Octet, a new play with music on the subject of music therapy for the mentally ill, has its world premiere by the New Jersey Repertory Theatre, beginning with a preview May 25 and opening May 26.
The Long Branch, NJ, professional troupe (Equity SPT) brings Mark Dunn's comic-drama "concert play," set in a sanitarium, to life with 11 performers under the direction of artistic director SuzAnne Barabas. Performances continue to June 18.
Merek Royce Press provides original music and actors mimic playing instruments for the story of free-lance writer Sally Cubbage (Kendal Ridgeway), whose assignment is to write a story about a new method of treating the mentally challenged.
She meets eccentric Dr. Janice Goldman (Kathleen Goldpaugh), who has developed a radical therapeutic technique where her patients communicate through music. The two women hit it off, until Sally is introduced to one of Dr. Goldman's "special" patients, the composer (Chris Tomaino). Their blossoming romance threatens the harmony that Dr. Goldman has worked so hard to create.
The doctor takes measures to guarantee that life in her safe little sanitarium will not be disrupted. "We chose to go with actors rather than musicians," Barabas told Playbill On-Line. "They have been working with these instruments for six months. They need to be playing the right notes [to the soundtrack]." She said audiences will suspend their disbelief for the musical sections of the production.
Also featured in the cast are Jim Donovan as the enigmatic cellist, Marian Akana as the obsessive-compulsive flutist, Billy Stone as Jules Richardson de Speer, Leslie Wheeler as the tap dancing, reclusive trumpeter, Kurt Elftmann (violist), Gigi Jhong (concert mistress), Rozie Bacchi (clarinetist) and Nicole Godino (trombonist).
Playwright Dunn is the author of a number of plays which together have received over 150 different productions throughout the U.S., Canada, Great Britain and Hong Kong. A new version of his play Belles received its world premiere by StoneGate Artists in Red Bank, NJ in a production directed by SuzAnne Barabas. Last year Dunn's North Fork was mounted as part of NJ Rep's inaugural mainstage season. His The Deer and the Antelope Play was included in Charlotte Rep's 1998 New Play Festival and subsequently staged in full production in January 2000.
Composer Press has written music for four short films as well as for cable TV, computer multimedia and the internet. He has scored the music for two full-length dramatic musicals, Immortal Interlude and Hyde and Seek, and has designed sound for numerous theatrical productions. Director Barabas was the co-founder of the Cincinnati Repertory Company and the American Repertory Theater of Philadelphia, and served as the artistic director for these companies. She is co-author and lyricist of several plays and musicals, including Find Me a Voice, Hyde and Seek and Immortal Interlude.
For NJ Rep, Barabas directed the mainstage productions of Find Me a Voice and North Fork, and staged readings of North Fork, Ends, Maggots, Helen's Most Favorite Day and Belial.
Tickets are $25. Performances are at the Lumia Theatre, 179 Broadway in Long Branch, on the Central New Jersey shore. For tickets and additional information for Octet and NJ Rep, call (732) 229-3166, or visit the website at www.njrep.org.
-- By Kenneth Jones