Our Current 2019-2020 Season:

Our Current 2019-2020 Season:

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Unnecessary Farce: A Police Caper with Heart, Brawn, and Brains

Officer Eric Sheridan (Kyle Phillips) puts the moves on accountant Karen Brown (Madeleine Bien)
while his partner Billie Dwyer (Ansley Barnard) is "tied up." 
PHOTO:  Paul Manoian

With bumbling cops, budding workplace romances, and crazy criminals, Unnecessary Farce might remind you of the old Police Academy movie.  But unlike some other slapstick police capers like Police Squad! and The Naked Gun films, Unnecessary Farce offers a more sophisticated brand of humor.  Its heroes are strong yet flawed, and even the bad guys have their good sides. The Farmington Players present this comedic take on a botched sting operation at the Barn Theater on February 7 – 22.

Kyle Phillips plays Officer Eric Sheridan, who he describes as “a straight-laced cop who is extremely excited for his big break at a real sting operation. What I love about playing Eric is his focus at getting things back on track when everything has turned to chaos.”  Eric develops a romantic interest in accountant Karen Brown (Madeleine Bien), the mole in this top-secret operation.  But pursuing her romantically proves to be “quite the sticky situation” when Eric must balance his “professional partnership with long-time friend Billie Dwyer (Ansley Barnard), while trying to keep a professional demeanor” with Karen, his love interest.

For her part, Ansley sees Billie as “searching for her moment of glory, where she can feel like she finally ‘made it’ as a cop.  I can relate to that effort in my career and the struggles I've faced to reach my goals.”  Ansley knows that audiences will enjoy this show for the “fast pace and word play in this script.  I want the audience to enjoy every joke along the way, but getting the timing of each movement and cue is a big undertaking.  Billie is a very physical role and a lot of the humor she brings to the show requires a ton of energy.  I feel spent after each rehearsal, but so happy.”  Frank Markus, who plays Todd the Scotsman, agrees:  What I enjoy about farce, when done quickly and properly, is the extent to which audiences invariably love them. This actor feeds on audience feedback and farces always deliver plenty of that.”  Similarly, Gary Weinstein, who plays Agent Frank, relishes the combination of a “fast-paced puzzle with dialogue that permeates the show along with the physical comedy that the characters display.” Erik Carlson (Mayor Meekly) calls Unnecessary Farce “a joy ride for the actors and audience. Quick paced and laugh out loud funny!”

Unnecessary Farce has 9 performances at the Farmington Players Barn Theater from February 7 – 22. The show is proudly sponsored by Weinstein Jewelers. Tickets are available online at farmingtonplayers.org or by emailing boxoffice@farmingtonplayers.org or calling the Barn box office at 248-553-2955.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Unnecessary Farce: A Sting with Zing!

The crazy cast of Unnecessary Farce: (On floor) Kyle Phillips; (Seated on bed L to R) Erik Carlson, Madeleine Bien, and Frank Markus; 
(Back row L to R) Gary Weinstein, Bonnie Fitch, and Ansley Barnard
PHOTO:  Paul Manoian

With a furiously fast pace, physical and psychological comedy, and a police force determined to expose a corrupt politician, Unnecessary Farce presses all the right comedic buttons.  This timely tale runs from February 7 – 22 at the Farmington Players Barn Theater and features many favorite Barn veterans and some talented newcomers.


Gary Weinstein plays Agent Frank, who Gary describes as having “multiple levels of emotional strength and weakness, fear and humility, all rolled up into one vulnerable character.”  Gary finds the theme of “underlying political corruption pertinent to today’s environment,” and enjoys the plot’s “fast-paced puzzle.”  Agent Frank is working with police officer Eric Sheridan (Kyle Phillips) and his partner Billie Dwyer (Ansley Barnard), who together with accountant Karen Brown (Madeleine Bien), are trying to expose Mayor Meekly (Erik Carlson) in an embezzlement scheme.  Bonnie Fitch as Mrs. Meekly and Frank Markus as the Scotsman Todd round out this all-star cast.

The key ingredients in a good farce are characters that face high stakes and take themselves seriously in increasingly crazy situations.  So what’s at stake for these characters?   Kyle sees Eric Sheridan as a “straight-laced cop who is extremely excited for his big break at a real sting operation. This is a big opportunity, and my partner Billie, though a good friend, is not the most decorated person on the force either. But we've been chosen to get the mayor to confess to embezzling millions.”  Similarly, Ashley sees Billie Dwyer as “searching for her moment of glory, where she can feel like she finally ‘made it’ as a cop.  Despite its increasingly ludicrous and hilarious situations, the show is charming because the characters are honest and genuine in their motivations.  Almost every character is actively attempting to be their best self and I think we can all relate to that.”  While most characters realize the peril they face, Mayor Meekly is blissfully ignorant.  As Erik says, the Mayor “keeps trying to have a meeting with Ms. Brown but things keep getting in the way. When we finally do have the meeting, the Mayor doesn’t realize that we are being videotaped by the people in the next room.”

