Meet some of the cast from ‘You Can’t Take it With You’

By Ron Hellman

Rehearsals are underway for “You Can’t Take It With You,” the Parkside Players’ spring production.

We’re just about at the halfway point — all the scenes have been blocked, but scripts are still in hand, reluctant as we are to part with our security blanket.

It is a large cast, 17 in all, typical of plays of its era. Ticket prices then were mainly in the single digits, whereas today a Benjamin will seldom get you the best seat.

That is the professional theater where they have to cover their expenses and hopefully make a profit, but in community theater less than $20 will get you in the door and up close to the action.

Blocking, for the uninitiated, is how the director moves the actors around the stage, so that they can be seen, heard and understood. In the movies, the camera does the work, but theater is more demanding.

Most playwrights include stage directions in their texts – the most famous being “Exit, pursued by a bear” in William Shakespeare’s “The Winter’s Tale” — but the sets for a local production often require changes in blocking from the original. Sad to say, no bears in this performance. But we do have actors.

Representing a couple of Russian characters who came to America in the wake of the Russian Revolution are Jim Haines as Kolenkhov and Faith Elliott as the Grand Duchess.

Haines, a freelance artist and graphic designer, grew up in Valley Stream and now lives in Queens Village. Active in community theater for 30 years, he is grateful for the unique friendships he has made and for the “exercise his brain gets while memorizing lines.” His personal best was as Juror No. 10 in “12 Angry Men.”

Elliott was born in Manhattan, grew up in Bayside and then made a move to Nyack. She has acted and modeled professionally, had several radio shows, and interviewed a number of notables on radio, TV and in print. A woman of many interests, favorite roles include Major Barbara and Eliza Doolittle in works of George Bernard Shaw, as well as some well-known ladies in Shakespeare. True to her character, she claims to be a descendant of the Russian Royal Family.

Making his community theater debut is Forest Hills resident Steven Biscotti as a G-Man. An entertainment correspondent for a few different publications, and getting to meet some talented people, gave him “the itch” to try out theater. He and a writing partner have just launched a blog about classic monsters, appropriately called UniversalMonstersUniverse.com.

The prize for longest legal name goes to Phoenix Michael Christopher Tai-Quayn Ramirez-Gray, which can be shortened to fit on a marquee. Playing Donald, he hopes to pursue a career in the arts, while working for FedEx in the meantime. Born in Georgia and raised in Flushing, he came in contact with the Jewish and Asian communities, so much so that he’s now a cuisine expert in kugel and pork dumplings.

His favorite credit so far: Seaweed in “Hairspray.”

Most plays need a love interest, and here we have Lori Feren as Alice Sycamore. Originally from Coral Springs, Fla., she now calls Forest Hills home. “I love being part of community theater in Queens,” she said, “because it fulfills my passion for performing and I get to meet lots of other artistic individuals.”

Little Sally in “Urinetown” was one of the roles she enjoyed. During the day she’s employed at the Rubin Museum of Art in Chelsea.

More next time….

Contact Ron Hellman at rbhofc@gmail.com.

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