It’s rare that theaters get a chance to revisit a play — but when they do, the play rarely goes on stage the same way it was the first time. Such is the case with the Cape Fear Regional Theatre’s second go at Lunch at the Piccadilly.
    “It’s not exactly the same show. We’re not duplicating what we had before,” explained Steve Umberger, the director of the show. “When we did it the first time, it was brand new to the stage and we got a chance to shake out the wrinkles, but there’s more to be done.”
One of the first things that needed to be done was downsizing the cast. The initial play had a fairly large cast — something that becomes a detriment in trying to get regional theaters to put it on stage. With this rendition, two characters have already been cut from the show, all in order to make the show more “produceable.”
    For Umberger, that’s been a dream in the making. Since directing the first show at the CFRT, he has worked tirelessly to get the show back to the stage. The brief run at the CFRT is designed to prepare the cast for a two week run at the Parkway Playhouse in Burnsville. Umberger said the connection with the audience during the first run was the driving force behind his work to bring it back to the stage.{mosimage}
    “There was so a strong connection with the audience,” he said. “This play touches people on so many different levels. Everybody has some stake in what the characters are going through.”
    The story revolves around a group of residents in a nursing home who decide to “change the world.” Their revolution beings with the teachings of Rev. Flowers, who thinks churches and nursing homes should become one, otherwise known as nurches, to meet the needs of society. When the residents take back control of their lives, hilarity ensues.
    “People get a kick out of the characters written by Clyde Edgerton (the author of the book, which spawned the play).” he continued. “They are so real. It’s a great snapshot of how people think and act.”
    Leading the talented cast is the CFRT’s Artistic Director Bo Thorp. These days, Thorp spends most of her time out of the spotlight, so it is a treat for audiences when she steps onstage  — especially for Umberger. “Bo is one of the first ladies of the theater,” he said. “For some people, theater is at the core of their being, she’s one of them. She’s been doing this 45 plus years, it’s who she is in her soul — it’s not just her life, it’s her reason for being. Directing her has been such a good time. We have a common vision of the play. It’s more fun for us this time around. There’s less angst and more fun.”
    For Patty Curco, a transplanted New Yorker, the revisiting of the play has given her the opportunity to reinvent her character. In the last staging, Curco was asked to come to a reading by Thorp. She thought it was a cold reading just for the director and showed up in casual clothes and no makeup. What she found was an audience. “I must be pretty good at cold readings, because I was asked to join the cast,” she said.
For that staging, she played her role fairly straight. She adopted a southern accent and tried to blend in with the group. For this staging, she sees her character as a transplant much like herself. So she’s playing her that way. “Over the past two years, I’ve thought about her a lot, and thought, why would she have to be a native-born — why couldn’t she be a transplant?”
    Local audiences will have only three opportunities to see the show before it heads to the mountains. The play will open on Friday, July 25, and run through Sunday, July 27. Friday and Saturday night the show begins at 8:15. Tickets are $20. Sunday’s matinee begins at 2:15 p.m. Tickets are $15. Tickets can be purchased by calling the box office at 323-4233.

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