October 16, 2008

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All in one weekend
Three community productions and one crazy new musical open

By Heidi Masek hmasek@hippopress.com

The farce
Improv Boston alumni Larry Pizza and Kim Cassetta have teamed up to co-direct a farce for Nashua Theatre Guild.

Ken Ludwig’s Lend Me Tenor actually debuted at the now defunct American Stage Festival, which once called the 14 Court St. stage in Nashua home, Pizza said. The community company NTG chose the title to perform this season at 14 Court St., now called the Janice B. Streeter Theatre.

Lend Me a Tenor is a “romance play about two individuals who have to go their own ways ... their own separate journeys only to come together and find out they were right for each other all along,” Pizza said.

The premise is that a famous opera star is about to perform as Othello in a Cleveland company. An odd turn of events leaves him unable to go on, so the company manager sends his assistant out instead. But then, the star shows up with plenty of confusion.

Craig Ciampa, Maria Barry, Jeffrey Richardson, Sheryl Norton, Aaron Rosenberg, Nancy Warner, Rich Alcott and Renee Tyzbir perform.

Pizza and Cassetta were both at Improv Boston in 1999, heading a troupe of about 35. They use that experience in directing farce. “We try to let the actors ... sort of improv the blocking and where they naturally have an inclination to move towards ... then Kim and I go in and try to refine it,” Pizza said. They also try to let the actors develop their characters that way. Because farce is so “high-blown,” what happens on stage needs to come from somewhere natural, or it “just looks like people running around frantically on stage,” Pizza said.

He likes team directing because what he doesn’t see, Cassetta does, and vice versa. They also have different styles. She gives notes, he said. “I’m more up on the boards,” demonstrating, he said.

Pizza has performed with Yellow Taxi Productions in String Theory. He also did stand up at Comedy Connection.

The drama
Arthur Miller’s All My Sons examines the fallout of a business decision made by the play’s main character during World War II. Set just after the war, “now he’s feeling the ramifications,” said Milford Area Players’ director Deborah Shaw.

Shaw saw All My Sons performed by American Playhouse on public television almost 20 years ago. “I was so moved by the play and the writing and everything about it. ... It just stayed with me,” Shaw said.

There are three main things that drew her to the play, starting with Miller’s writing. “Every line is so well crafted. There are so many layers and levels for actors and directors to play with and explore,” she said. Also, unlike some of Miller’s work, the female and male characters are equally developed, Shaw said. Finally, there are no “throwaway” adult roles.

Shaw started becoming involved in theater again six years ago. She’s an actor and helps community companies in other capacities, yet directing All My Sons is a “dream come true,” she said.

“I have the most amazing cast. ... And I’ve worked with some pretty good casts,” Shaw said. Len Deming, Mari Keegan, Ryan Hagen, and Kristin McGregor perform with Larry Lickteig, Jason Crowell, Alex Sandin, Jeanne Gall, Gina Carballo and Mitch Fortier. 

MAP is putting a two-story house with a back yard on the Amato Center stage for the set, with help from Shaw’s husband, who led the build, she said.

Shaw has also directed a musical version of Little Women for Peacock Players, and Enchanted April for Nashua Theatre Guild.

Shaw teaches leadership and business topics at the university level, and All My Sons has offered “another way to present material,” she said. Her classes and others have been invited to view it. It talks about decisions made in wartime, pressure placed on suppliers during a war effort, and how such things can affect family and others.

The 1947 play has recently started running again on Broadway.

The fantastical
Bedford Off Broadway is tackling Edward Albee’s Seascape. They’re possibly the first community group in New Hampshire to show the 1975 play, which has just four actors. A couple has just entered their retirement and are at a beach, discussing how they will spend their days in this new phase of their lives. It’s very relatable, said director Tim Stanley. At the end of the first act, a lizard couple appears. They speak English, and are trying to leave the ocean, feeling like they don’t fit in anymore, he said.

It’s “funny and poignant and sad all at the same time,” Stanley said.

In Albee’s stage direction and script, the lizards walk upright and take on some human characteristics, while overall they are very much lizard-like, Stanley said. In conversation, there are words the lizards have no reference point for, such as “photograph” and “seagull.”

