Maples Repertory Theatre Announces 2023 Auditions

Macon, MOMaples Repertory Theatre announces auditions for its 20th season: Season of Memories. This season’s shows consists of some of the biggest hits in Maple Rep’s history. They include:

BIG RIVER    June 14-July 9, 2023

DRIVING MISS DAISY    June 23- July 22, 2023

MAMMA MIA!    July 19-Aug 6, 2023

THE CHURCH BASEMENT LADIES    Sept 27-Oct 15, 2023

BAREFOOT IN THE PARK    Nov 3-12, 2023

SORRY! WRONG CHIMNEY!    Nov 29-Dec 10, 2023

Audition opportunities are as follows:

  • 2023 UPTA; Memphis, TN  February 3 – 6.
  • 2023 Open Audition at Royal Theatre;  102 N. Rubey St.;  Macon, MO- Date TBD
    102 N Rubey Street, Macon MO 63552
    Please prepare one song and one comedic monologue. Accompanist provided.
    Email todd@maplesrep.com to schedule a 10-minute audition slot and with any questions. Walk-in’s welcome. We will see both Equity and Non-Equity.
  • 2023 Auditions in Kansas City- Date TBD
    Please prepare one song and one comedic monologue. Accompanist provided.
  • 2023 SETC in Memphis, TN; March 1-5

For audition appointment or to submit electronically, email todd@maplesrep.com to schedule a 10-minute audition slot and with any questions. Walk-in’s welcome. We will see both Equity and Non-Equity.

Note: If there is inclement weather, auditions may be postponed. Please double check by calling the box office (660-385-2924) or visiting our Facebook page on the day you plan to audition.

The Show is Redux, But the Cast is Brand New!

BLUEBARN Theatre Proudly Presents:

Every Christmas Story Ever Told (and then some!)

By Michael Carleton, James FitzGerald, and John K. Alvarez

Omaha, NE: Instead of performing Charles Dickens’ beloved holiday classic for the umpteenth time, three actors decide to perform every Christmas story ever told –plus Christmas traditions from around the world, seasonal icons from ancient times to topical pop-culture, and every carol ever sung. A madcap romp through the holiday season, this laugh-out-loud. Comedy offers a hilarious alternative to anthropomorphic Nutcrackers and singing Victorian children.

Directed By: Bill Grennan
Starring: Jonathan Purcell, Jimmy Nguyen, and Joshua Orsi

Performances & Tickets: Nov. 25 –Dec. 18, 2022 | Thurs-Sat @ 7:30pmSun., Nov. 27, Dec. 4, 11, 18 @ 2:00pm; Sun., Dec. 4 @ 6:00pm *ASL Performance Thurs., Dec. 1

General Admission($37) and Educator | Healthcare | Military($32)

Tickets are available at bluebarn.org or through the box office @ 402.345.1576

A Comedy of Calamitous Proportions

It’s the actor’s nightmare come to life and put on full display.  Join a sub-sub-subpar acting troupe as they flail and flop their way through a rehearsal and a couple of performances of the farce, Nothing On, in Noises Off! currently playing at Lofte Community Theatre.

Michael Frayn’s farce within a farce has often been called the funniest play ever written.  I find it hard to disagree with that statement as it has all the elements which make for great hilarity:  slamming doors, breakneck pace, mistaken situations, and over the top characters.  This play is also one of the most technically difficult plays ever written as most of the script’s pages are split in two (half dialogue/half stage directions) and its second act is mostly a silent film brought to life as it is sight gag placed upon sight gag with nary a bit of dialogue outside of the show in the show.  In fact, the play’s lone weakness is that it fails to complete the story arcs of the “real” people that get set up during the story.

Kevin Colbert has a real flair for comedy.  He truly understands bits and beats and his direction especially shines in the nearly silent second act when countless sight gags and moments battle for your attention. The jokes are executed with military precision and are so funny, even Buster Keaton would crack a smile.  Colbert’s staging is right on the money as Act I feels like an exhausting late night tech rehearsal that we actors know so well while Act II gives a farcical, yet surprisingly truthful look at what actors do while waiting for their cues and Act III is the legendary actor’s nightmare where everything that can go wrong does.  Colbert also has some nice meta moments such as showing a supposedly botched scene change when Act II segues into Act III and malfunctions such as actors being on the wrong side of the curtain when it closes.  Colbert has also crafted sterling performances from his actors, creating well defined and unique characters.

