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May theater is abundant and enlightening

(L – R)  - Traci Elaine Lee, Deri’Andra Tucker, Shayla Brielle G. from the National Touring Company of Ain’t Too Proud.
Emilio Madrid
(L – R) - Traci Elaine Lee, Deri’Andra Tucker, Shayla Brielle G. from the National Touring Company of Ain’t Too Proud.

The merry month of May is here, and as far as theater is concerned, it’s sort of a dark merry as even the musicals have a tinge of the serious.

For instance, the plot of the musical, “Jagged Little Pill” that is playing at Proctors is as dark as it is insightful. However, it is a haunting show with some memorable music. It continues through Sunday.

But merry certainly is mostly accurate for “Ain’t Too Proud,” which is at the Schenectady venue later in the month, May 23-28. “Ain’t Too Proud” is the story of “The Temptations, their rise to fame and their struggles to stay on top of the charts. But, even this celebratory musical has its share of dysfunction.

But the joy in the music is what you remember Is there anyone of a certain age that doesn’t have a special memory associated with a song sung by The Temptations? They had 42 top ten hits, with 14 of them going to Number One. There are 31 songs in the show including, “My Girl,” “Get Ready,” “If You Don’t Know Me By Now’ and of course, the title song. As a bonus, in New York City I left the theater remembering the energetic choreography as much as I did the music.

Proctors is not the only venue offering interesting material this month. Albany Civic Theatre is producing David Mamet’s classic drama “American Buffalo,” through May 21. It opened on Broadway in 1977 and was one of Mamet’s early plays that cemented his reputation as “the poet of the average guy.” It’s about three losers who plan to steal a valuable Buffalo Head nickel. It’s both profane and profound.

Another return to the past is “Dinner With Friends” at Schenectady Civic Players. It was written by Donald Margulies and won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 2000.

It concerns two couples who have been friends seemingly forever. When one couple announces they are divorcing it becomes a case of “he said/she said” concerning who is at fault. Predictably, the other couple questions the strength of their own relationship. However, what makes “Dinner With Friends” unique is the point of the play is really about what holds all friendships together. It plays at Schenectady Civic Theatre, Friday to Sunday and May 17-21.

On a more cheery side, Schenectady Light Opera Company is offering the frothy ensemble musical “It Shoulda Been You.” It’s about a Jewish woman marring her Catholic boyfriend. The title comes from a song the bride’s parents sing to their daughter’s ex-boyfriend, who is determined to stop the marriage. It’s a show filled with quirky characters, bizarre plots and many twists - plus a hummable score. It opens Friday and plays this weekend Friday to Sunday May 11 - 14.

May 19-June 4, Creative License, presenting at the Cohoes Music Hall, is offering a unique and haunting fantasy. “Afterlife: A Ghost Story” is about a grieving couple finding their individual way towards resigning themselves to the death of their son.

It starts with a couple closing their beach house to prepare for a major storm. It’s the site where their son was swept out to sea and never seen again. The second act takes place in an alternative reality and is filled with fantasy and metaphor as the parents learn to cope with their loss.

There are also several professional productions opening in late-May. In Pittsfield, MA, Barrington Stage Company opens their season with “The Happiest Man on Earth,” May 24- June 7. It’s based on the memoir of a 100-year old man who survived the Holocaust. It’s a play about the power of gratitude, tolerance and kindness.

Making an interesting companion piece is the regional premiere of “East of Berlin” at Bridge Street Theatre in Catskill. It’s a work about a young couple in love. They each have a secret. Their parents were on opposite sides during the Holocaust. One parent was a prisoner, the other a Nazi war criminal. It runs May 25 to June 4.

Another enlightening but entertaining production is the Berkshire Theatre Group offering is “What the Constitution Means to Me”. It’s an 21st century look at the constitution, as told by a middle age female. It runs at the groups Unicorn Theatre in Stockbridge, MA. May 18-June 3.

Clearly, it’s not only a busy May for theater, it’s one filled with exciting and demanding material.

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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