Wilmington’s theatre scene routinely churns out diversified productions. From original pieces to local renderings, the town’s talented cast of characters sate the cultural appetite. This week proves no different. Three shows will open—two helmed by local writer and director Anthony David Lawson. The other comes from the reins of director Aaron Willings.
Theatre has a knack for generating characters which reflect the audience. It places open-minded attendees in the position to learn a bit more about themselves and the society around them. Whether exploring relationships, societal structure or muses, each of the plays opening this week deliver enlightenment on the human condition.
While “Closer” and “Good People” focus on the serious nature of human interactions, the reprise of “The Bard’s Broads” yucks it up dinner-theatre style. Nevertheless, each comes with its own brand of enrichment.
Browncoat Pub and Theatre, 111 Grace St.
8/7-10, 15-17, 22-24, 8 p.m.; Sun. 5 p.m.
Patrick Marber’s “Closer” debuted at Royal National Theatre’s Cottesloe Theatre in London to much acclaim in 1997. The play, which centers on the sexual intrigues of four main characters, was adapted to the screen in 2004. “Closer” will come to Wilmington this week under the direction of Aaron Willings. For the past seven years, he’s worked as a technician for myriad productions around town. He’s undertaken set design, light design and special effects. As well, he directed “The Importance of Being Earnest” at Browncoat in 2012.
Willings will direct the show following struggling writer Daniel Woolf (Kenneth Rosande), wno meets and falls in love with Alice Ayres (Anna Gamel). The young woman is looking for a fresh start after previously being a stripper. Daniel writes a book on her life but soon falls in love with Anna, who takes press photos for the book; however, Anna leaves him for Larry (Jonathan Tyler Berry), a self-made man and a doctor. Over the course of the play, the characters continue to have affairs with one another, demonstrating the brutality of modern love.
“[It’s about the] real-to-life experiences of four individuals and how, through their interactions, we see just how complicated human relationships can be,” Willings explains. “[It’s] easy to see a version of ourselves in each portrayal.”
Gamel delves into the role of Alice and brings maturity which highlights the character’s personal darkness. Rosander explores the complexity of Daniel, a difficult feat as he sometimes has to vacillate through the emotions of his fickle character over the course of a single scene.
“Daniel goes from insecure to confident to needy to demanding sometimes all in one scene,” Willings elaborates. “Kenny really has committed to the task.”
Hunter brings relatabilty to the down-to-earth Anna. Berry’s performance as Larry explores the vulnerability of his hard-working character as his emotions are put to the test in the tangled webs of “Closer.” Willings focuses on the characters, per Marber’s request in the playbook. The set will remain simple, by relying on two curved staircases and pictures on the walls as props. Though the play spans four years, time will remain understated and a relative concept.
The Bard’s Broads
TheatreNOW, 19 S. 10th St.
Fri. and Sat., 8/8-9, 15-16, 22-23 and 29-30
Local theatre veteran Anthony David Lawson will reprise his play, “The Bard’s Broads,” for an encore performance in the dinner-theatre setting of TheatreNOW this week. Having debuted last September, Lawson agreed to show it again in order to set up its sequel, “The Bards Broads Two: The Bard is a Broad,”which will make its premiere at TheatreNOW next month.
The play breaks down the fourth wall to integrate the audience in the happenings its main setting, a pub known as The Dirty Quill. It features some of Shakespeare’s most famous ladies and even the legendary playwright himself.
“I had always wanted to do a Shakespeare-themed play where [the Bard] was surrounded by characters that inspired his writing,” Lawson details. “I also had seen a show when I was in high school that stuck with me all these years; it was set in a bawdy tavern, and the ‘ladies’ of the house ran the action. I even tried contacting [some of the people involved with that show] when I started writing. Unfortunately, the show had closed.”
Lawson will reprise his role as Bartholomew “Mule.” As well, Patrick Basquill returns as his apprentice/indentured help, Phillip. William Shakespeare (Nick Reed) once again encounters his favorite serving wenches, Desdemona (Kristina Auten), Ophelia (Mickey Johnson), and Gertrude (Liz Bernardo). Mickey Johnson is the play’s only new cast member.
“I trust them so much, and we know each other so well by this point that we can improv a new joke that was funnier than the one written,” Lawson says.
TheatreNOW’s chef, Denise Gordon, will serve Elizabethan-themed fare, including a Tavern salad for starters. The main course consists of three options: roast turkey drumstick, lamb and beef stew or the meatless “turkey” roast with cherry sauce. For dessert, she will serve fresh and dried fruits in orange and herb sauce with shortbread.
Red Barn Studio, 1122 S 3rd St.
Thurs. – Sun., 8/7-10, 15-17, 23-25 and 28-30, 7:30 p.m.; Sun. 3 p.m.
Also on Lawson’s agenda for this week is undertaking the direction of David Lindsay-Abaire’s 2011 play “Good People.” The production was nominated for two Tony Awards (Best Play and Best Leading Actress) during its debut year, in fact.
Thalian Association’s artistic director, David Loudermilk, reached out to Lawson to read the play. “I walked straight to the library, checked it out, read it, and called him that afternoon and told him I would direct,” Lawson reports. “I love pieces that are very real, and this play is about people and relationships; it’s ultimately a play about class, and we don’t have a lot of those in American drama.”
Taking place in the Southie neighborhood of Boston, “Good People” tells the story of Margie Walsh (Nicole Farmer). After being laid off from her job, she faces eviction. Living paycheck to paycheck is the way of life for folks in her neighborhood. She surmises the best way to overcome this bind is to seek out a former flame, Mike, who made it out of Southie, yet who may or may not be the father of her handicapped child.
The cast features Dillon Maurer, Claire Bennett, Lily Nicole, Holli Saperstein, and Lee Lowrimore. Despite the distinct accent associated with this well-known U.S. neighborhood, Lawson maintains the interpretations and impersonations of it people will not be cartoonish.
“I feel everyone has found the right balance,” he says. “We pulled back from the accent if it interfered with the moment. I would rather not sacrifice emotion for the sake of a 100-percent authentic accent.”
With five different locations featured over the course of the play, set design has proved quite a feat. Wanting to ensure the surroundings match the depth of characters, Lawson kept spacial issues at the forefront of design for the intimate Red Barn Studio.
“Lance Howell pulled it off brilliantly,” he says. “We could’ve gone with an implied set that was a bit abstract, but I felt that the story and characters were so real that I wanted their surroundings to be as real as possible.”