Reviews

For "Still Crazy After All These Years"

by BONNIE GOLDBERG  203-397-5433 

SENIORS GET THEIR DAY ON STAGE WITH STRAY KATS 

With a sense of wit and whimsy, the Stray Kats Theatre Company of Newtown is encouraging the more mature senior members of society that  they are invited to be "Still Crazy After All These Years!" The company recently performed a series of eight one act plays in Newtown and at Whitney Center in Hamden to great applause. 

A year ago co-producers and co-directors Tom Coash and Kate Katcher wondered if there were plays available for an older and more experienced cast of actors.  They put a call out for submissions and were delighted to receive them in the hundreds.  Carefully culling the contributions, they settled on a menu of eight that center on love and marriage and all the myriad problems contained therein for those over sixty-five. With a troupe of a dozen talented actors - T. J. Chila, Stephanie Lloyd Ficarra, Dave Gant, Maggi Heilweil, Eric Larson, John Moran, Bob Ponturo, Nancy Ponturo, Patty Shea, Kimberly Squires, Don Striano and Allan Zeller- the races were off and running. 

In "Back Fire" by David Lee White, a man and woman meet after four decades ago in high school and finally engage in all the fantasies they were afraid to do way back when.  A series of discoveries after the deed is done put an alarming spin on their indulgences. 

A uniquely different idea of retirement is explored in "Second Career" by Ellen Margolis when a woman takes on the commercial world as her own personal Complaint Department.  A broken watch band, a non-functioning smoke detector, a damaged shoe, where she holds companies accountable, have now become a full time job.  DSW, watch out! 

Hobbies can be great unless yours is to possess such oddities as "Albert Einstein's Brain" by Ron Burch.  A long suffering wife may be indulgent of hubby's strange passion for the quirky but she may have to draw the line here and now. 

What would you do if you were a witness to a crime?  In "Action and Reaction" by Joel Doty, the husband sits by and watches, watches in alarm as his wife bravely and foolishly jumps in the fray to stop the assault. 

To rekindle a marriage where the flames have been extinguished, a couple embark on an adventure to India, at great expense, in "Kamasutra" by Tom Coash.  Doris is willing to go to great lengths to awaken Harold's sleeping libido. 

A cancelled credit card causes no end of confusion and problems in "Funny Valentine" by Faye Sholiton when a couple on a cruise find their souvenir shopping in serious jeopardy. 

When empty nesters watch their son leave home for college, the husband finds himself suddenly "Splitting Hares" by Brett Hursey.  He starts identifying with long earred, carrot eating bunnies as a coping mechanism. 

Planning for the future quickly becomes an obsessive occupation as two men, Jack and John, meet with a funeral arranger in "Planning Ahead" by Kate Katcher.  Cremation, a party and a Hefty bag are all up for consideration. 

To discover where or when "Still Crazy After All These Years!" will appear next, go to www.straykatstheatrecompany.org or call 203-514-2221.  The company, founded in 2003, is a not-for-profit professional theatre company with a mission of presenting contemporary classics, radio shows from the golden age of radio and new works.

FOR "DOUBT" BY JOHN PATRICK SHANLEY

NEWTOWN BEE       by Elizabeth Young
DOUBT is a stunner...
SKTC and Third Eye Productions have joined forces to produce and perform John Patrick Shanley’s Doubt at Newtown Meeting House and quite simply: it is a stunner. The play, under the direction of Don Striano, in his debut effort, drives home a message of unattainable certainty in an atmosphere of doubt and the pervasive damage that can cause… Mr Striano has obtained strong performances from his cast. Ms Katcher is convincing as the rigid, precise and morally strung out Sr Aloysius.  She reveals a strong undercurrent of backstory which makes the audience ponder the life experience which has made her so vengeful. In Father Flynn, Mr Kearney revels and excels in the pulpit. He sermonizes with conviction and power. His voice has a cadence and clarity which would make any congregation sit up and listen. Molly Garbe’s Sr James is lovely. She is angelic and yet complicit, to a point. Ms Garbe portrays a complexity of emotions with ease. The intense performance of Denise Michelle Johnson as the mother of a potential victim is riveting. Mrs Muller represents the reality of the world around the insular school. She knows what her son needs and what she is willing to sacrifice or overlook to get it for him.  She is fierce. The limited set and lighting capabilities of the venue works well to enhance and focus the action of the players. It is concise, direct and ultimately disturbing. This is a brilliant play and this production serves it well.