This play is an ensemble in the truest sense of the word.  There is no leading role.  The weight of this show is evenly distributed on the shoulders of each cast member who all get moments in the spotlight as their personal relationships shift and fray resulting in the riotous dismantling of their performances.

This review would form a novella if I waxed poetic on every cast member, but golden performances are given by one and all.  Nathan Wilson is a riot as the put upon set designer/understudy/gofer who is always either a half step behind or ahead of the others depending on the crisis.  Adam Kovar is a master of physical comedy as the hot-tempered Garry Lejeune with falls so believable I actually thought he had hurt himself on a few occasions.  Anne Pope is a steady hand as the troupe’s most level headed performer, Belinda Blair, who is overly optimistic and a bit of a gossip.  Alyssa Rosecrans is hysterical as the stupider than a brick, Brooke Ashton, who constantly loses her contact lenses, meditates and practices yoga when stressed out, and obliviously continues with her role despite it not making sense as things fall apart around her.  Deanna Walz is hilarious as the actor/producer who can never remember her stage actions and lights the fire that is Act II with her relationship troubles with Garry.  Natalie McGovern is wonderful as the stage manager/understudy, Poppy, whose sweetness is matched only by her poor acting.

I was particularly taken in by Jon Kruse’s interpretation of Selsdon Mowbray.  Kruse underplays the role beautifully and I envision his Selsdon as a once capable actor who has been betrayed by age and his addiction to the bottle.  Kruse is very convincing as the nearly deaf thespian who can’t remember his lines and can’t recite them properly when prompted and never met a bottle of booze he didn’t like.

Mick Kovar spins some theatrical gossamer with his take on Frederick Fellowes.  Kovar’s Fellowes is a likable guy, but, man, he can also get on your nerves in a hurry as his obtuseness about motivations and plot prevent him from simply acting.  Kovar is a hoot as the hapless sad sack who spontaneously bleeds from the nose when violence occurs or at the sight of blood.  He is an impressive physical comic in his own right as he gets tangled in sheets and waddles around with his pants around his ankles.

Somewhere I imagine Kermit the Frog is pointing at Lloyd Dallas and laughing his head off as he handles his Muppets far better than Dallas manages his.  Neal Herring gives his Dallas a certain air of superiority because he seems more concerned with directing Richard III than he does about getting Nothing On off the ground.  He’s also a bit of a cad as he sleeps with a couple members of the cast and crew.  However, he’s also a shrewd master of diplomacy as he knows how to navigate the relationships and shortcomings of his actors even if the massive stress of doing so causes him to force a grin so tense I thought his teeth would shatter.

Kevin Colbert and Don Larew at Scenographics team up to design the massive great room of a mansion with a circular couch at the center and 8 doors and a set of windows suitable for slamming and frenetic entrances and exits.  Tim Sorenson’s sounds enhance the comedy especially with the delayed window breaking cues of the third act when too many actors try to play the same part.  Janet Sorenson’s costumes are realistic and natural.

Act I could have used a snappier pace, but I believe it was slowed by a quieter audience not giving the cast the needed fuel.  But once the pantomime started in Act II. . .whoa Nellie!!!  The cast just poured gasoline on the fire and their energy and animation would have lit Las Vegas and it didn’t wane until the final curtain fell.

There’s no depth to this show.  It’s just an unbridled, free for all of fun.  A viewing of this show will take care of your ab exercises for a week, so get a ticket and ready yourself to howl yourself hoarse.

Noises Off! runs at Lofte Community Theatre through October 30. Showtimes are Thurs-Sat at 7pm and Sundays at 2pm. Tickets cost $24 and can be purchased at www.lofte.org or by calling the box office at 402-234-2553. Lofte Community Theatre is located at 15841 Manley Road in Manley, NE.

