Don Juan: a modern and relevant telling of this classic play now at the Westport Country Playhouse

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The classic story of Don Juan is now on stage at the famous Westport Country Playhouse.  Most of us have heard about the legendary lover and seducer, Don Juan, but his tale written by the  Playwright Molière (1622-1673) is very different.  This translation by Brendan Pelsue, and adaptation and direction by David Kennedy will forever change the way you think about the character Don Juan

This is a thoroughly modern and avant garde production of this classic tale.  In a world where more value is put on the cult of personality and moral integrity is cast aside, this staging of Don Juan is both relevant and compelling.

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You have never seen Don Juan like this before in this modern-dress production of the satirical, classic comic tale. As he moves through the play  the notorious seducer leaves behind a trail of broken hearts,unpaid bills, and scandals.  He cares little for the destruction he brings on his debtors, or the women he leaves behind.  He allows Sganarelle, his loyal servant  to clean up his messes.  During the play Don Juan seduces one woman after another.  He cares not for them or their feeling as long as he can satisfy his own ego and personal cravings.  He wears a light suit of gold indicating though he is a “noble” it is all gilded and beneath the veneer he is a shallow narcissist.  He even wears a shirt of black and gold that spells out “Narcissist” but only backward so only he can be read in a mirror.

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His man servant Sganarelle acts not only as his fixer and his buffer from all that is unpleasant, but serves as his moral conscience.  It is Sganarelle that implores him to see the damage he does by his behavior and to repent.  Don Juan ignores his pleas and reminds him he has years to live before he will even consider changing his immoral ways.

“When I originally proposed that we produce ‘Don Juan,’ I thought 2019 was the perfect time to revive this acerbically comic tale of an undisciplined, thin-skinned narcissist who blazes a path of destruction through the world, upending institutions and social norms, destabilizing everything, offending all decency and morality, and leaving a trail of wreckage in his wake. I can’t ever imagine why,” said  David Kennedy, the director.

In Act Two Don Juan has an encounter with the ghost from his wicked past in the form of a statue of a man he once killed.  It is here we find Don Juan, dressed not as a playboy but more like a modern politician that he must finally confront his own lack of morality.  You must wait to the dramatic conclusion to see his fate.

Don Juan is  played by Nick Westrate (2012 Drama Desk award winner, numerous Broadway, Off-Broadway roles),  Sganarelle, Don Juan’s sidekick, played by Bhavesh Patel (Broadway’s “The Nap,” “Present Laughter” opposite Kevin Klein; Lincoln Center Theater’s “War Horse”). Philip Goodwin portrays Don Juan’s father Don Louis (Broadway’s “Tartuffe,” “The School for Scandal,” “The Diary of Anne Frank”).

Other cast members are Jordan Bellow as Don Carlos (New York theater’s “Interior”; regional theater’s “A Raisin in the Sun”; television’s “Gotham”); Paul DeBoy as Mr. Gusman/Statue  (Broadway’s “Mamma Mia!”; television’s ““Leviathan”); Carson Elrod as Pierrot/Dimanche (Westport Country Playhouse’s “Bedroom Farce,” “How the Other Half Loves,” and others; Broadway’s “Peter and the Starcatcher”); Suzy Jane Hunt as Dona Elvira (Broadways’ “Dear Evan Hansen,” “Dead Accounts”; television’s “The Americans”); Bobby Roman as Don Alonzo (film credits “The Challenger,” “Tapestry,” “One Night in Brooklyn”); Ariana Venturi as Charlotte (five seasons at Berkshire Theatre Festival; Alya Feinburg in season two of “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”); and Claudia Logan as Mathurine/The Ghost (HBO’s “Random Acts of Flyness,” “The Deuce”; Netflix’s “Tales of the City”).

The creative team includes Marsha Ginsberg, scenic design, and Sam Vawter, associate scenic design; Katherine Roth, costume design; Matthew Richards, lighting design; Fitz Patton, original music and sound design; Michael Rossmy, fight director and intimacy coach ; Karin White, props supervisor; Dana Tanner-Kennedy,  Tara Rubin Casting, Laura Schutzel  and Claire Burke, CSA; and Shane Schnetzler, production stage manager.

This is a thought provoking and finely crafted production that will have you discussing the performance long after the curtain has come down.  See Don Juan now through November 23rd.

for tickets and information >>>>>https://www.westportplayhouse.org

Westport Country Playhouse

25 Powers Court  Westport Ct

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Mlima’s Tale: a powerful and moving drama of the illegal ivory trade now at the Westport Country Playhouse

 

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A powerful, moving and thought provoking play is now on stage at the Westport Country PlayhouseMlima’s Tale is a compelling drama written by two time Pulitizer Prize winner Lynn Nottage and directed by Mark Lamos.  The play was featured Off-Broadway in 2018 and this is its first production since then and cannot be missed.

