Summerhays, Darlow Star in Pittsburgh Public's U.S. Premiere of Ayckbourn's RolePlay Sept. 22-Oct. 23

News   Summerhays, Darlow Star in Pittsburgh Public's U.S. Premiere of Ayckbourn's RolePlay Sept. 22-Oct. 23
The American premiere of Alan Ayckbourn's RolePlay — another of the British master's comedies about middle-class civility upset by extreme passions — begins Sept. 22 at Pittsburgh Public Theater.

PPT artistic and executive director Ted Pappas is staging the production at the company's O'Reilly Theater. Performances continue through Oct. 23.

In the play by the prolific author of By Jeeves, How the Other Half Loves, Absurd Person Singular, House and Garden, Justin (played by Brian Hutchison) and Julie-Ann (played by Tressa Glover) are attempting to throw a nice, civilized dinner party where their parents can meet each other and they can announce their engagement.

As is typical of Ayckbourn, a seemingly normal group of people is shaken up by outrageous events, people and feelings. In the two-act comedy, an exotic dancer (played Meredith Zinner) and her ex-boxer bodyguard (played by Mark Mineart) appear at the party. It doesn't help that the groom-to-be's mum (played by Jane Summerhays) is wildly drunk when she arrives, or that a rainstorm hits town during the party. Ross Bickell and Cynthia Darlow play the conservative parents of the bride-to-be.

"It's the funniest play I've ever worked on," Ted Pappas told in between rehearsals. "The title, in a way, is irrelevant to the facts and the plot of the play. It's one of three plays under the umbrella title of Damsels in Distress, which have seven parts in every show, all played by the same actors, all set in the same apartment, though they are unrelated."

Is the play set on one night? "It's done in a very condensed amount of time — essentially the time it takes for a dinner party," Pappas said. "It's extremely sharp and focused writing. As usual, his ear is very sharp."

Ayckbourn gave Pappas permission to do the play as a standalone (separate from the two other Damsels plays) due to the personal and professional connection they made working together on the musical By Jeeves, which played PPT prior to Broadway.

Pappas doesn't rule out asking for future rights to the other Damsels plays if RolePlay lands as big as he expects it to in Pittsburgh.

Pappas' creative team includes scenic designer James Noone (creating an upscale London apartment), costume designer Martha Louise Bromelmeier, lighting designer Kirk Bookman and sound designer Zach Moore.

Opening is set for Sept. 30. For more information, visit


Coincidentally, the first preview of a new Broadway revival of Ayckbourn's Absurd Person Singular is Sept. 22, at the Biltmore Theatre.

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