THEATER: “Other Desert Cities” @ theREP, 9/30/14

October 7th, 2014, 3:00 pm by Greg
Daughter Brooke (Brenny Rabine) tries to explain to father Lyman (Kevin McGuire) that her upcoming book, a memoir, is loving. However, Lyman has serious concerns about the repercussions for the family.

Daughter Brooke (Brenny Rabine) tries to explain to father Lyman (Kevin McGuire) that her upcoming book, a memoir, is loving. However, Lyman has serious concerns about the repercussions for the family.

Review by Greg Haymes

As directed by Michael Bush, the word “tension” doesn’t quite begin to describe the mood of Jon Robin Baitz’s “Other Desert Cities,” currently on stage kicking off the 2014-2015 season at the Capital Repertory Theatre in Albany.

If you’re a fan of the “Well-to-Do White Family Torn Asunder by a Deep, Dark, Never-to-Be-Spoken-About Secret” genre of drama, this one’s for you.

But let’s get right to the heart of the matter…

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THEATER: “Smokey Joe’s Cafe” @ Capital Repertory Theatre

July 17th, 2014, 4:00 pm by Greg
Actors Benjamin Mapp and Christopher Brasfield make their Capital Repertory Theatre debuts in the toe-tapping

Actors Benjamin Mapp and Christopher Brasfield make their Capital Repertory Theatre debuts in the toe-tapping “Smokey Joe’s Café” at Capital Repertory Theatre through August 10

Review by Greg Haymes

The annual summertime offering at downtown Albany’s Capital Repertory Theatre is all about a feel-good, light-hearted, music-laden revue, and “Smokey Joe’s Cafe: The Songs of Leiber & Stoller” fits the bill perfectly.

For theater-goers of a certain age, it’s a sweet, sentimental stroll through the soundtrack of their youth. For younger viewers, it’s a rompin’ musical history lesson about the earliest days of rock ‘n’ roll when black was black, and white was white, and rarely if ever did the twain meet until the teenage songwriting team of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller came along.

There’s no over-riding narrative arc to get in the way. There’s no story-line at all – unless you consider the lyrics of the 39 songs to be individual single-scene plays. Unlike other jukebox musicals based on songs from roughly the same era – “Leader of the Pack” or the current “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical,” for instance – it’s not a biographical portrait of struggling songwriters who finally hit it big. It’s not even really about Leiber and Stoller, the two songwriters who helped lay the foundation for rock ‘n’ roll.

In fact, there’s no dialogue at all. It’s all about the music.

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THEATER: “Gypsy: A Musical Fable” @ Capital Repertory Theatre, 3/21/14

March 25th, 2014, 3:00 pm by Greg

Gypsy: A Musical Fable tells the story of Mama Rose (played by Mary Callanan), the ultimate stage mother, during the waning days of Vaudeville. (Photo: Joe Schuyler)

Review by Greg Haymes
Photographs by Joseph Schuyler

The splendid production of “Gypsy” currently on the boards at Capital Repertory Theatre is a glorious throw-back to the golden days of Broadway. It’s old-school through and through, and that’s a compliment. There are fabulous songs by the team of Julie Styne & Stephen Sondheim, plenty of snappy dancing (thanks to choreographer/actor Freddy Ramirez), some very comical scenes and an array of marvelous, often glittering costumes (courtesy of Denise Massman).

“Let Me Entertain You” is one of several show-stopping tunes from the show, and Cap Rep’s production certainly does that – but it also does so much more.

Yes, you will likely leave the theater at the end of the show humming one of the tunes – there are an abundance of them and many are instantly recognizable. But make no mistake about it, “Gypsy” is a dark tale about a desperately dysfunctional family, a dream deferred and the devastating effects of blind ambition. And while it doesn’t end in tragedy, it’s far from a feel-good musical.

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THEATER: “The Mountaintop” @ Capital Repertory Theatre

January 31st, 2014, 2:00 pm by Greg

The Mountaintop @ Capital Repertory Theatre
Review by Greg Haymes

“I’m not perfect…”
“I’m a man, just a man…”
“I’m a sinner, not a saint…”

Indeed, the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. of Katori Hall’s powerful, award-winning play “The Mountaintop” is just a man. At times, a prideful man. At times, a vain man. But a man nonetheless with all of the attendant frailties.

He smokes.
He drinks.
He flirts.
He swears.
He lies to his wife.
And he has stinky feet.

Set in a drab, less-than-elegant room at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis on April 3, 1968 – the night before King would be assassinated – “The Mountaintop” is an imagining of what might have possibly (and impossibly) happened during King’s final hours, as he engages in wide-ranging conversation with Camae, one of the hotel’s chambermaids.

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Broadway’s Kevin McGuire as Scrooge at Capital Repertory Theatre [Berkshire on Stage]

December 10th, 2013, 1:00 pm by Sara

Broadway’s Kevin McGuire as Scrooge at Capital Repertory Theatre

Broadway star Kevin McGuire returns to Capital Repertory Theatre as Ebenezer Scrooge in Patrick Barlow’s rousing new adaptation of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. McGuire — who founded the Theater Company at Hubbard Hall — was recently at the REP, playing artist Mark Rothko in John Logan’s critically-acclaimed Red and previously appeared as Don Quixote in Man of La Mancha.

