Saturday, March 5, 2016

From the Desk of Jim R, Take 2, Column 7, Watertown's Chris McKenna Join's "The Bold and the Beautiful"

By James V. Ruocco
When Detective Mark Harding was killed off "The Young and the Restless" last year, fans of the long-running CBS soap, went ballistic. Not because the character had met his just comeuppance, but because fan favorite Chris McKenna (formally of Watertown, CT., now living in L.A.) would no longer be appearing on their television screens.

McKenna, who appeared in 36 episodes, was told by "Y&R" that his character was being "killed off" for story purposes. In a bizarre plot twist (but, not too bizarre for daytime soaps) Harding was revealed to be the murderer of Austin and Courtney, which, was odd, of course, considering the character's on-screen heroism and law-abiding work tactics for the police force in Genoa City.

Nonetheless, Harding was shot dead by Paul Williams, but fans refused to believe that they had seen the last of Harding. Speculation that Harding's death was faked, immediately surfaced. After all, this was daytime drama, so anything was possible including Harding's portrayer returning as his twin brother or an entirely new character. It's happened before on all the soaps, including "General Hospital" and "Days of Our Lives."

So, why not.

Sadly, rumors, were squelched once "Y&R" announced that Harding's story "had officially ended."

For McKenna, however, the journey back to CBS daytime, has just begun. This time, however, the actor is appearing on "The Bold and the Beautiful" in the newly created role of psychiatrist Dr. Hayden. When he reported to work back in January to film his "B&B" March 3rd debut, he tweeted "I could swear I've been here before" on Twitter.

Inside the studio, actors, writers and technicians from "The Young and the Restless" did a double take when they saw McKenna coming down the hall or outside his dressing room.

That's because both "The Bold & the Beautiful" and "The Young and the Restless" are filmed on separate sound stages across the hall from one another at CBS Television Headquarters in Los Angeles.

So, yes, it was like "coming home" for McKenna.

In his debut episode, McKenna (wearing eyes glasses and dressed in casual "J Crew" attire) was revealed to be the doctor of Katie Logan Spencer, played by Heather Tom, whose character is suffering a mental breakdown on the soap. Previously, McKenna worked with the Emmy-winning actress back in 2011 on the primetime drama "Rizzoli & Ives." They played husband-and-wife.

Here, on "B&B," as in "The Young and the Restless," McKenna was the perfect fit. Confident, natural, charismatic and completely charming, he totally owned the part, making you eagerly await his next character move or interaction with the large ensemble cast.

So, who actually is Dr. Hayden and how does he fit into the framework of the continuing "B&B" drama? Will he have more "B&B" moments with the enigmatic Tom? Or is he a man of mystery beneath those Ivy League eyeglasses?

Unfortunately, for daytime fans, Dr. Hayden's upcoming storyline is under wraps for the time being, despite speculation that the handsome psychiatrist could end up as a possible "love interest" for his patient Katie Logan or her sister Brooke, portrayed by Katherine Kelly Lang.

But Katie and Brooke aren't the only female characters on "The Bold and the Beautiful" who could succumb to Dr. Hayden's charms. There are endless possibilities.

Think about it.

If I was writing "B&B," I'd pair Dr. Hayden with crazy and neurotic Quinn Fuller, played by Rena Sofer. Given Quinn's current storyline, it's only a matter of time before she ends up lying on the couch of Hayden's L.A. office. Or somewhere else, more intimate or cozy. McKenna and Sofer, would sizzle. And fans, would thoroughly enjoy this outrageous pairing. Think of the possibilities. Good Quinn. Bad Quinn. Evil Quinn. The list scene possibilities is endless.

What about Pam (Alley Mills)?
O.K., this is a long shot, but she could obviously obsess about the handsome doctor, ply him with lemon bars and maybe even, fantasize about removing his eyeglasses and button-down oxfords, in a few dream sequences, played strictly for comic effect.

Finally, there's Ivy Forrester (Aussie actress Ashleigh Brewer" of "Neighbours" fame). This popular character could not only use a shrink when she returns to L.A. from Australia, but a new romance is just what Ivy needs following her subsequent break with the Spencer brothers. When you think about it, someone "slightly order" might just be the romantic cure for Ivy to forget completely about Liam and Wyatt Spencer. And, who, better than Dr. Hayden to romance the deliciously wicked and loveable Ivy.

Maybe, I should start writing the script. Or give Bradley Bell a call.

For those CT daytime fans anxiously awaiting McKenna's next appearance on "The Bold and the Beautiful,"you can catch the actor on DVD as Nick Vera in NBC's edgy 13-part drama "State of Affairs," opposite Katherine Heigl." Or watch him portray Patrick Westhill in 7 episodes of "90210."
There's also the made-for-television" movie "Holiday Engagement" plus single episode "guest appearances" on "Castle," "NCIS: New Orleans," "Criminal Minds," "House," "Harry's Law" and " NCIS: Los Angeles."


