By Nan Lincoln
Theater lovers on Mount Desert Island are a fortunate lot. Throughout the long winter, they have an extraordinary theater program at the high school and dedicated amateur groups to entertain them. Come summer, there’s the much-loved professional repertory theater, The Acadia Repertory Theatre, which has performed popular contemporary and classic plays and a children’s show at the Masonic Hall in Somesville for 45 years.
This season, Acadia Rep launches its 45th season June 27 to July 9 with the two-person Pulitzer Prize-winning dark comedy “The Gin Game,” featuring the Rep’s A-team actors Cheryl Willis and Mike Kissin as a pair of retirement home residents whose friendly card game takes an unexpected turn.
The most intriguing show this summer has to be the Rep’s Maine premier of “The Christians,” by Lucas Hanth. Those who watched the Tony Awards this year may recognize the playwright of “A Doll’s House Part Two,” which won several awards for its imagined sequel to the Ibsen play and was nominated for many others, including Best Play.
“The Christians” is about the pastor of an American “mega-church” who begins to question some of the basic tenets of his faith.
The Rep’s artistic director, Andrew Mayer, acknowledges that this play is thought-provoking but believes it will offend neither the most devout believer nor the most committed atheist. In fact, he is enlisting choir members and pastors of island churches to participate in the play and for talk-back sessions after some of the performances.
“I really hope everyone will turn out for this,” Mayer said. “While religion can certainly be a controversial subject, the playwright has approached it here in a heartfelt, reverent manner that should have some relevance for everyone.”
Once again, the Rep has mined the high school and the island at large for local talents, and recent Mount Desert Island High School grad Mary Paola will be a featured performer in William Inge’s classic drama “Bus Stop.” Widely considered one of the greatest plays of the 20th century, it is about a group of diverse passengers stuck in a bus stop diner during a blizzard. Paola also will appear in the title role of this year’s Children’s Theatre production of “The Velveteen Rabbit,” as will fellow MDIHS students Desmond Reifsnyder and Bonnie Snyder, with Jacob Sanner taking on stage management.
“It’s has become more and more difficult to find affordable housing for our imported actors and crew,” Mayer said, “We are so fortunate that MDI High has such an excellent theater program for us to draw from.”
He also pointed out that his professional actors tend to come back year after year, suggesting that the Rep audiences aren’t the only ones who have fun.
No Acadia Rep season is complete without a little Agatha Christie murder, and this year, the company goes back to Christie’s very first play, “Black Coffee,” featuring her Belgian detective, Hercule Poirot.
For information and reservations, visit www.acadiarep.com or call 244-7260.