Category Archives: Uncategorized

A grand time all together!  Join us for a special St. Patrick’s Celebration on Sunday, March 15th at 2:00pm at the Centerbrook Meeting House.  Come and hear voices, Cello, Guitar, Piano, Uilleann Pipes and Bodhran all melting together to create one beautiful concert.

Michael McDermott, Kathleen Mulready and friends will be singing beloved Irish songs such as:

That’s An Irish Lullaby
Danny Boy
When Irish Eyes Are Smiling
The Rose Of Tralee
Will Ye Go Lassie
She Moved Through The Fair
Believe Me If All Those Endearing Young Charms
The Wild Rover

Also, a new piece written by Celeste’s Grammy nominated Harpist friend Deborah Henson Conant titled “The Nightingale” will also be performed.   Andrew Nelson will be playing the authentic Uilleann Pipes and Bohdran Drum.  Duets like “Fields of Athenry” and “Fields of Gold” will be performed as well.  A W.B. Yeats Poem will be sung in honor of his 150th Birthday this year in Ireland!

Michael will also be telling stories and providing a bit of history about the Irish – particularly in how they saved western civilization with a song titled “Skellig” – a nice connection with St. Patrick’s Day.

Seating is limited and tickets are $30.  There will be light refreshments served after the concert – stay and meet the musicians!

Please call 860.767.9520 to reserve your name on the guest list.



Leave a comment

All tickets for all shows in our 2015 season now on sale.  Subscriptions for 7-plays and 5-plays are also on sale – 3-play passes, too!

Call or click to order your tickets.  Box office telephone:  860.767.7318 or follow this link to purchase tickets online 24/7.

Leave a comment

Our 2015 Season At A Glance



Join us in 2015!  Subscriptions now on sale!



Stand By Your Man
March 18th – April 5th, 2015
by Mark St. Germain

Relive the journey of country music legend, Tammy Wynette, from the cotton fields of Itawamba, Mississippi, to international superstardom, including the five husbands she stood by. Among the 26 songs are “D-I-V-O-R-C-E,” “Til I Can Make It On My Own” and “Golden Ring.”


The Last Romance
April 22nd – May 10th, 2015
By Joe DiPietro

A crush can make anyone feel young again – even an 80 year old widower. This heartwarming comedy about the transformative power of love mixes heartbreak with humor and opera with laughter.


Calendar Girls  
June 3rd – June 21st, 2015
By Tim Firth

One of the best-selling plays in British theatre history is making its US premier. This dazzlingly funny and shamelessly sentimental story of the ladies of the Women’s Institute who pose au natural for a fundraising calendar is guaranteed to make you laugh, cry and walk out singing Jerusalem!


South Pacific
July 1st – July 26th, 2015
By Josh Logan, Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein

Who doesn’t love this extraordinary show that includes “Some Enchanted Evening”, “Younger Than Springtime”, “Bali Ha’i”, “There Is Nothin’ Like A Dame”, and “A Wonderful Guy”? But South Pacific is also a deeply felt drama. Its portrayal of Americans stationed in an alien culture in wartime is as relevant today as when it first thrilled audiences back in 1949.


August 5th – August 30th, 2015
by Joe Di Pietro and David Bryan

Memphis is set in the places where rock and roll was born in the 1950s: the seedy nightclubs, radio stations and recording studios of Memphis, TN. With an original score, it tells the fictional story of DJ Huey Calhoun, a good ole’ local boy with a passion for R&B music and Felicia Farrell, an up-and-coming black singer that he meets one fateful night on Beale Street. From the first notes of its electrifying opening number, right up to a rousing finale , Memphis delivers one energetic song after another. A rollicking new musical.


Little Shop of Horrors   
September 23rd – October 11th, 2015
by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman
The charming, tongue in cheek musical comedy of Seymour who stumbles across a new breed of plant he names “Audrey II” – after his coworker crush, has been devouring audiences for over 30 years. A deviously delicious Broadway and Hollywood sci-fi smash musical.


October 28th- November 15th, 2015
By Brent Hazelton

Liberace! is a moving and highly entertaining tribute to the performer and musician famous for his charm, glitz, and glamour. Liberace relives the highs (and lows) of his prolific life, with a rollicking piano score spanning classical and popular music from Chopin to “Chopsticks,” and Rachmaninoff to Ragtime.


