Cut To: A Different Side Of Walt Disney In Lucas Hnath Play
The show: "A Public Reading of an Unproduced Screenplay About the Death of Walt Disney" by Lucas Hnath
What makes it special: Four-character work is by hot playwright who wrote "A Doll's House, Part Two," the Tiny Award-nominated script that was on Broadway last season. The play premiered four years ago at NYC's Soho Rep.
What's it about?: The play -- in which a quartet of actors playing Disney, his brother Roy, his daughter and son-in-law -- is the latest from the New Haven Theatre Company. The characters sit at tables and "read" from what is presumed to be a screenplay that features the four of them at various stages near the end of Disney's life. And wow, what a piece of work is Disney here, as he pops pills, swills vodka and berates his family and anyone who stands in his way of his "vision." It's the comical dark side of Disney: a foul-mouth, egocentric, despot/paterfamilias capable of being one of his own iconic animated villains
Whats the New Haven Theatre Company?: It's my first visit to the company which has been producing shows on a shoe-string for several years -- and very well from what I heard. I always admired its curatorial eye that is smart, intriguing and eclectic, finding properties that are just right for its limits and providing an alternative to the area's rich theater scene. Previous works range from Will Eno's "Middltown," to Nick Jones' "Trevor," Eric Bogosian's "Talk Radio," David Mamet's "Speed the Plow" and William Inge's "Bus Stop." and Im sorry I missed them, now,
And the show? The quality of acting is solid and the pacing ,by director Drew Gray, is as brisk as Disney's ever-whirling mind. Might I add that it's kind of cool to see such an interesting work in a great raw space that is the back section of the Old English Building ar 838 Chapel St., between Church and State Streets in downtown New Haven. It has that "downtown" feel that alternative , non-mainstream theaters share.
But the key here is the quality of execution of the always-captivating play which deals with Disney's last days. And whether its talking about his frightening grand vision for his city-of-the- future or Disney's Oscar-winning documentary (which featured lemmings jumping off a cliff -- which was totally fake) the end result is riveting.
Steve Scarpa as Roy Disney,, Melissa Smith as Walt's daughter, Trevor Williams as her husband and especially J. Kevin Smith do justice to Hnath;'s wild ride of a rather chilling script,.
The basics: The show, which is a one act and runs about an hour or less, plays through Saturday and then again Nov. 15 to 18, Information at www.newhaventheatercompany.com
Quick takeaway: After seeing "....Walt Disney..." I look forward to what else this group has in store for audiences. The New Haven Theatre Company is a welcome addition -- and smartly-produced alternative -- to the theater scene in Connecticut. Upcoming shows include Harold Pinter's "The Dumb Waiter" to be presented sometime this winter and Neil Simon's "Rumors" set for the spring of 2018 (and, as I recall, the play had its world premiere at New Haven's Shubert Theatre, one of the last gasps of the out-of-town tryout circuit that often began with a run at the Shubert.)