Director aims for `movement' in `Tartuffe'

Preview

April 21, 2006|By MARY JOHNSON | MARY JOHNSON,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

For its coming production of Moliere's Tartuffe, Bay Theatre Company has had to think big.

The troupe, the only one in the county that relies entirely on professional paid actors, has brought together its largest cast to date.

Capping what director and company co-founder Lucinda Merry-Browne described as "without a doubt our most successful season yet," she estimated that 150 actors auditioned for the 11 roles. It is a bit of a squeeze for the intimate theater space in the West Garrett office building in downtown Annapolis.

"We lost 12 seats when we elevated the rows, which means our space now holds only 88," Merry-Browne said. "We're making do until we can find a larger space here, and then we'll work on fixed seating."

In the meantime, Merry-Browne said, she is putting "tons of movement" into the play, which opens April 28.

"She has us running," said Merry-Browne's business partner, Janet Luby, who plays Dorine. "We've always wanted to do Moliere. Tartuffe is a play actors go crazy for. I did the ingenue role in New York, and it's fun to see another actor in the role."

Set in 17th-century Paris, Tartuffe is the tale of a man who is invited into the home of the wealthy Orgon to instruct him on how to achieve eternal salvation. Orgon's family recognizes what Tartuffe is and exposes him.

"Moliere's incisive wit makes it clear that human foibles remain the same, and the topic of a religious hypocrite manipulating others through fear and false piety is both timeless and timely," the Bay Theatre folks promise in a news release.

The cast is headed by Jim Chance as the title character. A member of Actors' Equity and the Screen Actors Guild, and having appeared at Washington's Arena Stage, Baltimore's Center Stage and in theaters nationwide in addition to film and television, Chance was seen in Bay Theatre's Art in 2004 and in Betrayal last season.

Making his Bay Theatre debut as Orgon, Actors' Equity member Nigel Reed has played leading roles in Washington and Baltimore, and appeared regularly on television. Reed is the recipient of a Helen Hayes Award and was voted Best Actor for 2001 by the Baltimore City Paper.

Making his third Bay Theatre appearance this season, after debuting as Eddie in Fool for Love and as Paul in Barefoot in the Park, Ben Russo is cast as Valere. Russo not only writes for the stage and directs but has revealed impressive carpentry skills in helping to construct the inlaid wood floor design for Tartuffe.

Elizabeth Webster makes her Bay Theatre debut as Elmire. New to the area, Webster has worked for 10 years as an actress in Philadelphia and is a member of Actors' Equity.

Playing Mme. Pernelle, Rena Cherry Brown is familiar to Bay audiences for The Gin Game and Arms and the Man. Winner of numerous awards, including the Helen Hayes, Brown has appeared in Washington and on television.

Other cast members appearing with Bay Theatre for the first time include New York-based actor Paul Baron as Damis, Timothy Andres as Cleante, Tom Howard as the police officer M. Loyal and Genna Davidson as Marianne.

Performances will be at 8 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays and at 3 p.m. Sundays at 275 West St., Annapolis. Tickets cost $22 general admission, $17 for students and senior citizens and can be purchased at www. baytheatre.org or by calling 410-268-1333.

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