Splash photo by Tim Putnam

Douglas, played by Steven Blount, offers grace before a meal during a scene of “The Big Five-Oh.” The comedy opens Feb. 28 and runs through March 16 at Liberty Lake Community Theatre.

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Seven shows comprise LLCT’s robust 2014 slate
2/26/2014 11:28:57 AM

By Tim Putnam
Splash Contributor

The seven shows planned for the Liberty Lake Community Theatre's 2014 season represent the organization's most aggressive schedule to date. 

"It takes a few of us to come up with a season," said Kevin Kuecken, LLCT board treasurer and chairman of production. He and board chairman at large and "amazing lady" Vicki Weaver read through prospective scripts to prepare for the season, Kuecken said. 

"We're always looking for unknown shows," he said. "We do that on purpose. We try to find that unnamed show that is really good that no one's heard about."

The result of all the work launches first with "The Big Five-Oh," a comedic look at the dysfunction that is George Thomas' family and the events leading up to his 50th birthday. It runs Feb. 28 to March 8.

"Heidi," running March 28-29, is the first of two Reader's Theater performances. 

"Reader's Theater is completely different than any other kind of theater because it's all using imagination," Kuecken said. 

In Reader's Theater there are no props, sets or costumes. Much like an old-time radio show, everything is done with the actor's voice while reading from the script. 

The production tells the story of Heidi, an orphan girl who lives with her grandfather in the Alps. She not only touches his life but also that of Clara, who in the beginning is bound to a wheelchair. Auditions for the production are March 9-10.

The Theatre's spring production is a musical, "The Masked Canary." Running from April 28 to May 3, the show is currently in rehearsal.

"Set in Tombstone, Ariz., in the late 1800s, it's all about the town not liking the fact that the Birdcage is there," Kuecken said.

Directed by Emily Nichols, the comedy focuses on former society belle Amanda, played by Judy Black. Amanda takes a job at the town's Burlesque theater, the Birdcage, in order to provide for her daughter. Amanda becomes the Masked Canary, wearing a disguise as she performs to protect her identity.

The Theatre presents its summer, kid-focused show from July 25 through Aug. 2. This year's production, "Goldilocks and the Three Pigs," explores the antics that happen when Goldilocks hides from the witch in the home of the Chop brothers. These brothers are the very same ones who escaped from the Big Bad Wolf. Auditions are scheduled for June 1-2.

A Halloween mystery comedy, "This Old Haunted House," runs Oct. 24 to Nov. 2. The play explores what happens when the "This Home Restored" television show comes to work on mob boss Vito Giovanni's "supposedly" haunted house. At the same time, Spats Giovanni is trying to find the 10 million clams his uncle Vito hid there before entering the Federal Witness Protection Program. Auditions for the production are scheduled for Aug. 24-25.

The second Reader's Theater performance of the season, "Twain's Tales," brings five of Mark Twain's stories to life. The stories come out as five locals try and "out spin" each other with tall tales. "Twain's Tales" features performances on Nov. 21-22, with auditions occurring Oct. 27-28.

What Kueken describes as "our nice, fun, family show," "The Polar Bear Prince," runs Dec. 12-20. The story is a fractured fairy tale about a beauty and her attempts to win a beast who is an enchanted prince. Auditions take place Oct. 20-21. 

LLCT's ability to undertake a season with more shows comes from having its own facility at 22910 E. Appleway Ave., Suite 1.

"We've been here for a year," Kuecken said, noting the Theatre performed previously at a variety of different venues. "We were nomads going wherever we could."

The group had been looking for more than two years for a permanent location. As a small theater with very little money, the building owner worked with them on a favorable deal.

Currently, most of the money raised to support the Theatre comes from ticket sales.

"We want to be able to have affordable entertainment for the community," Kuecken said. "Unfortunately, we struggle (financially)."

The Theatre does have some donors, including some silent sponsors and Safeway employees. LLCT also recently received a tourism grant from the city of Liberty Lake.

"We're counting on a lot of word of mouth," Kuecken said. "We don't have a lot of advertising we can do; no budget." 

About LLCT
Founded: March 2008 

Location: 22910 E. Appleway Ave., Suite 1

Board members: Jennifer Ophardt (president and founder); Jean Simpson (secretary); Kevin Kuecken 
(treasurer and chairman of production); Vicki Weaver (chairman at large). LLCT is currently in the process of looking for another chairman at large to fill a recently vacated position.

Tickets: Purchase at the door, from a cast member or at www.libertylaketheatre.com

For more: 342-2055 or info@libertylaketheatre.com

• • • 

‘The Big Five-Oh' embraces the dysfunctions families face

By Tim Putnam
Splash Review

George Thomas, a formal social worker turned professor of sociology, is approaching his milestone 50th birthday. 

