My thoughts on Alabaster by Audrey Cefaly at Kitchen Dog Theater...or not so sweet home Alabama...or the tale of the lonely goatherd.
by Doug Sturdivant
There’s strange and wonderful magic going on at the Kitchen Dog these days. Audrey Cefaly’s Alabaster, masterfully directed by Clare Shaffer, is a near flawless production of a tale of overcoming loss, the redemptive power of love, and talking goats.
Alice (Chase Crossno) the photojournalist daughter of a famous photographer a la Richard Avedon, comes to Alabaster, Alabama to photograph June (Kristi Funk Dana) for a book she is doing about women with physical scars and the resultant emotional scars engendered. June has survived a tornado that killed her father, mother, and baby sister and was almost killed herself in a collapsing structure. An attraction develops between the two women and June soon has Alice revealing her own tragic past and the effects of growing up with a domineering father. Crossno and Dana are so thoroughly convincing as Alice and June, that I often felt as if I were eavesdropping instead of watching a play. Actors of their skill level have an almost scary ability to make you believe and we ache for and with the characters they create.
The talking goats are Bib (Lana K. Hoover), the nanny goat, who doesn’t have many lines, but does have a terrific bleat, and her daughter Weezy (Tina Parker), a prescient, foul mouthed goat who seems to have insight into the souls of humans. Parker eats lots of greens and takes a good chunk out of the scenery. This is a part actors would kill to play and, using the current vernacular, Parker definitely kills it. Although the goats are often the source of humor, they also create some truly poignant moments. Weezy, for all her profanity spouting and put downs, shows a genuine affection for June and there is a remarkable scene that is a mini-masterpiece of acting and directorial skill in which Bib transitions from life to death. I never imagined I could get misty eyed over a goat’s passing, but Hoover and Shaffer did me in.
The scenic, lighting, and sound design here are on a level I have rarely seen outside of NYC. Claire Floyd Devries has designed a two level set that includes both Jane’s room and the goat house. Everything about this set is true to life and this wonderfully detailed set is one reason why the play, even with the fanciful elements, is grounded in reality. Props designer Cindy Ernst Godinez enhances the set with many pieces of amazing folk art supposedly created by the character of June. I hope Kitchen Dog will auction these off after the run. I want one. Lisa Miller’s lighting accentuates the story, and together with sound designer Claire Carson, they create a thunderstorm that is actually frightening. Kari Makoutz’s costumes adeptly delineate the characters by giving June simple outfits and Alice a more upper middle class look. And I particularly liked Weezy’s bib overalls.
Alabaster was an unexpected treat for me. I was wholly taken in by this tale of loss, love, and goats. Cefaly has infused her characters with life through her obvious gift for dialogue. This is one of those shows where acting, directing, and design come together to create a piece of unforgettable art. Look for this production on many Best of 2020 lists. I know it’s going on mine.
A DOLL'S HOUSE, PART 2 was nominated in every eligible category for this year's The Column Awards!
Nominations in DFW Equity Categories:
BEST PLAY - A Doll's House, Part 2 @ Stage West
BEST ACTRESS IN A PLAY - Shannon McGrann (Nora)
BEST ACTOR IN A PLAY - Brent Alford (Torvald)
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A PLAY - Judy Keith (Anne Marie)
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A PLAY - Amber Flores (Emmy)
BEST DIRECTION OF A PLAY - Clare Shaffer
BEST LIGHTING DESIGN OF A PLAY -Tamara Harris
BEST SOUND DESIGN OF A PLAY - Jorge Flores
BEST ORIGINAL COSTUME DESIGN OF A PLAY - Jeremy Bernardoni
BEST ORIGINAL SCENIC DESIGN OF A PLAY - Karlee Perego
FULL LIST OF NOMINEES:
The cast and crew of SWEENEY TODD: THE DEMON BARBER OF FLEET STREET garnered 23 WATCH nominations! The cast will be performing our opening number at the awards ceremony on 3/17/2019.
