High shenanigans: Play to entertain with the ludicrous, absurd

From left, Alexa Strubhart, Bruce Gonzales, Kole Kibler and Joe Adams rehearse for Leading Ladies. Photo by Travis M. Whitehead

HARLINGEN — Meet Kole and Jorge.

They play the “Leading Ladies” in a performance at Harlingen Performing Arts Conservatory about two men trying to fool a wealthy woman into thinking they are her long lost nieces.

Why?

Good old-fashioned greed, of course.

“ We’re dressing them up,” said Director Steven Kalich. “They want to get the inheritance.”

The play was going to show for one day, which was yesterday. However, tickets quickly sold out so an encore presentation will be given Tuesday night.

Cast members are eager to show their stuff.

“ I like the zaniness of the play,” said Jorge Gonzalez, 15, who plays Jack Gable, one of the con men. Jorge is in the musical theater track of the Conservatory, so performing in a comedy of this sort is a new experience.

“ I dress up as a woman and get into some shenanigans,” said Jorge, a sophomore Conservatory student.

Shenanigans is right. Kalich explains that a Rev. Duncan Wooley played by Keoni Vega is onto them and constantly trying to catch them in their deception.

“ He’s the antagonist of the show,” Kalich explained. “He’s marrying another one of the old woman’s nieces who’s living with her and he suspects the guys are frauds.”

Keoni, 15, is enjoying his role.

“ It’s really going to be a sight to see,” said Keoni, a sophomore Conservatory student.

While the Conservatory has already produced a couple of music-based performances from the musical theater track, this work is from the straight theater track, Kalich said.

“ This play in particular just seemed like a challenge for our group,” he said. “It was something that we hadn’t really tackled before. We thought we could have fun working with the kids with just a different style of acting than they’re used to, just to broaden their horizons.”

And broaden it has, in more ways than one.

Last month the Conservatory hosted guest artist Arthur Bryan Marroquin from Los Angeles to work with the kids.

“ I’m really trying to breathe life into it and ground it and really have the kids feel and connect with it,” said Marroquin, a Weslaco native who has been in numerous TV and film productions.

“ All acting is about connection and relationships,” he said. “I’ve really just been trying to get the kids to learn that.”

Working on a project like “Leading Ladies” has been a joy for him.

“ It’s a really funny farce,” he said. “What I’m trying to do at the end of the day, I want people to come in and see the show and not think, ‘Oh, what a good show for high school.’ I want people to say, ‘Oh, what a good play with great actors.’”

The kids enjoyed working with him, too.

“ It’s been awesome to have someone come down to the Valley, someone who’s been successful,” Keoni said. “We’ve learned a lot in terms of differentiation of theater and film and how different those worlds really are.”

But Marroquin talked to them about more than just stage craft.

“ One day we spent on the business of being an actor, another we spent on film camera acting and how you would approach a film audition in the real world of Los Angeles,” he said.

The kids appreciated the extra instruction.

“ I learned a lot of things I didn’t know earlier and that my peers weren’t familiar with either,” said Keoni. “It was very helpful. It’s all been great.”

The play is being delivered in a black box style stage. This will allow it to be presented in a more intimate setting to make the audience feel as though it’s part of the drama. This is a first for the Harlingen school district.

If You Go

WHAT: Leading Ladies
WHEN: Tuesday at 7:30 p.m.
WHERE: Harlingen Performing Arts Conservatory, 3217 Wilson Rd.
ADMISSION: $15
TICKETS: hcisdpa.org

CAST:

Meg Snider – Natalie Perez
Leo Clark – Kole Kibler
Jack Gable – Jorge Gonzales
Audrey – Alexa Strubhart
Rev. Duncan Wooley – Keoni Vega
Florence – Abigail Burton
Doctor Myers – Joe Adams
Butch Myers – Bruce Gonzales
Conductor/Moose Frank – Faith George Ann Zepeda

twhitehead@valleystar.com