In the New England Regional Theater Festival, companies from Connecticut, New Hampshire, Maine and Massachusetts competed in Torrington, CT at the Warner Theater this weekend. Connecticut’s entries were Torrington’s Warner Stage Company and their production of Winter Flowers and Thomaston’s Backyard Theater Ensemble and their production of Laundry and Bourbon. Warner Stage Company won top honors at the event, winning BEST DIRECTOR (SHARON WILCOX), BEST ACTRESS (BOTH Jane Coughlin and Lea Dmytryck) and OUTSTANDING PRODUCTION and will move on to the NATIONAL competition in Michigan this year.
As reported previously on Nutmeg Chatter, there were no male actors on the stage in Connecticut’s performances and they weren’t missed. It is a positive experience to enjoy performances where the female roles are not secondary, where the story is not told from the male lead perspective while all female characters are merely defined by the relationship to him (the girlfriend, the seductress or the mother archetypes). The Warner Theatre’s “Winter Flowers” featured two women on stage and Backyard Theater Ensemble’s “Laundry and Bourbon” featured three women. Both productions won the “best production” award in the Connecticut festival and both deserved that honor.
First, wanted to share the highlights of The Backyard Theater Ensemble’s “Laundry and Bourbon”. The production was directed by Donato D’Albis and performed by Kailee Donovan, Taylor Crofton and Tina Parziale. I’ve enjoyed the Backyard Theater Ensemble’s work in “Crimes of the Heart” and this piece is similar in design in that piece is set in the south and is uproariously funny even though there are dramatic elements and darker themes that elevate it into a serious and profound work. Kailee Donovan exudes the longing in the character of Elizabeth who waits for her troubled husband to return. Taylor Crofton absolutely lit up the stage as Hattie, creating a theatrical wildfire that set the audience ablaze with laughter. Tina Parziale portrayed Amy Lee, the friend who married into money and rose “above her station” and now looks down upon her former schoolmates. Their set of a Texas front porch was really well done. Adjudicators recommended weathering the outside of the house or using different lighting against the house to make it look older but from my vantage point, they had a fully functional set which was built in ten minutes. Ultimately the Backyard Theater Ensemble’s set won the Raise the Roof: Excellence in Scenic Design. Congratulations to this Connecticut team on a tremendous performance. I look forward to their upcoming Belleville in April.
The production that won outstanding production, best actress(es) and best director was “Winter Flowers”. This play tells the tale of two sisters in the winter of their lives. Lea Dmytryck portrays the elder sister “Delphie” whose health is failing and Jane Coughlin plays Rosie, the developmentally challenged younger sister who has the 7 year old mind inside her 65 year old body. Both actresses gave real, nuanced performances. Rosie, though her actions and vocalizations elicited some laughter but Coughlin never played for her laughs, she’s played her as a real challenged human being. Dmytryck as the long suffering caretaker sister deservedly won Best Actress in CT last year for this role. Sharon Wilcox direction ensured the two actors inhabited their roles.
The adjudicators came on stage and the cast and crew of the Warner Stage Company came out and sat in the front row. The adjudicators provided enormous compliments to the Dmytryck and Coughlin and complimented the Warner Stage Company for choosing this piece that focused on a demographic that is under represented in traditional stage productions. The bookends created by the music and lighting worked well and the costuming and design of the stage worked well. The adjudicators recommended moving the centerpiece of the couch closer to the audience and had a recommendation in a part of the costume and table in the set.
As this production moves forward in the competition, I will not discuss the content of the play until the national festival is concluded (*I don’t want to give any spoilers). I will say that the production was moving and deserving of the honors they received.
This win is big for Connecticut and big for TORRINGTON! Torrington’s very own theater company will now represent the entire region of New England. I can not stress enough the importance of this accomplishment. Torrington will be placed on a national map as it relates to the theatrical world.
Kudos to ALL the team involved.
I will share a Nutmeg Chatter artist profile of director Sharon Wilcox in the upcoming month!
Congratulations to all who participated and attended the festival!