-Outstanding Ensemble in a Musical
-Outstanding Lead Actor in a Musical: Bob McGrath as "Sweeney Todd"
-Outstanding Lead Actress in a Musical: Erin Branigan as "Mrs. Lovett"
-Outstanding Direction of a Musical: Clare Shaffer
-Outstanding Music Direction: Paige Austin Rammelkamp
-Outstanding Properties in a Musical: Pauline Lamb
-Outstanding Costume Design in a Musical: Joan Lawrence
-Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical: Brendan Hickey as "Anthony Hope”
-Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical: Jack Kearney as "Tobias Ragg"
-Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical: Bryan Lyons-Burke as "Judge Turpin"
-Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical: Alden Michels as "Beadle Bamford"
-Outstanding Cameo in a Musical: Tom Kearney as "Jonas Fogg"
-Outstanding Cameo in a Musical: Jonathan Ohmart as "Adolfo Pirelli"
-Outstanding Hair Design in a Musical: Sydney Studds
-Outstanding Light Design in a Musical: E-hui Woo
-Outstanding Makeup Design in a Musical: Sydney Studds
-Outstanding Set Construction in a Musical: Tom O'Reilly
-Outstanding Set Decoration in a Musical: Janet Devine Smith
-Outstanding Set Design in a Musical: Audrey Bodek
-Outstanding Set Painting in a Musical: Mary Speed
-Outstanding Sound Design in a Musical: Drew Moberley
-Outstanding Stage Combat Choreography: Daniel Westbrook
FULL LIST OF NOMINEES:
"What Lucas Hnath has done in A Doll's House, Part 2 is nothing short of brilliant, and Stage West's regional premiere does it right."
by Jan Farrington
published Wednesday, October 31, 2018
"In its regional premiere at Stage West, Lucas Hnath’s surprising, ruefully funny, and entirely captivating sequel to the Ibsen original, A Doll’s House, Part 2, grabs us from the start and won’t let go. This is “must-see” theater, as compelling as a bonus episode for a long-gone TV series. Fifteen years later, here’s the Helmer family again—Nora, Torvald, the kids, the faithful housekeeper. And when the loud knock comes on the famous front door, we laugh out loud, knowing who it must be. Come in, Lucy, you’ve got some ‘splaining to do."
"Director Clare Shaffer’s tone is pitch-perfect and the pacing brisk—though she smartly makes room for the pained, drawn-out silences of real people saying difficult things. In the silences, we hear our own doubts, regrets, unease. Set designer Karlee Perego’s spare Scandinavian parlor, empty but for a few movable chairs and a hat rack, gives us a clue to the current state of affairs: Nora’s piano is gone, her paintings taken from the walls and never replaced. Only their darker-toned shadows remain on the wall to tell us something was there. Tamara Harris’ lighting design is bold and bright, dimming only to mark the play’s divisions—each titled for particular characters, the names writ large across the wall in flowing script. (Calligraphy by digital artist Jacob Rivera-Sanchez; sound designer/projection engineer Jorge Flores made the writing move, and added a lovely pen-scratch sound effect to go with it.)"
"McGrann is a terrific Nora—edgy, smart, funny, proud of herself—and visibly nervous. She’s in a spot of trouble and has come to ask Torvald for help. From the lift of an eyebrow to a habit of smoothing her dress (is it a reset move, putting herself back in control?) there’s a lot of telling physical detail to McGrann’s characterization. Splendid in designer Jeremy Bernardoni’s jewel-toned traveling suit, Nora moves as if she were wearing jeans and a sweatshirt: lifting chairs like a stagehand, lounging sideways in a chair with her legs flipped over the arm, sitting straight-legged on the floor with a flask. She’s confident and worldy-wise…but being “back” is clearly more complicated than she’d thought."
"Torvald (an excellent J. Brent Alford) looks like an upright citizen in his swallow-tailed coat, but admits he feels “shaky” to find Nora in the parlor. Torvald is hard to read (has he learned anything over all these years?) but Alford’s sharply drawn portrait tells us there’s anger and hurt under the surface. Torvald has been waiting for years to say his piece."
