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Theater Review: Latest Two Planks Production A Grand Celebration Of Love And Acceptance



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MONROE - There is a sweet something special playing at Two Planks Theater Company's adopted theater home. The current production of La Cage aux Folles is stirring, heartwarming, and a whole lot of fun.

This well-loved story of the devotion between Albin (being played by John Capasso) and Georges (Bob Filipowich), two men in love, is charming. The couple owns and operates a night club on the French Riviera that features nightly performances by a rousing and hysterical troupe of local transvestites.

Singing, dancing, and cracking a whip through their routines, they are led by the adored Zaza, Albin's not so alternate personality. With a flair for salesmanship and a solid stage presence, Georges is the emcee. The couple and their over the top maid/butler (Jason Michael Maur) live in their hedonistic hideaway upstairs.

Georges has fathered a son, Jean-Michele (Jim Nassef), now a strapping 20-something who wishes to wed his new love, Anne (Amanda Friedman). There is a fly in the ointment: Anne's father, Edouard Dindon (John Ponzini), is the director of the French Ministry of Family Morality. The self-righteous Minister Dindon and his wife Marie (Jennifer Sokira) are determined to share face time with their daughter's intended and his family.

Panicked by the possible clash of moral codes, Jean Michele begs his father to invite his real mother, with whom he has no relationship, and to send Albin, who has raised him since he was a wee child, away for the evening, lest the pious future in-laws learn the truth and deny the union. Jean Michele is spastic with anxiety.

Georges implores his son to remember and respect Albin, who has always loved and cared for him like a mother. It is no use, and the charade is on.

Local restaurateur Jacqueline, played by Rachel Lotstein, provides service and runs distraction for the couple when the wheels seem to be coming off their parade float.

It is worth the short ride to Monroe to see how it all turns out for this unconventional and yet very ordinary family in a story of love and loyalty, courage and commitment.

Bob Filipowich and John Capasso shine as the two leads, pouring their hearts and souls into the characters they so whole-heartedly play. And man oh man can they sing. They sashay and shimmy their way through the entire piece, never for a moment dropping their intensity. Their chemistry is palpable.

The entire cast is very good as they work their way through frequent complex costume and set changes. The elaborate and revealing dresses present a challenge to keeping those secret undergarments, meant to keep secrets, hidden.

The company does the very best it can with limited staging capacity. Yet this show requires little else to entertain and move the audience than the authentic and complete portrayals by Filipowich and Capasso of two men in love.

Mr Capasso's rendition of "I Am What I Am" is a showstopper. Mr Filipowich is precise and completely convincing as the loyal and loving Georges. Singing "Look Over There," his adoration is obvious. The uplifting finale, "The Best of Times," is transporting.

In angst-filled times, musicals such as these send a message that compassion and acceptance heal and that yes, all you really do need is love.

Performances continue weekends to March 12, with curtain on Fridays and Saturdays at 8 pm and Sundays at 5. Advance online tickets are $20 for adults, $18 students and seniors, and can be purchased up to one hour prior to show time and then printed at home or shown on one's mobile device. Tickets at the door are $25 and $20, respectively.

Two Planks Main Stage season shows are performed at United Methodist Church, 515 Cutlers Farm Road in Monroe. Call 203-246-5991 or visit twoplankstheater.org for tickets and additional information.

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John Capasso (seated) and Bob Filipowich shine as Albin and Georges, respectively, in Two Planks Theater Company's production of La Cage aux Folles. The two, shown during a recent rehearsal, pour their hearts and souls into the characters they so whole-heartedly play. (Chatoyant Studios photo)
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