Subscriptions on sale now!

We know that there are many places for you to choose to spend your time and money and we are so grateful that you choose to spend it in Ivoryton. Thank you for helping to keep award winning, professional theatre alive and well on the Connecticut Shoreline.  We are truly grateful to have you as part of our Ivoryton Playhouse family and we thank you for taking this opportunity to subscribe now for the 2015 season.

Our 2015 Season Subscription Brochure will be mailed late January 2015 but you can purchase 5-play or 7-play subscriptions now.  We have 3-play passes also available.  To download a booking form please click here:  2015 Subscription Price Renewal

Subscriptions cannot be purchased on line – please call Beverley at the Ivoryton Playhouse office to purchase subscriptions 860.767.9520 x 203

Leave a comment

Follow us on Pinterest for images from our latest productions including sets and costumes as well as historical pictures. Click on this link to go to Pinterest:

Want latest gossip, news and promotions?  Follow us on twitter:   @ivorytonplayhou

Check out our latest video clips on our own YouTube channel – find it by following this link

Be a friend, be a fan – click on this link to like us on facebook

Let’s get social!

Leave a comment


Ivoryton Playhouse Foundation Inc


OR access AmazonSmile through this link:


How does AmazonSmile work?
When first visiting AmazonSmile, customers are prompted to select a charitable organization from almost one million eligible organizations. In order to browse or shop at AmazonSmile, customers must first select a charitable organization. For eligible purchases at AmazonSmile, the AmazonSmile Foundation will donate 0.5% of the purchase price to the customer’s selected charitable organization.

How does my organization receive the donations?
Each quarter, the AmazonSmile Foundation makes donations to eligible charitable organizations by electronic funds transfer.

What is the AmazonSmile Foundation?
The AmazonSmile Foundation is a 501(c)(3) private foundation created by Amazon to administer the AmazonSmile program. All donation amounts generated by the AmazonSmile program are remitted to the AmazonSmile Foundation. In turn, the AmazonSmile Foundation donates those amounts to the charitable organizations selected by our customers. Amazon pays all expenses of the AmazonSmile Foundation; they are not deducted from the donation amounts generated by purchases on AmazonSmile.

Thank you for supporting the Ivoryton Playhouse through AmazonSmile!

Leave a comment

BONNIE GOLDBERG – Middletown Press

Comedian George Burns wanted to live to be age 100 and planned to perform in Las Vegas to mark the grand occasion.  Unfortunately a fall in the shower earlier on jinxed his goal, but he did live to be a century old, plus 49 days, 11 hours before going to the great beyond.

Rupert Holmes has crafted a delightful and poignant tribute to Burns and his wife and acting partner Gracie Allen in “Say Goodnight, Gracie” being offered for your enjoyment at the Ivoryton Playhouse until Sunday, November 16.

R. Bruce Connelly is wonderfully personable and charming as Burns, complete with thick rimmed glasses and trademark cigar, as he reveals and reviews his life. Born one of twelve siblings, the son of immigrants, living in a tenement in the Lower East Side of New York, he started out as Nathan Birnbaum.

The sudden death of his father, a Torah scholar, when he was only seven, set him off as the family breadwinner, selling newspapers, shining shoes and hauling ice.  It wasn’t long before the call of show business placed him on a permanent road, with “temporary” teamings with acts dancing, singing and even tending seals, as he tried to find the magic key to success.

That key finally came when a petite Irish beauty signed on to be his new partner, Grace Ethel Cecile Rosalie Allen.  Their collaboration led to marriage, a family and popularity in vaudeville, radio, film, television and books.  George and Gracie became household names for decades, until Gracie’s health forced her retirement.  No longer would he ask, “So, Gracie, how’s your brother?”

This gentle waltz of a play reveals many happy moments, with film clips, and a liberal stuffing of comical stories from the past.  Jack Benny pops in for his share of the humor as this love story is so sweetly told.  Michael McDermott directs this nostalgic visit with one of America’s most beloved stars of comedy.

