“I can’t keep a ‘Secret’…” by Joe Eriole

Ovation’s Tamara Cacchione reviewed Rhinebeck Theater Society’s The Secret Garden, published here recently, and it was a glowing review. I saw the play after the review went up, and as Ovation’s Chief Editor, I could not help but further comment on the success achieved by the production. I hope Ovation’s followers will indulge me in this “double-dip.”

The story follows a young girl, Mary, orphaned while in colonial English India, and then consigned to live with an unflinchingly detached and mourning uncle in a gothic house, haunted by the spirits of both the uncle’s and the little girl’s, past. While there, she brings her stubborn resolve to bear on the lingering spirits of the house as well as her debilitated cousin, Colin, and from that mix of real-world determination and other-worldly guidance, the deep pain of regret, loss, and longing is overcome for all the characters, living and dead. 

The metaphor of the secret garden, which, young Mary determines, is not as dead as it seems, but only “biding its time,” is a deeply moving literary and dramatic device. Having already published a review of the show, it is not necessary to recount the arc of the characters in particular. But, theater-goers should know how powerfully effective the ensemble was; how flawless the willful Mary and the defiant Colin Craven were in the hands of the young and very talented Jane Langan and Sean Patrick Mahoney, respectively; how much depth David Foster gave the potentially two dimensional Dr. Craven; how beautifully comforting Katie-Beth Anspach’s Martha was; how hauntingly beautiful Elizabeth Thomas’s Lily was in the role of the spirit of Mary’s mother; how earnest and safe we feel as we, like Mary, were guided by Josh Lococco’s Dicken and Joe Beem’s Weatherstaff. 

And, special note is made here of the performance of Joshuah Patriarco as the dour Archibald Craven. Regular patrons of the Rhinebeck Center for the Performing Arts will recognize the veteran actor from numerous prior engagements at the Center. But they will not have seen him deliver a more subtle, nuanced and moving performance than this. He has always been capable of dominating his performance space; here he melts into it instead, and thereby elevates it when Archibald finally bridges the distance between himself and his son Colin, and again when he takes back control of the affairs of the long-fallow house.

The show was very effectively directed by Dorothy Luongo and Wendy Urban-Meade, whose deep understanding of its magic and appeal is reflected in their notes. Give that the show has closed, I post this largely in honor of their effort here to encourage audiences to keep an ey out for their individual or collaborative effort in the future.  

Like the house and garden at its core, any theater production ultimately belongs to the ether; Ovation felt impelled to send it off properly acknowledged.

Ancram Opera House – The Tricky Part

Review by Teresa Gasparini

“What if what harms us comes to restore us?”

Living in 2019, it seems unfortunate that there are topics of conversation which are considered taboo; subjects about which we are not allowed to speak openly. Martin Moran’s The Tricky Part at Ancram Opera House tears those walls down with such a crash, that what seems odd is that it is not normal to talk about various topics, this particular one being sexual abuse.

Theater has lasted for thousands of years because of one commonality:  People are wired for stories. We want to hear them, we want to tell them, we want to connect to them. Moran’s deeply personal story of “sexual trespassing” in his youth kept the audience spellbound for the entire 80-minute one act performance. Originally written in 2002, this story remains timely told as we find ourselves in an era of the #MeToo Movement, and this piece certainly lends a hand to helping find a voice for the marginalized or even a sense of comfort to those who have not yet found the courage to speak up and out.

Moran opens the show by bringing us to his youth and how his childhood was shaped by the Catholic school he attended, the religious community he lived in, and the chance encounters that set the course of his life. It is discovered that he, like many, live in a paradox that leaves you in a state of questioning, re-imagining, and acceptance of our life’s path.

Moran is under the direction of Seth Barrish, whose expansive career lends a hand to this deceptively simple show. The idea of a one-man show may seem easy, but when everything rides on one actor’s ability to tell a story with content as heavy as this, only the skilled hand of a well-seasoned director will ensure its success. The impact of Barrish’s direction was evident as he possesses the strong director’s insight needed for a production such as this.

