Michael Kimball’s comic tragedy, The Secret of Comedy, play will run March 31st through April 16th at The Players' Ring, 105 Marcy Street, Portsmouth, NH. Show times are 8pm Fridays and Saturdays and Sunday matinees at 3pm. Tickets cost $15 with discounts for students, seniors, and Players’ Ring members. To reserve, visit www.playersring.org
or call 603-436-8123.
By longstanding comic tradition, the secret of comedy is timing. Thus begins The Secret of Comedy, which finds comedy writer Emily Petrocelli (Kimberly Holliday) diagnosed with a terminal illness on the same day that husband Dave (G. Matthew Gaskell), an airline pilot, wins the MegaMillions lottery. Their 30-year-old daughter Carey (Heidi Gagné), herself an irreverent comic, moves back home to help her parents through the ordeal.
These are intelligent people, but each has mastered the art of avoiding emotion, mother and daughter through conflicting senses of humor, and Dave from his years of flight training, which sets him duty-bound on a course to find a cure…where none exists. Carey, complying with her mother’s ban on crying, enlists Emily’s help in writing a comedy routine about death. But Emily has her own mission: to lead her family through the five stages of grief before she dies.
Other characters taking Emily’s grief challenge are her best friend Katie (Elizabeth Locke), an overworked single mom, her morbid 16-year-old adopted daughter, Chenille (Jonah Hackett), whom Emily hires as her Rainbow Girl after discovering the girl’s fascination with death, and eminent surgeon Milton Jennison (Ben Tylka), who takes an uncommon interest in Emily–until she asks him to help her die.
As Emily’s illness blurs the line between dream and reality, she begins receiving nocturnal visits from her late mother Bernice (Susan Turner), an angry woman from whom Emily had been estranged for decades—but has never managed to escape.
This marks The Secret of Comedy’s second run at The Players’ Ring. The play premiered here in 2008, to rave reviews. "A must-see play…theater at its best,” wrote the Portsmouth Herald, while the Portland Phoenix called it "a fierce breed of comedy…an emotional wringer of a new play.” Although the play has enjoyed several productions since then, in New York, New Jersey, and New England, this is the first time Kimball has directed the play.
“I figured it was about time,” he says. “I’ve watched over 40 performances and hundreds of rehearsals. I know the play pretty well—and I’ve found the perfect cast. Not only do they embrace these characters with all their heart, but they’re emotionally fearless. Every time we get together, we’re either laughing hysterically or drying our tears.”
About the Players Ring: Since 1992, the mission of The Players’ Ring has been to promote the efforts of local artists through the production of original works, while providing an affordable theatre space to local production companies. “The Ring” provides an environment where artists can thrive, grow, take risks and make daring choices.