The Letters: A Haunting World Premiere Opens Bridge Street Theatre’s 2019 Subscription Season

“What are you supposed to do with the people you love who you can’t save?”


Shivantha Singer and Alexis Cofield. Photo Credit: John Sowle

Catskill’s intimate Bridge Street Theatre inaugurates its 2019 Subscription Season with the world premiere of playwright David Zellnik’s magnificent and deeply moving new work, The Letters. This haunting new play from the author of Sharon/Herzl, The F#@%ing Wright Brothers, Serendib, and the musical Yank!, features a magnificently diverse cast of four directed by Bridge Street’s Artistic and Managing Director John Sowle.

It’s 2002. Henry and Rachel are language nerds – he studies dead languages, she studies living languages. And Rajiv is an artist who lives with them both in a squat in Berlin, embroiled in a post-collegiate tangle of friendship, love, and sex. They’re all 22, the world is full of possibility, and they want it all. Then suddenly it’s New York City 12 years later and it’s all coming apart. Henry is gone and Rajiv and Rachel’s long engagement is fraying when a fourth character enters their lives. In the course of a single day (with flashbacks to the times they shared in Berlin), these achingly human characters wrestle with the past and try to chart a future for themselves in a language they have yet to create.

Featured in the cast (all making their Bridge Street Theatre debuts) are Shivantha Singer (Rajiv), Sara Parcesepe (Rachel), Christopher Joel Onken (Henry), and Alexis Cofield (Laura). The show is directed and designed by John Sowle, with costumes by Michelle Rogers and sound designed by Carmen Borgia. Production Stage Manager is Joshua Martin. The play was developed with the support of New York Stage and Film, March 2018, and production of this world premiere has been underwritten in part by a generous gift from Nina Matis and Alan Gosule.

“Bridge Street has developed something of a reputation for finding and producing exceptional new plays,” says director John Sowle, “and we’ve been dying to present this one for over two years, ever since David sent us a perusal copy of his first draft of the script. We are beyond excited to be presenting its first ever full production here in Catskill.”

The Letters is recommended for audiences ages 16+ and plays Thursdays through Saturdays at 7:30pm and Sundays at 2:00pm from April 25 – May 5, 2019 at Bridge Street Theatre, located at 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 letters.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 April 25 and Sunday April 28 (“Pay What You Will” tickets are available only at the door one half hour prior to those performances). Subscribe to Bridge Street Theatre’s entire five-play 2019 Season and receive substantial discounts on many other BST events plus special offers from local businesses. To purchase your Season Pass, visit bst2019.brownpapertickets.com or call 800-838-3006, and for more information, visit the theatre online at BridgeSt.org.


Shivantha Singer, Sara Parcesepe, and Christopher Joel Onken).
Photo Credit: John Sowle

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.

Much Ado About Nothing at The Center for Performing Arts at Rhinebeck

Review by louisa vilardi

Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing Triumphs at The Center for Performing Arts at Rhinebeck

The Center for Performing Arts at Rhinebeck opened their production of William Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing on April 5, 2019, making much ado of everything we love about theater: love, hate, language, character, truth and lies.

With impeccable direction from Parker Reed, the Center’s take on the well-known plot honors the Bard’s language with a laudable simplicity and fidelity, played on a beautiful set (Richard Prouse) replicating The Globe Theater, and costume and lighting design by Lobsang Camacho.

Don Pedro (Thom Webb) and his company return from a journey to the home a friend, Leonato (Joe Eriole), bringing with him Benedick (David Foster) and Claudio (Jeremy Ratel), as well as his half-brother, the  discontented Don John (John Schmitz). With encouragement from Leonato, romances are sparked; among them Claudio with Leonato’s daughter, Hero (Stevie Hergenrader Reed) and Benedick with Leonato’s free-spirited niece, Beatrice (Tamara Cacchione). Benedick and Beatrice are duped into confessing their longstanding love for each other, and Claudio is tricked into rejecting Hero on their wedding day, under the impression that she has been unfaithful. “Much ado” ensues, but by the end, all’s well, as the characters celebrate both couples’ weddings and love for each other.

Lou Trapani as Antonio and Rebecca Rivera as Ursula

From the first syllable uttered on the Rhinebeck stage, it is evident that Reed paid particular attention to each and every word, and equipped the cast to give these words life. The verbal sparring was lively, and the lines of love and passion were spoken with pace that moved the audience like a beautiful ballad. 

