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Arts & Culture

Local theater outlook: So much to see. so little time to see it all

Gabriel Hage & Laura Graver in "This Random World"
Jenn Moak
/
Gabriel Hage & Laura Graver in "This Random World"

In the world of local theater, the phrase feast or famine has special meaning this week.

We all know about the famine of 2020, but now after a tenuous fall things are going full throttle once again. There are at least five theater companies opening plays this week.

Which I admit, at first glance sounds terrific. But given a second thought, the question that has to be asked is why does everyone open at the same time? It takes the most dedicated theatergoer to see all these shows, which essentially run for eight performances over two weekends.

And, of course, there has to be some kind of law that says the more adventurous the scheduling the more difficult it will be to see everything.

For the most part, there are some pretty promising shows in the mix. Actually, if one company produced all the shows as a single season it would be impressive.

“Significant Other” which is presented by Creative License at Cohoes Music Hall, is, to borrow a word from its title, especially significant. This is the troupe’s first venture at their new home.

For the past several years, Creative License has been fulfilling its mission of presenting quality plays with generally unknown titles at the Albany Barn, an arts incubator located in Arbor Hill.

They are now a resident theatre company at the historic Cohoes Music Hall and offer a great complement to musicals offered by Playhouse Stage.

Indeed, their latest production fits the bill of being new and adventuresome.

“Significant Other” is about a quartet of friends who are approaching thirty. Their bond to their long friendship is their single status.

What makes this unique, even in 2021, is that the central character is romantically isolated, single, gay man.

As his three close female friends, one by one, get married Jordon’s feelings of loss become comically neurotic, yet poignantly touching. It opens Friday.

Another fascinating and thoughtful comedy opening Friday is “This Random World” at Schenectady Civic Players.

It’s by Steven Dietz, a playwright with a quirky, but profound view of the world.

“This Random World” contains a number of eccentric characters who each make equally eccentric choices that unintentionally bring them to the same place at the same time.

Those choices are often funny, yet sometimes heartbreaking. It makes the point that frequently we travel parallel paths through the world and ignore the significance of the journey.

Schenectady is also the site of a charming, unknown musical. This Friday, Schenectady Light Opera Company is opening “The Glorious Ones,” a musical about how chance plays a role in the creation of groundbreaking art.

A troupe of mediocre Italian actors performing in the 17th century evolve a new way of performing. Instead of doing the common, bawdy style of slapstick, they create a new art form that combines silliness with heart. The style becomes known as commedia dell’arte.

Their transition is filled with comedy, disappointment and even heartbreak. But, when at the end of “The Glorious Ones,” comics like Lucille Ball, Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin are paid tribute, the durability of creative innovation is made clear.

Though its only New York City appearance was a limited run at the small Mitzi Newhouse Theatre of Lincoln Center, it has a fine pedigree. It was written by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty, a team best known for “Ragtime.” However, the pair have a history of creating musicals – like “Once Upon This Island” and “A Man of No Importance” - both gems, that entertain while moving you.

Not every show opening this week is unknown. The professional troupe, Bridge Street Theatre in Catskill is tackling Eugene O’Neill’s masterpiece, “A Long Day’s Journey Into Night.”

It might be considered as much an opus as it is a masterpiece. It’s an autobiographical tale about O’Neill’s dysfunctional family that is insightful, painful and human. It’s a demanding work that takes more than three intense hours to play out. It opens Thursday.

The final show opening on Friday, is “Art” at Albany Civic Theatre. It’s basically a comedy about how a friendship between three men can be damaged when one buys an expensive painting that is almost pure white. The work, which has been around since 1998, offers some mild insight to friendship and male bonding.

And if you prefer something even lighter than “Art,” the comedy “Over the River and Through the Woods,” starts its second week of a five week run at Curtain Call Theatre in Latham. It runs through December 5.

So there you have it - a number of fascinating plays, all worth seeing. I hope you had the time to see them all.

Bob Goepfert is theater reviewer for the Troy Record.

The views expressed by commentators are solely those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the views of this station or its management.

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