New slant on the next play

Cranbrook Community Theatre tries something new with next play

Paul Rodgers

With Cranbrook experiencing an exceptionally bustling season of theatre, and “The Producers” receiving rave reviews across the board, the stage is set for another great show.

Starting February 9 “Plaza Suite” will commence, and despite the busier than usual theatre season, producer Trevor Lundy is confident both in the production itself and the community support.

“I think Cranbrook has shown that they’re very supportive of our theatre,” said Lundy who also sits on the board of Cranbrook Community Theatre.

“One of the things that we always are excited about at Cranbrook Community Theatre is how our audiences are very accepting of different types of shows.”

The play, created by renowned American playwright Neil Simon, is formatted as a comedy in three acts, all of which take place in Room 719 of the Plaza Hotel in New York City. Each act has its own director.

“We’re always looking for opportunities to introduce new directors or new producers or new people into our organization, into new roles,” Lundy explained. “And so we wanted to find some way that we could help train some new directors and add new blood that way.”

How they achieved this was back in May 2017, when the project was announced, they put out a call to any interested directors that wanted to take on one of the acts.

“At that point I believe we had six interested parties off the bat, which of course then meant we actually had to do some work because we actually had to cut it down in some fashion.”

Each director was then asked to read the script, choose one of the three acts and explain why they liked, or disliked it, explaining their thought process along the way. The three directors were chosen based on their answers to those questions.

Every director is likely to be recognized by their audience — they’ve all been involved with and have acted in Cranbrook Community Theatre productions for years — but this is the first opportunity they’ve had to get into the director’s chair.

“So they do have that experience behind them but they are new to directing, so it’s a much different kettle of fish I guess you’d say.”

Barry Coulter (Act I), Thom McCaughey (Act II) and Michelle McCue (Act III) are at the helm as directors.

Nine actors in total fill the roles.

Lundy himself has long been involved in theatre here in numerous capacities. What made this experience different was that because there were three directors, all new to that role, a higher level of support was needed and it posed different logistical issues. Additionally, early on in the process Lundy was asked to do a role in October’s “The View From the Bridge,” which hindered his ability to give his full attention to the directors.

Fortunately for him, all three have proven themselves to be quite capable, and he says the acts are all looking fantastic.

“It’s been a very different process,” Lundy said. “I have produced before and again, typically you’re worrying about one person and one set of circumstances and it’s been very different in that sense with three trying to sort of maneuver that.

“They also have been around the theatre long enough themselves to realize that, especially in community theatre, the best way to get something to happen is just to make it happen and do it yourself and ask for forgiveness later and just do stuff. And all of the directors have been great for doing that.”

Lundy said the script was chosen by the board specifically because of the idea of doing three separate stories, centred around one room (which makes the set design aspect one less thing to worry about for the three directors.)

Each story deals with a relationship. In the first, a husband and wife celebrate an anniversary, although the husband is distant and aloof, hinting at troubles below the surface. In the next a famous Hollywood producer invites his high school sweetheart, attempting to rekindle old flames. And finally, in the third act two parents struggle to get their cold-footed daughter out of the bathroom she’s locked herself in on her wedding day.

“If you have one director do that you’d have a similar theme running through it or a similar feeling running through it even though each story is very different. With the three directors you’re going to get a different twist in each one, which really adds something interesting to it I think.”

Tickets are available now and can be purchased for a reasonable $18 from Lotus Books, $15 for members. Tickets can be bought at the theatre the night of, but be warned that you run the risk of turning up to a sold out show.

There are 7:30 p.m. shows on February 9, 10, 15, 16, 17, 21, 22, 23 and 24 and there is also a very special 2:00 p.m. matinee on Sunday, February 18.

Cranbrook may not be a huge city, but there is a huge theatre community here that proves itself willing to show support time and time again.

“It’s been a busier than usual season for theatre,” Lundy said, “but I think our audiences are going to continue to support that and I think that ticket prices are still quite reasonable and I think that Cranbrook is eager to come out and see things like this.”

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