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Comedy, drama and classics to open

2 Pulitzer winners among this week’s new productions

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A rarely produced "restoration comedy," two Pulitzer Prize-winning dramas and a stage version of Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice" are among new theatrical offerings this week in the region.

"PICNIC," William Inge's Pulitzer Prize-winning drama about events in a small Kansas town on a sweltering Labor Day, is being produced by the U. theatre department's student advisory committee.

The story is centered around two sisters struggling to discover themselves amid the expectations of their widowed mother and a small, gossipy town. Millie, the younger sister, is "the smart one," while Madge is "the town beauty." Into their lives comes a handsome drifter, Hal, who becomes the catalyst for change. He is a symbol of youth, excitement, choice and consequence — and, in barely 24 hours, he leaves an indelible mark on the rural community.

The cast includes Bryce Larson as Hal, Jhenai Mootz as Madge, Nikki Heffner as Millie, Josie Wilson as Flo and Collin Mekan as Alan.

"Picnic" initially played for 477 performances on Broadway in 1953, then was the basis for an acclaimed 1955 film version starring William Holden, Kim Novak and Rosalind Russell. Inge also wrote "Bus Stop," "Come Back, Little Sheba" and "The Dark at the Top of the Stairs," and the Oscar-winning screenplay for "Splendor in the Grass."

Performances will be 7:30 p.m., Feb. 21-24, in the Babcock Theatre, located on the lower level of Simmons Pioneer Memorial Theatre building, with one matinee at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 24. Tickets are priced at $10 for general admission and $5 for all students (high school or college), with a valid school activity card. Call 581-6961 for reservations.

"CEREMONIES IN DARK OLD MEN," a 1969 Pulitzer Prize-winning drama by Lonne Elder III, is set in the spring of 1963, less than four weeks after the city of Birmingham, Ala., signed an agreement to desegregate lunch counters, rest rooms, fitting rooms and water fountains.

The play takes place in Harlem, where Russell Parker, a former vaudeville dancer, operates a decaying, single-chair barbershop — and where the graffiti on the side of the A-train reminds residents that "it's still the 1930s and it don't look like it ever gonna change."

Richard Scharine, professor of theater and adjunct professor of ethnic studies at the U., is directing the production, being presented as a Black History Month event. His cast includes Edward Lewis, founder of People Productions, based in San Jose, Calif., in the leading role of failed barber Russell Parker, with Clay Webster as Parker's checker-playing friend, Mr. Jenkins. Parker's three children, who live upstairs over the barbershop, are Adele, played by Tracy Chase; Theo, played by Frederick Jackson, and Bobby, played by Mbe Agbor.

Performances will be 7:30 p.m., Feb. 21-24 and Feb. 28-March 3 in Carlson Hall, located in the U.'s Tanner Humanities Center. For reservations, call 485-2497.

"THE ROVER," written by Aphra Behn (1640-1689), will be staged Feb. 23-March 10 in the Black Box Theatre at Utah Valley State College in Orem. The late, legendary Virginia Woolf referred to Behn as "one of the first great pioneers among female writers." Due to the social climate in Great Britain at the time, she was forced to write under assumed male names.

"The Rover," being directed by Randall King, is a mixture of romance, swashbuckling swordplay, disguise, mistaken identity and broad comic interplay. The plot revolves around the title character and his three companions, who set out to beguile the ladies of Spain. Along the way, Behn allows the audience to reflect on how little the war of the sexes has changed during the intervening 325 years.

Performances will be 7:30 p.m., Feb. 22-24 & 26 and March 1-3, 5 & 8-10. The Black Box Theatre is located in Room 627 of UVSC's Gunther Trades Building. Tickets are $6 for general admission and $3 for UVSC students (with valid activity card). For advance reservations, call 222-8797.

