Cape May Summer Theater Highlights
By Debra Donahue
Cape May, NJ — The summer theater season is in full swing, with offerings from Cape May’s two Equity Theaters, Cape May Stage and East Lynne Theater Company and GABLES, a non-profit organization known as “the gay group doing good things for the entire community.”
On stage for the summer is a selection of productions to please any audience. There truly is something for everyone.
Cape May Stage
At Cape May Stage, the season opener, “Souvenir” runs until June 20th and is a must-see production, directed by the company’s new Artistic Director Roy Steinberg. It’s a true story rendered for the stage by Stephen Temperly, about Florence Foster Jenkins, a society lady who was a singing phenomenon in the 1930's and '40's. Thing is, her fame came from singing badly. She sold out Carnegie Hall and mistook the laughs for cheers, all the while under the delusion that she had real talent, a charade that was bolstered by her accompanist and friends. The play is funny, poignant, and well-acted by its two stars.
SAY GOODNIGHT GRACIE - June 24 to July 18
There is no better lens through which to observe the 20th century than that of the wry, sly George Burns — cigar in hand, tongue in cheek. Written by Tony award-winning writer Rupert Holmes, this poignant and uplifting love story, and homage to Burns’ wife, Gracie Allen, was nominated for a Tony Award for ‘Best Play’ and won the National Broadway Theatre Award for ‘Best Play’ in 2003.
SOCIAL SECURITY - July 22 to August 29
The writer of “Blazing Saddles,” Andrew Bergman, focuses on trendy Manhattan gallery owners Barbara and David Kahn, whose life is upended when her housewife sister Trudy deposits their mother Sophie on the couple's doorstep. Barbara and David introduce Sophie to suave Maurice Koenig, who offers to paint her portrait and soon begins to brighten her life in ways she never expected at her age. This production features Cape May favorites Grace Gonglewski, Andy Prosky and Suzanne O’Donnell, as well as newcomers (seasoned on stage and screen) Neal Lerner, Lynn Cohen and Ron Cohen.
VISITING MR. GREEN - September 2 – September 26
In Jeff Baron’s touching and absorbing comedy, it’s a twist on the Odd Couple — how opposites attract, then repel and attract again. Young exec Ross Gardiner, guilty of reckless driving (for almost running down Mr. Green), is ordered by the court to visit the 86-year-old cantankerous Jewish widower. Funny and dramatic, the audience will consider “community service” in a brand new light.
Cape May Stage performances run Wednesdays through Sundays at 8PM at the Robert Shackleton Playhouse at Bank and Lafayette Streets in Cape May.
Adding to Cape May Stage’s 2009 summer lineup is their new Second Stage Series on Mondays and Tuesdays when the theater is normally “dark.” The series features comedy, magic, cabaret, puppet theater, mimes and a one-woman show. This is a very tasty stew and there’s a helping for every taste.
East Lynne Theater Company
The East Lynne Theater Company, Cape May’s other Equity theater company is under the direction of Gayle Stahlhuth, presenting excellent plays that are historical in content with some scripts written by Stahlhuth herself.
ALICE ON THE EDGE - June 17-July 25
Alice Gerstenberg was known for her “futuristic/cubistic” style. East Lynne Theater proudly presents several of Gerstenberg’s enticing one-acts: “Fourteen,” “The Illuminati in Drama Libre,” “He Said and She Said,” and “Overtones,” one of the most popular plays of the 1915 Broadway season, which featured (for the first time on stage) the interplay of two characters and their alter egos.
HANS BRINKER (World Premiere) July 7
In celebration of the 400th anniversary of Captain Henry Hudson's voyage around Cape May, this production was adapted by Gayle Stahlhuth from the 1865 novel by American Mary Mapes Dodge. The well-known story centers around an ice-skating race in the Netherlands, the prize being a pair of silver skates. This is a Summer Theater Workshop Student Production. Free Admission.
THE RANSOM OF RED CHIEF (World Premiere) - July 29-September 5
An adaptation by Gayle Stahlhuth of the popular classic O. Henry comedy, the play presents the tale of two thieves whose slam-dunk idea is to capture a young boy and offer a ransom for his safe return to his family. Things get way more complicated (and hilarious) as the thieves find out just what they’ve gotten themselves into. The young actor in this production is a local lad, Bobby Lemaire.
HELPFUL HINTS - August 6-23
Last year’s comedy hit returns with Susan Tischler, who performs her adaptation of Mae Savell Croy’s “Putnam’s Household Handbook” published in 1916. Making her stage debut in 2008, Tischler as Mrs. Croy, imparts witty and wise advice about everything from cleaning the stove and your clothes with kerosene, to leaving babies outside when they cry. Dressed in a fetching 1900’s gymnasium suit, Tischler discusses other topics of her endless areas of expertise such as architecture, invitations and the (always interesting) sick room. Presented by East Lynne Theater at The Chalfonte Hotel.
PEOPLE OF CAPE MAY V. JOHAN VAN BUREN - August 27
In 1609, Henry Hudson sailed around Cape May on his way to Manhattan Island. Which is more historically significant? Witness live courtroom drama with Dutch TV personality Judge Frank Visser, who is coming all the way from the Netherlands to preside over the argument of which town had the most impact on America’s future when Henry Hudson came to this shore. See The People of Cape May v. The People of New York City duke it out - verbally! Written by Frank Visser, produced by East Lynne Theater.
East Lynn performances take place at the First Presbyterian Church, 500 Hughes Street, Cape May. Season tickets are available through June 30, and half price tickets are available 24 hours in advance of performances.
Gables sponsors the return of Joanna: The Gal with a Gazillion Voices, who appeared in summer 2008 at The Chalfonte Hotel.
CELEBRITY INSANITY with JOANNA July 23-26, July 30 - August 2
Joanna (a.k.a. Joe Schmitz) has performed all over the country. In the winter she performs in her one man/woman show in Mexico. The New York Times calls Joanna “One of the Best.” The Florida Sun says Joanna “Goes beyond impressions, parody, and burlesque” singing over 30 comical celebrity impressions of all the really deserving one-namers — Cher, Barbra, Liza, Cyndi, Bette, Alanis, Macy, Sinead, Eartha, Celine, Madonna, Judy, Elvis and Kermit. Original and daring, Joanna doesn’t lip-synch. It’s all her. Him. Er…them.
Debra Donahue is a writer and public relations gal with a long history in Cape May.