Fox Chapel theater group starts the season with a laugh
Stage Right is off to a laughing start on its new season.
The Fox Chapel area community theater plays it for fun in presenting "Leading Ladies" at Boyd Community Center in O'Hara Thursday through Saturday and Oct. 15 through 17.
"It's another one of Ken Ludwig's hilarious farces, and we have had great success with his shows. Audiences love his writing," says Bill Ivins of Indiana Township, theater president and artistic director.
He is confident that anyone who has seen the playwright's "Lend Me a Tenor" or "Moon Over Buffalo," for example, will feel right at home.
"Staging another Ludwig farce was a no-brainer. It is a very fast-paced and clever show. The characters are well written and interesting," says director June Beighley.
In this production, Jack and Leo are down-on-their luck English Shakespearean actors who have been reduced to performing "Scenes from Shakespeare" on the Moose Lodge circuit in the 1950s in rural Pennsylvania.
When they hear that Florence, an old woman in York, Pa., is about to die and leave her fortune to her long-lost English relatives, they concoct a scheme to pass themselves off as her beloved Max and Steve and get the cash.
The plan goes awry when Max and Steve turn out to be Maxine and Stephanie. Things become even more complicated when Leo falls madly in love with Florence's vivacious niece, Meg, who is engaged to the local minister, the Rev. Duncan Wooley, portrayed by Ivins.
Lauren Robison's first at-length experience with "Leading Ladies" came in the cast's first complete read through of the script. "It was absolutely hilarious. The laughter rarely ceased. I can remember feeling incredibly excited and anxious to put this production together," says Robison, a Banksville resident.
She plays Audrey, the small-town girl who, according to Robison, "approaches everything in her life with a smile and a giggle."
She, too, is impressed with Ludwig's talents. "I like how he is able to keep all the amusing moments fresh and unexpected without becoming predictable or cheesy," she says.
Newt Pringle of O'Hara, who plays Doc Meyers, the bossy, grumpy town doctor, says he saw the play performed at another theater, thought it was very funny and wanted to be part of it. "The story line is great, not rude or crude," he says. Besides, Beighley quips, "What's not to love about two guys in drag."
She is proud of her talented cast. Three have theater degrees from Point Park — Mike Mazzocca as Leo, David Bielewicz as Jack and JoAnna Pasquarelli as Meg.
A dance sequence in the second act promises to be a winner. "Rebecca Henry's choreography will bring the house down," Beighley says.
"An actor can feel the audience's mood," says Naomi Frenkel of Squirrel Hill, who plays crusty old Florence. "We want to feel them being very happy."
She likes Florence's transformation during the play, which is two acts with intermission. "In the end, she is wiser and more sensible than the others," Frenkel says.
It really is a "very smart and funny show," says Pasquarelli of Morningside. "There's also a lot of love in the show that I'm sure audience members can connect with," she adds.
"I just want to entertain people," Pasquarelli says. "Right now, I entertain a crowd every night as a waitress at Chili's at Waterworks (mall, near Pittsburgh).
Bielewicz loves to trust his natural instincts as an improviser, which is what he feels his role as "desperately loyal friend to Leo" requires. "I like comedy in that sense," he says. It's about challenging yourself, he says.
It's satisfying to do that with a cast and crew that you trust, Mazzocca says. "The greatest part about working with community theater is just that: community," he says. "Everyone is here to have fun, creating something with a group of people."
A three-play lineup
Teresa Trich-Gravante describes Stage Right's 2009-10 season as "a comedy sandwich filled with heart."
The three-play lineup well might be one of the most entertaining in recent years, says the community theater's vice president.
In addition to the comedy "Leading Ladies" this month, Stage right will offer a winter show, "Crimes of the Heart," Feb. 3 through 6. The production is a down-home southern tale of a family of women wrapped in scandal and drama. "It is funny, moving and heartwarming," Trich-Gravante says.
"Caught in the Net" will conclude the season April 29 and 30, May 1 and May 6 through 8.
"It's the hysterical sequel to 2006's successful 'Run for Your Wife,' " she says.
"You may discover that a Stage Right production is just as entertaining and thoroughly enjoyable as the 'professional' productions downtown," says Bill Ivins of Indiana Township, theater president and artistic director. "And we don't charge for parking, and we feed you at intermission."
Details: 412-828-8566 or stagerightboyd.org
Who: Stage Right community theater
When: 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday and Oct. 15-17; doors open at 7:30 p.m.
Where: Boyd Community Center, 1220 Powers Run Road, O'Hara. Directions at stagerightboyd.org .
Admission: $12.50; $5 for students with valid ID on Thursdays; light refreshments included; patrons may bring their own wine or beer, but not spirits. Open seating. Tables can be reserved with a paid reservation of six or more people. Tables are first-come first-serve.
Details: 412-828-8566; ext. 11; stagerightboyd.org
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