The ensemble of sixteen worked seamlessly and tirelessly to entertain the audience, and seemed genuinely entertained by each other.

Joe Eriole as Leonato is altogether moving as both leader and protector. Eriole is a polished actor who is able to push limits whether it be as a noble and tough-minded chieftain or a tender father and uncle. His portrayal of Leonato is powerful as he fights for the truth regarding his wronged daughter.

It is possible to have  Benedick’s protestations of true love seem a bit worn-out in productions of Much Ado, but David Foster’s comedic portrayal of Benedick leaves the audience doing more than merely enduring Benedick’s antics in the full knowledge that he is destined to fall victim to his fears. Foster’s impressive movement and confident comic delivery give us a more jovial Benedick than may be typical in the role.

Beatrice is a formidable character to tackle, but Tamara Cacchione does it with grace and command.  One has the impression Cacchione is as fearless as Beatrice, and she delivers her lines with finesse, powerfully capturing the character’s timeless complexities in a powerhouse debut performance at the Center.

Steavie Hergenrader Reed gives a beautiful and skillfull performance as Hero. Hero is a character who can play as one-dimensional, but Hergenrader Reed’s presence and skill proves Hero to be much more, and she is a joy to watch throughout the play.

Jeremy Ratel is impressive as Claudio. His gusto and wit provide equal measures of comic timing and the sadness of the Claudio-Hero subplot to the play, in what is a subtly complex Shakespearean romantic role.

We fall in love with Thom Webb’s Don Pedro as he adds intricacy and balance to the this enigmatic character. Even as he is caught up in the rouse that leads to Hero’s near downfall, Webb’s Don Pedro never loses the audience’s awareness of his benevolence, drawing out a sub-plot of empathy for the fact that he doesn’t end up with his own romantic attachment by the end of the play rarely highlighted in more typical productions.

Wendy Urban-Mead as Verges and Michael Britt as Dogberry

Lou Trapani plays Leonato’s brother Antonio as a character of cool appeal and calculated composure.

John Schmitz as Don John does a fantastic job playing the villain, is strong in his quiet movement and believable in his callous treachery. 

The calm villainy of his plot is comically juxtaposed against a haplass group of law enforcement officials led by Michael Britt as Dogberry, whose performance is so memorable that we forget we don’t meet him until Act II.

The rest of the cast consists of talented actors who harmoniously work together to tell this beautiful story: Vera Perry is delightful in dual roles as Margaret and Seacoal; Andrew Austin is both effectively deceitful and remorseful as Borachio; Chris Backofen an able gentleman-villain as Conrade; Ronnie Joseph a strong female voice in defense of the wronged Hero as Friar Francis; Wendy Urban-Mead is the somewhat more capable officer Verges in strong comedic support of Dogberry; Michael Curtis is funny and able in the dual roles of Balthasar and Oatcake; and Rebecca Rivera is enchanting as Hero’s gentlewoman Ursula and suitably grave as the Sexton who struggles through Dogberry’s inept “unraveling” of the plot against Leonato’s household. 

Steavie Hergenrader Reed as Hero, Lou Trapani as Antonio, and Joe Eriole as Leonato

All of the actors show great command of the language and a depth of understanding of their characters that leads to the strong impression that no character is playing a “small” part here.

William Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing at The Center is sheer fun filled with bounce and zeal and runs through April 14, 2019. Don’t miss it! Tickets at www.centerforperformingarts.org

Louisa Vilardi

Louisa Vilardi is a writer and theater director who lives in New York with her husband and two sons.  Her writing has been featured in The Huffington Post, Today Parenting Team, and Scary Mommy. More at www.LouisaVilardi.com

Arms and the Man – Performing Arts of Woodstock

Review by Joe eriole

It’s 1885: in the distance, the Serbo-Bulgarian War is limping to a close in the aftermath of a bloody rout of the Serbs. A Swiss mercenary, with no allegiance to the cause of either side, has dragged himself, battered and bruised, from the front. We find him abandoned, cold, hungry, and desperate. How would George Bernard Shaw entertain us against that rich canvas? Well, with a romantic comedy, of course.

