By Bob Goepfert, For Digital First Media
“Fit to Kill,” which is being performed at Curtain Call Theatre in Latham, was written by Saratoga Springs resident Victor Cahn
LATHAM, N.Y. - “Fit to Kill,” a mystery written by Saratoga Springs resident Victor Cahn, is making a return visit to Curtain Call Theatre - where in 2003 it had its first major production.
It was the first of many – including productions in New York City and various theaters throughout the country and the world. It even had a 10-week run in Turkey. It opens at the Latham theater Friday night and plays through Feb. 10.
In a recent interview, Cahn said he is delighted about the success of the play and is eager to see the work again. But, says he’s reluctant to jump the gun and visit a rehearsal. “I love the process of making a play come alive and I am tempted to stop by and see what the actors are bringing to the characters. But I’m afraid I would just get in the way. My job is done. There’s a time you just have to let go.” He says he will be there opening night.
He adds that he is confident that his baby is in good hands. “Steve Fletcher is directing and he’s great. He directed it last time at Curtain Call. It’s a different cast, but Steve really knows and understands the material.”
“Fit to Kill,” which was originally workshopped at local theaters under the title “Poisoned Pawn,” revolves about an attractive woman who became wealthy by creating a fitness empire. Her husband is a world-class chess master who often competes by playing several opponents at the same time. He lives off his wife and seems disinterested in their relationship. A young, female journalist arrives and clearly has her own agenda. From there the plot takes numerous twists and turns.
Cahn recently retired from teaching at Skidmore College after a 32 career. He taught Dramatic Literature, specializing in the work of William Shakespeare.
It might seem odd that such a scholarly individual would use his spare time to write mysteries but Cahn insists that writing a mystery is not only a source of enjoyment and satisfaction for him, it’s also a challenge. “I always know the ending before I start writing,” he says. “Usually I know the beginning as well.” After a rueful sounding chuckle, he adds, “It’s the middle part that drives me crazy.”
Actually he prefers the term thriller rather than mystery. He explains: “In a thriller the playwright says to the audience, ‘I’m going to fool you and you will be entertained.’ The audience says, ‘Who me?’ And, the game is on. I just love being present when an audience gasps at one of the plot turns. It’s a gotcha moment that all playwright’s live for.”
He estimates he’s written about 20 plays. “I’ve had 12 or 14 produced and 7 published. He admits not every project is a success. “There are other works hidden in a drawer that will never see light of day,” he laughs.
But he’s had an above average success rate. Besides, “Fit to Kill,” Cahn has had “Embraceable You” and “Roses in December” produced Off Broadway. Last month another work, “Romantic Trapezoid” had a New York City production. “Romantic Trapezoid” is also a mystery and each of the three characters is a woman. “I don’t know of any other mystery like it,” he says.
He is currently in negotiations to have “Romantic Trapezoid” published. As important as a production is to Cahn, it is the publication of a play that makes a difference in the life of a play. He points out that once a play is published the work it can be discovered by theater companies all over the world.
He’s proud of his success but says, “It’s nothing that gets me rich. However, there is a great deal of satisfaction knowing something you created is regarded highly by others and is giving pleasure to audiences.”
Cahn is prolific. He’s also had published five books on the writings of William Shakespeare, and books on the plays of Harold Pinter and Tom Stoppard, as well as other academic works.
Cahn still lives in Saratoga Springs and holds the title Professor Emeritus from Skidmore. And though continuing to write, he’s considering returning to another love – acting.
What kind of play attracts him? If you’re looking for a clue, in recent years, he’s appeared at Home Made Theatre in “Witness for the Prosecution” and “Ten Little Indians.” Both plays were written by famed mystery writer Agatha Christie. Hum.
“Fit to Kill” plays at Curtain Call Theatre in Latham starting Friday through Feb. 10. For complete schedule and ticket information, call (518) 877-7529.
