‘American Hero’ A Dynamic and Hard-Hitting Look at Injustice

(L to R:) Laiona Michelle, Armand Schultz and Kally Duling in “American Hero” at George Street Playhouse, January 30 – February 25, 2018. (Photo by T. Charles Erickson)

The George Street Playhouse continues their current season with a dynamic play titled America Hero. Written by Christopher Demos-Brown, American Hero is at times terrifying and hard-hitting, but a theatrical experience well worth going to see. There are combat scenes that might be difficult for some to watch. However, they are needed to tell a story of two heroes of a battle that takes place post 9/11 in a Middle Eastern location. Both are members of the U.S. military who distinguish themselves by acts of valor. But only one receives the Metal of Honor.

The play opens with the scene of combat as it is taking place. Rob, a Marine captain, jumps on a grenade and saves many lives by doing so. He gets wounded and begs to be carried out by fellow soldier, Mary, a black woman, who is part of the Army.  Although he is saved, the next scene shows him in a wheelchair. He is back to his civilian life and has become successful with a small chain of stores. His daughter, Shawn, lives with him as she prepares to enter the Air Force Academy. There are several scenes which also show the preparations made to get Rob the Medal of Honor. The captain who speaks with Rob asks him about Mary. Mary is Army whereas Rob is a Marine. The desire to present the Medal to a Marine over an Army person becomes obvious. Rob also mentions information about Mary that lets the other man know she is a lesbian. Not much is said at the time about this collection of information but the play starts to show a cover-up at work.

The actions of both Rob and Mary are deserving of the Medal of Honor. Why does one get it over the other? The discovery of the cover up occurs when Mary comes to visit Rob. It leads to a treacherous conclusion. You will want to scream about the injustices taking place. That’s how strong this play is.

Director David Saint does an amazing job with American Hero in creating tension throughout the play. This tension gives a final flashback scene the power it needs to connect all the unspoken words and actions. Mary’s fate and the life that Rob prepares to lead all tie in to that flashback. The vividness of that scene is very intense. The final outcome shows the life that Rob leads. Although it does not involve violence, it is frightening in its own right.

Production Manager Christopher J. Bailey and Production Stage Manager Nicole Kuker do a remarkable job of staging American Hero. Using a set design by Jason Simms, the stage moves easily from the combat scene to become Rob’s home. The background scenery continues to show the devastation from the war-torn,  rocky area. Keeping that background onstage demonstrates that the memories from these war events are always in the minds of these people influencing what they do.

Also a part of the creative team are costume design by David Murin and  lighting design by Christopher J. Bailey.  Sound design is by Scott Killian and fight direction by Rick Sordelet.

A very strong cast includes John Bolger as Captain and others, Kally Duling as Shawn, Laiona Michelle as Mary, and Armand Schultz as Rob. Their acting is absolutely superb. This cast along with the creatives gives the audience an unforgettable theatrical experience.

American Hero is the second part of trilogy from playwright Christopher Demos-Brown. The first part of the trilogy, American Son, ran at George Street Playhouse last season. American Son is scheduled to open on Broadway in November, 2018.

additional information for american hero

Running Time: 95 minutes, no intermission

Location: George Street Playhouse, 103 College Farm Road in New Brunswick

Performances: Playing now through Feb. 2, 2018

Contact for Info and Tickets: Visit the George Street Playhouse website at www.GeorgeStreetPlayhouse.org, or call the box office at 732-246-7717.

Audience: Prepare for strong language and mature subject matter.

‘An Act of God’ Brings Kathleen Turner to George Street Playhouse

The legendary Kathleen Turner (God) stars in David Javerbaum’s “An Act of God” at George Street Playhouse with her archangels Stephen DeRosa (left) as Michael and Jim Walton (right) as Gabriel. (Photo by T. Charles Erickson)

Now playing at New Brunswick’s George Street Playhouse through Dec. 23, 2017 is An Act of God. This very funny play stars the legendary Kathleen Turner in the lead role as God. George Street’s own David Saint provides direction for a cast which also includes two archangels: Steven DeRosa as Michael and Jim Walton as Gabriel. Written by David Javerbaum, this play was a major hit on Broadway during 2015 with Jim Parsons and 2016 with Sean Hayes. This version marks a departure from males playing the lead role with Ms. Turner playing the lead part.

An Act of God begins with setting up who’s who is in the show. After a few words about creation, the audience hears that God has decided to come down to New Brunswick.  The twist is that God comes in human form. The audience also hears that tonight that human form is of a woman, the well-known actress, Kathleen Turner. The purpose of God’s coming is to announce a revised set of the Ten Commandments.  In doing this revelation, God answers many of the deepest (and not so deep) questions that have plagued mankind since Creation. Regarding creation, “God” explains that  she wasn’t doing any godding so she decided to create a universe.

Ms. Turner’s comedic timing is impeccable she delivers the lines with absolute certainty in her trademark deep voice. But she also commands the stage when the concerns of mankind are presented. That ability to distinguish the moods of the moments in the show makes her a fascinating performer to watch.