For tickets ($42, seniors $37, students $20 children $15), call the Ivoryton Playhouse, 103 Main Street, Ivoryton at 860-767-7318 or online at  Performances are Wednesday at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.

Come meet the actor who played none other than God, not once, not twice, but three times and gave the world a host of heavenly performances, with his own personal angel, Gracie, on a cloud nearby.


Regional Reviews by Zander Opper

Say Goodnight, Gracie
Ivoryton Playhouse

Say Goodnight, Gracie, the blissful and touching one-man show written by Rupert Holmes, is currently enjoying a lovely revival at the Ivoryton Playhouse. The play chronicles the life of George Burns and, in particular, his relationship, both onstage and off, with his wife Gracie Allen. One of the reasons this production is so successful is the commanding and genial performance by R. Bruce Connelly as George Burns. I saw this actor do especially fine work earlier this season Ivoryton in All Shook Up and he is even stronger here, effortlessly carrying the evening and managing to evoke the singular talent that was George Burns.

Originally produced on Broadway in 2002 and starring Frank Gorshin, Say Goodnight, Gracie holds the title of being the third longest running solo show in Broadway history. It is easy to see why it carries this distinction. The initial conceit of the show is that, at the start, George Burns has been summoned before God and he has to recount his life before moving on to heaven. While this setup may sound a bit hokey, it works beautifully. Through the performance of R. Bruce Connelly, and aided by the use of old film clips of the real George Burns and Gracie Allen, the play flows smoothly, as it recounts the life of George Burns from his earliest days to the very end. It manages to maintain a poignant balance between humor and heartache.

While not exactly doing an impersonation of George Burns in his later years, Connelly still conjures up the actor through the use of speech inflections, horn-rimmed glasses, and, of course, the requisite cigar that the star always smoked. But his performance is much more than just superficial features: this actor summons up the spirit and personality of George Burns to the point that one almost forgets that it’s not the real star that we are seeing onstage. It also helps that Rupert Holmes has written a terrific play, and the work of director Michael McDermott and his marvelous scenic and costume designers (Daniel Nischan and Kari Crowther, respectively) is equally stellar.

During the course of Say Goodnight, Gracie we learn quite a lot about the lives of George Burns and Gracie Allen, and the play can both move one to tears without ever feeling mawkish, and also provide humor that is often laugh-out-loud funny without ever tarnishing the memory of these singular talents.

Speaking as someone who missed out on growing up with George and Gracie, on the radio or on television, the show works beautifully and proves to be a real delight, and I can highly a performance at the Ivoryton Playhouse, where you’ll fall under the spell of George Burns, as enacted by the brilliant R. Bruce Connelly.

Say Goodnight, Gracie continues performances at Ivoryton Playhouse in Ivoryton, Connecticut through November 16th, 2014. For tickets, please visit or call (860) 767-7318


One of Connecticut’s Best Portraying One of Hollywood’s Best
By Lauren Yarger

CONNECTICUT ARTS CONNECTION — An award-winning site for news and reviews of Connecticut’s professional theater and arts.

The actor I like to call a gem of Connecticut Theater takes on an entertainment icon when he plays George Burns in Say Goodnight, Gracie.

The one-man show, written by Rupert Holmes, and directed here by Michael McDermott, is a trip down memory lane with Burns, who finds himself “auditioning” for a place in heaven when he lands in a sort of purgatory where his life ( of 100 years) is a command performance for the Almighty.

Moving around on a stage set with a chair, a table and a movie screen where projections bring some of the past images to life, Burns recounts his life, beginning as a young Jewish boy in a New York tenement, delivering papers and singing songs to bring in a few pennies to help support his mother and 11 other siblings after his beloved father dies.

He lands many jobs in show business, but hits it big after teaming up with the love of his life, Gracie Allen. The script combines Burns’ recollections, intimate memories and radio and TV show clips to bring Gracie to life (Marcus Abbott is the lighting designer). Originally, Burns had scripted their routines with Gracie as the “straight man,” but quickly realized that the talented actress, with her trademark voice and dizzy delivery, was the one who would get all the laughs.

We also hear about Burns long-time friendship with Jack Benny and for his ability to make the comedian laugh. It is a nice blend of humor, nostalgia and fine stage craft.