Martin Moran in The Tricky Part

It is remarkable that Moran not only came to terms with the abuse imposed upon him and not only that he found the courage to record it, but even further, that he is valiant enough to share his story with countless audience members for almost two decades. Brave indeed, but perhaps even more so, noble. Moran’s ability to engage the audience with his unfiltered truth and (notwithstanding the difficulty of the topic) a bit of humor, was impeccable. He spoke with sincerity as he told this incredibly personal story. He shared such intimate details that there were moments you felt you were violating his privacy by reading the sequestered pages of his journal, and in that same moment, Moran literally picked up his diary and read his story straight from his entries; a story so powerful that at times it felt like all the oxygen had been sucked out of the room.

The Tricky Part is aptly named, because of the “tricky” and wonderful step it takes in making sure subjects like this are spoken of openly and freely. It shatters the idea that it’s not okay to be in repair while you reach for forgiveness and acceptance. Moran’s childhood was interrupted and derailed, but he was able to navigate this journey with dignity. Broken, perhaps, for a time, in search of his moment of grace. 

The Tricky Part was a limited 3-show engagement at the Ancram Opera House, and as a first-time attendee, if this is the type of work they produce, it is well worth your time to support this quaint opera house. The remainder of their 2019 Summer Season consists of a one night only event Real People, Real Stories on July 27th and a three-week run of The Brothers Size showing August 8-25, 2019. Find them online at www.ancramoperahouse.org or call for more information: 518-329-0114. Originally a Grange Hall built in the 1920s, their intriguing choices for their season seems as fittingly “off the beaten path,” as is their charming theater. And, if The Tricky Part is any indication, audiences should certainly find time to make the trip.

Teresa Gasparini

Teresa Gasparini is a local director, actor and is a co-founder of Hudson Valley Ovation. She serves as the Artistic Director for Clove Creek Dinner Theater in Fishkill, NY and as Executive Director for The New Deal Creative Arts Center located in Hyde Park, NY. 

Ancram Opera House Announces Three Performances: THE TRICKY PART

Limited engagement for Obie Winner The Tricky Part

Martin Moran’s Obie Award-winning play THE TRICKY PART will play for three performances only, July 12 and 13 at 8pm and July 14 at 3pm, at the Ancram Opera House, 1330 County Route 7, Ancram, NY. Tickets are $35 at ancramoperahouse.org

Photo credit: Martin Moran in The Tricky Part at The Barrow Group Theatre Company, 2018, by Edward T. Morris

Following the July 14 matinee an audience talkback with Moran will be moderated by Martine Kei Green-Rogers, President of the Literary Managers and Dramaturgs of the Americas, a dramaturg with Oregon Shakespeare Festival and a member of the Theatre Arts Faculty at SUNY: New Paltz.

THE TRICKY PART, written and performed by Moran, is a heralded solo show about one man’s journey through the complexities of Catholicism, desire and human trespass.

Ben Brantley of The New York Times called THE TRICKY PART “A translucent memoir of a play … shattering.” Moran’s memoir of the same title (published by Random House, Anchor Books) won a Barnes and Noble Discover Prize and a Lambda Literary Award.

Moran is an award-winning writer, solo performer and veteran Broadway/Off-Broadway actor whose credits include Nassim, The Prom, Spamalot, Wicked, TitanicHow to Succeed in Business, Fun Home, and The Cradle Will Rock, among others. His most recent play All The Rage received the 2013 Lucille Lortel Award and Outer Critics Circle nomination for Outstanding Solo Show. His film and television work include “The Newsroom,” “The Big C,” “Possible Side Affects,” “Private Parts,” “Law & Order” and “Law & Order Criminal Intent.” His writing has appeared in The New York TimesPushcart Prize Anthology, and Ploughshares.

Directing THE TRICKY PART is Seth Barrish, Co-Founder and Co-Artistic Director of the Barrow Group whose award-winning 30-year career spans Broadway, Off Broadway, television and film. He recently directly Mike Birbiglia’s The New One on Broadway, and previously directed the Off-Broadway and feature film versions of Birbiglia’s Sleepwalk With Me. Barrish is the author of An Actor’s Companion-Tools for the Working Actor, published by TCG with a foreword by Anne Hathaway.

