Ironic playfulness reigns in Old Academy's summer bonanza

by Hugh Hunter
Posted 7/13/23

Old Academy Players wrap up the 2023 season with their traditional Summer Bonanza, a series of one-act plays.

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Ironic playfulness reigns in Old Academy's summer bonanza


Old Academy Players wrap up the 2023 season with their traditional Summer Bonanza, a series of one-act plays each about 15 minutes in length. This year's show, co-produced by Sarah Labov and Nancy Frick, presents plays with a wide range of themes that share an ironic playfulness.   

"Love Bite" was written by John McDonnell, a local playwright from Doylestown. Directed by Norma Kider, Transylvania's gadabout bachelor shows up for a blind date and you know from the start the man is weird. Vicky does not seem to notice as she prattles away, enticing him in unintentional ways.  Annie Hnatko plays Vicky, with Rob Rosiello as Dracula and Sally Lomanno as Waitress. 

Ken Preuss has written numerous one-act plays. "Science Friction or The Rapid Deconstruction of a Rational Mind," directed by Brendan Sterling, is about a young couple and the world of science fiction. Ray (Benjamin Jones) is a sci-fi aficionado. In his absence, lover Daisy (Isaura Sanguinetti) immerses herself in works of science fiction because she hopes to grow closer to her guy. In an ironic twist, this only leads to a spooky estrangement. 

Summer Bonanza

Summer Bonanza has become a special event in Philadelphia theater, the brainchild of former Old Academy member Chris Schenk in 2009. Chris lost his battle with cancer in 2012, but his creation is an enduring legacy. People with no stage experience are encouraged to audition.  A good example of Old Academy's success in bringing newcomers to the world of theater is the stage career of co-producer Nancy Frick. 

In 1986, Nancy volunteered to work backstage. At the time she had no background in theater. Years later, she took on acting roles, and in 1996 started to write her own plays. She has produced and directed numerous shows, mentored aspiring playwrights and served as president of Old Academy for ten years. Nancy is delighted to be involved in this year's Summer Bonanza because "It's a chance to give back something to Old Academy for all the opportunities they gave me." 

Her entry is "Memories of Mickey and Gino." Two elderly roommates at a retirement community quarrel incessantly. Ordered to attend a therapy session or face eviction, they are surprised to learn they have more in common than expected. Elliott Rotman directs. Veteran actress Susan Blair stars as Maggie, with Sally Lomanno as Kate and Ashley Wright as Dr. Finch. 

Rob Rosiello both writes and directs "Love Between the Dryer Sheets," where a professional dresser has a chaotic relationship with the diva of a Broadway musical. The show features Leah O’Hara as Natalie, Nyiema Lunsford as Jillian, & C.J. Musial as Jason. Rosiello is another local talent, a graduate of Villanova's theater program and a frequent writer and director of Old Academy shows. 

Gwen Armstrong Barker wrote "Our Own Little World." Directed by Lorraine Barrett, it concerns the relationship between lonely widow Lauren (Susan Blair) and her dog Stephen (personified by Musial). Their relationship is tasked by daughter Justine (Nicole Gerenyi), who finds burnt cookware and decides mom needs an assisted living facility. Doggie disagrees.  

Genesisters is another play by Ken Preuss. Before the universe was created, four women mimic the "what if" creative process as they pitch ideas for future humanity. Annie Hnatko now dons her director's hat for a show that features Lisa Sims as Rory, Josie O’Connell as Penny, Ashley Wright as Terra, and Liz Lydon as Carmen.

Over the years, I have attended many Summer Bonanza productions. Last year, "Epiphany" by David MacGregor jumped right off the stage. The husband confesses to his wife that nothing in the world meant anything to him, including her. After a pregnant silence, the wife confesses to him: “I feel exactly the same way.”

I could feel my eyes welling up with tragicomic Chekhovian emotion over this nihilistic bonding. Every year at Summer Bonanza I experience a play that excites my attention with its audacity and high metaphor. I look forward to discovering which one will burn itself into my memory this year. 

Old Academy Players is located at 3544 Indian Queen Lane. Summer Bonanza will run for two weekends only, beginning July 14 and ending July 23. Tickets are available at 215-843-1109.