November Theater Preview
Road Less Traveled Productions' new theatre space at 456 Main Street
Photo courtesy of Road Less Traveled Productions
Road Less Traveled Productions
By David Mamet
Director: Scott Behrend
Cast: Matt Witten, Kevin Kennedy, Laura Barriere
October 26, Road Less Traveled Productions is raising the curtain not just on its first show of the season—David Mamet’s Speed-the-Plow—but on its newly built theater at 456 Main Street. “We’re on schedule!” says RLTP artistic director Scott Behrend, who also directs the show. “We’re going to do a ribbon cutting some time that week and two grand opening parties, one on Friday and one on Saturday, because there are a lot of people to invite. It’s super exciting.”
When Behrend chose to direct this show himself, he didn’t know that RLTP’s first show of the season—Hand to God—would be postponed due to building delays. That meant he inadvertently ended up exactly where he didn’t want to be—directing a show, opening a new theater, and co-producing Three Musketeers, which opens at Shea’s 710 a week after Speed-the-Plow. “I’ve done it before, and it’s a lot,” he laughs.
Speed-the-Plow is RLTP’s second Mamet play in as many years, but Behrend isn’t looking to continue a cycle. Last season, “Glengarry Glen Ross popped out to me because I wanted to do it with some of our personnel in particular with the ages they were, and it also felt timely. I felt like we needed a reexamination of con men, which carries a bit into this year with Speed-the-Plow,” Behrend says.”
The play is about two work friends—Bobby Gould and Charlie Fox—in the film industry, both trying to work up the ladder in his own way. Karen is the office temp who throws a wrench in it all. “It taps into the crosswords of art, commerce, and friendship, and we get to see how that all plays out,” Behrend previews.
The show features RLTP ensemble member Matt Witten, who appeared in last season’s Glengarry, and Buffalo Stories’ vet Kevin Kennedy in a departure from his usual warm-and-fuzzy roles. “Charlie Fox is pretty brutal, so I’m excited to see what fireworks happen with him and Matt,” says Behrend. “They haven’t worked together, so there’s new chemistry going on.”
This third of the trio is newcomer Laura Barriere as Karen. “It’s a difficult part, made famous by Madonna on Broadway, and Laura’s going to be really cool,” Behrend previews. “She has a really special center of gravity that this character needs. Karen is intelligent and honest and sort of passionate, but she has her own agenda, and Laura seemed to gravitate toward figuring out who this person was immediately.”
RLPT has a history with Speed-the-Plow; the company did a reading of it with Alec Baldwin for a 2009 fundraiser, but Behrend hadn’t thought of it in the nearly ten years since. “I was drawn to it again because of what happened with Harvey Weinstein and the #metoo movement, because everybody in this play has their own agenda,” he says. “Looking at sexual politics in that industry, there’s a lot to be said right now. Male/female dynamics are under a lot of scrutiny, what our choices are, and, if someone is being aggressive, how that’s being interpreted in our society is a huge question. It started to spark me last year, and now that we’re doing it, it feels timely in that sense.”
Road Less Traveled Productions closes Speed-the-Plow on November 18 (roadlesstraveledproductions.org, 629-3069).
My Three Angels
By Samuel and Bella Spewack
Director: Tom Makar
Cast: Richard Lambert, Elliot Fox, Brett Klaczyk, Betsy Bittar, Jack Agugliaro, Mike Benoit, Brendan Didio, John Kreuzer, Julie Kittsley, Jamie Nablo
“It’s Christmas Eve. Three men convicted of serious crimes and imprisoned in French Guinea are hired by a family to do roof repairs. Prisoners were commonly used for cheap labor by the French citizens,” previews Tom Makar, director of My Three Angels at New Phoenix this month. “Their intent is to rob the family and escape, but these career criminals find themselves getting involved in the hopes and struggles of the family. Comedy—albeit darkish—mischief, and romance ensue.”
Movie buffs may remember We’re No Angels, a film with Humphrey Bogart, Peter Ustinov, and Aldo Ray, which for some—Makar among them—is as much a holiday staple as It’s A Wonderful Life or How the Grinch Stole Christmas. “I’ve been trying for years to get some theater to mount the stage version,” Makar says. With New Phoenix executive director Richard Lambert, he finally hit pay dirt—and not for the first time.
“Several years ago, Tom suggested we produce Harvey, by Mary Chase,” Lambert says. “I wasn’t entirely convinced, having never read the play, but as we went into rehearsal, I found myself playing Elwood Drood and having the time of my life.
While searching titles for our current season, Tom suggested that we look at My Three Angels. I’d never read the play or seen the film, but at Tom’s suggestion, I did both. I found each charming and highly representative of the work we try to do here. Each included themes of redemption, second chances, and happy endings. I was, again, hooked.”
Mostly known for sound design—he’s in residence at both Irish Classical and Jewish Rep but works all over town—and the occasional acting gig, Makar has also worn a director’s hat on more than a few occasions, including for the aforementioned Harvey. “I take most, not all, acting and director roles that are offered to me; they tend to be much easier and get much more recognition than sound design,” says Makar, who won an Artie for Best Supporting Actor in 2017 and began his speech with “Thank you for this award for Lifetime Achievement in Sound Design.”
Lambert calls My Three Angels a perfect way to celebrate the holidays, and Makar—who cites “an accident is about to be arranged” as one of his favorites lines—calls it an “an off-center, unconventional Christmas story without banal sentimentality, but with sincere humanity. I will be encouraging the actors to disappear and allow their characters to emerge. I’m hoping to get a fresh take on this quirky comedy to help audiences delight in discovering or rediscovering this gem.”
My Three Angels begins at New Phoenix on November 16 (newphoenixtheatre.org, 853-1334).
Playwright Donna Hoke writes about theater for Buffalo Spree and Forever Young.
Also Playing (in order of closing)
• Fiddler on the Roof takes its final bow at Shea’s on November 4 (sheas.org, 847-0850).
• Fool for Love closes at American Repertory Theatre of Western New York on November 17 (artofwny.org, 634-1102).
Opening This Month
• Shea’s 710 presents the five-theater collaboration The Three Musketeers beginning November 1 (sheas.org, 847-0850).
• Sive opens at Irish Classical Theatre on November 2 (irishclassicaltheatre.com, 853-380).
• Kavinoky presents A Doll’s House Part 2 beginning November 2 (kavinokytheatre.com, 829-7668).
• King Hedley II, the third Paul Robeson Theatre presentation of plays in August Wilson’s Century Cycle, begins November 9.
• Hamilton opens November 20 at Shea’s (sheas.org, 847-0850).
• Beginning November 29, NUNCRACKERS: The NUNSENSE Christmas Musical is on stage at O’Connell and Company (oconnellandcompany.com, 848-0800).