By Paul Lamar, January 13, 2018 Daily Gazette
LATHAM -- There’s a bit of foreshadowing in the brief first scene of Victor L. Cahn’s taut and entertaining thriller “Fit to Kill.” Chess master Adrian Bonham (Knathan MacKenzie-Roy) is playing 15 games simultaneously, but he becomes distracted by a beautiful young woman, Amy Cortland (Laura Graver), and makes a bad chess move that he tries to take back. But he can’t.
And soon Amy and Janice Blake (Cristine Loffredo), who is Adrian’s wife, make him their pawn, with deadly results.
Actually, Adrian seems to be Janice’s plaything already, as we learn in scene ii. She returns from yet another business trip, and they have a familiar conversation: she boasts about her accomplishments as the female head of a fitness empire who makes all the money for their household; and he defends against her charge that he is financially useless by proclaiming his celebrity status and his sexual appeal.
Enter Amy, a young woman with ideas for how to get beyond this impasse. Hesitant at first, both Janice and Adrian are intrigued by her suggestions and soon find themselves plotting bold moves.
Cahn delivers a wallop of an ending to a play that features basically unlikable, scheming characters; clever twists and turns; and mordant humor: perfect ingredients for a show in the mold of — as UPI notes — “Deathtrap” and “Sleuth.”
The production at the new Curtain Call Theatre is directed by Steve Fletcher, who directed the world premiere precisely 15 years ago this month at the old Curtain Call Theatre. And what a technically glorious production this is. Andy Nice’s scenic design (executed by Peter Max) is stunning, a contemporary living room bespeaking the wealth and taste of the couple. Kelly Shi’s lighting design and Dianne O’Neill’s costume choices smartly underscore the characters’ personalities and the increasingly disturbing events (indeed, Act II takes place in the evening/night).
A special nod to Patrick LaChance’s evocative sound design, which begins with the lovely andante from Mendelssohn’s Piano Trio in D minor (music for three) and then gives way to increasingly dissonant and clamorous music. And John Quinan is the fine stage manager.
Fletcher has three strong actors with whom to work, and he deftly helps them pace the transformation of each character. MacKenzie-Roy’s Adrian is a somewhat passive man, observing before committing, looking for clues about what might be expected of him. Adrian then slowly, and credibly, changes to a panicky man who comes too late to an understanding of how the world works.
Amy is a step ahead of everyone, using her guile, her charms, her pathos to manipulate Janice and Adrian — and us. Graver’s portrayal is utterly chilling.
Loffredo’s Janice also seems up to any challenge, but this excellent actress shows us a disintegration of sorts. Polished and powerful in scene i, Janice soon becomes hesitant, querulous, and disorganized, so by the play’s climactic scene, the highly competent businesswoman seems simply to be getting by, from moment to moment.
“Fit to Kill” is a crackerjack script in a first-rate production.
By Bill Buell, January 11, 2018 Daily Gazette
After 40 years, Victor L. Cahn felt like he was losing touch with his audience. His classroom audience, that is.
As for the theater, however, his work seems as engaging as ever.
"I knew my time was up because I'd be doing my performance in front of the classroom and I'd see students looking at their iPad instead of me," said Cahn, a retired Skidmore professor, author and playwright/actor whose 2003 work "Fit to Kill" is being staged by Curtain Call this month. "And I would throw out cultural references that would just pass them by, or make a reference to a TV show, or some movie, and I felt like I was talking to myself. The kids were fine, but I felt like there was too much of a gap between us."
"Fit to Kill" was originally performed by Cahn, Curtain Call Theatre founder Carol Max and former WTEN Channel 10 anchor Marci Elliott back in 1993 under the title "Murder on My Mind." Cahn reworked the play, changed the title to "Fit to Kill" and had a very successful world premiere at Curtain Call in 2003. The play is about a woman who's made a fortune in the exercise business, her self-indulgent, chess-playing husband and a younger woman who enters their world with her own agenda. Steve Fletcher is directing the show that stars Laura Graver, Cristine Loffredo and Knathan MacKenzie-Roy.
