MANITOWOC, Wis. (WFRV) – Funny little thing called theater.

There’s a group called St. John’s Players that puts on a production once a year, in summer.

Its budget is dust and desire.

This year, the group made up of folks who have performed in Lakeshore troupes and elsewhere are doing a first – a show by popular masters of mirth Jones Hope Wooten that is new to Northeastern Wisconsin.

Performed at the Franciscan Center for Music Education and Performance at the former Silver Lake College, “Funny Little Thing Called Love” is five plays in one. The premise is people go gaga, loopy and doty in the matter of love – the idea of being moonstruck.

Comedy dominates. The show is fun.

There is one brush with a serious thought, a line in a scene with an estranged couple, now healing, about looking ahead in their life to “maybe figure out what being here was all about.”

Otherwise, this is what’s up in the show that includes popular songs about love and the moon:

The basics

Running time: Two hours, eight minutes.

Remaining performances: 7:30 p.m. Aug. 12-13; 2 p.m. Aug. 14; tickets sold at the door

Creative: Writing team – Jones Hope Wooten (Jessie Jones, Nicholas Hope, Jamie Wooten); directors – Claran LaViolette, the Rev. James Klein; stage managers – Roger Bennin, Mary Klein; set and properties – Claran LaViolette, Roger Bennin, Jim Klein, Mary Klein; costumes – Claran LaViolette, cast; sound design – J Gravelle; lighting design – Warren Schmidt; tech – Jake Jacquart

The moonscape

Act I

Scene 1: “Love is One the Air,” in a TV newsroom in San Francisco.

During a broadcast, the meteorologist (Courtney Franz) calls attention to a special full moon (shown by lighting a theater wall). A female anchor (Darcy Gravelle) is moonstruck and is overwhelmed by desire for her co-anchor (J Gravelle) with her passion breaking out during the newscast.

Hormones run comically rampant, and the play is off to a lusty start.

Scene 2: “The Lone Star Ladies’ Justice Brigade,” in a chiropractic office in Dallas.

A randy auto dealer (Paul Hacker) is romancing three women at once (Heather Love, Katie Schroeder, Courtney Franz) until his mother (Jerri Burkhart) blows the whistle on him.

The scene teems with innuendo-filled dialogue, with Paul Hacker especially throwing himself into the role of a slick Don Juan, Texas style.

Scene 3: “A Hono-lulu Honeymoon,” in a hotel room in Honolulu.

The playbill hints of trouble: Honeymoon… seven people in the scene. That honeymoon ain’t gonna work.

But it does for humor. It does a freshly married couple (Darcy Gravelle and J Gravelle) have surprise company in the bride’s best friends forever (Barbara Bundy-Jost, Jerri Burkart, Ann Wolf, Mary Hamachek) and, later, a contrite husband (Gregg Wolf).

The lively stew is filled with more suggestive dialogue to stir the laughs.

Act II

Scene 1: “A Little Brit of Roman,” in a rooftop café in London.

This scene is the oddest of the bunch, taking unlikely to the outer limits as chance encounters take place amid British and Oklahoma accents.

A proper Briton (Roger Bennin) alone at a table is hit upon by a somewhat tipsy cowgirl (Darcy Gravelle) who his having a to-do with her mostly unseen “better half” (Gregg Wolf) under the watchful eye of a solitary woman (Katie Schroeder), who eventually joins the “show.”

Weaving in and out is the waitress (Claran LaViolette), who gives new meaning to “slow” service with molasses movement that comes into greater meaning in a slow-mo sight gag bit with a sousaphone.

Scene 2: “Upper West Side Story,” in an apartment in New York City.

Boxer shorts. The whole scene is played out with a fellow in boxer shorts. He (Bruce Bitter) doesn’t quite have everything together – despite advice from a friend (Tom Bartelme) for his proposal to a someone (Courtney Franz) at least 10 years his junior, in an apartment he shares with his ex-wife (Ann Wolf).

If that isn’t enough, there are added routines with the maid (Heather Love) who passes out due to allergies to lilies, a goofily-clad singing telegram deliverer (Mary Hamachek) who keeps getting interrupted from her paycheck, an EMT (Barbara Bundy-Jost) on the make for male “companionship” and a ledge-walker (Bill Fricke) in a superhero costume who is trying to escape a singles party in the adjacent apartment.

Big points are scored by Bruce Bitter in his earnest delivery as the guy in underwear, Heather Love as the “rag doll” being dragged around the room and the whole bunch for playing up all the gags that the playwrights load into the scene.

Overall: Amplification is minimal, so voicing is sometimes a challenge. Directors Claran LaViolette and the Rev. James Klein have a game collection of experienced players in a substantial cast throwing themselves into the fun-making. The playwrights have a way with humor that seems easy. And St. John’s Players offers an entertaining show that is fresh to the local play-going scene.


Sunset outside theater at intermission, Aug. 6, 2022. (Warren Gerds)

THE VENUE: Dedicated Oct. 3, 2013, the 35,000-square-foot Franciscan Center for Music Education and Performance at the former Silver Lake College of the Holy Family, 6751 Calumet Ave., consists of two focal interior areas. They are the Bob and Pat Endries Foundation Hall and the Michael and Mimi Ariens Atrium. The 464-seat auditorium is dominated by wood. The stage floor is maple, with small lights running along the front lip. The ceiling above the stage consists of wood panels with a slight outward curve and inset lights. Five rows of flat panels above the hall are from two to eight panels across. The backs of seats are wood-like, with fabric covering of a burgundy matching that of the main stage curtain. The moveable (for concerts) back wall of the stage consists of panels with a slight outward bow. The side walls and a fringe across the top of the proscenium (flat-front) stage are made of a veneer with a kind of mahogany shade stain and, most importantly, a wavy effect. Being surrounded by wood, along with waves, gives the impression of being in a sea of wood. All the wood is for acoustical properties, and the sound of the hall is warm and inviting. The carpeted atrium features a slight arc. A pattern of floor-to-ceiling windows inset in stone-like support sections allows a light aura. The tall wall of the auditorium is painted a shade of sienna. The ceiling is wood, with large beams.

THE PEOPLE: Robert Endries and his wife, Patricia Endries, started a fastener distributorship in the basement of their home in Brillion in 1970. Endries International grew to 70 locations and 450 employees in 2004 and was sold to Ferguson Enterprises in 2005. The Robert & Patricia Endries Family Foundation benefits entities in Brillion and somewhat beyond. For Michael and Mimi Ariens, think of Ariens snow blowers and lawnmowers, with the company that Michael once led based in Brillion. Many area entities benefit from the Ariens Foundation, of which Mimi Ariens is president.