Things get hopping at community theaters

By Ronald B. Hellman

I must admit to an unusual fondness for a particular great white rabbit.

He’s over 6 feet tall, can make time stand still, remains invisible to all except the most discerning, and his name, I have on good authority, just happens to be Harvey.

Since I played his steady companion, Elwood P. Dowd, in a couple of productions of Mary Chase’s classic comedy, I know from whence I speak.

Well “Harvey” is all set for another go-round, courtesy of the First String Players at their home base at Our Lady of Mercy in Forest Hills. Under the direction of the popular and ubiquitous community theater veteran, Mary Lynch—a woman to whom I was married on stage at least twice (it was so long ago, one tends to forget)—the play will be presented four times only, July 14-17.

I recently attended a rehearsal when the actors ran through the entire play for the first time.

Such is always a challenge, and Lynch encouraged her cast to be seen, heard and understood, aware as she was that the hum of air-conditioning and the spacious auditorium could create some problems for the audience. An added distraction that afternoon was the sound of power tools constructing the set in the background.

But the actors were more than up to the task, some with scripts in hand, others calling for lines, and in the end giving themselves a round of applause and a group hug. (If you’re looking for bursts of enthusiasm and affection, local theater is the place to be.)

Three cast members were absent, so stage manager Rachael Giammarino played those roles and fed the lines.

First String Players is one of the newer groups in Queens, founded in 2009 by some aging teenagers who decided to put on a show. Brother and sister Paul and Stephanie Morisi are the key movers, along with their mom and dad, and like true amateurs, they do it “purely out of love.”

“Harvey” is their 11th production to date. Their shows have to be the biggest bargain in town—live theater at a $10 ticket price!

Be certain that you’ll get way more than your money’s worth with this rendition of “Harvey.” The cast of 11 is headed by Queens Village resident Jim Haines as Elwood. Haines has been spending a lot of time lately in the vicinity of Metropolitan Avenue, having just been one of the scene-stealers in “You Can’t Take It With You” at the Parkside Players.

The other performers all get accolades from director Lynch, who has suited the right actors to the right roles—she proclaims that they have “power and wit,” “the energy of a comedic tornado,” and they “glitter,” among other virtues.

Well, you must see for yourselves. And if you’re lucky, you may even see the rabbit.

To the northeast in Bayside, the revitalized Theatre By The Bay at the Bay Terrace Garden Jewish Center is presenting “A Salute To The Tonys”—two performances on each both July 10 and 17. Featuring music and dance from some of the best Tony Award-nominated shows, director Cathy Chimenti says that the revue “combines 25 show-stopping numbers—something for every age group to enjoy.”

Check it out.

Contact Ron Hellman at rbhof[email protected]il.com.

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