The latest addition to Stage West’s repertoire is a hilarious comedy entitled “The Big Five-Oh.” It concerns the angst a man feels as he is turning 50. Who of us can’t relate to that? George has more than his share of troubles. His dog is sick, his son is a slacker, and the political views of his daughter’s fiancée and his own views are diametrically opposed. His neurotic wife and widowed neighbor add to his challenges.
The play is directed by Paul Wade, who has years of experience directing comedies as well as dramas. The actors include Dan Hogan, portraying the lead (George Thomas); Angela Gluchowski as the daughter, Julie; and Domingo Ocasio as Douglas, her fiancée. Michelle Root, Mitchell Mathias, Ellen Hutt, and Brianna Spahn round out the cast playing Marie, George’s wife; Eric, his son; the widowed neighbor, Kathy; and Sarah, a college student, respectively.
As with any wacky comedy, the actors purposely over-act, and the situations are far from normal. The two characters that elicited the most laughter were Eric, the son, and Kathy, the neighbor.
Eric’s constant malapropisms are hilarious. He mentions questioning your own morality when he means mortality and calling a situation macramé instead of macabre. He says “iconic” when he means “ironic.“ Kathy, the widowed neighbor, carries around her dead husband’s ashes in an urn and constantly talks to him as if he were still alive.
Paul remarks that among the plays he’s directed, “Clue” was the most fun. “Between the zaniness of the show and the fact we were just coming back from Covid lockdown, that show holds a very special place in my heart.”
Paul finds a number of differences between directing dramas and directing comedies. “Since comedy is more subjective than drama, it can be much more difficult to communicate the proper tone to the actors. On the flip side, comedies don’t tend to be as emotionally draining as dramas since the subject matter is dealt with in a much lighter way.”
Paul comments that the major challenge for this particular play was casting it. “We’ve seen a larger struggle this season with all our shows to attract talent. It took me about three weeks after we started rehearsal before we had a full cast.”
For Dan Hogan, a novice actor, the part of George represents the first time he’s been cast in a major role. He comments on some of the challenges.
“I had to memorize about six times as many lines as I did for my previous two roles. I tend to struggle with memorizing lines and become flustered when I cannot remember one,” he admits.
However, Dan enjoys being surrounded by accomplished actors who help him overcome his challenges. The first play he acted in was “Clue” in 2020. He had no formal training in acting and was stunned when he got the role. “Death by Chocolate” was his second role, which so far is his favorite because, as he states, “it was fun playing a character so unlike myself.”
Angela Gluchowski started acting at age seven, encouraged by her mother, who had been acting ever since Angela could remember. Two of her favorite roles have been Lina Lamont in “Singing in the Rain” and Shelby in “Steel Magnolias.”
Angela remarks, “The roles are complete opposites of each other, but I was able to do things in theater I had never done before. As Lina, I got to portray an incredibly comical character. As Shelby, I got to portray a girl with many different levels of emotional struggles, which caused me to dig deeper as an actress.”
For Angela, there are many rewards to acting. One is being able to step into a character and imagine exactly how it feels to be them and create your own version of what this person would be like.
On the other hand, there are also challenges. “I think the most challenging part is to not allow yourself to get inside your own head too much. It’s important as an actress to allow yourself to fall into the role and roll with the punches of live theater, and if you’re overthinking everything, it’s very hard to do that.”
Domingo Ocasio plays Douglas with over-the-top comedic acting. Domingo started doing Improv seven years ago and caught the “acting bug.” His favorite role was playing Jabber/Chilli in the play “In the Blood” because he got to play two characters.
Although theatre means a lot of time commitment−learning lines, rehearsing, and then the actual performances, Domingo enjoys it because “I can play a part and not pay the consequences.” “I like playing a comedy role where I can be funny and let loose. Most roles I play are drama.”
Stage West Playhouse is always looking for actors−for minor roles as well as major roles. If you’ve always wanted to be on stage, contact them. They’ll soon be auditioning for next season’s shows. You don’t necessarily have to be experienced−just willing to learn. If you feel more comfortable backstage, you can volunteer for a myriad of positions, also. Longtime members of Stage West can testify to the fun and camaraderie that people develop when they’re involved with a play.
There are seven performances of “The Big Five-Oh.” The show times are April 14, 15, and 21 at 7:30 pm. Matinees will be performed at 2 pm on April 15, 16, 22 and 23. You can purchase tickets online at www.stagewestflorida.com or by calling the box office Tuesday – Saturday, 10 am – 2 pm. at 352-683-5113. The theatre is located at 8390 Forest Oaks Blvd. in Spring Hill.