Kevin Gardner has always felt pretty comfortable playing character actors on stage, but with the upcoming Curtain Call Theatre production of Lewis Black’s “One Slight Hitch” he has been thrust into a new role as director.
“I’ve done a few small projects in the past, but this is my first full-length play so I guess it’s my directorial debut,” said Gardner, an East Greenbush native and a familiar face to Capital Region community-theater fans. “People have suggested directing to me over the last couple of years and I have been thinking about it, so I guess everything kind of lined up and I suddenly had the opportunity. It was a question of saying yes or no, so I thought to myself, ‘Let’s try something new.’ ”
Gardner, who has both theater and television acting credits from the East and West coasts, is directing a cast that includes Jack Fallon and Barbara Richards, two actors he has shared time with on the Curtain Call stage. In Black’s play, Fallon and Richards are the parents of a young woman named Courtney (Erin Waterhouse), who is about to be married. Everything seems ready for the wedding, but when the mother goes out of her way to make sure everything is perfect, mayhem ensues.
‘One Slight Hitch’
WHERE: Curtain Call Theatre, 210 Old Loudon Road, Latham
WHEN: Opens 8 p.m. Friday and runs through Oct. 5; performance times are 7:30 p.m. Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 3 p.m. Sunday
HOW MUCH: $23
MORE INFO: 877-7529 or http://www.curtaincalltheatre.com
“It’s an ensemble piece, but the parents do have the larger roles,” said Gardner, who studied for two years at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in Los Angeles. “When I first read it, I thought maybe the bride and groom might be the focus, but then you realize that the play is about how the mother didn’t have the wedding she wanted when she got married, so now this is her opportunity to have that wedding for her daughter.”
If Richards and Fallon are believable in their roles, it might be because they have played husband and wife on previous occasions at Curtain Call.
“I think this is the fourth or fifth time I’ve been married to him,” Richards said of Fallon. “I love working with him. My character is a little bit the crazed mother of the bride. Her character is sympathetic, but she’s from a generation where a beautiful wedding is very meaningful, and she didn’t have one.”
As for Gardner, Richards said any apprehension she might have had about working with a first-time director has been long forgotten.
“I know Kevin, and I know how thoroughly prepared he was as an actor, and what a wonderful job he did,” said Richards. “I also knew that his general knowledge of the theater is very deep and creative. He’s an imaginative guy, and I had a feeling he’d do a great job as a director, just like he does as an actor.”
Conrad Brown Lorcher plays Harper, the groom, and David Cerutti is Ryan, an old boyfriend of Courtney’s. Also in the cast as Courtney’s sisters are Carolyn Shields and Kristin Van Steemburg.
“The biggest challenge for me was trying not to impose myself on the comic sense of the actors,” said Gardner. “You have to see where their strengths are as actors, and let them do what they do best. As a director I kind of see myself in all the roles, but I can’t make them do it the way I would in those same roles.”
Black is a comedian known for his angry rants. He became a familiar face to television fans doing his shtick on “The Daily Show,” and he has also appeared in several television dramas and movies. He wrote “One Slight Hitch” back in 1981, and continued to work on the play over the next several years. It has been produced around the country in regional theater, including the Williamstown Theatre Festival in 2011.
“I knew of him and I recognized the name, but after I read the play I questioned that even further,” said Gardner. “I thought, ‘Is this the Lewis Black that I’ve heard of?’ Well, it was, but he seemed to have a much edgier sense of humor in his comedy act. He’s a much more sarcastic comic. His play is not about that. You might think there’d be some of his rants sprinkled throughout, or that it might have a hard edge to it. But it’s very different, with some nice romantic touches to it.”
As for directing, Gardner says he’s having a great experience.
“It’s wonderful to have a hand in every element of the production,” he said. “As an actor, you’re often limited in the scope of what you can do as one character, but as a director you’re a part of everything and that can be pretty amazing. It’s great fun to be a part of every aspect, and to have the opportunity to work closely with all the sound people, set designers and the rest of crew.”
Working with veterans like Richards and Fallon has made the work even easier, according to Gardner.
“I feel very comfortable with them because I know them and they know me,” he said. “We’re familiar with each other, and that’s been a lifesaver. I feel like there’s been a weight taken away from me because of the wonderful actors I’m working with.”