The Ancram Opera House, located in southern Columbia County, is an intimate rural performance hall showcasing contemporary theatre and alternative cabaret by visionary theater and musical artists.

Cabaret Star Salty Brine in Welcome to the Jungle at the Ancram Opera House July 6th

One night only event at Ancram Opera House!

Photo: Marcus Middleton

Alternative cabaret star Salty Brine will perform the award-winning show Welcome to the Jungle one night only at the Ancram Opera House on July 6th at 8:30pm. Tickets are $30 and available at ancramoperahouse.org and TodayTix.com. The show, written and performed by Salty, is directed by Max Rueben with musical arrangements by Nate Weida.

Welcome to the Jungle opens deep in the New Hampshire woods in the summer of 1992 where, around a towering bonfire, Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book gets all tangled up with letters sent home from sleep-away camp … and then set to the tunes from the iconic 1971 album Nilsson Schmilsson. Welcome to the Jungle received a 2018 Bistro Award for Outstanding Creative Artistry in a Cabaret Performance.

Salty Brine has been called “the love child of Paul Lynde, Liza Minnelli and Joel Grey, in a cabaret three-way.”  He is the creative force behind The Living Record Collection, a series of cabaret performances that deftly weave together iconic pop albums with cultural touchstones ranging from classic literature to opera. Since 2016 Salty has been a resident performer at the New York supper club Pangea. The Living Record Collection is currently in residence at Joe’s Pub, where Salty will premiere four new shows throughout 2019.

The Ancram Opera House, located in southern Columbia County, is an intimate rural performance hall showcasing contemporary theatre and alternative cabaret by visionary theater and musical artists. 

County Players Presents Moonlight & Magnolias

County Players officially launches their 62nd Main Stage Season with the opening of the comedy MOONLIGHT AND MAGNOLIAS 

L to R: Molly Feibel, Jim Granger (seated), Robert McCarthy, and Rick Meyer

The year is 1939 and David O. Selznick is making the mother of all movies, Gone with the Wind. The cast is in place and cameras are rolling. There’s just one problem— Selznick doesn’t have a script yet. So he locks himself, director Victor Fleming and script doctor Ben Hecht in a room with little more than peanuts, bananas, and a typewriter, and they proceed to reenact the saga of Scarlett and Rhett. Only this is Scarlett and Rhett like you’ve never seen before! This rip-roaring farce is a hilarious homage to the men behind an American movie classic, about which the NY Daily News said: “Frankly, my dear, this is one funny play.”

The cast features the local talents of Molly Feibel, Jim Granger, Robert McCarthy, and Rick Meyer. Director Michael J. Frohnhoefer says: “Inspired by true events, its a wildly funny and winning story that illuminates the behind-the-scenes business of movie-making — and the larger-than-life egos — during the Golden Age of Hollywood.”

Performances will be Friday & Saturday July 12, 13, 19, 20, 26 & 27, 2019 at 8pm with a matinee on Sunday, July 21 at 2:00 p.m. Tickets are $20 for adults and $15 for seniors/children under 12. Call the Box Office at 845-298-1491 for reservations or order your tickets online at www.countyplayers.org. Visa, MasterCard, and Discover are accepted. County Players Falls Theatre is located at 2681 W. Main, Wappingers Falls, NY.

The Gold Level Sponsor for the production is Dutchess ProPrint. County Players 62nd Season is generously sponsored by Hudson Valley Federal Credit Union.

Accessibility:

If you require wheelchair accessibility, please contact our Box Office 845-298-1491 prior to purchasing tickets.

Bridge Street Theatre presents The Shaggs: Philosophy of the World

An UNCONVENTIONAL Musical

Bridge Street Theatre’s First Summer Musical, THE SHAGGS, Coming July 11-21

Coming this summer to Catskill’s adventurous Bridge Street Theatre – its first attempt at producing a full-scale summer musical! But, true to form, it’s a pretty off-beat one: Joy Gregory and Gunnar Madsen’s acclaimed Off-Broadway hit The Shaggs: Philosophy of the World. It is based on the true story of three sisters from rural New Hampshire whose father forced them to form a rock band, and who recorded an album back in 1969 which has since become a cult classic. “The Shaggs” will play for eight performances only, Thursdays through Sundays July 11-21, in BST’s intimate 84-seat Mainstage.

