Curtain Call Theatre - Season 2016-2017 Press

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Skin Deep

Bob Goepfert – Troy Record - Reviews Curtain Call Theatre's Production of "Skin Deep"



LATHAM — It’s difficult to define “Skin Deep,” a play that runs at Curtain Call Theatre in Latham through March 25. It’s a sweet and tender play about two people who need to be loved but it’s hard to determine if it’s a play with a lot of humor or a comedy with a lot of heart. The uncertainty is because director Rachael Sheffer plays it a little cautious with the material and the style of the presentation. She uses an even pace throughout that does not build on the comedy in the material and holds back on the desperation that drives the central characters.

Be it comedy or drama, it is, nonetheless, a pleasant two hours of theater.

Maureen Mulligan is overweight, unhappy and unfulfilled. She is the type of person who anticipates the disapproval of others and tries to deflect rejection by being the first to point out her flaws with comic remarks about her size. Years ago she was left at the alter and ever since has been hiding in the refrigerator – right behind the ice cream and next to the leftover pizza.

Maureen is smart and funny and everything suggests she would be a kind and loyal companion. For sure that’s the way Joe Spinelli feels about her upon meeting on a blind date. He’s a sad sack of a man who sees the woman as attractive, clever and witty. Joe lacks focus in life but he is determined to pursue Maureen.

Though you want the two to be happy, you sometimes have to wonder why you care. Joe is kind, understanding and forgiving to the point that these virtues almost become character flaws. Maureen has been self-depreciating so long that her comments about herself come close to self-loathing.

Fortunately Angela B. Potrikus is such a good actress she forces you to understand what Joe sees in her. In much the same way, Lonnie Honsinger makes you wish the passive Joe could be your best friend. Indeed, though logic tells you different, you believe there is happy ever after for the couple.

Giving the play some complexity is the relationship of Maureen’s sister Sheila and her husband Squire. They are a power-couple who prove beauty itself is not the secret formula for happiness.

Amy Fiebke plays the attractive Sheila who despite outward appearances is as insecure as her sister. She keeps a plastic surgeon in luxury in an effort to counter middle-age through artificial physical enhancements. Sky Vogel captures the arrogance of a wealthy man who knows he’s attractive to women, but is unable to let his wife know he finds her companionship more appealing than her appearance.

They have a wise scene in act two that is so satisfying you wish Joe and Maureen could have been as emotionally honest with each other.

There is a saying that states beauty is in the eye of the beholder. “Skin Deep” says no one can behold your beauty until you see it yourself.

"Skin Deep" at Curtain Call Theatre in Latham. Thursdays – Sundays until March March 25. For tickets and schedule information 877-7529.

Curtain Call’s ‘Skin Deep’ delightful, perfectly paced

Parts are "as real as theater gets"

PAUL LAMAR/For The Daily Gazette

LATHAM — I call her motormouth Maureen Mulligan (Angela B. Potrikus). She makes very funny wisecracks about herself, and she makes a lot of them, so many, in fact, that those closest to her don’t really laugh anymore.

And pretty soon, despite the guffaws, we, too, want her to stop using humor as a defense mechanism and shut up long enough to accept the good fortune, in the person of one Joe Spinelli (Lonnie Honsinger), who has come her way.

Except for a little plot contrivance in Act 2, Jon Lonoff’s comedy/drama is delightful, in no small part thanks to the terrific production it’s getting at Curtain Call. A quartet of fine actors under Rachael Sheffer’s beautifully paced direction tells the story of Maureen’s lifelong struggle with weight and self-consciousness about her looks, and her sister Sheila’s (Amy Fiebke) constant effort to improve her looks through tucking, lifting, tightening and injecting for the benefit of her wandering-eye husband, Squire (Sky Vogel).

Maureen’s humor? Here are a few examples: “You know, I never forget a cake.” “Here I am, big as life.” And when someone says, “May this evening live up to your expectations,” Maureen replies, “I hope it goes better than that.”