(Jim Ruocco welcomes your comments. You can contact him at


Tuesday, March 1, 2016

From the Desk of Jim R, Take 2, Column 6: A Review, "The Glass Menagerie," presented by Landmark Community Theatre

 By James V. Ruocco

Memories drift through the cool, sometimes hot night air in Landmark Community Theatre's intimate, evocative staging of Tennessee Williams' "The Glass Menagerie," wondrously directed by Donato D'Albis. Here, the distinct tragedy of characters trapped in a void of claustrophobic memory, bare their souls, unashamedly before us, capturing the beauty, the prose and shimmering poetry of one of Williams' greatest stage plays.

D'Albis, the director of last season's brilliant "Gidion's Knot" at Landmark, is obviously the right choice for this evocative staging of "The Glass Menagerie."  An actor himself, he seamlessly connects with the material, its lyricism, its haunting gazes, remembrances, detours, arguments, memory, heartache, whimsy and more importantly, its tragedy. Scene by scene, moment by moment, he allows the material to speak for itself through his four-member cast in ways that connect directly and only to you as if you are the only member in the entire audience. That, in itself, is a difficult feat to pull off, but in doing so D'Albis allows "The Glass Menagerie" to ignite its spark, get under your skin, make you smile, cringe, laugh, shed a tear and moreover, leave you emotionally shaken at the play's tragic conclusion.

As Amanda Wingfield, a role that seems tailor-made for the immensely talented Lucia Dressel, the actress stands tall on the Thomaston Opera House stage, proudly playing one of Williams' iconic stage characters, savoring each moment of the wonderful dialogue, characterization, and stage interaction that befalls her. You can't take your eyes off her.
Her Amanda, is an inspiring mix of a once proud Southern belle and desperate, clinging mother who has been damaged my misguided choices, single parenthood and motivations not always in her control. Under D'Albis watchful eye, she creates such a mesmerizing character portrait, if Williams were alive today, he, no doubt, would stand up and cheer.

In the role of Tom Wingfield, Chet Ostroski naturally conveys the complicated rhythms, nuances, desires and secrets of the dutiful yet damaged son and survivor ready to unravel and explode at any moment. As the play's narrator, a sort of Shakespeare-in-waiting, he assuredly transports the audience into his world of regretful nostalgia with just the right amount of edge, drama, willingness and desperation. It's a performance that lingers and one, you're not likely to forget. Just brilliant.

Nicole Thomas plays the part of the handicapped Laura Wingfield as an outcast, who hides in the shadows of her not-so-wonderful life so believably and honestly, you never once think for a moment, she is acting. Given the wealth of material before her, she willingly embraces it, makes it her own and makes us fully understand Laura's insecurity, her wide-eyes dreams, school girl crushes and fear of life in an outside world she hides from daily.

Matt Albert brings the right look, mindset, charm, charisma and dash to the part of Jim O'Connor, the "Gentleman Caller," of Williams' memory play. He not only looks as if he stepped right out of the late 1930's (the play's setting), but so believably connects with the part of a young man anxious to connect with his golden youth, you'd swear Williams had Albert in mind when he created the character on paper.

In "The Glass Menagerie," the "Gentleman Caller" appears only in the second act. Tom, goaded by his mother to bring a suitable young man home to meet and perhaps "court" his wide-eyed, insecure sister, is also revealed to be Laura's schooldays' crush and hero. Their encounter, their conversation, their connection and their dance, is so beautifully and delicately staged by D'Albis, one is forced to believe, if only for a moment that Jim O'Connor is the ray of hope the Wingfield family hopes for, before the glass finally breaks and shatters.

Watching Albert engagingly interact with Thomas, you sit there on the edge of your seat unable to move, almost holding your breath as D'Albis guides you through what seems to be a possible courtship for Laura. Williams' spellbinding, often poetic dialogue is beautifully engaged by Albert and Thomas who never once miss a beat with D'Albis at the helm.

"The Glass Menagerie" is one of the best productions of the 2016 theater season. You leave the Thomaston Opera House knowing you have just witnessed a deeply rendered, classic theatrical masterpiece. I, for one, can't wait to see it again.

The Landmark Community Theatre production of "The Glass Menagerie" is being staged at the Thomaston Opera House (158 Main St., Thomaston, CT). It runs through March 13.
Performances are 2 p.m. March 6 and 13. and 8 p.m. March 4, 5, 11 and 12.
Tickets are $21-$25.
For more information, call (860) 283-6250.

(Jim Ruocco welcomes your comments. You can contact him at