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Highlights: Northern Stage Actors Find Two Plays Are Easy After ‘Noises Off!’

  • Susan Haefner and David Mason rehearse their lead roles in "Dear Elizabeth" on Sept. 28, 2018 in White River Junction, Vt., at Northern Stage. Both actors are also in "Oslo." (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Susan Haefner and David Mason rehearse their lead roles in "Dear Elizabeth" on Sept. 28, 2018 in White River Junction, Vt., at Northern Stage. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Detroit-based Sphinx Virtuosi will play a mix of classical and jazz music on the theme of “Music Without Borders” on Tuesday night at Dartmouth College’s Spaulding Auditorium.



Valley News Staff Writer
Thursday, October 04, 2018

For their next high-wire act, Susan Haefner and David Mason will spend two weeks navigating lead roles in two alternating plays for Northern Stage.

Yet the veteran performers didn’t look or sound worried the other day, during a break in rehearsals for tonight’s opening preview of the epistolary drama Dear Elizabeth at the Barrette Center for the Arts in White River Junction.

“Two words,” Mason said. “Noises Off!

In that comedy, which Northern Stage presented last spring, Mason, Haefner and a nimble ensemble shuttled between roles as actors in a failing theater company, each with a soap-operatic life offstage, and as the characters those actors portray in yet another farce. Mason in particular seamlessly juggled his “real” character’s tortured love life with his onstage character’s bumbling attempt to maintain an illicit relationship.

“I will never encounter a play at difficult as that one,” said Mason, who with Haefner returns to the complicated docudrama Oslo on Saturday. “Every time I think this process is tough, I just have to remember, ‘It’s not Noises Off!’ You were working on multiple levels both in your mind and in space. Multiple doors, literal and figurative.”

“This is nothing,” Haefner concurred, referring to Dear Elizabeth and Oslo. “Whatever.”

Northern Stage artistic director Carol Dunne and Peter Hackett, who directed Noises Off! and is helming Oslo, didn’t even wait to see how Mason and Haefner would manage the comedy in front of audiences.

“On opening night of Noises, they said, ‘We’d love you to play Larsen,” Mason said of the behind-the-scenes Norwegian diplomat who cajoled Israeli and Palestinian negotiators into the 1993 peace accord. “I wondered, ‘Where did they see Larsen in that?’ But I’m so grateful that they did.”

Haefner and Mason are equally grateful that on nights away from Oslo, they’ll be channeling mid-20th-century poets Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell in Dear Elizabeth.

“The pace of each play is so different,” Mason said. “We’re reading letters to each other. There’s some movement, but a lot of it (is) sitting at a desk, and a little bit of dancing. It’s mellow.”

Oslo, by contrast, includes sudden shifts in time and occasional turns to address the audience directly, particularly on the part of Haefner as Larsen’s equally cunning wife, diplomat Mona Juul.

“It’s fun to do a thriller and a love story,” said Haefner, who lives in Weston, Vt., and has appeared in and directed plays at Shaker Bridge Theatre and the New London Barn Playhouse as well as Northern Stage for more than a decade. “It’s wonderful to exercise all of our tools.”

Even if it’s only for two weeks, at the end of which Dunne will take over the Bishop role and Thom Miller will become Lowell.

“It’s kind of thrilling,” Mason said. “It’s why we do this. I wouldn’t have said ‘yes’ to it if I didn’t think it was rewarding.”

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Northern Stage opens its production of Dear Elizabeth with preview performances at 7:30 tonight and Friday night and at 2 on Saturday afternoon at the Barrette Center for the Arts in White River Junction. The play opens officially on Saturday night at 7:30, and runs through Oct. 28. The staging of Oslo resumes on Sunday afternoon at 5, and will continue alternating in repertory with Dear Elizabeth through Oct. 21. For tickets to and information about these and subsequent Northern Stage productions, visit northernstage.org or call 802-296-7000.

Best Bets

Burlington-based stand-up artist Tina Friml, who reigns as Vermont’s Funniest Comedian for her observations about navigating life with cerebral palsy, returns to the Engine Room in White River Junction tonight at 8, as headliner of the monthly parade of joke slingers. Admission is $5 to $10.

■The Starline Rhythm Boys play a rock-a-billy beat for the swing dance that the ArtisTree Community Arts Center is hosting at the Suicide Six ski area in South Pomfret on Friday night at 7:30. For tickets ($20 a person, $35 per couple) and more information, visit artistreevt.org or call 802-457-3500.

