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Theater Talk: Two memory plays - RETURN TO SEYMOUR ST and THE MAI - use comedy to open us up to their stories

RETURN TO SEYMOUR ST L-R Max Goldhirsch as Gary, Jenn Stafford as his mom, Irene.jpg
Jessica Marinelli
O'Connell & Co. on Facebook

Theater Talk this week concentrates on two memory plays. Tom Dudzick's RETURN TO SEYMOUR ST stars Daniel Lendzian and Jenn Stafford as former boyfriend and girlfriend meeting in the old neighborhood. Max Goldhirsch plays her son, a teenager with psychic abilities. Set in Buffalo, as are so many Dudzick plays, it centers on a mystery that drives the action. That's at O'Connell & Company's new theater on Bailey Avenue in Amherst. (See listings below.)

Meanwhile, downtown at the Irish Classical Theatre, Kate LoConti Alcocer stars in THE MAI, a memory play about a middle-aged woman whose husband, having walked out years ago, suddenly returns. An all-star cast includes Pamela Rose Mangus as The Mai's grandmother and Christine Turturro as The Mai's daughter. Always on stage, she narrates the play through her memories of some dark times. But, as with all Irish plays, there is "laughter through the tears." (See listings below.)


JANUARY (alphabetically by title)

ANN, a play by Holland Taylor, directed by Lara D. Haberberger, presented by the Brazen Faced Varlets, starring Priscilla Young Anker as Ann Richards. January 27 - February 11, Fridays - Saturdays at 7:30 at the Alleyway Theatre's Cabaret Space, 1 Curtain Up Alley (between Pearl and Main north of Shea's). 716-852-2600 alleyway.com

ANN BLURB: "Tough as nails, funny as hell" ANN is a no-holds-barred portrait of Ann Richards, the legendary late Governor of Texas who said, "I'm not afraid to shake up the system, and the government needs more shaking up than any other system I know." PLaywright Holland Taylor is known to many for her role as Evelyn Harper (Charlie's mother) in the TV sitcom "Two and a Half Men."


IT RUNS IN THE FAMILY, a play by Ray Cooney ("Britain's Master of Comedy/Farce"), directed by Jay Desiderio, presented by Desiderio's Dinner Theatre at Bobby J's, starring Dave Marciniak, Lisa Hinca, Dan Greer, Lisa Vitrano, Margo Davis, Jeremy Kreuzer, Brendan Cunningham, Len Mendez, Bill Baldwin, Katherine Parker, and Bob Lohr. Through March 12, shows run most Thursdays, Saturdays, Sundays, and some Wednesdays Sundays fluctuate between matinee or evening performances). Dinner at 6:00 with the show at 7:30 - Matinees dinner at 1:00 with the show at 2:30. Desiderio's Dinner Theatre is in the back of Bobby J's Italian American Grille 204 Como Park Blvd. Cheektowaga, 14227.

716.395.3207 or visit mybobbyjs.com/desiderio-dinner-theatre

IT RUNS IN THE FAMILY BLURB: Dr. Mortimore is up for a huge promotion as he prepares to deliver the most important speech of his life when an ex-girlfirend, a punkish son (whom he never knew he had), his wife, a cop, and other all appear on the scnee wreaking havoc at St. Andres Hospital.


LADY DAY AT EMERSON’S BAR AND GRILL, a musical by Lanie Robertson, directed by Thembi Duncan with music direction by George Caldwell, starring Alex McArthur, through January 29, Fridays - Saturdays at 8:00, Sundays at 2:00, presented by MusicalFare Theatre on the Premier Cabaret Stage, located on the Daemen University campus, 4380 Main Street, Amherst, NY 14226 (716) 839-8540 www.musicalfare.com

UPDATE: By popular demand, MusicalFare has added a performance of LADY DAY AT EMERSON'S BAR AND GRILL on Sunday, February 5th at 2 pm. ALL OTHER PERFORMANCES ARE SOLD OUT! (But check back often.)

