Monday, March 28, 2022

From the Desk of Jim R, Take 2, Column 304, A Review: "Dream Hou$e" (Long Wharf Theatre)


By James V. Ruocco

Taking as inspiration of sorts - a HGTV-style reality show - and capitalizing on its over-the-top allure and obviously rehearsed, camera-ready dazzle, Long Wharf's "Dream Hou$e" giddyaps to a decidedly frenzied beat chock full of glitz, phony smiles, showbiz overkill and cherry jubilee hysteria iced with mouth-watering vanilla cream frosting and rainbow sprinkles.

Everything is meted out with pacy ruthlessness and well-heeled malaise.
The laughs and caveats are deliciously wicked.
The plot spins and tilts with playful, reordered abandon.
The language is fully attuned to the hypocrisy of the la, la television world it openly knocks.
And just when you've figured things out, a shock, a jolt or an unexpected surprise changes the course of absolutely everything.

Then again, that's half the fun of this brand-new play, which was the recipient of the 2022 Alliance/Kendeda National Graduate Playwriting Competition and subsequently performed on the Alliance Theatre's Hertz Stage in February.

Clocking in at roughly 95 minutes and performed without an intermission, "Dream Hou$e" is set against the backdrop of a popular TV show titled "Flip It and List It," hosted by Tessa, a wonderfully cheery, but plastic house hipster whose phony charm and faux smiles promise her revolving weekly guest stars the deal of a lifetime.
Or, so they are led to believe.
Up for grabs in the show's latest episode is the spacious family home of two estranged Latina sisters (Julia and Patricia), which, was originally built by their great grandfather. To their surprise, it's worth a lot of money but they have to act fast (their mother has just died) in order to get the right price.
Several questions arise as both sisters have second thoughts about the house where they were both raised; its historical and cultural significance; its bill of sale; its harbored secrets; its memories; its misguided dreams; and the nagging reminder that once the house is sold, it will no longer be theirs or kept in the family.

As written by Eliana Pipes, "Dream Hou$e" comes packaged with a landscape of ideas, partnerships, discoveries, promises, lectures, sellouts, savagery, shivers, demands and opening and closing acts. This being a play that purposely attacks the "entertainment value" of reality TV, the playwright injects plenty of well-timed barbs involving pop quizzes, bonus rounds, redemption rounds and tell-all confessions and engagements where both sisters are instructed to naturally address the at-home audience (ie., pretend the camera isn't there) in mock documentary fashion.
Accompanied by verbatim that adheres magnificently to the cut-and-pace theatrics of reality TV, Pipes purposely voices "Dream Hou$e" with words, feelings, thoughts, expressions and experiences that effectively portray the world and mindset of her lively parody. Yes, it's all in jest. Yes, it's all perfectly timed, rehearsed and recorded. Yes, there are laughs. Yes, there is pathos. Yes, there is drama. Yes, there are arguments and bitchiness. Yes, there is capitalization. Yes, there is gentrification. But, it's all real. It's all hands-on. It's all icily orchestrated. It's all delivered with snap, crackle and pop. 

Staging "Dream Hou$e" is Laurie Woolery, a director who tackles Pipes' playtext with the care and understanding it needs to take flight without ever once veering off track, confusing the audience or second guessing the validity of the words, the situations, the story arcs or the characters at hand. As interpreter, she is open-minded and creative, crafting a production that is both complex and flavorful and one that not only entertains but maintains interest throughout.
What's fun here is Woolery's high admiration for the obvious silliness of reality TV and its many components while the camera rolls, stops for a retake, an impromptu coaching session or an extraordinary, off-the-cuff moment that springs from absolutely nowhere (no, spoilers here), but makes perfect sense in the evolution of the "Dream Hou$e" scenario. Scene by scene, she fills the Long Wharf stage with splendid directorial choices and a teetering sense of urgency and resonance that invites the audience to tune in, sit up straight, relax and enjoy every bit of sting, bite, giggle and masterclass cliche she tosses in their direction.

