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An Evening Of Wine, Food And Theater All In One Spot

AMY ELLIS

February 10, 2009

Call it one-stop entertainment for an evening out in Hartford food, art and performance in one place on Pearl Street.

The TheaterWorks building, re-christened City Arts on Pearl, has been renovated. Its first floor now features a satellite gallery of the New Britain Museum of American Art, called the Gallery of American Art, and a bistro inside the gallery operated by bin228 Cafe and Wine Bar, appropriately named bistro233.

Visitors to City Arts on Pearl are greeted by crimson fabric draped majestically out front, new signage and carpeting, and updated lighting that gives the space a softer feel. Other changes? A major security upgrade to protect the artwork, and a reconfigured box office.

"Pulp Art: The Robert Lesser Collection," currently on view in the gallery, includes front covers of popular fiction magazines. Exhibits will rotate five times a year with each TheaterWorks production, some possibly related thematically.

"The idea being that every time our audience comes in the door, they see something different, something new," says Steve Campo, TheaterWorks' artistic and executive director.

The theater's current production, "Dead Man's Cell Phone," is a comedy by contemporary playwright Sarah Ruhl, running through March 15. (See review on this page.)

Besides the gallery show, installations of larger works will hang in the main lobby, and farther back inside the building, a back-room gallery includes works by staff artists from the museum.

Inside the Gallery of American Art with its walls painted in six colors, such as warm cognac you'll find bistro233. A couch and a few tables and chairs offer seating, while in the corner sits a 1920s Steinway, courtesy of Campo's parents.

The bistro menu includes two types of salads served cold, with or without chicken; a chicken Caesar wrap and a tuna salad wrap; and two baguette sandwiches, an Italian cold cut or sliced ham, brie and honey mustard. Prices range up to $8.

"I love feedback," says Alicia Roncari, co-owner of bin228 with her husband, Peter Johnson. "We'll see what sells, what the people are enjoying. If we can add stuff, we definitely will."

Guests can quench their thirst with a Californian wine, beer, sparkling water and flavored Pellegrino. .

And no, you don't have to have a ticket to a TheaterWorks show to stop by.

"You can get information about the production or information about the New Britain Museum of American Art," says Jacques Lamarre, director of marketing and public relations for TheaterWorks. "And, hopefully, ... come back and explore what we do here or explore what goes on at the museum."

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
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