LADY DAY AT EMERSON'S BAR AND GRILL BLURB: This is the inaugural production in MusicalFare's "Cabaret Musicals Series" and is a free imagined composite of what might have been Billie Holiday's final performances starring JazzBuffalo’s Female Vocalist of the Year, Alex McArthur. Taking place in the late 1950s in Philadelphia only four months before Holiday’s untimely death, LADY DAY AT EMERSON’S BAR AND GRILL gives a poignant and visionary look at the woman behind the music. She sings, and tells stories, but becomes increasingly intoxicated and incoherent while her pianist urges her to take a break. Featuring direction by Thembi Duncan with music direction by Grammy-Award winner, George Caldwell (who toured with Count Basie and his orchestra).


THE MAI, a play by Marina Carr, directed by Josephine Hogan, presented by the Irish Classical Theatre Company, starring Kate LoConti Alcocer, through February 5, Thursdays - Saturdays at 7:30, Saturdays at 3:00, Sundays at 2:00, 625 Main Street Buffalo NY 14203 716-853-4282 irishclassical.com

THE MAI BLURB: The Mai, an accomplished, savvy, middle-aged woman, is thrown into a world of confusion after her husband abandons her and her children. His return causes even more trouble, uniting four generations of women to grapple with love, loss, and the idiosyncrasies of family. Executive Artistic Director Kate LoConti Alcocer stars as the titular character leading a powerhouse cast in this award-winning modern Irish play, directed by ICTC Co-Founder Josephine Hogan. The cast includes Kate LoConti Alcocer as The Mai, Christine Turturro as Millie, Pamela Rose Mangus as Grandma Fraochlán, Chris Avery as Robert, Cassie Cameron as Beck, Megan Callahan as Connie, Mary Moebius as Julie, and Lisa Ludwig as Agnes.

Additional Programming includes: Industry Night: Thursday, Jan. 19, at 7:30; Speaker Series: Sunday, Jan. 22, at 1:30; Young Professionals Night: Thursday, Jan. 26, at 7:30; Community Matinee: Wednesday, Feb. 1, at 10 am (AM!); and an ASL Interpreted/Open Captioned Performance: Thursday, Feb. 2, at 7:30.

For an interview with Marina Carr, click here.


RETURN TO SEYMOUR ST, a play by Tom Dudzick, a world premiere, directed by Steve Vaughan, presented by O'Connell & Company, starring Daniel Lendzian, Jenn Stafford, and Max Goldhirsch, through February 5, Fridays - Saturdays at 7:30, Sundays at 3:00, with an extra matinee Saturday, January 28 also at 3:00, on the OCC new stage, 4110 Bailey Avenue, Amherst, NY 14226 716-848-0800 oconnellandcompany.com

RETURN TO SEYMOUR ST BLURB: In this world premiere play by Tom "Over the Tavern" Dudzick, the character Peter Witkowski visits his empty, run-down boyhood house and, within that nostalgic atmosphere, attempts to rekindle a romance with his childhood sweetheart, Irene. She's a widow with a 14-year-old son who happens to be psychic. Just as romance is looking favorable the boy starts saying little things like, "We're not alone here." The grownups' first instinct is to head for the hills but, as fate would have it, they are trapped by an iconic Buffalo blizzard!


THE SNOWY DAY AND OTHER SHORT STORIES, by Ezra Jack Keats, a musical adapted for the stage by Jerome Hairston, directed by Annette Daniels Taylor, presented by Theatre of Youth (TOY), starring Davida Tolbert as Peter, with Megan Rakeepile and Roderick Garr runs through February 5, Saturdays - Sundays at 2:00, with a special adaptive performance this Sunday, January 22 at 10:00 am at 203 Allen Street, Buffalo, NY 14201 716.884.4400 theatreofyouth.org Recommended for ages 5+

THE SNOWY DAY AND OTHER SHORT STORIES BLURB: Follow Peter and his friends as they set out to celebrate the first snowfall of the year with snowball fights, by making snow angels, and playing in the snow. Based on the Caldecott Award-winning book by Ezra Jack Keats, celebrate the magic and boundless possibilities of the first snowfall! This uplifting musical play is all about childhood joys and living each day to the fullest. The 1962 publication of The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats was a watershed event. The beautifully illustrated picture book had an African American child as the protagonist and it was universally embraced.


