Langhorne Players Delivers Three BY THE SEA For The Price Of One

by Lesley Grigg

Sara Stepnowski, John Helmke and Susan Fowler in a scene from Langhorne Players' BY THE SEA, BY THE SEA, BY THE BEAUTIFUL SEA, running through June 16.

We don’t need a calendar to tell us summer is here. The warm weather and start of June is enough for many to pack up and head for the beach. For those who live for the sound of ocean waves lapping the shore or gazing upon the gentle slopes of sandy dunes, you don’t need to travel far from Langhorne this month. Langhorne Players mix sun, sand, and stage in three one act productions as refreshing as a summer cocktail BY THE SEA, BY THE SEA, BY THE BEAUTIFUL SEA.

The first act opens at dawn on a sandy shore. The audience is pleasantly relaxed by the sound of waves, gulls, and Pat (Susan Fowler) chanting a peaceful mediation. The zen feel is enhanced with the soft stage lighting and use of flashlights throughout the scene. However, the zen doesn’t last long when we meet Veronica (Sara Stepnowski) and Quentin (John Helmke), who are siblings with conflicting views on a difficult task that brought them to the beach. It almost seemed as though the light from the flashlights grew harsher as harsh realities and raw emotions came to the surface. Throughout the scene, Fowler kept her zen-like qualities even when being threatened, which was a nice balance to the stiff anger and sadness from Stepnowski and Helmke. At times it seemed Stepnowski was holding some of the anger back, but at the end, true emotions flowed from all characters as the sun rose on a new day.

The second act opened on a new day, with new characters played by the same actors from act one. We first meet Ace (John Helmke) as he sets up camp on the beach and starts stripping. An audience member asks aloud what others may have been thinking, “how far is he gonna go?” You’ll have to see the show to find out. Soon after, we meet Macy (Sara Stepnowski) who transitions from standoffish to flirty to conspiratorial, but isn’t as convincing as Bill (Susan Fowler) who flows from saucy to soulful to soft. Fowler was able to take on each part of this one very complex character and make the audience both love her and hate her (the dislike meter spiked on her second cigarette as some audience members grumbled over the smoke).

Day turned to dusk in the third act when three strangers casually meet on the beach. Willy (John Helmke) was cavalier as he tried to seduce the demure, but witty, Marsha (Susan Fowler) while Dana (Sara Stepnowski) played hard to get. The lighthearted conversation took a dramatic turn as the three explored views on youth and living in the moment.

The only things these three short acts had in common were the actors, the sandy set, and the thirty minute duration. Each story explored new themes and emotions for all involved. Director Kathy Garafano gifted these actors with a new complex character each time, and allowed them to showcase their range and take advantage of LP’s wig department. Whether the scene was argumentative, conversational, or conspiratorial, all three met the challenge and showed the audience nine different individuals with their own story.

by Joe Pintauro, Lanford Wilson and Terrence McNally
Directed by Kathy Garafano
June 1-16, 2012
Langhorne Players
at Tyler State Park
Newtown-Richboro Rd. (Rt. 332)
Newtown, PA

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