"Could daughter Emmy (Amber Marie Flores) shake things up? Flores, poised and pulled in tight, is cool as ice to Nora, but lets her anger out in tiny controlled bursts, like steam from a closed pot. Did she miss her mother? “I’m better at life because you were gone,” Emmy retorts. She doesn’t read books, thanks, and is quite happy to be planning an early marriage. “I want to be possessed,” she says, in a quiet, devastating rejection of Nora’s own choice. It’s from Emmy that we hear the most detailed counter-argument to Nora’s ideas, culminating in a line about the future so cutting that there was a murmur from the audience."
"As Nora’s life and decisions become tangled with the family (and with Anne Marie, who reminds Nora she gave up her own child for the job she needed to survive—working women’s choices being starker than the ones Nora faced), we wait to see if Nora will be tempted, for safety’s sake, by a smaller life…or strike out on her own determined journey again. Hnath keeps us weighing her choices—and on the edge of our seats—until the very end."
'The power of passionate conversation in 'A Doll's House, Part 2' proves a tonic in violent times'
by Nancy Churnin
published October 30, 2018
"Clare Shaffer's carefully equilibrated direction threads a tense, provocative balance among the viewpoints. The rawness of the characters' feelings feel all the sharper in contrast with the simple elegance of Karlee Peregro's set and Jeremy M. Bernardoni's lovely period costumes."
"Shannon J. McGrann brings self-assured force to the larger-than-life Nora, who sweeps back in through that door, sure of what she wants and feels. She's spent the 15 years learning to know herself, her needs, her wants and her dreams. Then, delicately, we see some of her surety chipped away as she catches up with those she left behind."
"Judy Keith's worn Anne Marie, the governess who stayed behind to care for Torvald and the children that Nora left, dishes up a harsh reminder that the only reason Nora had the luxury to go off and find herself was that she knew she could rely on Anne Marie to stay and pick up the emotional pieces."
"As Nora's husband, J. Brent Alford's deeply affecting Torvald brings home the anguish of a man who is trying to understand what he did wrong and why he was judged for doing what he was taught that a man was supposed to do. As Nora's grown-up daughter, Emmy, Amber Marie Flores chills with a smile that is as smooth as petit four icing over anger for the mother who abandoned the family when she and her brothers were too little to understand what was happening."
"There seemed at first to be an uneasy dissonance in A Doll's House, Part 2 opening on the day of the Pittsburgh shootings that left 11 dead. After all, what does a play like this have to say at a time of gunshots and grieving? It turns out, serendipitously, that it has a lot to say not just about marriage, but about how people with passionately opposing ideas, some expressed with strong language, can talk, empathize and, at critical moments, agree to disagree.
Respect for another person's opinion? The possibility of understanding a point of view that you didn't before? That is a tonic for troubled times."
'D-FW theaters discuss women's equality with performances of 'A Doll's House' and its sequel'
by Nancy Churnin, THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS
Henrik Ibsen's A Doll's House, a play about a housewife named Nora who rebels against the unequal treatment she receives as a woman, sent shockwaves when the play premiered in 1879.
And it's still making waves, as is Lucas Hnath's ambitious 2017 Broadway sequel, A Doll's House, Part 2, which pictures Nora returning home 15 years after she slams the door on her husband and children.
Now Dallas-Fort Worth audiences will get a chance to see both plays in overlapping runs directed by women at theaters helmed by women.
In fact, the two companies — WaterTower Theatre in Addison and Stage West in Fort Worth — are offering discounts in order for patrons to see both shows. WaterTower's A Doll's House starts previews Oct. 12 and opens Oct. 15 at Addison Theatre Centre. A Doll's House, Part 2 starts previews Oct. 25 and opens Oct. 27.
A full-day experience is being offered on Nov. 3 for theatergoers who want to see A Doll's House at WaterTower at 2 p.m., followed by a talkback. The event continues with a dinner at Stage West at 6:30, followed by A Doll's House, Part 2 at 8.