FOR "ROUNDING THIRD" BY RICHARD DRESSER

REPUBLICAN AMERICAN & HERSAM ACORN PAPERS     
Joanne Greco Rochman
 
It's two for two for Stray Kats Theatre. Where can you attend an Equity theater production for $20 or $30? How about the Alexandria Room of the Edmond Town Hall in Newtown, where you'll find an ambitious theater group celebrating its second hit of the season with its second show, "Rounding Third."

Written by Richard Dresser, the play stars two talented actors from New York, Steve L. Barron and JP Sarro, who kickoff March with a home-run. Barron plays Michael, a corporate man new to baseball who is serving as assistant coach. He shows up at Little League practice wearing a shirt and tie. This doesn't bode well for long-time coach Don, played by Sarro, who is in a sports shirt with a baseball cap and looking pretty shoddy compared to his assistant. Don assumes that Michael is a big shot.

 Both men have their sons on the team. Don's son is an outstanding player and Michael's son has never gotten a play right. Parents who have ever gone through the glory or agony of watching their children compete for anything will appreciate this play. There is some adult language, so this is not right for Little Leaguers, but older teens, parents and baseball fans will love it. 

DANBURY NEWS TIMES     
David Begelman, Theater Critic    
 
'Rounding Third' wows them in Newtown There are several things about playwright Richard Dresser's comedies that distinguish them. First, he has a predilection for two-character plays. He also often borrows from his own life experiences in coming up with central themes in his dramas. Third, you sense that the characters in his works, while bursting with funny lines or well-timed quips, radiate ideas that are somehow larger than them. Lastly, with performers who leave little doubt about their acting proficiency, his comedies provide theater experiences that can leave a lasting impression. Among these is the Stray Kats Theatre Company's current production of "Rounding Third," in Newtown... The role (Michael) was enacted well by Barron, who provided a beautifully nuanced contrast to Sarro's (Don) burly Little League martinet.... Kate Katcher, founder of the theater and director of the play, has once again staged a vehicle that seems virtually tailor-made for her small stage at Edmond Town Hall. The previous show, "Small World," was also a delightful comedy about an encounter between a problematic twosome: Igor Stravinsky and Walt Disney.

THE NEWTOWN BEE   
Julie Stern, Theater Critic

If there is one local show that you really ought to go see- because it is beautifully written,  perfectly acted, and hilariously funny- (what we all could use right now) it’s Richard Dresser’s two man play about Little League baseball,  Rounding Third,  staged right on Main Street in the Alexandria Room by the Stray Kats Theatre Company. Most of us who have children retain memories of organized youth sports, and the long-suffering fathers (and mothers) who turn out as volunteer coaches. I can fondly recall one placid dad sending a five-year-old soccer player out to replace the left fullback: “Left, Kevin, left!  Raise your left hand, Kevin. No, raise your other left hand…”  And then there was the irascible coach on one of the basketball teams my son played against in fifth grade, who used to bang his head against the gym wall to convey his frustration with their poor defense. Rounding Third charts the thorny relationship between two such volunteers.... As performed by Equity professionals Steven L Barron as Michael, and JP Sarro as Don, Rounding Third is totally absorbing as well as delightfully entertaining... And the expression on Sarro’s face throughout the interminable wait to see if the inept right-fielder will actually catch a fly ball- is worth the price of admission all by itself. Baseball has always been a metaphor for life, with its moments of drama, its frustrations, its hopes of glory, and above all the lessons it teaches about fellowship and the joy of being part of a team. This month, as  Spring Training once again signals the end of winter and the eventual rebirth of the year, this show is all the more enjoyable.

FOR "SMALL WORLD" BY FREDERICK STROPPEL

REPUBLICAN AMERICAN & HERSAM ACORN PAPERS     
Joanne Greco Rochman

'Small World' a big hit for Stray Kats
There's nothing "Mickey Mouse" about this inaugural work at the Stray Kats Theatre Company in Newtown... Director Kate Katcher has selected the perfect work for the theater's first full production. This play, which appeals equally to the symphony aficionado as well as cartoon lovers, is a winner with a long and happy future. Katcher's signature is apparent throughout the strongly unified production. It is as classic as it is distinctly clean and uncluttered. She also managed to cast two actors who are simply perfect for the roles they play... Bryce portrays Disney with such honesty that he captures the animator's creative gift through modesty and frankness. One could easily believe that he/she is watching Walt Disney here. Robert Resnikoff steps into the role of Igor Stravinsky with a fiery nature and blatant superiority complex… The actor has captured the soul of the character.
..This is the first full blown production for this non-profit, Equity theater. If this is an indication of what is to come, then do bring it on. Kudos to all who worked in and on this production.

