In a region where we're frequently inundated by Broadway musicals, it's rare that two major Salt Lake City theater companies are producing dialogue-driven plays at the same time.
One is based on Agatha Christie's 1939 chiller "And Then There Were None," and the other is adapted from MGM's classic 1950 comedy "Father of the Bride."
They open this week, respectively, at the University of Utah's Simmons Pioneer Memorial Theatre and Salt Lake Community College's Grand Theatre.
PIONEER THEATRE COMPANY'S "Ten Little Indians" has seen a variety of stage and film adaptations. Bruce K. Sevy, a former Utahn who directed "Copenhagen" for PTC in 2003 and "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown" for the Utah Shakespearean Festival's fall season in 2002, is directing "Ten Little Indians."
Sevy arrived in Salt Lake City from Birmingham, Ala., where he is on the staff of the Alabama Shakespeare Festival, and said that since he began directing "Ten Little Indians," "My appreciation for it has grown. It's well crafted, and it's fun to watch it play out and there are some humorous lines."
He hopes that patrons don't know "whodunit" before they see it — and that they won't divulge the ending to others. "Agatha Christie constructed it like a Swiss watch. You have to read the stage directions very closely; there is a lot of detail," Sevy said, adding that he recently began watching reruns of PBS's "Miss Marple" and "Hercule Poirot," as both are from the same time frame and genre.
"You have all the mechanics of who did it," he said, "and all the wonderful characters and the way they interact. I am really having a ball with it. I read the novel, and everyone ends up getting killed off. They changed it for the play and let a couple of them live, but the play follows the novel pretty closely as far as the details."
This is the first time Sevy has worked with two longtime Pioneer Theatre performers — Max Robinson and Richard Mathews. But he had seen their work during previous Salt Lake visits, including Robinson in "The Cripple of Inishmaan," "Macbeth," "An Ideal Husband" and "The Count of Monte Cristo." "I've always been impressed with him, and I'm having a ball working with him."
Others in the cast include Paul Kiernan, Trish Reading, Mark Gollaher, Deanne Lorette, J. Paul Boehmer, Bjorn Thorstad, Alison Edwards, Patrick Husted and Michael McKenzie.
Assisting Sevy are scenery designer James Wolk, costume designer Bill Black, lighting designer Ann G. Wrightson, dialect coach Sarah Shippobotham, hair/makeup stylist Amanda French and sound designer Joe Payne.
This engagement's "Drama and Dinos" event at the Utah Museum of Natural History will be held Saturday at 1:45. The cost is $20 per child ($16 for museum members). Call 581-6270 or enroll online at www.pioneertheatre.org/box/dinos.html.
"FATHER OF THE BRIDE," based on Edward Streeter's 1949 novel (and which became one of MGM's biggest moneymakers the following year), has been adapted for the stage by Caroline Franke. Anthony T. Buck is directing the Grand Theatre production.
"When Richard (Scott, artistic director for the Grand) asked me to direct this, my first reaction was, 'But I'm so young,' " said Buck. "Didn't he want someone older who knows this period of life the father is going through?
"Then I read the script, and once I was finished reading it, I realized that this young couple — Kay Banks and Buckley Dunstan — were the same as me and my wife four years before. We went through the same struggle this young couple does in the show — and that's why this show is so popular. Everyone can relate to someone in the show; everyone goes through this."
Directing "Father of the Bride" turned into "a good piece for me because I can understand it from a different viewpoint," he said. "It has been an interesting journey and challenge for me."
The comedy ended up in the Grand Theatre's 2004-05 season based on reaction from a survey of season subscribers and theater patrons. When the ballots were counted, "Father of the Bride" was at the top of the list.
Buck's cast includes a mix of familiar Wasatch Front players and some newer performers. Ashlee LaPine plays Kay, the bride, with Brian Bahr as Buckley, the groom. The bride's parents will be played by Bruce Craven and Vicki Pugmire, with Shane Davis and Jason Gordon as their sons, and Hayes Johnson as Tommy's best friend.
Other players are Barb Gandy as Miss Bellamy, the father's secretary, who ends up with the thankless task of paring down the lengthy list of potential wedding guests, and Mike Brown as Mr. Massoula, the caterer (known as "Fronk" in Steve Martin's more recent remake).
Rounding out the cast are Maren Abercrombie, Becky Williams, Jim Tarr, Debra Flink, Scott Ferrin, Adam Flitton and Berrett Maynard. Greg Caputo, a technical theater instructor at SLCC, who also designed the set for "The 1940s Radio Hour" last season, designed the scenery.
If you go. . .
What: "Father of the Bride"
Where: Grand Theatre, 1575 S. State
When: Friday through Nov. 6
How much: $5-$20