COMING IN FEBRUARY (listed alphabetically)

THE ALEPH COMPLEX, a play by Deborah Yarchun, directed by Robyn Lee Horn, presented by the Alleyway Theatre, starring TBA. February 10 - March 4, Thursdays - Saturdays at 7:30 at the Alleyway Theatre, 1 Curtain Up Alley (between Pearl and Main north of Shea's). 716-852-2600 alley.com

Additional Information: Pay What You Can Previews, all at 7:30: February 10, 11, 12, 14

Playwright Chats February 12 & 14 following the 7:30 performances

Opening Night: February 15 at 7:30

Industry Monday: February 20 at 7:30

Afternoon Matinee: February 25 at 3:30

THE ALEPH COMPLEX BLURB: To save herself from her chronically incessant thoughts, Nicky converts them into sounds so she can fall asleep to the sound of rain. This works until, during a bout of crippling social anxiety at college, a thought about her mother turns into a vicious storm. Nicky outruns the storm all the way home, where she returns to her old job at the Container Store and to Mom… who hasn’t left the apartment in five years. While searching for self-help books at the Last Borders Bookstore on the Planet, she meets Borders Guy, the Last Borders Employee on the Planet, who introduces her to the mysterious Aleph, a Borges-inspired point of overwhelming omniscience he guards in the back of the store. Through a chain of “self-help” both comic and poignant, Nicky, her mother, and Borders Guy struggle to smash down the walls that enclose their lives. A fantastical new drama about the power of human connection, THE ALEPH COMPLEX is the 2020 Maxim Mazumdar New Play Award Winner.


HADESTOWN, a musical by Anaïs Mitchell, directed by Rachel Chavkin, a national tour presented by Shea's Broadway Series, starring Nathan Lee Graham as Hermes, Lindsey Hailes as Persephone, Chibueze Ihuoma as Orpheus, Matthew Patrick Quinn as Hades, Hannah Whitley as Eurydice, and Buffalo's own Dominique Kempf as one of the Fates. February 21-26, Tuesday - Friday at 7:30, Saturday at 2:00 and 8:00, Sunday at 1:00 & 6:30 at Shea's Buffalo Theatre, 646 Main Street, Buffalo 716-847-1410 sheas.org/buffalo-theatre/

WARNING - Hadestown is recommended for ages 8+. Runtime: 2 hours and 30 minutes, including one intermission.

HADESTOWN BLURB: Loosely based on various Greek myths, Hades (god or here king of the underworld) has taken Persephone to be his bride, but when she is in "Hadestown" with her husband, the world is cold and barren, so she is allowed to return to earth for 6 months of fertility. But Hades keeps coming to take Persephone back earlier and earlier, throwing the seasons out of joint (think climate change). Meanwhile, Eurydice is in love with a musician (poor girl) named Orpheus, but when he seems more interested in his music than her (what a surprise), she leaves to get a job in Hadestown. When Orpheus travels to win her back, Hades is impressed by his commitment to true love (who could have known?) and makes a deal with him. He can leave with her, but if he has doubts and looks back, she stays in Hadestown forever. Tip: the Shea's website is quite robust with all sorts of detailed background information.

