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Evan Teich

By Julianne Mosher

Nobody does camp better than Theatre Three. This time with their latest production of Mel Brooks’ The Producers, the Port Jefferson-based venue succeeds, yet again, with a phenomenal production of the hysterical musical that is bound to offend everyone and anyone in the best way possible.

Adapted from Mel Brooks’ 1967 film of the same name, the story follows two producers who scheme to get rich fast by fraudulently overselling interests in a Broadway musical they’re seeking to fail. Plot twist … it’s a smash hit, much to their dismay.

Theatre Three’s production is just as good as the latest Broadway revival (latest being 2001) which starred Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick. The cast and crew outdid themselves with every detail — from the constant costume and wig changes courtesy of Ronald Green III (and there are quite a few) to Randall Parson’s scenic sets that switch between the office of Max Bialystock (Scott Hofer) and Leo Bloom (Tony Butera) to the rooftop of Nazi-turned playwright Franz Leibkind (Evan Teich). 

Yes, a Nazi. Like I said, this play is going to offend. 

Hofer and Butera in the lead roles of the producers shine on stage, again, on the same level that the show’s former Broadway legends bore in the past.

With several dozen different roles — it’s a Mel Brooks show, so of course it’s going to be chaotic — every person who enters stage right and left are fantastic with an ensemble cast that literally does it all. The singing is master level, the choreography is impressive and you’ll be laughing as soon as the curtain opens during the first number, “It’s Opening Night.”

After Bialystock and Bloom find the most offensive musical out there, Springtime for Hitler, they need to find financial backers. Bialystock, a Casanova to the wealthy elderly, uses his charm on widowers while Bloom meets the beautiful and talented Ulla (Brittany Lacey) who becomes the main female lead in the play they’re hoping fails … as well as Bloom’s love interest. 

The next stop is to get the worst director out there — Roger De Bris (Ryan Nolin), a flamboyant failing director with his long-term, life “roommate,” Carmen Ghia (Jim Sluder). While Nolin and Sluder play near-deadbeats in the theater industry, both have remarkable talent in real life.

Directed by Jeffrey Sanzel, the three-hour-long show is so good you want to sit through it again and again. You’ll be bound to find something new at every showing.

So, like I mentioned earlier, Theatre Three does campy musicals extremely well. “When You Got It, Flaunt It,” right? And the only advice I have moving forward is to continue and “Keep It Gay” with all that talent on stage.

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Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson presents The Producers through June 22. Tickets are $40 adults, $32 seniors and students, $25 children (ages 5 to 12) and Wednesday matinees. Please Note: Contains adult humor and situations. To order, call 631-928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com.

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By Julianne Mosher

For what is now a quarter of a century, Theatre Three’s Annual Festival of One-Act Plays is a favorite tradition that should not be missed out on. 

Now in its 25th year, more than 12,000 submissions from playwrights across the country have been sent to the Port Jefferson-based theater over the years in hopes that their short, under 30-minute shows have a shot of being performed on stage. This season, Director Jeffrey Sanzel said there were over 2,000 submissions and just eight made the cut. Of those eight, none disappointed. 

For an-hour-and-a-half, during Sunday, Feb. 25th’s performance, the nearly sold-out audience sat quietly, engaged, watching, listening to what is about to appear on stage. The festival brings these little vignettes that are full of story — some that are hysterically funny, while others leave the room quiet because of how serious and emotional the act ends. 

The festival opens with Brian C. Petti’s Bovine Existential, with Linda May and Phyllis March playing two cows who are waiting in a slaughterhouse holding pen discussing fate, mortality and morality. Both May and March play the animals well, and while a serious topic of philosophy, they still had the audience in stitches. 

The second act features Deirdre Girard’s A Year to Grieve and at first the audience doesn’t expect what will eventually happen. We see Thomas (Evan Teich) and Heather (Brittany Lacey), two mystery crime writers working on Heather’s latest novel. The friendship between the two is sweet, until one decides to make fiction real. Both Teich and Lacey shine — as usual, since both are returning Festival performers. 

