A Glass House Will Shatter During New Hartford Stage Play “The Engagement Party”

New year, new room and new theater for one of the stars of “The Engagement Party”, which begins from January 10 to February 10. 3 run Thursday at Hartford Stage.

Beth Riesgraf, who starred as kind-hearted thief Parker on USA Network’s entertaining TV show “Leverage” from 2008 to 2012, will portray Katherine in a rare stage role.

“The Engagement Party” received a 2018 Edgerton Foundation New Play Award, which provides funds to extend rehearsal time for world premieres deemed particularly meritorious. And Hartford Stage, which developed “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder” and is led by art director Darko Tresnjak and general manager Michael Stotts, fits the bill.

“It was really wonderful to have the time to get to know each other,” Riesgraf said over the phone during the third week of rehearsals, “and to work and play and explore the different dynamics with these characters. been really, really fun.

Los Angeles-based Riesgraf said she always wanted to do live theater, but had quick success on television (including “My Name Is Earl,” where she worked with the actor who would become the father of her son, Jason Lee) and in film (2007’s “Alvin and the Chipmunks” and “I Love Your Work”).

She met “Engagement Party” writer Samuel Baum in 2013 on a CBS pilot movie called “The Surgeon General” — when they recently reconnected, he asked her to consider the piece. She auditioned and won the role, alongside Zach Appelman, Richard Bekins and Mia Dillon.

“(Baum) has a writing style that really gets you moving and thinking and engaging as the character, but also as the audience member reading him,” Riesgraf said of the script. “It was a real page-turner, and the dynamic between family and friends, I thought, was really fascinating and fun and juicy.”

Said Tresnjak, in a statement, “We have assembled a splendid ensemble for the world premiere of… Baum’s apprehensive play about the consequences of secrets and lies.”

Directed by Tresnjak, the suspenseful modern drama centers on a young couple reuniting with family and friends to celebrate their engagement. There is a spiraling sequence of events and revelations that will irrevocably change their lives, according to a description on the show.

“There’s a lot of bubbling under the surface for these people, and certain things are happening that create a situation,” Riesgraf said. “And everyone is kind of caught off guard…the way people react when…the rug is kind of pulled, you know? This element of surprise and suspense, this journey, is really a lot of fun.

Riesgraf’s character, Katherine, “finds things out with the audience, which I think is a lot of fun,” she said, being careful not to reveal too much about plot details. “One thing I really love about Katherine is her purity of heart and her love for everyone around her…and the way she reacts when her world starts shaking and things start falling apart. .”

There are light moments, but there is a darkness in this room,” Riesgraf said, “…a twist. And Darko (Tresnjak) is a master at making that stuff.

Baum created the Fox TV series “Lie to Me” and co-wrote the 2017 Emmy-nominated HBO film “The Wizard of Lies,” starring Robert DeNiro and Michelle Pfeiffer, about the downfall of Bernie Madoff. So he probably has his finger on the pulse of that age.

Riesgraf, 40, is proud of her five seasons on “Leverage,” she said, and is always friendly with the cast, led by Timothy Hutton.

“The sad thing is that we got canceled and then won the People’s Choice Award,” she said. “It was sad to see him go but it was a gift. … The chemistry was so good from the start.

And that brings Riesgraf back to “The Engagement Party” at Hartford Stage, where “I find this environment really welcoming and lovely.” However, she will have to use slightly different acting muscles to perform in front of a live audience instead of the cameras.

“It’s just a different playing field, I guess. But because we’ve been rehearsing in the space that’s bounded, and walking around in our fake kitchen and hiding in places and scaring each other,” she laughs, “that naturally creates a different feeling. from the moment I entered. … I really enjoy the time; it’s like a luxury to have this time to do this process.

Riesgraf has a movie coming out Jan. 18 starring Titus Burgess and Tom Everett Scott called “I Hate Kids” (on demand in select theaters).

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