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The Play’s The Thing: Queens theater people star on stage and off

By Ronald B. Hellman

Sure, although all of these projects seem to have some merit, it's just as sure that many folks will tell you why they shouldn't exist, at least not in their neighborhood. A recent reported protest was in a photo caption about proposed tolls on East River bridges – it ended with the ominous phrase “Indignant outrage ensued.”However, in our small world of local theater, there are lots of people with a much different outlook, with a positive attitude and optimism, taking on challenges with limited resources, creating art and entertainment from words on a page, getting things done. In the slogan of one of our presidential candidates, they say: “Yes, we can!”In my 35-plus years in Queens theater, from the Fresh Meadows Community Theater to The Outrageous Fortune Company, I have met many exceptional people who are easy to like and who have impressed me with what they can accomplish. Let me mention three whose names have not yet graced this column, and who each have a certain longevity.Mary Lynch Tlamsa comes easily to mind since I was married to her at least a couple of times, albeit briefly, on stage in “A Shot in the Dark” and “The Dining Room” many years ago. I first saw her in “The Rainmaker” with The Way Off Broadway Theater Company, but she's been in dozens of plays since and usually has a major role. A mother of three and a member of the faculty of The Mary Louis Academy in Jamaica Estates, Mary, true to her Irish heritage, is an activist whose political views are above reproach. I've been hoping to profile her in this column, but her modesty and elusiveness make that difficult. Look for her next in “A Murder is Announced” at the Douglaston Community Theatre.When I think of a big man in town, it has to be Michael Wolf, who is not only large in stature but big-hearted. He's got one of those melodious deep voices, not quite in James Earl Jones territory but one that you won't forget. Michael is that rare person you can count on to get things done – if you need something, he's the one to call. Unlike many who say they will help you, Michael is the one who actually comes through. I've seen him on stage a number of times, most memorably in “The Last of The Red Hot Lovers,” directed by the late great Jegana Martin. Later this season he'll be in “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” at Broadhollow's Elmont site.To complete this threesome, there's Bari Plaut, definitely one of the friendliest people around. She's great to have in an audience because she's easy to please and she has a great and contagious laugh. Bari, who is Outrageous Fortune's favorite audition assistant – she makes all the jittery actors feel comfortable – specializes in one- or two-line stage roles, claiming that she can't memorize a longer part. Whether that's true or not, Bari is an asset to any production. Right now her claim to fame is her new and way-too-cute grandson, Jeffrey Charles Plaut.So there, no indignant outrage ensuing in that bunch.Contact Ron Hellman at RBH24@Columbia.edu.

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