"Dream Hou$e" stars Marianna McClellan as Tessa, Renata Eastlick as Patricia and Darilyn Castillo as Julia. As Tessa, McClellan delivers a hilarious comedic portrait of a reality-show personality so fake and cheery, you'd swear Woolery plucked the actress from HGTV and dropped her head-first onto the Long Wharf stage. Her's is the comic performance of the season - think Paula Prentiss dipped in paraffin - injected with playful doses of medicinal flick, twitch, switch, jerk and smile - exaggerated to perfection in grand, masterclass style. As Patricia and Julia, Eastlick and Castillo deliver exceptional, well-rounded performances that heighten the play's emotional velocity. Each actress connects with the rhythm, voice, command and personality of their character, using Pipes' serio-comic palette to great effect.
The production also benefits from a hand-picked, seven-person ensemble who work tirelessly as set and camera crew members of the HGTV-type reality show moving props, hanging pictures, moving scenery or whatever else the script calls for. All of this backstage wizardry is meticulously timed, staged and orchestrated under Woolery's crafty, hands-on tutelage.

A captivating piece of theatre - and one you won't want to miss - "Dream Hou$e" is an in-you-face satire rife with humor, personality, character, sarcasm and accommodation. It whirls and twirls. It kicks you in the ass. It surprises. It leaves you numb.
It is yet another crowning achievement for Long Wharf Theatre and one that is fueled by playwright Eliana Pipes' verbal certainty and freshness, Laurie Woolery's directorial snap and a trio of generous, well-driven performances that combine acidic smarts and scalding specifics with skewed aplomb and trigger-happy glee. What's not to like! Bravo!!!

"Dream Hou$e" is being staged at Long Wharf Theatre (222 Sargent Drive, New Haven, CT.), now through April 3, 2022.
For tickets or more information, call (203) 787-4282.

Sunday, March 20, 2022

From the Desk of Jim R, Take 2, Column 303, A Preview: "Million Dollar Quartet" (Chappaqua Performing Arts Center)

By James V. Ruocco

"Nothing is more fun than rock and roll" (Elvis Presley)

It was a night to remember.
It was a ground-breaking moment in rock 'n' roll history.
It was an iconic twist of fate.
On December 4, 1956, Sam Phillips - the esteemed "father of rock 'n' roll - brought together four young musicians - Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins and Elvis Presley- at the Sun Records Studio in Memphis, Tennessee for a "first and one time only" event
The jam?
The pitch?
Impromptu music-making?
A musical banquet?
The result?
Legend calls it - one of the greatest rock 'n' roll jam sessions in music history.
Sadly, they never played collectively again.

That "one-in-a-lifetime session" provides the musical blueprint for Chappaqua Performing Arts Center's upcoming spring production of "Million Dollar Quartet," which is being directed by Tim Seib with musical direction by Trevor Dornor.
The fun begins on April 21.

"Million Dollar Quartet" premiered on Broadway at the Nederlander Theatre on April 11, 2010 with a cast that included Eddie Clendening as Elvis Presley, Lance Guest as Johnny Cash, Levi Kreis as Jerry Lee Lewis, Robert Britton Lyons as Carl Perkins and Hunter Foster as Sam Phillips. Elizabeth Stanley was also featured as Dyanne, the young woman who accompanies Presley to the Sun Records recording studio.
Nominated for three 2010 Tony Awards - Best Musical, Best Book of a Musical, Best Featured Actor in a Musical (Kreis won the award for his portrayal of Jerry Lee Lewis) - "Million Dollar Quartet" closed on June 11, 2011 after having played 489 performances and 34 previews.
That same year, "Million Dollar Quartet" opened in London's West End at the Noel Coward Theatre on February 28, 2011 following previews that began on February 8. It closed on January 14, 2012.

The reviews, of course, were spectacular, both on Broadway and in London.

"A dazzling, raucous spectacle that sounds like a million bucks." (New York Magazine)

"A crowd pleaser with knockout performances that keep the joint jumpin' with great balls of fire." (Variety)

" 'Million Dollar Quartet' is a show that taps into all our yesterdays" (The Guardian)

"An enjoyable, feel good musical with a soundtrack to die for." (Independent)

"The hits come thick and fast. The music is recreated in an enjoyably vigorous style." (The Evening Standard)

In Chappaqua, "Million Dollar Quartet" - performed without an intermission - features 23 musical numbers. Smoothly integrated into the framework of the story and its now-legendary jam session, the songs themselves are delivered full volume, full throttle, backed by relentless energy, sweet nostalgia, mid-50's vibe and cool, rebellious conjuring.   
Blue Suede Shoes - Company
Real Wild Child - Jerry Lee Lewis
Matchbox - Carl Perkins
Who Do You Love? - Carl Perkins
Folsom Prison Blues - Johnny Cash
Fever - Dyanne
Memories are Made of This -  Elvis Presley
That's All Right - Elvis Presley
Brown Eyed Handsome Man - Company
Down by the Riverside - Company
Sixteen Tons - Johnny Cash