AWARDS: Winner of eight (8!) Tony Awards in 2019 including Best Musical, Best Original Score (Music and/or Lyrics) Written for the Theatre, and Best Orchestrations. "SUMPTUOUS. GORGEOUS. AS GOOD AS IT GETS." – Jesse Green, The New York Times,


INTO THE WOODS, Music & Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, Book by James Lapine, Direct from Broadway, 2 shows only, Saturday 2/18 at 8 and Sunday 2/19 at 1:00 at Shea's Performing Arts Center,

INTO THE WOODS BLURB: Direct from Broadway, the critically acclaimed and much beloved production of Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s Tony®-winning triumph is coming to Buffalo with its Broadway stars to boot. Into the Woods features Montego Glover as The Witch, Stephanie J. Block as The Baker’s Wife, Sebastian Arcelus as The Baker, and Gavin Creel as Cinderella’s Prince/Wolf – all reprising their Broadway roles – in a production called “radiant” (Variety), “enchanting” (The Wall Street Journal), and “a priceless revival with a perfect cast” (The Washington Post). Directed by Lear deBessonet (Hercules), this theatrical event honors Sondheim’s legendary memory and his Broadway masterpiece like never before.

Choreographed by Lorin Latarro, Music Supervisor Rob Berman, Directed by Lear deBessonet.


LET'S PLAY HOUSE: EIGHT SHORT PLAYS. ONE EMPTY HOUSE, by Drew Fornarola, Jeff Goode (2), Adam Hahn, Donna Hoke, Samantha Macher, Wendy Marie-Martin, and Avery LaMar Pope, presented by First Look Buffalo. February 3 - 12, Fridays-Saturdays at 8:00, Sundays at 2:00. At The Park School of Buffalo Theatre, located on the school’s campus at 4625 Harlem Road in Amherst, NY. Parking is free. FirstLookBuffalo.com

LET'S PLAY HOUSE BLURB: This production features eight short world premiere plays that all take place in the same setting, an empty house. The plays are all written by members of First Look Buffalos playwright wing and feature a variety of both comedies and dramas, with topics ranging from the lost of a loved one, the paranormal, and even time travel.

First Look Buffalo is a company of thirty-seven ensemble actors, seven directors and nine playwrights. Its founders, Bob Rusch and John Patrick Patti, will present a series of staged productions, readings, and workshops throughout the year in the 110-seat theatre.


JUST SIGN by Wendy Marie-Martin, directed by Vanessa Shevat. Starring Susan King and Anthony J. Grande.

THE MEAN BOY ON MOVING DAY by Donna Hoke, directed by Vanessa Shevat. Starring Jesse Zappia, Madison Sedlor, Becky Globus, Nick Lama, Shanda Gardner, and Jacob Applegate.

RECIPES ON USED NAPKINS by Avery LaMar Pope, directed by Kayla Victoria Reumann. Starring Steven Maiseke, and Shawnell Tillery.

THE FUTURE FORMER HOME OF THE TIME TRAVEL MUSEUM by Jeff Goode, directed by Bob Van Valin. Starring Weston Young, Kari Becker, Becky Globus, and Jon Cesar.

QUIET CONNECTION written and directed by Drew Fornarola. Starring Kaylie Horowitz and Jacob Applegate.

DO THE SPIRITS CONVEY by Samantha Macher, directed by Drew Fornarola. Starring Madison Sedlor, Kelly Morgan, Austin Gallego, Joh Cesar, Sarah Waechter, Shawnell Tillery, Anthony J. Grande, and Becky Globus.

OPEN HOUSE OF THE DAMNED by Adam Hahn, directed by Mike Doben. Starring Steven Maiseke, Kaylie Horowitz, and Weston Young.

OPEN HOUSE by Jeff Goode, directed by Kayla Victoria Reumann. Starring Nick Lama, Sarah Waechter, Kathleen Rooney, Shanda Gardner, and Jesse Zappia.


MERCY SEAT, plays by various local writers, inspired by the music of Nick Cave, directed by TBA, presented by American Repertory Theatre, starring TBA. February 16 - March 11 at the Compass Performing Arts Center (formerly Theatre Loft), 545 Elmwood Avenue. (716) 697-0837 artofwny.org

MERCY SEAT BLURB: Throughout the past 15 seasons, ART/WNY has highlighted local playwrights through a one-act showcase in which works submitted were influenced by a specific musician or a band. These works are incorporated into a broader narrative that weaves these one-acts together. MERCY SEAT now follows the same artistic vision by highlighting the music of Nick Cave through well-crafted works submitted by regional artists.

