As artistic director for Curtain Call Theatre, Carol Max reads hundreds of plays every year. Only a very few, however, are good enough to get her back on the stage.
"I read so many plays, sometimes 600 a year, and usually only around eight of them inspire me," said Max, who founded Curtain Call Theatre in Latham 25 years ago. "I find room for them in the schedule, and every few years, if I really find something that tugs my heart strings, then I feel the need to help tell the story. I want to help tell the story because it makes me feel good."
In Laura Brienza's play from 2016, "Old Love New Love," Max has found that play. Steve Fletcher is direction the production, which opens tonight and runs through March 30, and sharing the stage with Max will be Chris Foster, Isaac Newberry, Joanna Resnick-Palladino, Kathleen Reilly, Howie Schaffer and Angelique Powell.
The story is about two married couples and other family members dealing with the effects of Alzheimer's disease.
"The playwright tells this story so sweetly and humorously," said Max, whose husband in the show, Foster, has Alzheimer's and has fallen in love with another woman, who is married and also has Alzheimer's. "It's heartbreaking to see someone you've loved fade away, but doing it without any humor in your life makes it about impossible to survive. It's a very serious situation, but the playwright does a great job of injecting humor into it."
The play had its world premiere in April of 2016 at the Luna Stage in West Orange, New Jersey.
"It's something we can relate to, and it's something we can learn from," said Max, who previous lead role at Curtain Call was back in 2014 in Nicky Silver's 'The Lyons.' "We tackle the tough stuff here at Curtain Call. These are timely issues that need to be addressed, and theater is supposed to imitate life so that's why we do what we do."
Schaffer and Reilly play the other couple who are dealing with Alzheimer's, while Resnick-Palladino and Newberry play Max's daughter and son-in-law. Angelique Powell, making her Curtain Call Theatre debut, plays a nurse. Fletcher, a former TV soap opera star - he played Brad Vernon on "One Life to Live," came out of semi-retirement to direct the show.
"I enjoy working with shows that touch on life's meaning, and while there is plenty of sadness out there, sometimes you just have to laugh at yourself a little," said Fletcher, who last directed at Curtain Call in 2017. "Change is inevitable, and this play is about change and transitioning to a new chapter in your life. These couples are going from a stable marriage into a chaotic world of fear."
Fletcher, who has done plenty of acting and directing at Curtain Call, was happy to work with a veteran cast like the one assembled for "Old Love New Love." While Max has limited herself to the Curtain Call stage over the last 20 years, Foster, Resnick-Palladino and Schaffer have been community theater stalwarts at various venues for quite some time.
"I've worked with Chris and Joanna so many times, it's like the old gang is back together," said Fletcher. "Carol also knows me very well, so we all know our strengths and weaknesses. They allow me to be me, and it's been a great working relationship. It's a great cast, and I'm having a lot of fun with them."
For much of Curtain Call's time on the area stage, Fletcher was its resident director, doing at least one or two shows a year. When Max thought about a director for this production, she figured luring Fletcher back to the stage wouldn't be much of a problem.
"The best way to get Steve is to slip the script under his nose," said Max. "Once he read it it's a done deal. He loved it. I always want Steve Fletcher to direct, but we can't get him that much these days because he's retired. But if I can find something that he can relate to and that he'll find compelling, I know he'll be passionate about it."
Fletcher hasn't acted himself in four years, since performing with Benita Zahn in "Hands on a Hardbody" at Park Playhouse.
"I spend much of time helping my son with his homework, which I love doing," said Fletcher. "I do love to get a call from Carol with an idea now and then, but I'm more into playing the guitar and writing lyrics, which I consider a poetic outlet. But this play is about the better part of human nature, and that kind of nobility is something I'll always be interested in."
'Old Love New Love'
WHERE: Curtain Call Theatre, 1 Jeanne Jugan Lane, Latham
WHEN: Opens 7:30 p.m. Thursday and runs through March 30; performances are at 7:30 Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and 3 p.m. Sunday
HOW MUCH: $25
MORE INFO: (518) 877-7529 or visit www.curtaincalltheatre.com