A lifespan played out in an hour


Friday March 12, 2010

PITTSFIELD - Childhood. Old age. Everything in between - the whole darn thing. All this in roughly one hour plus intermission. That's "Life is Short," a collection of eight one act comedies by Craig Pospisil, produced by Town Players of Pittsfield, that begins a two weekend run tonight at 8 upstairs at Jae's Spice on North Street.

Tonight's performance will be followed by a meet-the-artists reception.

" Life is Short" begins with two 6-year-olds, ends with a retirement- age couple and covers just about everything in between - new motherhood, a wedding, family dysfunction, teens.

" It really is life's cycle," " Life is Short" director Kevin Wixsom said during a pre-rehearsal interview earlier this week in the smaller of the two second-floor ballrooms at Jae's Spice. Wixsom believes "Life is Short" is a perfect fit for the space, which will be set up to accommodate an audience capacity of 80. One vignette is a monologue. As for the rest, there are never more than four characters on stage at any time. And with a company of 19 actors, Wixsom has double-cast only one of them.

The comedic styles of the vignettes vary, Wixsom says. So does the range of talent, from experienced veterans John Trainor, Diedre Devere Bollinger, Monica Bliss and Laura Snyder, to stage newcomers, among them Laura Snyder's husband, Tom, who, at 60, is making his first appearance on the stage. As it happens, he and his wife play a husband and wife, parents of a bride, in the vignette "Double Wedding."

" Laura has been involved with Town Players for five years. She's really the actress," said the amiable white-haired Snyder, who has sung and played guitar at various open mics around the county.

His wife doesn't drive so Snyder chauffeurs her to and from rehearsals.

When " Life is Short" auditions came up, " she encouraged me to try out. I'm 60, rather late to start acting, but it's been a wonderful learning experience," Snyder said.

At the other end of the experience spectrum is Trainor, who has worked routinely, as actor and/or director, at Town Players, The Theater Barn, Ghent Playhouse and Circle Players. In a vignette called " The Last December," Trainor plays a man near retirement. He is cast opposite another veteran, Karel Fisher.

"He's a sweet old man facing retirement with mixed feelings," Trainor said of his character. " Karel is wonderful to work with."

For " Life is Short's" only monologue, Wixsom tapped Bollinger, with whom he acted in Town Players' 2006 production of "Molly Sweeney," which Trainor directed.

"I felt right away she could pull this off," Wixsom said, "and I knew, with her experience, she could do it without a ton of rehearsal so that allowed me to spend more time with others."

"She's flipping nuts," Bollinger said of her character. "She's really fun to play. On the surface she's very calm but she's ready to pop. It is such fun to play such a bizarre character. It's red zone crazy for six minutes."

Fitting a rehearsal schedule around the varying schedules of his 19 actors has not been easy for Wixsom. Three of the eight plays rehearsed Mondays and Tuesdays. Another group of plays rehearsed Wednesdays and Thursdays.

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Wixsom also has had to work rehearsals around the ballroom's schedule.

Jae's is the latest venue for Town Players, which has led a gypsy existence for the last five years, ever since a sharply increased fee structure forced the company out of its home for decades - the 500- plus- seat Robert Boland Theatre in Berkshire Community College's Koussevitzky Arts Center.

" Life is Short" gives Town Players a North Street presence, something the 89-year-old community theater group has never had, although it's been close. Town Players spent two seasons at the Lichtenstein Arts Center, one block east of North Street on Renne Avenue, and presented last season's spring production, " Doubt," at Barrington Stage Company's Stage 2, one block west of North Street along Linden Street. Town Players also has been using K-111, a small, impossibly limiting lecture hall across the lobby from the Boland Theatre.

"It's so good to be downtown," Wixsom said. "One of the things people keep telling us about BCC is that it's too far out of town."

In conjunction with Jae's Spice, Town Players is offering a special dinner-and-theater package and, for the Sunday matinees, a special lunch-and- theater package.

"They've really been very good to us," Wixsom said of the North Street restaurant's management, "and we think, with 19 people in the cast, we could very well sell out a lot of shows.

"It's a light evening. If I can send people out of here at the end of the evening with a smile on their face, that makes it all worthwhile."

To reach Jeffrey Borak: jborak@berkshireeagle.com; (413) 496-6212.

On stage

What: "Life is Short." Eight comedies by Craig Pospisil

Who: Town Players of Pittsfield

When: Tonight through March 21. Eves.: Fri., Sat. 8. Mats.: Sun. 2

Where: Upstairs Ballroom, Jae's Spice, 297 North St., Pittsfield

Tickets: $15; $12 (seniors, students). Dinner and theater $37; lunch and theater $30

How: (413) 443-9279; www.townplayers.org


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