“We used to have a nice plantation in Mississippi. And then, just when cotton got high, women stopped wearing cotton underwear,” says Isabelle Parry in a Manhattan speakeasy in 1929.
The Parry plantation in Mississippi isn’t doing so well, since woman started wearing silk underwear, so when Henry from New Jersey asked for her hand in marriage, she accepted. Henry envisioned a future that involved selling bonds in New York, while he and his wife livied with his parents in West Orange.
Then they stepped into that speakeasy where they meet Tomaso, the owner, Mario, a waiter, Judge Dempsey, who lives above the speakeasy, Patrolman Mulligan, and the famous opera star, Count Di Ruvo. Isabelle finds these men enchanting. Henry does not. Where Isabelle and Henry spend the night all has to do with the decision to play it safe or expand one’s horizons.
It’s all part of the fun in Preston Sturges’s screwball comedy, “Strictly Dishonorable.” Opening on September 19, 1929, this Broadway hit continued to have sold out houses even after the stock market crash in October.
The award-winning Equity professional East Lynne Theater Company presents “Strictly Dishonorable” Wednesdays through Saturdays at 8:00p.m. from September 23 through October 17, except there is no show on Wednesday, October 7, and a show on Sunday, October 11 at 7:30p.m. There is an opportunity to meet the cast and crew at an after-show party on Wednesday, September 23, at Aleathea’s Restaurant at The Inn of Cape May, 7 Ocean St., at no additional cost.
Performances are at the historic First Presbyterian Church, 500 Hughes St., Cape May, where ELTC is in residence. Tickets are $30 for general admission, $25 for seniors (62 and over), and $15 for full-time students, those in the military and veterans. Ages 12 and under are free. All tickets are available for purchase with credit card, cash or personal check at the box office when there is a performance, through ELTC’s website, www.eastlynnetheater.org, by phone, 609-884-5898, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Opening nights this season are dedicated to the memory of someone who had an impact on ELTC. For “Strictly Dishonorable” this night is dedicated to the memory of Luke Sickle (1937-2014) who performed in ELTC productions directed by his friend and the theater’s founder, Warren Kliewer, sometimes performing with current artistic director, Gayle Stahlhuth. He performed in many plays in NYC and regionally, and directed “Spoon River” and “Tales by Twain,” written by Stahlhuth, for ELTC.
For those who missed the opening night party, there is another opportunity to meet the actors and director at an after-show Q&A on Friday, October 2.
Preston Sturges (1898-1959) elevated the screwball comedy using his razor-sharp dialogue to create a platform for social commentary. “Strictly Dishonorable” was his second of five Broadway plays, and because of this hit, he was wooed by Hollywood. Between 1940-1944, he wrote and directed “The Great McGinty” (Oscar for Best Original Screenplay), “Christmas in July,” “The Lady Eve,” “Sullivan’s Travels,” “The Palm Beach Story,” “The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek” and “Hail the Conquering Hero.” The last two were nominated for Best Original Screenplay Oscars.
Playing Isabelle from Mississippi is Jennifer Bissell who was in ELTC’s “The Late Christopher Bean” and “Within the Law.” Recently she was in Charleston, SC, performing in “Boogie Woogie Bugle Gals” at 34 West Theater Company. She has also worked at Bucks County Playhouse and the Media Theatre, and in NYC, at the Mint, and Theatre 80 St. Marks.
Taking on the role of the Judge is J. M. McDonough (Marty) and the Irish cop is Thomas Raniszewski. Both performed in ELTC’s production of “Rain” directed by Bruce Minnix. McDonough also played Ambrose Bierce in ELTC’s world premiere of “Nothing Matters” by David Geible. He works on stage, and in television and film in and around New York and in the South of France, and is “the voice” for a variety of ads, animations and online video games.
Raniszewski was in ELTC’s recent world premiere of “Huckleberry Finn,” adapted by James Rana, and has performed in at least one ELTC production annually since 2004. In Philadelphia, he received rave reviews for his performance in the two-hander “The Twentieth Century Way,” and reprised his role in a staged reading version of ELTC’s “Why Marry?” at The Players Club in NYC.
The owner of the speakeasy and the waiter are played by James Rana and Eric Stephenson. Rana was recently featured in television’s “Chicago Fire,” Luna Stages’ “A Perfect Ganesh,” and ELTC’s staged reading of “Our American Cousin.” In NYC, he’s worked for Ensemble Studio Theatre, Pan Asian Rep, and Comedysportz NY; Royal Shakespeare Co. (UK) and Globe Neuss and Bonn Biennale (Germany).
Stephenson was in ELTC’s “Within the Law.” NYC credits include “Saint Joan” at The Secret Theatre and “Oliver!” at The Gallery Players. Regional work includes “Sunset Boulevard” at the Fulton Theatre (PA), and “Little Women” at Kentucky Repertory Theatre.
New to ELTC are Lino Del Core, playing the Count, and Stephen Humes, portraying Henry. Del Core’s television work includes “Louie” on FX , “Celebrity Ghost Stories” on the BIO Channel, and co-starring in the web series “Justice Woman.” NYC theater includes “The Exonerated” and “Ghosts” at Hudson Guild Theatre Company.
Humes just returned from the Lyric Repertory Company in Logan, UT where he performed in “Last Train to Nibroc” and “The Mystery of Edwin Drood.” He’s also worked for Northern Stage (VT), New London Barn (NH) and Connecticut Free Shakespeare.
Thirty-five years ago, when Warren Kliewer founded ELTC, it was the first Equity professional theater in the country dedicated to preserving and presenting American plays from the past that resonate with today’s audiences. There are many organizations and individuals who help the company, both financially and with in-kind donations of goods and services. Show sponsor for “Strictly Dishonorable” is La Mer Beachfront Inn. Season partners for 2015 are Curran Investment Management, Aleathea’s Restaurant, The Henry Sawyer Inn, and The Washington Inn.