Theater preview: ‘The Old Friends,’ by Open Stage of Harrisburg

HARRISBURG – The title “The Old Friends” may conjure up some warm-hearted feelings, but the playwright chose that title as one really oozing with irony.

Open Stage of Harrisburg, 223 Walnut St., will present “The Old Friends,” opening at 8 p.m. Friday, with evening performances on Saturday and on April 22, 23, 29 and 30. There are matinees at 2 p.m. on Saturday and on May 1, with an additional performance at 7 p.m. April 24.

“Friends” playwright Horton Foote is better known writing for film than for the stage, winning Academy Awards for Best Adapted Screenplay for “To Kill A Mockingbird” and Best Original Screenplay for “Tender Mercies.”

“The Old Friends” is one of the first full length plays that Foote penned, drafting the characters as uncharacteristically vicious and vivid. Although written against his usual style, the playwright has made most of his characters unpleasant and over-the-top to simply focus upon one family’s greed. However, Foote throws his barbs not heavy-handedly, but in a highly comedic fashion.

Set in 1965, “The Old Friends” focuses on matriarch Mamie Border, her siblings and her children, part of two long-time feuding Texan families. Everyone is awaiting an overdue visit from Mamie’s son Hugo and his wife Sybil, but Sybil arrives alone with shattering news: Hugo has suddenly died from a heart attack. “The Old Friends” must suddenly face some festering issues of loyalty and legacy that tore the families apart years ago. Sybil senses that most of “The Old Friends” are still mean drunks who try to go forward with their lives, but not much has changed since the good old days in high school almost 30 years ago, when revelations of their greedy grab for power and money first surfaced.

Open Stage of Harrisburg’s artistic director Don Alsedek directs “The Old Friends,” according to area favorite Stuart Landon, who now serves as Open Stage’s associate director. Coincidentally, as part of this highly-skilled cast, Alsadek directs his wife, Anne, who has one of the leading roles in this show; the couple are co-founders of Open Stage.

The show runs approximately two hours, with one intermission.

For more information or to buy tickets, call 717-232-6736.