A Doll's House, Part 2 has become the most produced play in regional theaters, according to a September survey by American Theater magazine. While A Doll's House has never gone out of fashion, Joanie Schultz, artistic director of WaterTower Theatre, didn't anticipate how much of a live wire it would be when she decided to adapt and direct it.
"I think what Nora is going through in this play has so many parallels to things I'm reading in the news right now," Schultz says. And while Schultz is careful not to make any political parallels, it's hard to miss the intersection between a play about a woman protesting against an entrenched power structure and the current #MeToo movement where women are speaking up about men taking advantage of powerful positions to try to silence them from reporting or getting justice for sexual harassment.
"I have so much admiration for Nora," Schultz says. "She is one of the bravest characters in all of drama. She's not the most educated. She's not the wisest. But she wakes up and she decides to act. In the moment of waking up, we have choices and she makes brave ones. I find her really inspiring."
Current events have also had an impact on the perspective Clare Shaffer, a newcomer from Washington, D.C., is bringing to her North Texas directing debut of A Doll's House, Part 2.
Like Schultz, Shaffer doesn't make political references, but she sees current instances of women being dismissed or overlooked as fitting into a larger pattern that's been in existence since, well, long before A Doll's House struck a nerve in 1879.
"Something that we were discussing in rehearsal that has been very liberating and exciting for me is the way the play helps you put a finger on the root of a prejudice," Shaffer says. "When I was growing up, I remember the times when I was in a room full of men and I felt talked over. I felt my voice was not heard as clearly. It doesn't feel good. It doesn't feel right. You think at first it must be an individual experience. It must just be me. Part of the power of #MeToo is that we realize that these are shared experiences, that there's a broader structure of systems that are in place that make these things happen."
While the popularity of A Doll's House and A Doll's House, Part 2 is a testament to how far we have to go, the strong role that women are taking in interpreting these stories for local audiences gives Shaffer hope that things may be improving.
It helps, too, Shaffer says, that instead of Schultz and Dana Schultes, executive producer of Stage West, competing with their overlapping shows, the two women have found a way to amplify the productions and make sure both Noras are heard loud and clear, from Addison to Fort Worth.
"It does feel like a crescendo," Shaffer says. "It feels like voices are getting louder and louder speaking out about inequality and how the experience of being a woman is intrinsically different from the experience of being a man."
SEE ORIGINAL ARTICLE HERE:
by Broadway World News Desk
Stage West presents the regional premiere of Lucas Hnath's A Doll's House, Part 2.
In 1879, Henrik Ibsen's heroine Nora Helmer walked out the door, leaving her husband, children, and societal constraints behind her; Ibsen's revolutionary play A Doll's House propelled world drama into the modern age. Now, in an age when women's issues are even more in the spotlight, Lucas Hnath is revisiting the Helmer household in a bitingly funny and fascinating sequel to Ibsen's masterpiece. The Obie-winning A Doll's House, Part 2 will begin a 5-week regional premiere run on Thursday, October 25 at Fort Worth's Stage West.
It's been 15 years since Nora walked out, and her family has believed her dead. But suddenly, she's back-with an incredibly awkward favor to ask. She's become a highly successful writer, and her life is exactly what she wanted. But now Nora has found out, to her shock, that Torvald never actually filed their divorce papers, and she's in danger of being charged with fraud, and having everything taken away from her. She needs Torvald to proceed, as divorce is a simple process for a man, while a woman has to have evidence of mistreatment. But will he-can he-agree? As it turns out, Torvald has his own issues with the divorce, and so does daughter Emmy. In this taut theatrical showdown, the past and present collide, as Hnath interjects this period piece with some surprising and funny modern sensibilities.
Stage West is pleased to announce a partnership with WaterTower Theatre, who is presenting A Doll's House running October 12 through November 4. The two companies are offering a discount when patrons purchase a ticket to either show. Additionally, a full day experience will be provided with a pairing of the two productions on November 3 where audiences can attend a 2pm performance of A Doll's House plus a talkback at WaterTowerTheatre in Addison and then have dinner at Stage West and enjoy the 8pm performance of A Doll's House, Part 2 in Fort Worth. For more information about A Doll's House visit watertowertheatre.org.