Connelly channels Burns without trying to do an imitation (though he kind of looks like him, thanks to costuming by Kari Crowther). It’s a pleasure to sit back and watch a master at his craft.

Connelly has been a fixture on Connecticut stages for years, and in fact, played Burns in Say Goodnight, Gracie last year at Seven Angels Theatre in Waterbury. At Ivoryton, he recently appeared as Jim in the summer production All Shook Up, Barney Cashman in Last Of The Red Hot Lovers, Max Bialystock in The Producers, Felix Unger in The Odd Couple, Pseudolus in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, and Finian in Finian’s Rainbow.

If you don’t know him from Connecticut stage, you might have caught Connelly as Barkley, Jim Henson’s Muppet dog on “Sesame Street” for which he has been honored 15 times by the National Academy of Television and Radio at the Daytime Emmy Awards, according to a press release.

This Ivoryton production is a delightful wrap-up of the 2013-2014 season. The performance I attended was sold out, so get you tickets quick (and check out next season, which hasn’t been announced officially, but which will include the US premiere of Calendar Girls and the Tony-Award-winner Memphis, according to Artistic Director Jacqueline Hubbard’s curtain speech.)

Say Goodnight, Gracie runs through Nov. 16 at Ivoryton Playhouse, 103 Main St., Ivoryton. Performances are Wednesday and Sunday matinees at 2 pm. Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 pm, Friday and Saturday at 8 pm. Tickets $42 for adults, $37 for seniors, $20 for students and $15 for children 860-767-7318;


By Geary Danihy
For CT Theater News and Reviews and Connecticut Critics Circle

As you sit watching “Say Goodnight, Gracie,” which recently opened at the Ivoryton Playhouse, a question slowly arises: must you be of a certain age to truly enjoy this one-character, one-act play? The answer is yes…and no, for “Gracie” is as much a love story as it is a trip down Memory Lane. It is also a quintessential American story that embodies the spirit of the Horatio Alger novels: a young lad of low beginnings, through luck and pluck, makes his way in the world and becomes a success.

Who is Gracie? Well, that’s part of the generational conundrum that is at the heart of embracing the play and appreciating R. Bruce Connelly’s performance, for Gracie is Gracie Allen, the ditzier part of the Burns and Allen comedy team that made it big in vaudeville, then on radio, in movies and finally on television, a career that spanned multiple decades.

And who is the man up there on the stage reminiscing? Well, it’s the other half of the team, George Burns. So, who’s George Burns? There’s the rub, because if you know who George and Gracie are then you’re into the play from the moment Connelly walks out onto the stage, cigar in hand, and has a conversation with God (whom he played in three movies – turns out God and George are big fans of each other). If you’re clueless, well, it will take some time for the play, written by Rupert Holmes and directed by Michael McDermott, to bring you up to speed…and you may never get to full open throttle. Hence, depending on when you arrived on this planet, you may well have a different experience watching “Gracie.”

Since I arrived six-plus decades ago, I had no problem relating to and appreciating Connelly’s take on the iconic comedian. Connelly has the mannerisms – the pensive, somewhat perplexed pauses, the open-mouthed smile – down pat, as well as the somewhat gravelly drawl with which he delivers his lines. He also does a great Jack Benny – Ah, who’s Jack Benny and what’s the deal with the violin? Again, another Checkpoint Charlie that either lets you into the play or keeps you out – Ah, what’s Checkpoint Charlie? Stop it. You’re making me feel my age.

The frame for the play is that Burns has just passed and now finds himself before the Pearly Gates. However, before he can enter Paradise and be united with his beloved Gracie, he is asked by God to audition. Audition? Yes. How? By telling the story of his life…and we time-travel back to the tenements of turn-of-the-century New York.

What follows is oral autobiography, as Connelly weaves a tale of a young Jewish boy who sells papers and ice to help his family make tattered ends meet, a boy who begins singing with three other Jewish lads and soon comes to realize that there might be money to be made by entertaining people.

