Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Let's do lunch!

NSE delivers delicious
by Christopher Key

You’d think that after 27 productions, Nearly Stellar Entertainment could lose the “Nearly.”  One of Bellingham’s most consistently successful independent theatre companies deserves better.  May I suggest “Really Stellar Entertainment?”  Principals Earl Reid and Sally Lubetich have been tickling the sensibilities of local audiences since 2001 and they must be doing something right.  Most independent theatre companies don’t last nearly as long.

Their latest offering, 100 Lunches, is a treat, from appetizer to dessert.  Playwright Jack Sharkey teams with Leo W. Sears for this confection and, like the more famous Neil Simon, they keep the gags coming so fast you may miss a few on the first course.  Meaning you should lunch more than once to really appreciate the cuisine.

Photo credit - Christopher Key

The always-enchanting Nicole Winkler plays a New York theatre critic whose invective tends to make playwrights lose their appetite.  Her character, the aptly misnamed Charity Starr, is a high-strung, massively insecure journalist (is that redundant?).  Winkler captures her the way Sherman captured Atlanta.  Simply burns the place down.

Photo credit - Christopher Key

Playwright Charlton “Chuck” Reynolds has often been the meat into which Starr sinks her fangs.  He’s played by Spencer Pope, who has been a Nearly Stellar stalwart over the years.  Don’t let the matinee-idol good looks fool you.  He can chew the scenery, and some questionable food, with the best of them.

When Starr decides to write a play of her own, guess who she chooses as her mentor?  That collision of natural enemies is what puts the hot sauce on the entrée and the result is a gastronomical eruption.  In every sense of that word.

Reynolds is a widower who employs Glinda Bellows as his housekeeper.  Glinda, of course, is the good witch from The Wizard of Oz and Sally Lubetich plays her without bellowing.  Much.  Reynolds’ teenage daughter Terry serves as a kind of Geek Chorus, throwing one-liners at her helpless Dad like spearing shrimp in a cocktail.  Jennifer Harvey is wonderfully understated in the role and that’s no easy task.

Photo credit - Christopher Key

Whilst sampling some of the best and worst restaurants The Big Apple has to offer, Starr and Reynolds encounter seven of the rudest waiters ever to terrify diners into submission.  The inimitable Alan Birdsall plays all seven of them in a tour-de-force that will leave you limper than overcooked pasta.

Carol Makela plays Reynolds’ overly-possessive girlfriend who gets all green-eyed when the two natural enemies start waging peace.  She admits in her bio that she is stepping outside her more comfortable singing/dancing roles and it’s a giant leap for theatrekind.

I reviewed a dress rehearsal that didn’t include costumes, set or props.  Not to worry.  Reid and Lubetich are past masters at bringing all the elements together when opening night looms.  Reid directs and takes credit for most of the tech stuff with Lubetich a close second.  Linda Priddy costumes the show and serves as the stage crew.  That’s all it takes when you have the chops that NSE has demonstrated over the years. 

100 Lunches is a really stellar example of what an independent theatre company can do and has been doing since 2001.  The company utilizes the conference rooms of various local hotels as a venue and that, in itself, is amazing.  This time, they’re performing June 19, 20, 26 and 27 at the Quality Inn on Kellogg Road just off Meridian Street.  Tickets are available at the door and a bargain at twice the price.  Curtain time is 7:00.

One of the great things about living in Bellingham is the wealth of independent theatre and it’s satiating to enjoy lunch with one of the best.  Bon appetit!

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