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Highlights: Northern Stage looks at the bleak side of the internet

  • Young Vic / Portobello production of THE MAGIC FLUTE Directed by Mark Dornford-May Courtesy photograph

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 10/16/2019 10:00:26 PM
Modified: 10/16/2019 10:18:13 PM

The web of online networks plays the unseen fifth character in Jordan, a very dark comedy by Dartmouth College graduate Brenda Withers that opens this week at Northern Stage.

Specifically, the play explores the pros and cons of social media and email, the networks that can lead to connection as well as to misunderstanding and malfeasance. Protagonist Lara, who runs afoul of a former, a current and a potential romantic partner after an apparent hacking, is a composite of a variety of women’s experiences, Withers said last week, including her own.

“What people go through with identity theft, it’s like a Kafka short story,” Withers said between rehearsals. “It’s a nightmare.” The play seemed to be the most compelling way to work through these thorny issues, she said.

For Withers, a network of the more old-fashioned, face-to-face variety led to the play’s production in White River Junction. Dartmouth’s Neukom Institute for Computational Science named Jordan a finalist in its 2018 playwright contest, which brought it to the attention of Carol Dunne, a Dartmouth theater professor and Northern Stage’s artistic director.

“Carol had read the play and really loved it, and she gave it to me right away when I started working at Northern Stage last September,” said Dunne’s deputy, Jess Chayes, who is directing the production. “It turned out that I had directed Brenda five or so years ago at the New Georges Theater in New York.”

In Primal Play, Withers portrayed a character with no discernable interest in social media

“I played a chimpanzee,” Withers said with a laugh. “It was a formative experience.”

While she has taken other roles since then, Withers has found herself in recent years leaning more toward writing, a calling she first considered while majoring in drama and religion at Dartmouth College in the late 1990s.

“I got to meet August Wilson when he came to campus, which was amazing,” Withers recalled. “I learned about playwrights like Caryl Churchill and Tom Stoppard, and got really interested in collaborative theater.”

The collaboration with Northern Stage began last fall, when Chayes and Dunne worked with Withers on Jordan. Subsequent visits included a workshop with the four actors in the cast for this production, including, as Lara, Danielle Slavick, who last appeared at Northern Stage in 2017 in Last of the Red Hot Lovers.

“Their encouragement, their attraction to the script, encouraged me to keep working on it,” Withers said of Chayes and Dunne. “The interest they showed and the questions they had were so empowering.”

In Jordan, Chayes saw issues that transcend the digital universe.

“I loved that it felt like it was simultaneously a play about the internet — kind of a Brave New World of modern technology — and it also felt like it was about how we treat women, especially women who are victimized. It’s less a #MeToo thing than an examination of the unrealistic expectations we have of women, still, and of the questioning of their motives.”

Northern Stage opens its production of Jordan this week, with preview performances Thursday and Friday nights at Barrette Center for the Arts in White River Junction. Officially opens Saturday night, runs through Nov. 3. Tickets $17.75 to $32.75 for previews, $17.75 to $57.75 starting Saturday night.

Best bets

Upper Valley midwife Katherine Bramhall stages Blood, Sweat, Baby, and Life After Orgasm, a one-woman play based on her experiences, on Thursday night at 7 at Lebanon Opera House. For tickets ($28) and more information, visit or call 603-448-0400. Proceeds benefit the Gentle Landing Midwifery and Birth Center, which Bramhall co-founded and opened in Lebanon in 2018.

■South Newbury, Vt., fiddler Patrick Ross joins performance artist Rusty “The Logger” DeWees for a bubbling stew of music and comedy on Saturday night at 7:30, at Court Street Arts’ Alumni Hall in Haverhill. For tickets ($22) and more information, visit or call 603-989-5500.

■Pianist Carla Bley performs with Dartmouth College’s Barbary Coast Jazz Ensemble on Saturday night at 7:30, in the Hopkins Center’s Spaulding Auditorium. For tickets ($20 to $40) and more information, visit or call 603-646-2422.

■ Nitty Gritty Dirt Band co-founder John McEuen leads The String Wizards into Randolph’s Chandler Music Hall on Saturday night at 7:30, to perform a concert of roots music on the theme of “Will the Circle Be Unbroken?” For tickets ($10 to $34) and more information, visit or call 802-728-6464.

■The Isango Ensemble weaves South African storytelling and dance into Mozart’s The Magic Flute, during performances of the opera Impempe Yomlingo on Tuesday and Wednesday nights at 7:30, at Dartmouth College’s Spaulding Auditorium. For tickets ($20 to $50) and more information, visit or call 603-646-2422.

Theater/performance art

Esai’s Table, magical-realist journey of discovery for three young black men, Thursday night through Oct. 26 at the Briggs Opera House in White River Junction. For tickets ($35) and more information, visit jagproductionsvt.come/esaistable.

