From Funnyman Steve Martin to That Beloved “Tuna” Pair:
Great Writers Shine in the Spotlight at Little Lake in 2014
By Doug Shanaberger
You know how “lightbulb moments” are, those wonderful, uplifting bursts of inspiration that lead you to make a choice or assure you that a decision you arrived at was the right one, if not the only one.
Sunny Disney Fitchett had such a full-wattage moment recently after—for what must have seemed to her the 150th time—she looked over the list of plays that had been selected for Little Lake Theatre’s upcoming mainstage season, its 66th.
And then, unexpectedly, “something jumped out at me,” recalled the artistic director, who already knew the schedule measured up to her standards and would likely get a thumbs-up from the public as well. Much-requested fan picks, like “Brighton Beach Memoirs” … checkmark. Acclaimed works coming to Little Lake’s stage for the first time, including the long-delayed “Dividing the Estate” … another checkmark. Personal favorites, too, such as “The Miracle Worker,” which Sunny adores.
Yet the names underneath the titles are what suddenly caught her eye.
“For the most part, they are established playwrights held in high regard and praised for their work,” she later said of Neil Simon, Horton Foote, William Gibson, whose plays are mentioned above, and also Steve Martin, J.B. Priestly, Christopher Durang, Brian Friel, Norm Foster, John Patrick Shanley, the celebrated Ephron sisters (Nora and Delia), and, finally, “Greater Tuna” masters Jaston Williams, Joe Sears and Ed Howard.
As the old drama critic’s adage goes, “If it ain’t on the page, it ain’t on the stage,” and Sunny—on board to direct Durang’s “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike,” Foote’s “Dividing the Estate,” Gibson’s “The Miracle Worker” and, in a joint effort, “A Tuna Christmas”—tips a chapeau to it.
So does Art DeConciliis, who signed up to guide Martin’s “The Underpants” (most definitely a crowd-pleasing laugh getter, considering that title.), Shanley’s Pulitzer Prize-winning drama “Doubt” and, sharing the director’s chair with Sunny, “A Tuna Christmas.”
Art calls the lineup “a really good trail mix,” alluding to the sweet likeability of “Brighton Beach Memoirs” and Foster’s “The Foursome,” the tartness of Durang’s “Vanya and Sonia …” and the significance, the richness, of “Doubt,” “The Miracle Worker” and Friel’s “Dancing at Lughnasa.”
Yes, he’s even excited about putting on his actor’s hat and returning to the always-popular gender-bending zaniness of “A Tuna Christmas,” embracing the many small town male and female Texans he portrays “before I get too long in the tooth to look good in a skirt and a pair of Candies!,” he said. (Though, on a personal note, I picture Art the never-say-retire trouper becoming the Betty White of his generation, acting up a “Tuna” storm when he’s 92. Any bets?)
Rounding out the director’s circle throughout the May-to-December mainstage season are Jena Oberg with “Dancing at Lughnasa” and Priestly’s “When We are Married,” Carol Lauck with “Brighton Beach Memoirs,” Wayne Brinda with “The Foursome” and Stephen Santa with the Ephrons’ “Love, Loss and What I Wore.”
The doors open May 1 for “The Underpants,” wherein Steve Martin puts his own devilish mark on a 1910 farce from Germany about a young bride whose ascent to notoriety begins the day an embarrassing accident happens in public and turns her into the Girl a Smitten Gentleman Can’t Forget. Quite a few smitten gentlemen, in fact.
Theatergoers, please, visit the homepage and the Facebook page often in the months ahead for news concerning the mainstage offerings, the Looking Glass Theatre and the Fall Family Matinee Series.
Mark your calendars, too, for the annual fall fundraiser, to be held on October 26 in recognition of the 100th birthday of Little Lake’s founder, the late Will Disney.