Friday, June 30, 2023

WCST preparing to stage Oscar Wilde play this fall

By R.D. Frum

The curtain is about to rise for Windham Center Stage Theater as it continues its 49th season with the play The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde.

Windham Center Stage Theater will present
'The Importance Of Being Earnest' by
Oscar Wilde from Sept. 8 through Sept. 24
Melanie Quackenbush, vice president of the Board of Directors, and Chelsea Richardson, treasurer of the Board of Directors, will serve as the directors for this play.,

The Windham Center Stage Theater has been around since 1974 when Harry Grey shared the story of a theatre company he had once directed in Canada at a meeting with Frank Brautigum. Intrigued by the concept of community theater, Brautigum asked Grey if such a group could be started in Windham. They were immediately motivated by the idea and quickly published a notice of the organizational meeting in the local newspaper.

The earliest program, which is still kept in the theater group’s archives, was created for the production “The Apple Tree” and was presented at Saint Joseph's College in Standish on Feb. 28 and March 1, 1975. Tickets were only $2.50 each. On March 18, 1978, a grand opening event was conducted to mark the Windham Community Theater's relocation to the Community Center at the Windham Town Hall. The use of the garage area there was granted to WCST in 1985.

Like other community theater groups, Windham Center Stage Theater had to shut down during the COVID-19 pandemic and virtual fundraisers took place to keep the theater going.

“This year we sat down…and we want to do something that doesn’t cost us a lot of money because we had two years where we didn’t really make any…because everything was virtual, and we were shut down,” Quackenbush said.

Choosing what show or set of shows to put on for each season is a year-round process for WCST.

“We have one big meeting where we sort of hash everything out,” Quackenbush says. Over the course of the season members of the Board of Directors collect show ideas to go over at the annual meeting. Each season consists of one straight play, a children’s show that is always a musical, and at least one musical.”

Quackenbush says that WCST can perform what the theater group already has rights for, because obtaining theater rights, especially musical theater rights, are a process.

“What can we get that isn’t going to cost a bunch of money? How much things are going to cost really plays into it, musicals are always more expensive than straight plays,” she said. “Musicals I find to be more fun, but there’s also a lot more that goes into it because you have a music director, a choreographer, all these people, and there’s a lot more moving parts to it.”

While auditions for shows at the Windham Center Stage Theater usually occur in person, those trying out for The Importance of Being Earnest were allowed to do either a self-taped, on Zoom, or by in-person audition. For a play, people will then act out a certain scene or monologue from the show.

“When they read, we’re having them read once in their normal voice, and we’re having them read a second time with a British accent,” Quackenbush said. “When you do a musical, it’s very much the same thing for the acting, but then you also have...a singing performance of some kind...and they have you do a dance audition as well where they will teach you 16 bars of a dance.”

“The Importance of Being Earnest was written by Oscar Wilde,” Quackenbush said. “The whole premise of the story is that there are these two gentlemen who have essentially created alternate personalities for themselves, so they can be one person when they’re in town and they can be someone else when they’re in the country. There are these two young ladies that these gentlemen are enamored of who think that both of their names are Earnest.”

The play is set during the Victorian era, but Windham Center Stage Theater plans to update it to bring the play into the 21st century when it is performed.

“It’s…silly, funny, mistaken identity and what happens when the person you’re pretending to be and the person you are…come to a head,” Quackenbush says.

The Importance of Being Earnest is taking center stage in Windham from Sept. 8 through Sept. 24. <

Friday, June 23, 2023

'Knock at the Cabin’ an unsettling ride keeps you guessing, slow to deliver

By Matt Pascarella

Rated: R
Runtime: 1 hour, 40 minutes

Wen and her dads are vacationing in an isolated cabin in the woods. Wen is collecting flowers outside when she is approached by Leonard who tries to befriend her. He and three other individuals soon tell Wen’s dads, Eric and Andrew that they must make a grave decision in order to save humanity. Is this true? Could someone be lying?

I was excited to see this M. Night Shyamalan movie because I’ve enjoyed several of his movies in the past, but while this one is quite tense and unsettling in numerous parts, I wasn’t as surprised as I would have liked to have been when it ended.

“Knock at the Cabin” stars Kristen Cui, Dave Bautista, Johnathan Groff, Ben Aldridge, Rupert Grint, Nikki Amuka-Bird and Abby Quinn.

Wen (Cui) is learning about insects. She is outside catching grasshoppers when she is approached by Leonard (Bautista) who asks if he can talk to her. She says she’s not supposed to talk to strangers. He tells her if they can talk maybe they’ll be friends and no longer strangers.

Leonard tells her he has a broken heart because of what he has to do. Leonard and his associates Redmond (Grint), Sabrina (Amuka-Bird) and Adriane (Quinn) have the most important job in the history of the world.

Wen tells her dads Eric (Groff) and Andrew (Aldridge). When Leonard and the others come to the door, they are told to go away.