Featured in the cast are Steven Patterson as Austin Wiggin, Molly Parker Myers as his wife, Annie, and Julian Broughton as Mr. Wilson/Floyd/Russ/ Exeter Talent Show Host/Hank. Also starring in the production are five students from the Catskill Central School District – Alexa Powell, Amara Wilson, and Meeghan Darling as The Shaggs themselves – Dot, Betty, and Helen – Magnus Bush as Kyle Nelson, and Edward Donahue as Charley Dreyer/Bobby/Lenny Smalls. John Sowle directs and designs, assisted by Musical Director Michelle Storrs, Choreographer Marcus McGregor, Costumer Michelle Rogers, Sound Consultant Carmen Borgia, and Production Stage Manager Joshua Martin.

“I’ve been involved with, and loved, this incredible show virtually from its inception,” says actor Steven Patterson. “I was lucky enough to be cast as Austin in an early developmental reading at TheatreWorks in Palo Alto (which recently received the 2019 Regional Theatre Tony Award). That led to Joy and Gunnar requesting that I play the role in the 2003 world premiere in Los Angeles, and to the director of that production, John Langs, casting me without an audition. The L.A. production scooped up fistfuls of year-end honors including 3 Los Angeles Drama Critics’ Circle Awards, 6 Backstage West Garland Awards, 4 LA Weekly Awards, and an Ovation Award as ‘World Premiere Musical’ of the Year. It’s probably the greatest role I’ve ever had in my career in musical theater – sort of like having to play Mama Rose in ‘Gypsy’ and King Lear on the same night – and I can’t wait to revisit it with this cast.”

At the beginning of the current century, The Shaggs: Philosophy of the World received developmental readings, workshops and productions at The Powerhouse in Los Angeles; LookingGlass Theatre in Chicago; NY Musical Theatre Festival (in New York); GEVA in Rochester; TheatreWorks in Palo Alto; and The Manhattan Theatre Club (New York again).  All of these led to the acclaimed Off-Broadway New York Theatre Workshop/Playwrights Horizons co-production in 2011. While the production in Catskill will be the first since the play’s 2011 Off-Broadway run, book writer and co-lyricist Joy Gregory (“Madam Secretary”) and composer and co-lyricist Gunnar Madsen (“The Bobs”) have recently been working closely with Producer/Director Ken Kwapis (“The Office”) to bring The Shaggs: Philosophy of the World to the screen.  In the upcoming film version, the Wiggin family will be played by Steve Zahn (“Dallas Buyers Club”) as Austin, Allison Tolman (the FX television series “Fargo”) as Annie, Elsie Fisher (“Eighth Grad”) as Dot, Sydney Lucas (“Fun Home”) as Betty, and Elena Kampouris (NBC’s “American Odyssey“) as Helen. Come experience it live on stage before the film hits the screen!

Director John Sowle says, “The Shaggs were outsider artists before that term was even invented. They literally came out of nowhere. Depending on whom you ask, they were either the best or the worst band of all time. Among their fans were Kurt Cobain and Frank Zappa, who considered them to be ‘better than the Beatles.’ But, in the words of one of their detractors, ‘I would walk across the desert while eating charcoal briquettes soaked in Tabasco for forty days and forty nights not to ever have to listen to anything Shagg-related ever again.’ But against all odds, Joy Gregory and Gunnar Madsen have managed to fashion their weird, off-kilter story into a vastly entertaining and tuneful musical. I’m especially excited that we’ve been able to cast actual high school students as – actual high school students. There’s a raw, do-it-yourself edge both to this show and to The Shaggs’ music itself, and I think these kids will bring a sense of freshness, honesty, and earnestness to the material that works far better than a more ‘slick’ rendition would.”

