When Amber Roal first took on directing “Play On” for the opener of the Evergreen Playhouse’s 60th season, she read it and thought it was witty.
When she asked some friends to read it out loud with her, she thought it was funny.
Now that she’s seeing it come to life on the stage, she said it’s beyond hysterical.
“When I got actors and actresses doing it, it just explodes how witty this script is,” Roal said.
“Play On” opens Oct. 11 at Centralia’s Evergreen Playhouse. Written by Rick Abbott, it tells the story of the cast and crew of the fictitious play “Murder Most Foul” in the final days before their opening night. Director Geraldine Dunbar, portrayed by Meghan Goodman, and stage manager Aggie Manville, portrayed by Michelle Koenen, attempt to keep their cast on task through constant interruptions from the salty stage hand Louise Peary, portrayed by Katie Norbie, and frequent changes to the script by playwright Phyllis Montague, portrayed by Sue Robb. Throw in constant bickering between diva Polly Benish, portrayed by Theresa McKenzieSullivan, and snarky Saul Watson, portrayed by Alex Johnson, the not-so-secretive secret romance between Billy Carewe, portrayed by Henry Wegener, and Violet Imbry, portrayed by Scarlet Nixon Klein, and constant eye-rolling and whining from teenage actress Marla “Smitty” Smith, portrayed by Isabel Nixon Klein, and you have a recipe for a play that is bound to be memorable.
“It’s a total Murphy’s Law story,” said Goodman, who said the first time she read the script she laughed so hard she cried. “Everything that can go awry does go awry and you can’t help but anticipate it. It’s just very typical farce. If you’ve done any theater before, it’s like all your nightmares come to life.”
Touted as “a play within a play,” six of the show’s actors and actresses actually portray two characters each: their character and the character that person is playing in “Murder Most Foul.” For example, McKenzieSullivan said Polly is an aging diva who does not yet know she is past her prime who henpecks her husband Henry (portrayed by Dave Marsh), which is in stark contrast to her character of Lady Margaret, a reserved and submissive wife to Henry’s character, Lord Dudley.
“It’s absolutely hysterical,” McKenzieSullivan said. “I love the interplay with the regular cast and the play cast. I love the conflicts, the sexual attraction, the hidden gems.”
“Play On” has an almost an immersive feeling that is supposed to help audiences feel they are actually watching a real rehearsal process. Roal said she thought “Play On” was a great choice for the opener of the 60th season of the Evergreen Playhouse because it invites the audience into a process that some may never have experienced.
“Things happen in this play that happen in real life here. It’s a great glimpse of what it’s really like to make a play,” Roal said. “The difference is when they actually get to opening night, it does not go as well as we hope our opening night does.”
Creating an immersive feeling for audiences has created a challenging piece for the cast of “Play On.” For instance, in an actual rehearsal, once actors and actresses are expected to be “off book,” meaning they cannot use their scripts in rehearsals anymore, if they cannot think of their line they call out “line.” But since the fictional cast of “Murder Most Foul” is constantly forgetting its lines and calling “line” to Geraldine and Aggie, the cast of Evergreen’s production of “Play On” had to change the word to “help” so that Roal knew they were actually calling for their line instead of acting.
“As Billy, I have to remember to forget a line and call out ‘line’ and call it to the director in the play, not to (Roal),” Wegener said with a laugh.
But you don’t have to be an actress or actor to appreciate the humor in “Play On,” said Marsh. He said beyond the subject matter, the play is just incredibly funny comedy. He said “Play On” is full of verbal and physical comedy and the entire cast has done a great job really jumping into their roles wholeheartedly. He said he thinks audiences will love the story as much as they have loved bringing it to life.
“I don’t think we’ve had a rehearsal that we haven’t had to pause because we’re all laughing uncontrollably,” Marsh said.
Aside from mild language and sexual attraction scenarios, Roal said she would rate “Play On” as “Disney PG.”