by Joseph Kesselring
We launch Stage Centre Productions’ 38th season with one of everybody’s favourite comedies, as funny now as it was when it was first seen in 1941. Arsenic and Old Lace centres on two charming and (apparently) innocent elderly sisters, Abby and Martha Brewster, who are famous in their Brooklyn neighbourhood for their numerous acts of charity. Unfortunately, however, their charity includes poisoning lonely old men who come to their home looking for lodging! The two sisters are assisted in their crimes by their crazy nephew who believes he is Teddy Roosevelt and who frequently blasts a bugle and yells “charge” as he bounds up the stairs. Matters get complicated when a second nephew, a theatre critic, discovers the murders. In trying to explain his aunts to his new wife, he tells her: “Insanity runs in my family…. It practically gallops.” Then there’s the third nephew who has just escaped from a prison for the criminally insane… Only last year, Broadway World.com said that “The zany, madcap comedy… is one that still manages to captivate audiences today… The play is as funny as ever… leaves the audience rolling with laughter.”
In 1949, when Helene Hanff was a struggling and unsuccessful author, she started to write to Marks and Co., a London bookshop, inquiring about editions of the obscure classics and English literature she loved. Her book, 84 Charing Cross Road, first published in 1970, chronicles her twenty years of correspondence with Frank Doel, the manager of the shop. As time passed, she became intimately involved in the lives of the shop’s staff, sending them food parcels during Britain’s postwar shortages and sharing with them details of her life in Manhattan. Due mainly to financial difficulties, she put off visiting her English friends until too late; Frank Doel died in December 1968, and the bookshop eventually closed. Hanff did finally visit Charing Cross Road and the empty but still standing shop in the summer of 1971, a trip recorded in her 1973 book The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street. The 1983 play based on her letters was a great success in both London and on Broadway. Writing in the New York Daily News, Liz Smith said, “84 Charing Cross Road is a play I loved… This is really unusual theatre that will touch the heart.” We hope it will touch the hearts of our audiences, too.
By Robin Hawdon
A young bridegroom wakes on his wedding morning in his own bridal suite in a hotel not far from Toronto, with his bride-to-be about to arrive any moment, and finds a strange girl in bed beside him. What’s more, an extremely attractive girl whom, in the depths of his post stag-night hangover, he can’t remotely remember even having been introduced to. Worse, during the ensuing panic to get the stranger dressed and out of the way, the bride arrives, the girl is trapped in the bathroom, the best man pretends the hidden girl is his girlfriend, his real girlfriend has to be kept ignorant of the fact, and the hotel chamber maid gets mistaken for everybody’s girlfriend! By the time the bride’s parents and half the hotel staff get in on the act, the chaos reaches nuclear proportions! Perfect Wedding is that rare combination − a riotous comedy and a touching love story at the same time. “The play moves at the speed of light, with a riot a minute that leaves the audience crying with laughter…The perfect medicine for all those thinking about getting married,” said the Hull Daily Mail.
By Hugh Whitemore
What would you do if you were asked to betray your best friends because the authorities believed them to be spies? Which is more important, loyalty to your friends or loyalty to your country? That’s the situation at the heart of this play, based on the true story of Peter and Helen Kroger who − at the height of the Cold War in England in 1961 − were found guilty of spying for the Russians and sentenced to twenty years imprisonment. Pack of Lies focuses on the moral dilemmas that devastate ordinary people when requested by the authorities to spy on their friends. First staged in 1983, the play was successful in both London and New York, and was later filmed with Ellen Burstyn and Alan Bates. The New York City Tribune described Pack of Lies as “A highly suspenseful and continuously engrossing spy thriller.” It’s a riveting and highly entertaining play for the thinking person.
By Mary Chase
Big-hearted Elwood P. Dowd makes friends wherever he goes, but his social-climbing sister, Veta, has a problem with his dear friend Harvey, an invisible, six-and-a-half-foot tall white rabbit. When she tries to have Elwood committed to an institution to save the family’s reputation, a comedy of errors ensues. Mary Chase’s 1944 Pulitzer Prize-winning comedy tells the tale of an unlikely friendship and the tug-of-war between the individual and society. James Stewart starred in the original Broadway production as well as the 1950 movie version. He also repeated his stage role in London in 1975. Revived yet again on Broadway as recently as 2012, this classic comedy is as entertaining as ever. Perhaps surprisingly, Stage Centre Productions has never presented this play before. “It’s impossible not to be drawn in by Harvey’s sweet and charming nature” wrote CBC critic Joff Schmidt in October 2013. We are confident that you will agree!
A finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, Love Letters centres on two characters who sit side by side at tables and read the notes, letters and cards – in which over nearly 50 years, they discuss their hopes and ambitions, dreams and disappointments, victories and defeats – that have passed between them throughout their separated lives.
“LOVE LETTERS is an extraordinary piece. You cannot stage a play more simply than this, and yet it’s about everything in life. First love, loss of opportunities, loss of life, loss of love…It’s a beautiful play, and all you do is speak it.” ~ Brian Dennehy, 2014
Four different couples will be on stage over nine performances, as follows:
- Lorraine Kimsa and Michael James Burgess: Thursday June 11 at 8:00 PM and Saturday June 20 (mat).
- Judy Gans and Roger Kell: Friday June 12 and Wednesday June 17 at 8:00 PM and Saturday June 20 at 8:00 PM.
- Dani Holden and Michael Chodos: Saturday June 13 and Thursday June 18 at 8:00 PM.
- Heather Goodall and Alan Washbrook: Sunday June 14 (mat) and Friday June 19 at 8:00 PM.
Special 2-for-1 offer for repeat bookings!
“… superbly crafted… If one goes back to see the production with alternate couplings, one has the opportunity to appreciate the human capacity for soul intimacy expressed via Gurney’s fine writing… I was thrilled and engaged by continual discovery.” ~ blogcritics.org