The Shaggs: Philosophy of the World is recommended for audiences ages 13+ and plays Thursdays through Saturdays at 7:30pm and Sundays at 2:00pm from July 11 – 21, 2019 at Bridge Street Theatre, 44 West Bridge Street, in Catskill, NY, just a block and a half west of Main Street across the Uncle Sam Bridge, which spans Catskill Creek. Eight performances only. General Admission is $25, Students 21 and under are only $10. Discounted advance tickets are available at shaggs.brownpapertickets.com or by calling 800-838-3006. Tickets will also be sold at the door one half hour prior to each performance on a space available basis. “Pay What You Will” performances will be held on Thursday July 11 and Sunday July 14 (“Pay What You Will” tickets are available only at the door one half hour prior to those performances). Schedule your summer vacation around this one – book your lodgings now!  For more information, visit the theatre online at BridgeSt.org.

Events at Bridge Street Theatre are supported in part by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature and by Public Funds from the Greene County Legislature through the Cultural Fund administered in Greene County by the Greene County Council on the Arts.

The Secret Garden – Rhinebeck Theatre Society

Review by Tamara Cacchione

Rhinebeck Theatre Society’s production of The Secret Garden hits all the right notes.  Infusing heartache and optimism, the cast and crew take the audience through a rollercoaster of emotions in a short time thanks in no small part to beautiful blocking and strong stage and musical direction, transformative sets, and ethereal lighting and costumes.  

A young girl is orphaned and sent to an old estate in the English countryside to live with her reclusive uncle.  This estate is no ordinary place – the halls and gardens are inhabited by spirits.  While everything seems hopeless when Mary Lenox first arrives, she meets a cast of rabble rousers who help her find hope and joy in a place which has suffered long from pain and loss.  It likely does not require a spoiler alert to divulge here that Mary finds a secret garden. With her new friends, she works to bring back to life the long neglected sanctuary.

            As a theater-goer, there is nothing more satisfying than an immersive experience; a respite that never tempts the audience  to step outside of the production and analyze what might have been a stronger or more effective choice.  As a sense experience, this production is so perfectly crafted and performed that the time flies and one is transported into the real and imagined worlds of Mary Lenox. 

The production’s success in this regard owes much to a talented cast, full of strong voices and impeccable character choices, who show us great yet subtle transitions throughout the musical.  When this production first came to Broadway, the young lady playing Mary Lenox (Daisy Eagen) won a Tony, becoming the youngest female to win in her category.  The role requires an old soul in a young lady. In RTS’s production, the gifted Jane Langan perfectly embodies the spirit of a young girl who has seen great suffering but retains the indomitable spirit of youthful hope.  She is flawless here; touching, and inspiring from beginning to end, showing us the growth and development of her character with each scene, as her character’s heart opened a bit more with each new blossom opening in her garden.

            Joshuah Patriarco, as Mary Lenox’s anguished uncle Archibald, delivers a masterful performance.  The character of Archibald can tempt an actor to fall into a one-note litany of brooding throughout the piece, but Patriarco instantly and deftly had the audience rooting for him, as he weaved in subtlety which render Archibald a complete character. The audience is drawn into Archibald’s poignant desire to escape the suffering he has endured after the loss of his wife Lily.  As important as a strong Mary is for The Secret Garden, the show suffers without a compassionate, relatable, Archibald, and Patriarco’s skill is at once bold and nuanced.

            Elizabeth Thomas, as Archibald’s late wife Lily and Mary Lenox’s aunt, is simply a delight to watch on stage.  Her grace and voice perfectly encapsulated the celestial spirit of Lily that floats through the lives of the living.  Thomas’ portrayal makes it easy to see why Archibald fell desperately in love with her.  Their chemistry on stage was palpable and a delight to watch, leaving the audience cheering for their romance. 

To that point, many characters in this play are no longer among the living – not an easy feat to portray seamlessly.  Thanks to the talent and voices of the residents of Colonial India in 1906, the estate never seems as empty as it is.  Keli Snyder as Rose Lenox (Mary’s mother) and Dennis Wakemen as Captain Albert Lennox (Mary’s father) are always present in Mary’s memories as we see flashbacks, or perhaps visits, from them throughout.  The audience is invited to speculate as to whether they are real or imagined, and it is a testament to the direction that the line between the real and imagined seems, somehow, unimportant.

