With the monster production of Les Miserables looming ahead at the Omaha Community Playhouse, the play selection committee looked for a contrast to open the season in the smaller Howard Drew setting.
They found Sirens, described by director Amy Lane as “a light-hearted comedy about love and marriage.” It not only contrasts with “the heavier themes” of the momentous musical, with its challenging technical demands, but “a four-person play with simpler technical needs seemed a perfect fit for the Drew opener.”
But, Les Miz aside, Amy adds, Sirens “is a sweet, funny show that we all loved.” It opens Friday, Aug. 16.
One reviewer suggested it offers “some of the most delectable and amusing dialogue we’ve heard on stage in a long time.” The New York Times simply declared it “amiable,” and another writer found it rich in “there’s no place like home nostalgia.”
Lane has a cast with three proven talents and a rising young star. Ablan Roblin and Judy Radcliff “are awesome together,” the director says, as song writer Sam and Rose, his wife of 25 years. They’re joined by young but experienced Noah Diaz, recently the Scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz, and a newcomer to the Playhouse, recent Northwest High School grad Regina Palmer.
She plays a Siren out of Greek mythology and brings “everything we needed” for the role: “She’s talented, funny, gorgeous and sings beautifully.”
The quirky character of this comedy mixes that mythological Siren with modern technology and social media. Sam, a one-hit wonder, wrote a song for Rose, his original muse, and it was covered by every artist and translated into every language.
But his obsession with repeating that success has put his love for Rose cooling on the back burner. He’s playing Scrabble online with another woman, and he’s using a 1980s photo of himself on his Facebook profile.
On their 25th anniversary cruise, he jumps overboard, lured by a mesmerizing song coming from the sea. Washed ashore, he finds the enchanting Siren. She may come from Greek mythology, but she’s playing video solitaire.
Director Lane takes the analogy with Homer’s Odyssey further than the presence of the Siren.
Like Odysseus (Ulysses) and Penelope, Sam and Rose “face all sorts of distractions” on their marital journey: “failed careers, children leaving the nest, Facebook flirtations, mid-life crises, etc.” As temptations pull them apart, “the play is their struggle to come back together.”
Roblin, seen as Bob Cratchit the past two seasons in A Christmas Carol and more recently in the Blue Barn’s 39 Steps, worked with the oft-seen Radcliff in the Playhouse musical Hairspray. They have “great chemistry,” Lane promises, “so I was thrilled to reunite them.”
While Regina Palmer is the youngest of the foursome, she has already performed in some choice roles in her high school years. She play Martha in the vocally demanding The Secret Garden, an Omaha Public Schools summer musical.
Her credits include High School Musical 2 at the Rose, plus roles in Little Women and Beauty and the Beast. She is scheduled to enroll in the acting program of the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in Los Angeles in 2014.
Sirens was written by Deborah Zoe Laufer whose End Days was presented as a staged reading in the Playhouse 21 & Over series.
Sirens runs Aug. 16-Sept. 15, 7:30 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday, in the Howard Drew Theater of the Omaha Community Playhouse, 6915 Cass St. Tickets are $35, $21 students. Call 402.553.4890 or visit omahaplayhouse.org.