Kathleen Turner (God) Photo Credit:© T Charles Erickson Photography

In addition to the fine acting, there are so many lines in the show that bring the laughter out in the audience. For example, she refers back to the time of Guttenburg inventing the printing press and points to a book that archangel Michael is holding and says “1495 was a time when literacy meant something.” This humor has a good effect since modern technology is mentioned in the show like taking selfies and cell phones. The home crowd appeared to get a kick out of her reference to being in New Brunswick, the home of Rutgers, the only state university that doesn’t include the state’s name they represent in their school title.

As “God” explains the reason for coming down to New Brunswick, we learn that a redo of the 10 Commandments is purpose of the visit. For example, a new commandment is  “Thou shalt not kill in My name.”   God looks at the audience and says “It’s flattering but not needed.” Another very funny one was ” Thou shalt not tell Me what to do.” Examples given included nuances such as sneezing and you say “God bless you.” God replies, “Don’t tell me who to bless!”

Amidst all of the laughter though is another side where the concerns of mankind that have been a part of discussion for centuries are mentioned. How does God explain bad things that happen in the world? And why do people have to suffer? These issues provide some very poignant moments in the show.

If you are open-minded and looking to have a good laugh, this show will fill the bill. There are some topics of an adult nature dealing with sex that would make this a show to keep to mature audiences.

Additional Information about An Act of God:

Running Time: 90 minutes – no intermission

Location: George Street Playhouse, 103 College Farm Road, New Brunswick, NJ on Rutgers University’s Cook Campus

Performances: Now through Dec. 23, 2017

Contact for Info and Tickets: Visit the George Street Playhouse website at www.GeorgeStreetPlayhouse.org, or call the box office at 732-246-7717.

Suggested Audience: Adult subject matter is presented

A Marvelous ‘I Love You, You’re Perfect Now Change’ Opens at George Street Playhouse

.The start of the 2017 – 2018 season for The George Street Playhouse marks a major change for the New Brunswick theater. The theater moved to an interim location a few miles out of town while a new center is under construction on the old site. This could present problems for some. But thanks to some excellent planning and a lot of hard work, all is in good running order. The new location is spacious and comfortable, parking is plentiful, and a marvelous show, I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change is on the bill. All is well. Actually, all is very well at the George Street Playhouse!

Directing I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change is David Saint who is entering his 21st season as George Street Playhouse’s Artistic Director. His work with this show demonstrates how some changes and updates can give a fresh, contemporary look to a classic. I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change was a record breaking off-Broadway hit show. Written by Joe DiPietro with music by Jimmy Roberts, it ran for nearly 11 years.

L to R: George Merrick, Karen Burthwright, Mitchell Jarvis and Lindsay Nicole Chambers – Photo by T. Charles Erickson

The show is a series of vignettes that features songs about dating, romance, lovers, husbands, wives, and in-laws. It flows nicely through first meetings and all the turmoil involved with first dates and falling in love. It moves to scenes about marriage and eventually losing a spouse. This portrayal of the cycles of loving relationships includes references to more modern nuances. Expressions such as Tinder Profiles and texting update the original.

The cast includes four people: Karen Burthwright, Lindsay Nicole Chambers, Mitchell Javis, and George Merrick. They all do a fine of singing individual songs, duets, and full company numbers.

The show has a number of scenes, each of which corresponds to an aspect of love and relationships. One scene about dating is called “Not Tonight, I’m Busy, Busy, Busy.” The song for that scene is “Better Things to Do Than You.” As the show moves to marriage, the scene is titled “Sex and the Married Couple” with a very clever song ” Marriage Tango.”

This is a good show to see if you want to be entertained without looking for a deep message or meaning. It makes its points gently and at times with humor but always with well written songs and good singing.  You’ll be able to relate to most if not all of it because it is about the most basic instinct we have: love.

About the Show

Running Time: 2 hours (approx.) with a 15-minute intermission

Location: George Street Playhouse, 103 College Farm Road on Rutgers University’s Cook Campus

Performances: Show runs until November 12, 2017

Contact for Info and Tickets: Tickets range in price from just $15 for students (with valid ID) to $79, based on performance. Visit the new website which allows patrons to select their own seating locations when ordering tickets online.

Suggested Audience: People who enjoy musicals will love this!

New Interim Location

Photo – K. Nowosad

I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change performs onstage in the new, interim theater. Located at at 103 College Farm Road on Rutgers University’s Cook, the new location is the former site of the New Jersey Museum of Agriculture.  George Street Playhouse plans to use the interim site through the 2018-19 season.

The building is a nice size to house the Playhouse’s offices, storage areas, and equipment needed to run a show. There is a spacious lobby area where the box office and rest rooms are located. The traditional room for before show seating where refreshments are sold is also available.

A former museum exhibit area is now an intimate, main stage theater space. It is evident to see that a lot of work went into transforming this space.The theater itself has an open feel to it. The seating is comfortable and there is plenty of leg room. There are large sliding doors that open on one side of the seating area to lead out to a patio. Sound systems and lighting were excellent.

Photo K Nowosad

Theater goers can enjoy free parking close to the theater and the entrance way is flat making handicap accessibility very easy.

Work is underway for a new home for George Street Playhouse in downtown New Brunswick. A new performing arts center is being built on Livingston Avenue where the Playhouse has resided for many years. George Street Playhouse expects to return downtown to the New Brunswick Performing Arts Center in time for its 2019-20 season.