The Colleagues Theatre Company, New York City's unique troupe devoted to work by or about mature people, picked Irish Strawberries for a world premiere presentation, Feb. 25-March 12.
George Bamford's drama is set on Mother's Day in 1968, in the rolling hills of northern Maryland, when Julia awaits the arrival of her son, Jake, his wife Annie and their new baby. Family relationships are shaken and lives changed forever as secret memories are revealed.
Playwright Bamford told Playbill On-Line the play is deeply personal and based on his experiences. He also performs in the piece, playing a character based on his father.
"It's about a young man who comes home...and he's had a memory that's been disturbing him over the years," said Bamford. "His version of it differs from his mother's."
Bamford reworked sections of the play in late 1999 and the rehearsal process prompted fine-tuning, he said. Bamford, a stage actor who also acted on soaps, wrote unproduced plays in the 1970s and returned to playwriting in the 1990s. His A Father's Day Diary was staged at the Equity-affiliated Schoolhouse Theatre in Croton Falls, NY. An independent film version is to be shot in summer 2000.
He said the Father's Day and Mother's Day setting of his two produced plays is a coincidence; he wasn't in search of a parenting theme.
Baltimore-area native Bamford has penned film scripts that are circulating, but he's passionate about the stage: "I've been wanting to lock myself away for six months to write a play," he said.
As an actor, Bamford appeared on Broadway in Arsenic and Old Lace, Sweet Bird of Youth and Precious Sons. His Off-Broadway acting credits include Horton Foote's Night Sessions, The Kid, Anna K, Yanks 3 Detroit 0-Top of the Seventh and Seduced at the American Place Theatre.
Official opening of Irish Strawberries is Feb. 29 at Theatre Three, but a special $50 benefit ticket package (which includes a guest reception) is offered 2 PM Feb. 27. The benefit reservation line is (212) 362-5332.
Directed by Thomas G. Waites, Irish Strawberries features Meg Myles as Julia, George Bamford as Stu (the father), Tom Biglin as Jake and Annie McGovern as his wife, Annie.
Director Waites is an actor-playwright-director who has appeared in the Broadway productions of American Buffalo with Al Pacino, Awake and Sing and Richard III. He has directed at The Actors Studio in New York City at Los Angeles' Complex Theatre, among others. His produced plays include Dark Laughter, Blue Moon, Survivors and Spike's Story.
The Colleagues Theatre Company was founded in 1995 by producing director Catherine Wolf to commission and produce plays that celebrate the mature life experience. The company debuted in 1998-99 with Angela Huth's The Understanding, featuring seasoned Broadway actors William Cain, Mary Fogarty, Elizabeth Parrish and Wolf.
Designers for Irish Strawberries are Deborah Edelman Caney (costumes), Steve Mitchell (set) and Jeff Fontaine (lights).
Tickets are $12. Theatre Three is on the third floor at 311 W. 43rd St. For tickets, call (213) 279-4200.
-- By Kenneth Jones