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Village Players Tackle End of World

Hatboro's community theater is putting the finishing touches on its next play, "Early One Evening at The Rainbow Bar & Grille."

The world is coming to an end. What do you do? The ' upcoming performance explores just that.

"Early One Evening at The Rainbow Bar & Grille" is an apocalyptic drama with a tinge of comedy set in a small town in "Pennsyltucky" that focuses on a group of six people who interact at a local watering hole.

"No one really knows what's going on inside or outside of the bar," director Ron Green explained.

The cause of the impending doom is never clear, but the bar-goers all discuss what they plan to do during their last day on Earth.

Bartender Shep hangs at work and debates taking his life. Roy plans to go to Disneyland, but needs to have a few beers first. Willie goes on a rampage and kills her husband. Shirley starts checking items off her bucket list, and Virginia's about to travel out west. 

It's 2012. In the wake of all the hype that the world is ending later this year, Green decided he wanted to update the play to have it take place present day. 

"I thought it would be a fun time to do a show [about] the end of the world," he said.

The original script debuted 26 years ago. In order to make the show more accessible for a wider audience, Green said he had to change some of the content.

For example, a reference to Ed McMahon as Johnny Carson's sidekick was replaced with a mention of Ryan Seacrest and his role on "American Idol." The original screenplay also mentioned former "CBS Evening News" broadcaster Dan Rather, but Green updated it to a more current reporter, Anderson Cooper.

One aspect that Green refused to change was the recurring discussion of how the bar's TV only plays one show: "I Love Lucy."

"It's a symbol of feeling good about yourself," the director explained. "It's a constant to turn to and just laugh."

He said he believes "I Love Lucy" still resonates with all ages. And if the younger members of the audience don't remember the show, maybe they shouldn't be in the audience to begin with.

Some of the subject matter is for a mature audience. Whether it's because of sexual innuendo or the contemplation of suicide, actress Beverly Sharp (who plays Virginia) said "Early One Evening" is not a children-friendly play.

"The audience should at least be somewhere in high school," she said. 

This way, Sharp said, the audience will also understand the bigger meaning of the show.

"It wraps a lot of things up, but it does have a deeper meaning in there," she explained. "A hope. A possibility."

"Early One Evening" is Sharp's favorite play, she said. The first time she saw the show, she said she remembered just sitting in her seat in disbelief.

"Oh my God. Did that just happen?" she said she remembers thinking. "And I just sat there and thought, 'what would I do?' "

Many community theatres put on family-friendly shows in order to draw a bigger crowd, she said. But the Village Players have been leaning more toward dramas that leave the audience contemplating their life, Sharp said. That's one reason why she wanted to audition.

Her main reason for auditioning was that she's wanted to play the role of Virginia her entire acting career. 

"She's a very responsible person," Sharp said of her character. "[The show] says a lot about strong women. She's going to take charge and guide it and get it done the way it should be done."

Director Green actually played Roy several years back in another production of "Early One Evening." Having had experience with that character, he was able to think of the perfect actor to play the part. Alex Howey (who plays Roy) said Green called him and offered him the part without having him audition. Howey said he was excited about the opportunity because of the show's content.

"I love the whole apocalyptic, zombie stories," he laughed. "Though there aren't any zombies in this play."

But not all of the actors were familiar with the play. Coz Baldwin—who plays Shep—said he attended the audition with the intention of being an assistant director for the show. He ended up reading along with the actors as they auditioned. He realized the character was identical to him and that he really enjoyed the script.

"I accidentally read very well," he said. So Green offered him the role. "It just worked out."

Baldwin's Hatboro community theater debut is also his first on-stage kiss ... kisses, actually. Shep is the last item on Shirley's bucket list and his first kiss of the night. Later, he smooches with gym teacher, Virginia, before deciding to head back to her house to spend their last night alive together.

Unfortunately (or fortunately?) their plans are halted. In walks, a mysterious man who easily uses the phone that hasn't really been working, addresses Shep and Virginia by name—though they've never met—and the first act ends.

Who's the strange man? Patch won't tell!

Head to the Village Players Theater on one of the and find out how the play ends: March 9, 10, 16, 17, 23 and 24 at 8 p.m., or March 11 and 18 at 2 p.m.

Cast: Coz Baldwin as Shep, Alex Howey as Roy, Jacquelyn Green as Willie, Jim Palmer as Bullard, Colleen Mackle as Shirley, Beverly Sharp as Virginia and John Weber as Joe.

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