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Published: Wednesday, 11/9/2011

Whitmer play rotates cast in comic cooking caper

Production uses two sets of actors on stage

BY CARL RYAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Whitmer High School juniors Carly Gains and Macey Scherer play an aspiring cooking show host, Gussie, and her spacey friend, Carmel, in the school's production of "Cookin' with Gus." Whitmer High School juniors Carly Gains and Macey Scherer play an aspiring cooking show host, Gussie, and her spacey friend, Carmel, in the school's production of "Cookin' with Gus."
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Gussie loves to cook and has a shot at getting her own culinary show on cable television. Walter is her live-in significant other who loves her and wants to marry her. Then there is Carmen, their flamboyant neighbor and would-be cable co-star, and Bernie, Gussie's ambitious agent.

They all come together in the comedy Cookin' with Gus, which will be performed in the Whitmer High School auditorium this Friday and Saturday and the following weekend, on Nov. 18 and 19. All performances have a 7 p.m. curtain time.

In an unusual move, director Andrea Schreiner, Whitmer's theater director and drama club adviser, is staging the production with two casts. The play has only four characters and she wanted to include as many students as possible. The two sets of players, which have been dubbed " cast blue" and "cast maize" after the school's colors, will alternate performances each weekend.

"I had 40 kids audition for this performance," she explained. "How can I only use four?"

She noted that acting is an interpretive art and different casts give different kinds of performances. Her hope is that audiences will be entertained and interested enough to make two trips to the theater to see the show with both sets of players. Tickets are $6 for students and $8 for adults.

"It will be a real treat to see the different performances," Ms. Schreiner said. "You're seeing the same show, but you're not seeing the same show."

Whitmer High School seniors Kelsie Redway and Cierra Cemelka rehearse a scene of the school's production of "Cookin' with Gus." Whitmer High School seniors Kelsie Redway and Cierra Cemelka rehearse a scene of the school's production of "Cookin' with Gus."
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The play is set in the West Side Manhattan townhouse Gussie shares with Walter. She is a well-known food columnist and cookbook writer bent on making the transition to television. To do this, she has to make a demonstration video. The only problem is she has incapacitating stage fright, which carries over into the taping of the video.

Walter seemingly comes to the rescue with hypnosis, which he says can cure her of the stage fright. Unbeknownst to her, however, Walter wants the demonstration video to be a flop. That's because a cable show would tie up Gussie for seven years and she would be unable to marry him. So he hypnotizes her to feel as if she has tossed back a shot of tequila each time she utters the word "cup." Before long, Gussie behaves as if she is almost insensible with drink.

"My sadness with this show is that I wish it were better known," Ms. Schreiner said. "It is really fun. We have a food fight. Somebody gets a pie in the face."

She said she had her casts, whose members are all juniors, watch old episodes of The Lucy Show to see how Lucille Ball did comedy. When cast members were perplexed about a how to handle a line or perform some stage business, they'd ask "What would Lucy do?"

Tyler Butler, who plays Walter, said he perceives a certain "dark side" in his character. "I'm nothing like that, but at the same time we're similar in some ways."

Carly Gains, who plays Gussie, said her character "is very much committed to cooking."

In conjunction with the play, Whitmer's culinary arts program has produced a cookbook, Cookin' with Whitmer, that will be sold during intermission.

Ms. Schreiner came to Toledo from Brooklyn, N.Y., where she graduated from a performing arts high school.

She said putting on a play in Whitmer's auditorium is a sheer pleasure, and that the theater in the performing arts school she attended was not nearly as nice as Whitmer's.

The Whitmer auditorium is a beneficiary of the more than $35 million the district has spent on facility improvements in the past seven years.



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