What: “George Washington Slept Here”
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Saturday, June 21 and 22; and 2:30p.m. Saturday and June 23
Where: Youngstown Playhouse, off Glenwood Avenue
Tickets: Call 330-788-8739
By GUY D’ASTOLFO
The Youngstown Playhouse will close its mainstage-series season with the comedy “George Washington Slept Here.”
The two-weekend run begins Friday.
Tom O’Donnell directs the play, which premiered on Broadway in 1942 and was turned into a movie starring Jack Benny a few years later.
“Washington” is a product of its time, and O’Donnell said he is going to direct it in the style of its era, without updates.
So it helps to understand the era.
In 1942, the nation was at war, times were tough and anxiety was high.
America needed cheering up, so the comedies were upbeat and packed with laughs.
“It’s an old-fashioned slapstick, madcap comedy,” said O’Donnell, who noted that the play is funnier than the movie.
“Washington” is about a couple that buys an old house in the country because the husband desperately wants a place of his own. But the house turns out to be dilapidated and everything that can go wrong does.
The couple squabbles with a neighbor, their daughter takes up with a summer-theater actor, and then family members start showing up for the weekend.
The three-act play with two intermissions moves rapidly, said O’Donnell, and finishes in under two hours.
“It reminds me a little bit of [1960s-70s sitcom] ‘Green Acres,’ except the wife is a lot smarter than the one played by Eva Gabor in ‘Green Acres,’” said O’Donnell.
The cast includes Terry Shear and Molly Galano as the Fullers, who buy the old house where the father of our country reputedly once spent a night. Brian K. Dew plays Mr. Kimber, the third lead character.
Rounding out the cast are Kate Starling, Mark Liming, Matthew Di Battiste, Cher L. Halas, Liz Nalepa, Zach O’Connor, Victor Garcia, Russ Nalepa, Holly Ceci, Jamie Bucher, Jill Cataldi and Dawn White Rogers.
Becca Kopchak is stage manager and Ellen Licitra is lighting designer. As set designers, Jim Lybarger and John Pecano created run-down and fixed-up versions of the living area.
“Washington” was written by Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman, whose works also include “You Can’t Take It With You” and “The Man Who Came to Dinner.”
While O’Donnell is one of the area’s stage veterans — he acted in his first show in 1980 at the Playhouse — “Washington” marks only his second effort as director. The first time was in the ’80s.
“I love to act, and I’ve never been attracted to directing,” he said by way of explanation. “It’s a lot of work and there are always other people who are more interested in it and very good at it.”
But while working on the set of “The Women of Lockerbie” last summer at the Playhouse, he mentioned to theater executive director Mary Ruth Lynn that he might want to try his hand at directing again.
Lynn suggested “George Washington Slept Here,” and he signed on.