To lighten the mood, we’re sent to a tomb in Verona, Italy to see Juliet (Cassidy Rose O’Brien) who woke up from her slumber and didn’t kill herself with her fiancé’s dagger in Juliet Wakes Up by Laura Neill. Compared to the original Shakespearean tragedy, this is anything but. Quite frankly, this should be a whole show on Broadway, rather than the & Juliet musical that is currently out. I like this version better. Juliet is met by Rosaline (Julia Albino), her cousin, and Willow (Gina Lardi), the apothecary worker who sold the poison to begin with. The three ladies hatch a plan to hide Romeo’s (Jae Hughes) body after Juliet stabbed him to death, instead.

The first half ends with Rescue by Kevin Podgorski, and this one is not for the weak at heart. We’re introduced to Dot (Ginger Dalton), who has a large bruise on her face. She’s talking on the phone with her two friends, Maeve (March) and Allen (Andrew Markowitz), who are desperately trying to help her out of a toxic and dangerous home situation at the hands of her grandson, Charlie (Steven Uihlein) that Dot has been taking care of since his mother died. Powerful and sad, when the act ended there was a silence, with several audience members saying, “wow.”

After a brief intermission, we’re set in a car on a highway leading to the Colorado border for Aleks Merilo’s The Nearest Far Away Place. A young woman (Courtney Gilmore) hitch hiked a ride from Wisconsin by a man who eventually we learn is a corrections officer played by Rob Schindlar. Uncomfortable and nervous about what is waiting for her across state lines, the young girl tries to chat the man up, but quietly spoken, he has no interest until he begins talking about his own family and how he hasn’t spoken to his own daughter in years. With a serious undertone, it has its highlights that will make you laugh because of the two opposite personalities; Gilmore’s annoying teenage girl self (which we can all relate to somehow) and Schindlar’s stoic manly façade. 

A complete left turn into Lisa Dellagiarino Feriend’s The Curse, we’re taken into an alternate version of The Little Mermaid featuring a mer-man, Jeremy (Sean Amato) who was washed up on land and realizes he has feet. Turns out, an evil enchantress named Donna (his co-worker of all things) turned him human as punishment for his man-splaning over her during staff meetings. He only comes to this realization by Beth (O’Brien), a passerby who sides with Donna. After some serious plays beforehand, this one was funny and lighthearted, which is just what we needed.

In Grave Matters by Michele Markarian, Paula (Lardi) is at the grave of her father asking for a sign from him to get over the family drama since her parents had passed. Well, the dad didn’t show, but her mom, Beth (Dalton) came by instead. This one, again, has those serious undertones, but Dalton’s annoying motherly comments (that again, we can all relate to somehow) make it funny and surprisingly realistic — despite her being a ghost, of course.

And we end with the beautifully crafted The Hike to Hart Lake by Johanna Beale Keller which features Albino, Amato, Hughes, O’Brien and Uihlein as five friends who hike up a mountain in their 20s to a beautiful scenic view they never forget. Always saying they should all go back, life happens, there are deaths and slowly the group becomes one over the course of 80 years. While all five actors are standouts, Hughes had the audience in tears with their powerful monologue at the end of the performance. 

With a minimal set with just a few props moved around for each play, the costumes designed by Jason Allyn match each performance perfectly — and remember, we’re sent from present day, to the 14th Century and then into the future. So, buckle up, grab some tissues and make sure you sit in for The 25th Annual Festival of One-Act Plays. It isn’t just a show… it’s an experience you won’t want to miss.

Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson presents the 25th annual Festival of One-Act Plays through March 23 at The Ronald F. Peierls Theatre, on the Second Stage. All seats are $25. Please note: Adult content and language. Parental discretion is advised. To order, call 631-928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com.

