FAC's 'Eugene Trilogy' finale
Amy Brooks and Marco Robinson sound almost like real-life mother and son when discussing the upcoming Fine Arts Center production of Broadway Bound — their third and final forum for playing Kate and Eugene Jerome in Neil Simon's semi-autobiographical trilogy.
"In real life, I call them 'my boys,' or 'sons,'" Brooks says of Marco and his real-life brother Oscar, who plays Marco's older brother Stanley in the play. "They call me 'Ma.'"
Brooks and Marco take turns saying, "Ma" in their Brooklyn accents, turning this small table in the FAC's Deco Lounge into something like a rehearsal space.
"There were some hurdles we didn't have to go over this time," Brooks says, "because we had established the relationships, the setting, the feel of the place ..."
"The accents," adds Robinson.
"It's so cool being back together again, the whole family," says Brooks.
The irony: While the cast (minus two members whose characters aren't in this play) is reunited, on stage Eugene and Stanley's parents are about to split as the boys head off to stage fame. Brooks thinks the audience will relate to the characters because "even in adversity, this family still loves each other."
And since this is a Neil Simon work, you can expect comedy to buffer the tension.
"There will be some really laugh-out-loud lines," Brooks says. "And that's like life, you're sad one day ..."
"Then someone says something good," says Robinson, completing the thought. "And the rest of the day's OK."
Theatre 'd Art's different Arte
With the premiere of The Arte of War: A Series, Theatre 'd Art director Crystal Carter hopes to shed new light on something she believes most of us have become desensitized to.
"War today is treated very much as entertainment," she says. "It's covered on television, it's edited for content, and the viewer can change the channel at will."
So, beginning this weekend, in a space obviously lacking remote controls, Carter and her crew will present three short works that present conflict in irregular ways. In Seven Jewish Children, created by English playwright Caryl Churchill, a number of fictional Jewish parents question what they should tell their children about such events as the Holocaust and the creation of Israel. The War Prayer, an angsty Mark Twain short story, takes on blind patriotism and the moral and emotional consequences of war, even for the victor.
Finally, Catch-22 author Joseph Heller's We Bombed in New Haven presents Theatre 'd Art actors portraying actors who are pretending to be airmen. Blatantly absurd, in Heller's style, Bombed breaks the fourth wall (the barrier between the cast and the audience).
Beyond acknowledging the limits of theater and all dramatic mediums to fully convey war's realities, the works force audiences to consider their own relationships to conflict. The plays focus on "our reactions to war, and our personal relationships with war," says Carter. "They were selected to examine the illusion of theater, as well as the illusion of war."
Star Bar's new tale to tell
When the Star Bar Players cancelled the 2008 season, it looked like the community theater group might not return.
"It finally got really bad," says Alysabeth Clements Mosley, media coordinator and ad hoc artistic director. "There wasn't any money."
In fact, she says Mark Hennessy, the former artistic director, ended up spending his own cash just to store costumes, props and equipment. As Mosley notes, that meant the group was incurring debt "even when we weren't doing anything."
Enter Mosley, who first joined Star Bar in 1990, along with her husband Dylan, who's now the group's new president.
"We were afraid if it stayed down too long that it just wasn't going to come back again," she says. "What we're trying to do now is take a venerable institution and give it a modern, working business model."
That's meant building a new board of directors, and finding a new venue — Five Star Decor, a local shop that's smaller than the Lon Chaney Theater where they'd long performed. The first event in Star Bar's four-show season begins with an Irish play, The Weir, set in a bar where the characters swap stories. Audience members can come early to enjoy a beer or glass of wine with the play's bartender.
"I think the play is about how the stories that we tell often reveal more about ourselves than the simple narrative that we're relating," says Mosley. "And, I suppose it's about Star Bar wanting to be able to come back and tell stories among friends. That's what we do."