The background of MERCY SEAT is a tent revival in which souls entering the revival seek redemption, forgiveness, understanding, and all other elements found in Nick Cave's narrative and lyrical music. Works must be geared to interact with other pieces submitted including intro & outros of the scene. Leading the revival will be a wild-eyed, brimstone and fire Preacher who, with his choir, will determine the outcome of each poor soul.


THE NICETIES, a play by Eleanor Burgess, directed by Yao Kahlil Newkirk, presented by the Paul Robeson Theatre, February 3 - 26. Opening night reception at 6:00 with the show at 7:00, all other Fridays and Saturdays at 7:00, Sundays at 2:00. African American Cultural Center, Inc., 350 Masten Ave, Buffalo, NY 14209. paulrobesontheatre.org

THE NICETIES BLURB: A Black female college student and her White female professor each make profound discoveries about themselves, each other, and the power of social media. CONTENT ADVISORY: Contains strong language and themes of race, prejudice, and social injustice.


THE PLAY THAT GOES WRONG, play by Henry Lewis, Henry Shields, and Jonathan Sayer, directed by Michael Galante & Adriano Gatto, presented by D'Youville University's Kavinoky Theatre, starring TBA. February 24 - March 19, Thursdays - Saturdays at 7:30, Also Saturdays at 3:30, Sundays at 2:00 at the Kavinoky, 320 Porter Ave, Buffalo, NY 14201 716-829-7668 kavinokytheatre.com

THE PLAY THAT GOES WRONG BLURB: This long-running West End and Off-Broadway smash hit follows the antics of the Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society, who are trying their very best to stage a production of a 1920s murder mystery. As the show's title might suggest, this is not as easy as it sounds with everything that can go wrong doing just that.


TELL ME ON A SUNDAY, a musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Don Black, directed by TBA , presented by MusicalFare Theatre, starring TBA. February 15 - March 19, :

Wednesdays - Thursdays at 7:00, Fridays at 7:30, Saturdays at 3:30 & 7:30, Sundays at 2:00, on the MusicalFare Theatre mainstage, c/o Daemen College 4380 Main Street, Suite 123, Amherst, NY 14226 (716) 839-8540 musicalfare.com

TELL ME ON A SUNDAY BLURB: One of Andrew Lloyd Webber's (CATS, EVITA, PHANTOM OF THE OPERA) earliest hits with music by Webber and lyrics by Don Black. A one-woman show, it has been performed by a number of female singers/actors, most notably Marti Webb and Bernadette Peters. A one-act song cycle, it tells the story of an ordinary English girl from Muswell Hill, who journeys to the United States in search of love. Her romantic misadventures begin in New York City, lead her to Hollywood, and eventually take her back to Manhattan.


THE TEMPEST, a play by William Shakespeare, in collaboration with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, directed by Fortunato Pezzimenti with musical direction by JoAnn Falletta, starring Aleks Malejs as Prospero/a. February 24-26, Friday 2/24 at 7:30, Saturday 2/25 at 7:30, Sunday 2/26 at 2:30. At Kleinhans Music Hall, 3 Symphony Circle. 716-882-5000 bpo.org

THE TEMPEST BLURB: ICTC and the BPO unite once more for a unique theatrical experience. Thought to be one of the last plays William Shakespeare authored alone, The Tempest tells the story of the sorcerer Prospero/a and his daughter Miranda, as they intervene in the lives of shipwreck survivors after having been stranded on a remote island for twelve years. ICTC Associate Director Fortunato Pezzimenti and Award-Winning BPO Conductor JoAnn Falletta team up once more to present this special one-weekend-only performance of fantastical theatrics, magic, and the music of Sibelius.