By Rita J. Egan

It was Theatre Three’s opening night of Something Rotten! on Saturday, May 20, and the audience was treated to an entertaining and energetic night full of laughter.

With book by John O’Farrell and Karey Kirkpatrick and music and lyrics by Karey and Wayne Kirkpatrick, Something Rotten! takes audience members back in time to the late 16th century where William Shakespeare is so adored that he’s treated like a modern-day rock star. Struggling writers Nick and Nigel Bottom, who head up a theater troupe, dream of the same success but can’t seem to create a play that will capture people’s attention until Nick consults with a soothsayer named Nostradamus. 

The soothsayer looks into the future and finds that something called a musical will be popular one day. A later encounter finds Nick asking Nostradamus what Shakespeare’s future successes will be so that the Bottom brothers can use the ideas in the present. The result is Nick creating Omelette: The Musical despite his brother’s objections.

The Broadway musical opened on the Great White Way in 2015 and ran until early 2017. The production was nominated for 10 Tony Awards, including Best Musical, and Christian Borle won the Best Featured Actor in a Musical award for his portrayal of William Shakespeare. 

Theatre Three’s Something Rotten! proves that there are no small parts as well as the importance of talented actors in each role, including the ensemble. Throughout the musical, it was apparent that everyone involved was giving it their all, creating a night of sensational entertainment. Director Jeffrey Sanzel has chosen a talented cast and masterfully directs the more than two dozen actors.

The production is filled with a few upbeat tunes, but the showstopping number is “A Musical.” Featured in Act I, the whole cast appears on stage singing and dancing. The number cleverly pokes fun at musicals and includes nods to Les Miserables, Annie, A Chorus Line and more. At the end of the song, the applause on opening night seemed to go on for more than a minute, and rightfully so, as each and every person involved in Something Rotten! deserved the accolades.

Heading up the cast is Ryan Nolin, a convincing Nick Bottom at the end of his rope trying to provide for his family and create a hit. He and Dennis Setteducati, who plays Nostradamus, sound fantastic on their leads during “A Musical” and play up the clever lines to the hilt.

Andrew Boza, as the naive Nigel Bottom, captures the sweetness of the young poet and writer. He and Danielle Pafundi, delightful as Portia, are the perfect match to play star-crossed lovers, especially during the song “I Love the Way.”

Christine Boehm as Nick’s wife, Bea, is a treat to watch as the character has her mind set on proving, even with mishaps, that a woman is more than capable of doing whatever a man does. Her rendition of “Right Hand Man” is also a highlight of the show.

Evan Teich, as Shakespeare, captures the cockiness of the celebrated star while still delivering the right amount of silliness. Jim Sluder as Brother Jeremiah and Angelo DiBiase as Shylock seamlessly add to the jokes and hijinks.

Choreographers Sari Feldman and Josie McSwane have created high-energy dances. The cast members look like they are having so much fun that audience members may want to join them onstage. The use of tap dancing and a kickline in “A Musical,” as well as a few other numbers, is absolutely delightful.

Theatre Three’s orchestra led by Jeffrey Hoffman sounded fantastic as always, and the costumes by Chakira Doherty perfectly captured the time period.

During the song “A Musical,” the line “What could be more amazing than a musical with song and dance and sweet romance,” is sung. The cast and crew of Theatre Three’s Something Rotten! understand this and embrace every aspect of this genre. Audience members on opening night enjoyed a fun evening out on the town, and the standing ovation at the end of the production was well deserved.

Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson presents Something Rotten! through June 24. Tickets are $35, $28 seniors and students, $20 children ages 5 to 12. For tickets or more information, call 631-928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com.

By Julianne Mosher

For 24 years, Theatre Three’s “Festival of One-Act Plays” has been bringing new voices to the not only Port Jefferson, but to all of Long Island. 

