By Karen Isaacs
Seven Angels Theatre is presenting the Second Chance, a lightweight piece by comedy writer Mike Vogel through April 29 that is geared for baby-boomers and their children.
Jack, is a 77-year-old widower living alone in a NYC apartment. His son, Larry, is concerned about several recent incidents that point to Jack not really being safe living alone. He has left the stove on several times, not taken medications for his angina, and just attacked a grocery delivery person.
Larry has found an assisted living place that has room for Jack; after some disagreements and an arm wrestling contest, Jack agrees to try it for a week.
Once there, he is pleased to learn that there are four women for every man. In fact, Violet, a 70-year old resident is soon in his room, being very friendly. Things are looking up. He also meet Chet, another resident who wants the women, particularly the “young ones” to himself; he evidently means Malka, an attractive younger woman who is on the staff. Malka will give shoulder massages, etc. and seems to like to flirt. She is a single mother from Eastern Europe.
Can you predict what will happen? You may think you can, but Vogel has avoided the expected at least some of the time. It’s one of the reasons that the play is so enjoyable.
Soon Jack is dancing up a storm and making out with Violet to the despair of the unseen Blanche, another resident. While Chet may not like someone moving in on his territory, he can accept Violet preferring Jack. But when Jack becomes friendly with Malka, (Jack,a former teacher, helps her son who is 8), Chet is enraged.
Larry is happy his dad is fine; after all he is paying $5,000 a month for it. Yet the talk of sex and Viagra is a little disconcerting to him Jack is also pushing Larry to “find a nice girl,” yet also asks him if he is gay.
Son and Dad have some baggage. Larry views Jack as having been a distant, unloving parent. Jack admits that while he was devoted and faithful to his wife, soon into the marriage, he had realized it was a mistake.
In addition, the facility has been sold and conditions are deteriorating. While Jack may briefly entertain the idea of Malka, he realizes he is too old for her. She “needs a nice man.” His relationship with Violet also goes through many ups and downs.
This may not be Neil Simon, but Vogel has given us a well-rounded portrait of an aging man who must confront his current condition, the reality of how he lived his life and hurt both his son and himself, and his fear of both change and the future.
Paul D’Amato does an excellent job in filling in all the dimensions of Jack. Marina Re who played Violet in last year’s off-Broadway production is adept at giving us more than just Violet’s surface aggressiveness. While not thoroughly dealt with in the play – a failing of it – she lets know that beneath the brash and apparently happy surface, there is some residual deep hurts and regrets. Amanda Kirstin Nichols, who also was in the NYC production, plays Malka. This is a difficult role, for you are never sure of her motivations: is she a gold-digger? Just a “nice” person? Or what? Nichols does the best she can with the role that seems so central but so sketchy.
It’s nice to see Warren Kelly back on the stage in Connecticut as Chet — the cock of the walk who is not happy at Jack moving in on his territory. Again the role is surface and there is little for Kelly to work with in terms of showing us more about Chet.
Larry, the son, is played well by Jack Lafferty. He is restrained and contained but you can guess that there is deep emotions underneath it all.
Director Russell Treyz has done a good job at keeping the plot moving and letting the laughs land.
It may not be a great play but Vogel’s use of the unexpected and the fine cast, make it enjoyable entertainment.
For tickets, contact Seven Angels Theatreor call 203-757-4676.
By Karen Isaacs
The gala celebration of Connecticut’s professional theater, co-chaired by Shore Publishing’s own Amy Barry, produced winners from both the largest professional theaters in the state and some of the smaller.
The big winners were The Invisible Hand produced by Westport Country Playhouse and Next to Normal produced by TheaterWorks.
Invisible Hand by Ayah Akhtar won outstanding drama, outstanding director (David Kennedy) and outstanding actor (Eric Bryant). The play is about an American banker who is held hostage in Parkistan; it deals with economics, terrorism and religious fundamentalism.
Next to Normal, the musical about a family dealing with the mother’s bipolar condition received awards as outstanding musical, outstanding director (Rob Ruggiero), outstanding actress (Christiann Noll), outstanding lighting (John Lasiter). Maya Keleher who played the daughter received the debut award.
Special awards were presented to actor Paxton Whitehead for his body of work; he has appeared frequently at Westport Country Playhouse in productions of works by Joe Orton and Alan Ayckbourn. The presentation was made by noted director John Tillinger.
Tillinger also made a brief tribute to playwright A. R. Gurney who died in June. Not only did Gurney live in Connecticut, but many of his works were produced here. Tillinger directed a number of them at Long Wharf and Hartford Stage.
James Lecesne, actor, playwright, novelist and activist was honored for his outreach activities while performing his play The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey at Hartford Stage this year. Lecense talked about the impact theater can have on audiences and spoke of how it had “saved” him as a gay teenager. Many winners made similar comments on the importance and impact of theater.
The Tom Killen Award for contributions to Connecticut theater (and theater in general) was given to Paulette Haupt who has served as the artistic director of the National Musical Theatre Conference at the O’Neill Center in Waterford since 1978. Among the 120 new musicals she has selected and helped include In the Heights, Nine, Avenue Q and many more. She’s been instrumental in the careers of Lin Manuel Miranda, Maury Yeston, Tom Kitt and others.
Three of Connecticut’s smaller professional theaters – the Summer Theater of New Canaan (STONC), Music Theater of Connecticut (MTC) and Seven Angels Theater in Waterbury were honored. Jon Petersen received the award for outstanding solo performance at Seven Angels as Anthony Newley in He Wrote Good Songs. Peterson was unable to attend because he is starring as the Emcee in the national tour of Cabaret which was in Portland, Oregon.
West Side Story at STONC received awards for outstanding choreography (Doug Shankman) and outstanding actor in a musical (Zach Schanne)
Kate Simone received outstanding featured actor in a musical for her performance as Louise in Gypsy at MTC.
Hartford Stage took home awards for outstanding actress in a play (Vanessa R. Butler) in Queens for a Year, outstanding featured actress in a play (Connecticut resident Mia Dillon) in Cloud 9 and featured actor in a play (Cleavant Derricks) for The Piano Lesson. The theater also received three awards for A Comedy of Errors) – outstanding set design (Darko Tresjnak), outstanding sound design (Jane Shaw) and outstanding costume design (Fabio Toblini).
Rhett Guter who is now in rehearsal as Curly in Goodspeed’s Oklahoma! won outstanding featured actor in a musical for last year’s Bye, Bye Birdie at Goodspeed. He played Birdie.
Long Wharf’s production of Steve Martin’s Meteor Shower received the award for outstanding ensemble.
Among the presenters were Sirius-XM radio’s Broadway channel program director Julie James, producer Patricia Flicker Addiss, Tony-winning set designer Michael Yeargen and two former artistic directors of Connecticut theaters: Michael Wilson of Hartford Stage and Michael Price of Goodspeed Musicals.
Terrence Mann, three time Tony nominee, and artistic director of Connecticut Repertory Theater’s Summer Stage hosted the evening. Bobby Conte Thornton, star of Broadway’s A Bronx Tale provided two terrific songs.
But perhaps the stars of the evening were sisters Ella and Riley Briggs, two adorable young girls with bright futures ahead them. Ella played the young Frances Gumm in Chasing Rainbows last year at Goodspeed and she and Riley were both in Godspeed’s It’s a Wonderful Life.
This content courtesy of Shore Publications and zip06.com.