Gateway comedy a Valentine’s gift for audiences

By Shaun Moriarty
Citizen Chronicle Writer
shaun@thecitizenchronicle.com

SOUTHBRIDGE — It’s not often one can mutter the phrase, “Sex please, we’re sixty!” on church property without fearing a higher power may smite them for such a transgression. Thanks to Gateway Players Theatre, such a sin will be forgiven in coming weeks.

The local community theatre group kicks off its 43rd season with a farcical comedy by Michael and Susan Parker, bearing the eye-catching title. The show is set in modern-day New England and features Billy Bolster as Bud Davis; Joni Metras as Mrs. Stancliffe, owner of the Rose Cottage Bed & Breakfast, where the play is set; Rom Portwood as retired chemist Henry Mitchell, a “gentleman caller” for Mrs. Stancliffe; Barbara Lammert as renowned romance novelist Victoria Ambrose; Joan Stewart as Hillary Hudson, an old friend of the chemist; and Lynn Boucher as Charmaine Beaurgard, a southern belle who is demonstratively returning to the bed and breakfast to reacquaint herself with Bud.

“Mrs. Stancliffe owns the Rose Cottage Bed & Breakfast, and she has been very successful with it,” explained the show’s director, Lou-Ellen Corkum. “Her guests, which are almost all women, come back year after year. Her next-door neighbor, Bud, fondly known as ‘Bud the Stud,’ believes they all come back a second time just to see him for the romantic liaisons they have. In this show, three of the guests come back to the bed and breakfast, and they turn the tables on Bud, and also on Mrs. Stancliffe, to show they are the smarter sex.”

Corkum and producer Kathi Grenier guarantee audiences will have plenty of laughs throughout the production.

“The show is so funny,” asserted Corkum. “We are all surrounded with the news, with everything bad that’s happening, so it’s a time to just come out, enjoy yourself, and laugh.”

Interjected Grenier: “And laugh you will.”

As impromptu evidence, The Citizen Chronicle’s interview was momentarily interrupted by one of the actors, standing next to a co-star on the stage, blurting out to Corkum: “How do you envision these pants coming off?”

“Sex Please, We’re Sixty!” is the sixth Gateway production in which Corkum and Grenier have partnered with one another as director and producer, respectively. Corkum noted it is also just the second show she has directed that does not feature an all-female cast.

“Usually once I read one and I think it would be good to do, I pass it off to Kathi, she reads through it and sends me text messages of her opinion or calls me, or just laughs at me,” Corkum said.

Grenier added she was quick to agree that this production would be right choice.

“I just said, ‘This is it. This is hysterically funny,’” the producer recalled. “I asked her if she chose it because I turned 60 last year.”

Corkum jumped in with a laugh: “Yeah, but I turn 60 this year, so it’s in between both of us.”

Regardless of their age in proximity to the show’s title and characters, they assure theatre-goers of various ages that the comedy is going to be a hit.

“It’s the funniest show,” Grenier said. “We can’t get through rehearsals without laughing hysterically.”

Boucher credited her director for unearthing shows like “Sex Please, We’re Sixty!”

“Lou-Ellen has a way of finding plays that no one has ever heard of and that turn out to be wickedly entertaining,” the actress portraying Charmaine Beaurgard said. “She seems to like surprise endings. This one is no different.”

Cast and crew agreed that what makes the show so entertaining is the writing of its authors, and the actions and reactions on stage.

“It is the words that they’re saying, but also the facial expressions, the actions, and how the actions fit together that make it a funny show,” Corkum explained.

Metras, a 35-year veteran of Gateway Players Theatre productions, agreed.

“It’s just a funny show,” the actress portraying Mrs. Stancliffe said. “The author’s wit is really sharp, there’s a lot of sight gags, a lot of physical comedy.”

Metras said it was the involvement of Corkum and Grenier that helped draw her to this production, but the laughs are what have really made it special.

“I came to do this show because I love working with Lou-Ellen and Kathi, and this crew. I really, really wanted to do another show here at Gateway,” said Metras. “It’s a fun role, it’s a fun cast, and the show is hilarious. It is absolutely hilarious.”

Boucher added: “This [play] combines witty quips with a little slapstick comedy that will keep people laughing through the whole show.”

The crew said that while the show’s title may lead one to think it an adults-only type of performance, she believes it’s a bit tamer than that.

“It’s not an X-rated show. It’s not even an R-rated show. It’s all innuendo, so it’s tastefully done, though I wouldn’t bring my 12-year-old kid,” Grenier said. “It’s not what you think. It’s not what you think at all.”

Added Corkum: “No one has sex in the show. That we know of.”

The director argued the production’s name is intriguing and hopes the public will be curious enough to buy a ticket.

“I think the title makes people think, ‘Oh, I’ve got to figure out what this is about,’” she said.

Metras agreed, suggesting that while the show may be set around sexagenarians, Millennials to Baby Boomers will enjoy the performance — particularly the women.

“The [women] that are over 25 will completely and thoroughly get a kick out of some of the jokes, but then everybody will,” she said.

As for what to watch for without giving away any spoilers or surprises, Corkum advised: “Watch the iced tea.”

“Sex Please, We’re Sixty!” will run in the fellowship hall of Elm Street Congregational Church, 61 Elm Street in Southbridge, February 9, 10, 16, and 17 at 7:30 p.m., and February 18 at 2:00 p.m. Tickets are $15 for adults and $13 for seniors and youth under 18. Tickets may be purchased by calling Gateway Players Theatre at (508) 764-4531, or online at www.brownpapertickets.com.

The cast and crew took note that the show’s run surrounds the upcoming Valentine’s Day holiday, and suggested it might be a fine excuse for an entertaining night on the town.

“Most people have Friday and Saturday date night, so go out and have a nice meal somewhere, come by and watch the show,” advised Corkum.

Metras added: “It’s actually really good for Valentine’s.”

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