by David Shivers
As Theatre Albany kicks off its 2013-14 season, director Mark Costello visited the Kiwanis Club of Dougherty County on August 19 to offer a preview of the year’s offerings.
He started by talking about the production currently underway, the popular “Steel Magnolias”, authored by playwright Robert Harling.
According to Costello, Harling based the play on the relationship between his own sister and mother and wrote it as a form of therapy after his sister’s early death from diabetes.
“It’s a very moving play and, of course, very, very funny,” he described.
“We did it 22 years ago here and of course it was made into a very famous film, and we are enjoying doing it again,” he said.
Interesting side notes, Costello added, are similarities that arose during both productions. Soon after rehearsals started for the first production, he got a call from the young actress who was to play Shelby and she informed him that she was pregnant, a development that paralleled the scene in the play in which Shelby reveals her pregnancy to her mother.
In the current production, the actress now playing Shelby is diabetic, a condition shared by her character.
The movie version of “Magnolias” that starred Dolly Parton, Sally Field, and then-film-newcomer Julia Roberts was very popular, though Costello didn’t necessarily agree with all the casting choices. He shared Harling’s opinion that, “The women in the play are witty and intelligent…and in no shape or form are meant to be caricatures.”
Following “Steel Magnolias”, five more plays are in the line-up for the new season.
“Funny Money”, (October 11-13, 17-20) is a comedy written by Ray Cooney about an accountant who accidentally comes into possession of a briefcase full of cash and decides to keep it, leading to the unfolding of hilarious events. Costello said this will be the fifth Cooney play Theatre Albany has performed.
The holidays will find the theatre following up last year’s “Nunsense” with “Nuncrackers” (December 5, 6, and 8, then 12-15). The new play finds the nuns of “Nunsense” putting on a local-access TV special and features many of the original characters.
January 31-February 2, 6-9 unveils “Stories About the Old Days” in which a blues singer rejected by world lives in a dilapidated church building in Detroit and never ventures out, but plays checkers with one of the church’s last members in a relationship that gradually shifts from animosity to friendship.
Hilarity ensues again in “Mama Won’t Fly” (March 21-23, 27-30), as a young woman commits to transporting her strong-willed mother from Alabama to California by car in four days’ time for a family wedding.
Finally, a musical version of the Charles Dickens classic “Oliver Twist” will be performed May 16-18 and 22-25. Costello noted that this was the first British play to transfer successfully from London to Broadway and it was also the subject of film treatment back in the late 1960s.
A subscription to the entire series provides play tickets at a discounted price, and Costello urged his listeners to take advantage of the time-limited opportunity. Information about tickets and a subscription form can be found on-line at www.theatrealbany.com. Theatre Albany productions are presented at the restored Col. John A. Davis house at 514 Pine Avenue, the organization’s home for nearly 50 years.
In closing, Costello offered one final thought: “We just want you to remember one thing, that the theatre is the original 3D.”