Village Players offer up a full plate of Neil SimonWritten by Matt Liasse | | firstname.lastname@example.org
The Toledo area has an open invitation to a dinner party.
Neil Simon’s “The Dinner Party” is the third production of The Village Players Theatre’s season. The play follows six people who have been invited to a dinner party, without knowing how or why.
“It’s one of those plays where you laugh one moment, then it’s serious the next moment, then you laugh again,” said director Jeff Albright.
On top of his Academy and Tony Award nominations, Simon is the only playwright to have had four Broadway productions running at the same time.
“He’s an American institution as far as the theater goes,” Albright said. “I think sometimes he’s dismissed because there are a lot of playwrights that write very serious plays all the time.”
Albright described his six-person cast as “top-notch.”
“I got very lucky in the audition process,” Albright said. “It’s important in the casting of this play that particular people have certain chemistry with one another and I had just an incredible group of actors show up at auditions.”
Of the six, Albright has already worked with four, Barbara Barkan (who plays Gabrielle) being one of them.
“[She’s] somebody I really look up to,” Albright said. “She’s up there with the best I’ve ever seen. She’s like the Maggie Smith of Toledo.”
The one cast member Albright’s worked the least with is JD McIntyre, a local disc jockey who plays Claude. This is McIntyre’s first production with The Village Players.
McIntyre said he enjoys working with Albright.
“He’s very direct,” he said. “He’s not afraid to say what he likes. He’s not afraid to say when you’re doing something he would prefer you didn’t. As an actor, you have to trust the director to make you look good. You don’t feel lost with Jeff.”
McIntyre said the sarcasm from his character is his favorite. The play is a challenge though, he said.
“Especially with Neil Simon,” McIntyre said. “There’s layers and layers. You have to know who you are and what you’re doing at every moment.”
Albright, who directs a play every couple of years, is not unfamiliar with the playwright’s work. This is the third time he will be involved with a production of Simon’s.
“The Dinner Party” is a comedy, but touches on serious matter, Albright said.
“It was something that was different from a lot of his writing before. In light of what’s going on in the world, [it’s important] to be able to laugh at the human condition.”
Albright said he can relate to the script.
“Without giving too much away, the play is about relationships,” he said. “We have to make relationships work when things aren’t perfect. I definitely relate to it. I’m in a very long-term relationship and not every day is sunshine and lollipops.”
Albright became interested in drama in college after he was assigned a general education theater class during his first semester. For a time, he lived in New York and performed in plays off-Broadway.
Albright moved back to Toledo in 2003.
The Village Players Theatre staff is encouraging the public to give back for this show. They will be sponsoring a food drive for the Feed Your Neighbor Food Bank of Northwest Ohio. Patrons can bring a nonperishable food item or a monetary donation to any of the performances.
“Our patrons have been so good to us,” saidChris Jagodzinski, who is vice president of development for The Village Players. “The holidays are a hard time for [the nonprofits.]”
Jagodzinski said he wants to give back once a year at least. Any donation from a guest will be entered into a drawing, eligible to win a pair of tickets for all shows in the 2013-14 season.
“The Dinner Party” will run Jan. 11-26. Tickets are $16 for adults and $14 for students and seniors.
For more information, visit the website thevillageplayers.org.