SCHENECTADY, NY — If you’re a thoughtful and provocative theater fan, Schenectady is your March place to be.
Starting tomorrow night, the city will host three unique plays, each of which will have you talking on the way home – and for longer.
One is the nationwide tour of the multiple Tony Award-winning musical “Dear Evan Hansen.” He plays Proctors Tuesday through March 27.
“Dear Evan Hansen” is a complicated work on how far a person will go to be accepted.
Evan Hansen is a shy, nervous, and insecure high school student who follows his therapist’s advice and writes himself assertive notes daily.
When one of these notes is discovered in the possession of a bullying student who commits suicide, it makes Evan feel like the only person being nice to the dead youngster. Soon, Evan has the popularity he always wanted. But like any lie, this leads to complications that are sometimes comical and always morally ambiguous.
What’s most remarkable about “Dear Evan Hansen” is that, while it addresses serious issues, it does so in a humane and compassionate way rather than an exploitative way. This happens because the songs give the show emotional balance. It may be hard to believe, but “Dear Evan Hansen” is often as optimistic as it is thoughtful.
A few blocks from Proctors at 12 S. Church Street is the Schenectady Civic Players. Tomorrow night they open “Marjorie Prime,” a little-known play about the power and complexities of memory.
In the near future, Marjorie is an 86-year-old woman with onset of dementia. To help her retain her memories, she is visited by a hologram which is a replica of her husband who died when he was young.
The theory is that reliving her memories with a loved one will help Marjorie retain them longer. One of the many twists is that the hologram has to get its information from others.
As the play progresses, the audience must ask themselves questions about the accuracy of their own memories and question the selectivity of what they want to remember.
“Marjorie Prime” opens Friday and plays through Sunday. It continues from March 23 to 27.
Between Proctors and Schenectady Civic is Schenectady Light Opera Company at 427 Lawrence Street.
If you’re unfamiliar with the organization, don’t be put off by its name. They rarely do operettas and instead offer covers of popular musicals.
Or, in this case, a revival of a rarely performed and problematic work that has a devoted following.
“Merrily We Roll Along” is one of Stephen Sondheim’s rare failures. It tells its story backwards, starting from the present with the characters, all friends, now middle-aged. As the work continues, it tracks their successes, failures, and compromises.
In past productions, the structure has caused many casting problems. Do you cast older actors who look fraudulent when portrayed young? Or, do you choose younger actors who can’t bring the necessary maturity to the start of the play. Or, are you doing a double cast, which causes many problems of its own.
Few people in the theater deny the problems, but all recognize that the work forces you to reflect on the choices you yourself have made throughout your life.
Above all, many fans claim that the score of “Merrily…. is one of the best created by the recently deceased genius, Stephen Sondheim. He plays from Friday to Sunday and from March 25 to 27.
There you have it, three very different offers. But each is guaranteed to generate discussion. And all enclosed within a mile.
For show times and COVID protocol, go to individual theater websites. Tickets can be purchased for all shows at the Proctors phone line (518) 346-6204.