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THE PAVILION: A 20th Class Reunion

By Gary Wien

originally published: 12/22/2015

THE PAVILION: A 20th Class ReunionThere’s something about high school reunions to which everyone can relate.  Whether you are the type that looks forward to them or avoids them like the plague; when that 20 year reunion notice comes in the mail it probably causes you to reflect on your life.  Have you accomplished your goals? Did life turn out the way you thought it would? What if you made different choices?

“What if” is the premise behind The Pavilion by Craig Wright, a finalist for the Pulitzer prize in 2000 that was nominated for the American Theatre Critics Association Best New Play Award and a 2005-2006 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Play.  Alliance Repertory Theatre brings this play to Summit in January.  Directed by Michael Driscoll, the play features Erik Gaden (Peter), Sarah Kuhns (Kari), and Brad Howell (Narrator).

The play follows Peter back to his small hometown in Minnesota for his 20th high school reunion (Class of ’95).  He’s also on a mission to win back Kari, his ex-girlfriend from school that he left behind when she was pregnant.  

“He just split 20 years ago,” explained Driscoll.  “He has hopes of winning her back, but she’s very bitter about the whole situation and now she’s married… By the end of the night both Peter and Kari basically start back with a new found strength for their lives to move forward, but it’s done with a bittersweet resolve. It’s a beautiful play.  It’s romantic, it’s funny, and it’s philosophical at times.  It has everything that a good play should have.”

Driscoll saw the play many years ago in New York and always wanted to do it, but it’s a tricky play to cast. The play revolves around Peter and Kari who should both be strong actors and appear 37 years old.  And then there’s the Narrator who guides the audience through the people met during the reunion.  The role requires both male and female voices and demands an actor adept at dramatic and comedic scenes — a combination which normally makes it a difficult role to cast. Fortunately, Driscoll had worked with Howell on a previous play and thought he would be perfect for the role.  He saw the role as a nice challenge and was interested.  Once Howell was on board, Driscoll began holding auditions for the other two roles.

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The role of Peter was found through the auditions, but he didn’t find a good match for Kari.  After looking through old files, he found Sarah Kuhns who he had worked with over a dozen years ago at the Villagers Theatre.

“Sometimes it’s weird how casting shows actually fall into place,” said Driscoll.  “We are a repertory company in the sense that we have a repertory of actors, but none of them quite fit the right age range.”

Sarah Kuhns actually went to her reunion earlier this year.  She noticed the same old stories that we often see in movies about reunions — the good looking guy is now bald and overweight, the popular girl was unhappy in life, and the ugly duckling wound up being gorgeous.  Originally from Kansas, Kuhns could relate to the character names in the play that Driscoll thought were funny.  She told him, “they’re not funny names in Kansas!”

Alliance Repertory Theatre often presents plays at Mondo in Summit, NJ which offers a very intimate space for them.  The space lends itself more to character-driven works like The Pavilion.  Recent plays for the company include Venus In Fur and Five Lesbians Eating A Quiche.

“We’re in a very small space,” continued Driscoll.  “We can’t do plays that have big sets or complicated lighting systems.   So we have to find plays that are simple, yet intriguing.   For me, this is a play I’d like to see and that’s what it comes down to.  I told the audience at Five Lesbians Eating A Quiche to come see this play because it’ll warm your heart on a cold January night.  It’s that kind of play.  It has dramatic moments, but it’s funny and the ending is incredibly moving.”

In the end, the play is all about second chances, reflecting on the great what if, and changing history.  Hoping to change its course, Peter asks the Narrator, “Can you start the entire universe all over again?”

The answer, of course, is that the universe only goes in one direction.  Will it go in Peter’s?


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Center Players Presents "The Emperor's New Duds"
(FREEHOLD, NJ) --  Center Players Dessert Theater will present a family-friendly production of “The Emperor’s New Duds” at Center Playhouse, 35 South St, in downtown Freehold, NJ from December 7 – 16. A musical adaptation of Hans Christian Anderson’s the “Emperor’s New Clothes,” the play was written by Bernice Garfield-Szita, who co-directed the production with Enid Bush.
Centenary Stage’s Young Performers Workshop presents 2018 Winter Festival of Shows
(HACKETTSTOWN, NJ) -- Based on the Gospel According to St. Matthew with music and new lyrics by Stephen Schwartz, Godspell is composed of various musical parables from The Gospel. Jesus Christ recruits a group of followers and teaches them various lessons through song and dance. Toward the end of the second act, the show begins to follow a more linear narrative as Jesus is betrayed by Judas and eventually crucified. Performances are Sunday, December 9 at 5:00pm; Saturday, December 15 at 8pm and Sunday, December 16 at 7:30pm.
The Shakespeare Theatre Presents "The Winter's Tale"
(MADISON, NJ) -- The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey’s concludes its 56th season with its sixth and final Main Stage production, The Winter's Tale. Last seen at The Shakespeare Theatre in 2008, Artistic Director Bonnie J. Monte directs this production of Shakespeare’s tragicomedic romance. Veteran company members Jacqueline Antaramian, Jon Barker, Erin Partin, John Keabler, Raphael Nash Thompson,Seamus Mulcahy, Patrick Toon, and Ames Adamson are among a cast of 20 actors. Performances run from December 5 to December 30. 
American Theater Group Announces Full Cast & Creative For "Tell Them I'm Still Young"
(SOUTH ORANGE, NJ) -- American Theater Group has announced the full cast and creative team for its World Premiere production of Tell Them I’m Still Young, a new play by Julia Doolittle, which will run at the South Orange Performing Arts Center from January 24 - February 3, 2019. Joining the previously announced Andre Braugher (Homicide: Life on the Streets, Men of a Certain Age, Brooklyn Nine-Nine) andMichele Pawk (Hollywood Arms, Hairspray, Mamma Mia) are Janice Amaya (Seen/Unseen) and Seth Clayton (The Madrid).
Holmdel Theatre Company Presents 'ART'
(HOLMDEL, NJ) – The Holmdel Theatre Company (HTC) will present 6 performances of Yasmina Reza’s ‘ART’  from December 7th through December 16th. Translated from French by Christopher Hampton, the play tells the story of what happens when Serge buys an expensive painting, and the reactions of his two closest friends, Marc and Yvan, to his purchase. As what begins as a discussion about the quality of the painting that Serge has purchased quickly devolves into petty jabs and personal attacks, the three men border on destroying their friendships.