Festival founder and director Jeffrey Sanzel told the audience on opening night that the festival, which is nearing a quarter-of-a-century next year, received 750 submissions for the 2023 season from all around the world. “I’m expecting 1,000 next year,” he said.  

And of those 750 submissions, eight were selected, directed, rehearsed and will now be performed through March 25. Of those eight, none disappoint. 

For an hour-and-a-half, the audience sits quietly, engaged, watching, listening to what the actors have to say. And the lineup is unique — as a viewer, you don’t really know what to expect coming in.

The festival starts off with “Down to the Wire,” written by Julia Everitt, a New York City-based playwright with 37 stage plays to her name. This piece shows us what goes on inside a college dormitory, when a roommate played by Danielle Pafundi is hilariously losing her mind thanks to procrastinating an assignment. And despite what you might think, the play is not about camels. 

Then comes “A Citrus Day,” by Mark Cofta, a Pennsylvania-based playwright, who sadly passed away last July. With a minimalist set of just a bus bench and a suitcase, the audience watches two strangers together unearth a dark family secret. While sad and thought-provoking, it reminds you that you just need to make lemonade when life gives us lemons. Performances by Melissa Norman and Tristan Prin are top notch.

Following the more-somber bus stop story is Leslie Dianne’s “Accepting Adina.” Father Steve Ayle and son Steven Uihlein sit side-by-side in the patriarch’s living room, packing away mementos. Together they talk about the mother, Rebecca, and how her illness and assisted living stay is impacting them both. “Accepting Adina” is a tough look at grief, but Ayle’s and Uihlein’s performances are so raw that you feel the sadness, but also the hope of the future, we all feel when a loved one is lost. Tissues are required for this one. 

The best performance of the night by far was by Phyllis March in “The Dating Pool.” The scene opens up with Phyllis, 61, standing at a diving board in a dark pool. She’s visited by her 16-year-old self (Ava Andrejko), then herself at 23 (Samantha Fierro), 36 (Brittany Lacey) and 49 (Tamralyn Dorsa), where present day 61 is reminded of her lost loves of each of those lovers impacted her in that moment. The scene ends with her four former selves encouraging her to take the plunge. “The Dating Pool,” written by Arianna Rose is a thoughtful piece, and full of laughs, that can relate to any age in the audience. 

After a brief intermission, we’re inside an airport with Keith Whalen’s “Unclaimed Baggage” — a hysterically funny look at coming back to the real world after a relaxing trip. Not only does Marvin (but shhh… don’t tell the clerk his name), played by Angelo Dibiase, have to pick up his suitcase and some medicine after a long plane ride, but he has a special encounter with Finn, played by Jason Furnari, who just wants to help. 

Another audience favorite was Larry Brenner’s hilarious supernatural dating story “First Bite.” Here we learn about Wanda’s (Brittany Lacey) past dating history — and let’s just say she has a type — while out to dinner with John (Evan Teich). The scene starts out with a normal looking couple enjoying drinks and each other’s company, until Wanda asks John her place or his? You’re going to laugh a lot, but make sure you leave your garlic at home.

And finally, Mark Loewenstern’s “The Slightly Exaggerated True Story of ‘Civic Virtue’” concludes the show with a fascinating exploration of the intersection of the public eye and the power of art. Based loosely on the famous statue and fountain that once stood in front of New York City Hall in Manhattan, we watch a fast-paced history of architect MacMonnies’ (incredibly played by Antoine Jones) thought process behind sculpting the nude man and two sirens. 

We go through nearly two centuries of the public’s opinion on it, how it moves, and have visits from some well-known elected officials including Mayor La Guardia, Anthony Weiner and Robert Moses. Not only is it a brief, inside look of a famous piece of art, but it reminds the audience how statues (no matter how sexist, racist or now-deemed inappropriate they may be) are still a part of our history. While you’ll learn from this one, you’re also going to laugh. 