The Liberty Lake Community Theatre's production of the ‘The Big Five-Oh' provides a comical glimpse into his family's dysfunction during the week leading to George's birthday. The show runs from Feb. 28 to March 16. 

"George is your typical dad turning 50," said Director Danielle Read, who is leading her first LLCT performance after directing for 16 years. "This is your typical family. You're going to watch this show and go, ‘Gosh, that's my mother.' Or, ‘Oh my gosh, that's my sister.'"

The play opens by introducing the audience to George's wife, Marie, played by Nicole Walker, and her tendency to be a hypochondriac with an unhealthy focus on her own death. As George returns home from work, he learns some distressing news about his beloved dog, Annie, including that he won't be able to cuddle with her when he goes to bed. 

"With George, the only structure he has in his life is Annie the dog," Read said. "It's the one thing he can count on."

Later, lamenting the ads sent to him on the week of his birthday, Marie "comforts" George by reminding him 50 is at about two-thirds of his life expectancy. She augments her point by stating he is "rounding third and heading for home."

"George is a very unhappy man," said Kevin Kuecken about his character in the production. "He thinks his children are worthless."

His attitude toward his children is introduced when George asks Marie, "Is the leech here yet?" referring to his deadbeat drummer son, Eric, played by Nicholas Kittilstved. Eric, though, is running late as always, as is their daughter, Julie, played by Tiffany Hill. 

Marie shares that the dinner party also includes neighbor Kathy Walters, played by Joanie Buck. This upsets George as Kathy always brings her late husband Steve over for dinner in an urn. 

George himself, though, also exhibits an issue with letting go of loved ones as he keeps his long-since deceased mother's chair at the dinner table.

The evening unfolds with an unexpected guest joining them: Julie's fiancé, Douglas, of whom her parents knew nothing about. Douglas, played by Steven Blount, turns out to be a vegetarian Republican more than 20 years older than Julie. 

"It's almost like everybody's family," said Hill, whose favorite part of the play is a Douglas' pre-meal prayer. "Everybody has little quirks and little things here and there, and you actually can see it on stage." 

Julie Berghammer plays Sara Donovan, a student George believes to be enamored with him, a role Berghammer is well suited for. 

"I think I draw from being younger, being a teenager, being naïve," said Berghammer. "Just seeing how girls that age range can act."

The play unfolds with explorations into Marie's atrocious baking, George's poetry and Eric and Steve's opera "date." The production under Read's direction takes many comical twists and turns along the way to George's birthday.

"You know it's a good show when you do the first read through - the first time you have the script in your hand - and you can't get through the read through because the cast is laughing," Kuecken said. "Usually the laughs don't come until the cast puts them in there. This one from day one was hilarious."

When asked where he pulled his inspiration for George, Kuecken had to admit it came from himself.

"The sarcastic son-of-a-gun that he is, is me," Kuecken said. "George is probably the most even-keeled character I have ever played. He's a normal guy."

Read saw much of herself in Julie; made all the more interesting with the opportunity to direct her younger sister, Hill, in the role. 

"I push her to do a lot of things I know I would do," Read said. "You definitely sometimes take your home life and throw that in there, especially on something like this that's so close to home anyway."

Throughout the performance, it's easy to see the cast members have embraced their characters. And by the final closing of the Thomas' front door, the characters in George's family each have grown in relationship, life and an understanding of long-time sabotage. There is even a much-needed confession as the characters leave some part of their old life behind during George's pivotal birthday.

As a comedy that explores family dysfunction, there are a few references that make "The Big Five-Oh" less of a family show and more appropriate for adult and teenage audiences.

"I do not recommend the show for anyone probably under 14," Read said. "From there on, they're going to get the jokes; they're going to love it. It's funny. It's everyone's family."

What: ‘The Big Five-Oh'

Where: Liberty Lake Community Theatre, 22910 E. Appleway Ave., Suite 1

Cast: Kevin Kuecken, Nicole Walker, Tiffany Hill, Nicholas Kittilstved, Joanie Buck, Julie Berghammer, Steven Blount, "Lucy" as Annie the dog

Crew: Director Danielle Read, Rick Pentland, Seneca Hill, Jade Read, Juliana Buck, Michael Read

Performances: 7:30 p.m. Feb. 28, March 1, March 6-9 and March 13-15; 2 p.m. March 1-2 and March 16

Cost: $12 general admission, $8 seniors (65+) and youth 6-12 (5 and under are free). Tickets are available at www.libertylaketheater.com, from a cast member and at the door. Seating for each show is limited.