‘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.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

‘Curvy Widow’ Brings Bright and Funny Moments to the Stage

Nancy Opel talent shines through as she portrays Bobbi Goldman. (Photo by T. Charles Erickson)

New musicals can be hard to launch. But there is a certain sound and sense of story that the good ones have. Curvy Widow is one of those good ones. It is only playing at the George Street Playhouse through May 21, 2017, so don’t loose time; go see it!

Based on a autobiographical book by Bobby Goldman, the story concentrates on the changes the main character, Bobby, goes through when her husband of many years dies suddenly while both are in their 50’s. At first, Bobby seems to be settling into her new life just fine until her therapist points out that her out of control eating might be hiding the need for sex and love.

Photo by T. Charles Erickson

To solve the problem, she decides to enter the dating world again but realizes it has all changed. Bravely, she establishes her online profile where her handle name becomes Curvy Widow. Her experiences with dating as a woman in her 50’s are presented in a very funny manner allowing the audience to laugh with her and not feel sorry for her. The newness of it all and the sense of being alone after many years of being married all enter into her thoughts and actions.

The show is directed by Peter Flynn with choreography by Marcos Santana. Flynn capitalizes on the characters Bobby meets in this dating process with all their eccentricities. Her women friends provide support especially when it appears she has hit the jackpot with a great man in her life. The end might surprise some but it is satisfying in many ways.

Music and lyrics for this show is by Drew Brody. His melodies provide easy listening for the lyrics which tell the story. The opening song “Under Control” tells the story of Bobby and her husband’s life. But next, we hear “Turn the Page” which explains the thoughts Bobby has about entering this new phase of her life. One of the funniest songs is “Gynecologist Tango” where she has to deal with menopausal effects on her sex life. The finale titled “Why Stop Here?” has the show ending on a positive note.

Nancy Opel plays Bobby. Her comedic acting and very fine singing voice bring the character to life. Her struggles and successes are easy to accept because of the way Opel portrays them.  The inclusion of strong character performances from the ensemble cast give the show a nice pace that includes many funny moments and a few reflective ones too. In addition to Ms. Opel, the cast includes Andrea Bianchi (Caroline and others), Aisha de Haas (Joan and others, Elizabeth Ward Land (Heidi and others), Ken Land (Jim and others), Alan Muraoka (The Shrink and others), Chris Shyer (Per Se and others).

This show is one that an adult audience especially older women will enjoy seeing. There are not a lot of things being said about how that age group has to adapt to technology when it comes to dating and how the rules have changed.  This show gives a good humored look at the subject.

About the Show:

Run Time: 90 minutes – no intermission

Location: George Street Playhouse, 9 Livingston Avenue, New Brunswick, NJ

Performances: Runs May 2-21, 2017

Contact for Info and Tickets: Contact the Box Office directly at 732-246-7717 or purchase online at GSPonline.org.

Additional Information:

This is the final show for the George Street Playhouse at their current location before construction begins on their new home. For the next two years, performances will be at 103 College Farm Road in New Brunswick for its 2017-18 and 2018-19 seasons.