Arts & Entertainment

Providence Players Stage Play About Theater Gone Awry

playonOn Memorial Day weekend, a local community theater troupe will be performing roles they are quite familiar with – actors in a community theater troupe.

playonOn Memorial Day weekend, a local community theater troupe will be performing roles they are quite familiar with – actors in a community theater troupe.

The Providence Players will open a production of Rick Abbot’s “Play On!” Friday, May 27, at the James Lee Community Theater. “Play On!” centers on a community theater group that is staging a play written by a local playwright who can’t seem to make up her mind. Even on the day of the performance, the playwright makes some not-so-minor adjustments to the script.

“She’s making the characters nuts,” Producer Smitty Connolly explained of Phyllis, the director of the play within the play. “As soon as they figure out their lines, there are new lines, and new plots and new twists.”

The play Phyllis is writing is a murder mystery – according to her performers, she herself swears it isn’t a murder mystery – about a mysterious and possibly cursed necklace – though the name of that necklace changes constantly as she writes and rewrites.

And if the plot of the play doesn’t seem confusing enough, consider the playbill, which features characters Maggie and Aggie, a character named Smitty who plays alongside Smitty Connolly, who has a small part in the play, and in the first casting of the play, Katie Brown and Caity Brown were both cast in the ensemble, though the latter Brown has had to bow out due to a schedule conflict.

Connolly says that the cast shines despite the many complexities of the play, which include having to flip between British and American accents throughout the play and learning the different, though similar, variations on the play that Phyllis writes.

“They are brilliant,” Connolly said. “This is an extraordinarily talented group of actors, and watching them go through rehearsals, you would never know that it is anything but effortless. They gel very well as a troupe – both as a troupe within the troupe and as the troupe itself.”

The play stars Falls Church’s Patrick David as Henry, Will MacLeod as Billy, Katie Brown as Violet, Beth Gilles-Whitehead as Polly, Craig Geoffrion as Saul, Lindsay Williams as Aggie, Matt Ames as Gerry, Cheryl Sinsabaugh as Phyllis, Amanda Ranowsky as Smitty and Chelsea Megli as Louise. Of this cast of players, only Megli, Ames, Williams and Sinsabaugh are spared from having to perform as both character and actor in the play.

Even Connolly has a supporting role, as Maggie. Though the producer and actress preferred to leave some mysteries to be revealed on opening night, she told the News-Press that a small, silent part has been written for her as a way to entertain the audience during a scene change between the first and second act, at the suggestion of Director Beth Hughes-Brown.

“It’s a fun part,” Connolly said, admitting that the role challenges her in that it requires her to hone her physical comedy skills. “I just provide a little comic relief.”
With near-farcical gags and frequent illustrations of Murphy’s Law (what can go wrong, will go wrong), Connolly promises that audiences will ache with laughter over this comedy, which will close the Providence Players’ 13th season.

“This production is a hoot,” said Connolly. “It is truly one of the funniest shows I’ve ever seen.”

And perhaps the ones that will be laughing hardest will be the actors themselves, who are familiar with the trials and tribulations of putting on a community theater production just like the characters they’ll play.

“It’s almost, not quite, but almost like an inside joke because you so appreciate the craziness of this authoress,” Connolly said. “You know what it takes to put on a production, and to just imagine that anyone would try to keep rewriting a script up until the day of the performance is mind boggling.”

“Play On!” will be performed Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m., May 27, 28, June 2, 3, 4, 9, 10 and 11. Sunday matinees will be performed at 2 p.m. on May 29 and June 5. Tickets are $18 for adults and $15 for seniors and youth. For more information, or to reserve tickets, visit providenceplayers.org, email providenceplayerstickets@cox.net or call 703-425-6782. Tickets will also be available at the door. All performances will take place at James Lee Community Center, 2855 Annandale Road, Falls Church.

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