Montgomery Playhouse, an all-volunteer theater, has a varied season ahead.
First up in 2017-2018 is “The Canterville Ghost,” a play Marisha Chamberlain adapted from the short story by Oscar Wilde.
In January, the Playhouse presents “The Reluctant Dragon,” a comedy for young audiences, and, in March, a Live Radio Show recreates the Boston Blackie radio series of the 1940s and ‘50s.
“Our mandate is to entertain and educate audiences,” said Loretto McNally, board president.
“The Canterville Ghost” is not a truly frightening ghost story but a “charming” one, she said.
When a no-nonsense American family buys an old mansion in rural England, they pooh-pooh warnings about a fierce resident ghost. Soon the spirted family — Mother, Father, young Virginia, and her little twin brothers – realizes the ghost is their match, determined to scare them away. They outnumber and outsmart him, however. Virginia even helps the ghost pass over to the afterlife as he should.
The play comes complete with “ghostly sound effects, but is really a triumph of friendship,” said McNally.
Montgomery Playhouse is a triumph of longevity. The community theater dates to 1929 and has had several homes. Currently, it is performing at Arts on the Green, a center for performing and visual arts.
“We’ve been associated with the Arts Barn since 2001,” said McNally, who is also assistant director for “The Canterville Ghost” while Naomi Ratz serves as director.
A County native, McNally saw a notice in 1991 announcing auditions for the Playhouse. She followed the call, and has been performing on and off since. “We have people from many different occupations,” she said. “It’s amazing how much talent there is.”
No ghost inhabits the home of Sidney Bruhl, a once-successful playwright going through a dry spell, in Ira Levin’s “Deathtrap.” Although one of Bruhl’s neighbors is a medium, the danger lurks not in the supernatural, but within human beings in this play that mixes humor with thrills and convoluted plot twists.
Levin penned such thriller novels as “Rosemary’s Baby,” “The Stepford Wives” and “The Boys from Brazil,” as well as plays. “Deathtrap,” his most famous, is the longest-running comedy thriller on Broadway.
It’s also the first play of the 2017-2018 season at Silver Spring Stage, which, for its 50th season, is presenting plays from its past.
It’s a crime to give away too much of the plot. Suffice it to say, when one of Bruhl’s former students sends him a manuscript the older man recognizes as a potential Broadway hit, a dance of professional, criminal, and sexual rivalry begins.
“‘Deathtrap’ is the most technically complex and challenging production I’ve directed,” said Roxanne Fournier Stone, in her Silver Spring Stage directorial debut. “Directorially, however, the challenge is to bring to life exactly what Levin scripted for Bruhl when he speaks of the play within the play – as a work ‘a gifted director couldn’t hurt.’”
Another challenge is “to walk the line of suspense and humor, to honor the story but find something new about the characters and their relationships.”
J. McAndrew (Jim) Breen, who plays Bruhl in his acting debut at the Stage, isn’t generally a fan of the thriller genre and found the film version of “Deathtrap,” with Michael Caine and Christopher Reeve “not the best movie.” “But this particular story stuck with me,” he said.
Breen also found similarities between himself and Bruhl, in that both he and the character are both calm and jumpy. “Sidney plans crimes on paper, but there’s a difference between a paper victim and a real one. It is within this ‘real’ part … that he’s far more uncomfortable.”
Nick Temple co-stars as the young playwright, Clifford.
Both plays open on September 15. “The Canterville Ghost” continues through October 1, while “Deathtrap” runs through October 7.
Montgomery Playhouse performs at Arts on the Green, located at 11 Kent Square Road in Gaithersburg. For more information about the Playhouse, visit www.montgomeryplayhouse.org.
Silver Spring Stage is located at 10145 Colesville Road in Silver Spring. For information, visit www.sstage.org.