"There's that famous phrase, 'Plays are not written, they are rewritten,' and I continued to tinker with this one until we did it again in 2003," said Cahn. "One of my producer friends came up from New York to see it at Curtain Call, and then we took it to New York and off-Broadway. That's when Samuel French published it, and since then it's had quite a few productions around the country."
Cahn was also happy to report that "Fit to Kill" had a 10-week run in Turkey.
"Most of my plays go off-Broadway and that's typically a four-week run," said Cahn. "There were other productions in England and Japan, and it was also translated and ran for 10 weeks in Turkey. I couldn't read the review, but one of my colleagues at Skidmore knew some Turkish. They said they weren't sure what the reviewer was saying, but they were pretty sure they liked it."
Cahn, who has also worked at Curtain Call as an actor, hadn't paid much attention to how the rehearsal process was going for this production of "Fit to Kill."
"Steve Fletcher was the director for the 2003 show," said Cahn. "I have complete confidence in him and Carol. They know what they're doing."
Graver, Loffredo and MacKenzie-Roy, meanwhile, all worked together in November in a Schenectady Civic Players production of "As Bees in Honey Drown," and Graver and Loffredo also worked together in a May production of "Steel Magnolias" at SCP.
"I write plays with very small casts," said Cahn. "I call them chamber plays. It's usually a small and intimate stage, and everybody in my play has a good part. It's about two or three people telling a story. It's very basic and it's been going on since the Greeks. I like to say I'm a part of a nobel tradition."
Cahn, who has now produced 15 books on Shakespeare, said the Bard remains his favorite playwright.
"Shakespeare better understands us than anybody," he said. "He has the surest, dramatic hand of anyone who ever lived. The language is spectacular, the roles he creates are so rich and his understanding of human nature is so profound. He has the answers, and he provides us with the right questions."
By Steve Barnes, Times Union Review
LATHAM —— Matthew Reddick gives a standout performance as the title character in “The Legend of Georgia McBride,” a tart-tongued and warm-hearted comedy that is the second production at Curtain Call Theatre’s splendid new home, in a former church adjacent to Ashfield Senior Apartments, less than a mile from Curtain Call’s longtime digs.
Reddick plays Casey, a struggling Elvis impersonator in the Florida Panhandle who, as a result of desperation and what he only later recognizes as good luck, is pressed into service performing as a drag queen after his regular gig proves too unpopular. Under the kindly but steely tutelage of drag mama Tracy Mills (Rocky Bonsal, just about perfect), Casey learns the art of drag, from lip-synching to makeup, wigs, walking in heels and tucking his nether regions. He also discovers himself, as a man and as a performer, finding fulfillment in becoming his sexy, strutting alter ego, Georgia McBride, in ways he never did as Elvis.
The play, by Matthew Lopez, is light enough to seem superficial. The conflicts — with Tracy’s resentful original partner, Anorexia Nervosa (Emmett Ferris, who also does double duty as Casey’s buddy and landlord), and with Casey’s pregnant wife (Brooke Hutchins) — are predictably obvious and easily settled. What’s winning about the play and the production, directed by Curtain Call founder and artistic director Carol Max, are the zesty lip-synch numbers and zinging lines. They’re executed on a set, by Frank Oliva, that effectively solves the necessity for multiple locations.
Reddick doesn’t overplay Casey’s initial awkwardness or uncertainty, and he doesn’t try to be macho to emphasize Casey’s heterosexuality. He’s as wholly straight as Tracy is gay, and in its own way “The Legend of Georgia McBride” is subtly brave, making the case, without doing so explicitly at all, that finding enjoyment in performing drag is independent of sexual orientation. This is a different, and welcome, kind of coming-out story.
