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Kiss me, you fool; Playhouse 412's 'Romantic Comedy' is this weekend

For nine weeks now, the cast and crew of Playhouse 412's upcoming presentation, "Romantic Comedy," have been hard at work, getting ready for the local theater group's first stage production since 2004's "The Fantasticks."

"It's been going very well," said Dave Goebel, the play's director, during a rehearsal break on Monday evening. "We practice one new scene per week."

With seven scenes in the three-act play, that means the last two weeks have been spent on "tying it all together," Goebel noted.

"We've been working out the final details, polishing and perfecting (the show)," he said.

The curtain will rise on "Romantic Comedy" this Saturday, March 25, at 7:30 p.m., and the cast is becoming quite excited.

"This is a play that really grows on you, the more you practice it," noted Doug Schultz, who plays one of the featured roles, Leo Janowitz, in addition to serving as the play's production manager.

Schultz is thoroughly enjoying the opportunity to play Leo, whom he describes as "kind of a straight shooter."

"He's a very intelligent man, who knows several languages," Schultz continued. "But he's not exactly what you would call sophisticated."

But Schultz is quite fond of the character. "There might be a little Leo in me," he admitted. "The nerdy, unsophisticated side (of the character)... I identify with that."

He has been a part of Playhouse since moving to Detroit Lakes with his wife in 2001. Though he has appeared in several productions since then, and served as both a props manager and set designer in various productions, this is his first stint as production manager.

"It's definitely been a learning experience," he said, noting that unlike previous productions, where he might only be involved in one or two aspects such as set design and acting, as the production manager, "now I'm seeing virtually everything."

Goebel, on the other hand, is an experienced director, having directed musicals and plays at Frazee-Vergas High School since 1975 -- until his retirement from teaching in the spring of 2005.

"I've directed five other productions for Playhouse, starting in 1985 and concluding in 1995," he said. "It'd been 11-12 years since I'd done any community theater work, and I thought it would be an interesting challenge."

Also bringing considerable expertise to this weekend's production is Bagley-area native Lorraine Bahr (Blanche Dailey), who comes to the Historic Holmes Theatre stage with more than 15 years of theater experience.

"I just moved back to Minnesota, after working in professional theater in Oregon for 15 years," she said. When she saw the Playhouse 412 advertisement for play auditions, she jumped at it.

"I just saw the notice in the paper and knew I wanted to get involved (in the show)," Bahr said.

She finds the character of Blanche to be an interesting one to play.

"Blanche is an old (Ziegfield) Follies girl... she's been a talent agent for quite a few years," Bahr said. "She's got that hardened, cynical air about her... she knows what's what, and she calls the shots -- or at least she thinks she does."

But Blanche is also "sort of a mother figure" to the lead character, Jason Carmichael, Bahr explained. "She sticks with him, even through all his screw-ups... and gives him a little tough love.

"It's been a great time, getting to know everyone in the cast," she added.

"One of the fun things about a Playhouse production is that the cast really becomes a family for about 8-12 weeks," Schultz noted.

Besides Schultz and Bahr, the cast of "Romantic Comedy" also includes the two lead characters, Jason Carmichael (Jason Jensen) and Phoebe Craddock (Robbin Elder Bueng); Alison St. James (Teresa Nelson); and Kate Mallory (Arlene Furuseth).

Playhouse 412 will present "Romantic Comedy" this Saturday and Sunday, March 25-26, at 7:30 and 2 p.m., respectively. Tickets are $15.

The play was originally slated to be presented on Valentine's Day weekend, but Goebel said the timing of the initial auditions failed to produce enough applicants, as they were held right before the holidays.

"After rechecking the schedule (at the Historic Holmes Theatre), we found this weekend was open," Goebel said.

So they scheduled another round of auditions -- and this time, they had better results.

"We found a very good cast of characters," Goebel said. "We're ready (for this weekend's shows)... and I give all credit to the actors for that."

Directing a three-act play such as this one differs greatly from directing a musical, he explained, because of all the additional dialogue.

"There are 90 pages of dialogue, and the two lead characters are really on stage for nearly the entire show," Goebel added.

Written by the author of "Fatal Attraction" and "Same Time Next Year," "Romantic Comedy" is a play primarily intended "for adults" rather than families, because of some of the themes and situations involved, Schultz noted.

For more information about the production, or to purchase tickets, contact the Historic Holmes Theatre Box Office at 218-844-SHOW (7469).

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454