STUDENTS IN Brigham Young University's Music/Dance/Theatre (MDT) program will present a showcase Friday and Saturday, Feb. 23-24, at 7 and 9 p.m. in the Madsen Recital Hall. "This is the only show that BYU presents that is based on musical theater," Jennifer Ballif, assistant director of MDT Showcase, said. "The show provides an opportunity to be exposed to many musicals — all in one evening."

The student-generated program will present Broadway favorites from musicals such as "Guys and Dolls," "West Side Story" and "Closer Than Ever."

Proceeds from the performance will support the MDT Scholarship Fund. Tickets are $5 for BYU identification card holders and $8 for general admission. For more information or to purchase tickets, call the Fine Arts Ticket Office at (801) 378-4322.

"PRIDE AND PREJUDICE," a new stage adaptation of Jane Austen's novel by Christina Calvit, is being directed by Lynda Linford for Utah State Theatre. It will play Feb. 22-March 3 in the Morgan Theatre of Utah State University's Chase Fine Arts Center.

The plot revolves around the Bennett family household, where the father's possible demise poses a financial dilemma — there are no sons to inherit the estate. The only hope is that suitable husbands can be found for two of the eldest daughters.

Portraying the daughters will be Vanessa Ballam Brenchley as Elizabeth, Marianne Harris as Jane, Chrislynn Glover as Lydia, Kristin Leigh Clement as Kitty and Patricia Cox as Mary, with Larry Cannon and Wendi Hassan as their parents. Phillip R. Lowe and Eric Van Tielen play, respectively, Mr. Darcy and Mr. Bingley, two suitors, with Michael Flood as a cousin (Mr. Collins), who complicates matters by hoping to marry one of the sisters in order to solidify his hold on the estate. Also in the cast are Kathy Bateman, Cassandra E. Orr and Catherine de Bourgh.

Curtain is 7:30 p.m. on Feb. 22-24 & 28 and March 1-3. All seats are reserved. Tickets are $8 for adults, $6 for senior citizens and USU faculty/staff and $5 for youths and non-USU students. USU students are admitted free of charge with valid activity card. For reservations, call the Spectrum ticket office 435-797-0305. Tickets may also be purchased at the customer service center of the Taggart Student Center. Some tickets may also be available at the door.

"AND SO THEY HAD NONE," a mystery/comedy, is the second annual Youth Dinner Theater at Trinity Lutheran Church, 385 W. Golden Ave., Layton. Performances are 7 p.m. on Feb. 23 and 24. This year's show is being produced and directed by 16-year-old Trevor J. Witcher.

Tickets are $7 per person or $40 per family (four or more), including dinner. For reservations, call the church office at 544-5770, between the hours of noon and 3 p.m. Youth Dinner Theater. Trinity Lutheran Church, 385 W. Golden Ave., Layton; 7 p.m., Feb. 23 & 24 (544-5770). For further information, visit the youth group's Web site at www.trinitylutheranchurch.cjb.net.

"I HATE HAMLET," Paul Rudnick's off Broadway comedy about a young Hollywood actor who's hired to play Hamlet in Central Park and rents an apartment in New York City, will be staged Feb. 22-24 & 26-27 in College of Eastern Utah's Geary Theatre. The actor, Andrew Rally, learns that the flat was once occupied by the late John Barrymore. During a glitch in a seance, Barrymore's ghost appears . . . then settles in to coach the reluctant Rally in how to play the part.

Curtain is 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $7 for adults, $5 for senior citizens and high school students, $3 for CEU faculty/staff and $2 for CEU students, with valid activity card. Group rates, for 10 or more, are $5 each. For reservations, call 435-613-5334.

Information on stage productions or auditions must be submitted at least three weeks in advance. Compiled by Ivan M. Lincoln, Deseret News theater editor, 1-801-236-6017. Send material to Deseret News, P.O. Box 1257, Salt Lake City, UT 84110 (Attn: Ivan Lincoln), or send it via e-mail: ivan@desnews.com or Fax to 1-801-237-2550.