DANBURY NEWS TIMES     
David Begelman, Theater Critic     January, 2013

'Small World: A Fantasia' scores with big visions
If you thought that a comedy about a fancied meeting between two world-famous artists couldn't pack a wallop for audiences, guess again. That's just what Frederick Stroppel's delightful riff on a meeting between Walt Disney and Igor Stravinsky does -- and in spades... "Small World" is graced by the performances of its two leads: Scott Bryce (Walt Disney) and Robert Resnikoff (Igor Stravinsky). Both are experienced troupers whose interactions on stage lend believability to a well-crafted script. Under the capable direction of Kate Katcher, Stroppel's comedy will have you laughing -- when you're not left thinking about more than merely a tiff between two geniuses.

THE NEWTOWN BEE   
Julie Stern, Theater Critic, January 2013

...cleverly unique, and gets two rousing performances from Equity actors, Scott Bryce as Disney, and Robert Resnikoff as Stravinsky.  The whole show was highly entertaining and offers Newtowners a welcome break from the painful realities of the last four weeks.... Stray Kats shows itself to be one of the many things that our town can be proud of, and it is definitely worth supporting.

THE PATCH     
Nancy Sasso Janis, Theater Critic     January, 2013

The two-character comedy is extremely well-written, with very funny parts mixed with some drama. The two men basically match wits for ninety minutes and we are invited along for the ride …Kate Katcher has deftly directed this new piece… The audience was laughing throughout the play…Scott Bryce is wonderful in the role of the iconic Walt Disney. He captured the essence of the man we remember from Sunday nights of black and white television…The demanding role of Igor Stravinsky is played perfectly by Robert Resnikoff… Congratulations to Stray Kats on their first full production; they have a hit on their hands with this world premiere.

JIM HILL MEDIA     
Kelly Monaghan, Reviewer    January, 2013

…a gentle reminder that the world can be a better place and that, yes, it is possible to have magical days….Stroppel does an excellent job of capturing what made (and continues to make) Walt Disney such a linchpin of American culture - his cockeyed and endless optimism and a steely resolve wrapped up in an aw-shucks demeanor. And behind the laughs, the play has a fair bit to say about art, its commodification, and the role of popular culture…. Scott ("As The World Turns") Bryce … brings a lightness of touch to the performance that creates an utterly believable and ultimately irresistible Walt. Robert Resnikoff, …navigates Stravinsky's journey from irate artist to Hollywood player and back again, with aplomb...If you are within driving distance of Newtown, do put this show on your calendar.

FOR "SEASCAPE" BY EDWARD ALBEE

THE NEWTOWN BEE      Julie Stern, Theater Critic 

The Alexandria Room was packed, with an extra row of chairs set up at the last minute. Word had gotten out that the Stray Kats Theatre productions of live play readings by Equity professionals are a good bet for a Saturday night's entertainment. On a mostly bare stage, two canvas beach chairs and a pile of black boxes were the only concession to set design, and people sitting toward the back were squirming to see over the heads of those in front of them, as Charlie and Nancy (Tom Zingarelli and Barbara Rhoades) launched into a rather typical Edward Albee conversation- two married people sniping at each other and stolidly refusing to see the point of what the other person was trying to say...

And then, surprise- came the lizards... Sean Hannon and Wynter Kullman as Leslie and Sarah- two human-size creatures in speckle navy, green and white spandex, with huge green pointy manes coming out of their heads and trailing down their backs... Oh, boy- that made everyone in the audience sit up and pay attention! ...

Seascape, which won Albee the Pulitzer Prize in 1975, is perhaps his funniest play... Obviously surrealistic, a sort of Thurber-esque fable, it deals with transitional stages in life, and the fear and anxiety attendant upon leaving unfamiliar patterns and structures in order to strike out for something new…

The whole result was entertaining and enjoyable, with just enough food for thought mixed in with the comedy to send the audience home talking…. Stray Kats is a welcome addition to the way the old Town Hall can be used for the cultural benefit of the town.  It deserves to be supported, and is well worth the price of a ticket- which, for live professional quality entertainment, is supremely reasonable. 

