Four might be Atlantic Stage’s lucky number for its sixth season.
The Grand Strand’s sole professional theater troupe will focus on four plays through spring, each for four days on four weekends. The curtain opens Sept. 19 with the comedy “All in the Timing,” Thursdays-Sundays through Oct. 13 at the 79th Avenue Theatre, in Coastal Carolina University’s Myrtle Beach Education Center, at U.S. 17 Bypass.
Thom Penn, artistic director, said this combination of plays, and giving each an extra weekend, lets the company “focus on quality over quantity,” for best use of the core group’s resources without stretching itself too thin.
Amid rehearsals of late for “All in the Timing,” a six-pack of one-act scenes, Penn called this play “one of the funniest comedies I’ve ever seen,” linking “vagaries of time and randomness.” Twice, he has directed it elsewhere, but he’s in the cast for five pieces in this production, and he’s enjoying the challenge of seeing a play from “another angle.”
Penn said the “All in the Timing” takes the audience into everyday, relatable circumstances “we’ve all dealt with.” Each act in the play includes bell ringing, letting the characters repeat the scene but in a different approach, perhaps minimizing an errant act or statement, or averting it.
Want a ‘do-over’?
Scanning the various scenarios covered, Penn concluded, “I would be hard-pressed to find someone who didn’t want to have a do-over.”
In the first act, for instance, “eventually, we navigate our way through that conversation,” Penn said, “after a number of second, third and fourth changes to develop the relationship. It gives the characters the opportunity to have the do-over we wish we would’ve had.”
The second piece, Penn said, without giving away much of the sequence, covers “being faced with impossible tasks,” and the scenes conclude with a local composer buying a loaf of bread, as the audience “steps inside his mind” as he composes a musical interlude for the bakery.
“It’s a lot of really strange stuff, but really funny,” Penn said. “I laughed out a lot when I first saw it. It’s also a great opportunity for our audiences to see our actors play a number of different roles.”
“A Christmas Carol,” Nov. 29-Dec. 22, gives Atlantic Stage another check off its wish list. The company’s playwright in residence, Kevin D. Ferguson, has adapted the Charles Dickens classic with the whole family in mind.
Penn said people return year after year to see other local Christmas shows such as “The Carolina Opry Christmas Special” and Alabama Theatre’s “The South’s Grandest Christmas Show” and that many bigger city theater towns have their own version about Scrooge that have become their own annual traditions. So, Atlantic Stage will gift wrap “A Christmas Carol” specially for Myrtle Beach.
“We’re introducing something this area didn’t have,” Penn said.
Heralding 2013 with “Driving Miss Daisy,” Jan. 9-Feb. 2, lets Atlantic Stage fulfill its annual delivery of a Pulitzer Prize winner on stage, Penn said. Advance tickets sales already prove this “beautiful story” about a “cantankerous” woman and a chauffer “who’s quiet and strong” portend another hit on 79th Avenue.
Penn also effused in excitement for “The Nerd,” March 20-April 13, a comedy that follows a veteran whose life was saved on the battlefield by a colleague, but upon meeting his rescuer years later, other feelings surface.
“It’s a study on how much tolerance we have for things when we feel like we owe somebody something,” Penn said.
Growing with the group
Stacy DiPasquale, a graduate student who handles publicity and volunteer coordination for Atlantic Stage, said in moving south two years ago from Pittsburgh, where she also had done theater, she found an outlet in this company “for this type of straight shows.”
“They just happened to do the kind of theater I like,” said DiPasquale, who acted in the world premiere last season of “Child’s Play.”
She also has noticed how “word of mouth” has spread about the company, “a part of the Myrtle Beach community,” with continued growing support from the public.
The addition of $10 tickets for shows this season will let the company make its expanded runs of productions “more accessible to everybody,” DiPasquale said. “We want everybody to experience professional theater.”
As Penn had noted, DiPasquale said variety reigns on 79th Avenue.
“There really is a little bit of everything,” she said, appreciating Atlantic Stage’s blend of classics for its patrons, “along with something you might not have seen before, to give them a new experience. You have to try new things.”
Contact STEVE PALISIN at 444-1764.