SCRANTON — Eight generations, eight cast members and 80 minutes.
That sums up “The Big Meal” by Dan LeFranc, according to Casey Thomas, of Scranton, who is director and set designer for Actors Circle’s upcoming production of the play, scheduled for two weekends, April 14-17 and 21-24 at Providence Playhouse, 1256 Providence Road.
“There’s a man and woman from each generation, and everyone sort of revolves roles,” he said. “So at the end of the play, the two kids in the beginning become the two old people. …The show pretty much takes a bunch of stock moments in life – meeting someone, getting married, having a baby, love and loss and all of that sort of stuff – and it happens very quickly, because the characters experience these things in little segments, and then time sort of shifts quickly throughout the show.”
Thomas said this unusual style, along with the format in which the script is written, presents a challenge for him as director, as well as for the cast. Formatted in columns, almost like sheet music, it is difficult to follow it and to know who is to come in when.
The director said this is one aspect which makes the play unique.
“I don’t know any other script that’s written in this style,” he said. “I don’t think it’s the only one, but they are few and far between.”
One cast member, Betsy Seaforth, of Spring Brook Township, said she plays three different generations in the play. None of the cast members exit the stage during the production.
“It’s different,” she said. “The audience has to actually listen. At first they will be a little confused, but they will catch on.”
Seaforth, who first got her start in theater 48 years ago, said she has never seen anything like this play either.
This production is also different for her personally, in that she is known locally as a comedic actress, while “The Big Meal” is in the drama genre.
“Comedy, to me, is as easy as breathing, so it’s a challenge to me to do drama,” she said.
Her love for the stage, however, spurs her on.
“(Acting) is the best stress reliever in the world,” she said. “When you get in to the theater at night for rehearsal and that door shuts behind you, it’s like being a little girl pulling out your mother’s curtains and becoming a bride – it’s like playing house. It’s fantastic. And you meet the best people from all walks of life.”
Most of the Actors Circle cast and crew have full-time jobs elsewhere and participate in the theater on a volunteer basis. Seaforth, for example, in addition to volunteering as an actress in the evening, has a day job as office manager at Muir Podiatry in Clarks Summit.
Other members of the cast include John Arena, Dante Giammarco, Eric Lutz, Kate Priestash, Kim Priestash, Cecelia Pugh and Max Snyder. Katrina Bartoli is stage manager, Bob Spalletta is lighting designer and Cathy Rist Strauch is producer and publicist.
Thomas said despite the play’s challenges, the cast is “doing really well” and all should feel a sense of accomplishment after the curtain closes.
Show times are 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays. Tickets are $12 for general admission, $10 for seniors and $8 for students, with the exception of the April 14 show, for which tickets are $8 for general admission and seniors and $6 for students. Reservations, which will be held until 10 minutes to show time, can be made by calling 570-342-9707.
More information can be found on the Actors Circle Facebook page or at actorscircle.org.