A Most Unwelcome Pest. Err. . .Guest

Willum Cubbert is dealing with quite a bit of frustration in his life.  His creativity is being whittled down to blah by a dull client.  The woman he loves is moving to D.C. to be a weather girl.  On the upside, he’s about to meet the man who saved his life in Vietnam.  But, when he arrives, Willum discovers he’s a creature beyond terror.  He’s. . .He’s. . .The Nerd!!!!  And it’s currently playing at Maples Repertory Theatre.

The plays of Larry Shue are enjoyable in every conceivable aspect (reading, performing, watching, and directing) and The Nerd is one of his finest and best known.  Shue not only had a great gift for wordplay, but he also had a flair for the ridiculous and a penchant for creating a title character who takes absurdity to the zenith.  As such, his farces are a rich source of fodder for directors and performers.

For a play of this type, I can think of no better director than Peter Reynolds who has a positive bent towards handling this kind of material.  Once again, he rises to the occasion with his direction of this piece.  Not only has Reynolds guided his actors to superior performances, but he knows how to get his thespians to mobilize the frenetic words so that they not only sound funny, but believable, no matter how outrageous the situation.  Reynolds also knows how to craft bits so funny with timing so smooth and coordinated that you’ll laugh until your ribs ache.

Splendid supporting performances were supplied by Holden White who’s an obnoxious brat as Thor Waldgrave.  Sandia Ahlers is darling as the meek Celia Waldgrave whose repressed anger manifests in the destruction of breakable objects.  Trevor Belt is the blustering, unimaginative hotel magnate.  Kimberly Braun is a unique blend of supportive friend and proponent of women’s lib as Tansy McGinnis.

Michael Perrie, Jr. darn near steals the show as Axel Hammond.  Perrie is perfect for the role and just glows as the cynical theatre critic.  His witty asides are so extemporaneous that I wondered if some of them were improvised.  Perrie is also a great deal of fun to watch as he always finds bits of business that keep him involved in the scene, but enhance the primary action as opposed to drawing attention away from it.  He’s also great at the absurd parts of farce and his chant at the play’s climax is one of the show’s hallmark moments.

Nick Ferrucci is the consummate everyman as Willum Cubbert.  Cubbert epitomizes most of Shue’s leads:  a nice guy who has difficulty standing up for himself and going for what he wants until an outside force galvanizes him.  Ferrucci is completely believable as the kind-hearted architect, but his life spirals out of control when he finally meets his nerdy pen pal who once saved his life.  Ferrucci skillfully walks that line of a man trying to maintain his gratitude while simultaneously losing his mind.  His meltdowns are hilarious especially when he practices speeches throwing out his pesty acquaintance and has a knack for farcical improv with his machinations to get Steadman out the door.

And the source of all this turmoil is Rick Steadman, brilliantly essayed by Andy Harvey.  Anything you can think of when you hear the word “nerd” is embodied in Harvey’s take.  Steadman has a nasally, adenoidal voice.  His dress sense is godawful.  He’s completely oblivious to social cues.  He has weird hobbies like adapting songs for tambourine.  He’s also good-hearted and well-meaning, but he has the Sadim (read that backwards) touch as everything he touches turns to blech.  Harvey doesn’t chew the scenery.  He devours it and has a grand time doing so and brings you along for the ride.

Dana Weintraub has designed a comfortable apartment for the level-headed Cubbert and the properties of Eliot Curtis give it that homey atmosphere (bonus points for digging up the Fry Guy on the bookcase to give the place that 80s feel).  Jack Smith’s costumes suit the personalities of the various characters from the suits of the urbane Axel and business minded Walgrave to Steadman’s rainbow-colored suspenders and ill-fitting clothes to the smart dresses of Tansy. 

This show is pure escapism.  Grab a ticket and laugh yourself into a happy place. It’ll cure what ails you.

The Nerd plays at Maples Repertory Theatre through July 31.  Showtimes are 7:30pm on July 16, 22, and 30 and 2pm on July 12, 17, 22, 26-27, and 31. Tickets cost $33 for the Main Floor and $26 for the balcony and can be obtained at the Box Office or by visiting www.maplesrep.com or calling 660-385-2924. Maples Repertory Theatre is located at 102 N Rubey St in Macon, MO.

