March 6, 2008

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Murder and rhinos
Opening this week: a who-done-it, local work, French absurdism and American literature
By Heidi Masek hmasek@hippopress.com

Murderous therapy? At a group therapy session on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, patients arrive to find that their psychiatrist is missing in a Stephen Sondheim and George Furth comic mystery/thriller, Getting Away with Murder. The Milford Area Players perform it Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. from March 7 through March 16 at the Amato Center, 56 Mount Vernon St. in Milford, 566-2951. Ticket costs range from $7 to $12. Buy them at Toadstool Bookshops in Milford, www.MilfordAreaPlayers.org or at the door. The ensemble cast includes Eliot Johnston of Stratham; Len Deming, Gail Angellis, and Chris Vick of Nashua; Caity Glover and Kevin Roberge of Manchester; Todd Kuty of Brookline; Christina Hamilton of Dover; and Kristina Kattar and Glen Grimard of Lowell, Mass. Jason Plante of Chester directs.

Best Foot Forward Productions opened as a youth educational community theater group with some adult shows, but recently created the professional School House Players to showcase local scripts. The project was born when BFF leaders Christine Frydenborg and Timothy Dargon worked on SNHU professor Charles Wilbert’s Ice Dreamers, last fall. (Wilbert writes his scripts in an old schoolhouse.) SHP presents two of Wilbert’s shows this year, but launches with Sharp Dressed Men, written by G. Matthew Gaskell. Three brothers are in charge of the wedding plans for their parents, who are finally getting married after 30 years. Nothing can go wrong, there. Sharp Dressed Men has been performed at the Players Ring in Portsmouth, and was turned into a film that was screened at the Somewhat North of Boston Film Festival in Concord. Dargon directs Josh Brown, Mario Arruda, Marcel Morel, Frydenborg, Ryan Hayes, Mike Wood and Gary Evans. Performances are Fridays at 8 p.m. and Saturdays at 2 and 8 p.m., March 7 through March 15 at The Old Bedford Town Hall, 70 Bedford Center Road in Bedford. Ticket costs range from $8 to $10; call 641-6066 or see bestfootforwardproductions.org. 

Theater of the absurd comes to Manchester when Acting Loft’s teens tackle Romanian-born French playwright Eugene Ionesco’s 1960 play Rhinoceros. A young man wakes up one day to find his friends and neighbors are turning into rhinoceroses. Director Phillip Allen said, “Why do I love this play? A bunch of local teens using elements of puppetry and early 20th-century technique to tell an abstract story of individuality, all the while creating an atmosphere of Picasso-meets-Pink Floyd ... what’s NOT to love?”

See Rhinoceros at the Acting Loft’s 516 Pine St. stage in Manchester, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. from March 7 through March 16. It’s part of the Manchester Franco-American celebration of the 400th anniversary of the founding of Quebec. Tickets cost $10 for adults and $5 for students; call 666-5999.

While the Acting Loft’s teens are going for an absurdist drama about conforming that Ionesco created after seeing little resistance to Nazis in Paris, the Peacock Players perform a new musical version of the Civil War novel Little Women. Louisa May Alcott wrote the story somewhat based on growing up in Concord, Mass. It was part of her effort to keep her financially strapped family afloat, and was successful. She was initially uninterested in writing a book for girls, and suffered from mercury poisoning while writing, according to Susan Cheever’s American Bloomsbury (Simon & Schuster, 2006).

“This powerful score soars with the sounds of personal discovery, heartache, and hope — the sounds of a young America finding its voice, which is why we felt it important that Peacock Players debut this specific musical at this specific moment in our history,” said Peacock Players artistic director, Keith Weirich. Deborah Shaw of Nashua directs. Peacock Players presents the New Hampshire debut of Little Women, the Musical Fridays at 7 p.m.; Saturdays at 2 and 7 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. from March 7 through March 16, in the newly named Janice B. Streeter Theater at 14 Court St. in Nashua. Call 886-7000 or visit www.peacockplayers.org.