Fundraiser goes a little blue with Naughty Readings

There's a good ol' fashioned story telling coming to Lowell's Old Court Pub on Saturday, Nov. 15. Come one, come all – well, on second thought, don't bring the kids.
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'Last Call' a fitting, vivid elegy for Kerouac

LOWELL -- Few settings are more appropriate for a play about Jack Kerouac than a "shadowy, long bar" in downtown Lowell.
Kerouac's Last Call, a gritty tribute to the writer that opened Friday at the Old Court, traces Kerouac's last, whiskey-tinged night in New York before he reluctantly moves to Florida with his mother.
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Kerouac's Last Call

Lowell, MASS, has given the world two excellent writers: Jack Neary and Jack Kerouac. Having done a couple of Neary's plays in his home town, Lowell's Image Theater has now paid homage to the city's famous novelist. Playwright Patrick Fenton found and heard a reel-to-reel tape of a party, in 1964, which was Jack Kerouak's farewell to Northport, NY, to unexpected fame, to incandescent youthful experience and to his persistent love of his country, his family and his friends. Fenton imagined this writer, for whom literature and autobiography lay inexplicably close to one another, packing to go down to Florida to take care of his mother --- and to die. This is a shadowy look into a drunken writer's mind as he looks forward and back by turns.
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The Image Theatre - “They’ll never bore you!”

Kerouac’s Last Call by New York journalist and playwright Patrick Fenton was performed as a staged reading last night by Lowell’s Image Theatre. This was the first time the local group that specializes in producing work by local playwright’s has gone out of New England for a play, but given the subject of Fenton’s work and the current excitement surrounding Kerouac’s legacy and the coming to town of the scroll of On the Road, it seems more than fitting.
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An intriguing blend of spirit, wit at a real bar
By Sandy MacDonald, Globe Correspondent  |  April 18, 2007

LOWELL -- A play set in an Irish-American bar that's performed in an Irish-American bar -- isn't that getting a bit meta? Lowell's fledgling Image Theater company seeks out unconventional venues in which to present new work, and for James McLindon's "Distant Music" -- a drama that reunites a disillusioned lawyer with the woman he wishes he'd married -- director Jerry Bisantz came up with a perfect location, Lowell's Old Court tavern. He also pulled off a casting coup in the person of Jonathan Popp, who's so convincing as young Irish barkeep Dev Hart, I assumed he'd been plucked from the pub staff.
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Bottoms Up!  "Distant Music" in Lowell
By Beverly Creasey

What could be niftier than a play set in a bar which is actually set in a bar! Lager with the laughs, guffaws with your Guinness! DISTANT MUSIC (at the Old Court pub through April 21) is James McLindon’s comic draught of a tale about longing and losing and moving on. Director Jerry Bisantz never stints on the comedy--- so you can count on an over the top Irish bartender, in the classic Barry Fitzgerald mold, with an aphorism for every occasion and an indisputable fact for every argument. Jonathan Popp is clearly having a ball, making the barkeep smart as a whip and cagey as a cougar.
[Read full article here]

by Beverly Creasey,
Theater Mirror

The Image Theater in Lowell is carving out a niche where off-the-wall musical comedy can find a welcoming home. In Image’s short life so far, they’ve presented the works of twenty two playwrights and four composers, the majority of which (work) has been hilarious … not to mention demented.  And I mean that in the very best sense.

Founders Ann Garvin and Jerry Bisantz, it seems, love making mincemeat of sacred cows, institutions like “serious theater” or “historical accuracy”. The puns in these shows (many of which were written by Bisantz) are shameless, the liberties limitless, the songs scandalous and the fun outrageous.  Their most recent festival featured three wacky mini-musicals whose backdrop was created before our very eyes by local artists (Matthew Descoteaux, Robert Bryan and Setheyny Pen at my performance). Garvin and Bisantz are game to try new approaches to finding new audiences and their ingenuity pays off.

 “Hollywood Insider” serves up a child actor (Ryan Garvin) acting out, a libidinous stage mother (Heather Tobin)  and a narrator (Phil Thompson) right out of Walter Winchell’s old beat.  Steve Gilbane’s songs reach their deliciously horrifying zenith in a wonderfully tasteless little number called “Out Of Rehab”. Bob DeVivo brings down the house  with his deadpan earnestness.

Max Bisantz lends perfect comic timing to all three musicals, with a bravura turn in “The Tragic Tale Of Tom Collins” as the devil, singing and strutting like Mick Jagger in Gilbane’s sensational “Find Me A Piano”.  Thompson returns as an old salt this time, in a yellow slicker, oversized hat and an undersized parrot.

The History Of Nails”, scored by Gilbane but written by Larry Coen, Don Schuerman, and Christine Cannavo closes the evening, offering a faux folkie anthem (“We All Can Hammer”) a la “Spinal Tap” or “A Mighty Wind”.  The story of the advent of the nail travels in warp drive (and I do mean warped) from prehistoric time to the present, pausing for famous incidents from the Goths to Gologotha.  Whatever you’re imagining, it’s worse (or better, depending on your glass being half full or half empty).  A fine cast of strong singers brings the shenanigans to life. If there’s a pretentious television show or a politician who needs a comeuppance, you can bet the Image Theater will be presenting a musical drubbing soon. Don’t miss the next naughty offering these guys cook up.

