Warren Gerds/Critic at Large: Peninsula Players troupe announces 2014 season


PHOTO: Peninsula Players audience members gather on the theater’s grounds on the shore of Green Bay prior to a 2013 performance. Warren Gerds photo

GREEN BAY, Wis. (WFRV) – “The Tin Woman,” Agatha Christie’s “And Then There Were None,” “The Mystery of Irma Vep – A Penny Dreadful,” “Butler,” “Always… Patsy Cline.” Those are the plays for the 2014 season of Peninsula Players Theatre.

The titles are important for Door County. The troupe is America’s oldest professional resident summer theater, and what it presents is a cog in the summertime artistic action in the tourist-minded county. The theater’s 79th season includes sure-fire draws of the Agatha Christie classic and “Irma Vep,” a comedy from the Players past often mentioned as a favorite.

Located along Door County’s scenic shore, the Players perform in a 600-plus seat, all-weather pavilion. Audiences often arrive early (as in the photo above) to catch a view of the sunset or to picnic on the grounds.

The Peninsula Players performs Tuesdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 7:30 p.m. in summer. With the opening of the fall show Sept. 3, curtain times are Tuesday through most Sundays at 7 p.m. The closing Sunday performance of each show will have a 4 p.m. matinee, July 6, July 27, Aug. 17, Aug. 31 and Oct. 19.

 Discount tickets are available for season ticket holders and groups. Individual tickets are currently available by phoning the Box Office. Individual tickets will be available online mid-May following the completion of the season renewal process. Individual ticket prices range from $35 to $44. There are no performances on Mondays. For more information or to reserve tickets phone the box office at (920) 868-3287 or visit the website at www.peninsulaplayers.com.

Here is information on the coming season from a press release.

- The season will open June 17 with the world premiere of “The Tin Woman” by Sean Grennan, creator of “Making God Laugh,” which also had its world premiere at the Players. “The Tin Woman” is a comedy about Joy, a woman who unexpectedly gets a new lease on life as the recipient of a donated heart. Joy struggles to accept her twist of fate while Jack’s family adjusts to life without him. Humor and emotions fly back and forth when Alice, Jack’s mom, invites Joy to dinner after receiving a wholehearted thank you note from her. “The Tin Woman” will have a three-week run closing July 6.

Peninsula Players artistic director Greg Vinkler said, “Three years ago the Players presented the world premiere of Sean Grennan’s ‘Making God Laugh’ to open the season. It was a warm and funny story that followed a family through the years as they celebrated various holidays. Audiences fell in love with the show. Soon after, Sean sent me a new script, ‘The Tin Woman,’ which I believe is an even richer, funnier and more moving play. 

“‘The Tin Woman’ follows Joy, a young woman who has had a heart transplant. She is having trouble coping with this new life which she didn't expect to have and she somehow feels the need to meet the family of the person whose heart she received. The story of her coming to the decision to contact the family along with the story of the family itself both come together in a funny and touching way. And the play resolves very unexpectedly, but movingly for all. ‘The Tin Woman’ will be our world première season opener and I'm happy to say Sean will be with us again as we put the show together.”

- From July 9 through 27, the Players present Agatha Christie’s classic whodunit “And Then There Were None.” The Queen of Crime’s classic mystery features guests lured to Soldier Island by a host who fails to appear. Marooned at the lonely resort, each guest has a dark secret to hide and all fear dark shadows from their wicked pasts. Isolated and trapped, one by one they start to die. One of the greatest murder mysteries ever written, “And Then There Were None” was originally published as “Ten Little Indians.” It is Christie’s best-selling novel with more than 100 million sales and the play celebrates its 70th anniversary in 2014.

Vinkler said, “No one writes old-fashioned murder mysteries like Ms. Christie. I think this may be her best one. Great situation, fun characters and a doozy of a puzzler. Eight guests, unknown to each other, are invited to a chic but completely isolated house, where none of them, including the butler, housekeeper and boatman, have ever seen their host. Soon after their arrival a disembodied voice accuses all of them of having each committed a murder. And shortly, one by one, they begin to be inexorably killed off - in some not-too-pleasant ways. And, in the best Christie tradition, you don't find out whodunit till the very end. I’m looking forward to our having a fun thrill ride with this one!”

