Theatre Albany opens 80th season with a lot of 'Nunsense'

Cast members, from left, Lindsey Stewart, Suzanne Unger and Sandy Hardy Meadows perform a scene from Theatre Albany’s production of “Nunsense’ which is scheduled to run for three weeks beginning Friday.

Cast members, from left, Lindsey Stewart, Suzanne Unger and Sandy Hardy Meadows perform a scene from Theatre Albany’s production of “Nunsense’ which is scheduled to run for three weeks beginning Friday.

ALBANY — Theatre Albany is opening its 80th year of performances with a musical comedy this week, with the rest of the season ranging from an old-fashioned thriller to a musical version of a sci-fi movie classic based on the work of the Bard.

After “Nunsense” — a five-woman show that includes audience participation — wraps up its nine-performance run, the theater will head into a chillier realm in “Spider Island,” which will sandwich Halloween. With the exception of “Nunsense,” all the plays are set for eight performances.

Set for Oct. 25-29 and Nov. 1-4, it may be the only thing scarier than the November elections.

“’Spider Island’ is just an old thriller, set in a isolated light house off the Maine coast,” theater Artistic Director Mark Costello said last week. “Is there or is there not someone upstairs in the attic?”

The play revolves around two spinsters, one of whom believes her dead brother is haunting the lighthouse. Two girls come into the household, oblivious to the danger.

It’ll get a lot more jovial in December when Theatre Albany performs “The Little Town of Christmas,” a holiday revue that includes a dozen Yuletide inspired sketches. Those performances are set for Dec. 6-9 and 13-16.

“I’m going to be adding some holiday songs between the skits to make it a musical evening as well,” Costello said. “There’s a spoof in there of ‘A Christmas Carol,’ Santa Claus, all kinds of things.”

With the new year will come a different take as Carson McCullars’ classic “The Member of the Wedding” comes to life on stage Jan. 31-Feb. 3 and Feb. 7-10.

“Carson grew up in Columbus and the play is set in Georgia,” Costello noted, adding the play was based on her second novel, which followed “The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter.”

“It was a big hit on Broadway,” he said. “It’s very interesting that when she was adapting the play for the stage, she spent some time with Tennessee Williams.

“He sat at one end of the table writing ‘Summer and Smoke’ and she sat at the other end adapting ‘A member of the Wedding’ for the stage. I think that’s just a marvelous image of these two writers.”

From there, the funny bone gets a good workout from some zany golfing competitors in “The Fox on the Fairway” on March 14-17 and 21-24. A tribute by Ken Ludwig to the farces of the 1930s and ‘40s, “Fox” is set in a country club.

“It’s two rival country clubs that have a tournament each year,” Costello said. “These two guys have an acrimonious relationship and they’re always betting. This year, the guy who’s the perennial loser thinks he has an ace in the hole — or a hole in one, I should say — but it turns out the guy (his anticipated ringer) signs up for the opposite country club to play for them.”


Joe Bellacomo

Lindsey Stewart, as "Sister Mary Amnesia," performs in a scene from Theatre Albany's production of "Nunsense."

Some salvation comes in the form of a new hire at the club who knows his way around the greens, but it turns out the young duffer’s high-strung nature and co-worker fiancée are a bad mix for championship-caliber play.

Despite the golf, audience members won’t have to watch out for any slices from the stage, though Costello says, “There is one little short scene where there is some golf” actually is played on stage.

The season wraps up next summer with a June 6-9 and 13-16 run of “Return to the Forbidden Planet.” From an opening curtain countdown that melds into “Wipeout,” the show is a rock ‘n’ roll tribute to the classic science fiction movie that was based on the work of the Bard.

“It uses as its basis or structure ‘The Tempest’ by Shakespeare,” Costello said. “They (in ‘The Tempest’) get shipwrecked on an island, where here they get shipwrecked on a planet that Prospero is the lord and master of.”

But don’t expect the same soundtrack that came with the Leslie Nielsen/Walter Pidgeon/Anne Francis version. The demented Prospero, his daughter Miranda and skating robot Ariel and the space adventurers will be rocking out.

“For a musical score,” Costello said, “it’s classic rock ‘n’ roll songs” — “Great Balls of Fire,” “Wipeout,” “Teenager in Love,” “It’s a Man’s World,” “Young Girl,” “Gloria,” “Shake, Rattle & Roll.”

“It’s a fun, pop culture type piece,” he said. “And that way we can slip in a little Shakespeare.”

Tickets for “Nunsense” are on sale now, with the cost $25 for adults, $20 for seniors and $10 for students. Season tickets, which include all six plays of the 80th season, run $90 for seniors and $105 for regular admission.

Season ticket sales, Costello said, have been going “a little slow.”

“I attribute it to the economy, I guess,” he said. “Everybody’s just waiting and seeing, but I still think it’s a bargain for six evenings.”

For reservations, call (229) 439-7141. The theater is located at 514 Pine Ave.