MOUNT VERNON — Sometimes the drama which happens backstage at a production of community theater can be just as entertaining as what the audience sees on-stage. This is the theme of “Thespians,” a play in two acts by William Cameron, set to open tonight at ThePlace@TheWoodward.
Director Dorothy Michalski, and a small band of actors from the Mount Vernon Players, use minimal staging and props to let the relationships between the actors and the humor and drama which develop, shine at their best.
With some members of the cast having had only a few short weeks to immerse themselves in their new “Thespians” roles after the large-scale production of “Little Shop of Horrors,” which wowed local audiences just last month, the actors made a seamless transition to the new venue, new director and new script.
Calling her cast a group of “veteran actors,” Michalski said the group had worked hard, and she herself had thrown herself back into directing after a three-year hiatus.
“This is my first time directing here,” Michalski said, having moved to Knox County only three years ago. She directed stage productions in Pittsburgh and several other cities before finding her way to the Mount Vernon Players.
The plot of the show examines the egos, hurt feelings, competition and conflict which can sometimes create more drama off-stage than in community theater.
With an unplanned pregnancy, shotgun marriage proposal, competition for the affection of a pretty girl and a neurotic leading man with some quirks his castmates must regularly work around, anyone who has ever worked in community theater may find a laugh or two where the rest of the audience may not find one.
However, the chemistry between castmates, and the sheer likeability of the cast including the fresh-faced Alison Mills as Roxie McILvaine, and standout Dianna Langley who plays director Selena Templeton with a credibility and genius that raises the level of the dialogue and draws the audience into the story.
Married couple Jim and Amy Stoner work beautifully together as the nurturing Molly and neurotic Wally Wilkinson.
Jesse Miller, fresh from his directing debut in “Little Shop of Horrors,” shows his ability to step in and center a scene that may otherwise wander.
Calvin Bridges, the critic played with humor by Calvin Young, gives a humorous edge to the stereotype of critics everywhere.
Eddie Bittner and John “Digger” Digby played respectively by Adam Burley and Dayne Baughman show their comedic timing well, rounding out the veteran cast.
“Thespians” opens at ThePlace@TheWoodward tonight, where performances will run at 8 p.m. every night through Saturday, with a matinee Sunday at 2 p.m.