Honky Tonk closes, Shawshank cast sentenced


PORTSMOUTH—The Portsmouth Little Theatre (PLT) is wrapping up its season shortly with its biggest show of the 2023-2024 lineup, The Shawshank Redemption. This season finale comes after the theatre closed on its Texas-sized comedy, Honky Tonk Hissy Fit, that just took final bows last weekend.

According to Dramatists, “In this rollicking, hilarious comedy, the Doublewide, Texas, gang is back and life in their tiny town has gotten crazier than ever. Just when things are looking up—the population has grown to seventeen mobile homes and a weekend farmers’ market—the rug is pulled out from under the residents yet again. It seems their vacation rental trailer has drawn unwanted attention from a mega-corporation in Austin. Suddenly, the corporation is interested in Doublewide.”

The play was directed by acting veteran Eva Martin, who took on directing for the first time with this production, outside of her previously required assistant directing position, which she fulfilled earlier in the season. In addition, Martin was only recently added to the PLT Board of Governors.

The cast consisted of Kelli Riffe, Eric Gray, Whitney Maddix, Erin Ballengee, Gary Mathews, Kayla Parker, Brian Pierce, Pam Klinepeter, and Lisa Montgomery.

“I am feeling extremely proud of the show but admit I will miss seeing everyone, as the people involved in these productions become a little family. It truly could not have gone smoother, and every practice we just tweaked delivery of lines, added props, as sometimes the little change can make the whole scene or moment,” Martin explained. “My cast was off book fairly early, which helped to give us time for character growth. Our set came together, and we used every bit of the stage to portray different parts of the town we were in. It was truly a smooth experience.”

Martin had been studying the script for months, even when she was starring in two previous productions this season and believed the community would enjoy the story being brought to life.

The director was pleasantly surprised to see incredibly high numbers of attendees for an unknown show, which is pretty rare for these titles. The PLT Board of Governors attributes these numbers to the growing success of PLT, from an increased focus on quality in building entirely great seasons to strong efforts to market each show as they move along.

“The audience was so supportive,” Martin said, “and, to hear the laughter night after night, made us deliver at an even higher level. We have had wonderful reviews and many from first time patrons who said they will be back. With this show not being a big-name, we were curious to see how attendance would be, but we sold out two of the four nights, which is incredible! I was blessed that so many people who have seen me perform on the stage, came to support me and my directorial debut.”

Now that her directorial debut is in her rear-view, Martin is already looking ahead at future opportunities to direct and play a larger role in the theatrical community.

“I have definitely enjoyed directing! There are so many aspects of production that you have to do, from set design, props, character development, costumes, blocking. When you get the tech group involved, and start running it all together, it makes me cry, I won’t lie. I’m just so proud of each and every one of my cast and crew. I am so looking forward to directing my next show.”

With Honky Tonky Hissy Fit closing, the cast for Shawshank Redemption has been announced.

Taking the stage will be Andy Maillet as Andy Dufresne, Buster Davis as Ellis Boyd Redding, Eric Gray as Warden Stammas, Bob Johnson as Captain Bryan Hadley, Adam Lucas as Bogs Diamond, Greg Ballengee as Brooksie, Stewart Perkins as Mert Entwistle, Vincent Herman as Rooster, Eugenio Perez as Rico, Todd Eichenlaub as Tommy Williams, Mel Smith as Jordan Dawkins, and Greg Bauer as Pinky.

According to Dramatists, “When Andy Dufresne is convicted of murder and sentenced to life in the notorious Shawshank prison, he must find a way to keep himself and his hope alive by using his wits and forging friendships. Based on the novella by Stephen King, The Shawshank Redemption brings the story of resilience made famous by the acclaimed film to the stage.”

Also making her directorial debut, PLT Vice President Kelli Riffe will oversee the production. Riffe is a seasoned actress and a major success story for the theatre, with the first-time actress from many years ago quickly integrating herself into the fabric and success of the theatre, creating formative change that increased the budgets, put in many hours of sweat equity, and never turning down an opportunity to give back to the community through her theatrical endeavors on stage and behind the scenes.

“I couldn’t be more pleased with all the men that turned out for the two nights of auditions,” Riffe said. “In the past, the PLT has struggled with peaking the interests of the men in our area, but there were no shortages of men for Shawshank auditions. There were some very tough choices for my assistant director and myself during the process, but we feel as though we’ve got a strong, stellar cast of veterans peppered in with some new talent to grace our stage.”

To enjoy local performing arts before PLT closes curtain on its 2023-2024 season, order tickets for Shawshank Redemption online at www.pltlive.com or arrive at the theatre 30 minutes before showtime on performance days. Admission ranges from $15 to $18.

The PLT Board of Governors are warning people eager to see Shawshank of the importance of getting tickets online, as admission across all nights is selling out rapidly two months in advance. Opening night is nearly sold out completely. An additional show is being considered, but nothing has been confirmed.

Reach Joseph Pratt at (740) 353-3101, by email at [email protected], © 2024 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved.

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