Then it’s on to vaudeville, with the young Jewish boy taking on many roles (and names, most of them Irish) and finding limited success until he happens on a wisp of an Irish lass named Gracie. He suggests that they form a team. She hesitantly agrees. They rehearse and then try out their act, with Gracie delivering the straight lines and George following with the zingers. Only problem is, Gracie’s straight lines get more laughs than George’s comedic rejoinders. George, a savvy veteran of the vaudeville circuit, realizes that a change needs to be made in the act if the team is going to survive: the audience loves Gracie, and she’s getting the laughs, so…he becomes the straight man and Gracie, well, Gracie blossoms in all of her character’s ditziness. It’s a formula that will take them to stardom and last for decades.

Oddly enough, the play’s pacing mirrors the graph of Burns’ career, for things start to drag a bit as Connelly relates, perhaps with greater detail than necessary, the ups (few) and downs (many) of Burns’ vaudevillian efforts, but Gracie saves the day, for although there is no actress playing her, there are stills of her projected onto a screen (later, clips from the films they made and then from their television show), and then there’s her voice, high-pitched, somewhat scratchy, with every line she delivers seeming to end with a question mark, as if she herself is unsure of what she is saying. From the moment Gracie “appears,” the show takes on a new life, and it’s to Connelly’s and Holmes’ credit that Gracie is given her due. There’s an especially lovely moment, soon after Burns realigns the act and makes himself the foil to Gracie’s zaniness, when Connelly sits in a chair as we hear Gracie prattle on, her illogical statements making a weird sort of sense. With each line that Gracie delivers, Connelly turns towards the audience and smiles – he doesn’t have to say it, but we know he’s thinking, “That’s my Gracie.”

I wish I had had one of my grandsons with me during opening night, not only for his company but to ask him on the drive home what his take was on the show. He would not have recognized the theme from George and Gracie’s television show, he probably wouldn’t know who Eddie Cantor, Jimmy Durante or Fanny Brice were, but that’s okay. What I would have wanted to know is if he had gotten what the play was about. Did he see that, beyond show business, beyond fame and fortune, what’s important is the magical intermingling of two lives, an intermingling that was played out for all of America to see. Was he moved when George visits Gracie’s grave every week just to talk with her and keep her updated on what is happening in his life? Did the final moment of the play perhaps bring a tear to his eye, when Gracie tells George that he, himself, should say goodnight? I can only hope that he would have answered in the affirmative.

“Say Goodnight, Gracie” runs through Nov. 16. For tickets or more information call 860-767-7318 or go to

For CT Theater News and Reviews and Connecticut Critics Circle

Leave a comment

Press Release
October 15, 2014
Say Goodnight, Gracie
The Life, Laughter & Love of George Burns
Starring Bruce Connelly
at the Ivoryton Playhouse

Bruce Connelly

R. Bruce Connelly*

Ivoryton – Ivoryton favorite Bruce Connelly returns to the Playhouse stage on October 29th, in the hit Broadway show, Say Goodnight, Gracie.

This stunning tour de force invites you to spend an hilarious, heart-warming evening in the uplifting company of the world’s favorite and funniest centenarian, George Burns, who spanned one hundred years of American entertainment history. Say Goodnight, Gracie was Broadway’s third longest running solo performance show and was nominated for a 2003 Tony Award for BEST PLAY and won the 2003-04 National Broadway Theatre Award for BEST PLAY.

In Say Goodnight, Gracie, George Burns looks back upon his impoverished, plucky youth on the lower East Side of New York… his disastrous but tenacious career in Vaudeville … the momentous day when he meet a fabulously talented young Irish girl named Grace Ethel Cecile Rosalie Allen … their instant chemistry, with his flawless timing a perfect mate to her dizzy delivery … his wooing of her, their marriage and their rise to the pinnacles of Vaudeville, Movies, Radio and Television. Gracie’s demise forced George to start from square one in life and in his career, eventually achieving an equal level of success as a solo raconteur and Academy Award-winning actor, portraying everything from a Sunshine Boy to, oh, God.

Say Goodnight, Gracie was written by multiple Tony Award-winning playwright Rupert Holmes, whose Broadway credits include the Tony Award-winning musical The Mystery Of Edwin Drood and who is also creator and writer of the nostalgic Emmy Award-winning comedy series Remember WENN.