Arms and the Man is romantic in its reflections of 19th Century ideals of love, chivalry, and war. Its comedy is found in poking holes in those idealized conventions amidst legitimately funny repartee between the lovers. Our Swiss soldier, Bluntschli, and the young heiress, Raina, charm each other with the witty banter characteristic of all such romps; the plot unveils itself against the twists and turns of mistaken identity and the impossibly symmetrical  alignment of potential suitors with partners who, in the early going, seem destined for other, less romantic, matches. 

The players are: Raina, who opens the play betrothed to Sergius, the dashing and courageous Bulgarian officer who led the reckless charge which scattered Bluntschi’s Serbian troops; the ambitious Louka, engaged to Nicola, a fellow household servant whose sights are set much lower than hers; Raina’s parents, Major Petkoff and his wife Catherine, who are pragmatists to a fault – staunchly defending the society marriage of their daughter to Sergius, the nation’s most eligible,and wealthiest,  bachelor in the opening Act, and just as pragmatically making way for the happier match of Raina and Bluntschli, when he turns out to be something more than a mercenary soldier with no place to call home.

Bluntschli’s charm is strong enough to do some damage to Raina’s youthful and romanticized notions of war and its heroes, which drives a wedge between her and Sergius. For his part, Sergius has also lost some faith in the luster of his own future as valiant officer and married man. In the aftermath of his derring-do on the field of battle, he is passed over for promotion by others less deserving, and he no sooner returns to the comfort of his fiancee’s warm embrace than he sets out in pursuit of her servant, Louka. The deeper message of the play is in the realization that the Swiss mercenary’s honesty is more noble (and romantic) in cowardly retreat, than is the aristocracy’s deceit in victory. In true romantic comedy style, even the aristocrats learn their lesson, and everyone has a chance to live happily ever after. 

The cast of Arms and the Man

The language of the play, indicative of its author and its time, is beautiful to hear, and every member of the cast speaks it fluidly. Their mastery of the 19th century style makes the experience lyrical in a way we rarely hear in theater today.

In the same measure that the language of the period allows the cast to elevate the experience for us, the cast must overcome, on occasion, certain sensibilities of the period. Most of the time, outdated moral and societal concerns in revivals of plays of much earlier eras can be played as part of a “joke” in which the audience participates. The greatest challenge of this play’s period (and its author) may be in Sergius’ aggressively written “pursuit” of Louka. That it shows him being untrue to his fiancee and leveraging his position of power to encourage her reciprocation, are not, for better or for worse, notions foreign or outdated to modern audiences. That we are later encouraged to think of their match as part of the story’s “happy ending” is where the actors face a challenge. Austin Carrothers as Sergius and Maria Maurin as Louka, find a way.

Carrothers does enough with his character’s “epiphanies” to make the audience believe he may have ended the play as a better man than he was when we met him, and Maurin’s Louka is so self-determinative that we are convinced her choices are her own. Carrothers is an effective and commanding presence as both the brave soldier and insulted aristocrat, and shows range in portraying his character’s own disappointment in the loss of his black-and-white view of the world. Maurin demands undivided attention when she is on stage – funny, sharp and undaunted.

Wil Anderson as the Swiss mercenary Bluntschli, is utterly charming here. The audience never doubts that his lack of commitment to high-minded, cosmic causes, and his preference for life over valor, are quite real. But, at the same time, we are convinced that he is an able adversary in both love and war, a credit to Anderson’s understanding of the role’s potential.

Geneva Turner as Raina is the focal point of the play, always funny but never silly, worthy of the affections of both suitors, as formidable as Louka but armed with more subtle weapons. Turner’s performance never makes Raina less than the old-world aristocrat she is when we meet her, but her abilities do elevate Raina to something more.

Francine Ciccarelli (Catherine) and Andrew Joffe (Petkoff), as Raina’s mother and father, are a joy. Ciccarelli is elegant and absolutely in charge; Joffe will be loved by the audience as completely as he is loved by his wife and daughter. Both play the roles beyond the level of the familiar tropes of the wealthy matriarch and patriarch, into which the play could fit them were they lesser performers.

The cast is rounded out by Sean Owens and Michael Ralff. Owens’ turn as a soldier searching for the set-upon Bluntschli in Act One is suitably menacing. Ralff, playing Louka’s disappointing, “servant-minded” fiancee in Act One, has a wonderful turn in Act Two, in which he does a fine job performing what is perhaps the only truly selfless act in the story.

