Category Archives: NJ Theater

Kathleen Turner stars in comedy ‘Act of God’ at George Street Playhouse

Tickets now are on sale for Kathleen Turner’s performance as God in the George Street Playhouse production of “An Act of God” in New Brunswick, N.J.,  Nov. 28 through Dec. 23.

Kathleen Turner, an Academy Award and Tony Award nominee, plays the title role in "An Act of God."
Kathleen Turner, an Academy Award and Tony Award nominee, plays the title role in “An Act of God.”

Yeah, really. That Kathleen Turner. The Academy Award nominee, Tony Award nominee, and multiple Golden Globe winner. She’s  appeared in nearly three dozen films, including “The War of the Roses”, “Prizzi’s Honor” (Golden Globe Winner), “Romancing the Stone” (my favorite), “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?” and “Marley and Me.”  She received an Academy Award nomination for her starring role in “Peggy Sue Got Married.”

A star of the Broadway stage as well, Turner received Tony Award nominations for her performances in Tennessee Williams’ “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” and Edward Albee’s “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”  She also starred as Mrs. Robinson in the Broadway and West End productions of “The Graduate.”  Her television appearances include “Nip/Tuck,” “Friends” and “Californication.”  Turner’s distinctive husky voice can be heard on TV episodes including “Family Guy,” “The Simpsons” and “King of the Hill.”

“We could not be more thrilled to have one of the most revered film and Broadway stars of our time playing God,” said GSP artistic director David Saint who also directs “An Act of God.”  “God has a lot to say in this incredibly funny modern comedy, and Ms. Turner has just the right amount of chutzpah to bring us Her words.”

Performances begin Nov. 28 and continue through Dec. 23.

Tickets start at $85 for all performances.  “Heavenly Seating,” the first three rows of the theater, that enable patrons to be close to God (or should that be Goddess?) are $100.

For more information, visit the George Street Playhouse website at www.GeorgeStreetPlayhouse.org where you also can purchases a seat. Tickets also available at the box office and by calling 732-246-7717.

In the 90-minute comedy by David Javerbaum, God takes human form and doesn’t hold back about what She’s seen and heard.  God, along with two archangels (casting TBA), answer many of the deepest (and not so deep) questions that have plagued mankind since Creation. Javerbaum’s play is based on his book “The Last Testament: A Memoir by God” and his Twitter feed.

Jim Parsons played the title road in the original 2015 Broadway production. It returned to Broadway in 2016 starring Sean Hayes.  The New York Times called “An Act of God” “a gut-busting-funny riff on the never-ending folly of mankind’s attempts to fathom God’s wishes … It’s an hour and a half of comedy heaven … .”

Javerbaum has 13 Emmy Awards, a Grammy Award and three Peabody Awards for his work on “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.”  Javerbaum is the co-creator of the Netflix sitcom “Disjointed” starring Kathy Bates and worked on “The Late Late Show with James Corden” and “The Colbert Report.”

While the new performing arts center that will serve as George Street Playhouse’s future home in downtown New Brunswick is being built, the company is in residence in the former New Jersey Museum of Agriculture at 103 College Farm Road on Rutgers University’s Cook Campus off Route 1 for its 2018-19 season.

George Street Playhouse is expected to return downtown to the New Brunswick Performing Arts Center in time for its 2019-20 season. A former museum exhibit area is being transformed into an intimate, mainstage theatre space.

The interim venue features expansive lobby spaces, an outdoor patio and free nearby parking. The entrance into the building and to all areas of the theatre are barrier-free. For directions to George Street Playhouse, visit the GeorgeStreetPlayhouse.org and click on “Directions” on the homepage.

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‘Honeymooners’ musical begins world premiere tonite at Paper Mill

Not many Americans are alive today who watched the original broadcast of “The Honeymooners,” the iconic TV show created by Jackie Gleason that has morphed into a limited run world premiere musical  (after two previous attempts) that begins performances today (Sept. 28) at the Paper Mill Playhouse in New Jersey and probably is Broadway bound.

It’s based on the 1950s CBS television series that featured Gleason as bus driver Ralph Kramden;  Audrey Meadows his as faithful but sharp-tongued wife Alice,  Art Carney as his best friend Ed Norton, a sewer worker, and his wife Joyce Randolph and best friend to Alice.

Publicity shot of Jackie Gleason as Ralph Kramden with Audrey Meadows as Alice, circa 1955
Publicity shot of Jackie Gleason as Ralph Kramden with Audrey Meadows as Alice, circa 1955

Coming full circle, Gleason’s skits about working-class married couples in a gritty Brooklyn apartment originally  were broadcast live in front of a theater audience on the DuMont network’s variety series “Cavalcade of Stars,” which Gleason hosted, and subsequently on the CBS network’s “The Jackie Gleason Show” (1951–55).

Continue reading ‘Honeymooners’ musical begins world premiere tonite at Paper Mill

‘A Raisin in the Sun’ cast deliver performances in a play not to be missed

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“You people,” says the man from the all-white Clybourne Park Welcoming Committee — repeatedly —to the Younger family living in a one-bedroom rundown apartment on the South Side of Chicago in the 1950s.