■Cellist Matt Haimovitz strings Bach’s six Suites for Unaccompanied Cello across four venues around Randolph village over the weekend, starting with free performances on Saturday at the Kimball Public Library at noon and at the Randolph firehouse at 3.

On Saturday night at 7:30 in the Upper Gallery of the Chandler Center for the Arts, Haimovitz plays during a wine- and dessert-tasting reception, proceeds from which benefit the Chandler’s classical-music programming and education initiatives. Donations of at least $50 are recommended.

Haimovitz wraps his tour on Sunday afternoon at 3, with a recital of Bach’s works at the Chandler Music Hall. Tickets to the Sunday performance cost $15 for students, while adult admission is $42 in advance and $45 at the door. To reserve seats and learn more, visit chandler-arts.org or call 802-728-6464.

<sbull value="sbull"><sqbull xmlns="urn:schemas-teradp-com:gn4tera"></sqbull></sbull>On the theme of “Music Without Borders,” the Detroit-based Sphinx Virtuosi ensemble of African- and Latino-American musicians plays a mix of classical and jazz at Dartmouth College’s Spaulding Auditorium on Tuesday night at 7. For tickets ($18 to $30) and more information, visit hop.dartmouth.edu or call 603-646-2422.

■About Gladys plays rock, Dylan Tenney performs magic and the Cirque Delight troupe fire dances during the fifth annual August Moon Festival in downtown Windsor on Saturday from 4 to 9 p.m. Other attractions include animals from the Discovery Wildlife Center and a fireworks display at night’s end. Admission is free.

■DJs moKAb22, ShaR4 and Camilo play electronic dance music for the Red Dress Party at the Engine Room in White River Junction on Saturday night from 9 to midnight. Admission is $5, plus an item of non-perishable food for donation to the Upper Valley Haven.

■Pianist-composer Malek Jandali performs on the village green in Woodstock on Sunday afternoon, to benefit the Pianos for Peace program supporting music education for needy players. Thirteen-year-old Woodstock pianist William Drebitko opens the concert at 4. To reserve tickets ($25), visit artistreevt.org. To learn more about the music program, visit pianosforpeace.org.

■Singer-songwriter Youssra El Hawary plays music of Egyptian and Mediterranean origins, with a dash of French influence, at two Upper Valley venues over the coming week and a half. The multi-instrumentalist appears first at the West Claremont Center for Music and the Arts on Monday night at 6:30. Admission is by donation of $20 to $30. To reserve seats and learn more, visit wcc-ma.org.

El Hawary also will perform at the First Congregational Church of Lebanon on Oct. 12. For tickets ($8.50 to $18.50) and more information, visit lebanonoperahouse.org or call 603-448-0400.

Looking Ahead

The Hot Tuna duo of Jefferson Airplane alumni Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Cassidy will play the Chandler Music Hall next Thursday night at 7:30. For tickets ($40 to $85) and more information, visit chandler-arts.org or call 802-728-6464.

■Baritone Daniel Belcher and soprano Amy Owens kick off the Dartmouth College Opera Lab’s celebration of Leonard Bernstein’s 100th birthday next Thursday night, by performing at the Top of the Hop with the Dartmouth Glee Club and the Hanover High School Footnotes. Admission is free to the cabaret-style collaboration mixing Bernstein’s operatic, oratorio and musical-theater compositions. To learn more, visit hop.dartmouth.edu/.

Theater/Performance Art

The ArtisTree Music Theatre Festival opens its final production of the season tonight at 7:30, with a preview of Suds: The Rocking ’60s Musical Soap Opera at the Grange Theatre in South Pomfret. The play runs 14 more times, the last on Oct. 20. To reserve tickets ($18 to $25 for the preview, $28 to $35 for all other shows) and learn more, visit artistreevt.org or call 802-457-3500.

■The Parish Players stage Duncan Nichols’ time-traveling drama Silvia and Mary at Sea eight times, starting next Thursday night at 7:30 and running through Oct. 21, at the Eclipse Grange on Thetford Hill. For tickets ($12 to $15) and more information, visit parishplayers.org or call 802-785-4344.

■Shaker Bridge Theatre opens its production of John Patrick Shanley’s Tony Award-winning romantic comedy Outside Mullingar next Thursday night at 7:30, at Whitney Hall in downtown Enfield. The play runs through Oct. 28, with 7:30 performances on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights and 2:30 matinees on Sunday afternoons. For tickets ($16 to $35) and more information, visit shakerbridgetheatre.org or call 603-448-3750.