He plays a decidedly different Scrooge downtown, surrounded by actor/musicians who remember the fun found in the original tale. Performances continue through Dec. 22.

Barlow, an English actor/comedian/playwright, is best known for his hit Broadway adaptation of the espionage thriller The 39 Steps. He has built a career on stripping stories down to their basics, and finding frivolity in the midst of tension. In The 39 Steps, one actor played the role of spy hunter Richard Hannay, and three actors played everyone else, often switching characters at high speed in mid-scene. The result was a Charles Ludlam-like wackiness that never lost sight of the true heart of the tale.

NOTE: Barlow will visit Capital Repertory Theatre on Sunday (December 15) to participate in a special edition of Behind-the-Scenes, a pre-show chat with Capital Rep’s Producing Artistic Director Maggie Mancinelli-Cahill. Open to the public free of charge, the chat runs 1-1:30pm, prior to the 2pm matinee performance of “A Christmas Carol.” A continental breakfast will also be available in the theater lobby beginning at 12:30pm.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

THEATER: “Venus in Fur” @ Capital Repertory Theatre

October 3rd, 2013, 12:00 pm by Greg
Thomas (Timothy Deenihan) & Vanda (Jenny Strassburg) in Venus in Fur

Thomas (Timothy Deenihan) & Vanda (Jenny Strassburg) in “Venus in Fur”

Review by Greg Haymes

“Venus in Fur” is funny, sexy and whip-smart.

According to the October issue of American Theater magazine, David Ives’ “Venus in Fur” will be the most-performed play in American regional theaters in the 2013-14 season, with 22 productions across the country, more than any other play. And on the face of it, it’s easy to see why – economics. It requires only two actors and one simple stage set, a combination that’s music to the ears of any budget-conscious theater. And let’s face it, these days any theater company – big or small – is budget-conscious.

But on the other hand, those two actors have to be something truly extraordinary in order to navigate the complex, constantly shifting character transformations that the play demands. And they’ve got to command the audience’s attention by themselves for an hour and 45 minutes.

Fortunately, at Albany’s Capital Repertory Theatre director Maggie Mancinelli-Cahill has found a pair of mesmerizing winners in blond bombshell Jenny Strassburg (making her Cap Rep debut) and veteran Timothy Deenihan (most recently seen on the Cap Rep stage in “Race”). Perfectly matched, they thrust and parry, using Ives’ words like rapiers in an exhilarating cat-and-mouse game.

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David Ive’s “Venus in Fur” – A Sex Comedy about S&M at Capital Rep [Berkshire on Stage]

September 25th, 2013, 1:00 pm by Sara
Thomas (Timothy Deenihan) and Vanda (Jenny Strassburg) in Venus in Fur, playing September 27- October 20 at Capital Repertory Theatre.

Thomas (Timothy Deenihan) and Vanda (Jenny Strassburg) in “Venus in Fur,” playing September 27-October 20 at Capital Repertory Theatre in Albany.

by Larry Murray

You could say that the play Venus in Fur is a sexy little romp. It is. But it is also more than that. It takes sex into S&M territory.

David Ives’ Venus in Fur is, at heart, a titillating comedy that illuminates one aspect of sexual desire, exploring aspects of S&M. Plays of this genre are not a frequent offering in live theatre and so there is little to measure it against. When you check, you can find S&M overtones in works such as Marat/Sade, Quills and Spring Awakening. These sorts of plays have one thing in common – the ability to outrage some, and delight others. Most likely one’s reaction will depend on their world view.

In The New York Times, Charles Isherwood observed: ”To describe Mr. Ives’s play as a sex comedy may conjure images of creaky old farces involving philandering bosses and naughty secretaries. But while it’s as funny as any play currently on Broadway, “Venus in Fur” is also something darker, stranger and altogether more delicious.”

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

THEATER: “The Sparkley Clean Funeral Singers” @ Capital Repertory Theatre, 7/10/13

July 11th, 2013, 2:00 pm by Greg
Capital Repertory Theatre

Pastor Phil (played by Jesse Lenat) cautions his congregation against the pleasures of sin as Junie Lashley (played by Lori Fischer) listens intently and sister Lashley (played by Carter Calvert) remains skeptical. (photo: Joe Schuyler)

Review by Greg Haymes

Mama abandoned the family more than 30 years ago when her two daughters were young.

Daddy, who owns the Sparkley Clean Dry Cleaners in Tennessee, is in the final stages of Alzheimer’s.

Blonde bombshell daughter Lashley, a thrice-divorced former country music semi-star, deals with her problems by diving into a bottle.

Mousey, plain-jane, older sister Junie is Lashley’s harmony singer, though she’s tried of living in the shadow of her sister and yearns for a spotlight of her own while acting as the care-taker for her father and unsuccessfully attempting to keep Lashley semi-sober.

And then there’s Pastor Phil, a guilt-ridden, lust-driven man of the cloth with a gambling addiction, whose wife has run off and left him.

Sounds pretty much like the perfect ingredients for a classic country song, don’t it?

A train, you say? Why, yes, there’s got to be a train, and indeed a train rumbles through the rockin’ “All You Can Eat Liver and Onions” near the top of act two.

So why is it that “The Sparkley Clean Funeral Singers” – currently having its world premiere at the Capital Repertory Theatre in downtown Albany – is too frequently derailed?

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