You’ll ‘Die Hard’ Laughing

A hard-edged NYC police officer flies out to Los Angeles to spend Christmas with his estranged wife and family, but gets caught up in a massive robbery attempt and he’s the only hope to stop the thieves.  Hey, this might make for a good movie!  But it’s A Very Die Hard Christmas and it’s currently playing at BlueBarn Theatre.

Jeff Schell and the Habit knew just what notes to strike when they decided to lampoon this classic action flick.  They actually stay true to the story, but completely upend its spirit with a comedic tour de force guaranteed to leave you wheezing for air before the night is through.  The meta aspect of the script is its finest quality as the show is aware it’s a show.  And a show done on the cheap at that as they can’t afford a full contingent of criminals and rely on Nerf ammo and squirt guns to mete out the show’s rampant violence.

Susan Clement dives into the heart of this show with a stylish bit of direction.  The show is immaculately staged as actors flow in and out of scenes as seamlessly as a rolling river.  Clement is able to give each actor a moment to shine and each feels like an individual and not just a piece of the ensemble.  Her coaching is right on the money as each performer gives a well-developed performance.  But keep your eyes on everybody or you might miss some subtle sight gags going on in the background of the crowd scenes.

Each member of the ensemble is a joy to watch and you’ll be treated to some quality work from Jonathan Purcell as Ellis, a coked-up prick who arrogantly thinks he can negotiate his way to safety and has a surprising set of pipes when he sings about how he “doesn’t want to die tonight”.  Roni Shelley-Perez lights it up in overacting, soap operatic glory as McClane’s estranged wife, Holly.  Raydell Cordell III is a scream as a Nakatomi employee who continuously pops up to say, “Oh, snap!” as well as providing a gentle take on Sgt. Al Powell, a police officer who lost some of his heart when he shot a kid.

Katie Becker-Colon might have the best role in the show as the Narrator.  Dolled up like Andy Warhol, Becker-Colon pops up to move the story along with endless variations and styles of Twas the Night Before Christmas while filling in needed gaps for assistance such as playing the piano or serving as a cameraperson for the obsequious reporter hungering for a scoop.  Becker-Colon is also a heck of a hoofer as I was blown away by her crisp dancing in the musical numbers.

Hughston Walkinshaw is magnetic as Hans Gruber, the criminal mastermind.  His performance invokes reminisces of Alan Rickman without aping him.  Walkinshaw is clearly having a ball as he cold-bloodedly squirts people to death, clomps around the stage while monologuing, and occasionally flips characters to Severus Snape for obligatory Harry Potter jokes.

Josh Peyton is a worthy John McClane as he makes the role his own.  He’s a chain-smoking, blue collar cop determined to see justice done regardless of regulations.  Peyton’s physicality is staggering as he deftly moves between building floors to dodge murderous thieves, hangs and shimmies down a bar, and rolls, rolls, rolls his way to justice and cover.  His fistfight with a life sized doll near the end of Act I is easily one of the funniest sight gags I have ever seen on stage.

Melanie Walters’ choreography is a blast to watch.  Robert Donlan’s set provides the feel of a cheaper version of downtown LA with the towering Nakatomi building.  Joshua Mullady’s lights really add some spice to the show with the starlit night sky and the complete drop to darkness before doing a slow light rise for the entrances of the FBI.  Jennifer Pool’s costumes evoke memories of the film from McClane’s dirty T-shirt to the 80s style clothes of the Nakatomi employees. 

It’s fast, furious, and funny and it’s almost sold out.  As of this writing, the only available tickets remaining are for the Dec 8 show at 7:30pm and they’re limited.  So visit www.bluebarn.org or call 402-345-1576 to grab one of the last tickets for this Christmas blockbuster.  Tickets cost $35.

A Very Die Hard Christmas runs through December 19.  Due to profanity, the show is not recommended for young children.  BlueBarn Theatre is located at 1106 S 10th St in Omaha, NE.

