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Popping the question

by Lenise Willis

We all have our favorite stories to tell, whether it’s that embarrassing first kiss that almost didn’t happen, or that same story your mom tells about you eating sand as a baby. At the end of the day, it’s our fondest memories that outline our life— the ones we choose to recount and relive. If you’re lucky, your proposal story will become one of those moments.

In Neil Simon’s Proposals, it’s not a bride or groom, but the housekeeper re-telling an epic tale of nine characters sorting out their love lives while out in a cottage on a warm summer eve in 1953. The romantic comedy-drama takes place in the Poconos, where the Hines family – Burt, daughter Josie and housekeeper Clemma – are awaiting the arrival of Burt’s ex-wife for a visit. Then Josie’s old boyfriend and Clemma’s estranged husband show up, too, making for a very interesting afternoon.

“I read the script for Proposals about 15 years ago shortly after its New York run and was immediately drawn to the show,” said Stanley Bernstein, director of Twin City Stage’s production.

“It’s the story of a man facing the end of his life and desperately trying to mend fences with his daughter and his ex-wife whom he still loves very deeply. Proposals deals with a myriad of romantic attachments: the ex-wife, while re-married still has deep feelings for her ex-husband, their daughter Josie at the top of the play has just ended her engagement and realizes she is still in love with an ex-boyfriend, and the family’s housekeeper of the past 22 years has found out that her ex-husband has decided to visit and see if there is still a spark after a seven-year absence.

“Add to this a couple of absolutely hilarious visitors to the mix and you have an incredibly entertaining evening. Proposals not only makes you laugh and satisfies the romantic streak in us all, but deals with the most basic of emotional ties to those we love the most.”

“To me, it feels very honest,” said Sheri Masters, who plays as Annie Robbins, Josie’s mother. “We don’t all get happy endings, but it’s the journey that matters and the relationships you nurture along the way.”

The cast of Proposals has certainly been on its own journey, as well, bonding as a crew and working hard together—experienced staff and beginners, all blurred together.

“This cast is so easy to love,” Masters said. “I really like that the new people (to the theater period as well as to Twin City Stage) have been so open to learn and the ‘veterans’ in the group have been so willing to share their knowledge and experience. It’s great fun seeing the theater world through the eyes of new people. And I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention that our backstage crew is just wonderful, gifted, hard-working and just plain nice.”

Becky Proie and Elizabeth J. Rief are two of that backstage crew who get the pleasure of seeing the production from a completely different view—one that not many get to see.

“During rehearsals, I was super close to the action so I could focus on one character at a time as I watched,” said Elizabeth J. Rief, stage manager. “I enjoyed watching their expressions change as their characters developed. Now that we are onstage, I’m in the booth at the back of the theatre so I can see and hear everything happening at once. The lighting, scenery, costumes and sound have created a beautiful environment for these characters.”

“There’s some favorite scenes and lines that I stop to listen for, but otherwise I’m focusing on keeping things running smoothly behind the scenes so that we can be ready for Elizabeth’s cue calls,” said Becky Proie, assistant stage manager. “I think my favorite character has to be Ray (played by Jonathan Furr) based on how consistently I still laugh at his lines.

“When you hear the same thing for a month and a half, some things lose their luster, but Jonathan has been telling me all week that he keeps hearing me laugh. I’ll be happy when the audience’s laughter is loud enough to drown mine out.” !

WANNA go?

Twin City Stage presents Proposals Thursday through Sunday at the Arts Council Theatre, 610 Coliseum Drive, Winston-Salem. Tickets are $25. For tickets and more information visit twincitystage.org or call 725-4001.

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