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Bonnie Hart rehearses a scene from “Quack,” one of the pieces that is part of this year’s Actors Theatre Playhouse Ten Minute Play Festival.

The Arts

From the classic to the new

Ten-Minute Play Festival kicks off ATP’s new season on Thursday, June 7

Reservations are highly recommended by calling, toll-free, 877-666-1855. ATP is located on Brook and Main Streets, West Chesterfield, N.H. For more information, visit www.ATPlayhouse.org.

It’s that time of year when summer theaters re-open. One of them is the Actors Playhouse Theatre in West Chesterfield, which once again showcases plays that make audiences laugh, cry, smile, and ponder.

This year the Actors Playhouse Theatre presents a potpourri of productions and staged readings featuring the return of their annual Ten-Minute Play Festival, staged readings of classic and contemporary American dramas, and main stage productions of a rip-roaring Hollywood comedy based on a true story about the creation of Gone With The Wind and the regional premiere of a French award-winning social drama that played on Broadway two years ago.

The 2018 Ten-Minute Play Festival kicks off the new Season on Thursday, June 7, featuring the seven winners of the Playhouse’s year-long Regional Competition. This year’s selections once again promise a wide range, from comedy to drama, guaranteeing a little something for everyone.

This season the festival raises questions such as, what happens when a young man and his duck are inseparable? Or when a couple reexamines marriage? What takes place when a boy speaks in quotes from one famous film after another, or when a flood in an Alaskan town washes all sorts of truth to shore? What can occur when old love letters reveal more than just the past?

Challenging works

Ten-minute plays stretch theater-going muscles. They have complex characters and plots that challenge audiences to get to the heart of conflict quickly. Everything that happens explores something deeper.

In a ten-minute play, audiences are often dropped into a single moment in time. They may not have all the information they need, but they are sure to understand why ATP’s Ten-Minute Plays are challenging, provocative, and fun.

The Ten-Minute Plays are followed in July by Saturday evening Staged Readings of an American classic of the Old South, and a contemporary family drama that takes place on election night 2016.

Lillian Hellman’s The Little Foxes tells the story of the late-1900s Hubbard family siblings, each of whom seeks to grasp wealth and power as the Old South morphs into a New South. Hellman’s taut drama crackles with wit, viciousness, and greed.

The not-to-be missed performances of this classic play are on Saturdays, July 7 and 14.

Richard Nelson’s Women of a Certain Age offers a contemporary family story that takes place on election night 2016 as the Gabrielle family sits around the kitchen table in the family’s Rhinebeck, N.Y., home. Waiting for the national election returns, they have gathered for a final meal at their soon-to-be-repossessed homestead as it passes to strangers.

The family is chaotically preparing a meal together while recollecting and reflecting upon the drifting nature of “family” in an increasingly less comprehensible world. Performances are on Saturdays, July 21 and 28.

In August, the first of two Main Stage productions turns to a favored farce in Ron Hutchinson’s delightful Moonlight and Magnolias, based on the making of the beloved American film Gone with the Wind.

It’s three weeks into filming and Atlanta has burned. Scarlett O’Hara has been cast. The problem is there’s no workable script and George Cukor, the director, has been fired.

Legendary film producer David O. Selznick seems to have a big white elephant on his hands and only five days to save the production from failure. Desperate, he recruits the formidable Victor Fleming to take over as director, and famed screenwriter Ben Hecht to rewrite the script. Hecht hasn’t read the book and the clock is ticking.

With shades drawn, phone calls unanswered, and a diet of peanuts and bananas, Selznick and Fleming re-enact scenes from the novel for Hecht. As a New York Daily News reviewer put it, “Frankly, my dear, this is one funny play.”

Twelve performances take place on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, Aug. 9 through Sept. 1.

Exploring dementia

The Playhouse closes its 2018 season with a Main Stage production of Florian Zeller’s black comedy, The Father, winner of France’s Molière Award for best play in 2014.

Translated by British playwright Christopher Hampton, the production was hailed in London and again in New York, where it received a Tony nomination for best play, and star Frank Langella won a Tony for best performance.

The Father relies on the tragic premise of an unraveling mind to tell the story of life with dementia. Zeller’s play is an exploration of how we identify ourselves when our signposts have disappeared. Plunging the audience into the experience of dementia, Zeller allows viewers to see events from the perspective of an 80-year-old protagonist.

We share Andre’s uncertainty about life’s multiplying confusions, wondering, as he does, if the action taking place is in Andre’s Paris flat or that of his daughter Anne. We wonder if Anne is about to abandon her father to live in London with her lover or will she take her aging dad under her wing?

A reviewer in The Times of London noted that Zeller’s “masterful, well-mannered mix of laughter and desolation puts you into the mindset of someone in the midst of mental decay like nothing we’ve ever seen before.”

Eight performances take place on Fridays and Saturdays, Sept. 21 thru Oct. 13.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #460 (Wednesday, May 23, 2018). This story appeared on page B1.

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