Tickets are $20 for the show, plus there’s a cash bar as you walk in. Make sure you visit Theatre Three’s second stage at The Ronald F. Peierls Theatre in Port Jefferson this month for a great night out. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry and you might learn a fact or two about “Civic Virtue” for your next trivia night.

Theatre Three is located at 412 Main St., Port Jefferson. For more information, or to order tickets, call 631-928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com.

By Heidi Sutton

After a two-year delay because of COVID, the Festival of One-Act Plays returns to Theatre Three in all its glory. Now in its 23rd year, the One-Acts are a wonderful opportunity for audiences to watch actors hone their craft up close and personal on the theater’s Second Stage. The festival opened last Sunday for a 10-performance run.

Festival founder and Executive Artistic Director Jeffrey Sanzel was tasked with selecting six original works from over 500 submissions and then selected an uber talented cast to tell their story. Fantastic costumes designed by Jason Allyn (with special mention to The Beat Goes On) tie it all together resulting in an incredible evening of live theater. 

“For the first time on any stage, these works come to life,” said Sanzel. “How challenging and exciting to present a unique universe in the space of no more than 25 minutes—and often as short as ten…” in a two-hour marathon in the cozy setting of The Ronald F. Peierls Theatre on the Second Stage, a space so intimate that “there is no wall. There is no division.” 

The show opens with Philip Darg’s Confessions of a Successful Playwright, a hilarious look at One-Act Festivals of all things. Wade Lawson (Stephen T. Wangner) meets up with a reporter (Tamralynn Dorsa) for an interview to share his struggles, triumphs, determination and eventual obsession to becoming the most produced, but least known, playwright in history.

Next up is The Turn-Around, by Cary Pepper. In a constant battle with his next door neighbor Lester’s many assault rifles and gun range, Robert (Antoine Jones) approaches Lester (Steve Ayle), with a change of heart in their ongoing war over the Second Amendment. The Turn-Around addresses one of today’s hot button issues from a wickedly humorous point-of-view.  

The first half concludes with the darkest offering of the evening. Joshua Young’s disturbing Bad China shows Nos (Steven Uihlein) asking for a favor from his sister, Reba (Brittany Lacy), which she keeps from her husband, Del (Evan Teich). A brutal portrait of the opioid crisis is played out within a dysfunctional family, where choices lead to harrowing results.

After a brief intermission, the show continues with Benign Departures, Tony Pasqualini’s vision of a national health crisis from a catastrophic perspective. Set some fifty years in the future, Dr. Elizabeth Baker (Tamralynn Dorsa) visits the homeless Maggie Elmer (Mary Ellin Kurtz) and a battle of wills ensues in which the two very different people find a common ground and a deeper understanding.

Ariana Rose’s comedy The Beat Goes On takes a peek at what goes on inside a display case at the Smithsonian, as various musical containers vie for superiority. Hilarity ensues as Cass (Sari Feldman), Trax (Steve Ayle), L.P. (Antoine Jones), Cee Dee (Brittany Lacey), and Dayta (Steven Uihlein) all hope for a transfer to the newer adjacent display case, leaving the audience in stitches.

The evening closes with Frank Tangredi’s Play Date, a whimsical look at fatherhood from two very different perspectives. The elderly Lou Gershwin (Bradlee Bing) just had a child with his second wife who is 30 years younger and 15-year-old Tyler Hill (Eric J. Hughes) gets limited visitation rights with his child. Meeting at a park bench, the two fathers share their stories and connect in a poignant, charming story.

With an excellent lineup and incredible cast, this festival is not to be missed. Get your ticket before they’re sold out.

Sponsored by Lippencott Financial Group, Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson will present The 23rd annual Festival of One-Act Plays through April 2. Please note: The plays contains adult language and subject matter. Parental discretion is advised. Running time is two hours with one 15-minute intermission. All seats are $20. To order, call the box office at 631-928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com

All photos by Peter Lanscombe/Theatre Three Productions, Inc.