`Chapter Two' apt choice for Second Stage company

Troupe offers Simon play in new surroundings

November 04, 1999|By Mary Johnson | Mary Johnson,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

It might seem appropriate that a theater company called Second Stage is doing the play "Chapter Two" this month. It seems even more appropriate when you realize that Second Stage used to be St. Martin's Players.

For eight years before last fall, the company performed at St. Martin's in the Field Episcopal Church. When the church didn't renew its lease last fall, St. Martin's Players became Second Stage Playhouse Inc., starting a new phase in its history.

President Mary James is still looking for a permanent home in Severna Park, but for now the troupe will work out of the Community Center at Woods, space owned by Woods Memorial Presbyterian Church in Severna Park. For the next three weekends, the YMCA exercise room will be transformed into a community theater, where a quartet of actors will perform.

The troupe has always donated all profits after expenses to charities, usually in or near Severna Park. Recipients have included ASPIRE, Noah's Ark, Hospice of the Chesapeake, ASPCA, Habitat for Humanity, AIDS House and many others.

Usually found in the director's chair, Mary James has turned over those chores to Richard Blomquist for Neil Simon's "Chapter Two," and has moved to the other side of the footlights in the role of best friend Faye Medwick.

"Chapter Two" tells the story of George Schneider, a writer who is struggling with the recent death of his wife. To help George cope with the loss, his brother Leo arranges a meeting with actress Jennie Malone.

Simon softens tragedy with humor, sensitively portraying the complex relationship that reveals the writer's difficulties in overcoming memories of the past. George and Jennie enter into a relationship that is often haunted by memories of George's beloved first wife.

Largely autobiographical, Simon has written in his memoir that he had a loving partnership with his first wife, Joan, who encouraged him to set aside a successful television writing career to try writing plays. In 1973, when Simon was 46 years old, his wife died of cancer. Much of this history is reflected in "Chapter Two," including his subsequent relationship with actress Marsha Mason.

In Second Stage's production, Bob Brewer plays George, Mary Groom plays Jennie and James is her best friend Faye. Craig Miller will be seen in the role of Leo Schneider. All four are veterans of the company's earlier productions. The quartet formed a strong camaraderie as they embark on this latest phase in the theater group.

Performances at the Community Center at Woods, 623 Baltimore Annapolis Blvd., will be at 2 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday and Nov. 13-14, and at 8 p.m. Saturday and Nov. 13. There will be an 8 p.m. performance on Nov. 20. For tickets at $10, call 410-647-4360. Tickets are also available at the door.

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