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Two on the aisle

Two on the aisle

Play explores the joys and frustrations of community theatre

It’s a community theatre play about the people who play in community theatre. The set is the back parking lot of a playhouse, where the stage door opens and closes to provide snippets of the playswithin- a-play premise. There’s also the rear of a party van owned and perhaps occupied by the aging hippie tech guy around which all of the action takes place and the cast of 10 characters express their dreams and hopes, or vent their frustrations about their fellow play actors.

Prince Edward Community Theatre is staging Two on the Aisle, Three in a Van by Mary Lynn Dobson at the Mount Tabor Playhouse in Milford. Director Mike Trites and producer Deb Smith have assembled a cast of veteran actors and newcomers for this fast-paced farcical comedy that takes a light look at the world of community theatre. There is a cast of characters that everyone involved in community theatre will be familiar with. There’s the director who wants to put their own spin on every show, the diva who always wants the leading role, a budding playwright whose enthusiasm far exceeds their talent, the droll veteran who’s seen it all, and the few stalwarts—both on and off stage—who can be relied upon to get the job done.

This will be the first time on stage for Dominic Smith. Last year, on his birthday, he decided he wanted to do something that would get him more involved in the community. He saw the call for auditions for this play and sent an email to the director, half-hoping that his lack of experience would render a quick dismissal. “It was something that I really felt drawn to do, and I took a chance by coming to an audition, and it’s been incredibly fun, and it’s been delightful to work with the rest of the cast,” said Mr. Smith. He said that memorizing his lines has not been terribly onerous, as he naturally has a good memory. His character has a lot of lines in the play. “Fortunately my partner is a very willing co-actor and audience at home, which I feel grateful for,” he adds. He says that the format of a play-within-a-play makes him feel as though he’s meeting two different sets of characters at the same time—his fellow actors and the people they play on stage. At first he felt as though the character that he plays was not too dissimilar from his own personality. “What’s been interesting is that diving into it, you see the differences and they are quite stark. I see my character as the personality road not travelled for me. I’m a pretty decisive, straight to the point kind of person, and Mike is really a little wimpy. He knows what he thinks, but he doesn’t feel the confidence to express it, and I found that divergence to be the most interesting part of the character.”

This play is a complex undertaking for the group. There are many moving parts that have to fit together seamlessly. For example, there are several dozen sound cues that have to come at exactly the right time. With 10 actors, there’s a lot of movement on stage, and many costume changes. The role of the stage manager is to ensure that everything works smoothly. That task has been taken up by Bailey Mulridge. They are no stranger to the stage, having appeared in four previous productions, but this is their first time as stage manager. “I did some back stage work for On Golden Pond and Sweet Delilah Swim Club and I really took a shine to helping out back stage. I spent about six hours just studying this script. I knew there was a lot of props and a lot of costume and set changes. In the early rehearsals I had to write down all the blocking for the actors and keep track of all the props and make sure everyone is supported. My big task is making sure the director’s vision is getting set forth,” they said.

Mr. Smith has thoroughly enjoyed his first foray into the world of community theatre, and recommends anyone to take part. “It’s as much fun as you’ll have. There’s not many chances in adult life where a bunch of people come in and they’re willing to be open and have fun and be vulnerable and combine that with a shared sense of purpose,” he said. Two on the Aisle, Three in a Van will be staged at Mount Tabor Playhouse on April 6, 12 and 13 at 7:30 p.m., and on April 7 and 14 at 2 p.m. For tickets and information, please visit

Actors all Over

Actors all Over

Prince Edward Community Theatre opens its 2024 season this weekend with comedy Two on the Aisle, Three in a Van

There’s a strange kind of double vision on offer at Mount Tabor.

Two on the Aisle, Three in a Van tracks an upcoming performance of Hello Dolly by The Neighborhood Actors Summer Fun Rep Theatre. A lack of wing space at the troupe’s playhouse squeezes the production. Much of the play must take place at the rear of a cramped playhouse and in its adjacent parking lot.

Its eerily similar, in other words, to the layout at the diminutive and charming Mount Tabor theatre, where the Prince Edward Community Theatre troupe is putting on a rollicking comedy about what happens backstage as a local theatre troupe rehearses.

