can’t remember if it was when Dan Lauria was starring in ” “A Stone Carver” by William Mastrosimone at The Passage Theatre in Trenton or when “The Wonder Years” TV Dad was in “Inspecting Carol” by Dan Sullivan at the George Street Playhouse in New Brunswick, that he told me in an interview he was only interested in doing plays by living playwrights.

And he’s been doing that for all of his 40 years in show biz. Even while he was working mostly on TV and in film. Lauria loves being on stage and seems to like doing so in New Jersey. He also did “The Winning Streak” by Lee Blessing and “The Value of Names” by Jeffrey Sweet at George Street. Now he’s at New Jersey Repertory Company, 179 Broadway, in Long Branch starring in a four-character play he wrote.

The world premiere of Dan Lauria's "Dinner With the Boys" runs Sept. 11 through Oct. 5 at the New Jersey Repertory Theatre in Long Branch, NJ
The world premiere of Dan Lauria’s “Dinner With the Boys” runs Sept. 11 through Oct. 5 at the New Jersey Repertory Company in Long Branch, NJ

“Dinner with the Boys,”  according to the theater’s website, is “A killer comedy … about a couple of old-time wise-guys who like to cook great Italian food, complain about everything under the sun, and kill anyone who gets in their way.”

Hopefully that doesn’t include theater critics.

Continue reading Dan Lauria prefers living playwrights, and now he is one