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BANGOR – Who was the boy who never grew up before he never grew up?

That’s the question asked and answered by “Peter and the Starcatcher,” the latest production from Penobscot Theatre Company. The play – adapted by Rick Elice from the 2004 novel “Peter and the Starcatchers” by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson – serves as a prequel of sorts to the classic J.M. Barrie tales of the one, the only Peter Pan.

The Bangor Opera House springs to raucous, rowdy life with this piece. Directed by Matt Hawkins, it’s a chance for audiences to learn the origin of the original Lost Boy, as well as meet the girl who helped set him on the path he would eventually follow. Laughter and thrills abound as this rollicking adventure plays out on the high seas and beyond.

Packed with pirates and pratfalls and plenty of music – directed by Kevin O’Donnell – and magic, featuring some stellar performances and phenomenal production values, “Peter and the Starcatcher” promises loads of holiday fun for the whole family. The show runs through December 29.

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ORONO – You don’t have to be nuts to enjoy the latest theatrical offering from the University of Maine’s School of Performing Arts – but it helps. And if you are, you’ll have some company.

UMaine’s theatre department opens its season with a production of “Melancholy Play” by Sarah Ruhl. Directed by Rosalie Purvis, this gleefully strange farce runs through October 22 at Hauck Auditorium on the University of Maine campus in Orono. For more information, you can visit the SPA website here.

The play is an exploration of the complexities of emotion, of how the way we feel can impact not just ourselves, but the people around us. It’s a look at the delicacy of interpersonal dynamics and the manner in which those dynamics can shift and evolve as the ties that bind us grow tighter or looser … or just plain weirder.

It is also wildly funny, packed with absurdities that only accentuate the paean to emotionality that rests at its core. All of this brought to vivid, surreal life by a passionate young cast whose talent is second only to their fearlessness.

Published in Style
Wednesday, 21 September 2022 12:31

The complexity of connection – ‘Clarkston’

BANGOR – The power of connection – for good and for ill – is taking center stage at the Bangor Opera House.

“Clarkston,” by Samuel Hunter, opens the 49th season for Penobscot Theatre and runs through October 2. It also marks new artistic director Jonathan Berry’s directorial debut with the company. It’s a bold beginning, one that seems to speak directly to Berry’s tastes and passions as a theatre artist.

It’s an intimate piece, packed with emotional impact and driven by the relationships formed by family or fate and how our humanity is shaped by those relationships. It is a thoughtful, provocative and surprisingly funny play, with myriad juxtapositions and seeming contradictions brought forward by the complicated dynamic between the two young men at its heart.

Finding something meaningful and real between people is rare, a truth illustrated with heart, humor and hubris by the beautiful and challenging play currently gracing the Opera House boards.

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BREWER – One of the region’s most beloved summer theatre traditions is once again gracing the great outdoors.

Ten Bucks Theatre is offering up their annual outdoor Shakespeare adventure. This year’s production is “Romeo and Juliet,” running through July 31 at Brewer’s Indian Trail Park before moving to Fort Knox in Prospect for performances Aug. 4-7. All shows start at 6 p.m. You can find out more at www.tenbuckstheatre.org or by checking them out on Facebook.

There’s nothing quite like sitting outside and letting the brilliance of the Bard wash over you. Ten Bucks Theatre has been giving area audiences that opportunity for years; why not take advantage of the opportunity to see one of his greatest works play out in the bright sunshine?

Now, you probably don’t need me to explain the plot of “Romeo and Juliet” to you – it’s one of the most well-known stories in the entire Western canon. In fact, why don’t I let Prince Escalus give you the heads up? He spells it all out in the Prologue, after all.

Two households, both alike in dignity,
In fair Verona, where we lay our scene,
From ancient grudge break to new mutiny,
Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean.
From forth the fatal loins of these two foes
A pair of star-cross'd lovers take their life;
Whose misadventured piteous overthrows
Do with their death bury their parents' strife.
The fearful passage of their death-mark'd love,
And the continuance of their parents' rage,
Which, but their children's end, nought could remove,
Is now the two hours' traffic of our stage;
The which if you with patient ears attend,
What here shall miss, our toil shall strive to mend.

I mean, that’s pretty great, right? And it’s even better when you hear Ben Layman deliver it.

Published in Style
Wednesday, 08 June 2022 08:04

‘The Moors,’ the merrier

ORONO – A local theatre company is back in action, bringing a skewed take on the literary trope of the windswept moors to the Orono stage.

