If your New Year’s Resolution is to take in more culture, you’re in luck here on The Bay with twice the opportunity to catch a show at Warren’s 2nd Story Theatre this month. Opening their new ‘DownStage’ space this past fall, 2nd Story has been full steam ahead hosting as many as three productions and 275 audience members in a night (including one staged in the historic courtroom at the Bristol Statehouse). It’s tremendous growth that has not only allowed 2nd Story to expand upon it’s seasonal variety of shows and bring in a few new faces, but also provided a welcome challenge and fresh space for the actors, directors and set designers to tackle.
The DownStage configuration certainly lends itself to a different acting and audience experience than the more classic UpStage setup. “(The DownStage configuration) had to be what it was to best utilize the space,” says President, Director, Artistic Director, sometimes actor and overall tireless and fearless 2nd Story ringleader Ed Shea, describing the uniquely deep and narrow new stage. Sitting in the audience for Lobby Hero, the first production to be performed in the space, I feel a bit like I’m spying on the show’s main characters, which is one of the perks. “Nothing distracts you from seeing the show, no matter what row you’re seated in,” says Shea on the DownStage steep bleacher seating.
This January DownStage will play host to Nicky Silver’s The Lyons, a 2012 Broadway hit that Shea feels lucky to have gotten the rights to so soon. Capturing a dysfunctional family sat around the hospital bedside of their dying husband/father played by Vince Petronio, the six-cast member character driven-show (which is something 2nd Story always wows at) highlights Silver’s dark, funny and deeply acerbic sense of humor. “Silver is a prolific playwright who is not done so much around here,” says Shea, who describes the work as Christopher Durang (writer of Tony-award winning Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike) crossed with Tony Kushner (Pulitzer winning writer behind Angels in America). The small cast composed of familiar 2nd Story faces (Petronio is joined by veteran’s of the Theatre including Paula Faber and Kevin Broccoli) promise to bring an abundance of life and echoing laughs each and every night.
Upstairs and UpStage, in commemoration of the building’s centennial, the theatre will host a play also celebrating its 100 years of history, George M Cohan’s Seven Keys to Baldpate. “Most people know Cohan as a musical man, but he really was a serious storyteller,” says Shea. A ‘mysterious, melodramatic farce’ of a play, Seven Keys takes place on a dark stormy night in the off-season of a summer mountain resort, welcoming a young novelist into a setup that seems clear inspiration for The Shining, with laughs replacing the Jack Nicholson nightmares. When Billy McGee (played by Ara Boghigian) makes a bet to pen an entire book overnight, his plan to stay locked in uninterrupted for the evening is thrown off course by the bearers of six additional keys, twisting into a tale that mirrors his own work of writing. Whereas The Lyons is character-based, “Seven Keys is all about the story,” says Shea, who promises a tale that will enrapture the audience from start to finish.
“Both performances are very different, but [are] going to amuse people,” says Shea, promising a captivating and laughter filled duo to kick off 2014. What better way to get out of that post-holiday funk and add some spice to your winter weeks.