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‘Happy Birthday’ to be performed at CTL

It’s time to celebrate

January 22, 2012
By JOSH BROKAW - Sun-Gazette Correspondent , Williamsport Sun-Gazette

Confusion will reign on the Williamsport stage and laughter will be heard from the seats when the Community Theatre League, 100 W. Third St., presents "Happy Birthday" Jan. 27 and 28 and Feb. 2 through 5.

The Marc Camoletti farce, set in the mid-'60s, is a long-time favorite in the United Kingdom. An upper-class Englishman, Bernard, invites his mistress, Brigit, into his home despite his wife Jacqueline's presence. The follies commence when the evening's maid appears - also named Brigit - and Bernard's friend and wingman, Robert mistakes one Brigit for another.

The play's costumes, design and music all come from the mid-1960s, according to director Kay Hawkes.

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"My inspiration comes from old movies like 'Pillow Talk' with Doris Day, Rock Hudson and Tony Randall," Hawkes said. "There were a whole series of movies in the mid-1960s with little misunderstandings causing a lot of mix-ups."

Camoletti's 1962 smash "Boeing Boeing" was made into a motion picture starring Tony Curtis and Jerry Lewis in 1965.

There are many challenges in rehearsing such a fast-paced farce, but the first is keeping one's composure.

"Everyone has these hilarious lines and characteristics and trying to keep a straight face is challenging," said Leanne Brown, "Brigit 1."

"The biggest challenge of acting in a farce is the pacing of line delivery," said Jenn Welch, who plays "Jacqueline." "It's essential that things keep moving throughout the play or it loses some of that traditional farce comedy."

"You have to know all your lines perfectly because the reply to your line is often playing off your words," said Amanda Albright, "Brigit 2." "The reply won't make sense if you ad lib or use a synonym."

Perfect recall on the lines means nothing if they are not delivered in the right accent.

"The British translation is very authentic, so the structure and phrasing of even simple sentences are completely different and requires almost relearning the language," said Sean Engemann, who plays Bernard.

"Some of us have accidentally slipped into Russian, Scottish and Canadian accents while trying to perfect our characters' accents," Brown said.

Aside from Welch, who is making her CTL debut after working with the Bloomsburg Theater Ensemble, the cast and director all are veterans of the Williamsport stage.

"My biggest delight is to be able to work alongside Beau Schemery again," Engemann said. "We paired together during the production of 'Leading Ladies' two seasons ago and our partnership was one of the tightest I've ever experienced."

Hawkes has directed CTL productions before, including "Dearly Departed" in 1998 and "Puss in Boots" in 2000, but none of the current cast has worked with her before.

"It's nice to work with people you know and who know you, but meeting new people is one of the great things about CTL, and Kay is a joy to work with," Schemery said.

Tickets are $15 for adults and $8 for students, and are available at



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