The production is directed with precision and great aesthetic appeal by Ellen Honig. As noted above, the characters have been developed as funny but never silly, sincere but not wooden. On stage movement is fluid. Marcia Panza’s costumes and Andrea Winston’s sets are both lovely. 

Arms and the Man is well performed, beautifully presented, and a pleasure to hear as spoken art. It runs through April 21 at Performing Arts of Woodstock, 56 Rock City Road, Woodstock, with performances on Friday and Saturday evenings at 8 and Sunday afternoons at 1:30. 

Joe Eriole is a local actor, director and artist, who has been part of the live music and theater arts community in the Hudson Valley for over 30 years. Professionally Joe is an attorney, organizational executive and management consultant. He lives in the Hudson Valley with his wife and has two children who are currently making the world a better place.

The Legend – Westchester Collaborative Theater

Westchester Collaborative Theater Presents The Legend in April

World-premiere production introduces a provocative BBC “commended new play” ranked in an international play writing competition

This April, Westchester Collaborative Theater (WCT) is presenting The Legend, writtenby Rick Apicella and directed by Joe Albert Lima. This production marks the world-premiere of an original play ranked a 2018 ‘commended new play’ by the BBC in a multi-lingual international play writing competition that spanned the continents. The Legend will open on Thursday, April 4 at 8 pm, and run weekends through Saturday, April 27 (no performance Sunday, April 21) at WCT’s Black Box Theater, 23 Water Street in Ossining, New York.

Rick Apicella of Pearl River, NY, is an award-winning actor, director and writer. He was voted Best Actor and Best Director of the Strawberry One Act Play Festival in NYC and writer of the Best Play for a 20/20 Festival in Garrison, NY. In 2018, Rick performed at Bristol Valley Theater in Naples, NY and for the Music for Life creative arts therapy team in Nyack, NY.

Actor, playwright, and director Joe Albert Lima of Stony Point, NY, has performed in over 75 plays and directed 25 plays in the tri-state area. His most recent directorial credits are Stick Fly at Elmwood Playhouse and Metal of Honor Rag at Antrim Playhouse.  Joe directed and wrote A Short Walk into Sunshine, WCT’s acclaimed 2015 mainstage production.   

The Legend is an urban fairy tale about the journey of William Rodriguez, a young boxer who has not spoken since he was brutally bullied as a child. When his mother dies, William decides to embark on a journey into the rabbit hole of professional prizefighting with the help of his trainer and next-door neighbor, only to find that their vulnerabilities are used against them at every turn.

The cast of The Legend

Following its opening, The Legend will run Fridays at 8pm on April 5, 12, 19 and 26; Saturdays at 2 pm and 8 pm, April 6, 13, 20 and 27; and Sundays at 3 pm April 7, 14. The cast will offer talk-backs after Sunday performances.

Tickets are $25; $20 discount tickets are available for WCT members, students, seniors and groups of 5+. Advance online purchase is strongly recommended: https://thelegendwct.brownpapertickets.com/

Westchester Collaborative Theater is a multicultural, cooperative theater company located in Ossining, NY, dedicated to developing new work for the stage and bringing live theater to the community. It is comprised of local playwrights, actors, and directors who employ a Lab approach in which new stage works are nurtured through an iterative process of readings, critiques, and rewrites. When work is ready for production, it is presented to the public at its new theater space.

WCT is committed to furthering theater arts in our community. It is a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation and a recipient of production grants from ArtsWestchester and New York State Council on the Arts.

The Dresser at The Center for Performing Arts at Rhinebeck

The 13th Annual Sam Scripps Shakespeare Festival at The Center for Performing Arts at Rhinebeck began its run on March 15th with a riveting rendition of Ronald Harwood’s The Dresser. The play, set entirely backstage in a Second World War theater, follows the dramatic and enigmatic relationship of Sir (Lou Trapani), a world-renowned Shakespearean actor, and his personal assistant, Norman (Kevin Archambault). Throughout the play, Norman labors to do his job, which we soon learn is much more than merely “dressing” Sir.  Norman is a living extension of Sir, perhaps the backbone of the company, who knows more than anyone about his charge. 

The unraveling of Norman as he strives to support Sir in delivering up his Lear, is deftly portrayed by Archambault, who is enthralling from the moment he enters the stage. With humor, Archambault creates a truly memorable character of complex depth and pathos.

