A mother and son struggle to break down emotional walls in the world premiere musical, Convenience, finding a fall home at Geva Theatre's Nextstage in Rochester, NY.
Previews for the new work, written and composed by Geva Theatre associate artist Gregg Coffin, began Nov. 7, with an official opening slated for Nov. 10. Performances continue to Dec. 3.
During a visit to his mother's, Vince (Jim Poulos, a recent Mark in Broadway's Rent) harbors a secret, but so does mom (Mary Jo McConnell). Turns out, he's got a boyfriend and she's got plans to remarry. They learn from their past selves and their future partners which way they should turn. The five-actor piece, directed by Geva artistic director Mark Cuddy, is described as "nearly completely sung-through." The company includes Melissa Rain Anderson (of the Encores! Babes in Arms) as Young Liz (the mom) and Ron DeStefano plays Young Vince and Ethan. Michael Dantuono plays Abe.
Convenience was first presented in a concert reading during Geva's 1999 Hibernatus Interruptus: A Winter Festival of New Plays. The piece was originally a two-actor work, and has now been expanded. Excerpts from the show were seen in September 2000 as part of the National Alliance of Musical Theatre Festival in Manhattan.
The mission of Nextstage is to offer newer, riskier Off Broadway-style works that will develop new audiences for the nonprofit resident theatre in Rochester. The 180-seat Nextstage space offers shows January-December, and is a more informal atmosphere (the design scheme is multicolored, there are cup holders in the seats) compared to the 552-seat Geva mainstage. In 2000, the first year of Nextstage, Stop Kiss and Women Who Steal have been offered.
Convenience musical director is Michael Gribbin. Designers are Louisa Thompson (scenic and costume), Rob Perry (lighting) and Lindsay Jones (sound).
Lyricist-librettist-composer Coffin is an actor and writer whose Geva credits include Algernon in The Importance of Being Earnest, Dvornichek in Rough Crossing and more. He has designed sound and composed music for productions of The Comedy of Errors, To Kill a Mockingbird, Golf With Alan Shepard and more. His music has been heard at regional theatres throughout North America.
In program notes for the show, Coffin writes, "A while ago now I talked to my sister-in-law over the phone about my (then) new niece, Zoe. She was up and crawling, but only backward, as I soon found out babies do when they first start moving. It takes a lot for a kid to figure out how to get her hind legs up and under her, so that she can move towards what she wants rather than always away from it. I thought about that for a long time. How many times during the life of a child does a parent watch and wait for a child to find a way to crawl forward? And then the music started happening. Convenience is not only the story of a mother and her son finding a way to crawl forward; it is metaphorically my crawling forward too. Up till now I've held two careers hand in hand: an actor and a composer of incidental music for straight plays."
Convenience tickets are $19 and admission is general seating. The play contains adult themes and is recommended for children over 16. For information, call (716) 454-NEXT or visit the web site at www.thenextstage.org.
— By Kenneth Jones