According to Kirk Starczewski, Ken Ludwig’s comedies are designed for times when people are hungry for a few good laughs.
“Leading Ladies,” Ludwig’s 2004 play set in York, Pa., in the 1950s, is coming to Home Made Theater in Saratoga Springs for three weekends of performances, and Starczewski, who is directing the production, is guaranteeing a good time.
“It’s a good show, a very good show, which helps you forget all the troubles in the world,” said Starczewski, who most recently directed “Rumors” at Home Made Theater and also serves as a director for the Saratoga Springs High School Drama Club. “Every now and then we need a good laugh, and this show gives it to you.”
Ludwig’s play is about two veteran Shakespearean actors, Leo Clark and Jack Gable, who have fallen on hard times and try to reverse their bad luck by impersonating the two nephews of an elderly rich woman who is assumed to be passing away soon. When the pair travel to York and discover that the old woman, Florence, has two nieces and not two nephews, their acting and wardrobe skills are put to the test.
WHERE: The Spa Little Theater, Saratoga State Park, Saratoga Springs
WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday (no show this Sunday), through May 5
HOW MUCH: $26-$23
MORE INFO: 587-4427, www.homemadetheater.org
“When they realize it isn’t Max and Steve, but Maxine and Stephanie, they suddenly have to portray women, and then they end up falling in love with two women,” said Starczewski. “What Ludwig does in a lot of his shows is make fun of the theater, and he’s doing it again here. I’ve enjoyed quite a few of his shows, and we have a very good cast that can pull this off.”
Conrad Browne Lörcher is Leo and Brian Avery is Jack. Lörcher is performing in a primary role for the third straight show at Home Made, having played Hannay in “The 39 Steps” and The Scarecrow in “The Wizard of Oz.” Avery, meanwhile, who has been busy directing shows for Class Act Productions, was in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” at Albany Civic and also played the title character in “The Cat in the Hat” and Danny Zuko in “Grease” at the Schenectady Light Opera Company.
“They both bring a nice energy and imagination to their roles,” Starczewski said. “They have very good theatrical instincts, and they know how to look at a situation, turn it off-kilter a bit, and get a good laugh that’s also believable and keeps the story going. They also add a lot of humanity to their characters.”
Playing the female lead, Meg, is Amanda Martini-Hughes. Meg is Florence’s niece and becomes romantically involved with Leo.
“The play is really about Meg, and how she’s beginning to understand that there’s a big world out there as the play progresses,” said Starczewski. “She’s Leo’s love interest, and she’s just getting the opportunity to have a few laughs and enjoy herself for the first time.”
Also in the cast are Marilyn Detmer as Florence, Nick Casey as Butch, Matthew Crowley as Duncan, Patrick Leathem as Doc and Allison McCardle as Audrey.
Dividing his time
“I usually split my time between Home Made Theater and the Saratoga High School Drama Club,” Starczewski said. “I direct the school’s fall show and serve as technical director for the spring musical, and I usually do one show a season at Home Made. Summer is family time.”
While he has restricted his theater activity to directing lately, he will on occasion take to the stage and perform.
“Last year in ‘Rumors,’ one of the four lead actors wasn’t going to be there for a show, but we knew that and I ended up learning the lines in two weeks and got the chance to play Lenny,” he said. “I don’t do it that often, but I do enjoy it. It’s just that directing is easier on my life.”
He also enjoys the challenge of being in charge of a production from start to finish.
“Acting and directing are two different things,” he said, “and while I love acting, I really appreciate the opportunity to work in an environment where you get to create something that really starts with you. You bring it alive, you add the ideas of other people, you discard what doesn’t work and augment what does work, and at the end you have something that is greater than the sum of its parts. I love the whole collaboration process.”
While “Leading Ladies” was an off-Broadway hit for Ludwig, he has had three plays, “Lend Me a Tenor,” “Crazy for You,” and “Moon Over Buffalo,” produced on Broadway. He has been nominated for three Tony Awards.