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BREWER – When it comes to Ten Bucks Theatre Company’s annual Shakespeare Under the Stars production, the show must go on – pandemic be damned.

This summer’s offering – directed by Amy Roeder – is “The Taming of the Shrew,” with performances at three different venues: Brewer’s Indian Trail Park (July 16-19, 23-24), Old Town’s Hirundo Wildlife Refuge (July 25-26) and Fort Knox in Prospect (July 30-31, Aug. 1-2). All performances start at 6 p.m.

Due to the current circumstances, social distancing measures will be in place (including for the cast). Audiences will be limited to 50 people and the show will be presented without an intermission.

There are a lot of challenges that come with trying to mount a show right now. By all appearances, Ten Bucks has met all of them with enthusiasm and passion. This is a difficult piece to do well under ideal conditions, let alone now. Yet this intrepid crew has overcome the obstacles of circumstance. The result is a charming, engaging piece of theatre – one that might help you escape, if only for a couple of hours. These days, that’s a precious gift.

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BANGOR – One of the most challenging and beautiful theatrical works to grace an area stage in years took place at Penobscot Theatre last weekend. Alas, it saddens me to say that due to the current circumstances, you won’t be able to watch it from a seat in the Bangor Opera House.

That’s the situation with Penobscot Theatre Company’s new production. “Safety Net,” a play written by Daryl Lisa Fazio and directed by PTC’s own Tricia A. Hobbs. While the measures taken in recent days due to the spread of the COVID-19 virus mean that the Opera House seats will remain unfilled, PTC is hoping to take unprecedented action of its own.

Here’s how it’s going to work. Through this next week – up to March 22 – PTC will be presenting a livestream of the production at regular showtimes. From Wednesday through Sunday, March 18-22, the company will present a real-time video performance of the show. Tickets can be purchased in the usual way via the PTC website – www.penobscottheatre.org. Purchasers will be given instructions, a link and a password dedicated specifically to the night of their ticket purchase. It might not be the usual manner in which you see a play, but I’d advise you to take advantage of it.

Because any way you slice it, this is a remarkable piece of theatre.

(Full disclosure: I can’t speak to the experience of watching this show on video. I was one of four non-production personnel in the house for one of the early performances. But if watching it on a screen is even a tenth as impactful as seeing it on stage, it will be worth every cent and every second you spend on it.)

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Wednesday, 26 February 2020 13:00

STC’s ‘Puffs’ makes theatre magic

BANGOR – Have you ever wanted to spend some time at a very special and VERY famous school of magic? Well, thanks to Some Theatre Company, now you can.

Sort of.

STC is presenting “Puffs: Seven Increasingly Eventful Years at a Certain School of Magic and Magic,” running through March 1. This show – written by Matt Cox and directed by company artistic director Elaine Bard – marks the company’s first-ever production at their brand-new space in the Bangor Mall.

Fans of a certain boy wizard might have occasionally asked themselves about some of the other students at this legendary school. We spent seven books (and eight movies and a stage play and so on) following him and his friends; what do you suppose was going on with the students who maybe weren’t so talented or popular? Every school has regular, average kids – even schools of magic.

That’s what you get with “Puffs.” It’s a chance to spend some time with the also-rans of the magical realm, the uncool kids who just want to get by, kids who are simply looking to get through school without having to deal with the horrifying mystic dangers that lurk around seemingly every corner. These are kids who are very aware of the magical hierarchy … and of their low place in it.

(Since you might be wondering what the deal is, the following disclaimer is featured on the “Puffs” website: “Puffs is a stage play written by Matt Cox as a transformative & transfigured work under the magic that is US Fair Use laws. Puffs is not authorised, sanctioned, licensed or endorsed by J.K Rowling, Warner Bros. or any person or company associated with the Harry Potter books, films or play.”)

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BANGOR – Silly schemes and sexy shenanigans are unfolding (and undressing) at the Bangor Opera House.

Penobscot Theatre Company’s latest production is the farce “Don’t Dress for Dinner,” adapted by Robin Hawdon from Marc Camoletti’s “Pyjama Pour Six.” Directed by Chris “Red” Blissette, the show runs through February 16.

It’s a madcap whirlwind of amorous misfortune and mistaken identity, with the questionable-at-best decisions made by a group of oversexed friends and lovers resulting in an ever-escalating spiral of lies that threatens to blow up at every turn. And with every untruth, the collapse comes closer. Will any of these relationships survive the night?

All of this playing out in a high-octane dance of entrances and exits and – of course – slamming doors galore, driven by a first-rate ensemble. It’s energetic and entertaining, a frothy bit of fun that will induce some warming, welcome laughter at this ever-so-cold time of the year.

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ORONO – They say opposites attract … but do they really? And for how long?

True North Theatre is bringing a Neil Simon classic to the stage with their production of “The Odd Couple.” Directed by Angela Bonacasa and starring TNT regulars Tellis Coolong and Tyler Costigan, the show runs through Jan. 19 at the Cyrus Pavilion Theatre on the campus of the University of Maine at Orono.