Whatever reason she initially had to use humor to hide her sadness was exacerbated by a romantic disaster years later. No wonder she is skittish about dating. But blind date Joe manages, by dint of sweetness and a rather straight-ahead use of language — unlike Maureen’s constant use of irony — to break through Maureen’s barriers.

Thanks to the superb work of Potrikus and Honsinger, the extended Act 1 scene between Maureen and Joe is as real as theater gets, as these two characters begin to take chances and reveal themselves: so human, so warm, so amusing.

Squire lends a little gravitas to the proceedings at the top of Act 2, and Vogel and Potrikus movingly plumb the depths of Squire and Maureen’s relationship. Sheila is as self-absorbed as Maureen, and perhaps as fragile, but Sheila has figured out a way to keep moving forward and not think too much. Fiebke is a hoot in capturing Sheila’s breeziness, yet she also exposes her heart at just the right moment near play’s end.

Even though Maureen sometimes wears us out with her pessimism, Potrikus shades her performance so smartly that we continue to root for Maureen.

And there’s a fully working set! Maureen boils tea water on the stove; there’s running water; the cupboards are full; the actors actually eat ice cream. Hats off to scenic designer Andrea Nice and stage manager Amanda Charlebois for their realistic NYC apartment, sometimes overwhelming in its messiness. And Jason Fok (lighting), Dan Rider (sound), and Machel Ross (costumes) have ably fulfilled their end of the creative bargain.

It was a play and a playwright new to me, but encountering unfamiliar work remains one of the best reasons to check out Curtain Call.

'Skin Deep'

WHERE: Curtain Call Theatre, 210 Old Loudon Road, Latham

WHEN: Through March 25

HOW MUCH: $24

MORE INFO: 877-7529 or curtaincalltheatre.com

Past Reviews

The Schenectady Gazette says:

"Dial M for Murder is well worth a call...the audience gets to witness the actual event and how the best laid plans can still get botched with a twist and a punch. Curtain Call’s production has some fine moments with its more than capable cast....As Tony, Steve Leifer extends the right amount of smug, oily unctuousness in his portrayal of the murder-dialing, retired tennis pro. Pamela O’Connor is smooth and graceful as the unfaithful wife Margot. And Gary Maggio, as the bumbling and brilliant Inspector Hubbard, entertains as he investigates.



Farce by Curtain Call in Latham is marvelously askew

By Steve Barnes | Times Union, December 11, 2016

You know a farce is doing something right when the audience exclaims or applauds successively more outrageous plot developments. The opening-night crowd did just that on Friday at Curtain Call Theatre during its new production, British playwright Ray Cooney's 1990 comedy "Out of Order," where the opening bit, a dead body in a windowsill, is just about the tamest thing in the show.

"Oh, my God!" yelled one woman — twice. Another so startled herself with a shriek of laughter at the surprising appearance of Curtain Call stalwart Jack Fallon that she clapped her hand over her mouth. A man, nodding his head as he guffawed, spontaneously clapped in the middle of a scene while further shenanigans unfolded in a London hotel suite as a junior minister in Margaret Thatcher's government attempted to complete a planned tryst with a secretary from the opposing party.

Such is the overall success of the production, directed by area theater vet Chris Foster. Farce can be impossibly hard, especially at the community-theater level, requiring a deft touch, uniformity of tone from the actors and an intuitive sense of how far to push the ridiculousness. Not far enough, the weighted-down play can feel like a slog, a waltz done in ski boots; too far, the effortful zaniness becomes forced, exhausting, garish.

Foster and crew have it almost perfect. Despite a few opening-night technical glitches and an occasional lapsed British accent, the exuberant air never goes out of the production. My attempt to tally up all of the entrances and exits through the three doors and one window of the hotel-room set (by Andy Nice) soon became impossible, and I gave up at the end of the first act.

