Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Read 'em and Weep Boys

George Street Playhouse Artistic Director David Saint has, for the past few years, chosen shows during the holidays that are certainly off the beaten path. This year is no different with our production of The Seafarer. But it is quite rewarding when it's met with enthusiastic critical and audience response.

Below are a few highlights from the recent reviews. Have you seen the show? Write your own below and we'll post it!

The Star Ledger's Peter Filichia raves - "The Seafarer is MUST SEE tragicomedy"

The Home News Tribune writes: "Brilliant ensemble allows George Street's spirited "Seafarer" to shine
US 1 Newspaper writes - " It’s a soul-satisfying gem of a modern Christmas tale that finds magic, humor, and love in a world full of grit and evil’s temptations. Director Anders Cato’s intimate and honest production is a triumph."
photo of Matthew Boston by T. Charles Erickson, posted by Scott Goldman, Executive Assistant

Monday, November 17, 2008

The Wheels on the Bus...

The Home News Tribune recently featured George Street's bus trips from the Monroe area. The journalist (Laurie Granieri) expertly captures the personalities of the matinee crowd, if I must say.

Gold and 34 other women from active adult communities around Monroe Township are headed to a Thursday matinee of the kooky monster-mash musical "The Toxic Avenger." They sit in pairs aboard a chartered bus bound for New Brunswick's George Street Playhouse.

Some are gussied up for the occasion in low heels, leather coats and matching jewelry; others choose sensible shoes with Velcro fasteners, windbreakers and loose-fitting athletic pants.
Gold is in the former category: lipstick, a lightly made-up face and short blond hair curling softly toward her cheekbones.

Gold isn't sure she'll like the show. But now that Mabel Metz has told her the well-received musical is moving off-Broadway, Gold's willing to give it a chance.

"A couple friends who saw it said it isn't good, but now I can go with an open mind and enjoy it," Gold says.
"I'm an old-time New Yorker," Metz adds. "I go with an open mind. Not everyone has the same taste."

Metz, Gold and the rest are participating in George Street Playhouse's Monroe Township Bus Package. For $52, residents of certain active adult communities receive round-trip transport and a ticket to a Thursday matinee. The theater offers the service for $49 on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings during previews.
Michelle Bergamo, George Street's marketing and group sales associate, is stationed up front with a list of participants' names. She has coordinated the program since its inception five years ago. Today Bergamo is overseeing four pick-ups at Clearbrook, Greenbriar at Whittingham, Concordia and Rossmoor. She assures Shirley Horowitz that the musical is "silly."
Horowitz is pleased.

"Silly is good," she says. Horowitz steers the conversation to another subject.

"Let's get personal," she says to Bergamo. "How's the wedding?" Horowitz has participated in the Monroe Township Bus Package for three years, and she's gotten to know Bergamo, as have the other ladies.

"It's coming," Bergamo replies.

"You inviting all of George Street?" Horowitz asks.

They laugh. Bergamo says she and her fiance are prepared for the big day.
She corrects herself: "I should say I am."

"Most of 'em don't (help with planning)," Sylvia Wouk assures Bergamo. "You're probably better off doing it yourself."

The bus takes roughly 30 minutes to wind its way from the leafy gated communities of Monroe Township to downtown New Brunswick. The women, most of whom are George Street subscribers — nonsubscribers from participating active adult communities may sign up for the package as long as there's space on the bus — say they enjoy the trips because, as Irene Kent puts is, "someone else is doing the driving . . . I'd do a lot more theater, symphony, if they offered a bus."

Many women say they no longer travel into Manhattan for cultural events and would not attend shows at George Street if it were not for the bus package; some refuse to drive at night.

Fran Berger used to drive herself to George Street, but now that she has a brace on her leg, she worries about finding convenient parking in New Brunswick.

"We're getting old, we can't do certain things," she says. "I love theater; this helps me get there."
Berger used to live in Brooklyn, N.Y. She says she and her husband, Dan, attended Broadway shows once a month. Dan died 14 years ago.
"We saw everything worth seeing," Berger says.

Later on, the Bergers moved to Convent Station, where Fran commuted into the city to work as an office manager for a handbag designer. Berger keeps a lipstick-red crocodile bag on her lap. It matches her manicure and her earrings.
Berger says for many years she couldn't imagine retiring.