Mary Lynn Dobson’s script focuses on the unsung heroes of theatre — the backstage actors who call the show, work the spotlights, sew the costumes, count the tickets and suffer through every flubbed line, forgotten prop and missed cue, over, and over, and over again.

Director Mike Trites said Two on the Aisle, Three in a Van is all about the characters.

“The play is about a ragtag theatre troupe who have artistic conflicts and catastrophes. It’s got some good old belly laughs. In the same way people laugh at the physicality of the Three Stooges, the antics of Lucille Ball, and facial expressions of Jim Carrey, the ten actors — all from the County — have a collective comic brilliance,” he said.

The lineup includes an aging diva, a full-of-herself leading lady, a stressed-out artistic director, and lots of egos. The script combines typecast characters with real people.

One of the delights here is the set. Producer Deb Smith noted it was no small feat to dress the Mount Tabor Stage for the production.

This is a really fun performance, full of the colliding energy of wayward characters.

Two on the Aisle, Three in a Van opens at Mount Tabor Playhouse Saturday April 6 at 7:30 p.m. and continues Sunday April 7 at 2 p.m., Friday and Saturday April 12, 13 at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday April 14 at 2 p.m.

For more information, see:


On Golden Pond: pitch perfect production

On Golden Pond: pitch perfect production

Returning to their Maine cottage on Golden Pond for their 48th summer, Norman Thayer Jr. (played by Pat Larkin) and his wife Ethel (Colleen Simm), step into a pool of memories. The well-appointed set at the Mount Tabor Theatre represents a single room, stocked with well-worn board games, well-read books, and faded photographs.

The couple seems as well-worn in as the board games, but not quite as readable as the books. They know one another’s habits from half a century of life together, but do they know one another?

Vain, self-centred, and demanding, the formidable Norman, an English professor, enjoys wit and passes judgment — generally both at once — as a matter of habit. Ethel, a decade younger than Norman’s 80 years, is a frustrated but warm and loving companion who ends up doing a lot of the heavy lifting.

Norman spends considerable time literally gazing into the mirror, a habit that reflects his ironic view of the world — and his detachment from others. His sense of things is not common, nor does it always make sense. Signs of elderly forgetfulness reveal themselves, and a new restlessness indicates that he is searching for something. His wit fuels the play with many comic moments; one-liners are delivered by Mr. Larkin in the laconic manner of Jimmy Stewart. The slightly dim-witted but genuine Charlie the mailman (Tom Higginbottom) comes for coffee and offers comic fodder. The single set with multiple doors also allows for farcical entries and exits — generally people missing each other.

Haimish Hunter as Billy. (Karen Valihora/Gazette Staff)

The play is more than a comedy, though. It attends to the fact that its characters talk more than they listen. On occasion, the aging Norman must stop to acknowledge his cracking façade. Director Cheryl Singer has paced the dialogue to create sudden silences, allowing recognition, leading to reconciliation.

The arrival of Ethel and Norman’s estranged daughter, Chelsea (Liz Simpson), reveals the tensions the arrogant Norman has fostered and Ethel ignored. Ms. Simpson does a good job with Chelsea, erring on the side of understatement while making her discomfort palpable.

Chelsea brings a new boyfriend, Bill (Adam McGowan), and his thirteen-year-old son, Billy (Haimish Hunter). Her trepidation about introducing them are pronounced, and justified. Norman proceeds to torment Bill, but draws an unexpected response.

Bill and Chelsea leave Billy behind for the summer, and a relationship develops between the old man and the boy which restores something lost. Restoration and recognition are the themes here. Subtle as they are, they are beautifully wrought by PECT’s accomplished group of actors.

Mr. Larkin and Ms. Simm in the leading roles carry the play; both are  on stage from start to finish. Each establishes character by means of gesture, accent and gait, but also manage to convey something ineffable together, a sense of endurance. When more characters are on stage, body language and blocking become a shorthand signifier of emotional dynamics. Each character has their moment, but is subordinate to the relationship between Norman and Ethel. The younger generations present a reality principle that the older couple both acknowledge — and defy.

It all makes for a production both funny and moving. Haimish Hunter is memorable as Billy, the 13-year-old who teaches this would-be grandfather some new words.

On Golden Pond continues Friday through Sunday. Visit for more information.



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