Besides Foster's direction, the biggest standout is Kris Anderson, another busy regional theater presence, as George, the private secretary to the junior minister. Playing a nerdy, unmarried man who still lives with his mother, Anderson, a skilled comedian, has never been funnier, whether he's simply turning his head to follow conversation or, as George rises to the occasion with improvisational skills he didn't know he had, conducting a marionette routine with the corpse.

Pity poor George. He's working late, expecting his boss (Rob Weber, good but hampered by needing to be the anchor of the action) to go to the House of Commons for an all-night debate, when he's summoned to the hotel room, where the boss was planning an assignation. By the time George arrives, the body (Dennis Skiba), which the minister and his secretarial inamorata (Jennifer Lefsyk) have moved, is hanging from a hook in a closet. It doesn't stay put. Nor do any of the living people, who soon enough are running in and out of door and window and include a waiter (Patrick White, hilarious), the secretary's suspicious husband (John Schnurr, excellent as a dim but sensitive hunk), a nurse (Jennifer Van Iderstyne), the minister's wife (Susan Dantz) and, as the apoplectic hotel manager, John Sutton, whose outraged delivery of the word "Adultery!" is on par with Lady Bracknell's famed exclamation, "A handbag!" Each maneuver by the minister to extricate himself without causing scandal makes things worse, which prompts progressively preposterous scenarios and behaviors until it seems Cooney couldn't possibly write his way out of it. He does, and with Foster at the helm, this zany zeppelin lands mirthfully after being spun through a hurricane.

Curtain Call's new farce is 'Out of Order'

By Bill Buell/Gazette Reporter | December 7, 2016

The laughs just keep on coming in “Out of Order,” opening Friday at the Curtain Call Theatre in Latham.

That’s according to Rob Weber, who plays the lead character, Richard Willey, in Ray Cooney’s 1990 farce about a junior minister in the British Parliament who must lie to get out of an adulterous predicament.

“It’s hilarious, non-stop action, as Ray Cooney plays usually are,” said Weber, a Long Island native and Hunter College graduate. “The audience barely has time to laugh. Before they’re done, there’s a new one coming along.”

Weber, who moved up from New York City to the Kinderhook area a few years ago, is making his second appearance at Curtain Call Theatre.

“This is by far the largest role I’ve tackled since I moved up from New York,” he said. “He’s pretty much the main guy, and he’s kind of the straight man that’s facilitating all the craziness. The play is set in London in the 1980s, and he’s a junior minister who is in a hotel suite about to have an affair with a young secretary, but then everything falls apart.”

Jennifer Lefsyk plays Jane Worthington, the object of Willey’s affections, while also in the cast are Kris Anderson, Jack Fallon, Dennis Skiba and Patrick White. Chris Foster is the director.

“Rob Weber plays the member of Parliament who has told his wife he is at a late-night sitting at the House of Commons,” said Foster.

The glue of play

“I have thoroughly enjoyed working with this cast and particularly Rob Weber, who is the glue for the play and must keep the crazy plot of this play held together by using his charms and wiles. Rob is a pleasure to work with. He works hard, takes direction well, and is generous to his fellow actors.”

Weber, also a member of the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, also performed in “Charley’s Aunt” at Curtain Call and “Our Town” at Albany Civic Theater.

“I also still go down to New York a lot to do background work on movies and tv shows,” he said. “I’ve done theater since junior high school, and I also did a lot of theater at Hunter College and a lot of regional theater. It’s always been a big part of my life.”

Also in the cast are John Schnurr, Jennifer Van Iderstyne, John Sutton and Susan Dantz. Andy Nice is the scenic designer.

Other openings

Also opening this weekend are a Home Made Theater production of “A Charlie Brown Christmas” at The Spa Little Theater in Saratoga Springs and a Confetti Stage production of “The Santaland Diaries” at WAMC’s The Linda.

