Looking for a good laugh either to end this year or to start the new one? Either way, “The Hit” may just fill the bill. Opening Saturday, Dec. 29, at the Hale Centre Theatre, 50 W. Page Ave. in Gilbert, Ariz., the romantic comedy runs through Saturday, Feb. 9, 2013.
It’s just your average day at the San Francisco antique shop owned by Susan Timmerman and her brother, Steve Timmerman. Average, that is, until Susan receives a bit of earth-shattering news that compels her to arrange a secret meeting with the mob. Amid the craziness, you’ll meet daft antique collectors, potential romantic partners and eastern European gangsters. Not to mention a bumbling, conflicted first-time hit man, who is actually a hit woman.
Susan and Steve took over the cluttered shop after their mother died from cancer. Now that Susan has received a similar diagnosis, which she’s keeping secret, she’s decided that rather than suffering and putting her brother through the pain again, she’ll end things quickly. Hence the hit man. But then Susan starts falling for widower San Gunderson, who seems the perfect match for her—if only this hit man weren’t coming.
Written by Mike Buckley, “The Hit” has also been performed by the Lamb’s Players in San Diego and at the Hale Center Theater in Orem, Utah. “In an impressive move, our creative management has selected an unknown play by an unknown playwright,” Hale’s marketing director, Daniel Sontag, explains. “But that’s the indication of confidence that this lighthearted romp will tickle your funny bone and fully entertain Hale theatergoers.”
Directing the current Hale production is Kevin Dressler, a professional actor, educator and co-founder of Southwest Shakespeare Company, which performs out of the Mesa Arts Center. He is also executive director of Mesa Community College’s theatre and film arts department. He has directed more than 50 productions in professional, educational and community theaters throughout the country. In addition, he received Best Production ariZoni Award of Excellence in the contracted theatre category for his production of “Romeo and Juliet,” a Meritorious Achievement Award for his direction of “13 Rue de L’Amour” from the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival (KCACTF), and he will be recognized in February 2013 for an Excellence in Theatre Education Award by Region VIII of KCACTF. Dressler holds a master of fine arts degree in acting/directing from Utah State University.
Playing Susan Timmerman is Amie M. Bjorklund, who recently graduated with distinction from the Birmingham School of Acting in England. She has appeared as Reno Sweeney in “Anything Goes,” the witch in “Into the Woods,” the narrator in “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” Shelby in “Steel Magnolias,” Sheila in “A Chorus Line” and Mayzie in “Seussical The Musical.”
Returning to the Hale stage as Steve Timmerman is Brett Etzel. Most recently seen in Hale’s musical production of “Rapunzel,” Etzel fell in love with theater in his first starring role in his seventh grade production of “The Phantom of the Soap Opera.” He has since performed in countless shows, including “Noises Off,” “The Man Who Came To Dinner” and “But Why Bump Off Barnaby?”
The role of hit woman Samm McQueen belongs to Kelly Nicole. Nicole’s previous theater roles include Wendy in “Peter Pan,” Viola/Ceseario in Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night,” Gingerbread Witch in the musical version of “Hansel & Gretel,” and Queen Zixi in East Valley Children’s Theatre’s “Queen Zixi of Ix,” for which she was nominated for an ariZoni Theatre Award and a National Youth Theatre Award as Lead Actress. In addition to performing with an improv troupe and a ballroom dance troupe, Nicole has appeared in a TV pilot for a teen game show and in several ASU films. She studies acting at Verve Studios in Scottsdale and was recently signed by Arizona Model and Actor Management.
Matthew Cary returns to the Hale as Sam Gunderson. His other Hale appearances include lead roles in “Harvey,” “The Odd Couple” and “Here Lies Jeremy Troy.” Additional favorite roles include George in “Of Mice and Men,” Jack in “The Importance of Being Earnest,” James in “Children of a Lesser God” and Gabe in “Dinner With Friends,” for which he received an ariZoni Award nomination for Best Actor, 2007. As a director, Cary has staged many productions, including “I Hate Hamlet,” “What the Butler Saw” and “It Runs in the Family,” for which he won Mesa Encore Theatre’s Best Director award, 2005). Cary holds a bachelor’s degree in English from Arizona State University and a master’s degree in education from Northern Arizona University. He presently teaches English, French and sign language at Dobson High School in Mesa.
Returning to the Hale after having performed the role of Bob Ewell in “To Kill a Mockingbird,” Jeff Huffman plays Slavo. Huffman has taken part in nearly 60 stage productions as an actor, director, sound designer and tech crew member. He has played Brick in “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,” Mr. Potter in “It’s a Wonderful Life” and Uncle Louie in “Lost in Yonkers” and has directed such shows as “Laughter on the 23rd Floor” and “The Boys Next Door.” Huffman teaches high school English in Scottsdale.
Making his Hale debut is Nathaniel Tenanbaum, who portrays several different characters throughout the play. Last seen in Mesa Encore Theatre’s “Guys and Dolls” as Nicely Nicely Johnson and in Phoenix Theatre’s “Spamalot,” he spent his summer in Utah as part of the Neil Simon Theatre Festival. Previous credits include “Pygmalion,” for which he earned an ariZoni Award nomination, Benny in “Rent” and Lycus in “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.”
Kate E. Cook, who studies music theatre at Mesa Community College, portrays a number of different characters in “The Hit.” Cook recently played Alice Miller in MCC’s “My Favorite Year and was nominated for an Irene Ryan scholarship. Some of her favorite roles include Belle in “Beauty and the Beast,” Adelaide in “Guys and Dolls” and Philia in “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.”
Show times are Wednesdays (starting Jan. 16) and Thursdays (starting Jan. 3) at 7 p.m., Fridays at 7:30 p.m., and Saturdays at 3 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. There are also two New Year’s Eve performances, one at 6 p.m. and one at 9:30 p.m. Cost is $38 and includes dessert bar, complimentary punch and party favors. Adult ticket price for other performances is $24; youth (ages 6-18) is $10. Purchase tickets online or call the box office at (480) 497-1181.
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