Play blends unconventional family, scared visitors for success

Imagine an unconventional family whose life belongs on the Broadway stage and the visitors who are tormented by them.

This is the basis for Noel Coward’s “Hay Fever,” performed by Shakespeare ’70, a theater company featuring a group of faculty and students from the College. The group began a series of performances in the Don Evans Black Box Theatre on Feb. 10.

“Hay Fever” is a comical play that takes place in the hall of a country house in June during the 1920s. The play is focused on an unconventional family, named the Blisses, who invite four unlucky guests to stay with them for the weekend. The mother, Judith Bliss (Carol Kehoe), is a recently retired stage actress. David Bliss (Kurt Penney), the father, is a self-absorbed novelist who, along with their two equally peculiar children, Sorel (Melissa Evans) and Simon Bliss (Curt Foxworth), lives in a world where authenticity easily slides into imaginary tale.

The four guests, who include an athletic boxer named Sandy Tyrell (Patrick Albanesius), the proper diplomat Richard Greatham (Tom Curbishley), the shy young girl Jackie Coryton (Elizabeth Hults) and the stylish sophisticate Myra Arundel (Janet Quartarone), are repeatedly thrown into melodramatic scenes in which their hosts, the Blisses, profess emotions and react to situations that don’t really exist. The comical disarray finally ends when the tormented visitors sneak out the door.

“It was a lot funnier than reading it,” Stephanie Allen, sophomore secondary education and math major, said.

Shakespeare ’70 is Mercer County’s only classical theatre company. The group is a non-profit organization that was founded in 1970. It is committed to bringing the works of Shakespeare and other great playwrights to the audiences of the Delaware Valley.

The members of Shakespeare ’70 include Albanesius, who made his debut in the production of “The Winslow Boy.” He is a 2003 graduate of the College and a veteran of All College Theatre (ACT). Curbishley, a member of the group since 1982, has played a variety of roles including Malcolm in “Macbeth,” Prince Florizel in “The Winter’s Tale,” Mr. Hastings in “She Stoops to Conquer” and the title role in “Dracula.”

Evans, who made her debut in the 2001 production of “The Tempest,” is a 2002 graduate of the College and has appeared in “Lady Windermere’s Fan,” “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” “The Way of the World,” “Twelfth Night” and “An Enemy of the People.” Another member of the group, Curt Foxworth, a 2002 graduate of the College who has performed with ACT and Opera Theater in productions of “Romeo and Juliet,” “The Lion in Winter” and “The Boys from Syracuse,” participated in the production.

Tracey Hawkins, who plays Clara, the maid, has been a member of the Shakespeare ’70 board and handles the majority of the Company’s print and electronic communications. She also directed the 2003 production of “The Winslow Boy” and a series of one-act plays for the New Jersey Theatre Guild in addition to producing “An Enemy of the People” and “Dracula” for Shakespeare ’70.

Furthermore, Hults, senior English and secondary education major, has appeared in Shakespeare ’70’s “The Way of the World” and “Twelfth Night.” Penney, who has performed in more than 50 shows over the past 25 years with regional companies, including McCarter Theatre and Actors Net. Quartarone directed “The Sisters Rosensweig” for ACT.

Finally, Kehoe, who played the overly dramatic Judith Bliss, who freshman elementary education major Jenny Bruckner said “made the show,” has had many principal parts since her Shakespeare ’70 debut. Kehoe is a four-time winner of the Newark Star-Ledger Performance of the Year award and has performed at Playwright’s Horizons, the American Place Theatre and the Ensemble Studio Theatre, all in New York City.

“Hay Fever,” was directed by John F. Erath, who has directed their productions performed at the College since 1994. “Hay Fever” will be running through Feb. 20 on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday staring at 8 p.m.