Lowell playwright bites back in 'Apple'

By NANCYE TUTTLE, Sun Staff | Feb 11, 2006


LOWELL -- Longtime Lowell theater fans may remember Jack Neary's First Night, a delicious little two-person romantic comedy that was a hit at the Merrimack Repertory Theatre in the mid-1980s.

In Neary's autobiographical comedy, The Big Apple, they learn what really happened when Neary took a bite out of the Big Apple -- New York City -- and how the Apple actually bit him, when he ventured there with First Night in the early 1990s.

Neary directs a first-rate, fast-paced production of The Big Apple in its regional
premiere with Lowell's Image Theater Company at the McDonough Theater.
It opened Thursday and will be performed tonight and next Friday and Saturday.

The Big Apple is Neary on edge, slightly R-rated, yet at the top of his game with
his trademark sharp, funny, insightful writing.

Apple is set inside playwright Bob's brain. Bob, Neary's mild-mannered, befuddled
alter ego, (a subdued Justin Budinoff), battles the brash, offensive, very "New
Yawk" Mr. Apple. A micro-manager, Mr. Apple is played to sublime pushiness
by the energetic Jerry Bisantz, who stepped in last week when the original Mr.
Apple took ill.

Apple calls the shots, makes the moves, pushes the envelope and generally gets
things done. He knows the right people, directors, casting agents, actors -- and
even the right zip code for Bob to realize his off-Broadway dreams. He's funny,
flip, fiery and irreverent, a true original with a mouth that won't quit.

A bevy of other characters pop in and out of Bob's brain, as well. They generally
make life miserable, adding to his angst as they cut and shape his play, molding
it to what they feel will appeal to New York audiences and dreaded critics.

Standouts include a riotous John Pease, who shines as Carleton, a Charles
Nelson Reilly-type director. Mark Leahy charges into his four roles with aplomb
and proves a winner with each, especially as director Perry and Danny, the boy
in First Night. Erin Cole is just like Meredith, the First Night girl in several
productions we've seen over the years. And Eve Passeltiner, a Lowell newcomer,
excels as Ellyn, the actress playing Meredith. Sally Nutt's a dity Bitsy, the
generous producer.

The Big Apple builds and hits its stride in Act II, then comes to its savory
conclusion after the show opens and the New York Times critic slices Bob's play
to bits. He takes a hefty bite, but Bob -- or Neary -- has the final say -- and it's satisfying, to say the least.

Here's Neary at his best and another feather in the cap of the fledgling, yet
talented Image Theater Company. Kudos and keep up the good work.

Performances continue tonight at 8, Friday, Feb. 17, at 8 p.m., and Saturday,
Feb. 18, at 4 and 8 p.m. Tickets are $19, $15 for seniors and students.
Call 978-441-0102.

Nancye Tuttle's e-mail address is ntuttle@lowellsun.com.


Theater troupe makes debut
By Mary K. Pratt, Globe Correspondent  |  September 11, 2005

LOWELL -- Jerry Bisantz is bringing his dream to Lowell.

Bisantz is president and cofounder of The Image Theater Company, which he plans to use as a staging ground for his long-held ambition to mount original works -- including his own.

''I've been making theater for other companies for many years, and I figured it was time to do something for myself," he said. ''It's about creative freedom."  [Read full article here]

Image Theater

NEW THEATER FOR LOWELL: "Bisantz, by the way, has big plans for his Image Theater Company, which he plans to launch next fall with a festival of short plays, called "Mill City Minutes."

"My dream is that we will do nothing but original plays and feature playwrights from the Greater Lowell area," said Bisantz, who has a long history with the Hovey Players in Waltham and Turtle Lane Playhouse in Newton.

First things first though, said Bisantz, who is raising funds and seeking downtown performance space.

Bisantz and Image Theater host a fund-raiser, featuring cabaret performer John O'Neil, Monday, April 25, at 7 p.m. at Club Cafe on Columbus Avenue in Boston, between Berkeley and Clarendon streets. Admission is $20 at the door or send a check to Bisantz, made out to Image Theater Company, 68 Oakland St., Lowell 01851. Bisantz is holding the party in Boston to spread the word to friends there.

The festival will feature 10-minute plays written by Lowell area playwrights. Send scripts for consideration now to Bisantz at the Oakland Street address.

"I want Image Theater to be a community theater in the true sense of the word, using local playwrights. I hope to find Cambodian and Hispanic playwrights to participate," he said.

The season will also include the first production of Bisantz's Triple Play: The Musical next winter and a new play by Lowell's Jack Neary next spring. He hopes to make the mini-play event an annual happening, too."

- Lowell Sun, Thursday, April 21, 2005

Romance 101

“Superb chemistry and deft writing made for a frothy delight!” – Sally Cragin, Boston Globe

“The big winner was ‘Romance 101: The musical’ … a pre-requisite for the parody-loving theatergoer!” – New England Entertainment Digest

Romance 101! The musical

“Romance 101 is a prerequisite for the parody-loving theatergoer” – Jules Becker, New England Entertainment Digest

History Of Nails! The musical

“’History Of Nails is a Bombastic pastiche of parodies … a shameless funny romp!” – Larry Stark, TheaterMirror.com