Aug. 29--LAS CRUCES -- No Strings Theatre Company opens its 14th season today with "Rocket Man" by Steven Dietz at the Black Box Theatre, 430 N. Main St.
"We're having a good time and don't feel any older most days," said the play's director, Ceil Herman, who founded the theater in 2000 with her husband Peter.
She's pleased that the opener is a comedy with a serious message, she said.
"We like this playwright. We've produced two other shows by Dietz -- 'Becky's New Car' and 'More Fun than Bowling' -- and the public loved them. I saw this play in Tucson (Arizona) and knew I wanted to produce it here. The script is so intelligent and well-written. It's philosophical, humorous, sad and has some very smart and pithy things to say about life, spirituality and love. It tells the story of someone who has lived a good life, but somehow didn't get it right and so he goes in search of a parallel world and sacrifices everything and everyone he loves to find it. I think this play is just miraculous," she said.
In a synopsis provided by producers, "Rocket Man" is described as "a serious comedy about the road not taken and one man's search for a parallel universe. Typical of his entire life, Donny Rowan has been pressing the same crosswalk button at the same traffic light on the same street corner for 20 years. Finally, after placing all his possessions on his front lawn with a sign reading, 'Here's my life, make me an offer,' he attaches that same button to the easy chair in his attic and uses it to take him into an alternate universe."
Herman characterizes the work as an "amazing discussion about various psychological things going about on play, including depression. It's something the audience will come out thinking about. In fact, we've decided to have some literature on suicide and depression available in the lobby."
The play stars Shawn Whitty as Donny, with Gorton Smith as Donny's best friend, Buck; Lauren Jacobs as his daughter, Trisha; Jamie Bronstein as his friend, Louise; and Julia McClenon as his ex-wife, Rita.
"It's a perfect cast. Shawn Witty is the perfect Donny," Herman said.
Witty, a psychologist for Las Cruces Public Schools, recently starred in "The Foreigner" at Las Cruces Community Theatre, where Herman caught his performance.
"It's really fun to work on, really interesting. It's about a man who is middle-aged, which is kind of where I am now, and he's looking at all of these things that have occurred, missed opportunities and unfulfilled promises, and he's taking stock of his life. He's looking for a new start and a parallel world where life can be fixed. He looks at regrets, making sense of one's life and putting pieces together when taking stock," Witty said.
Lately, he's doing a little of that himself on Las Cruces stages, Witty said.
"I'm having a lot of fun. I used to be an actor in California, and I'm back acting again after a 12-year gap. It's great getting to know Ceil and the cast. I'm really enjoying exploring my own changes, parallel to Donny's. It's a special show," Witty said.
The crew includes Peter Herman, handing scenic and light design, Karen Ross, stage manager and Rorie Measure, assistant director.
While you're at the theater, check out a new exhibit at thetheatregallery in the lobby: "The Year in Retrospect: A Selection of Peter Herman's Photographs" from 2013-2014 No Strings Theatre Company productions at the Black Box and also featuring photographic highlights from "Rocket Man."
The play runs through Sept. 14, with performances at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 2:30 p.m. Sunday matinees on Sept. 7 and 14 and one 7 p.m. performance on Thursday Sept. 11. Tickets are $12, $10 for senior citizens and students, and $8 all seats on Thursday Sept. 11. For reservations, call 575- 523-1223 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Season tickets for the 2014-15 season will be on sale through the run of "Rocket Man."
S. Derrickson Moore may be reached at 575-541-5450.
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