Live Theater Thrives in SaddleBrooke

Mary Jo Bellner Swartzberg

I am happy to report that there is a new theater troupe that has recently emerged here: Once Upon a Time Theater. The production company is the result of a collaboration between co-directors Susan Kravitz (lead writer) and Anne Grant, well-known thespians and singers in their own right.

The co-directors first met several years ago when they both participated in an improv comedy club in SaddleBrooke. Susan had improv experience as a student/performer with Chicago City Limits in New York City, a musical improv theater, and she remembered Anne as a strong member of the SaddleBrooke improv comedy club. The chemistry between the two clicked. Together, they both envisioned bringing comedy and music to live theater in SaddleBrooke. One could say that the rest is history—but not quite.

In order to bring the Once Upon a Time Theater to fruition, Susan and Anne actively recruited and auditioned members for the ensemble through advertising in the SaddleBrooke papers and, as well, at the annual SaddleBrooke Activities Fair. Both efforts yielded great results, leading to a terrific cast. Noted pianist, Dan Bergquist, was also brought on board as the keyboardist.

The lofty mission of this troupe is to “uplift and delight audiences with both fun and thought-provoking performances.”

I had occasion to attend one of their debut performances (one of four this spring) in preparation for this article.

I had always heard that writing comedy is difficult. However, according to Adriana Trigiani (playwright and television writer/producer), writing comedy is the greatest spiritual gift you can give to anybody, anytime! Good to know, as I suspect that this is what lead writer Kravitz wanted.

The debut play was a series of comedy vignettes, starting with Fractured Fairy Tales, a throw-back to the same-named TV series, which ran from 1959 to 1964.

The first act included “The Frog Who Would Be Prince,” which garnered some chuckles from the audience. It concluded with a short, lovely duet between guitarist Randall Dighton and his wife Linda, singing “Young at Heart.”

After a short intermission, the second act began with Fractured Shakespear in “The Three Witches of SaddleBrooke,” adapted from Shakespear’s three witches in Macbeth. While a bit long, the skit had some witty moments.

The Tech Support vignette was an excellent tongue-in-cheek regarding a woman writing to tech support about her husband, using tech terms and counter-balanced with the tech support person replying to “hard drive” issues and concerns about the husband. Clever.

The Checking Out of the Hospital vignette was all too familiar for many of us who have had the experience of a hospital discharge. It was funny and a unique way of illustrating the downside of having to be hospitalized.

During the production, Troubadour Randall also performed “Big Nellie May” and “Surgery/Javelina.” At the end of the play, Randall accompanied the whole cast and audience in singing “Young at Heart.”

While there were a few rough edges to this first production of the Once Upon a Time Theater, the first foray for the directing duo of Kravitz and Grant did supply some brainy moments.

The acting was superb. The simple costumery, the dialects used by the ensemble, and the makeup were all excellent. And considering the small venue for the play, the props were great as well.

So, kudos to the actors and production staff for the Once Upon a Time Theater. Here’s hoping that they continue to hone the art of live comedy.

Besides Susan Kravitz and Anne Grant, Ron Andrea, Dan Bertalan, Linda Dighton, Troubadour Randall Dighton, Denise Edwards, and Carol Henry also appeared in the play. Production assistants were Pat Andrea, Allan Kravitz, and Nelson Rodriguez. Dan Bergquist was the keyboardist for the play.

The Once Upon a Time Theater will be on hiatus during the summer but will resume in the fall. For questions, contact Susan Kravitz at [email protected] or Anne Grant at [email protected].

“There are three things you can never have enough of in life, Lieutenant: chocolate, friends, and the theatre.”—Jessica Fletcher, Murder She Wrote