Casey grows into being Georgia slowly, believably. By the time he gets to his knockout number, a shimmying, rump-slapping and joyfully sexy take on Shania Twain’s “Man! I Feel Like a Woman,” complete with white patent-leather boots — kudos to Beth Ruman for her costume design — you don’t doubt for a second that Casey has found his true calling. The show ends, as surely it must, with a big group number of “It’s Raining Men,” complete with Curtain Call’s ever-game stalwart, Jack Fallon, as the tuxedoed club owner, right up there dancing alongside the queens. It is fabulous.
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Theater review “The Legend of Georgia McBride”
When: 3 p.m. Sunday
Where: Curtain Call Theatre, 1 Jeanne Jugan Lane, Latham
Running time: 95 minutes, no intermission
Continues: 7:30 p.m. Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 3 p.m. Sunday; through Nov. 18. Additional performances, 3 p.m. Saturday (10/28) and 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 1 Tickets: $25
Info: 877-7529 or www.curtaincalltheatre.com
By Bob Goepfert, Troy Record Review
LATHAM —Curtain Call Theater just opened its new Latham theater with the Neil Simon play, “Lost in Yonkers”. It’s hard to say which is more impressive - the space or the production. Both are great.
The space at 1 Jeanne Jugan Lane in Latham might just be the best place in the Capital District to experience theater. With only 139 seats, it’s as intimate as it is comfortable. The seats are generous in size, the sightlines are perfect, and - there is plenty of parking.
This production is a perfect marriage of space and material. Just as the theater is comfortable, so is the production. “Lost in Yonkers” is an enjoyable and thoughtful play about the need for an individual to feel loved. It won both the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and the Tony Award in 1991, and seems as fresh today as it did then.
However, without laughter it could be a dreary experience about dysfunction. Instead, it is a charming work that offers insight into human behavior.
The humor in the play, which is set in the early 1940s, comes from experiencing the situation through the eyes of two teenage boys. They are left to live with a stern grandmother while their father, in order to pay his deceased wife’s hospital bills, takes a well-paying job that requires extensive travel throughout the south.
Grandma is a tough German immigrant who believes that firm discipline is the only way to raise children. Sentiment and caring is akin to coddling and no child has ever been coddled in her house. Her emotionally damaged adult children are proof of that.
Jay is 15 and Artie is 13 and they immediately understand that living with Grandma Kurnitz is going to be a life-changing experience. Kevin Zuchowski as Jay and Micah Juman as Arty are each delightful. They are wise beyond their years, but never speak as wise guys. Their innocence makes funny their observations about their plight and the other family members. The comic timing the two young actors have mastered at such an early age has you dreaming of a day in the future when they are paired in Simon’s other masterpiece – “The Odd Couple.”
The kids provide the humor, but the heart and soul of the play is the relationship between Bella and Grandma. Bella is 35, single and living at home. She is mentally-challenged with an IQ lower than either Jay or Artie. However, she has the physical needs and desires of a mature woman. Kathleen Carey is absolutely wonderful in the role as she makes Bella’s disability charming without depreciating the woman’s inherent intelligence.
Carey makes it clear this adorable woman needs to be loved more than she needs to be protected from the outside world. She is so endearing that even her accent, which sometimes sounds as if it would be more at home in Fenway Park than in Yankee Stadium, adds a touch of gentleness to her portrayal of this kind, caring and sort-of desperate woman.
Sometimes it would seem the best an actor might do with Grandma Kurnitz is to not make her hateful. Without depreciating the woman’s harshness, Carol Charniga is able to suggest, while the woman’s methods might be cruel, her intentions are for the best. Charniga is perfect as she shows it is hard to hate a woman who is tough and demanding because she wants to protect her children from the same pain she endured.
“Lost in Yonkers” finds its joy by showing the loyalty family members have for each other. As she did with “Brighton Beach Memoirs,” another Simon play she directed at Curtain Call Theatre, Nan Mullenneaux’s direction is excellent on every level, but it is especially distinguished as she accentuates the affection and caring that all family members share with each other.
This is demonstrated most clearly in the supporting roles. Steve Leifer is caring as the broken and broke father. Kevin Barhydt is outstanding as Uncle Louie, a gangster who offers his nephews sage advice about life and the mistakes that can be made. Pamela O’Conner is strong in the brief time on stage as the breath-impaired Aunt Gert.
