Opening This Week...
by Anthony Chase
With seven days in a week, you might be able to see all the shows that are opening this week, but theaters are generally dark on Monday. Tuesday begins a week run of the national tour of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast at Shea’s, the show that shouldn’t have closed on Broadway. Part of the Disney magic, of course, is that every few years there’s a whole new crop of children old enough to see the show—and adults, naturally never tire of beloved stories from their youth.
The week also boasts two shows from local writers. The youth-oriented Theater Jugend promises a frolic of adolescent humor with its sci-fi comedy, Captain Jett Bettington and the Adventures on Planet Earth, a goofball look at the genre in the mold of Futurama by Jason Kaiser and Jacob Albarella, directed by Drew McCabe. That’s up at ALT theater in the Great Arrow building.
Matthew LaChiusa continues his obsession with the history of American culture, so often from a Southern perspective, with Shine, about the manufacture of moonshine, or homemade hooch, in a rural community. That’s at American Repertory Theater of Western New York, which performs in a terrifically dynamic and intimate space in the basement of Episcopal Church of the Ascension at 16 Linwood, where Linwood meets North Street.
On the Andrews Theatre stage, the Irish Classical Theatre does what it does best, an actual Irish Classic. Sean O’Casey’s The Plough and the Stars is the final play of O’Casey’s Dublin trilogy in which he focuses on the plight of common people during the Easter Rising of 1916 and questions the nature of heroism. The original production inspired a riot. William Butler Yeats took to the stage and the police were called out when a performance was attended by widows of the insurrection who didn’t take kindly to what they saw—including the depiction of an Irish woman as a prostitute, for as we all know, there has never been a woman of ill-repute in the history of the Emerald Isle. Today, this exquisite play resonates with the eternal truth that those who suffer most from violence are the least celebrated. The Plough and the Stars is actually a fascinating companion piece to Euripides’s Trojan Women, which just played at TheaterLoft—in fact, just as Euripides ended his days in a cave on Salamis, with his strongly unpopular opinions, O’Casey would eventually find England more hospitable than Ireland. Derek Campbell directs the production.
The week also sees two recent high-profile Broadway shows. David Mamet’s Race at Road Less Traveled Theater follows three attorneys, two black and one white, who must consider the defense of a white man against the charges of a black woman. Scott Behrend directs. Meanwhile the Lancaster Opera House has a high-powered comedic cast for their production of Charles Busch’s critic of middle class values and angst, The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife, in which an affluent Manhattan housewife’s midlife crisis is complicated by the meddling of her complaining mother and the interference of a childhood friend—think Neil Simon, meets Noel Coward, meets Wendy Wasserstein, and you’ve got the idea. Laughs abound.
Finally, MusicalFare is offering one of the most delightful off-Broadway spoofs to come along since Dames at Sea. This one is Adrift in Macao, which sets the film noir genre on its ear as down and out Americans endeavor to get along in the exotic orient. Don’t expect depth. This is pure silly fun by zany Christopher Durang with music by Peter Melnick.
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