Three weeks, three plays on the North Fork

11/02/2010 5:05 PM |

Live theater will thrive on the North Fork for the next several weeks.

At North Fork Community Theatre in Mattituck, residents will have a rare opportunity to see the Chekhov classic ‘The Three Sisters,’ which premieres tonight, Nov. 4. The Northeast Stage production of ‘Bottom’s Up: The Private Lives of Noel Coward’ opens Nov. 5 at Brecknock Hall in Greenport. And at Riverhead High School, the story of the heroic orphan ‘Annie’ will debut Nov. 12, staged by the Riverhead Faculty and Community Theatre.

‘The Three Sisters’ director Peg Murray thinks this may be the first time Chekhov’s work has been performed on the North Fork. She has adapted the story of three cultured sisters from Moscow who are enduring life in a provincial town in the Russian countryside.

“It’s in three very long acts and I put it in two,” said Ms. Murray. “I want them to love Chekhov. Everybody’s used to shows being 90 minutes and I didn’t want to belabor the Russian philosophy.”

She said that while preparing her adaptation this past year, she studied three translations before deciding she wanted to most closely mirror Stark Young’s interpretation of the text.

Ms. Murray said Mr. Young’s translation acknowledges that the play could just as easily be a comedy as a tragedy.

“The characters have a lot of pain; this happens to all of us, it’s not odd but it’s not all that fun,” she said. “They have faith in the possibility of happiness. They hang onto the idea that they’re going to be happy.”

The production stars Deborah Marshall, Amie Sponza and Catherine Maloney as sisters Irina, Olga and Masha and David Burt as their brother, Andrei. Suzette Reiss plays their nanny and Jim Navarre, Alan Stewart and David Markel play soldiers who take rooms in their house and vie for the sisters’ affections. Tom LaMothe plays Col. Alexander Ilyitch Vershinin, Joe Martinsen plays Masha’s husband, Feodor, and Lisa Dabrowski plays Andrei’s wife, Natasha.

Performances are at 8 p.m. on Nov. 4-6, 12-13 and 19-20 and at 2:30 p.m. Nov. 7, 14 and 21 at the Mattituck theater. Tickets are $15 and are available at 298-NFCT.

‘Bottoms Up: The Private Lives of Noel Coward’ was written by Southold playwright Daniel Rosenblatt in the mid-1990s. It was first produced off-Broadway in 1998. The play is a series of monologues by three different actors who play Mr. Coward at different stages in his life, and by three women who were his muses. It is being produced in memory of its author, who died last year.

James Pritchard, Mr. Rosenblatt’s partner and the co-director of this production, said Mr. Rosenblatt was unsatisfied by the New York production because only one actor played Mr. Coward at all stages of his life. He decided to revive the show as Mr. Rosenblatt would have wanted it.

“I had talked with him about five years ago, but he wasn’t in the mood to do it. He wasn’t really happy with the first production, and I wanted to do something in memory of him,” Mr. Pritchard said in an interview last week.

“It’s an awful lot of time and script for one person. For him to go from 18 to 70 was too much,” he added. “We decided to split that up so it would be a little easier on the actors.”

Actors Dan Yaiullo, John Tramontana and Terry Brockbank will play Mr. Coward at different points in his career. Beverly Gregory appears as Marlene Dietrich, Jenifer Corwin plays Tallulah Bankhead and Anna Aguilar has the role of Vivien Leigh. The production is co-directed by A.D. Newcomer.

“At a very early age — 24 and 25 — [Coward] got incredibly successful and had plays running simultaneously on the West End of London,” said Mr. Pritchard. “Two years later, he had a nervous breakdown. His life in the play is a cautionary tale of the downside of fame and success. He was smart enough to handle it, survive it and go on and have a long and productive career. It’s also about his determination to do it no matter what.”

Performances of “Bottoms Up” are set for Nov. 5, 6, 12 and 13 at 8 p.m. and Nov. 7 and 14 at 5 p.m. at Brecknock Hall in Greenport. Tickets, $15, are available at the door or by calling 765-1409.

‘Annie,’ the tale of the spunky little orphan that could, employs the singing, dancing and acting talents of 30 girls ages 7 to 14. Many of them just learned to tap dance over the course of the last several week’s rehearsals and the results are expected to be a highlight of the performance.

The production, directed by Robert Horn, benefits a scholarship fund for seniors graduating from Riverhead High School.

Ella Watts-Gorman, a 10-year-old from Southold, plays the title role and Robert Beodeker of Aquebogue, a veteran performer with RFCT, will play Daddy Warbucks.

After last year’s “Mame,” a story of bucking the Great Depression blues, Mr. Horn said that “Annie,” which is set in the same time period, expands on the theme for an audience that’s hungry for a message to help them through these tough economic times.

“The best part of this play is the optimistic approach that Annie has. Whatever was thrown this young girl’s way, she’s just upbeat,” he said. “It’s a little bright spot that people take away from this play that things will get better. It’s one of those shows where you come away humming a tune.”

“Annie” will be performed in the Riverhead High School auditorium on Nov. 12, 13, 19 and 20 at 8 p.m. and Nov. 14 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $12 in advance, $15 at the door and $5 for ages 17 and under. Tickets are also available at Wedel Sign Co. and Riverhead Florist or by calling 725-2009.

byoung@timesreview.com

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