Lighthearted farce for the holidays
NH playwright and Yellow Taxi offer the Lumpkin Sisters for your holiday diversion
By Heidi Masek firstname.lastname@example.org
Marisa Smith’s theater career has run the gamut from New York actress to producer to drama publisher and now Hanover playwright. Her latest project takes her to the southern end of the state, where Yellow Taxi Productions commissioned her to turn her one-act holiday/wedding farce into a full-length show.
The Lumpkin Sisters’ Christmas Caper is out of the ordinary for Yellow Taxi. For one thing, the cast is big. Yellow Taxi Christmas shows are fundraisers for the professional company. Since the actors donate their time, “that allows us to choose a play that has 11 characters,” founding director Suzanne Delle said. Choosing New Hampshire playwrights is part of the Yellow Taxi mission, but when they commission work (this is their third), they insist the playwright be available to work with actors and directors on the script. That collaborative process was one reason actors volunteered time, Delle said.
“I’m amazed anybody can write a play without having acted in one,” Smith said. “It enables you to really inhabit the characters as you’re writing.”
Smith said at the first read-through she was glad to see director Tajoura Davis got the comedy.
“People describe my humor as A.R. Gurney on acid,” Smith said. Sometimes Smith presses hard to keep her lines. On the other hand, she appreciates the list of small changes she recently received from the cast. They’ve asked to change “Price Chopper” to “Market Basket” to localize it, for example.
Yellow Taxi focuses on contemporary and new plays, many of which aren’t comedy, Delle said. Santaland Diaries, the one-man show by humorist David Sedaris they presented last year, was satirical. This is Yellow Taxi’s first farce. It has the usual elements—people getting drunk, falling in love with the wrong people, sexual innuendo (still suitable for family audiences), and lots of door-slamming. It’s set in a hotel bar at a wedding reception on Christmas Eve, with two days of stress in one, where various family members try to sort out a groom with cold feet. “Your family are people who love you the most and also the people that drive you crazy,” Delle said.
Smith was commissioned last year to write the one-act for the winter Hanover arts festival in December. Constraints can help you refine material, Smith said. There was no space in the Hanover Inn for a set but there were plenty of doors to slam and a banquet room for weddings adjoined. Yellow Taxi will use the Hunt Building’s main room as the hotel bar.
Smith also wrote Kong’s Reunion for the Hanover Inn, and is finishing Queenie’s Christmas, a modern fairy tale to be performed there during the Hanover Arts Festival this December.
Smith and Kraus (Kraus being the husband) has published theater books for 16 years and is based in New Hampshire. Smith spent five years acting off-Broadway, regionally and in film before moving into producing. She wrote her first play, Book Group, in 2003; it was produced by semi-professional Signal & Noise Production in northern New Hampshire. Her play Devine Comedy will be produced for the second time in March at Central Massachusetts Repertory Theater.
Erica Newhall, Eric Skoglund, Leah Belanger, Dana Angelis, Neal Blaiklock, Sally Nutt, Alan Wilbar, Doug Chilson, Andrew Hannah and Jessica Scalese appear in Lumpkin Sisters.