The third try is the charm for director Jordan Plohr as “Play On!” takes the stage at Arena Dinner Theatre after being bumped around the calendar by the pandemic.
The show first appeared on the schedule for Arena's 2019-20 season. It even made it about halfway through rehearsals in the summer of 2020 before being shut down because of the pandemic. It was postponed with the hope of mounting the production in January 2021, but that didn't work out either. It finally opens tonight.
“For a show that's about what goes wrong in community theater, it hasn't been very smooth sailing to get it on stage,” Plohr says.
“So that's only appropriate.”
“Play On!” focuses on a theater's cast and crew as they prepare to open an amateur playwright's new murder mystery – a show she keeps changing as she shows up during rehearsals to give the cast new lines, change the name of the show and even swap the identity of the killer.
As “Play On!” moves through the fictional play's rehearsals in Act I to dress rehearsal in Act II and then opening night in the final act, it gives a humorous look at life behind the scenes of a theater production.
It's a challenging script, Plohr says, because though things are supposed to go wrong, the actors have to remember exactly what is supposed to go wrong in each act.
Does that add pressure? Maybe not.
“The playwright (Rick Abbot) actually put a note at the end of the script that says while ideally, it would go wrong in exactly these ways, your cast should take some comfort from the fact that if it goes wrong in any other way, the audience isn't going to know,” Plohr says.
In a way, “Play On!” is a love letter to community theater, the director says. A lot of people don't know what goes into a show as actors work through the material, such as stopping mid-scene to ask a question.
“I read through the script, and I'm like, 'You know, I've had some of these exact conversations in actual rehearsals,'” Plohr says.
Arena's production runs through Feb. 5. The cast includes Janet Higgins Howard as the playwright.
If you go
What: “Play On!”
When: Dinner at 7 p.m., curtain at 8 p.m. today, Saturday and Jan. 28 and 29 and Feb. 4 and 5; dinner at 1 p.m., curtain at 2 p.m. Jan. 30
Where: Arena Dinner Theatre, 719 Rockhill St.
Admission: $40; 422-4226 or tickets.artstix.org; tickets must be purchased by 1 p.m. the day of an evening show or 1 p.m. Jan. 29 for Jan. 30 matinee