“A Charlie Brown Christmas,” adapted for the stage by Eric Schaeffer, is based on the classic television special created by Bill Melendez and Lee Mendelson. Aaron M. Lambert plays Charlie Brown, while Frank Perilli is Linus, Rebeca Rodriguez is Lucy and Kristine Hanlon is Snoopy. Laurie Larson is the directing the play, and Mary Fran Hughes is the scenic designer.

“The Santaland Diaries,” a creation of humorist David Sedaris, is being directed by Nate Beynon and will star Larry Brock. The story is a humorous account of Sedaris’ brief stint as a department store elf, and is recommended for adult audiences.

‘Out of Order’
WHERE: Curtain Call Theatre, 210 Old Loudon Road, Latham
WHEN: Opens Friday and runs through Dec. 31; performances at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and 3 p.m. Sundays
HOW MUCH: $24
MORE INFO: 877-7529, www.curtaincalltheatre.com

‘A Charlie Brown Christmas’
WHERE: Home Made Theater, Spa Little Theater, Saratoga State Park
WHEN: Opens Friday and runs through Dec. 18; performance times vary
HOW MUCH: $18-$12
MORE INFO: 587-4427, www.homemadetheater.org

‘The Santaland Diaries’
WHERE: Confetti Stage, WAMC’s The Linda, 339 Central Ave., Albany
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and Dec. 16-17
HOW MUCH: $15-$10
MORE INFO: www.confettistage.org, 460-1167

Reach Gazette reporter Bill Buell at 395-3190 or bbuell@dailygazette.com.

Farragut North
By Bob Goepfert, Troy Record



Latham - If you haven’t yet had your fill of vile people engaging in political backstabbing - you will be happy to know that “Farragut North” continues at Curtain Call Theatre in Latham through November 26.

The political drama was originally produced in 2008, and the behavior of the operatives representing candidates in the Iowa presidential caucuses might have seemed shocking at the time. Today it’s reality television.

The playwright, Beau Willimon, worked as a press aid on Howard Dean’s 2004 presidential campaign and went on to create the Netflix political drama, “House of Cards.” He knows political drama and in “Farragut North” he creates a fascinating cast of characters.

The work centers around 25 year old whiz kid Stephen Bellamy. During the play’s two-hour running time we also meet Stephen’s mentor, and another political operative who tries to lure the young man to work on the opposition’s campaign. For flavor there is also a young flunky who is smarter than he appears, a cynical reporter for the New York Times, an attractive 19 year old promiscuous female intern and an immigrant waiter.

Once you suspend reasonable disbelief and accept the critical premise that drives the plot – that a simplistic plan to manipulate the polls can work and so many savvy political minds accept the validity of the plan without question - the play starts cooking the apple pie of American politics with the main ingredients being deceit, treachery and betrayal.

“Farragut North” might be a hard sell coming this close to the election, but it is a compelling tale about the dark side of ambition, ego and power. If the plot were about big business or banking it would remind you of a David Mamet play about common men trying to find their place in contemporary soulless society. By the way, the language is Mamet-like with the abundant use of casual expletives.

Director Steve Fletcher tells the story well. Once he gets past the first scene which is heavily bogged down with exposition, he keeps the story – which covers 9 scenes in two acts – flowing at a fast pace. Fletcher uses the minimalistic scenic design of Frank Oliva to keep the show moving as the performers efficiently relocate columns to create new performing spaces.

It is difficult to portray such vile people without losing the audience. Though no one in the cast does the impossible – which is to make you care about any character on stage - the performers rarely become hateful.

It only happens with the character of Stephen, and that is not the fault of actor Steve Maggio. It is the playwright’s mistake in overwriting the play’s ending. The play goes on about 15-minutes after its logical conclusion. That extension adds a sentimental speech by the waiter and behavior that makes Stephen look like a self-destructive obsessive rather than a slick operative who simply lacks a conscience.

