Daybreak's highlights of the year: Theater


Goodspeed Opera House

Calling a show one of Goodspeed's best is really saying something. This theater has offered some stunning productions over the years, and "Carousel" can certainly join that triumphant group. Rob Ruggiero helmed a show that was deeply felt and musically rich. A genius production.

- Kristina Dorsey

Eugene O'Neill Theater Center

A new play called "Fool" by Theresa Rebeck was to be staged as part of the summer's National Playwrights Conference at the O'Neill. But Rebeck - who created the NBC series "Smash" and whose "Dead Accounts" is now on Broadway - was so enthused about a different play, "The Way of Things," that the O'Neill agreed to switch things up. No wonder. "The Way of Things," which sets a William Congreve restoration comedy in the modern-day Hamptons, was funny, wicked, insightful and deliriously enjoyable. And Kristine Nielsen's twittery take on her character was a riot - a comic acting class in itself.

- Kristina Dorsey


Comix at Foxwoods

Most observational comedians don't focus on punchlines, per se, but pick at unintentionally amusing aspects of culture like carrion birds on a bloated carcass. Standup comic Mulaney, who also has extensive cred as a staff writer for "Saturday Night Live," is even more detached from the formal construct of jokery. Most of the time, he just tells autobiographical stories. There are fine carats of humor at the core of all of them, but part of the greatness of seeing him live is to watch him spin-off hilarious observations and conclusions from these stories - stuff that's just-at-the-moment occurring to him. It keeps the material fresh and clearly entertains Mulaney as well as the crowd.

- Rick Koster


Long Wharf Theatre

A tribute to Louie Armstrong, performed at Long Wharf this fall, this has to be one of the finest one-person performances to grace a Connecticut stage in recent years. The show's star, John Douglas Thompson, actually played two opposite roles: the black musician regarded as the world's most gifted trumpet player, and his manager Joe Glaser, a white Jewish ex-gangster from Chicago.

For Thompson, a Shakespearean actor, it's all about expressive language and dialect and he quite astonishingly switched roles back and forth purely with his voice-no slightest costume change or position on stage. Terry Teachout's smart script about the complex relationship between the two men was enhanced by spot-on direction by Gordon Edelstein, Long Wharf's artistic director.

-Amy J. Barry


Judy Dworin Performance Project

A master of multi-media performance pieces, including movement, dance and song, Judy Dworin's newest work-"Meditations from a Garden Seat"-may be her most powerful piece to date.

A culmination of a residency at Niantic's York Correctional Center, the prison garden has been a source of healing and regeneration for some 30 incarcerated women. The women's writings are incorporated into the production, narrated by former York inmate Kathleen Wyatt.

"We have a very one-dimensional idea of how we see these women in prison-they are actually women of many capabilities," Dworin said. "Prison is a microcosm for so many issues and problems in our culture. I felt it was important to share that in some way for people on the outside."

"Meditations" had its public premiere in November at Hartford's Charter Oak Cultural Center and selections from the piece will be performed on Jan. 20 at 3 p.m. at Congregation Beth Shalom Rodfe Zedek in Chester Call (860) 526-8920 for info.

-Amy J. Barry


Garde Arts Center

This stage version of the classic movie took full advantage of all the Mel Brooks-penned silliness: "It's pronounced 'Fronkensteen!'" "What hump?" "Walk this way." And that inimitable version of "Puttin' on the Ritz." What's not to like?

- Kristina Dorsey


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