Lofte Community Theatre Announces 2022 Season

Harvey by Mary Chase

Performances: April 1, 2, 3, 7, 8, 9, 10
Auditions: February 15 & 16 @ 7 PM

This Pulitzer Prize winning play has been adapted many times for film
and television, most notably a 1950 film starring James Stewart.

The Story: Elwood P. Dowd insists on including his friend Harvey in all of his sister Veta’s social gatherings. Trouble is, Harvey is an imaginary six-and a-half-foot-tall rabbit. To avoid future embarrassment for her family, Veta decides to have Elwood committed to a sanitarium. The search is on for Elwood, who eventually arrives at the sanitarium of his own volition, and it seems that Elwood and his invisible companion have had a strange influence on many people…and you will be one of them. Don’t miss this theatrical classic!

Visiting Mr. Green by Jeff Baron

Performances: May 6, 7, 8, 12, 13, 14, 15
Auditions: February 22 & 23 @ 7 PM

Mr. Green, an elderly, retired dry cleaner, wanders into New York traffic and is almost hit by a car driven by Ross Gardiner, a 29-year-old corporate executive. The young man is given a community service of helping the recent widower once a week for six months. This is a moving and often funny story about two men who do not want to be in the same room together. As they get to know each other and come to care about each other they open old wounds they’ve been hiding and nursing for years. We suggest PG-13.

Legally Blonde by Heather Hach with Music & Lyrics by Laurence O’Keefe and Neil Benjamin

Performances: July 16, 17, 21, 22, 23, 24, 28, 29, 30, 31
Auditions: May 24, 25 @ 7 PM

This fabulously fun award-winning musical is based on the novel by Amanda Brown and the Metro-Goldwyn Mayer motion picture. Elle Woods appears to have it all. Her life is turned upside down when her boyfriend dumps her so he can attend Harvard Law. Determined to get him back, Elle ingeniously charms her way into the prestigious law school. While there she struggles, but with the support of some new friends she quickly realizes her potential and sets out to prove herself to the world. Exploding with memorable songs and dynamic dances – this musical is so much fun, it should be illegal!

The Diary of Anne Frank by Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett. Adapted by Wendy Kesselman

September 2, 3, 4, 8, 9, 10, 11
Auditions: July 25 & 26 @ 7PM

In this transcendently powerful adaptation Anne Frank emerges from history a living, lyrical, intensely gifted young girl, who confronts her rapidly changing life and the increasing horror of her time with astonishing honesty, wit, and determination. An impassioned drama about the lives of eight people hiding from the Nazis in a concealed storage attic, The Diary of Anne Frank captures the claustrophobic realities of their daily existence—their fear, their hope, their laughter, their grief.

Noises Off! by Michael Frayn

October 15, 16, 21, 22, 23, 27, 28, 29, 30
Auditions: September 4 & 5 @ 7PM

Called “the funniest farce ever written,” Noises Off presents a manic menagerie of itinerant actors rehearsing a flop called Nothing’s On. Doors slamming, on and offstage intrigue, and an errant herring all figure in the plot of this hilarious and classically comic play.

Every Christmas Story Ever Told (And Then Some!) by Michael Carleton, James Fitzgerald, and John K. Alvarez

December 2, 3, 4, 9, 10, 11, 15, 16, 17, 18
Auditions: October 24 & 25 @ 7PM

Instead of performing Charles Dickens’ beloved holiday classic for the umpteenth time, three actors decide to perform every Christmas story ever told — plus Christmas traditions from around the world, seasonal icons from ancient times to topical pop-culture, and every carol ever sung. A madcap romp through the holiday season!

Fear the Absurdity

Anna Perilo and Ben Beck star in “The Mystery of Irma Vep”

It was a dark and stormy night. . .ah, to hell with it.  It’s The Mystery of Irma Vep and it’s currently playing at the Omaha Community Playhouse.

This show is truly a spectacle that you have to experience so I won’t blow things with any kind of a plot description.  Charles Ludlam’s script is very meta as the show is aware that it’s a show with the twist that all but two cast members are unable to perform forcing the two available thespians to play every role.  And play them they do.  Way beyond the hilt as they tell the story of the tragic Hillcrest family plagued by memories of a dead spouse, werewolves, mummies, and more.  This is truly a howler of a comedy fit for the Halloween season.