Broadway’s Mandy Gonzalez LIVE! at Toms River’s Grunin Center
Broadway is in the house at Toms River, NJ’s Grunin Center for the Arts with a Fearless live concert performance by Broadway star, Mandy Gonzalez!
"The Spitfire Grill" and Caitlin Geisser Return To Their Roots
“I saw something in her that you rarely come across,” recalled Ted Wioncek III, Artistic Director at Eagle Theatre in Hammonton. “She’s more than wise beyond her years; I believe she’s going to be a game-changer and a trendsetter for this art form.”
Broadway’s Next H!T Musical LIVE! at Toms River’s Grunin Center
It’s Friday, October 26, 2018, and the Broadway’s Next H!T Musical cast is just about ready to take the stage at the Jay and Linda Grunin Center for the Arts, located on the campus of Ocean County College in Toms River, NJ.
The Last Apple Pie: "Apples In Winter" Opens At Centenary Stage
Jennifer Fawcett’s new play centers around a mother in a kitchen, doing something countless people across America will take part in over the upcoming holiday season: making an apple pie.
See Andrea McArdle LIVE! in Annie at Deal Park’s Axelrod PAC!
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Event calendar
Saturday, Nov 17, 2018


THE GAY BLADES @ The Saint, Asbury Park - 7:30pm

HERMAN'S HERMITS STARRING PETER NOONE & THE BUCKINGHAMS @ Bergen Performing Arts Center (bergenPAC), Englewood - 8:00pm

Nelson Riveros Trio: “The Latin Side of Wes Montgomery” @ Englewood Public Library, Englewood - 7:00pm

Hawaiian Music and Hula @ 1867 Sanctuary at Ewing, Ewing - 8:00pm

Pop 2000 Tour @ iPlay America, Freehold - 7:00pm

THE MACHINE PERFORMS PINK FLOYD @ The Strand Theater, Lakewood - 8:00pm


Todd Barry at SOPAC @ South Orange Performing Arts Center (SOPAC), South Orange - 8:00pm

Swamp Boogie Trio @ Lizzie Rose Music Room, Tuckerton - 7:30pm


Annie @ Broad Street United Methodist Church, Burlington - 8:00pm

An Actor's Carol @ Cape May Stage, Cape May - 3:00pm and 7:30pm

Annie @ Axelrod Performing Arts Center, Deal Park - 2:00pm and 8:00pm

Apples In Winter @ Centenary Stage Company - Kutz Theater of the Lackland Center, Hackettstown - 8:00pm

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat @ The Levoy Theatre, Millville - 8:00pm

Billy Bishop Goes to War @ Bickford Theatre at the Morris Museum, Morristown - 2:00pm

Kiss Me Kate @ Broadway Theatre of Pitman, Pitman - 2:00pm and 8:00pm

Phoenix Productions Presents: The Hunchback of Notre Dame @ Count Basie Center For The Arts, Red Bank - 8:00pm

Enchanted April @ The Summit Playhouse, Summit - 8:00pm

Heathers, The Musical High School Edition @ Pebble Players, Oakes Center, Summit - 7:30pm

Junie B. Jones The Musical at Black Box PAC @ Black Box PAC, Teaneck - 11:00am

Into the Woods @ Studio Playhouse Upper Montclair, Upper Montclair - 8:00pm

The Drowsy Chaperone @ Lauren K. Woods Theatre at Monmouth University, West Long Branch - 8:00pm


Todd Barry at SOPAC @ South Orange Performing Arts Center (SOPAC), South Orange - 8:00pm


BALLET FOLKLORICO DE MEXICO @ Mayo Performing Arts Center (MPAC), Morristown - 8:00pm


ROALD DAHL’S WILLY WONKA JR. @ Ridgewood Ave School Theater, Glen Ridge - 1:00pm and 7:00pm


Mainebiz Health Care Forum @ Mainebiz Health Care Forum, Newyork - 8:00pm

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