FOR "BUTCHER'S CABIN" BY KENT R. BROWN

DANBURY NEWS TIMES      David Begelman, Theater Critic    Friday, January 20, 2012 Rehearsing with the pros: "Butcher's Cabin" NEWTOWN -- You've got to hand it to the Stray Kats Theatre Company and its artistic director, Kate Katcher  On what looks like a shoestring and a modest venue in Newtown's Edmond Town Hall, audiences last weekend had the privilege of watching professional actors do a staged reading of a new and thought-provoking play. The drama was "Butcher's Cabin" by playwright Kent R. Brown an author of 16 other dramas produced in Canada, Belgium, The Netherlands and Australia, as well as in this country. The company of two men and three women was led by Keir Dullea best known for his leading role as CommanderDave Bowman in Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece "2001: A Space Odyssey," as well as featured roles in many other films and plays. In "Butcher's Cabin," the audience was in for a double treat: viewing performers begin a rehearsal of a play with scripts in hand, followed by a question-and-answer session with the playwright and his cast....

THE NEWTOWN BEE      Julie Stern, Theater Critic    Friday, January 20, 2012 Butcher's Cabin, the Latest Example of Why One Should Keep Track of Stray Kats Theatre Company  The Stray Kats Theatre Company, which began last year with a series of staged play readings in Edmond Town Hall's Alexandria Room, provided a rare treat to the full house last Saturday night: Kent R. Brown of Fairfield — who has over the years been playwright in residence and professor of theater at various colleges and universities, including Fairfield U. and the University of Arkansas, garnering numerous prizes for his work — unveiled his latest play, performed by a top-notch cast. When it was over, and everyone had drunk coffee and nibbled on pastries from Andrea's Pastry Shop, Mr Brown hosted a session in which the audience could provide feedback as to what they liked, and what they wanted clarified. He listened graciously, explained his reasoning, and in some cases thanked the speaker and promised to make revisions, so that in the end, the crowd had not only seen a riveting performance of a serious play, but had the feeling of actual participation in the process... The company of famous Broadway and Hollywood actor Keir Dullea, ably backed by Kim Maresca, Emilie Roberts, Katie Sparer and Michael Wright, did a wonderful job. Stray Kats is definitely a terrific addition to the Newtown cultural scene.

FOR "THE SUBJECT WAS ROSES" BY FRANK GILROY

Theater Review: The Subject Was Roses

By Julie Stern

There was only one thing wrong with last week’s Stray Kats version of Frank Gilroy’s Pulitzer Prize winning play, The Subject Was Roses, and it wasn’t that in order to afford Equity actors, the company stages dramatic readings from hand held scripts- because these performers are so professional, and the direction so solid, that the audience is oblivious to the fact that the characters are periodically glancing at a piece of paper.

Nor is it that the venue consists of rows of folding chairs on the level floor of the Alexandria Room, because again, the show is so engrossing that you might as well be sitting in the comfort of the orchestra seats at a Broadway theater.

No, the only problem is that Stray Kats productions tend to be one-night stands, which means that by the time this review comes out, you’ve lost your chance to hear about something really terrific until it’s too late.  All you can do is watch and wait for their next endeavor, which happens to be set for the last two weekends in July.

Anyhow, about the play itself-  Sherman staged a fine version of it back in March (it’s just that Stray Kats was local, and every bit as good) A realistic drama that uses an ensemble of three actors, the story centers around the middle class Bronx couple, John and Nettie Cleary, as they adjust to the safe homecoming of their only son Timmy, discharged after two and a half years as a combat infantryman in World War Two…

The chemistry between husband and wife actors, Kate Katcher and Don Striano  as Nettie and John Cleary was sensational, and Damien Long was equally believable and likeable as their son.  In the audience talk-back that followed the performance,  people couldn’t stop saying how much they were able to recognize their own families in what they saw and heard on stage. Listening to the actors explain how they interpreted their characters was just as meaningful. And Barbara Ellen Stuart, who co-directed with Katcher,  was equally fine.

Stray Kats continues to be a fine addition to the Newtown cultural scene, and it is worth your while to mark the dates of their productions so that you don’t miss them.