Leonard and crew force their way in and tie Eric and Andrew to chairs. They each introduce themselves.

The way this possible invasion is slowly taking place, is one of the movie’s most unsettling, but beneficial characteristics. Four strangers force their way into a home and are so meticulous about their process, that they let the terrified party get to know them. I found that creepy.

The group tells Eric and Andrew that they are here to prevent the apocalypse and the couple must make a tough decision or humanity will begin to suffer.

Eric tells them they need help, but this only makes Leonard double down on his reason for being there.

“For every no you give us, we will unleash a plague for the sins of humanity,” Leonard says.

There are ceremonial actions that take place between the group, some worse than others.

As all this is going on we see flashbacks to when Eric and Andrew first met. Other points in their life play out at various points during the movie, sometimes depicting Eric and Andrew being hurt or not accepted for their relationship.

At one point, breaking news comes across the TV. This may have confirmed something said by Leonard earlier.

Sabrina says to Eric they are all on the same side; the group won’t let up; a choice must be made.

Eric and Andrew try to poke holes in everything that has happened in the last 12 to 16 hours.

Eventually, Eric and Andrew break free from the chairs. Things get worse. The tables turn. There are several tense moments and things take another turn.

This definitely is a slow burn as horror movies go. I did appreciate the creepy and unsettling nature of unwanted visitors who are there for reasons that go beyond human abilities. This movie is based on the 2018 novel “The Cabin at the End of the World” by Paul G. Tremblay. The ending was not as straightforward as I would have liked. Unfortunately, I’d lump this in with Mr. Shyamalan’s 2022 movie “Old,” which I also felt failed to deliver.

One thumb up.

Streaming only on Peacock and available to rent. <

Friday, June 9, 2023

‘About My Father’ film has laughs, heart and relatable family dynamics

By Matt Pascarella

Rated: PG-13
Runtime: 1 hour, 30 minutes

When Sebastian gets invited to his girlfriend Ellie’s family summer home at a country club, he brings his Italian father, Salvo along. As Sebastian tries to gain acceptance from Ellie’s family in order to propose to her, his father makes things harder than expected, but better in the long run. This is a funny, sweet movie that will bring laughter and maybe tears.

“About My Father” stars Robert De Niro, Sebastian Maniscalco, Leslie Bibb, Kim Cattrall, David Rasche, Anders Holm, and Brett Dier.

Sebastian’s (Maniscalco) story begins like most Americans stories on another continent, in Sicily. His father, Salvo (De Niro) is from there and moved to Chicago where he is a Sicilian hair stylist.

Sebastian was brought up in a very Italian household with old school values and work ethic. He fell for the complete opposite of himself, Ellie (Bibb) who opened his eyes to many things like naps, beauty regimes and smiling. She is a painter and has her own art gallery.

When Ellie’s parents invite her and Sebastian to their summer country club, Sebastian describes it crudely as being classy; he says the dogs there went to better schools than him.

This weekend will be the perfect opportunity for him to propose. This invitation may mean he is breaking through to being accepted by Ellie’s family.

Salvo is not so sure about Ellie and doesn’t hold back in letting Sebastian know this. If Sebastian wants to marry her, Salvo wants to meet the parents. Ellie suggests Salvo come along, but Sebastian fears he’ll embarrass him.

Salvo wants to go, and he does. These families are from two entirely different walks of life. Ellie’s father Bill (Rasche) is a hotel mogul, her mother Tigger (Catrall) is a U.S. Senator, her brother Lucky (Holm) is wealthy, and her brother Doug (Dier) is more of a spiritual eccentric.

Salvo has trouble relating to them at first and doesn’t want Bill and Tigger to pay for his lunch. He says they’re strange and nobody has a job.

Sebastian explains that they have their money in the stock market and not mayonnaise jars buried in the back yard.

Bill offers Sebastian a job at one of his hotels in an effort to get him and Ellie to move from Chicago to the District of Columbia. Sebastian thinks about it.

There is a cringy flyboarding scene that is pretty funny.

Salvo has had enough and wants to leave. Sebastian tells him Ellie is his future and Salvo should make more of an effort. Sebastian wants to see the Salvo at the salon everybody likes.

A few other things happen that could jeopardize the weekend. It’s not just Sebastian who has an issue with his parent.

This movie is full of great lines and De Niro is nothing short of hilarious. At one point, Sebastian is hesitant to tell Salvo he’s been taking tennis lessons. Salvo tells him the country club is like a cult, except instead of Kool-Aid they serve champagne.

I found this movie very relatable in terms of being embarrassed by your family. When serving a home-cooked meal to Ellie and her family, Salvo says his father had an old Italian saying, “family isn’t one important thing. It’s everything.”

This is a movie families can relate to. While it’s rooted in Italian culture, the overall message is one of family. There is mild language and brief nudity.

Two sound bowls up!

Now playing only in theaters. <