Category Archives: NJ Theater

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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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

Latino theater festival Crossing Borders opens tomorrow, ends Sunday

Crossing Borders logoThe 2016 Crossing Borders Festival at Two River Theater in Red Bank, NJ, launches tomorrow. It’s a 5-day celebration (Aug. 3,-7) of new plays by Latino writers with food and music. And it’s free. What’s not to like?

Two River’s outreach year-round within  its community is exemplary, especially to area Latinos and African-Americans. It’s what all nonprofit theaters should be doing. Continue reading Latino theater festival Crossing Borders opens tomorrow, ends Sunday

Two River Theater’s ‘Pericles’ an epic theatrical event

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OK. Let’s just say it up front. “Pericles” is a play with problems and  almost nobody understands it. It’s one of Shakespeare’s last plays and some scholars believe he had a not-too-talented collaborator for half of it. It’s hardly ever staged because it doesn’t sell well.

But none of that deterred the Two River Theater company in Red Bank, NJ, from putting it on their  adventurous 2015-16 season schedule that includes an all-male “Something Funny Happened on the Way to the Forum” and the upcoming all-female “I Remember Mama.”

Continue reading Two River Theater’s ‘Pericles’ an epic theatrical event

2 River Theater reveals 2016-17 season with classics, and new works

Two River Theater tonight announced its 2016-2017 season, which  includes Michael Cumptsy as Henry II in “The Lion in Winter” and Ruben Santiago-Hudson directing August Wilson’s “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.”  Cumpsty and Santiago-Hudson, comfortable on NYC stages, bring their Broadway level work to regional theaters. Both men are returning to what they consider their second home which 2River fans are happy about.

Continue reading 2 River Theater reveals 2016-17 season with classics, and new works