Country matters

VOICETheatre revives Noel Coward’s Hay Fever at private home in Bearsville next three weekends

by Violet Snow
August 18, 2011 11:00 AM | 0 0 comments | 201 201 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Jess Crandall, Audrey Rapoport, Robert Lloyd, John Gazzale will star in Noel Coward’s Hay Fever
Jess Crandall, Audrey Rapoport, Robert Lloyd, John Gazzale will star in Noel Coward’s Hay Fever
Director Shauna Kanter has wanted to do Noel Coward’s rambunctious comedy Hay Fever for years. When a proposed production fell through and she was wondering where else she could do the play, she walked into the living room of her Bearsville home, and it came to her: “I’m standing on my set!” Opening August 19, the play about a bohemian family escaping to their country home will take place in an actual country home. The audience will sit in the living room, which seats 29; actors will exit into a real kitchen, library and garden; and the doors slamming upstairs will be real doors into real bedrooms.

In the slightly revised script, Cookham in Berkshire becomes Woodstock, London becomes New York and 1924 becomes 1958. “You have the mother as an actress,” explains Kanter, “the father is a novelist, the son is going to be a painter and the daughter wants to be normal. In 1958 you had the Beats, and an alternative lifestyle was beginning in a way that was going to morph into the ‘60s.” And Woodstock, with its history as a Mecca for artists, along with the famed frolics at the Maverick colony, seems like the perfect setting for a play in which temperamental artists create chaos by following their impulses, each of them having invited a weekend guest without telling the rest of the family.

“The play is funny because it’s so full of life,” enthuses Kanter. “One character thinks they want this, something happens, and then they want something else. When they change, it’s not just funny for funny’s sake, it’s revealing: It shows us about life, about human behavior.” Kanter, who directed Two Gentlemen of Verona for Bird-on-a-Cliff and Don’t Dress for Dinner at the Woodstock Playhouse in 2003, is a playwright and artistic director of VOICETheatre, a New York City company that has performed internationally.

The cast includes Robert Lloyd, an actor in ten Peter Brook plays, including The Mahabharata at the Brooklyn Academy of Music and a filmed version of King Lear. He has also worked extensively with the Royal Shakespeare Company. Other New York City-based actors in the play are Joris Pieters, who has performed at the Royal Court in London and has been featured in several BBC mini-series; Jess Crandall, who has been seen at the Public Theater and La MaMa; Adam Hardin, with films and Off-Broadway shows under his belt; and John Gazzale, recently named Best Actor at the Network One-Act Play Festival. Locally well-known cast members are Kimberly Kay, Christa Trinler and Audrey Rapaport, all regulars at Performing Arts of Woodstock with an array of professional credits. Sancha Playfair rounds out the cast as Clara, the maid.

Hay Fever by Noel Coward will be performed August 19 through September 4, on Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and on Sundays at 2 p.m., at 13 Wittenberg Road in Bearsville. Tickets are $20 general admission, $17 for seniors and students. With only 29 seats for the audience, make reservations as early as possible – some performances are already sold out – by calling (845) 679-0154.

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