Bonnie Goldberg

Subway trains, starlings, a shut-in and strangers to America pulsate and populate Aditi Brennan Kapil’s moving and emotional world premiere “tall tale,” “Agnes Under the Big Top” on Stage II of New Haven’s Long Wharf Theatre until Sunday, April 3.

As subway trains rumble by, a handful of immigrants with intersecting lives struggle to achieve the golden promise that is the American dream.  Kapil centers her story on Agnes, who is beautifully rendered by Francesca Choy-Kee, a hard working woman from Liberia who wants to raise her son Eugene to greatness, telling him stories of inspiration, as she dreams of a better life.

Agnes has just been told by her doctor that her cancer has advanced and she has but weeks to live.  With time fighting against her, she must reconnect with the other lost souls in her little world so she is able to “fly free,” like the starlings that flock and chatter around her.

In her job, Agnes shares custodial care with Roza (Gergana Mellin), who only speaks in her native Bulgarian, as they both watch over the arthritic and demanding Ella (Laura Esterman), who spends her days house-bound, fruitlessly trying to phone her estranged son Frederick.

Through Roza, Agnes meets Roza’s husband Shipkov (Michael Cullen) who was long ago a famous circus ringmaster in Bulgaria and now has to be satisfied driving a train. Roza and Shipkov struggle to recreate the romantic world they once upon a time embraced.

Eshan Bay plays Happy, an immigrant from India who has grand plans and schemes but, meanwhile, has to content himself to learn the subway system as an apprentice to Shipkov.  As a busker, Sam Ghosh plays a multitude of roles and creates sound effect tones for the world of the play.  Eric Ting directs this sensitive and soaring story to give it roots and wings, on a realistic underground set designed by Frank Alberino.

For tickets ($45-65), call Long Wharf Theatre, 222 Sargent Drive, New Haven (exit 46 off I-95) at 203-787-4282 or online at www.longwharf.org.  Performances are Tuesday at 7 p.m., Wednesday at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m., Thursday and Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.

During the run of the play, Long Wharf will be collecting essential home supplies like dishes, tool sets, pots, pans, toiletries, sheets, microwaves and alarm clocks to set up apartments for new immigrants arriving in this country. IRIS, Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services, will be setting up 30 new apartments in the New Haven area and welcomes all donations.



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