The Sun News

Perry Players bring back classic comedy

Todd Wilson was at the helm when “Room Service” was first staged at the Perry Players Community Theatre back in March 2008. He recalls that it was well-received. So when the director was asked, if he could have his choice, what play he’d like to put on again, it was an easy call.

“Room Service,” a hit comedy written in the 1930s that also became a Marx Brothers movie, is the final production of the season for the Perry Players, which Wilson said has produced comedies throughout this season.

Todd and his crew of actors have been busy with rehearsals in preparation for opening day Friday.

Asked why he chose to again stage “Room Service” seven years after he first directed it, Wilson had a quick answer: People like to laugh, and “laughter is timeless.”

Audience members will have to be attentive to catch all the laughs and keep up with the cast of characters in this farce, known for its fast pace and twists and turns. Wilson not only directs but has one of the key roles in the play.

Wilson describes the plot this way: A finacially strapped producer, Gordon Miller, played by Tony Zelonis, is holed up in a hotel with his crew as he works to get a play staged. He’s been stringing along the playwright (Leo Davis, played by Hunter Hufnagel) and the hotel manager (Joseph Gribble, played by David Kelley) in hopes of getting financial backing for the play. The hotel chain has sent a manager to figure out why the business is losing money and to crack down on the hotel manager, who is also the producer’s brother-in-law.

Miller faces a series of hurdles and does whatever he can “legally and illegally,” Wilson says, to keep his actors in their hotel room and the creditors at bay until he can get the play financed. That includes having Davis fake an illness so the actors won’t be evicted.

Wilson portrays the role of Sasha, a waiter who wants to be an actor. Sasha parlays his position -- he can provide food to the broke but hungry crew -- into a role in the play.

A financial backer eventually is found, but seeing the shenanigans going on at the hotel, he plans to stop payment on his check. Miller will not be denied and proceeds to deposit the check and use the money to pay the bills. To buy more time, Davis fakes his own death, again stalling efforts to kick the crew out of the hotel.

At the end of the day, the play goes on, relationships are forged and an important congressman, whom the hotel management expert has been trying to impress, sees the production and pronounces it a hit.

“Room Service” was popular enough in its day that it was turned into what was the only movie starring the Marx Brothers that was not written specifically for them, Wilson said. The movie helped launch the careers of Lucille Ball and Ann Miller, he added.

“It’s a good comedy” Wilson said, adding that “it has a little slapstick and lot of jokes It’s a funny show.”

The laughter will be served up beginning this weekend. Performances are April 10-12, 17-19 and 24-25. Thursday-Saturday performances are at 7:30 p.m. Sunday matinees begin at 2:30 p.m.

Tickets are $15 for adults and $12 for seniors, military, children and students.

For more information, go to www.perryplayers.org., or call 478-987-5354.

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