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The Hamptons

The 13th Hamptons International Film Festival is scheduled for Oct. 19-23. This year's event will have 27 world premieres and 23 U.S. premieres among more than 100 features, documentaries, and shorts to be screened in East Hampton, Southampton, Sag Harbor, and Montauk. The festival is a venue for both established and emerging independent filmmakers from around the world.

Each competitive category will include both American and world filmmakers. The winner of the Golden Starfish Feature Competition gets $170,000 in goods and in-kind services for his or her next film. The Golden Starfish Documentary award is $10,000 in cash and in-kind services; the Golden Starfish Shorts prize is $5,000 cash. Other awards will be given for cinematography ($6,000), screenwriting ($5,000), score ($5,000), films exploring scientific and technological themes ($25,000), "inspirational" films ($5,000), and undergraduate and graduate student films (eight $1,000 awards).

Spotlight Films -- high-profile movies shown before their official release -- will include Kevin Bacon's "Loverboy," Richard Shepard's "The Matador," Eugene Jarecki's "Why We Fight," Stephen Poliakoff's "Gideon's Daughter," Marc Levin's "Protocols of Zion," and Morgan J. Freeman's "Piggy Banks." Actors, writers, and directors expected to attend include Kevin Bacon, Jon Robin Baitz, Alan Cumming, Hope Davis, Martin McDonagh, Debra Winger, and many others.

Panasonic is sponsoring a "48-hour film challenge" in which four HIFF alumni filmmakers (Ryan Eslinger, Savannah Haske, Greg Pak, and Marty Sader) have two days to write, shoot, and edit a short film. Other programming will concentrate on family films, the view from Long Island, and world cinema, plus films from members of New York Women in Film and Television. Industry professionals will participate in panels on topics such as financing and producing "movies that matter," "Putting Together Your First Short Film," and fashion in film.

The opening-night feature will be Scott McGehee and David Siegel's "Bee Season," with Richard Gere and Juliette Binoche. The closing feature is Gore Verbinski's "The Weather Man," with Nicolas Cage, Michael Caine, and Hope Davis. Alec Baldwin and Miranda Richardson will receive awards for career achievement in acting, and the Hamptons/indieWIRE "Industry Toast" to a supporter of independent film will go to Bob Berney, president of Picturehouse.

More information is available at www.hamptonsfilmfest.org.

-- Jan Silver

Westchester/Rockland

Westchester Broadway Theatre is following up its rousing production of "Anything Goes" with a giddy staging of "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" (through Nov. 20). Directed by Drew Scott Harris, this production successfully re-creates the bubbly, fast-paced, wisecracking style of the flapper era. Brandi Wooten captures the innocence of Lorelei Lee, one of musical theatre's most endearing sirens. Pamela Jordan is even better as Lorelei's cohort in mischief, Dorothy Shaw. Jordan is flowing with magnetism and equally talented as a singer, dancer, and comic actor. Steve Asciolla as Josephus Gage and Joseph Mahowald as Henry Spofford bring sufficient milk-fed earnestness to their roles, and Judith Moore as Mrs. Ella Spofford and Bob Freschi as Sir Francis make comic hay out of the older character parts.

The Art Deco set, designed by George E. Puello and Steve Loftus, establishes the correct tone for the action, as do Gail Baldoni's delightful costumes and Andrew Gmoser's cheery lights. Ken Lundie's peppy musical direction -- especially in his brightly paced "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend" -- is equally invaluable.

Nyack's Helen Hayes Performing Arts Center packed them in with a star-studded production of Barra Grant's "A Mother, a Daughter, and a Gun" (closed Oct. 9), which is transferring to Dodger Stages Off-Broadway for a commercial run. Olympia Dukakis, Veanne Cox, and George S. Irving led a cast supported by David Bishins, Mario Campanaro, Katrina Ferguson, Matthew Greer, Laura Heisler, Stephanie Kurtzuba, and Daniel Pearce. Jonathan Lynn directed.

In light of the recent devastation along the Gulf Coast, "Hurricane Aimee" is now "Saving Aimee," which opens the season at the White Plains Performing Arts Center (Oct. 14-23). Though the accomplished Carolee Carmello stars as controversial evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson, Kathie Lee Gifford, who wrote the book, lyrics, and additional music, is the draw. Gifford's co-creators are David Pomeranz (music) and David Friedman (additional music). The cast includes Florence Lacey, Raissa Katona Bennett, Don Bovingloh, Dan Cooney, Angela DeCicco, Aisha de Haas, Matthew Gumley, Will Erat, Steve Horst, Joseph Kolinski, Matt Loney, Ellyn Marie Marsh, Victoria Matlock, Mike McGowan, James Moye, Gabi Nicole, Cristina Marie Norrup, Joe Paparella, Jim Price, and Harry Winter.

