A capricious cast
Their show, “The Capricious Pearls,” performed June 20 at the Carver Community Center in Purcellville was the fruition of months of rehearsal. And the production was a success.
But what drew the most laughs from the packed audience was the cast's ability to improvise – a lot.
“Most of it was improvised,” said Mary Long, director of the play and The Big, Bad Theatre Co. after the show. “Some of them forgot their lines.”
But therein lies the beauty of the cast of “The Capricious Pearls.” A cast made up of senior citizens – its oldest member, Geraline Johnson, is 90 years old – the crew had the audience in stitches with improvised one-liners and ability to interact with the audience (although that's not part of the script, either.)
“The Capricious Pearls” is the story of four men who, after being released from prison, go looking for a hidden valuable string of pearls in a vacant house. To lead the way, the boss, played by LeRon Bielak, follows his original map. To the gang's dismay, the home was transformed into the Landrum Home for Aged Ladies.
As the play opens, the four men emerge on stage, celebrating their freedom and planning to find the pearls. The boss's girlfriend, played by Trixi Carter, presents him with a blank piece of paper (one he can fill in with any high school name he wants so he can become a high school graduate).
“Woodgrove. Valley,” the audience shouts. In reaction, one of the men, gesturing to the boss, replies: “Give me your gun for a minute.”
Half-way through the performance, as the entire cast sits in the living room of the home, there's dead air.
“OK, we need to say something,” says Dick Sherman, who plays Clarence, to audience laughter.
Long contributes the cast's ability to improvise to their life experiences – a retired nurse, a breast cancer survivor, a teacher and a dance instructor, just to name a few.
“They're not afraid to get up in front of people … I think their years of experience in their different professions, they've gotten over the fear of what anyone thinks,” Long said. “Not only on the stage do they use what they've done in the past, but off stage … it helped them be more well-rounded in what their characters are.”
The play continues with the gang searching the home for the pearls, once hidden in a brown, leather chair. But they get to know the ladies of the house and soon realize that its owner, played by Lois D'Elia, has sold the pearls one at a time, to pay for necessities for the ladies.
These necessities include a library to house travel books for Mrs. Teasdale (played by Frankie McDonald) who loves to talk about her world travels, in turn annoying everyone in the house except Mrs. Hildebrand (Carole Ann Jesinsky), a lady with a caustic tongue.
“We laugh and act like kids,” McDonald said prior to the show of her experiences with the Carver Center Drama Club. “Every production I've been in it's been so much fun.”
Hilarity also ensues during the play as Lucy Lee, a younger employee of the home played by Debra Foster, harasses everyone about whether they're left-handed. (She needs the hair of a left-handed person to complete her Voodoo doll, one she eventually uses on one of the gang, Lefty, played by Jerry Smith.)
One of the stand-out characters in the play, Maude, played by Betsy Horenberger, gives the audience a good laugh as she embodies the character of a hard-working employee whose had enough with the ladies' demands.
“Mop the floor, Maude. Dust the furniture, Maude. Clean the chandelier”
“It's like a big party we have,” Horenberger said of her experience.
It's a sentiment echoed by the entire cast and crew.
“Practice is sometimes more fun than the actual play. We laugh so hard during practice, especially once they get to know their lines and they begin to feel comfortable in their character and they start ad-libbing. It's the most enjoyable part of my week to come and work with them,” Long said.
Long also directs plays for children and teens, which began with drama camps at the Carver Center. The plays, put on for the center's seniors, eventually turned into enthusiasm for senior citizens to get involved.
The first production involving senior citizens hit the stage in December.
Long searches for shows that allows every character to have lines. The group is already planning another Christmas play. Auditions will begin in September.
“My dream would be to get a play where the kids and the elderly do it all together,” Long said.
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