My Babe - Carl Perkins
Long Tall Sally - Elvis Presley
Peace in the Valley - Company
I Walk the Line - Johnny Cash
I Hear You Knocking - Dyanne
Party - Carl Perkins and Company
Great Balls of Fire - Jerry Lee Lewis
Down by the Riverside (reprise) - Company
Hound Dog - Elvis Presley
Ghost Riders - Johnny Cash
See You Later Alligator - Carl Perkins
Whole Lotta Shakin' Going On - Jerry Lee Lewis

"Million Dollar Quartet" is being staged at the Chappaqua Performing Arts Center (480 North Bedford Rd., Chappaqua, N.Y.) April 21 through May, 22, 2022.
Performances are 8 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays, 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturdays and 1 and 5 p.m. Sundays.
Tickets are $49, $69 and $89.
For more information, call (866) 806-5777.

(Photos of "Million Dollar Quartet" by Jason Niedle)

Note: Proof of COVID-19 vaccination and a valid photo ID (driver's license/passport) will be required for admission to all performances. Masks are also required for all theatergoers. As CDC guidelines change and evolve, protocols will be updated for future reference.

(Westchester Broadway Theatre gift certificates will be honored at all performances)

Saturday, March 19, 2022

From the Desk of Jim R, Take 2, Column 302, A Preview: Neil Simon's "Lost in Yonkers" starring Marsha Mason (Hartford Stage)

By James V. Ruocco

Golden Globe winner Marsha Mason comes to Hartford this spring to headline and co-direct Hartford Stage's eagerly-awaited revival of Neil Simon's heartwarming memory play "Lost in Yonkers," which made its Broadway debut back in February, 1991 and ran for 780 performances and 11 previews. Produced by Emanuel Azenberg and directed by Gene Saks, the cast included Irene Worth as Grandma Kurnitz, Mercedes Ruehl as Bella, Kevin Spacey as Louie, Jamie Marsh as Jay, Danny Gerard as Arty, Lauren Klein as Gert and  Mark Blum as Eddie.

Mason's casting and subsequent directorial participation (a role she will share with Rachel Alderman) is no fluke.
Who better than Mason to helm and star in a Neil Simon production?

She was married to the playwright for 10 years.
She received three of her four Academy Award nominations for works written by the late playwright and screenwriter - "The Goodbye Girl," "Chapter Two," "Only When I Laugh."
On Broadway, she appeared in Simon's "The Good Doctor."
In London's West End, she starred in "The Prisoner of Second Avenue" opposite Richard Dreyfuss who won an Oscar for his performance in Simon's 1977 romantic film comedy "The Goodbye Girl" opposite Mason.
She also was featured in 1983's "Max Dugan Returns," which was written for the screen by Simon and on record, in the Grammy-nominated L.A. Theatre Works' recording of "The Prisoner of Second Avenue."

"I wanted to do this play because I love the character of the grandmother and I think it's a wonderful challenge for me," says Mason. "I think it's obviously one of Neil's best plays"

And yes, she is thrilled to be co-directing directing this revival with Alderman for Hartford Stage. It's a task she is especially proud of. Not to mention the fact that "Lost in Yonkers" won Simon the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1991 along with the Tony Award for Best Play.
"I would really like to steward it in a proper and wonderful way because I think that sometimes people think of him (Neil) as a joke master rather than a really good playwright. This play, I think, proves that he had much more to give as a writer than what a lot of people have just sort of expected of him."

Set in Yonkers, 1942, "Lost in Yonkers" tells the story of two brothers - Jay and Arty - who, after their mother has died of cancer are left in the temporary care of their strict, domineering grandmother for a short period of time ("Don't worry so much about your grandma. Your grandma knows how to take care of herself, believe me..."she tells them. "Go on outside, both of you. You talk too much") while their father is off on a so-called business venture to earn some "fast cash" to pay off his debts to a couple of gangsters.
It's a difficult adjustment of sorts (that's one of the key points of the piece) as the boy's grandmother is set in her ways, filled with anger and resentment and completely incapable to building a solid relationship with both her grown children and her unruly grandchildren.

