RED BANK: WEEK TO REMEMBER MAMA @TRT

I Remember Mama TRT 6-2-16 018 I Remember Mama, directed by Jack Cummings III at Two River Theater Company 6/3/16 Scenic Design: Dane Laffrey Lighting Design: R. Lee Kennedy Costume Design: Kathryn Rohe © T Charles Erickson Photography tcepix@comcast.netBarbara Andres (‘Mama’) sits at the head of the table, surrounded left to right by Heather MacRae, Dale Soules, Rita Gardner, Louise Sorel (back to camera) and Mia Katigbak in “I Remember Mama,” entering its final week at Two River Theater. (Photo by T. Charles Erickson) 

trt exterior 050211A cast of 10 veteran actresses — each over the age of 60 — playing the parts of some two dozen women, men and children. One big extended family that encompasses mama, papa, big/ little kids, a caring curmudgeon of an uncle, a trio of contrary aunts, a local undertaker, a dying cat, plus a broke boarder with a storyteller’s gift. And in place of the play’s all-important kitchen table, this version’s got 10.

Putting up eight more matinee and evening performances between June 22 and 26, the John Van Druten ensemble drama “I Remember Mama” closes out the 2015-2016 season at Two River Theater with a staging that lends a bit of cutting-edge cool to the warmly sentimental story of a Norwegian-American community, a dreamer of a daughter, and the Mama who could reputedly fix anything (and maybe even work the odd miracle).

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RED BANK: BRINGING MEMORIES TO THE TABLE

backward-glances_LOGO_optLike so many of us, Gilda Rogers had a large collection of family photographs — a chronicle of her family’s history that cried out for something more than being shut away in albums or hidden on hard drives. The solution, according to the writer, educator and cultural preservationist, was to create “Backward Glances,” a line of greeting cards that spotlights her own generational history, sharing her family’s story through some (often artful and compelling) images that have something to offer people of all backgrounds.

On Saturday, June 11, Rogers visits the Red Bank Public Library for a free workshop entitled “Making Memories: Create a Keepsake Placemat from Family Photos.” A tie-in to the current Two River Theater production of I Remember Mama and its themes of family unity, the crafting session offers participants a chance to win two tickets to the play, which continues its engagement through June 26.

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RED BANK: REINVENTING MAMA, AT TWO RIVER

IRememberMama0783Barbara Andres (right) returns in the role she performed in the acclaimed Off Broadway production of I REMEMBER MAMA, when the play goes up this Saturday as the season’s closer at Two River Theater. (Photo by Transport Group).

It’s about family, of course — specifically the Hanson family, Norwegian immigrants struggling to carve out a new life for themselves in San Francisco at the turn of the 20th century. To the extended Hanson brood — Mama, Papa, their four kids, plus three aunts, an uncle and a boarder named Mr. Hyde — the rock-ribbed principles of hard work, education, sacrifice, love, loyalty and thrift sometimes chafe up against a yearning for something else in this new-world setting. But in John Van Druten’s play I Remember Mama, it’s the title character who ultimately keeps the universe in balance for this collection of dreamers, schemers, no-nonsense traditionalists and sensitive souls.

Adapted from the semi-autobiographical novel Mama’s Bank Account by Kathryn Forbes — and subsequently transformed into a hit film, a TV series, and Richard Rodgers’ last musical — the 1944 ensemble piece goes up in previews this Friday, June 3 as the final mainstage offering of the 2015-2016 season at Two River Theater. As re-imagined by NYC’s Transport Group and director Jack Cummings III, the comedy-drama is given a compelling twist, with all of the play’s 20-plus roles — men, women, children and teens — performed by a company of actresses aged 60 and over.

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RED BANK: TWO RIVER INTROS NEW SEASON

DirdenStoneRechnitzReturning Broadway veterans Brandon J. Dirden and Jessica Stone — plus rookie playwright Robert Rechnitz, pictured with wife and fellow Two River Theater Company founder Joan — are among the creative forces powering a just-announced 2015-2016 season of shows on Two River stages.

It’s a highly anticipated rite of spring in Red Bank — one that John Dias jokingly referred to as “this totally kooky annual event” — but when the artistic director of Two River Theater Company played host for the 2015-2016 Season Announcement on Monday night, he was entirely serious in first thanking the “loyal, passionate” audience members who “want to be the first to hear what we’re doing each year.”

Kicking off in mid-September, and comprising eight productions on two stages of TRTC’s branded Bridge Avenue arts center, it’s a schedule that boasts fresh takes on familiar classics, and first looks at a couple of world premiere works. There’s some engagingly quirky casting; the return of several fondly regarded members of the extended Two River family — and a debut original work by a forever-young upstart who holds a special resonance with the Red Bank audience.

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