‘Famous Last Words’ to get world premiere at Colonial

JOHNSTOWN – Some marriages are made in heaven. Other marriages are made onstage. Tony Yates and Jennie Pines were married May 31 and will go onstage Friday in “Famous Last Words,” a new play by Richard Romano of Saratoga Springs.

Colonial Little Theatre will present the world premiere of the comedy Friday, Saturday and June 20 and 21 at 7 p.m., and Sunday and June 22 at 2 p.m. All tickets are $12. Call 762-4325 for reservations.

The two-act comedy is directed by Cheryl Charbonneau, who last directed “Moon Over Buffalo” for CLT.

Tony and Jennie met and fell in love in the Classic Theater Guild production of “White Christmas” at Proctors in Schenectady. Tony was playing Phil Davis, the Danny Kaye role, and Jennie was playing Judy Haynes, the Vera-Ellen role.

Now they’re playing Mark Houghton and his girlfriend Liz in “Famous Last Words.”

When 30-something Mark Houghton learns he has six months to live, he has no idea what to do with the time he has left. Help comes from an unlikely source: the Not-So-Grim Reaper himself, Death, who personally and ironically teaches Mark how to live. Death is played by Jarred Aldi.

Tony played several roles in Cheryl’s production of “Almost, Maine” at the Sand Lake Center for the Arts in Averill Park before meeting Jennie in “White Christmas.” When Cheryl was looking for an actress to play Liz in “Famous Last Words,” Tony recommended his then-fiancee.

Jennie was right for the role. An experienced actress with stage and screen credits, she’s won TANYS (Theatre Association of New York State) and Helen Hayes Awards. Jennie has played every role, from the witch in “The Witch of Prague” to a nun in “Doubt.” She said a new play poses more of a challenge. “We’re the first people to be those characters, and I think it’s very interesting to develop the character for others to follow.”

“Famous Last Words” was the hit of Colonial Little Theatre’s 2012 New Play Festival of staged readings. Now, in response to popular demand, it is being presented as a fully-staged production.

Jarred Aldi is no stranger to new plays. He played Tom the college professor in the 2012 reading of “Famous Last Words.”

“I am very honored and lucky to move up, as Death is a bigger part, and very over-the-top, and what I like about playing Death is that there’s many layers. He kind of starts out a little dark and sarcastic,” but then becomes more compassionate, the veteran actor said.

Other roles are played by:

Homer Charbonneau as Tom; Donna Reichel as Tom’s wife, Barbara; Nichole Burkus as Samantha Duggan, Mark’s best friend; Bob Scheldt as Dr. Price; and Joy Canfield as Charlotte Biddlesworth, a 147-year-old reanimated dead woman.

The author has been a writer and analyst for the graphic arts industry for nearly 20 years. “Famous Last Words” is his third play. The first two, “Past and Present Tense” and “Takeoffs and Landings,” were introduced as staged readings in Colonial Little Theatre’s New Play Festival.

He said, “I don’t recall at what point the idea of having Death be a character came to me probably it was the result of having re-watched Woody Allen’s ‘Love and Death,’ one of my favorite movies, and trying to take a heavy, morbid topic and use humor to take the curse off it a bit. I like Jarred’s interpretation of the character, as it gives it an energy that makes it a lot more fun than my original urbane, Aaron Sorkin-like concept.”

The production staff includes:

Lois Colson, stage manager; Brian LaFoe, assistant stage manager; Christopher Reichel, lighting tech; Joseph Allen, assistant lighting tech; Nolan Lane, sound engineer; Joy Canfield, costume and prop coordinator; John Birchler, set construction; Tom Reichel, set painting; and Cheryl Charbonneau, set decor;

The Fulton Montgomery Arts Grants Program is made possible by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature and Saratoga Arts.