Lucas Hnath's plays include The Christians (2014 Humana Festival), Red Speedo (Studio Theatre, DC), A Public Reading of an Unproduced Screenplay about the Death of Walt Disney (Soho Rep), Nightnight (2013 Humana Festival), Isaac's Eye (Ensemble Studio Theatre), Death Tax (2012 Humana Festival, Royal Court Theatre), and The Courtship of Anna Nicole Smith (Actors Theatre of Louisville). Lucas has been a resident playwright at New Dramatists since 2011, and is a proud member of the Ensemble Studio Theatre. He won the 2016 Obie Award for excellence in playwriting for Red Speedo and The Christians. Lucas is a winner of the 2012 Whitfield Cook Award for Isaac's Eye and received a 2013 Steinberg/ATCA New Play Award Citation for Death Tax. He has also received commissions from the EST/Sloan Project, Actors Theatre of Louisville, South Coast Repertory, Playwrights Horizons, New York University's Graduate Acting Program, and The Royal Court Theatre. Lucas holds a BFA and an MFA from New York University's Department of Dramatic Writing.
A Doll's House, Part 2 will be directed by Clare Shaffer, recently transplanted from Washington, DC. The cast features Shannon McGrann, critically acclaimed for her role as Margery in Hand to God at WaterTower Theatre, as Nora, while J. Brent Alford, who appeared as Sir Toby Belch in last summer's Trinity Shakespeare Festival production of Twelfth Night, will appear as Torvald. Judy Keith, last at Stage West as Geena in A Funny Thing Happened...New York City, will appear as housekeeper Anne Marie, while Amber Marie Flores, recently seen in Newsies at Lyric Stage, will play daughter Emmy.
Set design is by Karlee Perego, with lighting design by Tamara Harris, costume design by Jeremy M. Bernardoni, sound design by Jorge Flores, and props/set decor by Lynn Lovett.
A Doll's House, Part 2 will preview Thursday, October 25 at 7:30 and Friday, October 26 at 8:00, and will run through Sunday, November 25. Performance times will be Thursday evenings at 7:30, Friday and Saturday evenings at 8:00, with Sunday matinees at 3:00. Ticket prices range from $31 to $35, with discounts for the preview performance, and for students, seniors, and military. Food service is available 90 minutes prior to performances (reservations are advised). Reservations and information are available through the Box Office (817-784-9378), or on the website, www.stagewest.org.
READ ORIGINAL ARTICLE:
REVIEWS: Actor-Muso Assassins
"Angry men don’t write the rules and guns don’t right the wrongs. America’s got a problem…Sondheim has a solution. Never a more poignant and relevant time in our current political climate than right now has it been so appropriate to produce a production of Stephen Sondheim’s Assassins. Pallas Theatre Collective is boldly daring to do so, and it draws striking attention to the world around us at present. Directed by Clare Shaffer with Musical Direction by Alex Thompson, this jarring and thought-provoking musical might be exactly what the nation needs to put the wheels of change spinning in motion."
"Director Clare Shaffer has framed up the production around a twisted carnival, fully interweaving this atmospheric idea into the performance by making each of the performers musicians as well. One might say that Shaffer’s musical mobilization of the actors was instrumental in executing her idea. At times, it completely replicates the notion of the band on the grand stand at a state fair... all of the individuals who take up instruments— be it euphonium, xylophone, triangle, or the more traditional trumpet, and trombone— do an exceptional job of playing their way through the score."