            Director Dorothy Luongo and Assistant Director Wendy Urban-Mead have staged this production with space and room for joy and hope to emerge within the walls of the theater.  Scenes and transitions move quickly as members of the cast might be singing or hauntingly dancing, such as Monika Gupta (Fakir) and Shreya Gupta (Ayah) jumping rope as they sing a child’s rhyme.  Dan Foster as Lieutenant Wright and Doug Woolever as Major Holmes craft one of the most poignant moments in the play in relaying the only real revelation we get about Mary’s father. Lisa Delia and Geneva Turner, both graceful stage presences with rich voices, flesh out both the world of 1906 India and the hauntingly effective world Mary has created.

            The transition from feeling deep sadnese for Mary’s many losses, to the joy and optimism of finding a new family, is vividly executed by the cast of Misselthwaite Manor.  Katie-Beth Anspach is our first breath of fresh delight and she doesn’t stop thrilling until the final bow. Anspach’s Martha, as a maid in the Manor, is a gutsy tour-de-force that starts Mary on her journey outside of bedroom to which she has been relegated.  Anspach’s strong clear voice delivers a rousing song in the second half (“Hold On”), when all hope seems lost, that is inspiring and thrilling. One finds it hard to take their eyes off of her, as she lives so realistically in her charming character; it is lovely to watch her choices she makes.

            Equally charming is the captivating Josh Lococo as her merry brother Dickon.  Lococo’s Dickon represents something magical in his rendition, which is clear from the first dulcet tones of his voice in “Winter’s on the Wing”.

            David Foster achieves a wonderfully faulty doctor Neville Craven (Archibald’s sinister brother), who attempts to stop Mary from touching everything that she is helping to blossom.  Foster dances between being completely malevolent and merely misguided, leaving the audience to make their own decision as to what his true intentions are.  

            Misselthwaite’s population is rounded out in exemplary fashion which help develop Mary Lenox’s new world.  Sean Patrick Mahoney as young Colin Craven is funny, real, and a pleasure to watch. Joe Beem as gardener Ben Weatherstaff is superb – ably navigating his role in connecting the past to the future of the garden. Linda Roper as Mrs. Medlock expertly takes on the difficult task of creating a likeable and relatable character from a woman who just doesn’t seem to be able to give Mary the love and support she is searching for when she arrives. Rounding out the staff, Grace Foster as Betsy and Nicole Murphy as Jane add layers of life to the world.

            Ann Davies brings her unique charm and talent to the story. As Mrs. Winthrop, the headmistress of prestigious boarding school pursuing Mary’s attendance, Davies flourishes as the shocked, prim and proper Winthrop, bringing humor and fun to the role.

            Rounding out the cast is the talented children’s ensemble: Anshuman Chaudhary, Harriet Luongo, and Willa Wainwright. Their energy and precision add the haunting element for which the mystical piece cries out.  

On a fundamental level this is a play about coping with grief, but it’s triumph is in the way it portrays the struggle to find hope in the darkest of times.  The superb musical direction and orchestration by Paul and Joanne Schubert was a delight, with a live band to fully flesh out the enchanting melodies and vivacious songs. Scenic Designer/Artist Harley Putzer and Set Constructor/Lighting Designer Andy Weintraub created a massive and enchanting world, including a resplendent garden, flowers crawling up the wings and in the rafters.  Watching the development of the garden, through mixed medias, allowed the audience to see the progression of the improvements to Misselthwaite and the secret garden hidden behind ivy-covered walls. Heidi Johnson, assisted by Lobsang Comacho, Jan Brooks, and Tory Elvin, created costumes from 1906 India and England, highlighting the intangible ghosts and helping both worlds come to life.

The Secret Garden is a moving piece, with beautiful music, strong acting, and dazzling and magnificent scenic design. The show runs Fri-Sun through July 14th at the CENTER for Performing Arts in Rhinebeck.