📷 Chamira Santiago and Angela Grove prepare for their roles in Gateway Players Theater’s Love/Sick.

By Sarah Champagne, Managing Editor

SOUTHBRIDGE – Love/Sick, a comedic play about the ordinary and the challenging stages of romantic relationships, will get special treatment by Gateway Players Theater starting this weekend. The play, which is described as a comedy as much as it is a drama, features a spare set design, minimal costuming that mimics ordinary clothing and only two actors on the stage at a time. The series of nine stories within the play captures couples in different scenarios and stages of love, grappling with “the pain and the joy that comes with being in love.”

Kevin Lotter gets oriented at the soundboard for Love/Sick.

Gateway’s production manages to insert local references and community connections into the mix, despite the spare design and low level of visual complexity that playwright John Cariani asks of theater groups who perform the play. A market in one of the stories becomes “Big Bunny Supercenter,” for example, with permission and support of course from local business Big Bunny Supermarket.

“Big Bunny is a big part of Southbridge,” Jeanne Dupuis of Gateway comments. “They have a lot of roots here, and that is why we wanted to do it.”

The play features a variety of actors, including some familiar to Gateway audiences and some new faces.  Auditions for the play saw more than 40 people auditioning, with 17 actors cast from the group, according to show producer Jeanne Dupuis. Her husband, Mike Dupuis, acts as director for the show. Diane Servant works as the stage manager and Danielle Holt manages ticket sales and promotions. Kevin Lotter works on audio for the play.

Real-life couple Mikey and Kelly Dearn play one of the duos in Love/Sick.

 

“Mike likes to take a chance on people. He likes to work with new people, and there are quite a few new faces here,” comments Jeanne Dupuis.

One of those new faces is Chamira Santiago, who pairs with Angela Grove in one of the story duos. Santiago moved to the area almost a year ago from Puerto Rico after the devastation of Hurricane Maria. At the time of the destructive storm, Santiago was involved in a theater production that had to be canceled. She is glad to be returning to theater with Gateway’s production of Love/Sick.

“I just needed another show,” comments Santiago. “It’s in my blood. I love acting.”

“She’s perfect in her role,” offers Grove, who is her partner in the scene.

There are also a few returning faces from the original production of Almost, Maine by the same playwright. Gateway performed Almost, Maine about three years ago. This previous production deals with romantic relationships also, but it does so in a more optimistic way and “rosy” manner. Love/Sick is described as a “darker cousin of Almost, Maine.” Love/Sick deals with established romantic relationships, rather than the thrilling start of a romantic relationship seen in Almost, Maine. Its characters deal with the day-to-day reality of doing the work of a relationship and the complications of love.

Patrick Bracken and Cynthia Keane at a rehearsal for Love/Sick.

In spite of this description, audiences at Love/Sick don’t have to expect a heavy or bleak production about difficult topics. Rather, the audience can expect to have fun at the show.

Ed Humphries and Debi Bohenko get into character for Love/Sick.

The cast of Love/Sick includes Mikey and Kelly Dearn, Angela Grove, Chamira

Santiago, James Candalino, Joe Sawyer, Cynthia Keene, Patrick Bracken, Jim Douglas, Angela Fleming, Debi Bohenko, Ed Humphries, Cathy Blackwell, Seth Blackwell, Mary Darling, Sharon Starr and Kelly Guay. Patrick Bracken appears in two roles.

 

Love/Sick, by playwright John Cariani, will open for local audiences Friday, Sept. 7 at 7:30 p.m. with additional performances Saturday, Sept. 8th, Friday, Sept. 14 and Saturday, Sept 15, each at 7:30 p.m. An additional performance will be held Sunday, Sept. 16 at 2 p.m. All performances are at Elm Street Congregational Church’s Fellowship Hall. The church’s address is 61 Elm Street, but audiences can enter the Fellowship Hall on Summer Street or by parking behind the Town Hall to enter the building from the rear.

Local grocer Big Bunny Supermarket has lent its name to the Gateway imagination in Love/Sick.

 

Gateway Players Theater has rehearsed and shown the majority of its productions this year at Elm Street Congregational Church because its long-time production home at 111 Main Street was recently deemed uninhabitable. The theater company is conducting a fundraising drive called “Gateway to the Future” to look for and fund a new permanent space. Raffles during each of the shows will support that fundraising initiative. Raffle prizes include donations from Cormier’s Jewelers, Garieri Jewelers, Morin Jewelers, Flood’s Automotive, Austin Liquors, The Hair Gallery, and Village Photo and Portrait Shop.

Tickets to the show are $15 for adults and $13 for seniors or youth under 18. Tickets may be reserved by calling Gateway at (508) 764-4531. Online credit card ticket sales are also available at the door or by purchasing online at BrownPaperTickets.com.

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