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In the Currier and Ives postcard that is Niagara-on-the-Lake in wintertime, there is one significant drawback: the dormancy of the Shaw Festival. It seems a shame that up to this point wintertime visits to the town have offered little more than window-shopping for holiday trinkets, sipping local wines in front roaring fireplaces and eating haute cuisine behind picturesq…

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When it comes to Christmas classics, few productions tug harder at our nostalgic heartstrings than " A Charlie Brown Christmas." And just on time, Theater of Youth opens its production of “A Charlie Brown Christmas” on Dec. 2. Suitable for nostalgic adults and young “Charlie Brown” neophytes alike, this is an adaptation of the 1965 animated TV special, which in turn was…

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Until very recently, the term "rape culture" carried little weight in popular culture. It was often dismissed by male pundits or ridiculed as the incendiary overreaction of a feminist elite. But then came Harvey Weinstein. Then came Kevin Spacey. Then came Charlie Rose. And now comes New York City-based performer Asia Gagnon, who will present her performance "The Kin…

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Josie DiVincenzo talks the talk – in several different accents, as a matter of fact. And she walks the walk – as a successful stage, screen and film actor, adjunct professor at Niagara University, acting coach and scenic artist. A conversation with this North Buffalo native is engaging, far-ranging – and, upon request – peppered with stories of personal encounters wi…

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Every year, roughly in sync with the first flakes of lake effect, a predictable flurry of holiday shows descends on local stages. The longest-running and most beloved of these is Alleyway Theatre’s production of “A Christmas Carol,” which will launch its 35th year on Dec. 8. But those jonesing for an early fix of Christmas are in luck, with the opening of a productio…

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At a chaotic time of year, in a chaotic period of history, there's something to be said for the comfort of old stories well told. In the New Phoenix Theatre, one of the city's best storytellers has uncovered new charms embedded in one of the world's oldest morality tales. Kelli Bockock-Natale, the theater's artistic director, has added a patina of contemporary refere…

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Chances are you've never seen a "Cinderella" quite like this before. The New Phoenix Theatre's take on the classic fairy tale has been retooled and reimagined by innovative director Kelli Bocock-Natale. Based on a version of the show Bocock-Natale wrote for children while she was in graduate school, the new twist on the story will feature plenty of physical theater and …

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Rarely has the notion of war seemed more quaint or attractive than in "South Pacific," Rodgers and Hammerstein's propaganda poster of a love story set on a remote Pacific island during World War II. And quaint is the overwhelming feeling of David Bondrow's production of the classic show, which employs a cast of Western New Yorkers and out-of-towners to mixed effect. …

The title of the play "Painting Churches," onstage for a two-week run at O'Connell & Company, refers not to putting a fresh coat on houses of worship but to seeing with fresh eyes family members who have changed with time. It is like being an artist who wants to capture her subject's essence on canvass, and has to get to know the person first. Or, again. It is a …

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This nun can really work a room. Nonie Newton-Riley, the Second City-trained actress starring in the Catholic-themed comedy "Late Nite Catechism 3: Til Death Do Us Part," is not an actual nun. But you would hardly know that from the visceral reactions of the crowd of former Catholic school students, lapsed churchgoers and the odd pagan who attended the show's opening in…

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The "Babysitting Mafia" of Maeve Binchy's "Minding Frankie" is relegated to background noise as the popular Irish author's hefty novel moves to the stage. Instead of Binchy's cast of dozens raising little Frankie in a Dublin neighborhood, we have the baby's father, Noel, parrying efforts by one person -- a no-nonsense social worked named Moira -- to find him unfit and take…

When it comes to conversations about race, the “sticks and stones” adage holds no weight. Words do matter, and they do hurt. In Greg Kalleres’s 2014 play “Honky,” we enter a discussion about race through the lens of language. It offers not an easy way through the issues — easy isn’t helpful — rather a productive, reparative one. A new production of “Honky” opened Thu…

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For some, the mention of Arthur Miller’s 1953 play “The Crucible” will call to mind the halting voices of timid teenagers reciting Miller’s lines in high school English class. For others, it recalls a dark period in American history, when neighbor turned against neighbor amid a growing tide of anti-communist paranoia. And for others still, its unmistakable McCarthy-e…

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There’s a breath of fresh air on stage at MusicalFare right now. It’s a musical that’s never been seen in Western New York and one you probably have never heard of, despite it debuting off-Broadway 20 years ago. It’s called “Violet,” and in a beautiful new production from director Susan Drozd, it offers a much-needed salve. By its closing number, I felt like I had taken…

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Certain times call for certain playwrights. And local artistic directors preoccupied with the uncertainties of the current political moment have been reaching back, with increasing desperation, to the work of Arthur Miller. The Kavinoky Theatre, which produced Robert Waterhouse's stripped-down version of Miller's "A View from the Bridge" last season, is opening "The …