Cruiser actors to open their theater season with a comedy

By Rick Palsgrove
Southeast Editor

Messenger photo by Rick Palsgrove
Cruiser Theatre Company actors (from left to right) Michael Taylor, Rachel Conners, Derek Smith, and Kayla Worthington rehearse a scene from the theatre troupe’s upcoming performance of the comedy “Nooses Off!”

The Cruiser Theatre Company will kick off its performance season with the chaotic comedy, “Nooses Off!”

“‘Nooses Off!’ is a comedy, sort of a play within a play,” said Erin McLaughlin Groveport Madison High School theatre director. “The play within the play is a murder mystery. Act 1 is a rehearsal of the play within the play,and Act 2 we see backstage of the play within the play on opening night. It’s very fast-paced and there are a number of ‘showmances’ and a good deal of chaos that builds over the course of the entire production. It’s a play about producing a play in which everything that can go wrong, does.”

Groveport Madison High School’s Cruiser Theatre Company will present “Nooses Off,” by Don Zolidis, on Nov. 14, 15, and 16 at 7 p.m. at Groveport Madison High School, 4475 S. Hamilton Road. Tickets are $5 for students and seniors and $7 for adults. To reserve tickets call 614-836-4964 and leave a message for the theatre office. Tickets will also be available for pre-sale at least a week before the show in the school store at Groveport Madison High School during lunch periods.

McLaughlin said she asked her students to vote at the end of the last school year on three options for the fall play.

“All of them were in the murder mystery comedy vein because I have a group this year that loves to perform comedy and has an appreciation for dark humor, so the genre seems to fit,” McLaughlin said. “‘Nooses Off!’ received the most votes, and so it is the show we are performing.”

McLaughlin said the biggest challenge the play presents for the stage crew is building the set.

“It’s the interior of a house, two stories tall with six functional doors, three of which are on the second floor,” said McLaughlin. “The set must also rotate 180 degrees between Acts 1 and 2 so that we can see the action backstage during the performance. We will also have to set up several microphones behind the set, which is something we haven’t done before, so that the action in Act 2 can be heard.”

She said for the actors Act 2 is “very challenging because there’s action happening ‘backstage,’ which is actually downstage where the audience can see, and ‘onstage,’ which is actually happening upstage behind the set, concurrently. The action in each area affects the action in the other area, so timing is critical, and this show has more stage directions to memorize than anything else I’ve ever directed. It’s kind of a lot.”

McLaughlin said she hopes that audiences walk away from the play having “received a good ab workout from laughing the entire time.”

“I also hope the show enriches the audience’s understanding of all the work that happens behind the scenes to make a show happen,” said McLaughlin. “The show highlights that we’re working with humans who have lives outside of the theatre and that we can’t always keep our personal lives out of the onstage drama, and some of the problems that can arise from that. Mostly the show is funny!”

Some characters in the play
McLaughlin said, given the nature of the show, it is difficult to designate any particular actor with the lead role.

“If I had to choose, the roles of Jake, Lila, and Sammy are the closest we have to ‘leads,’” said McLaughlin.

Jake, played by Derek Smith, is an actor playing a butler in the play within the play. The character really wants to be noticed by a talent scout and make it big as an actor and feels like this small-time theatre company is holding him back. He does everything he can to make sure the show is a success.

“Derek is an incredibly talented actor, with past credits such as Lord Farquaad in ‘Shrek the Musical’ and Prince Eric in ‘The Little Mermaid,’ and he has a knack for comedic timing and really excellent instincts onstage,” said McLaughlin. “Derek shares Jake’s commitment to the theatre and making the productions he is a part of successful.”

Lila, played by Ashlyn Willis, is the director of the play within the play. The character is a little frazzled and overwhelmed by the show she’s directing – it seems they have a short time to put the show together, and that she doesn’t have solid relationships with all of the production staff.

“Ashlyn is a brilliant actress and a truly caring, sensitive, empathetic individual,” said McLaughlin. “I think the role allows her a safe space to release the frustration of daily life, and she’s taken to it quite naturally.”

Sammy, played by Kayla Worthington, is the stage manager of the play within the play. The character is responsible, but frustrated with the general chaos of the production and the ineptitude of some of the actors and production staff. In Act 2, she is mainly responsible for making the show happen and getting people and objects where they are supposed to be.

“Kayla is similarly responsible and also very talented,” said McLaughlin. “I think she relates to Sammy pretty strongly. She says it’s the most physical role she’s ever had in a show, and she’s doing an admirable job with it. Her instincts are good and I never have to remind her to be acting even when she doesn’t have lines.”

The upcoming performance season
The Cruiser Theatre Company’s upcoming performances: “Nooses Off” – Nov. 14, 15, and 16; “The Monologue Show (from Hell)” – Jan. 17, 18; Play-in-a-Day: “All I really need to Know I learned by Being in a Bad Play” – Feb. 15; and “The Addams Family” – April 2, 3, 4, 5. All shows at Groveport Madison High School, 4475 S. Hamilton Road. All shows start at 7 p.m. except for the April 5 performance of “The Addams Family,” which starts at 2 p.m.

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