The New Jersey Repertory Company is throwing a coming out party for its new West End Arts Center during the first week of October with a Theater Brut arts festival featuring 28 new short plays, plus music, poetry, art and photography events.
This is the fifth Theatre Brut (pronounced brew) for the professional, non-profit theater founded in 1997 and the most ambitious since it acquired the 28,000 square-foot former grammar school in the West End section of Long Branch as a second space.
Theater Brut’s stated goal is to foster the “creative impulse unfettered by social and artistic convention.” That objective also could be applied to the founders, artistic director SuzAnne Barabas and executive producer Gabor Barabas.
Instead of going the traditional route of first raising money to fund a complete renovation before opening the doors to the public — which could take years, not counting building a cinema arts theater and apartments for visiting artists as well — the decision was made to create programming and invite the public in as soon as possible.
Wanna be a Broadway producer? How about off-Broadway? Maybe you should launch a show at one of NJ’s regional theaters, which have transferred several shows to NYC, most recently Dan Lauria’s mob drama “Dinner With the Boys.”
According to today’s New York Times the show, which made its world debut last year at the New Jersey Repertory Company in Long Branch, was so popular patrons paid $10 to watch it in the lobby from a TV feed. The troupe’s main stage seats less than 50.
The play concerns two old-school Mafia guys hiding out after botching an assignment. They cook and swap stories as they await their fate. “It’s really about all the violence we consume,” Lauria told the Times.
The show stars Lauria, best known as the dad in TV’s “The Wonder Years,” Ray Abruzzo, who played Little Carmine on HBO’s “The Sopranos,” and Richard Zavaglia, who was in “Donnie Brasco.” Frank Megna will direct. To read the whole story, click here.
Beginning Broadway previews Tuesday (March 17) is “It Shoulda Been You,” one of the funniest shows I’ve ever seen. Directed by the super multi-talented David Hyde Pierce, it had its world premiere at the George Street Playhouse in New Brunswick. Starring Tyne Daly and Harriet Harris, the show has more crazy characters than one show should be legally allowed to possess, even if it is a comedy about a wedding day run amok between Christians and Jews.
Meanwhile, Paper Mill Playhouse’s“Honeymoon in Vegas” currently is running on Broadway and its very successful production of “Newsies” recently closed. On Sunday, the 77-year-old theater in Millburn opens a new production of “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” which could be ripe for a Broadway picking. And there is talk that a revamped version of Cole Porter’s “Can-Can,” which opened Paper Mill’s current season last fall, may make a Broadway transfer.
Next season, the 1,500-seat space offers two world premiere musicals: “Bandstand,” a story of a mismatched band of WWII veterans, and “A Bronx Tale,” set against a backdrop or organized crime and racial strife in the 1960s. The latter is directed by Robert DeNiro. Yeah, the two-time Oscar winner. Jerry Zaks, the four-time Tony Award winner, co-directs. For the complete season, click here.
McCarter Theatre in Princeton, which tonight opens Ken Ludwig’s new take on Sherlock Holmes in “The Hound of the Baskervilles” sent Christopher Durang’s 2013 Tony Award-winning comedy “Vanya, Sonia, Masha and Spike” to Broadway. David Leveaux’s production of “Electra” featuring Zoë Wanamaker moved to Broadway in 1998. And that’s just the latest in a long line for the venerable playhouse that itself is the recipient of the 1994 Tony Award for Outstanding Regional Theatre.
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.
“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.”