Old Town Playhouse (OTP) in Traverse City is hoping to change that, at least for local audiences, when they begin their two-week run of 3 Classic One Acts: Shaw, Chekhov and Moliere on Friday, March 11 at 8 pm in the Studio Theatre. Overruled by George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950), The Brute by Anton Chekhov (1860-1904), and Jean-Baptiste Molieres (1622-1673) The Pretentious Young Ladies are the trio of chosen comedic works by the classic playwrights, and will play Friday-Saturday opening weekend, and Thursday-Saturday March 17-19.
Veteran actor and director Jan Dalton, whose extensive theatre credits are testament to a passion for and trained background in the classics, has played a major role in bringing this project to life, in addition to helming The Pretentious Young Ladies. He admits to being a man with a mission, which is to help pieces such as these feel more accessible to audiences by way of comedy. If the response to this evening of one-acts is a positive one, then he hopes it might pave the way to OTP tackling a full-length piece by Shaw, Chekhov, or Moliere on the upstairs main stage.
Audiences are usually afraid they will be bored by classic theatre, but these shows are comedies, and they are extremely funny, explained Dalton, who earned his degree in Dramatic Arts from UC Berkeley, spent a year performing in Vienna, Austria with the International Theatre, and was last seen on-stage at OTP in last springs production of Art. With Moliere, in particular, once you see it, you will love it. I hope audiences will leave knowing how fun, entertaining, and accessible these authors are.
Dalton firmly believes that each of the three one-acts, let alone any of the works in the oeuvres of the featured playwrights, continue to be important piece to perform, and that in a more perfect world, it wouldnt take much to convince audiences to attend.
Quite simply, each one represents great theatre, they are in the public domain, and are very entertaining, he said. I cant believe how few people have even heard of Moliere, including advanced French students. Next to Shakespeare, he is one of the greatest playwrights ever. If you are not familiar with them, all three of these pieces are a good introduction to these authors.
Shaw was an Irish playwright and critic whose many plays are frequently revived. A determinedly controversial figure who could be relied upon to be provocative and witty in almost any situation, his works often addressed social and moral hypocrisies, and he earned a Nobel Prize for literature in 1925.
Among his best-known plays are Mrs. Warrens Profession, Caesar and Cleopatra, Major Barbara, Pygmalion, and Androcles and the Lion. Overruled, which will be directed by Wayne Erreca, is a biting, farcical comedy about sexual morals and the hypocrisy of marriage as two couples argue the merits of taking on a lover, theories of sin, and notions of propriety.
A Russian dramatist and short-story writer, Chekhov first began writing humorous sketches and articles as a medical student at Moscow University, and went on to make his name in theatre with a series of successful one-acts and then full-length plays such as The Seagull, Uncle Vanya, The Wood Demon, Three Sisters and The Cherry Orchard.
It was about ten years after his death, though, that his plays became commercial hits, and his four late masterpieces have been recognized as having a profound influence on 20th-century Western drama. The Brute, directed by Stephanie Leach, follows what transpires between a widow and a creditor who comes to collect a debt left by the womans dead husband, and is marked by hilarious moments, dramatic heights, and an unexpected ending.
The Pretentious Young Ladies was the first major success for Moliere, a French playwright and actor-manager, and served to earn him the favor of Louis XIVs court. In it, two rather shallow young women set out to conquer Parisian society, only to be put into their places by two clever servants to put them in their places. The piece has broad caricatures and overtones of commedia dellarte, and signaled the coming of Tartuffe, Don Juan, The Miser, and other plays that would provide generation after generation of performers with some of their finest acting roles.
On that note, Dalton says that finding 15 talented actors for a Studio Theatre production of classics in the middle of a very busy OTP season was challenging, and that each director also appears in their respective shows. Still, he says, the directors were all gratified to put together casts who were up to the dramatic heavy-lifting required in each piece, and reflect some of OTPs best-known and most experienced names.
Cast members include Shanna Scheele (Mrs. Tamara Popov), Nick Randall (Grigory Smirnov), Ann Norris (Luka), Sarna Salzman (Mrs. Lunn), Wayne Erreca (Mr. Lunn), Sandra McClain (Mrs. Juno), Rick Korndorfer (Mr. Juno), Tom Czarny (La Grange), Jan Dalton (Du Croisy), Hedges Macdonald (Gorgibus), Elizabeth Stewart (Marotte), Jamie Moyers (Magdalon), Esme Bloomquist (Cathos), Michael Nunn (Mascarille), and Daniel Jablonski (Jodelet).
For ticket information and reservations, call OTP at (231) 947-2443, or visit www.oldtownplayhouse.com.