Pioneer Playhouse opens second show July 4

Published 10:00 am Friday, June 30, 2023


Pioneer Playhouse of Danville opens the second show of its season, “Farce of Nature,” on Tuesday, July 4.

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“Farce of Nature,” by the writing team of Jessie Jones, Nicholas Hope, and Jamie Wooten, will run Tuesdays through Saturdays from July 4 through July 22.

“It’s a little unusual starting on July 4th,” Managing Director Heather Henson said. “There will definitely be some fireworks in the background, but that’s just part of the charm of outdoor theatre.”

The comedy is set in a family-run fishing lodge called the Reel ‘Em Inn, which is in the Ozark Mountains in Arkansas. No longer in its heyday, the family is trying to revive the inn. Business starts to pick up when some wild visitors arrive – a bungling cop, someone in witness protection, and a couple of Chicago wise guys.

“What’s hilarious is that each character has their own agenda,” Henson said. “The married couple that owns the inn, played by fan favorites, Patricia Hammond and Daniel Hall Kuhn, are keeping secrets from each, and then one crazy character after another shows up, each with something fishy up their sleeves.”

The cast is a healthy mix of new playhouse actors and veteran playhouse actors. One person new to the playhouse is Jonny Maldonado, who plays Carmine DeLuca.

Maldonado is a lifelong resident of Manhattan. He does improv at the People’s Improv Theater in Midtown, New York, and teaches theatre and public speaking at City College of New York. He met Pioneer Playhouse Artistic Director Robby Henson while working on plays that were written by prison inmates.

“We worked with Jonny in New York City this past fall during our Voices Inside festival of short plays by incarcerated writers,” said Robby Henson. “He’s a terrific actor, and we’re lucky he was able to join us.”

Maldonado’s character Carmine is a nervous, jittery guy who wound up in the witness protection program. Much like Maldonado, Carmine is from the city and isn’t used to being in nature.

“It’s my first time in Kentucky, so it’s not too far of a stretch to play someone who’s not familiar with nature and trees and salamanders and whatever else,” Maldonado said.

Veteran actress Pat Hammond, who has been acting at the playhouse for about 20 years, plays Wanelle Wilburn, who she describes as a foil character who misunderstands things. Her character is the wife of Gene Wilburn, played by another long-time playhouse actor Daniel Hall Kuhn. Hammond said she and Kuhn have played husband and wife before, and is looking forward to working with him again along with other returning actors.

Hammond said this year she likes that actors get a longer time to rehearse and perform, since the playhouse went from doing five shows per season to three shows.

“It’s just so nice to have more time to polish our performances so we get a better product for the audience, and I’m really looking forward to the show, because it’s funny, really funny,” Hammond said.

The show is directed by Jennifer Goff, an associate professor and director of the theatre program at Centre College. She previously directed “Southern Fried Funeral” and “Southern Fried Nuptials,” which Heather said were hugely popular with audiences.

Heather said “Farce of Nature” is similar to those two shows, with a southern style and family drama.

Another returning actress is Rita Hight, who works with Stage One Family Theater in Louisville. She plays a bungling cop named Maxie Suggs.

“What I like about my character is that she’s so committed to being the best cop she can possibly be, and she bumbles it almost every time,” Hight said. “She tries so hard, but she can’t keep track of her gun, she can’t keep track of her bullets, and she can’t remember all the moves.”

Hight describes the play as nonstop silliness, and said people will like that it’s outrageously funny from the minute it starts to the minute it ends.

“The family is trying to get along in rebuilding the lodge, and they have all these complications with wild animals and weird people showing up, and misunderstandings, and selling the property, and not knowing what each other is doing all the time,” Hight said.

Actress Peyton White, who plays Jenna Sealy, is acting in all three shows and is also the costumer for the whole season. She said this show’s costumes are very different from the playhouse’s first show, “Blood Suede Shoes,” which had high class British fashion whereas “Farce of Nature” has country clothing.

“I’ve enjoyed it, because it’s not an area I usually get to work for; I feel like I get to be creative in a little bit of a different way, and be involved in the process in a different way,” White said.

The play also stars returning actors Erika Lee Sengstack, Jack Giglia, and Eric Seale. The optional pre-show dinner offers a new menu this year, with a choice of Beef au jus sandwiches or BBQ Chicken Breast plus sides.