Category Archives: World Premiere

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.

 

‘Ballad of Little Jo’ opens tonite at Two River Theater in Red Bank

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Cindi Lauper is writing the songs for the upcoming “Working Girl” Broadway musical. Cher’s life and career is to be the source of a 2018 Broadway show. But long before that, another woman was making her  way in a man’s world (even if she was incognito) and her story was adapted for the stage as “The Ballad of Little Jo.”

The  musical first staged in 2000 at the Steppenwolf Theatre Company — based on a real story made into a 1993 movie of the same title written and directed by Maggie Greenwald — continues through Sunday, June 25, at the Two River Theater Company, 21 Bridge St., Red Bank, NJ.

Set in the late 19th century, “The Ballad of Little Jo” is inspired by a real-life story of American optimism, according to the press release, and infused with a score that evokes the folk ballads of pioneer America. It tells the story of a woman named Josephine Monaghan, originally from Boston and where unmarried  pregnant daughters are banished as disgraceful, makes her way to a tough Idaho mining town where she lived as a man called “Jo” for nearly 20 years.

Continue reading ‘Ballad of Little Jo’ opens tonite at Two River Theater in Red Bank

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

‘Lives of Reason’ premiere at Two River Theater more soap opera than drama


The world premiere of “Lives of Reason” at the Two River Theater in Red Bank was not what I was expecting.

Taking place during a faculty cocktail party at a college in the northeast, it “exposes the challenges of intellectual life — and what happens when one woman’s secret passions explode and her authentic self is revealed,” according to the press release.

What we have is a 110-minute  cocktail party from Hell (no intermission) that veers between a soap opera and a satire with audience laughter in places I’m not so sure the authors intended.

Continue reading ‘Lives of Reason’ premiere at Two River Theater more soap opera than drama

‘Be More Chill’ speaks to teens about being cool, and its consequences

Will Connolly (center) stars as Jeremy Heere in the world premiere of "Be More Chill" at Two River Theater in Red Bank, NJ. The company includes, from left: Paul Whitty, Gerard Canonico, Lauren Marcus, Katie Ladner, Stephanie Hsu, Jake Boyd and Katlyn Carlson. (PHOTO: T Charles Erickson Photography)
Will Connolly (center) stars as Jeremy Heere in the world premiere of “Be More Chill” at Two River Theater in Red Bank, NJ. The company includes, from left: Paul Whitty, Gerard Canonico, Lauren Marcus, Katie Ladner, Stephanie Hsu, Jake Boyd and Katlyn Carlson. (PHOTO: T Charles Erickson Photography)

If you were in high school, knew you would never be a  cool kid, never get a date, always getting shoved into lockers and labeled a loser — would you take a pill that could reverse all of that?

Well, duh, of course!

In the world premiere of the dynamic new musical “Be More Chill” at the Two River Theater in Red Bank (NJ) through June 21, Jeremy Heere learns there is a way out of nerddom and grabs it with gusto.

Continue reading ‘Be More Chill’ speaks to teens about being cool, and its consequences

Two River Theater invites public to chill with regular free events

Exterior night image of Two River Theater, 21 Bridge Ave., Red Bank, NJ.
Two River Theater, 21 Bridge Ave., Red Bank, NJ.

Nonprofit theaters around the country have been adding value to their brand for years with such things as pre- and-post-performance talks. Two River Theater in Red Bank (NJ) has really thrown itself into building a community by offering lots of free audience-pleasing events other than a 6-play season.

Image of Two River Theater's artistic director John Dias.
Two River Theater’s artistic director John Dias.

On Monday (May 11) the regional theater, under the artistic direction of John Dias, announces its 2015-’16 season. But instead of sending out a press release to local media, the public is invited  to reserve a free ticket in the 399-seat main stage space and hear what’s on the schedule from the directors, artistic staff, and actors who will be part of the season. Doors open at 7 p.m. and the event is followed by a reception.

Continue reading Two River Theater invites public to chill with regular free events