Wendy Lesniak Long
When my acting career started waning, about 15 yrs. ago, I returned to school
for certification and an M.A. to teach English on the secondary level. I am, at present, part-time at Roger Ludlowe Middle
School in Fairfield, Ct. where I teach 2 classes of 8th grade Reading and direct the spring musical. As a member of a professional
workshop, Theatre Artists, I feel blessed to have a "gymnasium" to stretch and exercise my acting and directing muscles. My
husband of 31 years, Jim, is a professor of philosophy at Fairfield University. On June 14th, we will take advantage of an
NEH grant awarded to Jim and 11 other national scholars spending 6 weeks in Italy to study the many aspects of St. Francis
After graduating from Princeton University and acting professionally for 6 years, our son, Damian, received
a Masters in Humanities with a concentration in English from the University of Chicago and is now teaching high school. After
attending Vassar College, our second son, Justin, became an actor: Galaxie Quest, Jeepers Creepers, Dodgeball, Herbie the
Love Bug, The Break Up, the soon-to-be- released, Accepted, among others. He also had a recurring role on the TV. show, Ed,
and plays the "Mac-Dude" on the new MacIntosh commercials.) Our third son, Christian, is a graduate of Colgate University
and is living with Justin, trying his hand at.....guess what, acting.
We are all very grateful for good health and
good friends. My Mom, God love her, is 89, living on her own in Florida, doing volunteer work and being floor commando for
her condo. After a bout with ovarian cancer and chemo last year, I am doing well, am back in ballet class, and also studying
Italian this year.
Love to all my fellow classmates.....looking forward to our next big reunion.
http://www.mercyalum.com/1962.htm(A big thank you to Xioma for sending this in.)
Reviews May 2,
Reviewed By: Brooke Pierce
You've got to hand it to the Prospect Theater Company's Peter Mills and Cara Reichel: They're
out there making new musicals, they're making them regularly, and they're demonstrating a creativity and scope that's rare.
Following their production of the new musical The Flood and their wonderful Twelfth Night adaptation, Illyria, the pair now bring us The Alchemists, an original musical about the comic and
tragic escapades of the denizens of Foxwood Hall.
Set during the Regency period in England, The Alchemists
chiefly concerns four young men; two of them, Stanley and Nicholas Auburn, are the sons of the master of Foxwood, the other
two, Nathaniel and Marcus Plum, are sons of the local vicar. These four are schooled together on the estate and all are enchanted
with the master's ward, the headstrong Anne. Stanley, the elder brother, is set to marry Anne, though Nicholas is the one
who's truly in love with her. And she, in turn, is in love with Nathaniel, who requites her affections, though neither seems
able to confess his or her feelings. When Stanley clashes with his father and
Nicholas lets his desire for Anne get the best of him, this tangle of passions turns to tragedy.
Mills and Reichel (who co-wrote the book together) set most of the story in two time periods, 1807 and 1818. They take
us back and forth between the characters' reminiscences of their childhood and the present goings-on at Foxwood Hall in the
days leading up to Stanley and Anne's engagement party, with the second act tracing the years following the fateful night
of the party. Reichel, who also serves as director, finds some nice ways of moving the action between time periods; a notable
instance comes during the song "Painting Anne," when she first shows us that the four little boys whom we see singing a hymn
to enlightenment at the top of the play are the younger versions of the same people we meet in the present-day scenes. On
the other hand, the frequent flashbacks sometimes make it hard to keep the story straight. It doesn't help that, aside from
the five leads, who are played by a set of children and a set of grown-ups, none of the other characters show any of the effects
Running nearly three hours, The Alchemists has an interesting if convoluted story and is cleverly written by Reichel
and Mills; the pair have a gift for writing period dialogue that is natural and witty. But the show suffers from an excess
of material. There's a lot of emotion bouncing between Anne and the four young men, and composer/lyricist Mills seems to feel
the need to give musical voice to every little feeling. The result is one ballad of longing after another: The boys long for
knowledge ("Flickering Flame"), the young men long for Anne ("Painting Anne"), Anne and Nathaniel long for each other ("Without
a Word"), Nicholas longs for Anne ("Happy News"), and Marcus longs for Stanley
("Golden"). It's not that these aren't nice songs but, coming one after another, they have a dulling effect. Some songs make
a strong impression, such as Anne's "I Can Play the Part" and Nathaniel's stirring "Young Man's Prayer." Others are musically
unmemorable pieces that accompany engaging action, such as "Elixir" (in which Nicholas experiences wild fever dreams) and
"A Mad Adventure" (in which, in flashback, the five kids cause a bit of mischief with some significant consequences).
Though the show is filled to bursting with incidents of intrigue and character-revealing songs, it doesn't quite grab the
heart. This is partly due to a casting problem. All of the 17 actors in this production are good in their roles but none are
great, and with so many performers competing for our attention, none of them ever manages to completely win it. Who, after
all, is the protagonist of the piece? And don't these kids want anything besides each other? There is, of course, a precedent
for this kind of romantic mix-up play -- Shakespeare was a master of them -- but The Alchemists appears to be aiming
for something a little darker. Unfortunately, it fails to settle on a tone that will sufficiently serve its ambitions. The
musical's first big song ("A Fine Affair") is an up-tune about the characters' excitement and anxiety over the forthcoming
party, leading one to think this will be a romantic comedy. Then the show turns into a kind of memory play as the flashbacks
become prevalent, and then it begins to resemble a melodrama as the first act comes to its hard-to-swallow conclusion. There's
more melodrama in the second act, and then the show ends with a wink and a miracle. The whole enterprise suffers from a lack
of balance, clarity, and focus.
But The Alchemists does have a great deal of potential. It needs a bigger stage, for starters; the large cast struggles
to maneuver around the modest space on which Scott Aronow's gorgeous set rests. With more room to play around in, Reichel
might have been better able to make the time-hopping work smoothly. And Mills' score, which is fine but not outstanding, would
have benefited from the kind of lush orchestrations Illyria had, rather than this two piano rendering (played by Mills
himself and music director Daniel Feyer). The Alchemists needs a fuller sound to add some personality to Mills' songs.
As it is, the show still has a lot to recommend it, including some lovely melodies and an intriguing story about the intellectual
and romantic values of a bygone day. With more work on the part of Reichel and Mills, a future production could prove far
(Thanks to Xioma and Selphie for the info.)