East End Beacon

Live Theater Erupts Across the East End this Winter

Tristan Vaughan and Tina Jones in HTC's production of "Venus in Fur," opening Jan. 11.
Tristan Vaughan and Tina Jones in HTC’s production of “Venus in Fur,” opening Jan. 11.

The depth of winter is the perfect time to venture out to see a dramatic performance, and this January brings several award-winning plays to stages across the East End.

Running Jan. 11 through 28, The Hampton Theatre Company in Quogue will present David Ives’ “Venus in Fur,” a two-person erotic showdown of the sexes between a director and a woman auditioning for a part.

Running Jan. 12 through Jan. 28, Center Stage at the Southampton Cultural Center will present Beth Henley’s Pulitzer Prize-winning “Crimes of the Heart,” a story of three Mississippi sisters who reunite after one of them shoots her abusive husband.

The North Fork Community Theatre shakes things up a little this winter with Tony and Pulitzer-winning “Next to Normal,” a rock musical about a family dealing with the mother’s bipolar disorder, running Jan. 19 through Feb. 4.

“Venus in Fur,” which ran on Broadway from 2011 to 2012, is a play within a play based on the 1870 novel “Venus in Furs” by Austrian author Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, the novel which inspired the term “masochism.” In the production, a beleaguered playwright/director auditions Vanda, a vulgar and equally desperate actress.

Though utterly wrong for the sophisticated part, Vanda piques the playwright’s interest with her seductive talents and secretive manner. As the two work through the script, they blur the line between play and reality, entering into an increasingly serious game of submission and domination that only one of them can win.

This production, directed by HTC Artistic Director Diana Marbury, opens Jan. 11, with performances on Thursdays and Fridays at 7 p.m., Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2:30 p.m., with an additional 2:30 matinee on Saturday, Jan. 27.

Tickets are $30 for adults, $25 for seniors, $10 for students under 21 and $20 for people between the ages of 21 and 35. Tickets are available online at www.hamptontheatre.org or by calling 866.811.4111.

“Crimes of the Heart,” at Center Stage at the Southampton Cultural Center, has been called “an astonishing first play,” initially presented by the Actors Theatre of Louisville, which received the script when a friend of Ms. Henley entered it into a contest without the playwright’s knowledge. It went on to run Off-Broadway in 1980 and 1981 and then on Broadway, at the John Golden Theatre, from 1981 to 1983.

The play won the 1981 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and the New York Drama Critics Circle Award.

The scene is Hazlehurst, Mississippi, where the three Magrath sisters have gathered to await news of the family patriarch, their grandfather, who is living out his last hours in the local hospital.

Lenny, the oldest sister, is unmarried at 30 and facing diminishing marital prospects; Meg, the middle sister, who quickly outgrew Hazlehurst, is back home after a failed singing career on the West Coast; while Babe, the youngest, is out on bail after having shot her husband in the stomach. Their troubles, grave and yet somehow, hilarious, are highlighted by their priggish cousin, Chick, and by the awkward young lawyer who tries to keep Babe out of jail while helplessly trying not to fall in love with her.

The cast of Center Stage's production of "Crimes of the Heart" | Dane Dupuis photo
The cast of Center Stage’s production of “Crimes of the Heart” | Dane Dupuis photo

In the end the play is the story of how its young characters escape the past and seize the future.

Joan M. Lyons will direct the Center Stage production, which features Bonnie Grice, Tina Realmuto, Mark Strecker,  Deyo Trowbridge,  Josephine Wallace and Kristin Whiting.

The show opens Friday, Jan. 12, with performances on Thursdays and Fridays at 7 p.m., Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2:30 p.m.

General admission is $25 and student and group rates available.  Brunch/theater and dinner theater packages available at www.scc-arts.org or by calling 631.287.4377.

“Next To Normal,” at Mattituck’s North Fork Community Theatre, is the winner of three 2009 Tony Awards, including Best Musical Score by Tom Kitt with lyrics by Brian Yorkey, and the 2010 Pulitzer Prize.

OnStage magazine has called “Next to Normal” “one of the 50 best musicals of the 21st Century, so far,” and the 2009 Broadway production won kudos for its innovative use of Twitter marketing — publishing an adaptation of the play, one line at a time, on Twitter over the course of just over a month.

The NFCT’s production, directed by Jessica Raven, stars Kelli Baumann, James Stevens, Sydnee LaBuda, Ava Bianchi, Zachary Zain, Eric Hughes, Matthew Mendoza and Peter Peterson.

Dad’s an architect; Mom’s vivacious; their daughter and son are bright, wise-cracking teens, appearing to be a typical American family. But their lives are anything but normal, and every member of this family is struggling to cope with Mom’s mood swings and medication tweaks, which are only deemed successful by her “psychopharmacologist” when she ceases to feel anything.

According to the NFCT, ”Next to Normal” is “an intense, emotional, and ultimately hopeful evening of theatre that is rarely performed locally.”

Performances begin Friday, Jan. 19, with shows Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2:30 p.m. A fundraiser for mental heath awareness will take place on the Friday, Jan. 26 performance, with proceeds from raffles and certain refreshment stand items benefiting the “Response” crisis center.

Tickets are $25. Student rush tickets ($20) may be available 10 minutes before curtain time. For more information, visit www.nfct.com or call 631.298.6328.

Also on stage at the NFCT this month is the theater’s 14th Annual Variety Show, Saturday, Jan. 6,at 8 p.m. and Sunday, Jan. 7, at 2:30 p.m. There will be music, comedy, drama and dancing galore. Tickets are $15 at the door, with all proceeds benefiting scholarships for local high school seniors and no reserved seating. 

Also on the East End stage this month, JDT Lab at Guild Hall in East Hampton tackles two fascinating productions, each running for one night only, on Tuesdays Jan. 8 and Jan. 23.

On Jan. 8, JDTLab will present a staged reading of “Rachel,” a new musical about environmentalist Rachel Carson, written by Jessie Field with music by Jared Field. This production will be directed by Ari Laura Kreith.

Marine biologist and writer Rachel Carson struggled to find her place in the world as a scientist and a gay woman. Her book, “Silent Spring,” alerted many to the dangers of DDT and other pesticides, and has been credited with launching the modern environmental movement. This new musical explores how we take a stand for what matters, even in the face of professional adversity and personal tragedy.

Songwriter Andrew Butler and playwright Andrew Farmer
Songwriter Andrew Butler and playwright Andrew Farmer

On Jan. 23, JDTLab welcomes songwriter Andrew Butler and playwright Andrew Farmer for “Andrew & Andrew Make a Deal with the Devil: Southern Gothic Songs and Stories,” a live musical performance.

The two Andrews’ distinct musical and storytelling sensibilities share a common origin—they both hail from America’s oft-mythologized southernmost south: Florida.

Alums of Ars Nova’s Uncharted music-driven theater residency, they put their distinctly oddball and heartfelt spins on the Southern Gothic tradition.

In Andrew & Andrew Make a Deal With the Devil, they’ll share work-in-progress songs and yarns from across their off-kilter and winsome collaborations, including Parkland/Weathers (a sci-fi folk concert set in the 2200s), Finn the Fearless (a Floridian fable), and Blessing (an small-town alt-country musical).

Both JDTLab performances are free and begin at 7:30 p.m. Reservations are suggested online at www.guildhall.org.


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