True North Theatre’s latest production is “The Moors” by Jen Silverman. The piece – directed by Jasmine Ireland – is an idiosyncratic and irreverent story of a pair of spinster sisters living in a crumbling house set in the midst of isolated wild country. The setting – time and place – is specific while also being oddly, well … unmoored, riddled with absurdity and anachronism even as the central tragicomic narrative unfolds. The show runs through June 12 at the Cyrus Pavilion Theatre on the University of Maine campus.

It is a strange piece, to be sure, dark and darkly funny and unapologetic in its weirdness; a challenging play that is very much in keeping with the general ethos of True North Theatre. Bleak on its surface, it’s a show that plumbs those shadows for moments of pitch-black humor that only serve to accentuate the themes of interpersonal disconnect at its center.

Let me put it this way – whatever you think “The Moors” is going to be, it probably isn’t that … and that’s a good thing.

Published in Style

BANGOR – Sex sells. Even when the person discussing it might not be who you’d expect.

Penobscot Theatre Company’s latest production is “Becoming Dr. Ruth,” a one-person show celebrating the life and times of renowned sex therapist and pop cultural icon Dr. Ruth Westheimer. Starring Jen Shepard and directed by Julie Lisnet, the piece – written by Mark St. Germain – is running at the Bangor Opera House through May 22. For tickets or more information, visit the PTC website at www.penobscottheatre.org or call the box office at 942-3333.

The piece – which is set entirely within Dr. Ruth’s New York City apartment – takes place on a June day in 1997. It is a freewheeling tale of one woman’s incredible journey, one that took her all over the world and influenced her in ways large and small – all related to us by the woman herself. The vast majority of us think we know Dr. Ruth – the tiny smiling woman offering sex advice via radio and television – but that aspect of her life, while important, is just one part of her incredible story.

Published in Style
Wednesday, 30 March 2022 12:04

PTC hits the ice with ‘Hockey Mom’

BANGOR – Penobscot Theatre Company is taking to the ice with their latest production.

The fictional town of Clara, Maine, has been Travis G. Baker’s wellspring for three plays with world premieres at Penobscot Theatre Company. The latest, “Hockey Mom,” may well be the best; this new show runs through April 16 at the Bangor Opera House.

Published in Style

BANGOR – There are few tasks more difficult for a performer to execute than holding a stage solo. To be up there under the lights all by yourself – it’s a staggering responsibility. It demands a combination of presence and willpower that requires massive effort to generate and even more effort to maintain. To do this for even a few minutes is an incredible and admirable feat.

Now imagine doing it for an entire show.

That’s what Brianne Beck is doing in “Tell Me on a Sunday,” the latest production from Penobscot Theatre Company. Directed and choreographed by Dominick Varney, this show – with music by Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyrics by Don Black – is a one-woman tour de force, a story of ambition and disappointment, both personal and professional. The show runs through January 23 at the Bangor Opera House.

This one-act show is a non-stop musical experience, with Beck vocally carrying the story forward with the help of a three-piece band (one that includes musical director David Madore on keyboards). It’s a story both sweet and sad, one told beautifully through song.

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BANGOR – We’re all intimately familiar with the story of the Grinch. We all know about his disdain for Christmas and his malicious attempts to steal the joy of the season from the innocents of Whoville and, yes, his subsequent change of heart.

But what happened after that?

Penobscot Theatre Company looks to answer that very question with their production of Matthew Lombardo’s “Who’s Holiday,” running through December 26 at PTC’s secondary space at 51 Main Street in Bangor. However, you should be warned – while the original tale was aimed at kids, this show – directed by Cheryl Snodgrass and starring A.J. Mooney – very much is NOT.

What’s the show about? Let’s try to tell it like the maestro would, shall we?

Published in Style

BANGOR – Holiday-style theatre magic has returned to the Bangor Opera House stage.

After 20 months of dormancy, Penobscot Theatre Company is back in action with their season opener “Miracle on 34th Street: A Live Musical Radio Play,” adapted from the 1947 Lux Radio Broadcast by Lance Arthur Smith, with original songs and arrangements by Jon Lorenz. Directed by Jen Shepard with music direction by Larrance Fingerhut, the show runs through December 26.

It’s a retelling of the 1947 holiday classic film of the same name, a celebration of imagination and belief that truly embodies the spirit of the season with stylish delight. And don’t let the radio play designation fool you – there’s a LOT to look at here, with singing and dancing and memorable performances (including the best damned Kris Kringle you’ll ever see on an area stage).

It’s a familiar story, to be sure, but you’ve never experienced it quite like this.

Published in Style
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