WHITEHALL — The next offering of the Howmet Playhouse Summer Theatre Festival will look to get hands clapping for a two-hander.
The show running at 7:30 p.m. July 19-21 at Whitehall High School, 3100 White Lake Drive, is “Old Love,” a romantic comedy by prolific Canadian playwright Norm Foster. Foster has had more than 50 plays produced, a canon that has resulted in him being compared to prodigious American comic playwright Neil Simon.
Performed in two acts, “Old Love’ calls for a cast of two, in this instance playhouse regulars and West Michigan theatre veterans Joe Carmolli and Kimberly Harsch.
In 2009 they also appeared at the playhouse together in another two-hander, “Educating Rita.” In the playhouse’s 2015 production of “Outside Mullingar,” Carmolli and Harsch had the second act all to themselves, the show’s other two characters having died.
“Through the audition process, it was clear that Joe and Kim had a natural chemistry together … ,” said Jason Bertoia who is directing the show. “Their work ethic and practices often are similar but also complementary of each other … “
As its title might suggest, “Old Love” looks at romance the second time around … and around and around and around.
The primary characters are Bud, a salesman, and Molly, the wife of Bud’s boss. The play opens with Bud, who is divorced, and Molly running into each other at her husband’s funeral. The story then jumps back and forth in time and place: an office Christmas party many years before, an art gallery, a circus, etc.
Bud is intent, to the point of insistent, on pursuing a romantic relationship. Molly is not so inclined. Bud is persistent, Molly resistant. Will they ever seal it with a kiss?
And who else gets in on the act? Bud and Molly are not the only characters in “Old Love.” The show requires its actors to double, meaning they play more than one part.
In addition to Bud, Carmolli plays Bud’s boss, and Molly’s son. Harsch also plays Bud’s wife, and a variety other women. On top of that, Bud and Molly are portrayed at different ages. Both frequently address the audience, bringing folks up to speed on what has happened as time goes by.
“The biggest challenge is making sure those different characters come across as different characters, and different ages for those characters as well,” Bertoia said. “The transitions between scenes and characters become very important so the audience doesn’t sit there thinking, ‘Who are these people now?’ the entire show, and actually get the story.”
Because 102-year-old Howmet Playhouse, 304 W. Mears, is undergoing a $3.7-million renovation project, the playhouse’s 2018 summer-stock season is being staged at the high school.
Productions are being presented in the Black Box format, with audiences seated on stage instead of in the auditorium. Seating capacity is 150.
“This is my first foray into Black Box format and just remembering to see it from all sides and angles has been my trick,” Bertoia said. “Every night I sit somewhere different.
“Again, this keeps Joe and Kim on their toes. There are only two of them, and the show does talk directly to the audience, so it becomes very intimate.”
“Old Love” is being underwritten by longtime playhouse supporter Libby Keenan.
The Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs is a sponsor for the entire season.
Tickets and season flex passes are on sale at Whitehall City Hall, by calling (231) 894-4048, and online at howmetplayhouse.org
Individual tickets are $21 for adults and $17 for students.
Two categories of Flex Passes, which can be used in any combination, are being sold. The Full Flex Pass, for 12 tickets, is $210. The Mini Flex Pass, for six tickets, is $105.
Seating is general admission.