"I said, "What do you do when you're retired?' " Berger recalls. "A woman said, "You take one day at a time.' "
Attending the theater allows Berger to do just that.
"Every day I try to do something," she says.

Later, a reporter asks Gold if she can telephone her the next day to ask about the show. Gold smiles and says: "We'll try to fit you into our schedule."

Thursday, November 6, 2008

In Rehearsals with The Seafarer

It's not very often a director is interviewed by the press, but the Princeton Packet recently interviewed The Seafarer director Anders Cato. Mr. Cato is a favorite here at George Street Playhouse and has directed fresh productions of recent Broadway shows including I Am My Own Wife, Souvenir, and Doubt in the past several seasons to great acclaim.

Below are some excerpts of Anthony Stoeckert's interview with Anders and David Schramm (TV's Wings) who plays Richard Harkin.

For me it’s been a great place,” Mr. Cato says of George Street. “It’s nice when you can come back to a place. And I feel like (Artistic Director) David (Saint) has trusted me with really great material.”

Mr. Cato’s cast includes David Schramm and David Adkins, both of whom he worked with this past summer in a production of Waiting for Godot at the Berkshire Theatre Festival in Massachusetts. Working with actors he’s familiar with has been particularly helpful with The Seafarer, he says, because of the ensemble nature of the five-character play. ”It makes a big difference,” he says. “You don’t have to start from zero... It helps you communicate on a level where you can take many shortcuts.” Mr. Schramm is best known to audiences for his role as Roy Biggins on the ‘90s sitcom Wings, and is an accomplished stage actor. This marks the third straight play he and Mr. Cato have collaborated on (they also teamed up for George Bernard Shaw’s Candida in the Berkshires this past summer).

"Any director who goes from Shaw to Beckett and can do them superbly, is a really good director,” Mr. Schramm says, adding that Mr. Cato has an ability to get actors to take risks while maintaining a level of trust. “Anders encourages you to go out on a limb, to sort of do it in space almost, (to) jump off that thing and see just what happens when you let go of all those things that actors tend to hold onto.”
Mr. Cato says The Seafarer’s success hinges on actors striking a delicate balance between the real and the fantastical. The play is rooted in Irish legend (its time and place description says the coast of North Dublin has “long been the focus of myths and legends”) and is often very funny while also requiring actors to go places that are, in the director’s words, “dark and vulnerable.” ”(The characters) are carrying around, most of them, these terrible things from the past,” Mr. Cato says.

“And during the course of the evening, it surfaces. But what (Mr. McPherson) does so well is bring in that Irish mood (while staying) connected to those old stories.” As Richard, Mr. Schramm plays a blind Irishman who drinks too much. (“A little blindness, a little Irish brogue, it’s a comedy, it’s a tragedy! You’ve got it all,” he says.) While those factors make for a rich character, they can also lead to traps.

"The dialect coach keeps saying things like, ‘You don’t want to sound like a Lucky Charms commercial,’” he says, adding that the coach, who is Irish, also told the actors that Irish people do not say, “Top of the mornin’ to you.” Of over-playing the brogue or Richard’s other characteristics, Mr. Schramm says, “It’s a question of trying to avoid them by being as real as you can, so consequentially, the cliché that you might go to if you fell into the trap, doesn’t stand a chance. You get out on a limb... and you see there’s a million options. There’s not just the one choice that you go to immediately because it’s the easy one or the obvious one.”

Mr. Schramm studied with John Houseman at Juilliard and was a founding member of Mr. Houseman’s The Acting Company. The actor worked steadily for nearly 40 years, then took some time off, which he was able to afford after Wings’ nine-season run. In discussing his break, Mr. Schramm says that of course he was always appreciative of getting steady work as an actor. But he wanted some time away from the profession and remembers telling a friend, “I spend my life dressed in somebody else’s clothes, saying somebody’s words, feeling somebody else’s feelings.” His time off included taking classes, traveling, going to opera and becoming a subscriber at Carnegie Hall. Five years later, he returned to the stage. ”I said, ‘I’ve got to stop because I can’t do this anymore because it’s not right,’” he says of early retirement. “Because this is what I am. I am somebody who struts around in somebody else’s clothes.”