‘Second Man’ opens at Star City Playhouse

The final Star City Playhouse production of the season, S.N. Behrman’s “Second Man,” opened on November 3 and continues on weekends through November 19. Cast members are (seated left to right) Diane Heard as Kendall Frayne and Brandi Dawson as Monica Grey, and (standing left to right) Chris Reidy as Clark Storey and Lucas Pickett as Austin Lowe.

Star City Playhouse in Vinton opened its final full-length production of the 2017 season with “Second Man” on November 3. The romantic comedy continues on weekends through November 19.

Set in Manhattan in the 1920s, the storyline of “Second Man” involves a witty, but somewhat second-rate writer (Clark Storey) who is trapped in a state of indecision as he must make a choice between a very wealthy widow (Kendall Frayne) who can support his lifestyle and a spunky, beautiful younger woman (Monica Grey) who worships him– but is unfortunately as poor as a church mouse. Complicating matters is the fact that Storey’s rich, but awkwardly nerdy scientist friend (Austin Lowe) is “dotty” about Monica and wants to marry her.

The action revolves around confrontations between the four characters as they attempt to resolve their romantic issues.

The play was written by S.N. Behrman based on one of his short stories. It was his first play produced and its success changed his life forever. He went on to become known as the premiere comedy writer of the ’30s and ’40s.

The “Second Man,” according to Storey, is the part of his nature that dispassionately perceives all his less-than-stellar character traits. Star City Playhouse owners Marlow and Karon Semones Ferguson believe this is the first time the play has been performed in Virginia.

Marlow Ferguson is the director for this production. Karon is the producer, costumer, and Playwright in Residence.

“Second Man” features a cast of four strong and believable actors, all of whom have appeared in other Star City productions in Vinton during its inaugural 2017 season, as well as in many previous productions throughout the valley and region.

Chris Reidy has the lead role of Clark Storey. You always know you have a treat in store when Reidy is in the cast. Other than his considerable talent, he so obviously enjoys every part he plays and generates enthusiasm and engagement in the audience. He has appeared in recent Star City productions of “The Nerd” and “Bus Stop.”

His character recognizes his own dilettante nature, motivated by a desire for the luxurious life denied to him by lack of talent and ambition. Storey says he likes to “cultivate superficiality,” while describing his writing as “scented dishwater.” He touts a “loveless marriage” with Mrs. Frayne to support his opulent lifestyle in part because “it’s easy to starve on idealism.” He tells her that “love is an illusion,” and that in their union they will share emotions rarer than love—friendship and warmth.

Brandi Dawson plays the role of Monica Grey who is living in a state of highly confused emotions, devoted to Storey, while cognizant of his baser nature. Dawson has been with Star City since 2007 and performed in “Shakespeare in Love” in the theatre company’s opening mini-production after their move to Vinton last February.

Diane Heard compellingly portrays Kendall Frayne, the calm and resigned adult in the room. Heard has been involved in theatre in the valley for many years, both on and off-stage, and appeared in “The Nerd” with Star City earlier this season. She is also the stage manager for this production.

Lucas Pickett convincingly plays the role of lovestruck Austin Lowe in both sober and disheveled states. Pickett was a member of the cast of “Enemy of the People,” and has acted in several productions in the New River Valley.

Remaining performances are scheduled for weekends through November 9 with evening performances at 7 p.m. on November 10 and 17, and matinees on Saturdays and Sundays, November 11, 12, 18, and 19. Ticket prices are $12 for adults; $8 for seniors and students. Reservations may be made by calling 366-1446 or tickets may also be purchased at the door.

The play runs for over two enjoyable and laugh-filled hours in three acts with two intermissions which feature period music selected by Karon Ferguson, such as “Someone to Watch Over Me.” The costuming is elegant throughout.

Other Star City productions in 2017 have included “The Belle of Amherst” in the spring, “The Nerd” in May, “Bus Stop” in July, and “Enemy of the People” in September.

Second Man is the 109th full production by Star City Playhouse which was established in1994. The Fergusons say that they are delighted to be in Vinton, and have finally found the place they “were supposed to be.” Just entering the theater is a warmly enveloping experience. The Fergusons are charming, welcoming, and exude a love of theatre, especially community theatre. Over the years they have built, and continue to build, a resident company of talented local actors.

Their next season will begin in January 2018. In the meantime, they will be producing three lunch-time one act plays in December with dates and times to be announced. Karon Ferguson will be teaching playwriting in the spring.

The Star City Playhouse is located at the corner of Pollard Street and Washington Avenue in Vinton with parking throughout the downtown area, including just across the street at the former Vinton Motors.

The town considers itself fortunate that the Fergusons chose Vinton as the new home of Star City Playhouse. Star City is making a significant contribution to the revitalization of downtown Vinton, bringing in audiences from across the region.

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