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by Anthony Chase
A quick peek at what's playing around town
Ain’t Misbehavin’, which opens on Wednesday at MusicalFare this week, gets hauled out every few years for a fresh assessment, and I must say, it wears very well. Like Bubbling Brown Sugar and Eubie, this show is one of the great Broadway revues of the 1970s that served to resurrect the legacy of African American composers of the Harlem Renaissance. Arguably the best of the lot, Ain’t Misbehavin’, takes its title from a 1929 Fats Waller tune, and celebrates the pianist as a composer and recording artist. In 1978, it was a phenomenon. Waller, who died in 1943, was propelled back into the public consciousness, and the members of the Broadway cast—Nell Carter, André DeShields, Armelia McQueen, Ken Page, and Charlayne Woodard—were propelled to stardom. (Irene Cara, who played Woodard’s role in an earlier cabaret version, would achieve that status with the movie, Fame, two years later). Under the direction of Michael Walline, the MusicalFare production gives a new generation of performers—Cecelia Barron, Dudney Joseph, Jr., Jetaun Louie, Raphael Santos, and Cecilia Snow—the chance to assay songs written by or recorded by Fats Waller. This include “Honeysuckle Rose,” “Squeeze Me,” “Mean to Me,” “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love,” and numerous others.
THE CRUCIBLE and THE CHILDREN’S HOUR
This week sees two great American plays in which the lies of children cause havoc and pain for all around them. The first of these is The Crucible, Arthur Miller’s 1953 account of the Salem Witch trials, told as an allegory for Senator Joseph McCarthy’s anti communist crusade. Presented by American Repertory Theater of WNY, under the direction of Drew McCabe, this production features Thomas LaChiusa, Lisa Vitrano, Christopher Standart, Sara Marioles-Mitch, Jenny Marie McCabe, Leanne Troutman, Erica Lorenzetti, Leacel Hillenbrand, Danica Riddick, Steve Brachmann, David C Mitchell, and Michael Breen. When effectively performed, this play has the power to bring cold sweat to the palms of your hands as small town intrigues lead to ruthlessly deadly consequences. Also this week, Buffalo Public Theatre continues its run of Lillian Hellman’s 1934 masterpiece, The Children’s Hour, in which a little girl lies to her grandmother in order to avoid being sent back to her all-girls’ boarding school, telling her that the two head-mistresses are having a lesbian affair. The show established Hellman as a playwright. Directed by Loraine O’Donnell, this production features Jenn Stafford, Andrea Natale Profeta, Robert Cooke, Arin Lee Dandes, Jamie Nablo Lama, Tammy Hayes McGovern, Pamela Rose Mangus, Maria Droz, Margo Davis, Ava Kane, Emma Barret, and Declan Gray.
Science, Religion, and suburbia come head to head in this comedy by Deborah Zoe Laufer presented by Subversive Theatre, and directed by Michael Lodick. Sixteen year-old Rachel Stein finds herself trapped in the middle of a dysfunctional family: her father hasn’t been out of his pajamas since 9/11; Mom has found Jesus; and the Elvis impersonator next door is in love with her. As if that’s not enough, the title of the play refers to the looming apocalypse. The Subversive Theatre production of End Days features Wendy Hall, Philip Farugia, Eliza Vann, Michael Wachowiak, John Kennedy, and Joshua Robinson at The Manny Fried Playhouse.
When a new twenty-something arrives in New York, a well-established group of friends will never be the same. This comedy by Philip Dawkins, presented by Buffalo United Artists, explores overlapping friendships and romances, and shifting values over one decade. Directed by Javier Bustillos, the production stars Tyler Brown with Timothy Patrick Finnegan, Becky Globus, Dave Haefner, Matthew Crehan Higgins, Rich Kraemer, and Michael Seitz.
OLD JEWS TELLING JOKES
Bad news has never been so funny. Peter Gethers and Daniel Okrent explore the humor that evolved in the show rooms of the great Catskill hotels of the mid 20th century. Presented by The Jewish Repertory Theatre, and directed by Saul Elkin and Tom Loughlin, the show features Todd Benzin, Josie DiVincenzo, Saul Elkin, Tina Rausa, Robert Rutland. No joke is too tired to be hauled out for this occasion. Prepare to laugh, and resist the tempation to call out the punchlines!
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