-- E. Kyle Minor

San Francisco

Something old, something borrowed, and something new opened the new season at three of the bigger Bay Area theatres.

The "something old" is "Our Town" (through Oct. 23), perhaps an unexpected choice for the forward-thinking Berkeley Repertory Theatre. But guest director Jonathan Moscone has found a way to freshen the Thornton Wilder classic without getting in the way of its deceptively simple message. Abetting Moscone in his efforts is local theatre legend Barbara Oliver as the Stage Manager, whose guise as a little old lady hides a slightly subversive streak.

American Conservatory Theater "borrowed" its season opener from Canada, where "The Overcoat" (closed Oct. 2) has played extensively since its debut in Vancouver in 1997. Created by Morris Panych and Wendy Gorling, the play is an intriguing experiment in movement inspired by both a Nikolai Gogol story and the music of Dmitri Shostakovich.

With credits projected on a scrim before the show begins, "The Overcoat" announces its stylistic debt to the movies. This unusual show actually riffs off the exaggerations of silent films to create an experience both jittery and lyrical that is completely contemporary and totally without words.

This West Coast premiere (closed Oct. 2) featured 22 Canadian performers who are veterans of the play's previous stagings. That was particularly good news because Peter Anderson was one of those veterans. This masterful performer, who never speaks a line, created an indelible portrait of an everyman under spiritual attack in every corner of his life.

San Jose Rep is the theatre with the "something new," the world premiere of a commissioned musical about the bizarre house built in San Jose by rifle heiress Sarah Winchester and now operated as a tourist attraction.

"Haunting of Winchester" (closed Oct. 2), with book and lyrics by Mary Bracken Phillips ("Metro") and music by Craig Bohmler ("Enter the Guardsman"), is a mostly enjoyable fantasy that populates the Winchester house with a collection of benign ghosts, in addition to the ornery spirit of real-life gunslinger Jack Kerrigan.

Thanks to a charismatic performance by Dan Sharkey as Kerrigan and a lively score, the musical is able to sustain its variation on "Ghost and Mrs. Muir" romance and not be defeated by a maudlin finale that curiously forgets all about Sarah Winchester.

-- Richard Dodds

Upstate NY/Berkshires

Dan McCleary has added playwright to his résumé. McCleary spent 12 years with Shakespeare & Company in Lenox, Mass., first as an artist-manager and then as press director before serving a long tenure as communications director. He also kept his acting craft sharp in stirring roles such as Coriolanus, Macbeth, and Hotspur.

In 2000 he became an associate artistic director, but he left the troupe in January of this year to pursue his own interests: "to act and direct and to write as a freelance artist."

He's well on his way. McCleary's dramatization of "Henry & June" was given a staged reading as part of the company's Studio Festival of Plays on Sept. 4, and it proved to be a galvanizing and very frank look into the lives of Anais Nin and Henry and June Miller.

McCleary -- who lives in the Berkshires with his wife, current S&C public relations director and actor Elizabeth Aspenlieder -- discovered Nin's writing while acting in a 2004 production of "Antony and Cleopatra" at the Orlando-UCF Shakespeare Festival.

McCleary is a quick study and found himself "diving into" anything he could find by Nin and Miller -- and, indeed, large measures of their texts are found in the dialogue of "Henry & June."

The workshop staging, which featured Elizabeth Raetz as Nin, Mark Saturno as Miller, and Catherine Taylor-Williams as June, was a revelation for McCleary and for S&C artistic director Tina Packer. The two had spent plenty of time discussing the show beforehand (including, according to McCleary, an onstage simulation of sex and the concept of creating a feminine interpretation of "the traditional hero's journey") and were able to determine what worked best once it hit the boards.

McCleary said that Packer has committed to nurturing the play and plans are afoot to further workshop the piece in "a protected run" in upcoming seasons.

In Troy, the New York State Theatre Institute will open its 30th anniversary season on Oct. 23 with Agatha Christie's "The Unexpected Guest" -- one of the few tales Dame Agatha created directly for the stage.