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The story of Mlima’s Tale is  of a famous and beloved Kenyan elephant named Mlima who lives in a protected national park, but is still being hunted by poachers involved in the illegal ivory trade.   The story follows the hunting of Mlima and the transport of the precious tusks of this animal to Vietnam and finally on to China.  Along the way the elements of human greed, corruption, and crime are exposed as part of this illicit trade.

The author brings not only great respect to the elephants and their plight, but humanizes them during the performance.  We hear the voices of the elephants as they run through the brush to escape the poachers, and as they cry out for loved ones.  It is traumatic tale that grabs the audience and does not let them go. Jermaine Rowe plays Mlima and his words and body language give a voice to this wonderful animal.  After the hunt Mr. Rowe takes on the part of the soul or the spirit of Mlima as the tusks are being transported.  He follow along the trade route and  physically touches each of the persons involved in the trade and marks them with the sign of their crime with white chalk.

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The message of “Mlima’s Tale” is straight forward, clear and direct. This is like no other drama I have ever seen on stage.  The set is simple and allows the actors and the story to drive the message.  The back screen of the stage is lit with changing images as well as  written quotes that convey the inhumanity of how we share this planet with other beings, and harvest them as if they had no soul.   This unique approach to story telling is quite compelling and I found myself riveted to the action on stage during the performance.  The somberness of the subject matter, the creative story telling, and the projected imagery of the written quotes constantly has the audience contemplating the seriousness of the elephant’s plight, and that of all exploited animals.    The play is 90 minutes long with no intermission.  There is no usual break to reflect on what is happening to in the play, but rather the audience is drawn into the story until its conclusion.  Like all his work, director Mark Lamos has done a brilliant job with this unique drama.

The other  three cast members  have the task of playing multiple roles including Kenyan hunters, corrupt officials, Kenyan park rangers, ivory traders, an American ship captain, Vietnamese port officials, and even a wealthy Chinese woman looking to buy an ivory trinket for her luxury flat.  Jeannean Farmer, Adit Dileep and Carl Hendrick Louis are up to the task of the many characters they play. Each has an impressive resume of Broadway, Off Broadway, and television roles and they provide a fine performance.

This is a rare play that is unique in its presentation but powerful in its delivery and its message.  Do not miss it.

for tickets and information >>https://www.westportplayhouse.org/mlimastale

Westport Country Playhouse

25 Powers Court

Westport Ct     (203) 227-4177

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Man of La Mancha: the classic Broadway musical now at Westport Country Playhouse

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Philip Hernandez as Don Quixote

The dramatic and stirring Broadway classic Man of La Mancha has returned to the stage at the Westport Country Playhouse in Westport Ct.   This beautifully staged production at the Playhouse is true Broadway quality in every way.  This is a brilliant show that cannot be missed.

Man of La Mancha is a musical inspired by the story of Miguel de Cervantes imprisonment during the Spanish Inquisition and is also inspired by his book Don Quixote written in 1615.  The musical adaptation places Cervantes in a dungeon prison awaiting his hearing for charges brought against him by the inquisition.   Cervantes is a self described poet and play write, as well as a tax collector.  His latter position and his act of taxing  a church has placed him in prison.  His fellow prisoners upon meeting Cervantes and his loyal sidekick decide to have their own “mock trial” and seize his manuscript.  The show is staged in the prison “commons” as the prisoners await trial.  The curtains open to steel bars separating the actors from the sold out audience.  The set is dramatic in both design and lighting and sets the mood for the evening.

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Cervantes demands the opportunity to defend himself before his fellow prisoners and using his skills as an actor and a trunk full of costumes and props, he launches into a virtual “play within the play”.  Along with his sidekick Sancho, the other prisoners become part of this story woven by Cervantes.  Cervantes spins the tale of a noble knight  on a noble quest, and he becomes Don Quixote, Man of La Mancha.   Despite living in an era of fear and despair, Quixote is a dreamer.  He dreams of a world where knights still roam spreading virtue and morals, performing noble quests and coming to the aid of their Lady.  He exclaims he has seen and experienced the misery and tragedy in life, but he rather instead find the beauty and the goodness in life.

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Gisela Adisa as Aldonza/Dulcinea

Quixote is a idealist and a dreamer and the audience (as it has been since its Broadway debut in the 1960s) becomes a fan of Quixote. His idealism for a simpler  and kinder world is in stark contrast to the reality of 16th Century Spain.  Indeed his spirit and  ideals are what attract so many current audience members .

