'Suite' dreams

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— Marked by a blue awning and a 95-seat wooden interior, the Seventh Street Playhouse contains the passion and energy of a Broadway cast inside.

Although no Broadway actors have emerged from the theater adjacent to the old junior high school, it has just enough room to yield famous Broadway productions such as Neil Simon's 1969 "Plaza Suite."

In the second production of the year, Steamboat Community Players will present an eight-member cast to reenact a play containing three sub-plays. While the audience sits back to view the performance through the "peep hole" of a suite in the famous Plaza Hotel in New York, actors reveal the dramatic and comedic epiphanies of life.

In the first storyline, Karen Nash tries to re-seduce her husband into a second honeymoon getaway at the Plaza. What Karen doesn't know is that Sam is having an affair and the marriage already is over in his eyes. Revelations about life and her marriage strike Karen abruptly while the play moves on to the second scenario.

Cesare Rosati (Sam Nash) said he has been a comrade in the community players since 1997 and also is on the board of directors. "I think it's interesting," Rosati said of the play. "It reminds me of short one-act plays. In essence, it's three separate plays."

With the flight of Karen and Sam Nash, comes a New Jersey-born Hollywood producer who returns to the northeast looking for other producers and his high school sweetheart. Now that he's made it big and after so many years neither are the same and the encounter is as disappointing as 'California women,' he realizes.

Although the first two stories are heavy and melodramatic, the third brings light and playful energy to the stage. The daughter of a blue-collar couple has decided to get married in the Plaza Hotel, but after too many butterflies, she won't come out of the bathroom. With yelling from the father and histrionic dramatizations from the mother, the daughter emerges finally from the bathroom. The ending, however, is a surprise.

"This is definitely the most slapstick of the three," said Nina Rogers, female actor and president of the board of directors. "There's more adult or sophisticated comedy in our plays."

While the plays presented at the playhouse don't contain any offensive language or nudity, the chosen plays will not intrigue those 12 and under, Rogers said.

"The family-show genre is limited, so we try to pick a balance," Rogers said. "When you say comedy and when you say Neil Simon, you get a good response."

With at least four major productions a year, interspersed with minor productions, about 20-25 consistent actors make up the Steamboat Community Players. Because the non-profit organization "is a labor of love," not all are available to audition for each production because of other priorities.

But Rogers said exactly enough people auditioned for the parts available and even she has to act in one piece.

"I'd rather act than direct, but now I get the best of both worlds because I get to act too," Rogers said.

Charles Scearce, a first-time actor, will make his debut in "Plaza Suite," something he said took him years to overcome. Being in all three scenarios, Scearce said finally he's broken out of his shell.

"I wasn't even a tree in a kindergarten play," Scearce said. "This was a leap of faith. I'm trying to break out of my comfort zone."

In its rampant season from September to May, Seventh Street Playhouse pays its bills with partial support from playbill advertisers to ticket sales.

Because the summer offers so many options to visitors and residents of Steamboat, Rogers said she does not want major productions to interfere with these events.

A native of the Chicago suburbs, Rogers said she experimented with plays when she was younger, but high school was intimidating. After getting over her insecurities, she sang and performed in coffee houses in the early '80s until she moved to Steamboat and joined the community players.

When Rogers came to be director three years ago, she said the organization and the intent of the players needed inspiration and drive.

"They went event to event with no long, future vision," Rogers said. "We had to start saying, 'Let's figure out what we're doing and then get funding."

With amour and gusto, the Steamboat Community Players, and their varied backgrounds, will present a play with the vitality of the Broadway actors, but with the experience of a small town.

"I've always had a fantasy of acting," Scearce said. "It's extremely liberating. My whole intention is to learn."

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