On stage 01/20/2015

Two openings and a remembrance

By Jacqui Theobald

Photo: Rob Willoughby as Hucklebee and Brian Sharp as Bellomy in Dayton Playhouse’s “The Fantasticks”
“The Fantastics”

Whether “The Fantasticks” is familiar to you or yet unknown, the Dayton Playhouse invites you to share their delighted smiles and good humor on a romantic journey to look at young love. Make certain to bring your imagination and whimsy and “Try to Remember,” one of the iconic songs – plus, “They Were You” and “Soon It’s Gonna Rain.”

Director Matthew Smith has assembled a cast of Dayton’s best-known actors, each eager to be chosen for this classic of moonlight and magic with a jolt of realism. They will be joined by a couple of young performers.

“We’re doing a beautiful, gentle, two-hour, stripped-down period piece as it’s meant to be,” said Smith, who brings a fresh enthusiasm to this 50-year-plus continuously running Off–Broadway record setter.

The two teens bring sparkle and freshness and the seasoned talent has a romp. “Directing this is both teaching and keeping the hams under control,” Smith said.

Playing the young couple: Kami Flanders as Luisa, Tyler Henry as Matt. Their fathers: Rob Willoughby is Hucklebee and Brian Sharp is Bellomy. Described as, “a former actor who specialized in stage deaths” is Mortimer, played by award winning Saul Caplan who has done the role several times, the first nearly 25 years ago. Completing the cast are Chuck Larkowski as Henry, the old actor spouting Shakespeare; Shawn Hooks is El Gallo, the bold narrator; and The Mute, William Scarborough.

That’s where your imagination joins the cast, as The Mute portrays a wall to keep the couple separated. There’s a horse you can’t see, confetti as rain, wind and snow. A “sword” fight is completed with canes and dowels. Natasha Randall is fight choreographer.

Acknowledging contemporary awareness, the playwright updated the script in 1990 from the 1960 version, changing references of rape (it was never that) to abduction, a more accurate term for the simulated “realistic view of life.”

Music Director Ron Kindell handles the piano, harp, string bass and drum score by Harvey Schmidt; lyrics and book by Tom Jones. Mike Embree directs the dances. The set, with Victorian references was designed by Chris Newman with costumes by Janet Powell.

The Dayton Playhouse presents “The Fantasticks” Jan. 23-Feb. 8 at the Dayton Playhouse, 1301 E. Siebenthaler Avenue. For tickets and more information, please call 937.424.8477 or visit daytonplayhouse.com.

“Things My Mother Taught Me”

“Things My Mother Taught Me” at Beavercreek Community Theatre is a more down to earth take on love, relationships and parents’ influence. A couple moving cross-country to a hip Chicago apartment doesn’t expect both sets of parents to show up. In the opening scene, a huge chair is stuck in the doorway and the different solutions offered define the characters who suggest them, and set minor conflicts of this popular 90-minute show currently being done in five other Ohio theatres.

Aaron Brewer is Gabe whose mom Lydia (Terry Lawson) is practical and orderly. Aubrey Strawser is Olivia; her mom Karen (Christina Tomazinis) is anxious. His Dad Wyatt is Jamie McQuinn and hers is Carter, Steve Strawser, her real life dad. Jamie and Christina are actually married to each other, but not in the play. Adding more comedy is the building superintendent, Max, Andrew Stokely.

What are the “things”? When you move, always buy a new toilet seat and dust the top of the fridge. More substantially, learn not to sweat the small stuff and use common sense to anticipate consequences: don’t leave an unlocked truck on a Chicago curb.

Worth noting: experienced Director and actor Jill Proudfoot, totally enjoying her tasks, said, “Dayton is theatre rich.” She acknowledged her interests began many years ago when she was a 9-year-old Munchkin in “The Wizard Of Oz” at Town Hall Children’s Theatre in the mid-60s.

Beavercreek Community Theatre presents “Things My Mother Taught Me” Jan. 23-Feb. 1 at 3868 Dayton-Xenia Rd. in Beavercreek. For tickets or more information, please call 937.429.4737 or visit bctheatre.org.

Remembering Ralph Dennler

Ralph Dennler died in December. He was a tall man with big shoes, a one-of-a-kind person who wore too many hats to ever be replaced. He might have enjoyed that mixed metaphor because it was with an enormous investment of spirit and humor that he gave of himself to much that has enriched Dayton community theatres, and propelled them to the high quality success they enjoy today.

His resume shows he acted many roles and directed many shows, all ranging from drama to comedy, from the Victoria stage to the Theatre Guild’s venues. He was a prime force in helping that group acquire its new theater. Upon receiving his Dayton Theatre Hall of Fame 2007 Daytony Award, his nominator, Fred Blumenthal said, “It’s hard to quantify the hundreds of hours Ralph has spent as a board officer … play selection and other off stage tasks: cleaning, building, fund raising, speaking to service clubs. Just count the wrinkles on Ralph’s wonderfully craggy face … to see the joy and effort.”

It took some effort once to take over a lead from a sick actor with two days until opening night, to learn the lines and blocking and to give a very convincing performance. Ralph loved that challenge.

He spoke to a class I moderated at The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at the University of Dayton (UDLLI) last spring. He came with extensive written notes, then spun local theatre tales for two hours, note-free, enthralling the group, leaving them wishing for more.

He was the backbone of local theatre and the voice on the Guild’s answering machine. He ended his Daytony acceptance speech: “I have only one regret – I wish I could do it all over again.” We agree. Ralph Dennler 1937-2014. RIP.

Reach DCP theatre critic Jacqui Theobald at JacquiTheobald@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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Reach DCP theatre critic Jacqui Theobald at JacquiTheobald@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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