His idealism is manifested brilliantly in the song “The Impossible Dream” which is the hallmark of the evening.  The song is instantly familiar to many, and yet it is so fresh and relevant today.

Philip Hernandez  is masterful in the role Cervantes/Don Quixote (only actor in Broadway history to play both Jean Valjean and Inspector Javert in “Les Misérables”; original Broadway casts of “Kiss of the Spider Woman” and Paul Simon’s “The Capeman”)  He has a wonderful  deep voice that filled the playhouse on opening night.  A brilliant and memorable performance.

Gisela Adisa as Aldonza/Dulcinea (Broadway’s “Beautiful,” First National Tour of “Sister Act,” regional theater’s “Lights Out:  Nat King Cole” – 2018 Barrymore Award nomination) is wonderful  in her dual role.    Tony Manna play Sancho Panza  the side kick and faithful companion to Don Quixote(Off-Broadway’s “These Paper Bullets,” “Timon of Athens,” “The Hasty Heart”; Netflix’ “Maniac”).   He brings to the role a sort of humor and warmth to which the audience enjoyed.

This production of Man of La Mancha  is directed by Mark Lamos who has directed  many plays at Westport Country Playhouse since 2008.  His extensive New York credits include “Our Country’s Good,” for which he received a Tony Award nomination. A former artistic director at Hartford Stage, he earned the 1989 Tony Award for the theater’s body of work.   His direction of this production is mostly faithful to the original, but injects  a modern vibe with the costumes of some of the cast as well as a reference in the dialogue to our current political climate that was recognized by the audience.

This is one of  the great Broadway musicals of all time.  Its story is timeless and quite relevant in the world we now live.  Make sure you see this wonderful show.

For tickets and information:  http://www.westportplayhouse.org

Westport Country Playhouse

25 Powers Ct Westport Ct.

Box office at (203) 227-4177, toll-free at 1-888-927-7529,

 

 

 

The Understudy: a behind the scenes stage comedy now at Westport Country Playhouse

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A very funny play set backstage at a Broadway theater has opened  at the Westport Country Playhouse in Westport Ct.  “The Understudy” written by award winning playwright Theresa Rebeck  is  a clever and very funny comedy that brought laughter and much applause from the opening night audience.  It recently ran off Broadway.

The play opens with a bang as Harry (Eric Bryant) runs down the aisle of the theater and leaps on stage and reminds the audience to silence their cell phones.  We learn quickly he is not a member of the theater but rather an actor and the show has abruptly started even though the stage curtain is still closed.  An effective way of getting the full attention of the audience.

This comedy takes place during practice on a Broadway stage for a serious play based on the works of German novelist Franz Kafka.  As the actors practice their lines, the audience is treated to a play within a play, with the seriousness of the Kafka story contrasting with the comedy of the main play itself.  The Understudy employs three actors, Harry who is the journeyman understudy looking for his big break, Jake (Brett Dalton) who is a movie actor and mid level action film star, and Roxanne (Andrea Sglowski) , a former actress now stage manager whose job during the play is to run this practice.  She has the task of  keeping Jake and Harry from fighting (as Harry dislikes a B  movie actor taking on serious Broadway roles).  Jake has no love for Harry as he sees him unfit to understudy for a “star” like himself.    Jake too is obsessed as to why he is not receiving big dollar contracts for movies and not the $2 million a film he currently  is paid.

We also find that Roxanne and Harry were once engaged and she has no idea he has been cast as the understudy as he has adopted a new name.  That tension and Harry’s constant absurd comments about changing the lines further send the practice into disarray.  Throw into the mix Laura, the stage board operator (unseen during the show) who is stoned and keeps screwing up the sound, lighting and the sets.  This only adds to the calamity on stage.   The play gives the audience a look into the world backstage at a Broadway production and all the issues that arrive that give angst to those in the production, but comedy for the viewer.

Interesting is the playwrights commentary on the current state of American theater.  Instead of staging plays and musicals of integrity, the public and the theater industry itself is obsessed with celebrity and profits , with many plum roles in the theater going to big name movie stars instead of seasoned actors.  This commentary is worthy and timely considering some of the shows making it to the stage today.  A very funny play with great acting, a thoughtful clever script and excellent direction by David Kennedy.

The play runs  one and a half hours and is fast paced and has no intermission.  The play runs through September 1, 2018.

for tickets and information

https://www.westportplayhouse.org

Westport Country Playhouse

25 Powers Court   Westport Ct.

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