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Theatre of Youth’s NEW KID goes “on the road” for Bullying Awareness Month

THE BASICS: NEW KID, a play by Canadian author Dennis Foon, directed by Meg Quinn, starring Mike Benoit, Zachary Bellus, Clarissa Maloy, and Lisa Vitrano had a short public run at the Allendale Theatre, and now goes on tour to expand TOY’s audience. While there are daytime shows for schools, public performances for families are as follows: Lancaster Opera House, October 28 and 29 at 2:30 p.m. and Lockport Palace Theatre November 8 at 7:00 p.m. (Call TOY at 884-4000 ext. 304) Ages 8+. Critic’s advisory: Adults, bring some tissues and plan to stay for the talk-back after the show. Runtime: 45 minutes (plus 15-minute talk back).

New Kid Benoit, Maloy, Bellus, Vitrano in rehearsal

THUMBNAIL SKETCH: October is National Bullying Prevention & Awareness Month and NEW KID (appropriate for ages 8+) deals with acceptance, bullying, inclusion and change, and being the outsider.  After moving from the fictional “Homeland” to America, Nick and his parents are settling into a new way of life, and Nick is starting in a new school.  Nick’s classmates make fun of his clothes, lunch, and his confusion about almost everything. To bring the audience inside Nick’s world, the two American born classmates speak gibberish, while Nick and his mom (Lisa Vitrano) speak English.

THE PLAYERS, THE PLAY, AND THE PRODUCTION: You may know by now that everything Theatre of Youth puts on stage is first rate. As mentioned before, when Artistic Director addresses the crowd at the start of every show, she doesn’t say “Welcome to the Theatre of Youth.” She says “Welcome the THE THEATER!” because for many of the hundreds in the audience, this may be their first experience with live theater, and you only get one chance to make a good first impression.

The set is simple, with three Tartus-like constructions behind which the actors can disappear immediately when the action calls for only one or two to be on stage. The actors are extremely convincing, and after the show, re-reading their bios and looking at the “head shots” I was stunned to realize that they must all be in their 20s, but they move and talk like young teens.

…I was stunned to realize that they must all be in their 20s, but they move and talk like young teens.

The hundreds of young folks in the theater were appropriately quiet during the “serious” parts and laughed uproariously when Mug (Mike Benoit), the bully, gets faked out several times by Mench (Clarisa Maloy) during a one-on-one pick-up basketball game she plays with Nick (Zachary Bellus), referred to by Mug as a “Sgak” (an insulting term for a “Homelander.”

So, if you know any parents of children 8+ who live in or are willing to take a drive to Lancaster or Lockport, this is very entertaining for kids and hopefully will lead to some good discussions. And, if you are a sap like me, take some tissues.

The next shows in TOY’s season are: A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS (December 2 through 17, 2017) and, starting in 2018, THE BOY AT THE EDGE OF EVERYTHING; JUNIE B. JONES IS NOT A CROOK; and for the youngest audiences, STELLALUNA next May.

*HERD OF BUFFALO (Notes on the Rating System)

ONE BUFFALO: This means trouble. A dreadful play, a highly flawed production, or both. Unless there is some really compelling reason for you to attend (i.e. you are the parent of someone who is in it), give this show a wide berth.

TWO BUFFALOS: Passable, but no great shakes. Either the production is pretty far off base, or the play itself is problematic. Unless you are the sort of person who’s happy just going to the theater, you might look around for something else.

THREE BUFFALOS: I still have my issues, but this is a pretty darn good night at the theater. If you don’t go in with huge expectations, you will probably be pleased.

FOUR BUFFALOS: Both the production and the play are of high caliber. If the genre/content are up your alley, I would make a real effort to attend.

FIVE BUFFALOS: Truly superb–a rare rating. Comedies that leave you weak with laughter, dramas that really touch the heart. Provided that this is the kind of show you like, you’d be a fool to miss it!

Written by Peter Hall

Peter Hall

Peter Hall continues trying to figure out how "it" all works. For 20 years, as program host on Classical 94.5 WNED and continuing on-stage with the Buffalo Chamber Music Society, he's conducted over 1,000 interviews with artists as he asks them to explain, in layman's terms, "what's the big picture here?"

As mentioned recently in Buffalo Spree magazine, Peter's "Buffalo Rising reviews are the no-holds barred 'everyman's' take." And, on “Theater Talk” (heard Friday mornings at 6:45 and 8:45 a.m. on WBFO 88.7 FM and Saturday afternoons at 5:55 p.m. on Classical 94.5 WNED) his favorite question of co-host Anthony Chase is simply "What's goin' on?"

A member of Buffalo's Artie Awards Committee, Peter holds a B.A. in Comparative Literature from Columbia University and an M.B.A. from SUNY at Buffalo. For over twenty-five years he has been an adjunct professor for Canisius College’s Richard J. Wehle School of Business.

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