It’s the best-known of Simon’s many theatrical classics, a story about the difficulties inherent to starting over and the importance of friends who will support you even as you drive them crazy. It’s also arguably his funniest, with the mismatched pair at the show’s center an iconic stage dynamic; their relationship laid the foundation for a hundred comedies – some brilliant, others derivative, but all undeniably inspired by Oscar and Felix.

True North gets it, featuring fine performances from that central duo and a general understanding of just how hilarious this script is - an understanding that is ulitmately executed wonderfully.

Published in Style
Tuesday, 10 December 2019 12:05

‘Matilda: The Musical’ a magical good time

BANGOR – The power and importance of storytelling is springing to life at the Bangor Opera House this holiday season, courtesy of one very special little girl.

Penobscot Theatre Company has opened their production of “Matilda: The Musical,” based on the classic children’s story of the same name by Roald Dahl, with book by Dennis Kelly and music & lyrics by Tim Minchin. The PTC production – directed and choreographed by Jeff Payton and Matthew Shaffer with music direction by Phil Burns – runs through December 29.

It’s a huge undertaking for PTC, with a massive, kid-heavy cast and a significant logistical load on the production side. It’s the sort of show where the spectacle of the thing is an integral aspect of the proceedings; the bigness of it all is baked in. And thanks to some great performances and bold aesthetic choices, this huge undertaking is a successful one.

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BANGOR – There’s no business like show business. And when you have a show about show business? Well – the show must go on. And on. And on…

Bangor Community Theatre is presenting “Moon Over Buffalo,” a comedy by Ken Ludwig, on their home stage at the Bangor Grange Hall. The show – directed by Irene Dennis – runs through Nov. 24.

It’s the story of two aging actors, touring the hinterlands with a pair of classic stage plays in the 1950s. However, when an unexpected opportunity presents the possibility of a return to glory, the pair will do whatever it takes to make it happen – no matter what.

Published in Style

ORONO – Thanks to one Orono theatre company, the dead are rising … and singing … and dancing.

Some Theatre Company’s production of “Evil Dead: The Musical” – with book and lyrics by George Reinblatt and music by Reinblatt, Frank Cipolla, Christopher Bond and Melissa Morris – is running at the Keith Anderson House in Orono through Nov. 9; the show is directed by Elaine Bard, with musical direction by Jason Wilkes.

It’s based on the Sam Raimi movie series of the same name, a beloved cult favorite that starred Bruce Campbell as an out-of-his-depth guy who winds up thrust into an apocalyptic fight between good and evil that he is not even remotely prepared for. It is gory and visceral while also being winkingly self-aware and wildly funny. And as of 2003 – it’s a musical.

And in the capable hands of the folks at STC, it is a hell of a lot of fun.

Published in Style
Tuesday, 22 October 2019 13:33

‘Rumors’ a farce to be reckoned with

ORONO – There are a whole lot of doors being slammed and stories being spun on the University of Maine campus, courtesy of a classic Neil Simon farce.

UMaine’s School of Performing Arts is presenting Simon’s “Rumors” at the Cyrus Memorial Pavilion Theater on the Orono campus. Directed by Julie Lisnet, the show runs through Oct. 27.

It seems as though the region has Neil Simon on the brain these days – Ten Bucks Theatre just closed their production of the playwright’s “The Sunshine Boys” – but there’s a reason for that: he’s funny. His work is charming and clever and accessible, a perfect fit for just about any company. “Rumors” is a great example of that; it’s not top-tier in terms of Simon’s most well-known work, but it’s just a tick below.

And again – it’s VERY funny.

Published in Style
Tuesday, 22 October 2019 13:28

PTC’s ‘Gaslight’ lights up the stage

BANGOR – All is not as it seems on the stage of the Bangor Opera House.

Penobscot Theatre Company is presenting “Gaslight,” the 1938 play by Patrick Hamilton. This Victorian Era-set melodrama is directed by Bari Newport; the show runs through November 3. It’s a thrilling tale of deceit, a story where not even the evidence of one’s own eyes can be trusted.

This play – and the subsequent film adaptations – led to the inception of the term “gaslight,” defined by Merriam-Wesbter as follows: “To attempt to make (someone) believe that he or she is going insane (as by subjecting that person to a series of experiences that have no rational explanation.”

In this story, a woman whose grip on the reality of the world around her is steadily crumbling must confront the fact that there’s far more to her descent into madness than she could ever have imagined. She’s left with no idea who to trust and forced to come to terms with the notion that there are those close to her who may have sinister motives.

PTC is offering up some full-on back-of-the-hand-to-the-forehead melodrama, with all the shadowy sumptuousness and flamboyant flourishes that that entails. It is big and broad and overtly theatrical, easily overcoming a somewhat-dated script with rich production values and wonderfully toothsome performances.

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