The play’s highest stakes are revealed by Todd, a Scottish hitman, whose mission is to eliminate one of the officers. Frank Markus describes Todd as “the enforcer in a Scottish mafia. A killer in a kilt. Farces don't get much more farcical than that!  I mean, the Scots make great whiskey and have invented all sorts of stuff like the steam engine, but as a people we seldom think of them as ruthless killers. It's also loads of fun to develop an accent that the author demands be, for the most part, so thick as to be unintelligible.”

Unnecessary Farce has 9 performances at the Farmington Players Barn Theater from February 7 – 22. The show is proudly sponsored by Weinstein Jewelers. Tickets are available online at farmingtonplayers.org or by emailing boxoffice@farmingtonplayers.org or calling the Barn box office at 248-553-2955.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Colorblind: As D.J. Terry Shows, Black Is the New Black

Miss Mary Bennet (Autumn Bryson) shares a special bond
with Lord Arthur De Bourg (D.J. Terry)
PHOTO by Paul Manoian

Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley is an imagined sequel to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.  This charming period piece is set in 1800s England at a time when all the English lords and ladies would most certainly be Caucasian. In the Farmington Players production, Lord Arthur De Bourg is played by D.J. Terry.  D.J. describes his character as a “nerdy, quirky and standoffish Lord that enters a world of conflict that he has never imagined having to manage. What I enjoy most about playing Arthur is that he provides a reminder that others’ (even our family’s) expectations of us are not as important as our own decisions when creating paths for our lives.”

D.J. speaks candidly about managing the expectations of audiences, who might not be accustomed to seeing a black man in this role:  “There is a slight discomfort I feel when people see it for the first time, and realize that this is set in England in the early 1800s and they must suspend disbelief to buy into my character. It makes me proud to have even been cast in the first place. However, it makes my mistakes shine brighter, being so easily spotted and that adds another layer of perfection to my desired performance.”  While D.J. has some trepidation that some people may be uncomfortable with his race, “maybe being uncomfortable is where they have to be to see the very surface of how I might feel in the culture of this show, in the culture of this society, in the culture of this country.”

Feeling out of place is a common theme of this show.  As Autumn Bryson says of her character Mary, “She often feels like the odd one out. Mary feels she is bound to a life of caring for her parents and is devastated at the thought of never experiencing the world.”  But once Mary meets Arthur DeBourgh, “suddenly Mary has someone who shares her interests. Arthur takes Mary’s breath away with how similar they are, and Mary feels finally at home. Their connection is like no other.”  D.J. echoes this bond, saying, “Mary seems to share Arthur’s appreciation for literature and science, so there is much to discuss between the two of them. As discussion deepens, true colors are revealed and an unexpected connection ensues.”

While theater still has a long way to go to become truly colorblind, times are changing.  Hamilton broke barriers by casting people of color in historically white roles.  And just last week, The Nutcracker opened at the New York City Ballet, and for the first time, an 11 year-old Black girl (Charlotte Nebres) will be playing the young heroine, Marie. 

Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley has 9 performances at the Farmington Players Barn Theater from December 6 - 21. Tickets are available online at farmingtonplayers.org or by emailing boxoffice@farmingtonplayers.org or calling the Barn box office at 248-553-2955.


Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Celebrating Sisterhood: Bennet Sisters Bond at Pemberley

The Bennet Sisters (L to R): 
Lydia – Hosanna Phillips;  Mary – Autumn Bryson; Jane – Crystal Nemchak; and Lizzy – Stephaney Vietor
PHOTO: Paul Manoian


In Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley – an imagined sequel to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice – the Bennet sisters discover new bonds, and bookish middle-sister Mary becomes the unlikely heroine.  Tired of being the dutiful middle sister, Mary hopes for independence, an intellectual match, and possibly love, in this romantic comedy set in 1800s England at Christmas time.

In the Farmington Players production, Autumn Bryson plays Mary:  “She often feels like the odd one out. Mary feels she is bound to a life of caring for her parents and is devastated at the thought of never experiencing the world. Mary is such a captivating character, and yet she can be quite challenging; she is intelligent, talented, beautiful in her own way, but she also doesn’t bow down to anyone. She is fire and ice.” 