Set, costumes and lighting all contribute to an auspicious opening for Curtain Call’s season in its new space. You’ll enjoy it.
“Lost in Yonkers” at Curtain Call Theatre at 1 Jeanne Jugan Lane, Latham, through October 7. For tickets and schedule information call 518-877-7529, or go to www.curtaincalltheatre.com.
Cast rises to occasion in Neil Simon play
Matthew G. Moross/For The Daily Gazette | September 11, 2017
LATHAM — On a hot summer night in a stifling apartment over a candy store in Yonkers in 1942, teen-age brothers Jay (Kevin Zuchowski) and Artie (Micah Juman) anxiously await the outcome of a hushed private meeting between their recently widowed dad and their gorgon of a grandmother (Carol Charniga) that is taking place in the next room.
Having recently lost their mother to cancer, the boys’ dad, Eddie (Steven Leifer), has just found a job to alleviate the debt of the hospital bills incurred by their mother’s illness. But the job will require him to travel for almost a year. Eddie is hoping his mother will take care of Jay and Artie while he’s away.
To say that Grandma isn’t too happy about this request may be an understatement. And Jay and Arty aren’t very pleased about this proposed living arrangement either.
Why? This woman who raised their fearful and emotionally frightened dad Eddie, and his dysfunctional and damaged siblings; a petty thug and thief, Louie (Kevin Barhydt), the wheezy and truckling Gert (Pamela O’Connor) and the simple and child-like Bella (Kathleen Carey), may not be the best of babysitters.
Winner of almost every major award when it first premiered in 1990, including the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, Neil Simon’s “Lost in Yonkers” is arguably Simon’s most masterful play.
Rich with heart, Simon weaves his comic gifts into and around a poignant story of loss and longing, and the power of how those emotions can trap and damage. Not strictly as autobiographical as the playwright’s “Brighton Beach Trilogy,” it’s a bit surprising that this play feels his most authentic.
These characters are richly human, drawn with huge scars and baggage and the playwright beautifully balances the wounds and foibles with humor that never oversteps.
Sensitively directed by Nan Mullenneaux, the production at Curtain Call Theater has assembled a terrific cast of seasoned veterans mixed in with a couple of great up-and-comers.
Charniga manages well to draw the rigid, miserly, emasculating Grandma Kurnitz away from cliché and cartoon, allowing the audience a peek into where those defense mechanisms manifested.
Barhydt gives Louie the right amount of bravado and swagger to impress his nephews but doesn’t disguise the truth. His act-two square-off with Charniga smolders with just the right amount of heat.
O’Connor and Leifer beautifully reveal their characters emotional scars — O’Connor with deft humor and Leifer with subtle scarred pain. Blessed with great comic timing and an innate gift on how to set up a joke, Juman and Zuchowski play off each other like a pair of old Vaudevillians each landing the characters’ comic lines perfectly. Yet never betraying Jay and Arty’s fear of what the future holds for each.
Both offer performances that predict a fine future on the stage for each young actor.
With Bella, Simon has written a brilliant and complex character. Upbeat, yet beaten, positive, yet mindful of what her future may hold, Bella’s awareness and fear of her limitations never overwhelm her innocence, and Carey succeeds in spades. Beaming and blissful with the simplest of Bella’s joys,
Carey becomes fierce when she finally confides her most wanted hope and wish. Bella’s act-two confrontation with her mother is expertly handled by Carey and Charniga and is one of the evening’s highlights. Added to the success of this production is Curtain Call’s new theater space. Spacious and comfortable, Peter and Carol Max have created a gem of a venue. Intimate yet spacious, it’s well designed and appointed — and has a lot of parking! Go see “Lost in Yonkers” — and the new venue — doubtful you’ll be disappointed.