"Reinforcing the notion of the twisted carnival and warped wonderland are Properties Designer Pauline Lamb (who doubles as the show’s Choreographer) and Sound Designer Reid May. Lamb strings up various fairground-style prizes— complete with tickets— all across the back wall of the play space, to help cement the notion that each shot taken could be a simple carnival game on the midway. May’s auditory enhancements flow in the same vein with the congratulatory bell-dings when they “win their prize” if an assassin is successful. All of these support beams strengthen Shaffer’s concept, including the State-Fair-esque costume design by Joan Lawrence. The Proprietor’s Boat Hat, the gleaming whites of the ensemble, all of these little nuances help to complete the environment that Shaffer has envisioned for approaching Assassins.... Relevant, striking, and perfect for the time, Pallas Theatre Collective has a production that you’ll want to invest in."
"Pallas Theatre Collective's production, superbly directed by Clare Shaffer, follows the carnival-like atmosphere dictated by John Weidman's book.... The company plays Michael Starobin's complicated orchestrations with musical grace and perfection."
"Director Clare Shaffer proves that she is one of the area's best up and coming directors. She really gets into the heads of the assassins and makes them seem human rather than just lunatics... As presented by Pallas Theatre Collective, Assassins is one of those shows that is expertly executed by everyone involved."
"Director Clare Shaffer has ingeniously shoehorned the show into the black box at Logan by casting actors who double as musicians, such that at times they are the orchestra seated stage left and right and at times they are center stage singing and dancing and playing their instruments. The carnivalesque quotient of this choice pays off enormously in pleasure."
"...a delightfully sassy Assassins... Pallas has a track record of staging with panache contemporary musicals with political bite, and Assassinsterrifically showcases the company’s audacious command of the form... an inventive variety of staging styles... the material is entertaining and unsettling in equal measure."
"Clearly, this musical wants us to attend to the assassins’ interior lives in order to understand who they were as people and why they did what they did. Not to condone what they did. Not to make them out to be heroes or sympathetic. But to reckon with what made them each tick and not just dismiss them as deranged."
-DC Metro Theatre Arts
"Directed by Clare Shaffer with Musical Direction by Paige Rammelkamp, this strikingly beautiful musical tale— based on the novel by Robert Kames Waller— paints a picture indeed worth more than 1,000 words; it paints a picture of love, life, and loss, the inherent journey of the human being over time."
"Lawler is full of panache and personality and plays well against Brian Lyons-Burke, who plays Marge’s devoted husband Charlie. Lyons-Burke has an almost deadpan response to some of the absurd little moments that Lawler’s character goes up on, complimenting her comedic skills flawlessly with his exacting delivery."
"A twinkling gem amid a sky full of stars, Chani Wereley... is best praised for her time spent as Marian. It’s just one song, just one moment, but so painstakingly perfect in both its emotional connection and vocal delivery that it stops the production and swells the heart simultaneously. Wereley is richly invested in this number, fabricating the character’s pain into something nearly palpable; this tragically beautiful performance of “Another Life” is a show-stopping moment not easily forgotten."
"Collins and Meyers find unique ways of creating depth to [Michael and Carolyn], giving them a lively existence on the stage."
"Taking the character of Bud and fleshing him out into a multi-dimensional human being, rather than the shallow and static character that Norman penned him to be, Wheeler finds deep emotional currents running through the layers of Bud and uses the music of the show to connect to those currents, bringing them readily to the surface."
"What do you call a man like Ryan Burke? Versatile? Such a simple word hardly seems to fully ensconce what he’s capable of in the role of Robert Kincaid. Talented? Again the word seems ordinary, lacking in depth when it comes to the sounds he makes, the feelings he expresses. So what do you call a man like that? Extraordinarily gifted, sounds about right, well-fitting the bill when it comes to Burke’s portrayal of the photographic journalist. Exceptionally understanding falls in line with his approach to the persona of Robert and how it fits into the overall story of The Bridges of Madison County. There is more than an honesty to the way he presents Robert Kincaid; there is a vulnerability that is readily present right from his first sung moment..."
"Erin Granfield has spectacular consistency with the Italian affectation she cases over her spoken and sung English. There is something to be said for the way she carries the accent into her singing voice, authenticating the songs in a way that feels true to the character’s origins. Granfield covers the full story arc of Francesca, from “To Build a Home” through to “Always Better” and hits all of the emotional peaks and valleys along the way."