Kalamazoo, second-time-around romantic comedy, Shaker Bridge Theatre production, performances Thursday night through Sunday at Whitney Hall in Enfield. Admission $16 to $28.

Forever Plaid, musical homage to hits and culture of 1950s and 1960s, Thursday night through Oct. 26 at Grange Theatre in South Pomfret. Tickets $28 to $32.


Celtic string duo Lindsay Straw and Jordan Santiago, Friday night at 7 at Sunapee Community CoffeeHouse. Admission by donation.

■Hammond B-3 organ master Melvin Seals, Friday night at 7:30 at Lebanon Opera House. Tickets $35.

■Wes Urbaniak and the Mountain Folk, roots/Americana, Friday night at 7:30 in Upper Gallery of Chandler Center for the Arts in Randolph. Admission by donation.

■Rev. Sekou and the Seal Breakers, blues and soul, Friday night at 8 at The Engine Room in White River Junction. Proceeds of $25 admission benefit the Center for Transformational Practice.

■Bradford Bog People, Saturday morning and afternoon at Norwich Farmers Market.

■Fifth Business, Celtic, Corinth Coffeehouse, Saturday night at 7 at Corinth Town Hall. Admission by donation to Growing Peace Project.

■Yves Lambert Trio, Quebecois, Saturday night at 7:30 at Chandler Music Hall in Randolph. Admission $20.

■Country gospel sing, Sunday afternoon at 3 at Beaver Meadow Chapel in Norwich. Admission is by donation.

■Tenor Phil Crowell and pianist David Thron, works of Schumann, Berlioz, and Robert MacGimsey, Sunday afternoon at 4 at Dartmouth College’s Faulkner Recital Hall. Free.

■Pink Martini and singer China Forbes, cabaret, Latin and Brazilian and classic-movie music, Monday night at 7 at St. Johnsbury Academy’s Fuller Hall in East St. Johnsbury. Admission $15 to $58. Visit or call 802-748-2600.

■Jazz singer Veronica Swift, Sunday night at 7 at First Congregational Church of Lebanon, as part of On Location series of Lebanon Opera House. Tickets $30.

Bar and club circuit

Mad Hazard Band, jazz, bossa nova and blues, Thursday night at 5:30 at the Quechee Club’s Davidson’s Restaurant.

■The Road Home, roots-Americana, Thursday night at 6 at Peyton Place restaurant in Orford.

■Oxford & Clark, folk/Americana, Friday night at 8 at Skunk Hollow Tavern in Hartland.

■Rich Thomas, rock, Friday night at 8 at Salt hill Pub in West Lebanon; The Big A Show, rock, 8 p.m. Saturday.

■Guitarist Ted Mortimer, Friday night at 9 at Salt hill Pub in Hanover; Better Days, classic-rock covers, Saturday night at 9.

■Conniption Fits, rock, Friday night at 9 at Salt hill Pub in Lebanon; Toby Moore, acoustic rock, Saturday night at 9.

■Plush Foot, funky rock, Friday night at 9 at Salt hill Pub in Newport.

■ Royalton singer-songwriter Alison “AliT” Turner, Friday night at 9 at Margarita’s restaurant in Lebanon, and Tuesday night at 6 at Windsor Station.

■ Jes Raymond and Jakob Breitbach, folk/roots, Sunday night at 5 at Harpoon Brewery in Windsor.

■Bud “Kind Bud” Johnson, folk-rock, Tuesday night from 5:30 to 8:30 at Upper Pass Brewery in South Royalton.

Open mics, jam sessions

Alec Currier’s open-mic at Salt hill Pub in Lebanon, Thursday nights at 8.

■Monthly all-comers jam for Celtic, French-Canadian, Cape Breton, Scandinavian and old-timey musicians, Sunday afternoon and evening from 4 to 9 at Seven Stars Arts Center in Sharon.

■Joseph Stallsmith’s hootenanny of Americana, folk and bluegrass, Monday nights at 6 at Salt hill Pub in Hanover.

Jim Yeager, open-mic Tuesday night at 6 at The Public House Pub in Quechee.

■Tom Masterson’s open mic, Tuesday nights at 7 at Colatina Exit.

■Fiddler Jakob Breitbach hosts jam sessions at two White River Junction venues over the coming week: jazz on Thursday night at 6 at Hotel Coolidge’s Cafe Renee; and weekly acoustic mix of bluegrass, Americana and old-timey music on Tuesday night at 7 at Filling Station Bar and Grill.

■Peter Meijer’s open mic, Wednesday nights at 8 at Skunk Hollow Tavern.

Looking ahead

Guy Davis sings and plays folk and blues next Thursday night at 8 at the Flying Goose Brew Pub and Grille in New London. To reserve tickets ($25), call 603-526-6899.

David Corriveau can be reached at or 603-727-3304. Send announcements of up coming live performances to

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