Bruce Connelly* appeared last at the Ivoryton Playhouse as Jim in the summer production All Shook Up. Notable roles include Barney Cashman in Last Of The Red Hot Lovers, Max Bialystock in The Producers, Felix Unger in The Odd Couple, Pseudolus in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, and Finian in Finian’s Rainbow. Since 1993, Bruce has played Barkley, Jim Henson’s Muppet dog on Sesame Street for which he has been honored fifteen times by the National Academy of Television and Radio at the Daytime Emmy Awards.

Say Goodnight, Gracie is a tender, funny, life-affirming love story … a personal guided tour through an American century in the company of George Burns, a man who laughingly lived and loved each day for all it had to offer, until he finally went “gently into that good night” to forever reunite with his beloved Gracie.

Say Goodnight, Gracie opens at the Ivoryton Playhouse on October 29th and runs through November 16th, 2014. Directed by Michael McDermott, the set design is by Dan Nischan, lighting by Marcus Abbott and costumes by Kari Crowther.

Please note that this show does not have an intermission.

Performance times are Wednesday and Sunday matinees at 2pm. Evening performances are Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30pm, Friday and Saturday at 8pm.
Tickets are $42 for adults, $37 for seniors, $20 for students and $15 for children and are available by calling the Playhouse box office at 860-767-7318 or by visiting our website at  (Group rates are available by calling the box office for information.) The Playhouse is located at 103 Main Street in Ivoryton.

Pictured: Bruce Connelly
Photographer: Anne Hudson
*denotes member of Actors Equity

Members of the press are welcome at any performance.  Please call ahead for tickets.

Generously sponsored by Clark Corporation and Essex Meadows

Leave a comment

All remaining performances of “Comedy is Hard!” are SOLD OUT.  There are no tickets left for either the 8pm Friday, 8pm Saturday or 2pm Sunday performances.

Thank you all for supporting this world premiere at the Ivoryton Playhouse!

Leave a comment

“Comedy Is Hard” –World Premier at Ivoryton Proves It Can Seem Easy
By Two on the Aisle on October 1, 2014
By Karen Isaacs


COMEDY IS HARD, but Micky Makes It Easy!
Theater Review by Charles F. Rosenay!!!

Once you get past the shock of seeing Micky Dolenz as a (gasp) 84-year old grandpa sitting in a wheelchair confined to an old-age home, you’re in for laugh-a-minute wild stage ride that is equal part comic shtick, near-perfect acting and classic theater.

In the new play “Comedy Is Hard” gracing the intimate stage of Connecticut’s Ivoryton Playhouse, Micky Dolenz shares the stage with Joyce DeWitt, and it would be easy to categorize their roles as novelty or nostalgia casting. But instead it is actually brilliant casting, as the seasoned pros make you quickly forget you’re watching the two beloved, well-known actors, and instead are watching Lou and Kay, a pair of senior citizens in the twilight of their years.

Micky plays Lou Goldberg, a veteran borscht-belt-era comedian who never transcended beyond the local Yuk Yuk clubs or the dreaded tours of Canada, and never connected with his straight-laced rather boring son, who’d rather keep him in the retirement facility than in his home; Joyce is spot-on at Kay, a buttoned-up former serious stage actress who would seem to be the polar opposite of Lou. An “odd couple” indeed, but their bond makes for countless laughs and just enough heartfelt moments.

I’ve followed Micky for years and shouted the praises for this renaissance man fro as long as I can remember. Clearly he is one of the greatest and most-versatile voices of rock or pop music history, and I’ve had the pleasure of seeing Dolenz on stage in “Grease,” “Aida,” and “Pippin” (and wish I saw him in “Hairspray”) so one might think that the singer/actor/musician doesn’t really “take a giant step” in this stage role. Yet, in “Comedy Is Hard,” it’s incredible how much range he emotes as the (mostly) lovable slapstick octogenarian. Whether rolling out one joke after another, spouting some Yiddish, cursing or singing whimsical burlesque-esque ditties, you simply can’t take your eyes off him. Picture a cross between W.C. Fields, James Cagney, Larry Storch and the zany young Micky with the rubber face who dominated the comical scenes in The Monkees series, and you’ll get some idea of what Dolenz delivers in this production. And it’s mind-boggling the amount of lines that the leads needed to learn for the play – I saw the opening day matinee and couldn’t detect a flubbed joke or a missed line.

