Set against an idyllic lakeside backdrop, the drama of the real world is never far from view as eight friends gather over three summer weekends in “Love! Valor! Compassion!” Presented by PinnWorth Productions, this Tony Award-winning play by Terrence McNally comes to Mercer County Community College’s Kelsey Theatre Fridays, Jan. 10 and 17 at 8 p.m.; Saturdays, Jan. 11 and 18 at 8 p.m.; and Sundays, Jan. 12 and 19 at 2 p.m.
Kelsey Theatre is located on the college’s West Windsor Campus, 1200 Old Trenton Road. A reception with the cast and crew follows the opening night performance on Jan. 10.
Theater goers are invited into the lives of a special group of friends as they celebrate Memorial Day, July 4th, and Labor Day at the vacation home of Gregory, an aging Broadway choreographer, and his twenty-something lover, Bobby. Their guests include Arthur and Perry, an affectionate professional couple of long standing; the irresistible dancer Ramon; a soured ex-patriot Brit, John Jeckyll; his gentle twin brother, James; and Buzz, a costume designer and maniacal lover of musical theater. Flirtations and skinny-dipping combine with soul-searching, truth-telling, and monumental questions about life and death in the era of AIDS. At turns poignant and hilarious, the action culminates in a wacky dress rehearsal for Swan Lake, performed in tutus.
According to the show’s director, Lou Stalsworth, the show is all too often depicted as a play about gay men coping with the AIDS epidemic in the 1990s. “What that doesn't address is the play’s general tone, which is often breath-takingly funny, always spot-on, and probably the best since ‘Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?’” he observes.
Stalsworth notes that the show’s title beautifully sums up the theme and context of the material. “These are human emotions on display. Love and the pain of love gone bad knows no gender. Nor does the ability to forgive and start anew,” he says. “These characters speak with an honesty and frankness seldom seen on stage.”
The cast includes Mark Applegate of Hamilton as Bobby; Chris Arena of Ewing as Perry; Lynn Baskin of Lambertville as Gregory; Tony DiDia of Toms River as Arthur; Bill King of Interlaken in the dual role of James Jeckyll and his brother, John; William Mercado of Hightstown as Ramon; and Jonathan Polanco of Hamilton as Buzz.
The show's choreographer is Jody Person, coordinator of the MCCC Theatre/Dance Program. Kate Pinner is the show’s set and costume designer; Bob Terrano is the lighting and sound designer. The stage manager is Matt Luppino.Tickets are $18 for adults, $16 for seniors, and $14 for students and children. Tickets are available online at www.kelseytheatre.net or by calling the Kelsey Theatre Box Office at 609-570-3333. Kelsey Theatre is wheelchair accessible, with free parking available next to the theater.