The company is working with an abbreviated rehearsal period because many members spent September in Sweden as part of a cultural exchange program that took NYSTI's production of "Born Yesterday" to Teater Västmanland in Västerås.

Actor Mary Jane Hansen, who is featured in both pieces, was fascinated by the working methods of the Scandinavian guest artists, which "Born Yesterday" director Ed. Lange described as "more exterior, less interior."

-- Michael Eck

Providence

It's hard to imagine shows as different as the ones that opened the Providence-area theatre scene this season. At Trinity Repertory Company, Rupert Holmes' musical version of Charles Dickens' "The Mystery of Edwin Drood" (closed Oct. 9) was played for laughs. But at the Sandra Feinstein-Gamm Theatre, the morbid insights of Fyodor Dostoyevsky's "Crime and Punishment" (through Oct. 16) are on full histrionic display.

At Trinity, Acting Artistic Director Amanda Dehnert and set designer Eugene Lee let no moment of camp go unnoticed. Based on Dickens' last, unfinished novel, the show moved like, well, the dickens, as Dehnert had 14 performers driving and dancing relentlessly. The bodacious production used every nook and cranny of Trinity's huge upstairs space, in which Lee placed performing platforms where no stage had gone before.

An actor's director, Dehnert let the theatre's veterans and some newcomers play to their hearts' content. Anne Scurria (now moving to the Public Theater in New York) roared through the land of Princess Puffer, while Rachael Warren played the pants role of Edwin Drood as if sex differences never mattered.

The problem was that this musical (which won the Tony Award for best musical in 1986) today seems overly campy, too much of a deliberately foolish thing. So, despite the company's drive, the evening all too often lapsed into a mystery as to how "Drood" won that Tony.

At the Gamm, the adaptation by Marilyn Campbell and Curt Columbus proved to be 90 intermissionless minutes of suffering and intimidation, but not on the audience's part. Held over an additional week, director Peter Sampieri's production was riveting most of the time as the antihero Raskolnikov made his way from hell to hell.

In fact, the audience seemed to be the only ones putting on the brakes, finding occasional unintended humor in Anthony Estrella's performance as Raskolnikov. Estrella was aided greatly by Casey Seymour Kim's confounding and comforting prostitute and Richard Donelly's sympathetic detective.

On another front, Trinity opened its third stage in a former downtown bank building. However, a money shortage means that the original plan for productions by small and often local companies has been curtailed. The space will now mostly be used by Trinity's new graduate program, which is run in conjunction with Brown University.

-- Bill Gale

Cincinnati/Louisville /Indianapolis

The Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park is generally a venue more for plays than musicals, but it launched its 2005-06 season with two tuneful productions. The first, a raucous, energetic version of "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum" (closed Oct. 7), directed by Producing Artistic Director Ed Stern, featured Bob Walton as Pseudolus. Local audiences loved it, and it's likely to do well in St. Louis, where it heads next (as an October-November co-production with the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis).

A second co-production opened the Playhouse's Shelterhouse Theatre season: Randal Myler's "Love, Janis," which arrives after a late-summer four-week run at Actors Theatre of Louisville. Myler directed his script, which divides the rock singer into two roles: An introspective, private Janis (Morgan Hallett) voices personal letters to her family, while a public, performing Janis sings and portrays Joplin's stage persona (in alternating performances played by Katrina Chester, reprising her role from the Village Theatre production in New York, and Lauren Dragon). Frequently both personas share the stage, watching, encouraging, commiserating, comforting, even finishing one another's sentences. None of the actors physically impersonate Joplin, but each captures dimensions of who she was.

Hallett is engaging in the private role, although perhaps too breathless. The singers offer divergent but equally satisfying musical re-creations of Joplin: Chester captures her no-holds-barred performing style, especially her unrestrained singing; Dragon does less acting but is a singer of greater breadth, performing the show's 18 songs in the keys Joplin originally used. She also personifies the singer's musical grit and passion in a breathtaking way.

Actors Theatre of Louisville is currently offering Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night" (through Oct. 15), while the Cincinnati Playhouse next stages Tennessee Williams' "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" (Oct. 18-Nov. 18). Elsewhere, the Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati opened with a strong production of Lynn Nottage's "Intimate Apparel" (closed Sept. 25), while the Cincinnati Shakespeare Festival presented a satisfying revival of Thornton Wilder's "Our Town" (closed Oct. 9). In Indianapolis, the Phoenix Theatre's production of the irreverent musical "Urinetown" has proved to be so popular that its five-week run has been extended through Oct. 23.