In addition to Mary, the other Bennet sisters include Lizzy, played by Stephaney Vietor, Jane (Crystal Nemchak), and Lydia (Hosanna Phillips).  Hosanna is herself a middle child, and has thought a lot about birth order: “I relate a lot to Mary’s character when she speaks about feeling a lack of definition. Especially when I was younger, I often struggled to know where it was that I could ‘fit in’ and belong. … Much of the time I felt overlooked because I was never quite as good at things as my older siblings, or nearly as cute as my younger ones.” Ultimately, Hosanna has “learned to be grateful for who I am and where I have been placed in my family because I cannot change my birth order or what anyone might assume because of it. What I CAN change is how I view myself and who I allow myself to become, whether if fits a stereotype or not.”

Crystal observes that the sisters’ obligations also varied with birth order:  “The older you are, the more responsibility you have to your family. You are an ambassador of your name in this time period, so your actions must be highly calculated. As a woman especially, you are expected to be cunning and charming so you may ensnare a wealthy and highly sought after bachelor. This ensures the survival of your parents and your siblings, and your happiness unfortunately didn't often have much to do with it. Elizabeth was quite a trailblazer in refusing to compromise her happiness.”

Stephaney sums us the sisterhood theme nicely:  “The sisters fall in love with each other just as much, if not more than you see with the men.  As Lizzy says to Jane, ‘I like Mary; is it terrible to admit I didn’t know I did?’ I feel that the sisters have had time apart to really grow into who they are as their own person. So that when they all come back together they discover that they get along better and that they are insanely strong women.”

Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley has 9 performances at the Farmington Players Barn Theater from December 6 - 21. Tickets are available online at farmingtonplayers.org or by emailing boxoffice@farmingtonplayers.org or calling the Barn box office at 248-553-2955.


Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Ripcord Cast Doesn’t Get Mad, or Even, With Roommates



Nancy Cooper (Marilyn) and Margaret Gilkes (Abby) explore the secret to getting along -- or not -- with roomates.
PHOTO:  Paul Manoian


In Ripcord, odd couple roommates in a retirement home make a bet: If Marilyn loses her temper before Abby gets scared, she will move out, and vice versa.  I asked the Farmington Players cast of Ripcord to consider the following question: Did you ever have a roommate that you didn't like or that made you angry?  How did you get along?

Jason Wilhoite (Scotty): “I did have a roommate in college that I didn’t get a long with, but much like Scotty I worked to balance our personalities. My other suitemates responded a little more like Abby and worked to make him want to leave. To be honest... I sort of lived this when I think about it.”

Laurel Stroud (Colleen):   “I had one roommate who never left the room except for class, so I never had alone time there.  As an adapter, I found an out of the way place in the library to be alone in. I lived with my parents for a while after college, that was probably the most irritating, as is to be expected. This was before cell phones so I had to tell them things like, ‘if dinner is ready, just eat. If I’m not home, don’t wait for me.’ I eventually adapted my way out and into my own place.”

Nancy Cooper (Marilyn):  “I have never really had a roommate that made me angry, but I have been married for 23 years. … So, of course I know what it’s like to make a conscious effort not to let things make me angry and just go with the flow.”  Similarly, Margaret Gilkes (Abby) says, “I have been married over 45 years I guess I figured it out.”

Ripcord has 9 performances at the Farmington Players Barn Theater from October 4 - 19.  The show is proudly sponsored by elder law attorneys Mall, Malisow and Cooney, P.C.  Tickets are available online at farmingtonplayers.org or by emailing boxoffice@farmingtonplayers.org or calling the Barn box office at 248-553-2955.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Ripcord Cast Gets into Character by Facing Their Fears

Nancy Cooper, Margaret Gilkes, Jason Wilhoite and Mike Gingerella
Facing phobias in Ripcord  -- PHOTO: Paul Manoian
In David Lindsay-Abaire’s play Ripcord, adversarial roommates in a retirement home do battle.  Marilyn insists that nothing makes her angry, while Abby says she is never scared.  Each wants to get rid of the other, so they make the following bet:  If Marilyn loses her temper before Abby gets scared, she will move out, and vice versa.  When I interviewed the Farmington Players cast of Ripcord (October 4 – 19 at the Barn Theater), I asked them each of to reflect on what makes them fearful.
Question: What are you afraid of?  What do you do to address your fears?

Jason Wilhoite (Scotty) describes how the cast recently attempted an unusual team-building exercise.  Given that the play is named Ripcord, they thought it would be fun to go skydiving together!  As Jason admits, “I do have a fear of heights and will be COMPLETELY outside my comfort zone when the cast goes sky diving together.”  [The cast’s first attempt was postponed by high winds, but they plan another try soon.]

Facing one’s fears head on also seems to have helped Michael Rea (Derrick):  “Ever since performing [nude] in The Full Monty at the Barn a few years ago, not much really scares me. In general, I think putting yourself out of your comfort zone on a regular basis is really important for keeping those phobias in check.”

