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Warren Gerds/Critic at Large: ‘Two Henrys’ to end ‘PlayWorks 2021’ season in Sturgeon Bay

Critic At Large

Third Avenue Playhouse

Beverly Ward, clockwise from left, Susan Sweeny, Bernard Dotson, James Valcq and Kenneth Jones. (Warren Gerds image)

STURGEON BAY, Wis. (WFRV) – Third Avenue Playhouse will close its season of “PlayWorks 2021” this week with Kenneth Jones’ drama “Two Henrys.”

The livestream play reading performance starts at 7 p.m. June 18. Tickets are free, with donations accepted. Info: thirdavenueplayhouse.com.

Direction is by James Valcq, co-artistic director of Third Avenue Playhouse.

The three cast members are members of Equity, the actors’ union.

This year’s play reading series was extended in part because of the COVID-19 pandemic and somewhat because the theater is being renovated.

Story snapshot: In the dead of winter, Henry flies from New York to Florida to offer condolences at the funeral of a father figure he never knew. But as the booze flows at the wake, are the surviving widow and her grown daughter ready to raise a glass to the unexpected guest? Set in 2012, between the dusk of the worst days of the AIDS crisis and the dawn of marriage equality, “Two Henrys” is a humor-laced drama about guilt and grief, perceptions and prejudices and the urge to find family.

The play contains strong language and adult situations.

+ Kenneth Jones is a playwright, librettist and lyricist. His play “Alabama Story” was a 2016 nominee for the Steinberg/American Theatre Critics Association New Play Award and a 2014 finalist in the O’Neill National Playwrights Conference. It has been seen in more than 40 cities around the nation and was produced by Peninsula Players Theatre in Door County. Other plays: “Last Call at the Old Slave Quarters Lounge” (2020-21 Florida Studio Theatre commission); “Hollywood, Nebraska” (developed in Off-Broadway’s NewTACTics New Play Festival, Lab Series at Actors Theatre of Indiana, Wyoming Theater Festival); “Circa 1976” (2018 O’Neill NPC Semi-Finalist); “Ten Minutes on a Bench”; “Tortilla Messiah.” Musicals: “It Happened One Christmas,” co-conceived with Karen Azenberg (Pioneer Theatre, 2015); “Naughty/Nice,” with composer Gerald Stockstill (published by stagerights.com); “Voice of the City,” with composer Elaine Chelton (developed by York Theatre Company and Human Race

+ Susan Sweeney (Constance) has been a voice/speech/text/dialects coach to professional theaters for 35 years. Included are Guthrie Theatre, Milwaukee Repertory Theatre, Madison Repertory Theatre, Skylight Opera Theatre, Philadelphia Drama Guild, Walnut Street Theatre, Baltimore Center Stage, Virginia Stage Company and the Colorado, Illinois, Utah, Sedona and Oregon Shakespeare Festivals. In 2006, Sweeney was dialect coach for Francesca Zambello’s production of “ShowBoat,” featuring a cast of 85 singer-actors, at the Royal Albert Hall in London. From 2001 to 2013, Sweeney served as head of voice and text, coaching more than 40 productions, at American Players Theatre. She was on the faculty of the Professional Theatre Training Program at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee from 1981-1989, relocating with the program to University of Delaware.

+ Bernard Dotson (Henry), a native of Los Angeles, began performing nationally and internationally singing the “Walt Disney Songbook.” While working for the Disney Company, he was featured on TV shows singing in English, French, German and Japanese. New York concerts include singing the music of Frank Loesser with The New York Philharmonic, 2012 hit Encores production of “Merrily We Roll Along,” directed by James Lapine, “Finian’s Rainbow,” “Encores Broadway Bash” and “Dreamgirls” to benefit the Actors Fund. Dotson has been seen on Broadway in “Finian’s Rainbow,” “Chicago,” “Imaginary Friends,” “Sweet Smell of Success,” “Jesus Christ Superstar” and “Ragtime.”

+ Beverly Ward (Amy) has Bev has worked on​ ​Broadway (“​Anastasia.” “​Epic Proportions”); Off-Broadway (“​A Child’s Christmas in Wales”; in London; ​“Crazy for You​”; on national tours: “Billy Elliot​,” “​Crazy for You” and Hal Prince’s ​“Showboat​.” In 2018, Ward transitioned to arts administration and took a position at Rubicon Theatre Company in Ventura, Calif., where she raises funds for that organization. Also a writer, she collaborates with her husband, Kirby Ward. Their musical adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s ​“Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime” ​will be part of Rubicon’s 2023 main stage season. A Christmas musical they are writing is scheduled for a 2022 production in Bogotá, Colombia​.

+ James Valcq (director) composes, performs, directs and helps guide Third Avenue Playhouse. He has composed for the theater (“La La Lucille,” “The Velvet Gentleman,” etc.) and has co-authored such shows as “Boxcar” for Northern Sky Theater of Door County and “The Spitfire Grill,” which has had more than 700 productions worldwide.

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