"What I love about the play is that it's about an immigrant family," Mason explains. "It's about a Jewish immigrant family. It's also set at the beginning of World War II so there's a lot of basic human frailty, difficulty and conflicts that show how immigrant families think and how they react to things. In the time that we live now, I think it's really helpful to be reminded that America was really built on the immigrant family."
That's not all.
"The characters are so colorful and wonderfully idiosyncratic and complex. There's also this wonderful joy in the personalities of these two boys that I just think is really heartfelt."

"It's all about resiliency and how this family uses their strengths to survive whether its through comedy, through grit or through imagination" explains co-director Rachel Alderman. "There are so many different tools that this family uses to get by and to get through."

Family dynamics - you can't live or survive without them - are the heart and soul of "Lost in Yonkers."
"I recognize these people. I know these people," adds Alderman." .
"I shared with Marsha a picture of my great uncle at his candy store in Brooklyn. This is their world. That's where my father learned how to make ice cream shakes and stole probably some ice cream just like Arty and Jay do in the story. Here, this comedy comes from a place of need, of yearning and connection and also the feeling 'That I will survive.' "

"Lost in Yonkers" is being presented at Hartford Stage (50 Church St., Hartford, CT) April 7 through May 1, 2022.
Tickets are $30, $45, $60, $80 and $100.
For more information, call (860) 527-5151.

Friday, March 18, 2022

From the Desk of Jim R, Take 2, Column 301, A Preview: "Harvey Fierstein LIVE At Real Art Ways" (Hartford)

By James V. Ruocco

In his candid, open-hearted review of Brooklyn-born Harvey Fierstein's new book "I Was Better Last Night: A Memoir," Los Angeles theater critic Charles McNulty digs deep into the Fierstein oeuvre to reveal a proud, gay man whose love of life, theater, glitter, eye liner and mainstream drag thrust him into the spotlight at an early age and won him worldwide acclaim, decade after decade, on Broadway, in film and on television in a variety of projects including "Torch Song Trilogy," "Safe Sex," "Hairspray," "Mrs. Doubtfire," "Fiddler on the Roof," "Hairspray Live!" "Independence Day" "Kinky Boots" and "Nurse Jackie."
He is currently writing the revised book for the upcoming Broadway revival of "Funny Girl" starring Beanie Feldstein, Ramin Kaimloo and Jane Lynch. 

"Harvey Fierstein was born, not made," states McNulty." "Becoming a playwright and theatrical grandee took time. But as his scrumptious new memoir, 'I Was Better Last Night' reveals, it was only a matter of time before this chubby Brooklyn boy with an itch for drag commandeered the stage.
"The Harvey Fierstein glimpsed here is tantalizing, defiantly, irreducibly complex. It's a pity Sondheim isn't around to offer the contradictory protagonist of his memoir the musical he deserves."


The 67-year-old Ridgefield, CT. resident (his "adopted home," we are told) simply tells it like it is.
He holds nothing back.
He's wickedly upfront.
He looks you straight in the eye.
You either like or dislike what he has to say.
Or you can simply tell him to "Fuck off."
If, you so dare.

Continuing his promotion of the just released "I Was Better Last Night: A Memoir," Fierstein has inked a LIVE special appearance at the intimate "Real Art Ways" (56 Arbor St., Hartford, CT) on Thursday, March 31 at 7 p.m. to chat with the audience,  talk about his book, discuss his prominent career and participate in a lively Q&A fueled by fun, surprise and wickedly funny off-the-cuff comments - the kind that Fierstein is famous for.

For example, when asked recently about "being gay" and "coming out," Fierstein told "CBS Sunday Morning," "Once I figured it out, I had to tell everyone. And nobody was surprised," he mused.

In Hartford, Fierstein's LIVE event will be hosted by Will K. Wilkins, Director of Real Arts Ways.
Tickets are $35 for general admission and $30 for Real Arts Ways members. All ticket holders will receive a signed copy of his book "I Was Better Last Night: A Memoir." 

The book, published by Penguin Random House LLC., offers readers lots of playful, mischievous and witty banner about his early years, his life in Bensonhurst, his love of cinematic goddesses, his "coming out" woes and traumas, his love of the gay scene in Greenwich Village, his dressing in drag, his Broadway apprenticeship, his rise to stardom and his bouts with alcoholism.

