Raleigh Little Theatre and Actors Comedy Lab will jointly produce Mitch Albom’s AND THE WINNER IS, on Sept. 10, 11, 16-19, and 23-26 in RLT‘s Gaddy-Goodwin Teaching Theatre. Actors Comedy Lab co-founder Bunny Safron will direct this hilarious offbeat comedy, which skewers Hollywood egos, the movie business, and marathon Oscar telecasts.
“I wanted to direct [AND THE WINNER IS],” Bunny Safron says, “because I love the playwright, Mitch Albom, and have, in the past, read his books, TUESDAYS WITH MORRIE  and THE FIVE PEOPLE YOU MEET IN HEAVEN , among others.”
She adds, “I am intrigued by his versatility. He began his career as a musician (both performing, writing, and producing), continued as a sports journalist, and then began writing books, beginning with TUESDAYS WITH MORRIE and continuing with THE FIVE PEOPLE YOU MEET IN HEAVEN, FOR ONE MORE DAY  and his latest, HAVE A LITTLE FAITH , the first three becoming screenplays, two of which he wrote himself and one of which he co-wrote with Jeffrey Hatcher.”
According to the playwright’s website:
“AND THE WINNER IS was Mitch Albom’s second comedy. It saw its world premiere at the Purple Rose Theater in Chelsea, MI, in the summer of 2005 and its West Coast premiere at the Laguna Playhouse in the summer of 2006….”
When the curtain rises on AND THE WINNER IS, director Bunny Safron says, “Tyler Johnes (Scott Nagel), a self-absorbed middle-aged actor, has finally been nominated for an Oscar, but drops dead of a heart attack the night before the awards ceremony. He travels, in a bit of an unorthodox way, up to the ‘in-between place,’ where he is greeted by no, not St. Peter, but Seamus (Tony Hefner), the bartender of a pub with no liquor. He is devastated at not being able to attend ‘The Oscars,’ and as he tries to convince Seamus to let him come back to Earth for just one night, he is joined by his almost ex-wife, Sheri (Staci Sabarsky); his agent, Teddy La Petite (Tim Corbett); his rival, Kyle (Colin McNaughton); and his young, sexy girlfriend, Serenity (Sarah Bousquet).”
The result is what Mitch Albom’s website calls “a wildly twisting tale of Hollywood, the afterlife, and how we are judged.”
In addition to director Bunny Safron, the joint Actors Comedy Lab and Raleigh Little Theatre creative team for AND THE WINNER IS includes directing consultant John T. “Jack” Hall; assistant director Scott Wray; choreographer Nancy Rich; fight choreographer David McClutchey; technical director and set and lighting designer Mark Peelman; costume designer Casey Watkins; properties manager Ann Marie Crosmun; sound designers Rod Rich, Mark Peelman, and Todd Houseknecht; video designers Rod and Nancy Rich; stage manager Tony Landavazo; and backstage manager Shawntel Landavazo.
“There are some very interesting sound, light, and video effects,” claims director Bunny Safron. She adds, “My major challenge of staging AND THE WINNER IS was that it is being produced in a three-quarters or thrust rather than a proscenium stage, and the staging is very different and presents sightline as well as other problems which I have not had to deal with before.”
In reviewing a previous production of AND THE WINNER IS, the OAKLAND PRESS critic wrote: “Think IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE…. But Albom’s version offers a fresh, funny twist. Look for plenty of digs at Hollywood, the movie business, lengthy awards shows and celebrity egos…. Much of the humor is rooted in ridiculous truth.” The ANN ARBOR NEWS reviewer added: “… [AND THE WINNER IS] takes on considerable emotional heft and poignancy, and Albom achieves a fitting end that is simultaneously inevitable and surprising. Albom also, throughout the play, offers up a good deal of bright, cynical humor.”
Raleigh Little Theatre and Actors Comedy Lab present AND THE WINNER IS at 8 p.m. Sept. 10, 11, 16-18, and 23-25 and 3 p.m. Sept. 19 and 26 in RLT‘s Gaddy-Goodwin Teaching Theatre, 301 Pogue St., Raleigh, North Carolina 27607.
TICKETS: $15 ($12 students and seniors 62+).
BOX OFFICE: 919/821-3111 or http://www.etix.com/.
PRESENTERS: Raleigh Little Theatre: http://www.raleighlittletheatre.org/ and Actors Comedy Lab: http://actorscomedylab.com/.
NOTE: All shows are wheelchair accessible, and assistive-listening devices are available for all shows.
The Play: http://mitchalbom.com/theater/node/3735 (official website).
The Playwright: http://mitchalbom.com/home/ (official website).
Robert W. McDowell is editor and publisher of Triangle Theater Review, a FREE weekly e-mail theatrical newsletter that provides more comprehensive, in-depth coverage of Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill theater than all of the other news media combined. This review is reprinted with permission from Triangle Theater Review.
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