This theater season, plays really are the things at theaters in Sandy Springs and Dunwoody.
At least that’s the idea. The two local theater companies are putting on plays that center on actors. Their stages will fill with actors playing actors and plays within plays.
Patrick Hill, director of Act 3 Theater’s version of “Moon Over Buffalo,” which opens in April and closes out the theater’s 2015-2016 season, says it gives his audience a free trip backstage.
“Theater patrons like to see the background, what’s going on behind the scenes,” said Hill, whose show follows the Feb. 20 conclusion of the run of the theater’s current production, “Dogfight.” “You’re giving the audience exactly what they want. You get a look behind the curtain.”
In Dunwoody, the Stage Door Players are presenting “I Hate Hamlet,” a play that puts its theme right there in the title. It’s about a television actor who resists portraying Shakespeare’s famed character onstage, only to find he’s being haunted by the ghost of legendary actor John Barrymore, said Robert Egizio, the Players’ producing artistic director and the director of “I Hate Hamlet.”
Plays about plays have been around since at least Shakespeare’s day, but they still draw a crowd. Egizio said “I Hate Hamlet” packed the theater on its opening weekend.
Besides, the directors said, staging plays about plays can be as much fun for the actors as the audience.
“It definitely appeals to theater people,” Egizio said. Part of the appeal comes from the challenge as the actors must portray several characters at once – the actor and the character the actor is playing. “You’re playing two characters, in essence,” he said. “You get the chance to play the actor and you get to play the actor within the actor.
“In essence, my Gemini personality gets split into three. It’s fantastic.”
But part of the fun in some of these plays-within-plays, both Hill and Egizio said, comes from watching the characters onstage deal with backstage meltdowns. “The actors love it because they can relate to it,” Egizio said. “We’ve all been through that crap.”
Hill’s play at Act 3 is a farce that takes place backstage during a theatrical performance and actually includes bits of two other plays – “Cyrano de Bergerac” and “Private Lives” – that the characters present as part of the story. Some of the humor comes when they mix up the two, Hill said.
“It’s funny because it’s almost like an inside joke, like a little love letter to the theater community,” Hill said.
Hill, a 33-year-old accountant who lives in Sandy Springs and is a member of the theater’s board of directors, said Act 3 decided to stage the play “because our audience wanted a good comedy.”
At the same time, the show seemed like it would be fun to put on. “It’s one of those things, a show about theater people. We know the humor so well, we can execute it. We can find the punch lines and make [the audience] feel like they’re peeking behind the curtain.”