-- Rick Pender

Utah

The fall season of Cedar City's Utah Shakespearean Festival (Sept. 22-Oct. 29) is quite ambitious. Ironically, the weakest of the three productions is Shakespeare's "All's Well That Ends Well," directed by J.R. Sullivan. Clearly a problem comedy, USF compounds the problems through its casting: Ted Deasy and Gina Daniels generate few sparks as Bertram and Helena. Other members of the cast shine, however, especially Chris Mixon as Parolles. Faring better is an enjoyable "Pippin," with Kevin Massey in the title role; director-choreographer Marc Robin has reimagined the Roger O. Hirson-Stephen Schwartz musical as a magic show, which works quite well. Also meriting raves is a quite funny production of Larry Shue's "The Foreigner," directed by Paul Barnes, with Chris Mixon shining again, now as the foreigner, Charlie.

Back up north, the Salt Lake Acting Company leads off its fall season with a stunningly funny "Swimming in the Shallows" (through Oct. 16), directed by David Mong. Playwright Adam Bock claims not to be "thrilled with the way the world is," so he writes the one he would like to have. And that world in "Swimming" shows six people in various stages (or forms) of love, including one who has fallen for a particularly clever shark. The play is peopled with SLAC regulars, except for Christopher Glade, who plays the walking, talking (former Avon lady) shark.

Pygmalion Productions started its three-play season with David Lindsay-Abaire's wacky "Wonder of the World" (Oct. 7-29) at the Rose Wagner Studio Theatre. This absurd play is a send-up of both relationships and Niagara Falls tourists. Directed by Fran Pruyn, the production features Stephanie Howell as Cass, Betsy West as Lois, and Vicky Pugmire as Barbara and a host of other characters. Nancy Roth, the play's producer, is Karla, one of the detectives searching for the runaway Cass.

Pioneer Theatre Company's fall season began with a splash: Mary Zimmerman's marvelously inventive "Metamorphoses" (closed Oct. 1). Zimmerman's Tony Award-winning adaptation of Ovid's poem gives life to 10 mythic stories that were fully realized on the Pioneer stage. Director Charles Morey was almost upstaged by designer George Maxwell's gorgeous set: a central two-tiered pool surrounded by Greek columns against a blue background. All the action was overseen by the gods from the balcony above the main set. From Paolo Andino as Orpheus to Kasey Mahaffy as Phaeton, the 10 cast members were adept and versatile as many characters. "Metamorphoses" has been the highlight of the Utah fall theatre season.

-- Claudia Harris

Arizona

The new theatre season includes the premiere of Jon Jory's latest work and a disappointing offering from the state's largest dinner theatre just when it will soon be facing its first true competition.

Arizona Theatre Company asked Jory to helm his adaptation of Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice." He has an innate ability to understand theatrical through-lines, character arcs, and interactions while remaining true to the power of an author's words. Jory has cleverly crafted a narrative structure in which everyone moves the plot forward with description and commentary; he has also shrunk the novel's regiment of characters to a core of 25, performed by 14 actors, while doing everything he can to remain true to Austen's prose, which is why this evening is a treat. Said Jory, "What I'm most proud of is that 97 percent of the words are Jane Austen's." The performances are as tight as the text and direction. Julia Dion is thoroughly engaging as Elizabeth, and Anthony Marble is very funny in presenting the morose aspects of Darcy. This will be ATC's first three-city offering: After customary runs in Tucson (closed Oct. 1) and Phoenix (through Oct. 23), it will travel to Mesa and the newly christened Mesa Arts Center (Oct. 28-Nov. 6).

Mesa's Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre opens its season not so much with a flourish but a halfhearted wave in its presentation of Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe's "Camelot" (through Nov. 12). The evening's first dip comes from Michael Haws, who makes an atrocious attempt at being a giggly, unnerved King Arthur. Things get hopeful when beautiful and velvet-voiced Julie Andrews clone Jennifer Davis-Johnson takes the stage as Guenevere and sweetly sings, but then Haws returns to spoil the moment. It isn't until later, when he is asked to be more kingly, that Haws becomes engaging. Director M. Seth Reines has gone for the obvious with his staging. The theatre will most likely rebound with a much stronger, more consistent production soon, but the timing couldn't be worse, as an upstart dinner theatre, Arizona Broadway Theatre, will launch in November with a splashy version of "Anything Goes."

-- Mark S.P. Turvin

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