What do you get when you combine a lovelorn teacher, a motley bunch of students, a couple of thieving females and a couple who aren’t sure they do and stick them in a community center during a snow storm?
Twin Beach Players will tell you exactly what it all adds up to when it stages “Closed for the Holidays,” which opens tonight at the Boys & Girls Club in North Beach.
The play, which has a cast of 39 – mostly preteens — and the 74-page script lasts 2 ½ hours, even has a pre-show with plenty of improv written by the young actors. And it’s different in the fact there is no stage; most of the performance is played out in the middle of the room.
“One of the lines literally is ‘It’s just a room with awful acoustics’ and it really made me laugh because that’s exactly [the kind of venue] we have,” said director Terry McKinstry, who has run the Kids Playwriting Festival the past three years and last directed “Hope Chest” in 2017. “So I was really excited about doing a play in a community center. We’ve had some problems to solve but that’s what drew me to it.”
Both McKinstry and assistant director have roles in the play, which was written by Flip Kobler and Cindy Marcus.
There are some witty lines in the play.
“I need something for my mom,” says Toby, who is played by Lacey Shreiner. “She has to have a gift to open on Christmas. Not just a gift, a great gift, a perfect gift. It’s a way I can tell her I love her. I can’t just tell her. That’s gross. She’s my mother. Ick.”
When Lilly (played by Riley Nickolaus) meets an elf, she’s more than consumed to know what it’s like.
“Are you on your feet all day? Do you have to take the pictures with Santa yourself? Are the kids a pain? Do you work for the mall or an outside agency? Are these bags props? Are they heavy?”
Then there’s RJ, who is convinced he’s a Christmas curse.
“One year I got my head stuck up a chimney [and] my dad climbed on the roof and dropped grapes down so I had something to eat until the paramedics arrived,” says RJ, who wears a large silver medallion in order to keep good holiday mojo. “Another year a reindeer bit me at a petting zoo. I had to get 12 stitches in my butt, [and] when I was six I fell asleep waiting to see Santa at the mall and got locked in overnight.”
RJ is portrayed by Gus Weaver, who is making his stage debut.
“I guess the hardest part was just learning the character,” said, Weaver, 12, who is homeschooled. “But it’s a lot of fun.”
The lovelorn teacher, Flo, is doing her best to help everything go as planned at the community center until help arrives, but she’s also frenetic and scurries around the stage.
“She’s not prepared for this, but I think she really is prepared and knows what’s going on,” said Katie Evans, who plays Flo and is performing with her children David (who plays Deputy Dot), Mary (Mars Bars) and Michael (Mike). “It’s good. It has its ups and downs but it’s nice to do something as a family, and it gives my husband a break.”
Veteran actor Jeff Larsen plays a less-than-brilliant sheriff who wants to save the day.
“We’ve had a rash of burglaries,” he says. “Well we don’t know they’re not terrorists. And it’s the holidays, a time for wishes to come true. So I could catch some terrorists [and] it’s my professional opinion that the perps are still here and I need to tackle and shackle before that yardbird does a foot bail.”
Hailey Croce plays lead elf Bjorn, and Ethan Nelson plays Kieth, a doctor whose premiums are so high he’s unable to treat an injured student outside his practice.
“Everybody in it has a good time,” McKinstry said. “It’s also a great story and has a little bit of magic in it and it’s just a lot of fun.”
Twin Beach Players will stage “Closed for the Holidays” 8 p.m. Friday, Nov. 29; Saturday, Nov. 30; Friday, Dec. 6; Saturday, Dec. 7; Friday, Dec. 13; and Saturday, Dec. 14; and 3 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 1; Sunday, Dec. 8; and Sunday, Dec. 15 at the Boys & Girls Club, 9021 Dayton Ave. in North Beach.
Tickets are $15, $13 for seniors, students military and members.
For more information, call 410-610-2157, or go to www.twinbeachplayers.com.