He’s so polite that the Younger family, at first, believe Mr. Lindner (Nat DeWolf) is sincere until it becomes clear he’s not. He’s there to offer them more money than the purchase price of their new three-bedroom house so that their neighborhood won’t be sullied by black people.

The dream of leaving a cramped cockroach invested apartment where the shared bathroom is down the hall, for an airy suburban home with a yard waiting for a garden, is so visceral it took them a few minutes to realize his visit was about race, not open arms.

Continue reading ‘A Raisin in the Sun’ cast deliver performances in a play not to be missed

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.

 

Last weekend to catch Two River Theater’s ‘Women of Padilla’

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Tony Meneses new play, “The Women of Padilla,” is about eight women who are married to eight brothers who are away fighting an unknown war for an unknown cause that seems never-ending.

The title refers to the family’s last name and seven of the women spend hours together daily talking, eating, arguing, and laughing in a series of short scenes during the 90-minute play featuring an all-Latina cast. Continue reading Last weekend to catch Two River Theater’s ‘Women of Padilla’

‘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

‘The Jag’ a sweet ride at NJRep; Estelle Bajou gives incredible performance

Dan Grimaldi is the 70-year-old father Chick and Estelle Bajou is Carla, a genius car mechanic in "The Jag." (PHOTO: SuzAnne Barabas)
Dan Grimaldi is the 70-year-old father Chick and Estelle Bajou is Carla, a genius car mechanic in “The Jag.” (PHOTO: SuzAnne Barabas)

“The Jag” is a play about a broken man, his broken son, their broken 1967 Jaguar, and the socially challenged young woman who helps to fix all three.

Written by award-winning playwright Gino DiIorio, the world premiere of this 90-minute drama with lots of laughs continues at New Jersey Repertory Company in Long Branch through Feb. 12. (Other plays of his that premiered here include “Release Point,” “Apostasy,” “Winterizing the Summer House” and “Dead Ringer.”)

Continue reading ‘The Jag’ a sweet ride at NJRep; Estelle Bajou gives incredible performance

‘Bodyguard’ musical looks amazing, sounds great, needs better story

"The Bodyguard" at Paper Mill Playhouse features Judson Mills as Frank Farmer hired to protect Deborah Cox as pop singer Rachel Marron, who is being stalked . (PHOTO: Matthew Murphy)
“The Bodyguard” at Paper Mill Playhouse features Judson Mills as Frank Farmer hired to protect Deborah Cox as pop singer Rachel Marron, who is being stalked . (PHOTO: Matthew Murphy)

“The Bodyguard” begins with a bang — a gun shot, actually — that made every single theatergoer in the 1,200-seat Paper Mill Playhouse jump. It ends with pop music star Rachel Madden, elevated above the audience — alone in the spotlight.

First produced in London in 2012 and recently revived, the American production ends its 5-week U.S. debut this weekend  and continues its national tour Jan. 10-15 at the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis, the second site for the 20 American cities tour. More dates are expected to be announced.  Most of the tour consists of 5-day stints, but several cities are booked for two- to three-week sit downs, including Chicago, Los Angeles and Costa Mesa. (Complete schedule below)

It’s the slickest production I’ve ever seen at the Millburn, NJ,   a nonprofit venue that has become a launch pad for  Broadway musicals recently, including “Newsies,” “Honeymoon in Vegas,” and earlier this month “A Bronx Tale.” “Bandstand,” which premiered there in 2015 is scheduled to make its Broadway debut April 2017.

Continue reading ‘Bodyguard’ musical looks amazing, sounds great, needs better story

Theater jobs: What is a Director of Production?

Director of Production Lauren Kurinskas with Queen Eleanor's dress from its current production of "The Lion In Winter" at the Two River Theater in Red Bank.
Director of Production Lauren Kurinskas with Queen Eleanor’s dress from its current production of “The Lion In Winter” at the Two River Theater in Red Bank.

Wonder what some of those titles in your theater program mean? Meet Lauren Kurinskas, Director of Production at the Two River Theater in Red Bank. No, she doesn’t direct the play, but she tells a lot of people behind the scenes what to do.

She joined the company in April 2012 as an Associate Production Manager and was promoted to her current job in October 2013. She handles all aspects of the shows staged by the professional theater company, which includes helping to create the season schedule and making sure each set is built on time; liaison between artistic and technical staff; oversee a staff of 23, plus find housing for visiting artists and facility rentals; running meetings and participating in long-term planning. Whew! Continue reading Theater jobs: What is a Director of Production?

‘Bathing in Moonlight’ needs a new argument about married priests

McCarter Theatre’s artistic director Emily Mann and playwright Nilo Cruz have been reunited for the first time since the Pulitzer Prize-winning “Anna in the Tropics” that opened the Berlind Theater in 2003. Unfortunately, their collaboration on “Bathing in Moonlight” isn’t as successful.

Continue reading ‘Bathing in Moonlight’ needs a new argument about married priests