Little Lake Theatre
April 28, 2015
By Doug Shanaberger
In one week, the doors at Little Lake Theatre will re-open and the wheels of season # 67 (can you believe it?) will be set in motion. With the customary fanfare, of course, and the usual surge of energy—that wonderful curtain-up, light-the-lights flurry of activity that hasn’t been evident since December, when “A Tuna Christmas” brought the last season to a triumphant finish. So many cold nights, so many icy mornings ago.
It’s time, yes, for Little Lake to wake up from its winter hibernation, to once again, like all theaters, transform itself into “a magician’s trick box … where the unexplainable, the fantastic, the tragic, the comic and the absurd are routine occurrences on and off the stage” (E.A. Bucchianeri, “Brushstrokes of a Gadfly”). To have what former artistic director Sunny Disney Fitchett has been describing as a new adventure and an exciting era of new leadership.
But doesn’t it put a lump in her throat, knowing that the adventure will continue without her?
Well, let’s step back and revisit the early months of this year, to when she was diligently reading and, finally, selecting the 11 plays that mainstage audiences will enjoy this season, beginning with Thornton Wilder’s “Our Town.”
Then, “I think I was only somewhat subconsciously aware that I wouldn’t actually be involved in the play-making of the season ahead,” said the West Coast-bound Sunny, who, in just a few weeks, leaves the area after handing all responsibilities over to her successor, Roxy MtJoy. Her husband, Rob Fitchett, will step down, too, officially giving the title of managing director to Bob Rak, a popular actor and also a former member of the company’s board of directors.
The Fitchetts have a new adventure of their own waiting in California, where Rob grew up.
Over the winter, “I kept reading, and falling love with what I was reading,” Sunny added, “and, as it happened every other year, feeling very selfish about passing along plays to Roxy and our other directors—plays that I have an itch and eagerness to direct myself. It was only after I’d presented the slate of plays to our board and to Roxy and our staff and directors, after I’d written the play descriptions for the brochure, that a light bulb suddenly exploded in my brain and I came face to face with the realization that I wouldn’t be seeing the fully-realized productions. That’s when a deeper bitter sweetness hit me.”
Sunny chose “Our Town” to launch the season because “it is, truly, my favorite American play,” one that she’s already directed twice and acted in on three occasions. Given a somewhat innovative retooling, a spin slightly cooler than it’s ever had before, the Thornton Wilder classic about love and loss as experienced by the residents of an archetypal small town opens May 7 with a cast that includes Art DeConciliis, Lily Lauver, James Curry, Mary Liz Meyer, Bob Rak, Kevin Bass and Allison Cahill.
“And something I’m very excited about: Marina Lauver, an exquisite musician, will play the cello throughout the play,” said Sunny.
After “Our Town” closes on May 23, 10 other plays follow through the end of December, some written by the most celebrated playwrights, humorists and memoirists of our time. From Nora Ephron, “Lucky Guy” (June 18-July 3). From John Patrick Shanley, “Outside Mullingar” (July 30-August 16). From Theresa Rebeck, “Dead Accounts” (September 10-26.) From Craig Lucas, a revival of “Prelude to a Kiss” (October 1-17). From Arlene Hutton, “Letters to Sala” (October 22-November 7). From A.R. Gurney, “The Grand Manner” (November 12-28).
Roxy MtJoy inaugurates her directing career at Little Lake by guiding Julie Kramer’s stage adaptation of “The Best of Everything” (May 28-June 13), the rich 1950s bestseller that catapulted its author, Rona Jaffe, to instant stardom and made her a heroine among those ambitious young working girls who—quite daringly for the period—believed that a woman could have a marriage and a career.
“Think ‘Mad Men,’ if the show had focused on all those fabulous secretaries. It’s frothy fun, with a bite,” said Roxy. Later in the season, she’ll direct two other mainstage productions: “Last Gas” (July 9-25) by “Almost, Maine” author John Cariani; and the aforementioned “Prelude to a Kiss.”
For pure escapism, i.e. rollicking laughs, Sunny made room on the schedule for a pair of high-octane, fast-moving farces. Not a serious word will be heard.
First up, John Mortimer’s treatment of the French classic “A Little Hotel on the Side” (August 20-September 5), by Georges Feydeau and Maurice Desvallieres. And the season will end with one of the all-time great theater romps, “Inspecting Carol” (December 3-19), a behind-the-scenes visit with a cash-poor theater company whose troupers are doing their best to bring “A Christmas Carol” to life despite feelings of dread and ennui—by the way, two words that have no place in any conversation you might have with Little Lake’s new artistic director. “When I look at the season as a whole, I am struck by the scope and ambition,” said Roxy. “Classic works and new plays, laughter and tears, big casts and intimate settings, silliness and solemnity. I can’t find anything missing.”
Theatergoers, you’re encouraged to visit Little Lake Theatre’s homepage for more details about the 2015 season. Return often in the months ahead for additional news regarding the Looking Glass Theatre, the Fall Family Matinee Series and special events such as the fall fundraiser.