- Next, July 30 through Aug. 17 is the madcap comedy “The Mystery of Irma Vep – A Penny Dreadful” by Charles Ludlam. The romp begins on a dark and stormy night. Lady Enid arrives at her new home to find the portrait of Irma Vep, Lord Edgar’s first wife, still on display above the fireplace and Irma’s mysterious presence looming over the haunted manor.  The comedy takes audiences on a comical journey from an austere English manor to the exotic pyramids of Egypt.

Vinkler said, “What do you get when you combine Victorian melodrama, farce, the penny dreadful, ‘Wuthering Heights,’ ‘The Mummy's Curse’ and Alfred Hitchcock's film ‘Rebecca?’ You get our third show – the very silly, very funny ‘The Mystery of Irma Vep – A Penny Dreadful.’  This show is a hoot. Two actors play eight characters of both sexes with a total of more than 40 costume changes between them. 

“It’s quick-change silliness from beginning to end. From Lord Edgar’s haunted estate ‘Mandacrest,’ where his dead wife’s portrait hangs over the mantelpiece, to the tombs of ancient Egypt (Lord Edgar is, after all, an Egyptologist), a motley cast of characters, saintly and evil, human and non-human, thread their zany way through this award-winning comedy. Every time I read it, I laugh out loud.”

- The Midwest premiere of Richard Strand’s Butler takes the stage from Aug. 20 through 31.  Benjamin Butler’s first day as Major General of Fort Monroe, a Union hold-out in Virginia during the onset of the Civil War, is greeted by a request for sanctuary from quick-witted Shepard Mallory, a runaway slave. Based on true events during the first year of the Civil War, “Butler” is filled with wit and tension. 

Butler” was featured in the Players 2013 Winter Play Reading Series, “The Play’s the Thing.”

Vinkler said, “We are very excited to be bringing a fully-realized production to our audiences. ‘Butler’ was introduced to me by Tim Monsion, an actor who has been with us many seasons.  I read ‘Butler’ and liked it so much the Players produced a winter play reading of it last year. That audience was so delighted with the play they practically begged me to put it into this season. And I’m very happy to say it is.

“Based on true events from the first year of the Civil War, it’s the story of a runaway slave and a brand-new general who butt heads over what to do with this very smart and stubborn young man seeking asylum at Fort Monroe, Virginia. The law states that, as property, he must be returned to his owner; Butler’s principles end up with him deciding otherwise. Surprisingly, the solution helped change the course of American history. The confrontations between these two characters, Shepard Mallory and General Butler, are very funny, dramatic and extremely human.”

Butler” received an Edgerton Foundation New American Play Award.

- Closing the season Sept. 3 through Oct. 19 is Ted Swindley’s enduring musical revue, “Always … Patsy Cline.”  Cline is one of the best-loved and iconic recording artists of all time. “Always … Patsy Cline” written and originally directed by Ted Swindley tells the true story of the music legend’s friendship with her devoted fan Louise Seger, a Texas housewife who maintained a correspondence with Patsy from 1961 until her untimely death. Filled with toe-tapping music, down-home country charm, humor and heartache, this musical features more than 25 of Cline’s endearing and timeless hits such as “Crazy,” “Sweet Dreams” “I Fall to Pieces” and “Walking After Midnight.”  

Vinkler said, ‘“Always … Patsy Cline’ has a big heart, a lot of music and focuses on a singer who will never grow old. ‘Always … Patsy Cline’ includes many of her biggest hits and a story about her and her friend Louise that is sweet, funny and touching. I never get tired of listening to her unique voice, her style and her songs.”

You may email me at warren.gerds@wearegreenbay.com. Watch for my on-air features on WFRV between 6 and 8 a.m. Sundays.

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