The Martha’s Vineyard Playhouse will be offering an early treat for Islanders this year when it hosts two preseason shows, both comedy/dramas. “Been There, Still There,” will be featured as a one-night-only show on Saturday, May 6, and was written by and stars two Second City Alums, Bruce Jarchow and Nancy McCabe-Kelly, who have gone on to forge successful acting and writing careers. “From Ship to Shape” will be performed on Friday, May 12, and Saturday, May 13, and is an autobiographical one-man show starring awardwinning radio personality Walker Vreeland, developed with and directed by Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Award–nominated director Scott Schwarz.
The two shows will offer a good dose of humor to start off a Playhouse season that will feature comedies in the first two slots of a three-play season. “We can all use some humor right now,” says Playhouse artistic director MJ Bruder Munafo.
The two-person show “Been There, Still There” was brought to Ms. Munafo’s attention by Judy Pisano, the widow of John Belushi, another Second City alumnus. According to the description by Mr. Jarchow and Ms. McCabe-Kelly, “The show follows a baby boomer couple on a road trip to Wisconsin for a destination wedding. Along the way they ponder empty-nest angst, becoming victims of both urban gentrification and illogical technology, and anything else that comes to mind — with the local radio and nostalgia of Wisconsin as their backdrop. Though this is a scripted show, each performance is slightly different as they expound, riff, and allow themselves to go off script as the spirit (and audience) moves them.”
“Been There, Still There” was named one of the “top 10 shows of the year”and “Critics Choice” in TimeOut Chicago. The show just enjoyed a recent run in New York, and a sold-out performance at Second City’s e.t.c. stage as part of the Chicago Improv Festival.
Mr. Jarchow previously worked with John Belushi on the movie “Continental Divide.” He has also appeared in more than 20 other films, including “Ghost,” “Radio Days,” and “Somewhere in Time.” He has also guest-starred in a number of TV shows, including “Seinfeld,” “E.R.” and “Parks and Recreation.” Ms. McCabe-Kelly has also enjoyed a very successful career as an actor and a comedian.
At the suggestion of Ms. Pisano, Ms. Munafo and Playhouse artistic associate Jenny Allen checked out the couple’s show in New York City last year. Ms. Munafo, who calls the show “hysterical,” invited the veteran performers to the Vineyard for a one-night appearance. “They’ve agreed to do a talk-back after the show,” she says.
Next up for the Playhouse will be “From Ship to Shape,” a one-man show by awardwinning radio personality, producer, writer, actor, and singer Walker Vreeland. The show, which is described as an autobiographical monologue, is a mixture of humor and pathos, describing Mr. Vreeland’s time as a lead singer for a cruise-ship line, and how the experience led to a mental breakdown and a stay in a psychiatric ward. The show’s tagline, “How a cruise ship can push you over the edge,” gives a good indication of Mr. Vreeland’s ability to find the humor in a serious situation.
Newsday described the show as “the funny and wrenching account of Vreeland’s personal struggle with mental illness, in which sanity surfaces in unlikely places.” And the Southampton Press said of the performer, “Mr. Vreeland’s openness and raw honesty within ‘From Ship to Shape’ brings his audience one step closer to a world free of the stigma surrounding mental illness. The subject matter is universal.”
Mr. Vreeland previously performed at the Playhouse in 2001 as the lead in “Arthur’s Christmas: A Musical Story,” based on the “Arthur” books by children’s author Marc Brown and adapted for the stage by Ms. Munafo. Ms. Munafo has kept in touch with the performer since then. After reading the script for “From Ship to Shape,” she knew she wanted to bring the show to the Vineyard, and decided to include it in this year’s preseason schedule.
Mr. Vreeland, who sings as well as acts in his monologue, most recently presented the solo show at the Bay Street Theater in Sag Harbor, Long Island, and will be stopping at the Playhouse for two nights as part of a national tour.
The two early offerings from the Playhouse will set the stage for a season highlighted by comedy. The theater’s 35th summer season will open with “Dusty and the Big Bad World” by actor and playwright Cusi Cram, former writer for the “Arthur” kids show on PBS. “Dusty” is based on a 2005 scandal in the world of children’s television known as “Bustergate,” and is described on the Playhouse website as “a darkly funny, no-holds-barred yet evenhanded look at PBS, government censorship, gay marriage, and what it takes to ultimately step up and fight for what you believe in.” The show will run from June 30 to July 29.
Following on the heels of that show will be the world premiere of a new comedy by Emmy
awardwinner Matt Hoverman. The play “Who You See Here” centers around a therapist, her recovering alcoholic husband, a disturbed movie star, and his stalker all coming together around a small-town 12-step group.
The final presentation in the mainstage season will change the tone a bit as the Playhouse reprises the play “This Island Alone,” with a totally rewritten version, “Chilmark,” based on the deaf community that thrived on the Vineyard in the 19th century.
The Playhouse season will be rounded out with an all-female production of “Julius Caesar” at the Tisbury Amphitheater and a full schedule of Monday Night Special play readings, beginning in mid-June.
Tickets are available online at mvplayhouse.org, and at the Playhouse box office. Discount season FlexiTickets are now on sale for a limited time. FlexiTickets are valid for three individual tickets, to be used in any combination of main-stage summer shows.
“Been There, Still There” with Bruce Jarchow and Nancy McCabe Kelly, Saturday, May 6 at 7:30 at the Martha’s Vineyard Playhouse. Tickets $20 adults, $15 juniors (under 30). “From Ship to Shape,” an autobiographical monologue by Walker Vreeland, May 12 and 13 at 7:30. Tickets $20 adults, $15 juniors (under 30).