Jim McKain understood that the way to tackle this show was not to take it seriously at all.  Nothing is off limits and the actors are given the leeway to ham things up to the extreme.  Still, you can see McKain’s disciplined hand with the tightly controlled pace and the nuances that make the multiple characters played by the two actors seem like different people.  McKain also takes full advantage of the beats of this farce, milking every drop of comedy from the tropes of huge dramatic pauses, cheesy “duh DUH duh” organ chords, and sound effects that make one feel like you’re watching an old radio show from the 1940s.  He’s also guided his actors to gutbusting performances guaranteed to give audience members a great ab workout as they guffaw through the night.

Ben Beck’s star shines brightly in this show as he’s able to use the full breadth of his character acting prowess.  Whether he’s the wooden legged servant, Nicodemus, making lewd double entendres towards the maid; the buxom Lady Enid Hillcrest trying to keep her husband from pining over his late wife; or the scheming Egyptian guide, Alcazar, looking to snare a few bucks from Lord Edgar Hillcrest, Beck clomps, howls, and frets his way into your funny bone.  Some of his best moments are his improv moments where he seems to break character to make a witty aside or reaction before snapping back to whatever character he is playing.

Anna Perilo will have you gasping for air before the night is through.  Her sense of timing is deadly accurate and she is an acting chameleon.  Her amazing characters include the very Cockney maid, Jane, who has an attitude well above her station and enjoys a good draught of booze and the mysterious lrma Vep.  But her best character is her rendition of Lord Edgar Hillcrest, the very British Egyptologist who’s quick to hunt down the wolf plaguing his sheep with guns a blazing and gamely exploring unopened tombs.  But her histrionics with Hillcrest’s temper tantrums and fear of “the horrors” will leave you wheezing for breath.

I absolutely loved Matthew Hamel’s set which included its own stage with clam footlights and a very British manor with its fireplace with smoldering embers, massive French doors, and fine oak woodwork.  Combined with Andrew Morgan’s properties of books, bric a brac, and portraits, I felt like I was watching something straight off the BBC.  Timothy Vallier has a very fitting horror score for the show that sometimes gives you a wink and a nudge when it segues towards 80s hits.  Chris Wood’s lights embellish the story’s absurdities with dropdowns to blues and reds for scary moments, a cacophony of colors when a mechanism is activated to reveal a sarcophagus, and flashes of lightning.  John Gibilisco’s sounds keep things humming with gunshots, thunder claps, and smashing glass.  Lindsay Pape’s costumes suit the period and the over the top feel with Lord Hillcrest’s tweeds, Lady Enid’s billowing, poofy, pink dress, Alcazar’s fez and robe, and the Grim Reaper outfit adopted by a grim intruder.

It’s the perfect treat for the Halloween season with its spooky theme and hammy antics and you’ll have a ripping good time during a night of humorous horror.

The Mystery of Irma Vep runs at the Omaha Community Playhouse through Nov 7. Showtimes are Thurs-Sat at 7:30pm and Sundays at 2pm. Tickets start at $36 with prices varying by performance. Tickets may be purchased at the OCP Box Office, by phone at (402) 553-0800, or online at OmahaPlayhouse.com. The Omaha Playhouse is located at 6915 Cass St in Omaha, NE.

Photo provided by Colin Conces

Horror Comedy, ‘The Mystery of Irma Vep’, Hits OCP in October

Anna Perilo & Ben Beck star in The Mystery of Irma Vep

Omaha, NE.– The Omaha Community Playhouse (OCP) production of The Mystery of Irma Vep will open on Friday, October 8th, 2021. The show will run in the Howard Drew Theatre through November 7 with performances Thursdays through Sundays. Tickets are on sale now starting at $36 with prices varying by performance. Tickets may be purchased at the OCP Box Office, 6915 Cass St., Omaha, NE 68132, by phone at (402) 553-0800 or online at OmahaPlayhouse.com.

SYNOPSIS

Vampires, werewolves, mummies and an ancient family curse: Two actors take on all of this and more—via dozens of warp-speed quick changes—in this wildly absurd comedy. A feverish spectacle from beginning to end, delightfully campy and dripping with satire, The Mystery of Irma Vep is a farce to be reckoned with!