THE THIN PLACE, a play by Lucas Hnath, directed by TBA, presented by Road Less Traveled Productions, starring TBA. February 23 - March 26 Thursdays - Saturdays at 7:30, Sundays at 2:00 at the RLTP theatre, 456 Main Street, Buffalo 14202 (716) 629-3069 roadlesstraveledproductions.org

THE THIN PLACE BLURB: Everyone who ever died is still here, just in a different part of here. Linda can communicate with them. And if you believe, she can make you hear them, too — in the thin place, the fragile boundary between our world and the other one. With acuity, relentless curiosity and a bit of magic, Lucas Hnath’s play transforms the theater into an intimate séance, crafting an unnerving testament to the power of the mind, which has a mind of its own.

Hnath was Tony Award nominated for his play A Dolls House, Part 2 in 2017. He is also writer of The Christians (produced at RLTP 2018), A Public Reading of anUnproduced Screenplay about the Death of Walt Disney (produced at RLTP 2015), andIsaac’s Eye. Awards include the Whiting Award, Guggenheim Fellowship, Kesselring Prize,Outer Critics Circle Award for Best New Play, Obie Award for Playwriting, Steinberg Playwright Award, and the Windham-Campbell Literary Prize.


TUESDAYS WITH MORRIE, a play by Mitch Album, directed by Josie DiVincenzo, presented by Jewish Repertory Theatre, starring Adam Yellen as Mitch and Jack Hunter as Morrie. February 2 - 26, Thursdays at 7:30, Saturdays at 3:30 and 7:30, and Sundays at 2. The Maine and Robert Seller Theater in the Jewish Community Center, 2640 N. Forest Road

Amherst, NY 14068. 716-688-4033 jccbuffalo.org/jewish-repertory-theatre

TUESDAYS WITH MORRIE BLURB: Based on the 2006 best-selling memoir, Tuesdays with Morrie is the autobiographical story of Mitch Albom, an accomplished journalist driven solely by his career, and Morrie Schwartz, his former college professor. Sixteen years after graduation, Mitch happens to catch Morrie’s appearance on a television news program and learns that his old professor is battling Lou Gehrig’s Disease. Mitch is reunited with Morrie, and what starts as a simple visit turns into a weekly pilgrimage and a last class in the meaning of life. Starring JCC Director of Performing Arts, Adam Yellen, and Buffalo acting legend Jack Hunter. Directed by Award Winning JRT actor Josie DiVincenzo (Dai, What I Thought I Knew)


WICKET - A Parody Musical: The Untold Story of the Ewoks of Bright Tree Village, book and lyrics by Travis Sharp, music and lyrics by Haddon Kime, directed by Joey Bucheker, presented by O'Connell & Co. (at the Smith Theatre), starring TBA. February 3 - 19, Fridays - Saturdays at 7:30, Sundays at 3:00, at the Smith Theatre, 658 Main St, Buffalo 716-848-0800 oconnellandcompany.com

WICKET BLURB: Wicket- A Parody Musical does for Star Wars what Wicked did for The Wizard of Oz; it’s a loving homage and cutting parody combined. Wicket spotlights one of George Lucas’ most dubious creations—the fuzzy space teddy-bear Ewoks—to explore the love/hate relationship between creators and fans while calling Lucas to task for the racism, sexism, and maybe even sizeism of the original Star Wars trilogy.


The M&T Broadway series at Shea's for 2022-2023 includes:

BEETLEJUICE Mar 21-26, 2023

SIX Apr 25-May 7, 2023



DEAR EVAN HANSEN June 20-25, 2023 (a "special engagement")

Listen for Theater Talk, Friday morning at 6:45 and 8:45 during Morning Edition.
Even though "semi-retired," Peter Hall continues to wear many hats. He is the Sunday afternoon host on WBFO’s “sister station,” Classical 94.5 / WNED where he has produced over 1,000 radio interviews with musical artists. If you see him at a theater with a pen in his hand, he’s probably getting ready to co-host “Theater Talk” with Anthony Chase (heard Friday mornings at 6:45 and 8:45 a.m. on WBFO) or to write a review for www.buffalorising.com. He is also a member of the "Artie Awards" committee (think “Tony Awards for Buffalo theaters”).
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