by Hugh Hunter
“Waiting for the Fat Lady to Sing,” written and directed by Plymouth Meeting’s Nancy Frick, is now premiering at Old Academy Players in East Falls. It is a charming comedy consisting of seven vignettes, all sharing the core experience of having to wait.
Frick’s long association with Old Academy began almost by accident. After graduating from the University of Florida, she moved to Philadelphia to work as an advertising copywriter. She lived in East Falls for a year before she noticed the Old Academy Playhouse in 1986 and wandered inside. Old Academy was rehearsing “Agnes of God.” With no experience in theater, Frick asked if she could help, and began working behind the scenes. A year later she took her first crack at acting with a small role in Neil Simon’s “Plaza Suite,” wanting to see if she could do it.
After 10 years at the theater, Frick began to write her own plays. Her first was “Roomies” (1996), which has been widely performed in area theaters (including at Stagecrafters in 2001). Her last play before “Fat Lady” was “Four Weddings and an Elvis,” published by Baker’s Plays.
I asked Ms. Frick if her advertising work influenced her playwriting. She told me a copywriter learns not to be bothered by losing control of her writing as it passes through corporate hands and thinks the experience made her more receptive to criticism than another playwright might be.
“Waiting” is her sixth play. A striking set design features all sorts of time pieces, and moveable props set up a host of waiting scenarios. The first concerns a house painter who is so upset about being kept waiting he cannot see the humor in the bickering between an artist and his wealthy wife. Some others: A defendant awaiting the jury’s verdict is pursued by his murder victim, a sexy ghost; customers wait at a taxi stand; an heir-apparent prince waits for his queen mother to die. And we have to wait to see if indeed the fat lady will sing.
“Waiting” comes to a head in “Piggly Wiggly.” While waiting at the checkout line, a minister’s wife indulges her prurient interests at the expense of a fellow parishioner, but then delivers a homily on the virtues of waiting and the proper understanding of time. “Waiting” is a comedy but with a message. Co-directed with Charlotte Higgins, it uses about 20 actors (including Frick’s husband, Michael Gavanus, as Columbus waiting to find land), and the Old Academy acting community attacks the show with enthusiasm.
I asked Ms. Frick how she would describe Old Academy. She said many people have told her the theater was “welcoming” and that it encourages one to move into as many different areas of production as one’s energy and talent allow. As a playwright, director and now Old Academy’s sitting president, the young woman who once volunteered to work backstage in 1986 has come a long way.
Old Academy Players is located at 3540-44 Indian Queen Lane. “Waiting for the Fat Lady to Sing” will run through May 12. Reservations at 215-843-1109.