Put to the ’Jest’
|By Emma Kat Richardson|
Spotlight on as BoarsHead opens season with new cast, directorIt’s not the season opener that was originally scripted, but the show goes on this week at Lansing’s BoarsHead Theater.
“Beau Jest,” a farcical comedy of errors, was announced last spring as something of a reunion piece for Lansing theater favorite Carmen Decker and BoarsHead co-founder John Peakes. But the two chose to bow out of the production over the summer in response to the theater’s board of directors’ decision not to renew artistic director Kristine Thatcher’s contract, which expired last month.
But the play soldiers on with new cast members and a new director.
Stepping in to fill the holes left by Decker and Peakes are Dorry Peltyn and Tim Jacobs, both of who were recommended by Thatcher. "When I was offered the role by Kristine Thatcher, I was in New York and had no idea about what had happened with Carmen and John,” Peltyn said. “I didn’t know that I would be one of the people replacing them. I thought, ’Isn’t this lovely? I got this part and I don’t even have to audition for it.’”
Weeks later she found out why. “I was very happy to have the role, but very distressed over Carmen and John leaving,” Peltyn said. “What a loss to the Lansing theater community. Carmen is an extraordinary actress, and I hope that as time goes by, both she and John will consider returning to the BoarsHead."
Despite the tumultuous circumstances, 1989 play by James Sherman and hasn’t been affected by offstage drama. “When performing a role, you have to put a lot of things out of your mind to really get into character, and everyone here has done a great job with that,” she said. “We have a wonderful director, too, who has really stepped up and taken the show to great heights.”
Taking the director’s chair, which was to be filled by Thatcher, is Charles Burr, who has been involved with productions at BoarsHead for more than 30 years. “It’s very good to be back here at the BoarsHead. I find it amazing that everyone [in this show] is Michigan based — originally, but have gone elsewhere — and it’s a great little ensemble,” Burr said.
“Beau Jest” tells the tale of a ne’er-dowell Jewish girl who hires a male escort to fulfill her parent’s fiancée fantasy of a knight in white doctor’s garb to woo their daughter. The play’s comic plotline unfolds a story of misunderstandings, unmet expectations and the unending struggle for communication between friends and family.
Also in the show are BoarsHead veteran Nathan M. Hosner and newbie Allie Long, both Michigan natives now living in Chicago. “I love coming here,” Hosner said. “I love the community, and at the same time, it’s fun to play with new people. I think with theaters, it kind of always is a transitional period, in that you’re always evolving and always trying new things and trying new approaches.”
“As someone new coming here, I think we were really able to just start from scratch and get to know each other and play off each other without any preconceptions about how the play would go or how these characters will form,” Long said. “We’ve been learning from everyone, and it’s just been a great experience.”