Directed by: Jim McKain

Cast: Ben Beck & Anna Perilo

Photo provided by Colin Conces

For Adolts Only

From L to R: Sean Riley and Michael McIntire play the citizens of Tuna, TX in ‘Greater Tuna’

Welcome to Tuna, TX, home of the most eccentric, bizarre, and moronic people you’re likely to find on the planet.  Join them for a day in their lives in Greater Tuna which is currently playing at Maples Repertory Theatre.

This play is the first in a series about the peculiar citizenry of Tuna.  The shows are constructed as a combination of sketch comedy and soap opera.  The characters and situations are over the top and some storylines don’t get wrapped up until future shows.  One thing the shows have in common is that only 2 actors play the town’s citizens making it a showcase for character performers.

Marc Liby provides some skillful direction for this production.  He keeps the pace going at the speed of a bullet train to rev up the comedy’s momentum and knows how to keep the many individual story arcs bright and interesting.  His shaping of the actors’ numerous characters is stellar as each character has his or her own life with a change in costume, voice, and posture.

With only 2 actors to play a town of oddballs, skilled, versatile actors are a must and this show has got them in the form of 2 of MRT’s favorite sons:  Michael McIntire and Sean Riley.

McIntire and Riley’s timing is polished to a fine sheen and I think they set a record with their blitzkrieg costume changes.  Both also brilliantly essay the many lunatics of this town and are guaranteed to have you laughing from the diaphragm by the time the night is through.

Michael McIntire plays most of the town’s intense characters.  Some favorites were his rendition of Bertha Bumiller, a tough as nails morality freak who leads an organization to ban literature such as Romeo & Juliet due to its depiction of teenage sex and Roots because it only presents one side of the story; Elmer Watkins, a conspiracy theory fueled survivalist; and radio host Harold Dean who delights in blaring the town’s issues while dodging a stalker.  But his capstone character was Reverend Spikes who gives a rather energetic and lascivious eulogy which had the audience howling.

Sean Riley plays most of Tuna’s dopes and nerds.  Some of his classic performances include his take on the dorky Petey Fisk, the head of the local SPCA who often smuggles dogs to the Bumillers through their youngest child; the deadpan and potentially deadly Didi Snavely who runs the local weapons shop; his laconic Arles Struvie who hosts the thrice daily news broadcasts and is one of the few townsfolk with a couple of brain cells.  But his most surprising character is Stanley Bumiller, the ne’er do well son of Bertha who takes one of the show’s storylines in a shockingly dark direction with his grudge against a judge who sentenced him to reform school.

Kerri Packard certainly had her work cut out for her with this show, but her costumes suit the personalities of each of the town’s characters with the overalls and flannels of some of the hick characters, the frumpy dresses of the town’s elderly women, the con artist suit of Rev Spikes, and the clothing of Stanley Bumiller which seemed inspired by Mike Myers’ Wayne character from Wayne’s World.  Clayton Dombach keeps his set fairly simple with a large friendly sign welcoming people to Tuna and his backdrop depicting a farm community.  Mike Ekelburg’s sounds boost the comedy especially with the UFO scene which was influenced by Close Encounters of the Third Kind.  Shon Causer’s lights always suit the emotional thrusts of the various scenes.

This is pure escapist comedy which will make you forget about life for a while and provide the healing magic of laughter.  Take a night to lose yourself in humor.

Greater Tuna runs at Maples Repertory Theatre through August 1.  The show has 2pm showtimes on June 26, July 2-3, 7, 13, 18, 20-21, 30, and August 1 and 7:30pm showtimes on July 9, 17, 23, 28, and 31. Tickets begin at $26 and can be obtained by calling the box office at 660-385-2924 or visiting www.maplesrep.com.  Maples Repertory Theatre is located at 102 N Rubey St in Macon, MO.

