Small town theater with a big town feel: Susquehanna Stage Company

By on February 20, 2019

Niki Boyer Swatski and Ron Nason portray a couple whose marriage is on the rocks due to infidelity. (Images from Susquehanna Stage Co.)

Isn’t the Lancaster County theater scene amazing? Every week, at any given time of year, there’s always a good play or musical being staged by one of our many quality production companies.

I will admit, there is a soft spot in my heart for Susquehanna Stage Company in Marietta. I’m a proud Donegal High School grad, and the theater has been in my old stomping grounds for the past 10 years.

For the past decade, SSC shows had been staged in a former gymnasium in an alley behind the Marietta Community House on West Market Street. I’ve been to a few over the years, and loved that intimate venue.

The view from the “worst seat in the house” is pretty awesome. The concession stand is behind the glass partitions in the back and has a seating area.

I had the pleasure over the past weekend to attend their first production, not only of the 2019 season, but in their newly renovated and opened Marietta Center for the Arts (MCA), a former church located a few blocks away from the former location, at 133 W. Market St.

Marietta Center for the Arts has two venues: The Gallery, used for plays and production for kids, and a larger space that will be used for musicals. The bigger room is called the thEATER stage, named after The Eater Foundation, who provided MCA with a generous grant. “Evita” will christen that space in July.

The seating chart for The Gallery theater at Marietta Center for the Arts. There isn’t a a bad seat in this house.

Like the former SSC location, The Gallery is a very intimate venue; there isn’t a bad seat in the house. There are three rows on the floor and another two in the balcony — and what a view you’ll get from up there!

Due to the age of the building, Marietta Center for the Arts is not yet handicap accessible, but if you call the box office, they’ll make every effort to make sure everyone gets in to see the show.

Friendly volunteers, super-cheap concession offerings compared to other theaters, and quality performers and show choices round out the reasons I love Susquehanna Stage Company.

‘Plaza Suite’

Neil Simon’s “Plaza Suite” opened on Broadway at the Plymouth Theatre on Feb. 14, 1968. The show, a comedy in three acts, depicts three very different scenes that all take place in the same room: Suite 719 at the Plaza Hotel in New York City.

Like all of Simon’s work, the dialogue is biting, leaves nothing to the imagination, and goes by very quickly.

The costumes were colorful, appropriate and nostalgic. Well done, Jacquee Johnson and crew. Coupled with the language of Simon’s play, it wasn’t hard to be transported back in time.

The song “Under Pressure,” which opened and closed the second act, was a little out of place in what was clearly supposed to be a late ‘60s/early ‘70s vignette.

Mikaela Krall plays a small town wife and mother trying valiantly not to be seduced by long-ago boyfriend Wesley Madara, now a famous Hollywood producer.

As far as casting, there wasn’t a weak link in the bunch. Veteran SSCer Niki Boyer Swatski handled both the gravity and the levity of discarded wife Karen Nash with ease. Mikaela Krall was hilarious and lovable as Muriel Tate. And Joel Persing was equal parts tragic and hysterical as confused father-of-the-bride Roy Hubley.

It was refreshing to take a break from musicals (and you know I love them) and sit through a play. And it was especially nice to do it at Susquehanna Stage Company.

Upcoming 2019 shows for SSC include “A Year with Frog and Toad” (for the kids), Stephen Sondheim’s “Company,” Andrew Lloyd Weber’s “Evita,” Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible,” and “A Children’s Christmas Carol.”

“Plaza Suite” has four more performances this week: Feb. 21, 22, and 23 at 7:30 p.m., and the closing matinee on Feb. 24 at 2 p.m. To purchase tickets and choose your own seats, visit SusquehannaStageCo.com or call their box office at 717-426-1277.

Melissa Hunnefield is the features editor for the Lititz Record and Ephrata Review. She welcomes your feedback at mhunnefield.eph@lnpnews.com.

“One room, three hilarious predicaments” is the tagline for Susquehanna Stage Company’s production of Neil Simon’s “Plaza Suite.” Shown (left to right) are Georgie Reardon and Joel Persing, as parents of a reluctant bride.

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