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Group performs Neil Simon’s Chapter Two

BY JOSIE JONES | APRIL 29, 2010 7:30 AM

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Caroline Sheerin aspires to be “Glee” actress Jane Lynch. Or at least the TV show inspired the 38-year-old to audition for a play for the first time since high school.

“Getting back into it didn’t feel stressful,” she said. “It felt fun.”

Sheerin will perform in Chapter Two at 7:30 p.m. Friday in the Iowa City Community Theatre production at the Johnson County Fairgrounds, 4265 Oak Crest Hill Road S.E. The show will continue through May 9 at 7:30 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. on Sundays. Admission ranges from $10 for students to $15 for adults.

Chapter Two follows the story of George Schneider, a professional writer who is still mourning after his wife’s death, when he meets Jennie, an up-and-coming actor who is recently divorced. The two middle-age singles fall the cliché head-over-heels in love and then into marriage quite quickly. The romantic comedy is about adults attempting to move on and discover if true love can really happen a second time.

Director Brian Tanner believes that the baggage the characters bring to the story doesn’t allow Chapter Two to be a traditional boy-meets-girl play. The complexity of the pairs’ past is a hurdle in their new relationships.

“It’s very interesting for me to see these adult relationships,” he said. “It’s about how you deal with the past and how you bring that into a new life.”

In effort to help the four actors get into character more easily, the director spent a week of rehearsals focusing on character analysis. Tanner asked specific questions of the performers in order to create a detailed back story for their complicated histories. He thinks examining the situations in which the character has lived affects many aspects of the show.

“I think the more an actor can understand the character, the more you’re going to see that in the performance,” he said.

The director’s intense yet receptive attitude is something actor David Pierce believes works well for the production.

“[Tanner] is very open to us bringing our own stuff into it, trying out our stuff, and making it a truly collaborative effort among the entire cast and the director,” said Pierce, 50.

Though a romantic comedy, Chapter Two has dramatic scenes, too. In fact, Pierce said, the variety the script presents makes the performance fun while still allowing the characters to have depth.

Perhaps the reason the actors relate to Chapter Two so well is because the play is somewhat autobiographical for playwright Neil Simon. The script is a lot more personal and intimate than most of his other plays, such as the comedies Rumors and The Odd Couple, Tanner said.

“[The play] holds up a mirror to everyone that sees it,” the director said. “It reflects light back at you so you can examine your own relationships, too. You can definitely see yourself in at least one of these characters.”

The cast believes the play will round out the 54th season of the Community Theatre nicely because it is accessible to a range of audiences.

“It’s a small, intimate show with a big name that should be a pretty nice cap to a big season,” Tanner said.

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