The many challenges to producing a fully staged theater production in front of a live, in-house audience are slowly going way after a tough 18 months.
Unfortunately, however, they haven’t all disappeared just yet.
At Curtain Call Theatre in Latham, Carol Max’s troupe is mounting Joe DiPietro’s 1998 off-Broadway hit, “Over the River and Through The Woods,” opening tonight at 7:30 and running through Dec. 5. For the large cast — six main players — under the direction of Steve Fletcher, it’s been an arduous rehearsal process.
“We’ve been struggling through rehearsal, and we’re not just thinking about COVID, we’re worried about a cold or the flu,” said Rich Angehr, who is joined in the cast by Pat Brady, Emily Fernandes, John Noble, Chad Reid and Kathleen Reilly. “We’ve had various cast members miss rehearsal because of cold symptoms, and I had to miss a few nights because I was exposed to someone who tested positive for COVID. So we’ve had some obstacles to deal with, but we’re managing OK.”
Angehr, a retired social worker and Schenectady resident, hasn’t been in a theatrical production since October of 2019 when he was at Curtain Call in “The Outsider.” He has, however, performed at the Madison Theatre in Albany as a stand-up comic as recently as last month.
“I’m doing more theater now and occasionally I’ll do stand-up,” said Angehr, who started his comedy act in 2010 before diverting to traditional theater in 2015. “It used to be the other way around but this is the way I want it. I had always enjoyed going to the theater and watching it, and I thought it would be fun and interesting to give it a shot.”
And while “Over the River and Through The Woods” is a comedy, Angehr can also handle more dramatic roles.”
“I’m certainly not going to limit myself to comedy,” said Angehr, who played the dramatic lead in “Looking for Normal” at Albany Civic Theater in 2015. “I am comfortable doing drama or comedy. I enjoy all different kinds of roles, and if the role seems like a good fit I’ll do it.”
In “Over the River and Through the Woods,” Angehr is playing a grandparent who is going to great lengths to keep his grandson, a 29-year-old bachelor, from moving away.
“Nicky is a young Italian-American from New Jersey who spends every Sunday with his grandparents,” said Angehr. “When he announced his plans to move away for a promotion – his parents are in Florida – both sets of his grandparents, Italian-Americans, are struck by this, and they scheme to keep him around. They want to keep him in New Jersey, and they come up with some very touching and funny ways to do it, including trying to match him up with somebody.”
Angehr isn’t Italian-American himself, but he says he grew up with plenty of them in The Bronx.
“I’m mostly Irish with some German and Swiss, but I knew plenty of Italian-Americans in my neighborhood, and they were my friends and classmates. I feel like I know them. This show is set in Hoboken, so I kind of let my natural Bronx accent take over to put across the Italian-American thing. I don’t think the two are that much different.”
While Angehr has never seen a production of “Over the River and Through the Woods” before, the show’s director has. Fletcher directed a production by Curtain Call back in 2001, and among the cast two decades ago was Noble.
“John is now playing the older grandparent, and we’ve been comiserating about how we did this or that scene 20 years ago,” said Fletcher. “We forget, but then we start working in rehearsal and things come back to us. It’s a great show, and one of the most successful that Carol has produced here. I hear the dialogue and I remember just how interesting and poignant it was.”
While the world has changed in the more than 20 years since the show came out, Fletcher says it’s still relevant today.
“It’s about the transition between generations and how the technology changes in every decade,” he said. “While there are seismic shifts from time to time, the one constant is the family. We all agree that’s the most important thing, and this play deals with how to resolve all those transitory issues.”
Frank Oliva is the set designer for the production, while Lily Fossner did the lighting and Alex Dietz-Kest the sound. Rita Machin is the stage manager.
‘Over the River and Through the Woods’
WHERE: Curtain Call Theatre, 1 Jeanne Jugan Lane, Latham
WHEN: Opens Nov. 4 and runs through Dec. 5; show times are at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 3 p.m. Sunday; there will be a Saturday matinee performance at 3 on Nov. 13
HOW MUCH: $28
MORE INFO: Visit www.curtaincalltheatre.com or call (518) 877-7529
Confetti Fest XVII
Meanwhile, Confetti Stage in Albany is presenting the 17th iteration of its entirely locally written and produced one-act plays, Confetti Fest XVII.
“Grace Notes” by Ingrid Madelayne, directed by Peter Kantor, music direction by Robin Leary.
In the early days of the 2020 Quarantine, a lonely woman struggles with depression, as she faces recent and past tragedies. Through “socially distant” conversation and singing, a friendly neighbor helps her to find hope and purpose again.
“Desert Roses” by Sean T. Baldwin, directed by Yvonne Perry
Nurse Clare Hansen has been kidnapped by the feared Crow County Copperhead. Much to her surprise, the Copperhead unmasks herself as a woman and asks for Clare’s help. Through manipulation, humiliation, and a nurse’s innate ability to see their patient’s thoughts, the two discover one another’s deepest secrets and gain a mutual understanding of each other. Seeing her kidnapper’s inner struggle and good intentions, Clare agrees to help the bandit just in time for the posse to arrive.
“Orlando at Dawn” by Judith Barlow, directed by Tristan Strasser
On a road trip through deepest Florida, Laurel Miller and her niece Courtney discover their very different approaches to life. Can a fortyish ex-hippie and her fastidious tween niece find common ground as they argue about everything from Minnie Mouse to Transcendental Meditation?
“Gravity” by Laura Darling, directed by Amanda Brinke Dorman, assisted by Anthony Halloway
When the weight of the thoughts in your own mind seem to hold you down, who can you turn to? Can you repair damage that someone else gave you? What if the “cure” hurts more than the scar tissue on your soul? “Gravity” is an in depth look at a therapy session, asking questions that are more common behind closed doors than society will allow us to openly discuss.
“The Eye of Selene” by Matt Reichel, directed by Ryan Gangemi, assisted by Max Beyer
When a woman in ancient Greece tries to elope with her one true love, a final confrontation with her father threatens to upend her whole plan.
Confetti Fest XVII features Lauren Bobersky, Joe Bruton, Kristin Crouch, Amy Hausknecht, Rachel Jenack, Robin Leary, Deborah Mazzone, Mathena Rush, Michelle Sanders, Siobhan Shea, and Sarabell Wrigley.
Performances will be held at the Albany Masonic Temple, 67 Corning Place, Albany, on Nov. 5-7 and 11-14. Thursday, Friday, and Saturday performances are at 7:30 p.m., with Sunday matinees at 2 p.m.
Audience members will be asked to wear a mask and provide proof of vaccination. Confetti Stage reserves the right to exclude attendees who will not comply.
Tickets may be purchased at the door or online at https://confettistage.org/buy-tickets/. Tickets are $15 for general admission at $10 for children and students with valid student ID. A group rate of $8 per person for groups of 8 or more is available by calling the box office at (518) 460-1167.