Take this opportunity for a delightful evening of theatre spent with the folks at the Footlights Club in the SUNY Fredonia Theatre Department's production of Stage Door, which opens this weekend.
Edna Ferber and George S. Kaufman's classic play transports us to a boarding house for young actresses in New York City in the 1930s. In the style of plays of the period, the large cast fills the stage with a full range of personalities and residential drama. As is befitting a lodging for young women, the house has its rules (gentlemen callers meet in the living room at an appropriate hour), but Mrs. Orcutt runs the place with a theatrical flair. As the play unfolds, the gals navigate the tension between tossing in the challenges of finding work to return home to marry a hometown boy and sticking it out, daring to hope they'll make it on the stage. The lure of Hollywood becomes an integral dynamic with its splash, quick cash, and fame. Some respond to the coastal call without a backward look to the stage and others value the "thunder and lightning and power and truth" of live theatre.
In contemporary plays, a cast of 32 has become almost cost prohibitive, so it is a thrill to see the antics of the large, capable cast. Madison Osgood is marvelous as Terry Randall, who embodies the heart of the play and has us rooting for her with her indomitable spirit. Sophia Howes never lets us forget Mrs. Orcutt's bygone stage days with dramatic moments throughout. Judith Canfield (Shannon Mann) is engaging with her loyalty, quick tongue, and talent for reading a letter as if it were a monologue in the role of a lifetime. Deanna Jelardi plays a spitfire Bernice Niemeyer, managing her own audition whenever possible. Big Mary (Haley Beauregard) and Little Mary (Rhiannon LaCross) banter back and forth with contagious energy. Mattie (Siobhan Hunter) and Frank (Alex Grayson) are delightful as they contend with all of the personalities of the house.
Along with strong acting, the set design deserves accolades (Theresa Pierce). The wall-papered interior with upholstered furniture and numerous portraits effectively captures a boarding house of the time. Hats off to costume designer Anna Slocum for the period garments, no small feat with a cast this size. Dr. Jim Ivey has masterfully directed the production and keeps it moving at a brisk pace. Even during scene changes, underscored by a just-right soundtrack, we're engaged in the world of the play.
The play is an homage to the stage and those who follow their passion. I, too, echo Terry Randall in being a little "stage-struck" when I see the work and energy that has gone into this strong production. Stage Door continues April 21, 26, 27, and 28 at 8 p.m. and April 22 at 2 p.m. in Marvel Theatre. Tickets are available at the Central Ticket Office at (716)673-3501.
Ann Siegle Drege is with the Department of English at SUNY Fredonia.