Photo provided by Maples Repertory Theatre

A Feast of Farce

Collyn and Emerson are ad agents hoping to land an account for a chain of hotels owned by Samuel Briarwood.  To seal the deal Emerson invites Briarwood and his niece to dinner at her home.  However, her husband currently goes through a 9 month gestation and delivery every 24 hours due to a hypnotic suggestion.  To avoid the embarrassing situation, Emerson gets her husband out of the house and hires an actor to play him.  Unfortunately, Emerson’s husband comes home early.  You can find out the rest by watching Temporary Insanity, a world premiere production by Karen Schaeffer and currently playing at Bellevue Little Theatre.

Schaeffer’s script has considerable promise.  I enjoy the play on the title as it’s a reference to Ted’s daily birthings as well as Emerson’s being a little crazed herself due to her freaking out about the dinner plus the general looniness of the situations that erupt throughout the night.  The farcical second act is everything a great high-energy comedy needs to be with slamming doors, mistaken identities, and new plans spun out on the fly.  But the first act moves a little too slowly and feels more like a traditional comedy as it spends its duration setting everything up to fall apart in the second act.

Jon Flower provides some pretty effective direction with the production.  His actors are always moving and animated so the show is never static.  He developed some great visual gags, though an extended kissing gag will be even funnier once we’re a little further past the pandemic so actors feel safe in actually kissing instead of using body language to simulate the passion.  Flower also guided his actors to solid & strong performances and I was especially impressed with the performances he got out of his two youngest cast members.

Some of the entertaining performances you’ll see during the night come from Michael Taylor-Stewart as Ted whose groans of “pregnancy” liven up the second act.  Sherry Josand Fletcher is also amusing as Emerson’s mother, Marie, who agrees to play the maid for dinner, but proves to be an atrocious actress with her godawful Cockney accent and constant curtseying.  Robert Wagner also provides some chuckles as Ted’s drunken friend who only wants to play with a puppy.

D. Laureen Pickle is a scream as Emerson.  She perfectly captures the frazzled ad agent desperate to land the deal with her cockeyed plans to have an elegant dinner that constantly blow up in her face.  Pickle’s Emerson gleefully guzzles wine from the bottle, cooks so poorly that she can’t even toss salad (or perhaps tosses too well, depending on one’s point of view), and always seems a half step away from dissolving into a giggling hyena ready for a straitjacket.

Heather Wilhelm shows a mastery of straight man comedy as Collyn.  She’s the more level headed of the two ad agents and is clearly the glue holding Emerson together.  She can easily toss off a deadpan zinger and then engage in a bit of soap opera style acting as she concocts a tale with the professional actor hired by Emerson to cover his amorous advances on another character.

Don Harris’ performance as Samuel Briarwood was the fuel that kicked this show into hyperdrive.  As Briarwood, Harris is a blustering, old-school businessman and his flustered and puzzled reactions to the strange situations swirling about him are always a treat to watch.  His romantic tension with Fletcher’s Marie provided some of the funniest moments in the show.

Joey Lorincz creates another classic BLT set with the elegant home of Ted and Emerson complete with the numerous doors needed for a proper farce.  Said set is also impeccably dressed by Jon Flower to give it the feel of a home.  Todd Uhrmacher’s costumes are right on the mark with the uniform of the pizza delivery boy, the evening gown and suit clothing the Briarwoods, and Marie’s karate gi and maid’s uniform just to name a few.

The energy of the show was at an incredibly low ebb for a great deal of the night which made it feel too naturalistic as opposed to the bombastic, over the top feel required for farce.  Once Harris blew onto the stage, the momentum starting kicking up to the proper level.  Cue pickups were also a bit off and tightening them up will help to boost the energy.

In the end, this show does provide an enjoyable evening of insanity.  It almost has the feeling of an extended episode of I Love Lucy with Emerson’s hare-brained schemes and everything getting tied up in a nice little bow as an end.  And who could ask for anything more?

Temporary Insanity runs at Bellevue Little Theatre through June 27. Showtimes are Fri-Sat at 7:30pm and Sundays at 2pm.  Tickets cost $20 ($18 for seniors, $10 for students) and reservations can be made at http://bellevuelittletheatre.weebly.com/reservations.html.  Bellevue Little Theatre is located at 203 W Mission Ave in Bellevue, NE.