Trapani’s Sir is enchanting and powerfully rendered. Mr. Trapani’s performance is a gift to the audience of the sort Sir might strive for, portraying the decline and struggles of a great actor on the verge of a collapse which, if it comes, will come in front of an audience he once held in the palm of his hand. Trapani moves effortlessly through the erratic emotions of the character, and masterfully portrays a character attempting to maintain his composure and his dignity.   

Kevin Archambault as Norman and
Lou Trapani as Sir

It is a credit to director Michael Juczwack and Assistant Director Tina Reilly that the weight of the obstacles faced by the characters never feels like oppression. The production allows the audience the reprieve of laughter amid the uneasy sense of impending theatrical doom.   

The play is set on a replication of Shakespeare’s Globe, which will serve as the the festival’s backdrop for its follow up production of Much Ado About Nothing in April. From the moment of entering the house, one is authentically drawn into the wings of a venerable theater in a war-torn England of the mid-20th century.

The props and costumes are quite literally another character in this play. Norman’s inexhaustible efforts to  tend to these accoutrements for Sir, must have been mirrored  with equal attention by propmaster Wendy Urban-Mead. Her attention to period-specific pieces, from details like tissue boxes and theater make-up, to major pieces like radio-show wind machines, allowed the audience a true peek behind the scenes, and allowed the actors to manage the important and highly choreographed handling of those props with the precision the script demands. Lobsang Camacho’s costumes are flawless and beautiful period pieces. This includes the manner in which a 1940s theater company might dress King Lear, as well as the impeccable dress of Norman, whose personal dress has clearly been as much a part of his life as Sir’s meticulous costumes have been.

Kevin Archambault as Norman and Lou Trapani as Sir

The play brings together veteran actors. The talented Elaine Young portrays a sad and lonely Ladyship, who is struggling to find her own happiness.  Emily DePew is a wonderful foil for Archambault’s Norman – adeptly characterizing a voice of reason, struggling in a leadership role that leaves her looking like a bit of a killjoy while remaining well connected to the audience. Emily McCarthy, most recently seen in Rhinebeck Theatre Society’s The Curious Incident of the Dog at Night Time, shines as the ingénue with aspirations for leading lady status – demonstrating battles which perhaps Sir and her Ladyship once played out as younger versions of themselves.  Of particular note is a stunning power struggle with Archambault. 

Jim O’Neill and Russell Austin, as Lear company performers playing parts which might have been taken by younger men now off at war, are strongly played with wit and humor. Alex Skovan and Farrell Reynolds portray ensemble members fluidly, creating the sense of a frenzied life both backstage and onstage.

Kevin Archambault as Norman & Lou Trapani as Sir

The Dresser poses questions to the audience. One wonders what might have happened if each character had made different choices. The success of the direction and acting in this production is in the fact that we care about the answers to those questions for these characters.  It is a richly textured play requiring insightful performances. The Dresser‘s opening of the 2019 Sam Scripps Shakespeare Festival is a worthy and moving accomplishment, and should be seen. This show’s short run ends March 24th, so be sure to reserve your tickets by calling The Center at 845.876.3080 or visit their website at http://www.centerforperformingarts.org.

Almost, Maine – Clove Creek Dinner Theater

Review by Caitlin Connelly

Brandon Patterson as Paul and Josie Grant as Ginette in “Prologue”

Those who read Hudson Valley Ovation’s recent piece on The New Deal Creative Arts Center’s production of Almost, Maine and were disappointed to have missed it, you are in luck: the show has been picked up by Clove Creek Dinner Theater and showcases many of the original performers while making some wonderful new additions as well. It is worth noting that even those who saw the premiere performance at the Cunneen-Hackett Theater in February will be entertained by Clove Creek’s production as a show worth seeing in its own right. The chemistry between the actors played out in the more intimate space at Clove Creek allows for the show to be seen in a very new, moving and magical light.

If you are new to this remarkable show, Almost, Maine is a romantic comedy written by John Cariani. It is about a fictional, “unorganized” community nestled beneath the Northern Lights in northern Maine. A place where people pride themselves on their stereotypical small-town-Maine friendliness, but are too far from the ocean for anyone to work on a stereotypical Maine lobster boat. A place where everyone is clearly connected, but you still only “know who you know.” These unifying traits of the community are depicted in a series of short vignettes depicting nine highly relatable human relationships at various stops along the timeline of hope, love, and loss.

