On Sunday afternoon I took I-65 northwest of Indy to Lebanon, Indiana to see “Those Crazy Ladies in the House on the Corner” at the Center Stage Community Theatre. It was written by Pat Cook, directed by Doug Davis, and produced by Sally Dunlap, with technical direction by Adam Hyson.
I think I have only seen one other play by Pat Cook – “Dad’s Christmas Miracle” at Buck Creek last December, before I started this blog – but I suspect that Houston-based Cook is a popular playwright for community theatres. I imagine that all of the 100+ plays that he has written are packed with funny lines and funny situations, often related to exasperating but lovable families.
That is certainly true of “Those Crazy Ladies in the House at the Corner.”
Three semi-elderly sisters (Ramona Everett-Seymour, Kate Hinman, and Cheryl Fesmire) with strong personalities share the house in which they grew up. Their family doctor (Martin Hinman), concerned about their ability to take good care of themselves on their own, arranges for them to take in a boarder (Stephanie Leavell) who happens to be a nurse, thereby providing them with live-in health care whether they want it or not. But in the meantime, the adult son of one of the sisters (Kevin Van Horn) is making shady deals with a developer to force the sisters out of their home so that it can be turned into a bed-and-breakfast.
When I pulled up to the theatre on Sunday afternoon, the “show in progress” sign was already on the door. “Drat!” I thought. I had known I was cutting it close, but I thought I would make it there on time. I hate to be late for any show, but especially for one in a tiny theatre. Center Stage’s intimate space is a renovated church fellowship hall. There is a tiny reception area, but no real lobby. You walk in the door and you’re in the house. If you’re late, not only do you miss the beginning of the show, but you’re being distracting and rude to the cast and the rest of the audience. I apologize to everyone at Center Stage for being late!
I watched the first scene while standing at the back of the house. When I entered the show, there were three gray-haired women on the stage, sitting in chairs on a lovely set that looked like someone’s home. There were lots of family photos and paintings on the rich, hunter green walls, and cozy chairs and knick-knacks spread around in a way that felt inviting. (Set designed and decorated by director Doug Davis and constructed by David Wines, Doug Davis, Drew Holliday, and Wade Seymour. Art work by Michael Iley-Sterne. Wigs by Sally Dunlap.)
The three women were yakking away, all three at once, each ignoring what the others were saying. It was a hilariously raucous voice-dance.
At the first scene change, I snuck into an empty seat in the front row. At intermission, I saw someone* I knew and asked him what I had missed. He said that the play had pretty much started where I came in and that I had only missed a canned curtain talk asking everyone to turn off their cell phones. Whew!
As I mentioned before, there are a lot of funny lines in this play. There are also a lot of different kinds of funny lines. I was intrigued by the fact that I heard different people laughing – and laughing loudly – at different things throughout the show. I was weak with laughter during the “murder” scene, myself. And I loved that the doctor calls himself an “old country doctor specializing in ear, nose, and truck.” The actors deliver all of the funny bits well.
In addition to the three talkative sisters, the cheerful nurse-boarder, the well-meaning doc, and the misguided son, there is a handsome boyfriend (Andy Best), a mysterious visitor (Rosa McDaniel-King), and a delivery boy (Jason Hatke) who is a real cutie.
The only artistic choice I questioned was that sometimes the actors seemed to be moving and standing as if someone had told them to never turn their backs on the audience. I remember being told this myself, years ago when I did theatre in high school, but it just makes the actors look awkward sometimes. It’s okay to break this rule.
The show takes place in two acts. Act I has five scenes; Act II has two. The decor changes to reflect the changing seasons and holidays: fall to Halloween to Thanksgiving to Christmas. The stage manager (Carey T. Woodings, II) and the props crew (Jordan Smith and Michael Woodings) make the changes quickly and quietly. After the show, I saw one of them patiently de-tinseling the Christmas tree to be ready for the next performance.
The music between the scenes is perfectly chosen and often as funny as the show itself. (Sound by Laurie Atwater.)
The director and cast developed the costumes, including nurse Jean’s perky scrubs, the doc’s endearing suspenders, and everyone’s holiday party glamour. I loved Maggie’s Christmas skirt, even if it was supposed to have gone around the base of the Christmas tree!
I didn’t think of this as a “Christmas play” while I was watching it, but the playwright categorizes it as such on his website. I bet it would be well-received at any time of year.
At intermission I spoke with David Wines, the person in charge of tickets, Ashley Sims, the person in charge of lights, and Adam Hysong, the technical director, about using the publicity photo from their website here on my blog. They were very nice, and arranged for me to receive the photo above. I thank Stephanie Leavell, too, for sending it to me.
“Crazy Ladies” is a fun show. It continues at the Center Stage Community Theatre in Lebanon, Indiana through June 22, 2008. Please call 765-894-5587 to make a reservation. Because it is a small theatre, sell-outs are likely. By the way, don’t confuse this theatre with Center Stage Productions.
*Actor Dave Eckard was there, too. He mentioned that he is about to start rehearsing Neil Simon’s “The Gingerbread Lady.” That show opens August 8, 2008, also at the Center Stage Community Theatre in Lebanon.
Hope Baugh – www.IndyTheatreHabit.com