The Simpsons’ Emmy and Peabody-award winning writer Mike Reiss, a Connecticut resident, has crafted an old-fashioned laugh-out-loud gem which could work just as well on a small New England stage as in a West End theater (of which Mr. Dolenz also has experience!). A few surprise and hilarious pokes at the town of Ivoryton and some other local references would need to be revised, but “Comedy Is Hard” should make it to an Off-Broadway stage in the future – hopefully with Dolenz and DeWitt – or even a Broadway stage if the likes of a Nathan Lane or (forgive me) Billy Crystal plus someone like Ann-Margret or Joan Collins took the leads. It could even be a cash cow for old-time Catskills comedians like Freddie Roman or Mal Z. Lawrence (who else is still alive?) if this ever toured.

For now, take the last train to Essex or Old Saybrook, CT, as there’s no train station in Ivoryton, but be sure to find a way to get to the Ivoryton Playhouse and experience the pure joy, belly laughs and incredible acting of “Comedy Is Hard.” You’d be hard-pressed not to love it.


Comedy is Hard, but CT Native Mike Reiss Has a Handle on It
By Lauren Yarger
CONNECTICUT ARTS CONNECTION — An award-winning site for news and reviews of Connecticut’s professional theater and arts.

Two long-time retired performers roll their wheelchairs up for a view at the Brooklyn Bridge and an unexpected curtain goes up on an exciting second act in their lives, starring friendship and possible romance. Welcome to Comedy is Hard from Connecticut native Mike Reiss, getting its world premiere at Ivoryton Playhouse.

Reiss, a writer and producer for “The Simpsons,” “Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs,” Horton Hears a Who!” and other Hollywood scripts was last represented on stage in his home state with “I’m Connecticut,” which premiered at CT Repertory Theatre in 2012 (starring Joyce DeWitt). It subsequently had a run at Ivoryton, directed by Playhouse Artistic Director Jacqueline Hubbard, who helms Comedy is Hard.

Dewitt, who is most known for her role on the TV sitcom “Three’s Company” has been tapped to star again in Reiss’s premiere, this time opposite Mickey Dolenz, whom you will remember from the popular music group The Monkees. Both give engaging performances, even if the play itself would be sharpened by a bit of trimming.

DeWitt is Kay, a former Broadway actress, who now lives in the actor’s home. Her nurse, Valentina (Dorian Mendez), doesn’t speak much English and infuriates her charge with responding to every request with, “Kay?” Does she mean OK, “why, in Spanish, or is she calling Kay by name? Frustrated Kay will never know. And doesn’t really want to.

One day in a Manhattan park, she meets up with Lou (Dolenz), who is wheeled to the park by his rude son, Phil (Michael McDermott), with whom he lives. The two get to talking and Kay invites Lou, a former comedian, to move into the actor’s home. It’s an escape his son’s disapproval and from being a burden on him and his family. (Dan Nischan’s nifty folding set cleverly and repeatedly transforms between the two locations.)

There are a couple of comedic characters thrown in with whom they interact: A Homeless Man (Michael Hotkowski) whom Kay encourages to return to acting and Mr. Holroyd (an amusing Dan Coyle), a seemingly unaware resident of the home who strikes furniture-like poses, but who has moments of lucidity and comments on the action taking place around him to the audience.

Kay, more serious and annoyed by constant comparisons to rival Angela Lansbury, and Lou, always ready with a joke and his tag line, “Hey…. That’s comedy!,” are the embodiments of the comedy and drama masks, with Lou claiming that drama is easy, but comedy is hard. They prove to be good foils for each other and hatch a plan to put on a show for folks in the nursing home and community. The drama of choice? Becket’s Waiting for Godot, starring Mr. Holroyd as the tree….

There’s a problem however. Lou’s past insecurities, particularly a bad run in front of an audience that was not receptive to his comedy routine, leave him with a bad case of stage fright. Will he be able to perform and finally impress Phil, who still is resentful of growing up with an absentee father who was on the road playing comedy clubs?