Teresa Gasparini as Glory in “Her Heart”

One of the more interesting devices Cariani uses in this play is the sense of surrealism throughout it, which adds magical layers and, often, comedic relief. For example, in the scene “Her Heart”, a woman carries her broken heart in a bag while searching for a place from which to see the Northern Lights. Her search leads her to the yard of a repairman, who claims, in a perfect ending to the play’s first vignette, that he can fix it.

In “Getting It Back”, a young woman rushes into her boyfriend’s house claiming she wants all the love she has given him back, and offering to return all the love he has given her. The symbolic manner in which she returns that love (which won’t be given away here!) is a clever metaphor which delights the audience and sets up her momentary disappointment when her boyfriend responds with something far less impressive. The result is a hilarious, heartwarming twist to the end of the scene. In another story entitled “They Fell”, two longtime friends quite literally “fall” for one another. The exaggerated physical action connects the audience to the characters through the quirks and oddities of Cariani’s style as a playwright.

Louisa Vilardi as Gayle and Steven Bendler as Lendall in “Getting it Back”

Cariani intended that the play could be cast using as many as nineteen actors or as few as four. In this production, it was magnificently done with only five performers. To produce such a quality performance, where the actors must believably transform into new characters, and present distinct stories which hold their own, requires unfaltering professionalism and adaptability from each member of the cast. The cast at Clove Creek includes Steven Bendler, Teresa Gasparini, Josie Grant, Brandon Patterson, and Louisa Vilardi, all of whom skillfully prove up to the challenge.

The production’s deceptively simple set requires careful attention by Stage Manager, Katherine Abell. Scene changes are marked by only the smallest details which distinguish the sense of place and are integral to each scene. The flow of a show with so many quickly moving scenes performed by so few actors moving through costume and character changes requires steadfast attention to detail.

The play opens amidst a simple yet stunning stage and lighting design, created by Teresa Gasparini and executed adeptly by Matthew Woolever and Jeff Wilson. It shimmers with reflecting lights that recreate the beauty of the Northern Lights on a snowy evening in Northern Maine. A bench is centered between snow brushed pine trees and doorways strategically frame each side of the stage. The serenity of the set and lighting, paired with musical repertoire performed and recorded by Vitamin String Quartet, invites you in immediately. The music for each scene enhances the emotional flow of the stories perfectly and was artfully chosen by Ms. Gasparini.

Brandon Patterson as Steve and Josie Grant as Marvalyn in “This Hurts”

Actors Brandon Patterson and Josie Grant open the play by capturing the audience’s hearts in a sweet profession of love that leaves us smiling and laughing in anticipation of a later conclusion. Patterson was exceptional in his comedic timing and ability to embody new characters within very fast scene changes. His ability to make the audience respond to each of his characters in so many ways in one night is astounding. He held natural chemistry with his scene partners throughout, making him easy to fall in love with on stage.

Josie Grant brightens the stage with energy and expressiveness. She makes it easy for the audience to empathize and relate to her frustrations where the moment calls for it, while in other scenes she effortlessly lifts the action and reflects the hope the scene requires.

Teresa Gasparini is a phenomenal performer, an absolute natural on stage. The range of her characters provides her with opportunities to make audiences laugh and cry, and she provides a most memorable performance. Her chemistry with all three of her scene partners was clear and deeply moving.

Louisa Vilardi was convincingly beautiful in all three of her scenes. In her first scene, she plays a woman who leaves someone broken-hearted and has been found by someone else; in another it is her character who hopes there’s still a place for her in someone’s heart, and in a third, she plays a character who knows (she thinks) exactly where the relationship stands. All three are played with great humor and feeling.

Steven Bendler really pushed the limits of creating very different affects for each of his characters as well. In one scene, he has the audience laughing up a storm as he and Gasparini tear off each other’s clothes, in another, everyone swoons as he wraps his arms around Vilardi, and in a third, he and Gasparini leave not a dry eye in the room as a struggling husband and wife before being left sitting alone on stage.

Steven Bendler as Phil and Teresa Gasparini as Marci in “Where it Went”

The show was originally directed by Tamara Cacchione for The New Deal Creative Arts Center. Her talent and vision as a director are carried over here, but are also well combined with new directorial insights from Teresa Gasparini and Louisa Vilardi.