"At the end of my drinking, I was drinking a half a gallon of Southern Comfort a day," he told CBS Sunday Morning." "That's a lot of alcohol."

Other chapters of the book address his addictive personality, his soul-searching, his failed suicide attempt, his artistic failures, his fight for gay rights, his battles with dyslexia, his 1983 interview with Barbara Walters, his petty snubs from Stephen Sondheim and his recollections about working alongside Andy Warhol.

The accolades from peers - actors, writers, critics - in the entertainment industry are astounding.

"Harvey Fierstein turns a phrase into a novel and the personal into the universal. The day for this book has come." (Gloria Steinem)

"Harvey's book is a perfect reflection of him; full of heart, chutzpah, great stories, tons of belly laughs and wigs." (Andy Cohen)

"I am in awe of Harvey's theatrical history. From being among the vanguard of New York's Experimental Theatre, through Warhol, to Broadway musicals. Who can touch that? His memoir is extraordinary, and he is in a class by himself." (Patti LuPone)

"This is a beautiful memoir - full of humor and heart. I read it in 2 days, smiling, laughing and wiping away tears. A great read from a wonderful man." (Rosie O'Donnell)

"There are enough one-liners in 'I Was Better Last Night' for a one-man show." (Alexandra Jacobs)

"Harvey Fierstein is a true American original who has blazed his own trail through popular culture for half-a-century. His memoir is every bit as witty and brave and big-hearted as the man himself." (Armistead Maupin)

For more information about "Harvey Fierstein LIVE at Real Arts Ways," call (860) 232-1006.
To reserve tickets, visit

"Except the unexpected," reports Sarah Harding, a member of the LGBTQ community. "You never know what he's going to say next and that's half the fun. As for that unmistakably raspy voice, there's nothing quite like it in the world."

Note: All visitors to Real Arts Ways are required to show proof of full COVID-19 vaccinations, a valid photo ID or a negative COVID-19 test taken within the last 72 hours.

Thursday, March 10, 2022

From the Desk of Jim R, Take 2, Column 300, A Review: "This Bitter Earth" (TheaterWorks/Hartford)

 By James V. Ruocco

Often, with a two-character play, the decision to stage it and get it right is a challenge - pro and con -faced by most directors who address this particular kind of undertaking.

Is it timely?
Will it work?
Is it gimmicky?
Is it bold enough to stage?
Are the actor's right for their chosen roles?
Will an audience be moved, applaud or fall asleep?

Case in point: "This Bitter Earth" at TheaterWorks Hartford.

In the play - rightly performed without an intermission - a protest in Washington Square Park, brings Jesse, a gay black man together with Neil, his attractive white lover and an outspoken "Black Lives Matter" activist. As the story evolves, Neil becomes hellbent in the struggle himself while Jesse, in turn, is forced to examine his own political beliefs and his fight for acceptance in a prejudiced world without jeopardizing his gay relationship and love for his partner.

This puzzle, or tangled web, if you prefer, fuels "This Bitter Earth" with appropriate depth, drive, spunk and impact.
For the most part, it works.
A crafty piece of theatre, it is earnest, thought-provoking, invested and emotional. It is also flawed and off track if only fleetingly because sometimes it's not exactly clear what is the driving point behind certain passages of pivotal dialogue, story arcs, confessions, heated arguments, viewpoints and conclusions. A quick nip-and-tuck revision here and there is all that is needed to give this otherwise three-star production a push in the right direction. In its present form, it still carries a lot of weighty baggage which works most advantageously in terms of performance, staging and drama. 

As playwright, Harrison David Rivers brings high expectations and vitality to "The Bitter Earth," which as presented here, works mostly in his favor. Told in upfront, slick, non-linear fashion, the play, set in New York City and St. Paul, Minnesota,  moves back and forth in time from March 21, 2012 to December 15, 2015.
Fully conscious of the ticking voice of his characters, their beliefs and their arguments, he gives the piece a collective awareness and urgency that is often satisfying and driven. Never at a loss of words,  - if he was, there would be no point to the play - he shags his way into the mindset of both men giving them ample room to speak, play, bitch, create and trade their private thoughts and opinions while baring their souls unobtrusively.
Blending fact and fiction into a heady mix of events, episodes and emotional grandstanding, they talk about Black Lives Matters, riots, loss, protests, coming out, being gay, fucking, one-night stands, freedom of expression, prejudice, penis size and erection, death, hateful acts, politics, meeting one's parents, social climate, debate and infidelity. It's all frank, matter-of-fact and in-your-face as Rivers sets standards high, offering words and dialogue rife with plenty of back story, finger-tapping, curiosity, connection, juiced-up confessions, signifying and opportunity.

