Thoughts & Musings

2nd Story Change Lineup

Warren’s 2nd Story Theatre is making some changes to its current season and at the same time looking ahead to the summer, when it will stage two plays in repertory upstairs while offering a new play downstairs about an imagined meeting between a dying Sigmund Freud and C.S. Lewis.

The theater is scrapping Charles Busch’s “Psycho Beach Party,” which was to open in May in the upstairs theater, and going instead with “Becky’s New Car,” Stephen Dietz’s 2008 play about a 50-something woman who works for a car dealership and is swept off her feet by a millionaire. The affair shakes up her life and allows her to appreciate what she has, said Ed Shea, the theater’s artistic director.

The play is unusual, said Shea, because the actor playing Becky spends a lot of time interacting with the audience, asking them to weigh in on decisions. At one point, Becky grabs a couple of sodas from a refrigerator and gives one to a member of the audience, said Shea, who added that breaking the wall between audience and actors in this case feels “organic, a necessary part of the play.”

Becky also talks to the stage manager, said Shea, making viewers aware that what they are seeing is a piece of theater.

Peggy Melozzi, a 2nd Story veteran, will play the part of Becky.

Then next month, A.R. Gurney’s “Sylvia” opens downstairs instead of “Time Stands Still.” The comedy is about the love affair between a man and his dog, with Lara Hakeem playing the dog.

“It’s a perfect match for Lara,” said Shea. “She’s crystal clear, funny and inventive, as well as very physical. You need a lot of energy for this role.”

Shea said the changes in the season were mostly due to casting issues. When he puts together a season, Shea said, he looks first at the available actors then tries to find plays for them. But then “life happens,” he said, “and the perfect person is no longer available.”

Looking ahead to the summer, 2nd Story will in July open Agatha Christie’s “Ten Little Indians” and Noel Coward’s “Hay Fever.” The two shows will run in repertory through Labor Day in the upstairs space, sharing the same set.

The Christie play is similar to her popular “The Mousetrap,” which 2nd Story produced last summer, except, said Shea, more people die. A group of people who have all committed crimes are invited to a vacation house on a remote island where they are killed one by one by a mystery figure seeking revenge.

“Hay Fever” also takes place in a vacation house, where an eccentric family has invited a group of guests, only to ignore them.

“Freud’s Last Session,” by Mark St. Germain, will run downstairs in June. The play, which has gotten a lot of attention on the regional theater scene, deals with an imagined meeting between Freud, who is dying of cancer in London, and Lewis, a former atheist like Freud who has undergone a religious conversion. The two great minds clash over the existence of God and the meaning of life.

Shea, once a member of the Trinity Rep company, will make a rare stage appearance as Freud, and Wayne Kneeland, who hasn’t been seen at 2nd Story for a while, will play Lewis.

“It’s a lovely, smart play about big ideas,” said Shea.

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