Family farce and drama take stage

Christine Mundy, left, played by Trish Epperson, is wooed by Gerry Evans, played by James Schlosser, in Winchester Little Theatre's production of "Dancing at Lughnasa." Photo courtesy of Leslie Bowery

Audiences at theater performances in May will be able to chew on some complex and interesting character dramas that focus on family.

Brian Friel’s “Dancing at Lughnasa” depicts the lives of five unmarried sisters living together in Donegal, Ireland, in the 1930s from the perspective of the youngest sister’s son, Michael. A cast of eight from Winchester Little Theatre will depict the dramatic and comedic moments of the characters’ lives.

Director Sally Anderson said the performance comes at a coincidentally ideal time – April marked the 100th anniversary of the famous Easter Rising that ignited Ireland’s revolution and independence. She said Friel, who died this past October, was an Irish author who was well known for his carefully crafted scripts.

“The language of the play is beautiful,” she said. “He writes poetically, just beautiful words…He deals with the fact that the sisters, because they live together, have talked all the time but have probably lost the meaning of their words with each other.”

She said that while there aren’t many “mature” elements in the show, it’s a character drama that would appeal to fans of “Masterpiece Theatre” or “Downton Abbey.”

While Anderson said many are familiar with the 1998 film adaptation of the show starring Meryl Streep, she said the play focuses on the characters rather than the events in their lives. In a preview performance, she said it was easy to see that the audience was captivated.

“Watching the audience from the balcony…people just got so tied up in these beautifully written characters,” she said. “People are coming because they’re making a connection to characters that…we’d like to listen to and believe in – people who have values, people who have relationships.”

Winchester Little Theatre will show “Dancing at Lughnasa” at 8 p.m. May 6, 7, 12-14 and 19-21 and at 2 p.m. May 8, 14 and 15. Tickets are $19.75 for adults, $17.75 for seniors and $15.50 for students. Tickets can be bought at the box office or online at http://tinyurl.com/gms7587.

The Schultz Theatre

The Schultz Theatre will be putting a twist on the classic elements of Anton Chekhov’s works in a production of Christopher Durang’s “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike,” directed by Catlin Heily.

Heily said she doesn’t consider herself a Durang fan, but working on the play has changed her mind in this particular case.

“He takes the dysfunctional family thing that Chekhov plays with so often and kind of makes his own, brings it up to date,” she said. “It’s basically about how even a dysfunctional family is still a family. It’s a lot of fun, it’s a laugh for all and it’s got a lot of touching moments.”

This will be Heily’s second time directing for the Schultz Theatre, working alongside  co-director Taylor MacMichael. She said working with a small cast of six has felt like working with her own family.

Heily said the play is overwhelmingly a comedy, with spurts of language and occasional raunchy humor that are not meant for young children. Still, the siblings in the story go through trials that end up bringing them a bit closer together.

“There’s some dry humor, there’s some outright situational comedy, there’s some feel good moments,” she said. “I hope that everyone does, as I have, fallen in love with all the characters.”

“Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike,” not recommended for children younger than 12, will play at the Schultz Theatre at 7 p.m. May 13, 14, 20 and 21 and at 3 p.m. May 15 and 22. Tickets are $13 for adults, $11 for students and seniors and can be purchased at the door, by calling 540-740-9119 or online at http://tinyurl.com/jycyd2d.

Contact staff writer Rachel Mahoney at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or rmahoney@nvdaily.com