"A sensitive, artfully realized production of the work marks a whole new chapter in the life of the Red Branch Theatre Company... Overseeing the production is D.C.-based Director Clare Shaffer, with first-rate musical support from Conductor Paige Rammelkamp... On opening night, the audience was clearly taken with the performances of the two adult leads, also making their Red Branch debut...
"Erin Granfield brings a lovely trained soprano to the vocally demanding role of Francesca. From her opening memories as an Italian war bride in “To Build a Home” through her complex relationships to family and her adopted American community, Granfield never makes a single dramatic misstep...
"Burke brings some of the show’s most complex and defined vocal shadings to the riveting solos “Temporarily Lost” and “It All Fades Away...
"Together, Burke and Granfield make the romantic duet between Robert and Francesca, “Falling Into You,” one of the most touchingly heartfelt musical moments of this theatrical year."
"Director Shaffer, with the active help of Choreographer Kathy Gordon, keeps the ensemble shifting through pretty stage pictures all evening on Scenic Designer Jacob Cordell’s skewed picture-frame set."
-DC Metro Theatre Arts
"When I saw the movie adaptation of Robert James Waller’s book, “Bridges of Madison County,” I wept at the beautiful simplicity of the story. When I saw the musical version on Broadway more than 20 years later, I wept again at hearing the perfectly written and performed score by Jason Robert Brown. And when I saw it last weekend in Red Branch Theatre’s stellar production I cried like a baby through most of the second act. Because this time I was struck by the not just the story, not just the magnificent voices, but the perfect blend of the two elements. This show is a knock-out that packs an emotional punch that can leave you breathless."
"Clare Shaffer has cleverly directed this piece with a slow, sure hand... she added enough deft touches to keep the action moving... With the added touch of silhouettes behind a gauzy backdrop, she displays a terrific sense of theatricality."
"I’m running out of superlatives to write about Ryan Burke... His Robert is at once tender and tentative, and when he makes up his mind that Francesca is all he’s ever been looking for... it brought a tear to my eye and a lump to my throat. But then again that happened pretty much every time he opened his mouth to sing."
"Erin Granfield is one of those rare actresses on local stages that makes you completely forget she’s playing a character. She is Francesca. She’s stepping into some mighty big shoes, following the likes of Meryl Streep and Kelli O’Hara. Scratch that – this lady’s got her own shoes. With a voice that can go from a whisper to a wail and rip your heart out along the way, she’s perfection in this part... In her scenes with Robert, we watch her resolve melt away as she throws herself into an affair that she knows will cost her dearly. And we see it all in Ms. Granfield’s expressions and her body language... From the opening number “To Build A Home” to her final “Always Better” her voice is amazing. She is a gifted performer and a true artist."
"I loved every minute of it. Treat yourself, but bring your hanky. You’re going to need it."
-MD Theatre Guide
WYPR RADIO REVIEW - Listen Here
"The voices are simply wonderful. Each actor/singer has special gifts to offer the audience through their personality, their genuine love and sometimes loathing for each other, their youthful energy, and their total embrace of this funny, beautiful, witty, and hummable musical score and book written by local Del Ray musician, Neal Learner...
This show mirrors real life, not a fairy tale... a witty and sometimes moving celebration of the beauty of the arc of life from its beginning to its end...
It’s very powerful and will completely catch you off guard... an unforgettable evening of great music, greater emotions, and tons of fun."
"[LIFE] explores the laughter, the love, and the sorrow of ordinary life, as told by one family...
the themes – life, love, loss, journey – are so universal that it is easy to relate, so the musical is funny, and sometimes moving...
Clare Shaffer directs this show with a deft hand, bringing the heart and the laughter out of this story...
LIFE is appropriately named, showing us not just a glimpse of a story, but the way that one person’s story grows into the next’s. And it is brought to life with humor, with wit, and with great energy by this talented cast."
Reviews, previews, and other coverage of recent projects.