Old Academy Players Cast Bedazzles in the Premiere of THE WITCH IN 204

by Lisa Panzer

Something is a-brewing in Southern New Jersey at a Margate senior condominium complex… Sylvie (Marcy Hoffman), a retired schoolteacher, is getting a second chance at happiness with her companion Eugene (Nicholas Lutwyche), after having been a widow for a number of years. Eugene and Sylvie met in Egypt by way of a teapot he’d been occupying for a time. They are about to tie the knot with a commitment ceremony. Her dearest friends, Mabel (Norma Kider) the nebby yenta, Thelma (Ginny Kaufmann) , who is visually challenged, Fannie (Laurie Jacobs) and Herman (Steve Blumenthal), a very nice couple, are happy for her, she is looking lovely in her elegant white suit, everything seems to be in order, when WHAM!, a real witch from Eugene’s quite distant past shows up to re-claim him as her man. Going by the fitting name of ‘Bella’, A.K.A Jezebella (Brianna Tillo), she is some witch! Young looking, svelte, gorgeous and chic (even though her age exceeds the condo’s requirements by hundreds of years), she nearly ruins things for the couple to be, but by mistaking the eccentric Evelyn (Loretta Lucy Miller) for Sylvie, unwittingly grants the gang from Margate the chance to hatch a plan of attack.

(l. to r.): Nick Lutwyche (on sofa), Loretta Lucy Miller, Steve Blumenthal and Brianna Tillo in the title role as THE WITCH IN 204, running at Old Academy Players in Philadelphia PA through October 2.

Kudos to Director, Christopher Wunder for his winning casting combination, and to Barbara Pease Weber for producing this cast of characters! The parlance between the four female friends in particular is cohesive and affords an authenticity to the friendships. Marcy Hoffman and Nicholas Lutwyche perform well together as a stage couple, and provide some fabulous straight comedy. Lauri Jacobs balances her character Fanny as the tender, yet fiercely loyal friend with a nice balance, and Steve Blumenthal, a veteran of the stage, never broke with his lovable endurant character, regardless of any distraction, and provided much comic relief! Norman Kider, via voice, body language and facial expressions embues the character of Mabel with plenty of delightful chutzpah, and Ginny Kaufmann as Thelma was too funny times two while utilizing her looming bifocal/”coke bottle” glasses in pulling off some great shtick and stage business. Brianna Trillo, with her stage presence, is wonderful as the doggedly determined well dressed wicked witch who buys her modern style “witch’s cape” on sale at the Nordstrom Rack. Loretta Lucy Miller’s performance peaks throughout the show as she conveys her character Evelyn through a fantastic array of states both induced and natural, real and surreal, high and low, provoking uproarious laughter from the audience. Altogether the stage chemistry of the actors along with the setting really makes the ‘magic’.

The subdued seashore colors of the set, and furnishings make for a nice backdrop to the action, and are convincing, and lighting and sound are also copacetic. Interim music selection is fun to listen to and must have been fun to select as all embodied the overall theme of the play (“Witchcraft”, “Black Magic Woman” and such). Costuming must have been enjoyable, too, for there are some very interesting and crazy outfits in this show, such as Eugene’s coming out of the teapot getup later in the play, Bella’s exotic attire, and others which shall come as surprises.

With THE WITCH IN 204 Weber weaves a bewitching tale of ageless romance and the magic of true love through the lives of those who have lived (seniors), which is entertaining, hilarious and, refreshing!

*A note about the theater: Grace Kelly made her stage debute at Old Academy Players, along with other distinguished actors. If visiting for the first time, treat yourself to a view of the theater’s rich history at http://www.oldacademyplayers.org/history.html or read about it while at the theater in person.

by Barbara Pease Weber
Directed by Christopher Wunder
September 16 – October 2, 2011
Old Academy Players
3540-3544 Indian Queen Lane
Philadelphia PA 19129

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