The play needs four actors who “can hold the audience attention,” Stanley said. They don’t have typical entrances, exits or props to support the dialogue. They have to figure out to change movement without it looking contrived, or just like four people talking. Seascape features Dan Barth, Judi Mitchell, Scott Katryzc and Cherie Birch.

For Stanley and Bedford Off Broadway, there were challenges with the costume and set.

To create the lizard costumes, they found airbrush artist Kevin St. Pierre, owner of Deluxe Expressions in Nashua, to paint body stockings with lizard-like costuming. Turns out that was difficult because airbrushing is becoming a lost art, Stanley said.

The play takes place on a beach with sand dunes, which is a tall order. “Anything that comes out not natural is going to be a distraction,” Stanley said. However, at least there are no set changes.

It’s not abnormal for Stanley to choose scripts with extra challenges. He directed Children of a Lesser God for Bedford Off Broadway. For the play about deaf culture, coaches were brought in to help the hearing actors prepare.

A professional company is also producing Seascape in three acts at the Boston Center for the Arts in October. Originally, Albee wrote the play in three acts, but he cut scenes of just the lizards in the ocean when he felt the play had become more about the sets than the story, Stanley said. Bedford Off Broadway has rights to use the two-act version.


Farcical
What: Lend Me a Tenor, by Ken Ludwig, presented by Nashua Theatre Guild

When: Thursday, Oct. 16, and Friday, Oct. 17, at 8 p.m.; Saturday, Oct. 18, at 2 and 8 p.m.; and Sunday, Oct. 19, at 2 p.m.

Where: Janice B. Streeter Theatre, 14 Court St., Nashua.

Cost: $12; call 320-2530 or see www.nashuatheatreguild.org

Classic drama
What: All My Sons, by Arthur Miller, presented by Milford Area Players.

When: Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., and Sundays at 2 p.m. from Oct. 17 through Oct. 26.

Where: Amato Center for the Performing Arts, 56 Mont Vernon St., Route 13N in Milford.

Cost: $7-$12, at Toadstool Bookshops and Just Read Books in Milford, at the door, and at www.MilfordAreaPlayers.org.

Fantasy
What: Seascape, by Edward Albee, presented by Bedford Off Broadway.

When: Friday and Saturdays at 8 p.m., from Oct. 17 through Oct. 25.

Where: Bedford Old Town Hall, 70 Bedford Center Road, Bedford.

Cost: $10 at the door or call 647-2864.

New musical at the Seacoast
Billy Butler has an awfully long list of credits to his name, from running away with the circus to performing Hedwig and the Angry Inch off Broadway. He’s also an Equity actor, and writes songs and performs with Tim McCoy and the Papercuts.

Dane Leeman, a set designer among other things, pitched the concept for a new musical to Butler.

Now, Leeman and Butler are premiering workshop performances at the Players’ Ring.

The storyline for Gay Bride is “nothing new. ... It’s a love triangle with a twist,” Butler said.

Edna is in love with cheerleader Chloe, who is dating the quarterback, Thad. Thad is trying to lose his virginity in order to join a fraternity the following year, but Chloe doesn’t believe in sex before marriage.

When the high school Halloween dance is canceled, they are invited to “The Monster Ball.” Chloe is killed before the kids get to the party, which turns out to be an annual rising of the dead.

The Gay Bride to Frankenstein is a nod to Mary Shelley’s original Frankenstein novel, plus Scooby Doo, Plan 9 From Outer Space, The Rocky Horror Show and comic books. Dover artists Severed Heads Comics were recruited to draw comics that will appear on a 10-foot projected backdrop to help tell the story.

The audience is invited to come dressed as their favorite monster.

When: Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., and Sundays at 7 p.m. from Oct. 17 through Nov. 2. Halloween shows are Friday, Oct. 31, at 8 and 11 p.m.
Where: The Players’ Ring Theatre, 105 Marcy St., Portsmouth.

Cost: $10-$12, 436-8123, www.gaybrideoffrankenstein.com or www.reverbnation.com/gaybrideoffrankenstein.

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Wake up to Ďnight Mother