‘Lost in Yonkers’
WHERE: Curtain Call Theatre, 2 Jeanne Jugan Lane, Latham
WHEN: Through Oct. 7
HOW MUCH: $27.50
MORE INFO:518-877-7529 www.curtaincalltheatre.com
Carol Max opens 17th season with 'Lost in Yonkers'
By Bill Buell September 7, 2017 Daily Gazette
Finally, Carol Max will tell you, she has a theater venue she's totally comfortable with.
The founder and artistic producer of Curtain Call Theatre in Latham, Max will be celebrating the troupe's 25th season this month in its new home at 2 Jeanne Jugan Lane, also in Latham, with a production of Neil Simon's "Lost in Yonkers." The Dutch Reformed Church on Old Loudon Road in Latham had been CC's home for 17 years, and before that Max produced live theater at the Temple Gates of Heaven in Niskayuna (1998-99), the Albany Marriott (1995-97) and the Holiday Inn in Saratoga Springs (1993-94).
"This was an opportunity that came to us at the perfect time," said Max, whose new theater, the former home to the Little Sisters of the Poor, has been vacant since 2014. "We've been listening to our patrons, and the last five or six years they've had some issues with our venue that we just couldn't fix."
Those problems, such as a small lobby and a smaller backstage area, have been erased with the move to 2 Jeanne Jugan Lane. The building is what was the sanctuary for the Little Sisters of the Poor, and while it may have been a better venue than the church without any alterations, Max and her husband Peter have been busy with a construction crew redoing all of the interior.
"We're only about a half-mile down the street from where we were and we have a bigger parking lot, we're going to be able to get people in and seated a lot quicker, and the actors are going to love the dressing rooms and the backstage area," said Max. "People are going to love the new theater seats and we're going to have more than one restroom. We're very excited about the new place, and I'm sure our patrons are going to love it as well."
Nan Mullenneaux, a Slingerlands native, Bethlehem Central graduate and currently a professor of gender studies and academic writing at Duke University in North Carolina, is directing her second show at Curtain Call, having done "Brighten Beach Memoirs" at the church last season.
"I love the new space because it's aesthetically beautiful and practical, and there's not a bad seat in the house," said Mullenneaux, who got her doctorate at the University of Albany. "It's a very generous theater for the patrons because in most places they really try to squeeze people in, but Carol has sacrificed some seats for comfort. And the setup for the actors is great. They're going to love it."
Mullenneaux's cast consists of Kevin Barhydt, Kathleen Carey, Carol Charniga, Micah Juman, Steve Leifer, Pam O'Connor and Kevin Zuchowski. "Lost in Yonkers" premiered on Broadway in 1991, and along with winning the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, it also earned four Tony Awards, including Best Play.
"Neil Simon has the ability to find humor in the everyday life of people, and it never becomes farcical," said Mullenneaux. "He also weaves it into a very compelling and dramatic family story. You're laughing in one scene and crying in the next. In my opinion, 'Lost in Yonkers' is probably his most mature work."
Along with being a director, Mullenneaux has also performed onstage at various places around the region, including Capital Rep and Theater Voices in Albany, and Oldcastle Theatre in Bennington, Vermont. She is a member of Actors Equity and the Screen Actors Guild, and has always had an interest in history. While working at the Saratoga Battlefield, she performed a one-woman show about Baroness Frederika Charlotte von Riedesel, the wife of the popular German General Friedrich Adolf Riedesel, who fought on the side of Great Britain during the American Revolution.
"I've always loved history, and being involved in the theater is still telling stories," said Mullenneau, who got her doctorate in history at UAlbany in 2009. "Acting has helped me overcome my general shyness. I love directing, but I still enjoy acting and plan to keep my hand in it."
'Lost in Yonkers'
WHERE: Curtain Call Theatre, 2 Jeanne Jugan Lane, Latham
WHEN: Opens Friday and runs through Oct. 7; performances are at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 3 p.m. Sunday
HOW MUCH: $25
MORE INFO:www.curtaincalltheatre.com or (518) 877-7529