Music

The all-woman folk trio Lula Wiles serenades the weekly Feast and Field Market in Barnard this evening starting at 5:30.

■Arturo O’Farrill leads his Grammy-winning Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra into Dartmouth College’s Spaulding Auditorium on Friday night at 8. For tickets ($17 to $50) and more information, visit hop.dartmouth.edu or call 603-646-2422.

■Folk and rock musicians provide the soundtrack to the 16th annual pumpkin festival at Cedar Circle Farm in East Thetford on Sunday. Rose Hip Jam plays on the main stage between 10:15 a.m. and 12:45 p.m., and in the Circle of Cedars Enchanted Forest, Putney, Vt.-based multi-instrumentalist Stephen Coronella tells stories between folk songs during sets that start at 12:30 and 1:45. After lunch, southern Vermont’s Wyld Nights Band plays classic from the main stage between 1 and 3. Admission is by donation to cover the cost of parking. To learn more, visit cedarcirclefarm.org.

■Hartland’s Jay Nash and Stockbridge’s Bow Thayer perform their own and their favorite Americana music at the Barnard Inn on Sunday night from 6 to 11. Admission is $25.

Film

The Center at Eastman in Grantham screens Buster Keaton’s 1925 silent comedy Seven Chances in the Dunbar Room on Wednesday night, with pianist Jeff Rapsis playing the accompanying music. Before the main feature, the center will show one of Keaton’s short films at 7:30. Admission is free.

Bar and Club Circuit

Whiskey Geese plays a set of Americana at Peyton Place Restaurant in Orford tonight at 6.

■The Tunbridge-based roots quintet Wool pulls into Windsor Station tonight at 7. The Medicine Tribe plays rock, funk, blues and bluegrass there at 9 on Friday night, the Party Crashers perform on Saturday night at 9, and Johnny O appears on Tuesday night at 7.

■Slide-guitar master John Emil Montagnino plays the weekly Sunapee Community CoffeeHouse on Friday night at 7, at the Methodist church in Sunapee Harbor. Admission is by donation.

■The SIRSY folk duo of Melanie Krahmer and Richard Libutti appears at the Taverne on the Square in Claremont on Friday night at 8.

■Saxophonist Mike Parker and singer-guitarist Alison “AliT” Turner perform at Salt hill Pub in West Lebanon on Friday night at 8, and at the Crossroads Bar and Grill in South Royalton on Saturday night at 8:30 (with bassist Skip Truman and drummer Kira Kelley) and on Tuesday night at 6.

■Bassist Peter Concilio, pianist Sonny Saul, saxophonist Ian Golub and drummer Tim Gilmore play jazz at the Skunk Hollow Tavern in Hartland Four Corners on Friday night at 8.

■The Baldilocks trio rocks the Salt hill Pub in downtown Lebanon on Friday night at 9.

■Singer-songwriter Jim Hollis plays Beatles-inspired pop and rock at the Salt hill Pub in Hanover on Friday night at 9.

■Pianist Sonny Saul plays jazz at the On the River Inn in Woodstock on Saturday and Wednesday nights from 6:30 to 9.

■Guitarist Billy Rosen, organist Norm Yanofsky and trumpeter Jody Henderson perform a jam of jazz at the Skinny Pancake in Hanover on Saturday night at 7:30, and at the Gallery on the Green in Woodstock village on Sunday afternoon at 1.

■Saxophonist Michael Parker and guitarist Norm Wolfe play jazz at the Quechee Inn at Marshland Farm on Wednesday night starting at 7.

Open Mics

String players of all ages and abilities are welcome at the weekly acoustic jam session at South Royalton’s BALE Commons on Friday night from 6:30 to 10.

■Joe Stallsmith leads his weekly hootenanny of Americana, folk and bluegrass on Monday night at 6 at Salt hill Pub in Hanover.

■Fiddler Jakob Breitbach leads a weekly acoustic jam session of bluegrass, Americana and old-timey music on Tuesday nights at 7 at The Filling Station Bar and Grill in White River Junction.

■Tom Masterson hosts the weekly open mic at Colatina Exit in Bradford, Vt., on Tuesday nights at 8.

■Woodstock musician Jim Yeager hosts open mics on Wednesday night at 8 at the Skunk Hollow Tavern in Hartland Four Corners.

David Corriveau can be reached at dcorriveau@vnews.com and at 603-727-3304. Entertainment-related news and announcements also can be sent to highlights@vnews.com.