One intriguing choice which distinguishes this production is the use of two women, Gasparini and Grant, instead of two men, in the scene portraying two friends who quite literally “fall” for one another. It is a choice Cariani leaves up to directors. Despite controversy over the same-sex scene within as recently as the last five years, it is a credit to the production that the audience found the scene incredibly relatable. No small part of that credit is due Grant and Gasparini. They each bring the scene to life skillfully and in the universally human way to which Cariani’s script aspires.  

What is truly touching about Almost, Maine is that there is a story in it for everyone. As one sits and watches this show, it touches upon moments in our lives, past, present, or in a foreseeable future. It is storytelling at its finest, allowing the audience to see and understand themselves through the lens of live theatre. Clove Creek Dinner Theater’s rendition of Almost, Maine is so sweet and funny that it inevitably uplifts. On the other hand, it is thought provoking to a degree that may leave audiences doing some personal pondering as well. It makes for a brilliant show and some great discussion afterward.

Almost, Maine runs Thursdays through Sundays until Sunday, March 24, 2019. Matinees are scheduled for Sundays, as well as for Thursday, March 21. The weather outside may still be frightful, but inside Clove Creek Dinner Theater, the Northern Lights are quite delightful. This show, paired with a delicious meal, is guaranteed to warm your heart. Tickets are available at     http://www.clovecreekdinnertheater.com/.

Caitlin Connelly

Caitlin Connelly is an actor, vocalist, and artist living in the Hudson Valley. She is a graduate of SUNY New Paltz, the Fashion Institute of Technology, and Bard College at Simon’s Rock, from where she holds degrees in Vocal Jazz/ Music Performance, Accessories Design, and Performing Arts. She is an avid storyteller and through it hopes to create the change she would like to see in the world.

Inappropriate Relationships – YER Productions

One Night Encore Presentation!

Inappropriate Relationships presented by YER Productions at Cunneen-Hackett Theater!

Amanda Baumler and Jim Granger in Misogynistic Shoes

Theater-goers relish the comfort of seeing a classic Neil Simon play, or delight in a good old-fashioned Rodgers and Hammerstein musical. However, there is something to be said for going to see an original work to which you have no ties, and can just be in the moment taking in a new, untold story.


As part of the series of stage plays entitled Inappropriate Relationships, YER Productions introduces the audience to several original works in one evening of diverse, humorous, and heart-felt theater. This production is an encore presentation after receiving its debut in early January in Poughkeepsie, followed by a performance at the Tuscon Fringe Festival in Arizona.

Gavin Kayner’s Misogynistic Shoes is a hard-driven suspenseful one act complete with an utterly shocking finale that will leave audiences ruminating long after the lights fade to black. Charlie, a middle-aged urbane man, roiling with inner turmoil, convinces Mavis, a free-spirited young woman to enact his darkest fantasy.

Carol Elkins in Winter in a Summer House


Continuing under the umbrella of Inappropriate Relationships are three short plays by local playwright, Carol Elkins, which have never failed to make people laugh.  The endearing humanity of these characters makes us laugh with them just as we laugh at ourselves. Who among us has not been in some sort of an inappropriate relationship at some point? 

Waxer, the first in the series, tells the amusing short tale of a housewife and a vacuum cleaner salesman can’t resist each other’s charms. This is followed by The Secret Life of Mother Pig where the heroine, in a final grasp at romance, picks the most unlikely suitor of all: The Big Bad Wolf. Lastly is Winter in a Summer House in which a genteel old lady engages a young companion to spend the long winter months in a TV inspired romantic fantasy.  These three plays are directed and written by Carol Elkins and performed by a talented group of actors who are no stranger to the local theater scene: Amanda Baumler, Jim Granger, Laurel Riley-Brown, and Nick Salyer.

Nick Salyer, Carol Elkins, and Laurel Riley-Brown in Winter in a Summer House

This out-of-the-box performance is scheduled for one night only on March 23, 2019 at Cunneen-Hackett Theater (12 Vassar Street – Poughkeepsie) at 7pm. Tickets can be purchased following this link:https://www.eventbrite.com/e/inappropriate-relationships-a-series-of-stage-plays-tickets-55060103251  or can be purchased at the door.This material is for adult audiences only and contains adult themes and strong language.