But perhaps the point of the play is to show that nowadays the two types seemed to have already merged.

“Farragot North” continues at Curtain Call Theatre in Latham with performances Thursdays to Sundays until November 26. For tickets and schedule information call 877-7529.

Political Drama Tame by 2016
By Steve Barnes, Times Union

Latham

Political junkies will enjoy the scheming, stabbed backs, dirty tricks and rapid‐fire foulmouthery of “Farragut North,” a 2008 play by “House of Cards” creator Beau Willimon that is receiving a timely, well‐staged production at Curtain Call Theatre. Named after a Washington Metro stop serving an area of D.C. that’s lousy with lobbyists, the play is based in part on Willimon’s time working on former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean’s 2004 primary campaign. It’s as intricate in its twists as a wiring schematic and offers astute observations about machinations among political operatives and between campaigns and the press.

As performed by a solid seven‐member cast under the direction of Steve Fletcher, Curtain Call’s production mostly moves along at a brisk clip as a 25‐year‐old wunderkind of political communication, Stephen (Steve Maggio), works to help his candidate win the Iowa primary caucuses. While the performances on opening night were uniformly strong, the pacing slipped its gears a few times, a problem that should quickly resolve itself as the monthlong run progresses.

Maggio gives Stephen, who’s enough of a prodigy that he was hired by a major campaign for the first time while only 20, a believable mix of savvy instinct, bravado and, occasionally, immaturity. He’s confident with the media (Elizabeth Pietrangelo, excellent as a wily New York Times reporter), arrogant with junior staff and interns (Nick Bosanko and Laura Graver) and, as Stephen learns to his shock and dismay, not as good at the game as he thinks he is when squaring off against veteran operatives decades his senior, whether on his own team or the opposition’s (Kevin Barhydt and Ed McMullen, respectively, both more complex than they initially seem).

While the play inevitably has some resonance with our current election campaign, Willimon’s capacity eight years ago for imagining political nastiness hadn’t grown to what he would include in “House of Cards” — or what would happen in the 2016 race. Compared to depths to which things have devolved today, the stakes in “Farragut North,” where a campaign can be derailed by a single utterance of the insult “putzhead,” seem low. Sure, careers and ideals are on the line in the play, but when real life is so much more outrageous and dismaying than fiction, art doesn’t become a place for enlightenment, refuge or even mere diversion. It’s just a pale reflection of the news.



Farragut North
By Bill Buell



POLITICAL JUNKIE RIGHT AT HOME DIRECTING PLAY

Being the political junkie he is, Steve Fletcher didn’t have to think twice when Carol Max asked him to direct “Farragut North,” Beau Willimon’s 2008 play about political campaigning during the presidential primary season.

“I’m hooked on ‘The Roundtable’ on NPR and I’m constantly watching MSNBC and CNN,” said Fletcher, who is directing the Curtain Call Theatre production opening Friday and running through Nov. 26.

“I’ve always been interested in the political process and all the infighting and backstabbing that goes on in the campaign. There’s a lot of smart, ambitious people out there looking to get ahead, and there’s a lot of competition to become press secretary or campaign manager and a lot of other positions. It’s like any arena. People are thinking about their careers.”

Timely production

Max, founder and artistic director at Curtain Call, called Willimon’s play the “most timely piece of theater this fall. The title refers to the Washington D.C. metro stop where many politicians travel to and from on the red line on Connecticut Ave. The play is like watching CNN. It’s as if the playwright was a fly on the wall in today’s political arena.”

Willimon, creator of the Netflix series “House of Cards,” worked with the congressional campaigns of Hillary Clinton and Charles Schumer as well as the presidential bids of Bill Bradley and Howard Dean.

“He’s still a young guy, only 38, and to have written a play like this takes a lot of insight,” Fletcher said of Willimon. “But I looked him up on line and he’s a lot like the character in his play. He’s had some of that same experience. It’s a very cutting edge kind of play. It’s rather risque, and very hip and very current in its feel. You can tell he’s got his finger on the pulse of the young culture out there today.”

