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Apple Hill opens season with the comedy 'Social Security'

| Wednesday, May 16, 2018, 2:51 p.m.
Rehearsing a scene from 'Social Security' at Apple Hill Playhouse are (seated) Ron Ferrara of Vandergrift and Linda Stayer of Murrysville; (standing) D. Palyo of Glassport and Emma Crist of Allison Park. Katya Shaffer of Jeannette is director.
Rehearsing a scene from 'Social Security' at Apple Hill Playhouse are (seated) Ron Ferrara of Vandergrift and Linda Stayer of Murrysville; (standing) D. Palyo of Glassport and Emma Crist of Allison Park. Katya Shaffer of Jeannette is director.

Pat Beyer has been the heart and soul of Apple Hill Playhouse since she bought the Delmont theater in 1982.

“After 36 seasons, I and the playhouse are both showing some wear. If money were no object, we'd both get a facelift,” the artistic director says with a laugh.

Beyer and her team are gearing up for a new season at Apple Hill that features six mainstage and three children's plays. She says a lot of love and care go into staging the shows that bring adults and children to the playhouse year after year to see their favorite classics and new shows.

“Even if you know the ending, the journey's different with each production,” she says.

The season opens May 17-26 with the Andrew Bergman comedy, “Social Security,” directed by Katya Shaffer of Jeannette.

The play focuses on a married couple who are art dealers that have their peaceful existence turned upside down when relatives come to visit.

“It's always fun to open the season at Apple Hill Playhouse with a comedy. It starts the season out on a great note,” says Rick Dutrow of North Huntingdon, who portrays Martin. Taking on the role of Dutrow's wife Trudy in the show is Margaret Ryan of Murrysville.

“I don't want to give too much of the plot away, but there's a few twists and turns that make for some very funny situations,” he says. “The challenge I will have on stage is to keep a straight face with some of the things I have to say and some of the physical things I will have to do” as his character.

Shaffer says that while the play includes some physical comedy, “this show is driven more by the scripted comedy, which can make it challenging for the actors. They need to keep the momentum going primarily with their words, which is oftentimes more challenging than physically driven shows.”

She says she is lucky to have six seasoned actors who, after seeing the show several dozen times, still make her laugh out loud.

The cast also features Emma Crist of Allison Park, Ron Ferrara of Vandergrift, D. Palyo of Glassport and Linda Stayer of Murrysville.

Crist says her character, Barbara, is a strong, independent woman.

“I respect her poise under pressure and the role she plays in keeping her family afloat. I relish any chance to promote female empowerment,” she says.

Shaffer has acted in and directed many shows for community theaters. Recent directing credits include “Tuna Christmas,” “Plaid Tidings” and “Forever Plaid,” for Greensburg Civic Theatre, and “Tenderly, the Rosemary Clooney Musical” and “My Way, A Musical Tribute to Frank Sinatra” for The Theatre Factory.

Following “Social Security,” Apple Hill's season continues with:

“Steel Magnolias” (June 7-16), about a group of strong, Southern women who share their lives in a small town beauty shop. “A lot of gossip takes place in beauty shops” Byer says, “You'll learn a lot.”

“Grease” (July 12-21) is the popular '50s musical that is still relevant, she says.

“Mama Won't Fly” (Aug. 8-17) is a comedy that Byer says is a lot of fun and should be a real crowd-pleaser, about a family on a cross-country road trip to a wedding because one of the members won't fly. She says it's set in the south and “the crazy characters get into so much trouble. The costuming should be funny too.”

Next up is “Kitchen Witches” (Aug. 30-Sept. 8) directed by Rick Dutrow, about two cooking show hostesses fighting over the same man. “It's very funny,” says the artistic director. “Think of Martha Stewart meets Jerry Springer.”

The mainstage season ends with “A Comedy of Tenors” (Sept. 20-29) a madcap comedy set in 1930s Paris, where the concert of the century is to take place in a soccer stadium. The sequel to “Lend Me a Tenor” is a funny show, Byer says, adding, “It will take good timing and energy to pull this one off.”

Children's shows will include “Sleeping Beauty” June 19-23, “L'il Red” July 31-Aug. 4 and “Really Rosie” Oct. 12-21, featuring music by composer Carole King.

Candy Williams is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.

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