Tuesday, May 22, 2018
Stage

'Behind the Gates,' 'John & Jen' and 'Of Mice and Men' on stage

m BEHIND THE GATES

Behind the Gates by Wendy Graf opens with a marathon monologue by Bethany Leiberman, a troubled 17-year-old from the United States who is sent by her parents to spend the summer at a Jewish school in Israel. There she vanishes into the mysterious world of the Haredi, a sect so conservative that women are not allowed to make eye contact with men. She changes her name to Bakol and marries a 48-year-old man. The play tells her story and that of her parents who go to Jerusalem in a desperate effort to find their daughter.

"I think people will respond to the broad, universal theme of religious fundamentalism, whether it's Christian or Jewish or Islamic or whatever," says Karla Hartley, director of the production by Jobsite Theatre. "Everyone knows of that kid who ran off to become a Hare Krishna."

Danielle Calderon plays Bethany/Bakol in a cast that also includes Caroline Jett and Pete Clapsis as her parents. Behind the Gates opens with a private performance tonight hosted by the Tampa Jewish Community Center and Federation and then runs through May 26 at the Shimberg Playhouse of the Straz Center for the Performing Arts, Tampa. $28. (813) 229-7827; jobsitetheater.org.

OF MICE AND MEN

John Steinbeck's morality tale of male bonding in the Depression is getting around these days. First, Sarasota Opera staged the Carlisle Floyd opera based on the novel, and now Stageworks is doing the play, with Dennis Duggan as the simple Lennie and Nathan Jokela as his protector George. Of Mice and Men, adapted for the stage by Steinbeck and directed by Richard Coppinger, opens tonight and runs through May 19 at Stageworks, Tampa. $26. (813) 251-8984; stageworkstheatre.org.

JOHN & JEN .

Two actors, three characters — John & Jen is an intimate affair. It is also something of a marathon for the actors, especially Katie Zaffrann, who plays Jen in the Freefall Theatre production of the musical by Andrew Lippa (music) and Tom Greenwald (lyrics), with a book by both. From 1952 to 1990, Jen goes from being John's big sister to '60s hippie who falls in love with a draft dodger and moves to Canada to single mother. Over the same time frame, Chris Crawford plays the pair of characters named John: Jen's brother, who dies in the Vietnam War, and her rebellious son.

Zaffrann, 30, who played Little Edie as a young woman in Freefall's production of Grey Gardens, has been singing Hold Down the Fort, a song from John & Jen, in auditions for years. "I love the music in the show, but my favorite parts are when we are really engaged in these core relationships, sister and brother, mother and son," she says.

Crawford, 31, who had multiple roles in Romeo + Juliet at Freefall, thinks the Lippa-Greenwald musical, which premiered off Broadway in 1996, holds up well. "I don't think it has dated at all because these relationships are so universal," he says.

Directed by Freefall artistic director Eric Davis, John & Jen is early Lippa, who went on to write the music for The Wild Party and The Addams Family. The orchestrations are by Jason Robert Brown (a first-rate composer in his own right of shows that include The Last Five Years and Parade) for piano (played by music director Chris Brent Davis), cello (Melissa Grady) and percussion (Mark Younger).

The musical opens Friday and continues through May 26 at Freefall, St. Petersburg. $39, $46, with discounts available for students, teachers, seniors and military. (727) 498-5205; freefalltheatre.com.

John Fleming, Times performing arts critic

 
Comments
Florida Orchestra closes 50th masterworks season with Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony

Florida Orchestra closes 50th masterworks season with Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony

TAMPA — The Florida Orchestra wraps up its final masterworks concert of the season with a masterfully complex Johannes Brahms piano concerto and Ludwig van Beethoven’s warmly accessible Symphony No. 6, commonly known as the "Pastoral."Friday’s sold-o...
Published: 05/19/18
Florida Orchestra to offer violin lessons for at-risk Tampa youth

Florida Orchestra to offer violin lessons for at-risk Tampa youth

TAMPA — The Florida Orchestra will begin tutoring at-risk children free of charge, thanks to a Hillsborough County grant.The $80,000 grant to the University Area Community Development Corp. pays for six weeks of violin instruction at select recreatio...
Published: 05/16/18
Updated: 05/17/18
Orchestra performs last masterworks of the season, Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6

Orchestra performs last masterworks of the season, Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6

GRAND MASTERS: BEETHOVEN AND BRAHMSIt’s last call for the Florida Orchestra’s masterworks season. And why not close out the 50th season with two passionate cannon blasts, Brahms’ Piano Concerto No. 2 and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6, better known as th...
Published: 05/16/18
Review: ‘Addams Family’ cast, choreography, costumes worth seeing at Richey Suncoast

Review: ‘Addams Family’ cast, choreography, costumes worth seeing at Richey Suncoast

NEW PORT RICHEY — DO. NOT. MISS. THIS. SHOW.I’m talking about The Addams Family, the musical comedy based on the Charles Addams’ New Yorker cartoons, several television series and two feature films, but with updated cultural references for current au...
Published: 05/14/18
Updated: 05/15/18

Review: ‘Calendar Girls’ stage show needs a touch-up

Oh, how I wish this could be a glowing review of the dramedy Calendar Girls, playing weekends through May 20 at Stage West Community Playhouse.The show about longtime friends semi-baring their bosoms to make a calendar to raise money to buy a sofa fo...
Published: 05/11/18
Updated: 05/14/18
13-year-old singing ventriloquist Darci Lynne Farmer talks 'America's Got Talent' and more

13-year-old singing ventriloquist Darci Lynne Farmer talks 'America's Got Talent' and more

TAMPA — You wouldn’t guess it from her exuberance and stage presence, qualities that helped her win last year’s America’s Got Talent, but Darci Lynne Farmer was once shy and withdrawn. "It was hard," the 13-year-old singing v...
Published: 05/10/18
Freefall’s adaptation of ‘The Machine Stops,’ a story from 1909, just might foretell the future

Freefall’s adaptation of ‘The Machine Stops,’ a story from 1909, just might foretell the future

ST. PETERSBURGImagine a world in which people live underground because the air is too polluted to breathe; humans communicate through a vast "Machine" that connects anyone in the world through undersea cables but exacts a price in lost intimacy.Of co...
Published: 05/09/18
What’s on stage this week: Darci Lynne Farmer, Florida Orchestra does Michael Jackson

What’s on stage this week: Darci Lynne Farmer, Florida Orchestra does Michael Jackson

AGT WINNER: DARCI LYNNE FARMERBy the time Darci Lynne Farmer took the America’s Got Talent stage with her puppet, Petunia, the young ventriloquist had already won entertainer of the year honors at American Kids in Branson, Mo., and an International M...
Published: 05/09/18

Stage West announces 2018-19 season, ticket prices

SPRING HILL — A 15-year-old comedy by comedian/banjo player Steve Martin that is new to this area is one of eight shows announced for the 2018-19 season at Stage West Community Playhouse in Spring Hill.It’s The Underpants, an adaptation of the 1910 G...
Published: 05/07/18
Updated: 05/08/18

Richey Suncoast announces changes, 2018-19 seasons

NEW PORT RICHEY — Richey Suncoast Theatre has announced major changes for the 2018-19 season at its Grand Boulevard venue, as well as the return of a four-show season geared toward mature audiences in an intimate Black Box Theatre setting.The most ob...
Published: 05/07/18