“Farragut North,” based loosely on Dean’s 2004 presidential campaign, enjoyed successful runs in New York and Los Angeles, and was turned into a film in 2011, “The Ides of March,” starring George Clooney.

Survival of the fittest

Steve Maggio, a former student of Fletcher’s at Siena College, plays press secretary Stephen Bellamy, while Ed McMullen and Kevin Barhydt play campaign managers.

“It’s a Democratic primary for president, and like any competitive marketplace, the people are looking to survive and get ahead,” said Fletcher. “It won’t turn off conservatives. It doesn’t really shine a positive light on any of the characters except the one guy running for president, but he’s not in the show. It could be about the Democrats or the Republicans, so if you like politics you’ll like it. There is some humor in it, but I wouldn’t call it a ton of laughs. It’s about people who find humor in destroying others.”

Also in the cast are Nick Bosanko, Jack Fallon, Laura Graver and Elizabeth Pietrangelo. Frank Olivia designed the set.

‘Farragut North’
WHERE: Curtain Call Theatre, 210 Old Loudon Road, Latham
WHEN: Opens Friday and runs through Nov. 26; performances are at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 3 p.m. Sunday
HOW MUCH: $24
MORE INFO: 877-7529, www.curtaincalltheatre.com

Time Stands Still
by Paul Lamar, Daily Gazette



LATHAM -- Time stands still.

Well, in a photograph it seems to, but in real life we know that time waits for no one, and Donald Margulies’s thought-provoking drama is a set of seven snapshots in the lives of four people keenly aware that time marches on.

That the title is apt is apparent from the beginning. James (Tom Templeton) is bringing his severely wounded girlfriend, war photographer Sarah (Amy Lane), home to their apartment in Williamsburg (a smart and detailed set by Frank Oliva, supported by first-rate lighting, sound, costume, and stage management work).

James, a war journalist, left Iraq because of PTSD before Sarah was hurt in a roadside blast that killed her interpreter, Tariq.

In scene two they’re visited by their magazine boss, Richard (Chris Foster), and his new girlfriend, Mandy (Allison Tebbano). We quickly learn that Richard and his previous paramour, Astrid, have split and that he is finding joy with his much-younger lover. Mid-life crisis? Perhaps, but he doesn’t apologize, and soon Tom and Mandy realize that their lives, too, are not yet ready for a photo album.

The issues that arise are interesting because they’re ones we frequently think about in this age of perpetual war. What are the ethics of taking pictures of suffering people? Should an individual get on with life knowing that others in the world can’t? (This is the subject of a desperate monologue by James in the penultimate scene, beautifully delivered by Templeton.) What is the relationship between the violence-as-entertainment we consume on TV, in video games, and in the movies, and the violence that consumes people on American streets and around the globe?

Margulies’s script identifies specific places where one character’s delivery overlaps the lines of another, a technique director Carol Max and her cast expertly handle. Throughout, Max neatly paces the estrangement and reconciliation that inevitably arise when there’s a conflict of values, particularly among old friends. Foster’s Richard uneasily walks a tightrope between commerce and art, but he seems less concerned than before because Mandy and their baby now give him purpose. Tebbano’s Mandy sweetly puts her foot in her mouth from time to time, but she also asks probing questions that the others struggle to answer. James is agitated, physically all over the place, helping Sarah, sitting on the arm of the couch, and even at one point walking up and over it to get to the door. And Sarah, haunted by the loss of Tariq and stinging indictments of her work as a photographer, wrestles with these setbacks until she makes a commitment for reasons she can stand by. The performers’ subtle line readings and expressive looks and gestures bring these characters vividly to life.

The play’s last scene is a kind of resolution: a snapshot of four individuals who appear to have made some sort of peace with their hard-won decisions.

But for how long? Time still marches on.

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