Four troupes welcome the holiday season with excellent performances. They are Astoria Performing Arts Center (APAC), Douglaston Community Center (DCT), Queens Theatre and Rockaway Theatre Company (RTC).
‘Carefully Taught’ at APAC
The Astoria Performing Arts Center (APAC) tackles one of the most explosive issues of our day in “Carefully Taught” by Cheryl L. Davis, directed by Pat Golden. A clever twist on typical schoolroom drama puts this production at the head of the class. Its lesson plan depends on four actors portraying several different and unexpected roles.
At Thursday evening’s performance, Sheila Joon, stern and affectionate with eyeglasses, portrays a loving mother and competent teacher. She compulsively bites her nails to play a nervous teenager. Latoya Edwards is also a loving mother/capable teacher/tough talking teenager depending on the scene. Joon and Edwards’ biggest emotional investments onstage occur when they unexpectedly reverse their racial roles.
Bristol Pomeroy changes his persona by maximizing his posture and props. His voice is Southern, well articulated or slurred. Esther Chen is a poised but manipulative newswoman. A change in hairstyle and clothes transforms her into a giggly schoolgirl. Nods to executive director Jessica Bathurst, artistic director Dev Bondarin and everyone behind the scenes. For info, check www.apacny.org or call 718-706-5750.
DCT’s ‘Cliffhanger’ rocks!
The clever comedy/mystery “Cliffhanger” is on stage at the Douglaston Community Theatre (DCT).
On Saturday evening, a college philosophy professor (Joseph Pagano) and his loving wife (Rosemary Kurtz) confront a cutthroat colleague. Some accidental violence and half-baked cover-ups keep us on edge till the clever cliffhanger is resolved.
Director Matt Stashin and producer Gary Tifield introduce actors whose polished performances speak for themselves. Pagano, onstage for the entire play, utilizes an abundance of actions and reactions. Ms. Kurtz’s affection and compulsive cover-ups for her husband are convincingly sincere.
Vindictive professor Wilshire (Lorrie DePellegrini) ably earns our dislike in the very first scene. The spoiled, manipulative college student is played by Salvatore Casto with just the right amount of narcissism. Rounding out the troupe is level-headed detective DeVito (Andy Wittman). The set (Ian McDonald, Matt Stashin) includes a cut- away wall that allows the audience to see behind a closed door.
Kudos to those behind the scenes, including stage manager Marionanne Rourke and a dozen more members of the DCT family. The troupe performs at the Zion Episcopal Church Hall in Douglaston. Call 718-482-3332 or email DougCommThtr@gmail.com.
‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ soars at Queens Theatre
Courage. Family. Self respect. Beloved novelist Harper Lee’s masterpiece “To Kill a Mockingbird” challenges our American conscience at Queens Theatre. The events unfold in the deep South during the Great Depression, 1935.
On opening night, managing director Taryn Sacramone welcomes all guests to another promising season. Rob Urbinati directs an outstanding cast. Playing pre-teen “Scout” is Shannon Harrington. Her 13-year-old brother Jem (Aidan J. Lawrence) and their feisty friend Dill (James Bernard) are extraordinarily talented. They inhabit their roles with energy and believability. Bravo!
In the lead as Atticus Finch is Ezra Barnes. His tall, slight frame masks a strong, incredibly moral father and neighbor. He maintains a level-headed demeanor despite the whirlwind of events that surround him. Well done!
The narrator played by Sophie Netanel shares her story with affection and sincerity. Nafeesa Monroe as Calpurnia is more than the family’s housekeeper. She leads the children with a strict but loving hand. Andrew R. Cooksey as the Reverend and Elisha Lawson as ill-fated Tom Robinson show the pride and pain of that era. Michael Lewis is violent, immoral Bob Ewell. Michael Gentile is the level-headed sheriff. Bob Jaffe is Walter Cunningham/Judge. Elizabeth Simmons plays sharp-tongued Stephanie Crawford. Peter Welch is shy but physically strong “Boo” Radley.
The set (Stephan K. Dobay) is austere. Costumes are simple (Sidney Shannon). They reflect the era’s poverty and gloom. The entire creative team and backstage support deliver a first-rate production. Visit www.queenstheatre.org or call 718-760-0064.
‘Cuckoo’s Nest’ flies high at RTC
The overpowering story of a 1960s psychiatric facility is told in the universally lauded “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.” The Rockaway Theatre Company is currently playing to packed houses and standing ovations.
At Sunday afternoon’s show, the troupe receives thunderous applause. John Stillwaggon as “Mack” McMurphy earns the bulk of this much-warranted praise. He fills Mack’s shoes with much more than simple emotion.
The hospital dayroom (Frank Caiati, set design) is meticulously detailed. The stifling smells and suffocating discipline are palpable. Local favorite David Risley plays voluntarily hospitalized Dale Harding. Tormented Billy Bibbit (Frank Caiati) and “the Chief” (Jose Velez) also play pivotal roles. Eerie lighting and ominous voiceovers reveal the chief’s wounded emotions. The kind hearted working girls Candy and Sandy (Jessica Mintzes, Bianca Ambrosio) spark the final disastrous climax. Kids from the RTC Children’s Theatre Workshop sing the nursery rhyme “over the cuckoo’s nest.”
Malicious, controlling Nurse Ratched tries to dominate “Mack.” But does she truly succeed? Lynda Browning is outstanding in this challenging role. Directors Michael Wotypka and Peggy Page and producer Susan Jasper breathe compassionate life into the “curable” and “chronic” denizens of the dayroom, including the staff–Robert Press, Cliff Hesse/John Gilleece, John Panepinto, Joseph Hagopian, Andrew Guzman, Adam Davis, Danielle Rose Fisher/Ale Guzman, Geoff Rawling, Daniel Velez, Matthew Smilardi, Norman Scott and Thomas J. Kane. Call 718-374-6400, or visit www.rockawaytheatrecompany.org. As always, save me a seat on the aisle.