A flaw within the TheaterWorks production - and others before it - is that certain set ups never reach their required potential. Rivers, as guide and instructor, develops an important scene, but sometimes, the end result isn't as fulfilling or as mind-blowing as it should be. What's going on? What's the connection? What are the characters trying to say? What are they thinking? More importantly, what are we, as an audience supposed to feel about a hate crime, a revelation, a compromise or a shift in time and place?  Sadly, Rivers doesn't always have the right answers. 

Staging "This Bitter Earth" director David Mendizabal ("On the Grounds of Belonging," "The Bandaged Place'') utilizes Riw Rakkulchon's sparse but atmospheric, lived-in set to full advantage as Jesse and Neil step forth into the spotlight to tell their particular stories. Since Rivers' piece is essentially about choices - politicized, revolutionary, divided - he invests the talky material with a theatrical truthfulness, thrust and sting that reflects the playwright's personal connection to the subject matter, its potential, its rage, its humor, its queerness and more importantly, the interracial love story between the two men that is its obvious centerpiece.
The latter is addressed openly and passionately as Neil and Jesse touch, kiss, cuddle and embrace lovingly and sensually, playfully ripping off each other's clothes, dropping their briefs, jumping on top of one another and rolling around their bed for some pretty hot-and-steamy gay sex. It's all tastefully done with absolutely no pornographic explicitness or undercurrents. In Mendizabal's eyes, two men having consensual gay sex is a thing of beauty, pleasure and delicate intimacy. You simply accept, enjoy  and embrace it. There's no room for prudes in this theatrical outing. 

As director, he also makes his mark with sounds, details, tappings, pings and movements, many of which heighten the play's chilling relevance, language, salutations and foreboding. There is both method and bite to his staging mechanics, coupled with an understanding of what's important here, what needs to be said, what is the playwright trying to communicate and what, are we, as audience, to take away with us when the houselights dim, the play is over and the actor's take their final bows.
Yes, the flaws - minor ones at that - remain, but they are not enough to derail the plot, the ending and the big reveal which occurs halfway through the production. The latter, is an important moment in "This Bitter Earth" and one that Mendizabal addresses with real compassion, tenderness and sensitivity. It's a surprise, of course, and one that changes the final outcome of the entire play completely. 

"This Bitter Earth" stars Tom Holcomb as Neil and Damian Thompson as Jesse. Both members of Actor's Equity making their TheatreWorks Hartford debut, their combined efforts include acting roles in "London Assurance," "Ernest In Love," "The Broken Heart," "Transport," "Ghosts," "Fly," "Brother/Sister Plays," "An Ideal Husband" and "A Midsummer Night's Dream."

As Neil, Holcomb is attractive, opinionated, cocky, outspoken and passionate, all important character traits which make his performance stand out. He knows how to deliver a line, inhabit a part and effectively show his character's progression over a three-year span with a relaxed charm, angst and enthusiasm that makes his every moment on stage important. In the role of Jesse, Thompson is equally dynamic and convincing. As an actor, he delivers a energetic, detailed, charismatic performance fraught with real emotion, thrust and honesty. He is also well paired with Holcomb, a casting coup that makes their scenes with one other fierce, sensual, conversational, humorous, assertive and subtle. More importantly, both actors live inside the language of the piece, thus, making every word of Rivers' dialogue seem truthful even when it sputters or disconnects for a second or two before jumping back for a well-made point and plot twist as the story marches on toward its expected conclusion.

A sublime two-act play balanced by two exciting performances, a complicated but gratifying play script and enough twists and turns involving protests, opinion, choices, turmoil, romance and tragedy to keep it afloat for 95 minutes, "This Bitter Earth" is achingly creative in spite of some obvious loose ends and slip ups. You can see it LIVE or simply stay at home and stream it. It's a choice well worth taking. 

"This Bitter Earth" is being staged at TheaterWorks (233 Pearl St., Hartford, CT), now through March 20. For tickets, online streaming options and more information, call (860) 527-7838.

Photos of "This Bitter Earth" courtesy of Mike Marques.