If you’re a good entertainer, Lou confides in Kay, you’re a bad parent because you have put everything you have into performing to earn a living for you family. The problem is you don’t have anything left to give when you return home.

“Somebody changed the rules about what it is to be a good father,” Kay comforts.

Moments of poignancy like this help balance a script that seems always to be trying just a bit too hard to find its next laugh.

DeWitt and Dolenz have sizzling on-stage chemistry. A fake texting bit between the two old timers is a hoot and had the audience in stitches. There are a lot of belly laughs too – and this Waiting for Godot should win an award for giving what normally is one of the most boring plays known to man an entertaining and hilarious staging. Coyle also is equally entertaining while striking a pose or waxing eloquent, but we are confused about whether Mr. Holroyd’s commentary is audible to the other characters or whether it is just what he’s thinking.

The script tends to wander a bit too long, even at just over two hours with an intermission. A 90-minute, trimmed version giving us a bit deeper glimpse behind the comedy and drama masks the characters wear would improve the story. First trim suggestion: Cut the distracting and unnecessary projections (Gaylen Ferstand, design).

Comedy is Hard runs through Oct. 12 at Ivoryton Playhouse, 103 Main St., Ivoryton.  Performances are Wednesday and Sunday matinees at 2 pm. Evening performances are Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30, Friday and Saturday at 8. Tickets: $42 for adults, $37 for seniors, $20 for students and $15 for children. (860) 767-7318;


Theater has long been a see-saw balance of tragedy and comedy, with an occasional dip into dramedy, where the elements involved both vie for top billing. In Mike Reiss’ world premiere production “Comedy Is Hard!” two long time veteran performers struggle to find an answer that satisfies them both.  Set in their twilight years, both Kay and Lou have graced the stage for decades, Kay as a dedicated actress of drama and Lou doing it all for laughs.  He is 84 years young and is trapped in a wheelchair due to a stroke.  She is 60+12 and also finds herself in a wheelchair due to a slip in the shower.  Fortunately for the audience, Kay is the delightful Joyce DeWitt from “Three’s Company” and Lou is the favorite Monkees’ star Mickey Dolenz. Ivoryton Playhouse will be free wheeling this theatrical debate until Sunday, October 12 for your entertainment pleasure.  When the two meet in a park in Manhattan, Kay is with her almost non-verbal nurse Valentina (Dorian Mendez) and Lou is being ferried around by his uncooperative son Phil (Michael McDermott). They share their history on the stage and argue over whose career is more meaningful and deserving of praise. Along the way, they find themselves in The Actors Home in New Jersey and encounter diverse objects, situations and personages from Tinkerbell to  Elmo to Angela Lansbury, disco balls, bicycle bells to balloons, pancakes to tuna fish sandwiches, to Canadians who have yet to learn to laugh to mysterious ladies sporting red berets. When the pair decide to put on a play, Beckett’s “Waiting for Godot,” the age old question of which is harder and has more value, comedy or tragedy, has a chance of being answered. This end of life story is sweetness with a tinge of sadness.  Jacqueline Hubbard directs it with a poignancy that lends its authenticity.  Also in the cast are a homeless man (Michael Hotkowski) and a retired actor (Dan Coyle) who add color to the tale. Mike Reiss’ sense of humor is evident throughout as his one liners create chuckles, giggles and guffaws. For tickets ($42, seniors $37, students $20 and children $15), call the Ivoryton Playhouse, 103 Main Street, Ivoryton at  860-767-7318 or online at Performances are  Wednesday at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. Put your mask of comedy firmly in place as Joyce DeWitt and Mickey Dolenz invite you into their world of entertainment, courtesy of funny man Mike Reiss.

Leave a comment

mikereiss-207x300Writer Mike Reiss will be at the Ivoryton Playhouse participating in “Talk Backs” after performances on:

Friday, September 26
Friday, October 3
Saturday, October
Sunday, October 5
Friday, October
Sunday, October 12

Very funny and very entertaining, we are thrilled that Mike can be with us to talk about writing Comedy is Hard, answer questions and meet audience members.  Join us on these dates!  Event is free with your purchase of theatre tickets on these nights.

Leave a comment