So too, Nancy Cooper (Marilyn) confronted her huge fear of bridges: “I have been completely freaked out panicked by being stuck on the bridge while waiting to renter the US from Canada. So three years ago, my nephew convinced me to walk across the river from Kentucky to Ohio to get to Reds baseball ballgame! I did it! So, I officially am no longer afraid of bridges.”

Mike Gingerella (Benjamin) takes a logical approach to facing – or avoiding – his fears:  “I would like to think that any fears or phobias that I have are well grounded in reality. For example, I will not skydive because I believe it is unwise to jump out of a perfectly good airplane!”

Laurel Stroud (Colleen) says, “I hate snakes and crime scene dramas about serial killers creep me out. … I don’t relish small talk with strangers, but I have learned to do it.” Similarly, Margaret Gilkes (Abby) admits, “I am a bit of an introvert and not much of a small talk person. I find it very awkward. I enjoy coming out of my shell on stage.”  

Tune back to the next episode of Playing The Barn, when I explore what makes the Ripcord cast members angry.

Ripcord has 9 performances at the Farmington Players Barn Theater from October 4 - 19.  The show is proudly sponsored by elder law attorneys Mall, Malisow and Cooney, P.C.  Tickets are available online at farmingtonplayers.org or by emailing boxoffice@farmingtonplayers.org or calling the Barn box office at 248-553-2955.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Ripcord Cast Takes Pleasure in Coping with Life’s Challenges

Ripcord cast members (L to R) Michael Rea, Nancy Cooper, Laurel Stroud and Margaret Gilkes
PHOTO: Paul Manoian

Like a skydiver pulling a ripcord to slow his own freefall, David Lindsay-Abaire’s play Ripcord derives its title from the same concept:  Sometimes you have to slow life down intentionally to break your fall and observe what’s going on around you.  The Farmington Players production of Ripcord (October 4 – 19 at the Barn Theater) features several long-time Barn members.  I recently asked them to reflect on some of the shows themes.

First Question:  Do you find it difficult to live in the present moment due to a busy life schedule?  How do you cope?

Nancy Cooper, who plays Marilyn, finds it “hard to live in the moment. Seems like I’m always planning what to do next, or getting ready for the next thing I have to do. So this year, I have really tried to apply mindfulness to my life. I try to allow each moment to be what it is and to enjoy or learn from whatever each thing brings. The years really do seem to go by faster as I get older, so I gotta stop letting everything speed by me so quickly.” Laurel Stroud (Colleen, Marilyn’s daughter) said, “It sometimes feels impossible to slow life down, every time I turn around another week has gone by. When the weather is nice I eat every meal I can out on my patio. I can take a breath and enjoy my little corner of the world. I also try to say yes to chances to be with friends.” Mike Gingerella (Benjamin) faces this challenge by “scheduling time for myself, and sticking to that schedule as much as possible. If you do not have a balance between what you do for a living and what you do outside of work, it will cause nothing but stress. I believe managing stress is one of the most important things you can do to maintain your overall mental and physical health.” For Marget Gilkes (Abby), it’s not a matter of slowing life down, but rather filling it up “with everything I love: family, theater, travel, and friends.”

Next question:  One reviewer wrote: “Ripcord offers a compelling look at the pleasure of a challenge and the challenge of finding pleasure.” —Time Out (New York).  My question is this:  How much of life should be a risk and how much should remain within the known bounds of what feels emotionally safe?

Mike Gingerella begins with the end in mind:  “Whenever I consider taking any type of risk in my life, I ask myself: ‘Will I regret not having done this when I am on my death bed?’”  Nancy Cooper enjoys “stretching my boundaries and trying new things. I like to feel a little scared when trying something new. A tad bit of uneasiness equals excitement for me. I can certainly see myself doing a lot of the things that Marilyn does in the play. I am really a lot like her.”  Similarly, Laurel Stroud considers herself an “adapter. I like to survey the situation from a distance. … We adapters are experts at keeping things within known bounds. But I believe change is healthy too. There was a day when auditioning for a play was a huge risk, and I’m so glad I did it. How much risk should life have?  Just a touch more than is comfortable.” By contrast,  Margaret Gilkes may be taking the title of the play a bit too literally: “As for risk, on September 27, I’m checking off my bucket list parachuting from 6000 feet!”

Ripcord has 9 performances at the Farmington Players Barn Theater from October 4 - 19.  The show is proudly sponsored by elder law attorneys Mall, Malisow and Cooney, P.C.  Tickets are available online at farmingtonplayers.org or by emailing boxoffice@farmingtonplayers.org or calling the Barn box office at 248-553-2955.

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