“Lovers and Other Strangers” is the annual Memorial Day theater production to support the Idyllwild HELP Center. The play, by Renée Taylor and Joseph Bologna, will be presented daily from Friday, May 27, to Monday, May 30, at Town Hall.
The popular play debuted in September 1968 and was a 1970 film, for which the writers earned an Oscar nomination.
The play is about a series of related couples at a wedding rehearsal, ceremony and reception. Bonnie Bedelia, Emmy-nominated actress who played the bride in the movie, is scheduled to be a special guest before the Friday performance.
Conor O’Farrell, producer and director of this production, is well schooled in the classic American community theater. While O’Farrell is a successful professional thespian, the cast is composed of 10 local residents, all of whom love theater and stage performing, but acting is not their profession.
“It’s a play about male and female relationships,” O’Farrell said. “So I decided to cast actual married couples.”
Of the five couples, eight are actually married. Lou Bacher, who starred in the Idyllwild production of the “Odd Couple,” and Dora Dillman are the only stage couple. According to O’Farrell, Dillman was asked if her stage partner Bacher would know his lines. Before she answered, the questioner replied, “It’s much funnier when he doesn’t.”
“That says it all about community plays,” O’Farrell said, summing up the work. “I always have some anxiety over these things.”
O’Farrell’s concern starts from his responsibility as director. For weeks, he oversees dozens of rehearsals. “You see it night after night. Eventually, the surprise, which is comedy, is lost because you see it so much,” he explained.
Referring to the 2010 production of the “Odd Couple,” O’Farrell said, “By opening night, I thought we were in big trouble. It just wasn’t funny. But it was a huge hit! We sold out every show and turned people away on the last night.”
Six years ago, Bacher, who was chair of the HELP Center at the time, asked O’Farrell to help with some fundraising. He suggested, “… a play always brings in money. In Idyllwild, because it’s a small town, people are looking for entertainment on Saturday night. A good play, optimally, brings people out because they’re tired of sitting on the couch and there’s always music around town.”
All the proceeds will be contributed to the Idyllwild HELP Center. Tickets are $35 and include a catered dinner from the local restaurant, Ferro, which will donate and prepare all the food. The dinner will be from 5 to 6:30 p.m. at Town Hall, too.
The couples who compose the cast are Pete and Suzy Capparelli, Ginger and Bo Dagnall, Greg and Sandy Jones, and Patrick and Christina Reitz.