It's not unusual for a director to be attracted to a Neil Simon play because of the witty dialogue and a chance to present a production that's going to get laughs.
But for Jeff Albright, the director of the Village Players' production of The Dinner Party, the appeal of Simon's work goes a bit deeper.
"I think he's underappreciated and I think a lot of people think he's just a funny playwright, but I think he's an underrated writer," he said of the man who created such enduring works as The Odd Couple and Barefoot in the Park.
For example, The Dinner Party, which is set in Paris and features three divorced couples called to a restaurant without any idea who the other guests will be, has a depth that betrays the playwright's place in life and his experience as a writer, Albright said.
It's Simon's 31st play and he believes it is "more real" than some of his earlier works, he said.
"It takes a very serious and honest turn and it lightens up again, and I think rather than simply going for the laughs it goes for what's honest about life," Albright said. "It's all about relationships and they can be fun and funny in one breath and then in the next minute someone in love can say the wrong thing and your world can fall apart."
The Village Players production features JD McIntyre as Claude Pichon, Jake Gordy as Albert Donay, John DuVall as Andre Bouville, Marissa Rex as Mariette Levieux, Barbara Barkan as Gabrielle Buonocelli, and Elizabeth Cottle as Yvonne Fouchet.
During the Jan. 11-26 run of the play, the Players will collect nonperishable food items or monetary donations for the Feed Your Neighbor Food Bank of Northwest Ohio. Everyone who donates will be entered for a chance to receive a pair of season tickets for the 2013-2014 season.
"The Dinner Party" will be presented at the 2740 Upton Ave. theater Thursday through Saturday from Jan. 11-26 at 8 p.m., with a 2 p.m. matinee Jan. 20. Tickets are $16 for adults, $14 for seniors, and $14 for students. Information: 472-6817.
Working by the Amil Tellers in Lima will take the writing of the great journalist Studs Terkel and put the words to song in a production that runs on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays from Jan. 11 to Jan. 20.
The musical focuses on common men and women with a series of songs and monologues, all of which are based on Terkel's interviews with American workers.
Some of the language is rough, so this one is most appropriate for theatergoers who are high school age and older.
"Working" will be Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m., Jan. 18 and 19 at 8 p.m., and Jan. 20 at 2 p.m. at the Encore Theater, 991 N. Shore Dr., Lima. Tickets are $16 for adults, $14 for seniors, and $11 for high school students. Information: 419-223-8866.
Master magicians from the Nelson family will bring their Illusions show to the Ritz Theatre in Tiffin Saturday night.
The family-oriented show blends mystery, music, drama, and comedy to create a theatrical magical show. The show features more than 15,000 pounds of equipment, effects, and illusions and there will be a floating woman. Yes, a floating woman.
Tickets for Nelson Illusions are $10 and the show is Saturday at 7:30. The Ritz Theatre is at 30 S. Washington St., Tiffin. Information: 419-448-8544.
The Murder Mystery Company kicks off its winter season this weekend with Death at the Doo Wop.
Set in the '50s and based on a murder that strikes a prom before the king and queen ever get their first dance, the play is designed to bring the audience into the problem-solving.
Shows will be at 7 Friday and Saturday nights at the Historic Commercial Building, 301 River Rd. in Maumee. Tickets are $15 and guests are welcome to wear '50s-era clothing to get into character. Information: 1-888-643-2583.
Please send theater items at least two weeks in advance to firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6159.