Frenemies. The word may be new to the English lexicon, but the idea is not.
Literature throughout time is sprinkled with those frenemies—friends who come along with a healthy dose of rivalry. Opening April 15 at Open Stage of Harrisburg, the “frenemies” in Horton Foote’s “The Old Friends” are enduring and relatable. Family battles, money, booze and affairs abound in a small town in Texas that could be a small town anywhere. Including right here in central PA.
“The Old Friends” is set in 1965 and circles around matriarch Mamie Borden and the remaining members of two long-time Texas farming families as they await a visit from Mamie’s son Hugo and his wife, Sibyl. When Sibyl arrives, alone, with news that surprises them all, old friends must address the issues they have carried with them all of their lives. But don’t let the plot fool you. This is no drama, but a comedic look at these old friends as they stumble through their lives.
“The people are caught within a vortex that just keeps going round and round,” explains Director Donald Alsedek. “If nothing changes, nothing changes. They try to get out and go forward.”
But these characters struggle to break free, reliving high school successes and failures 30 years after the fact. The character of Sibyl Borden is one of the few who did get away—only to find nothing has changed in the 30 years since she left and that her escape was not necessarily worth the cost.
“It’s amazing to watch what these people say!” says Kelli Kauterman, who portrays Sibyl. “They live in a small town. They’re bored. They have enough money to play around, to use their power and money and influence to affect people’s lives.”
“I think there is part of us that can relate to those feelings. When you’re bored, you tend to do things that aren’t the best choices,” says Lisa Haywood who, back on the stage after a four-year hiatus, portrays the wealthy, philandering Julia Price.
While audiences may not be very familiar with playwright Horton Foote—or with “The Old Friends,” which first premiered on Broadway in 2013—this is not a show to be missed. Comparisons to Chekhov abound from the director and the cast. Foote uses characters familiar to us all, portraying them in an honest, if unflattering, light.
Horton Foote was a prolific, award-winning playwright who also wrote for television and film. He garnered two Oscars for “Best Adapted Screenplay” for “To Kill a Mockingbird” and best original screenplay for “Tender Mercies.” Foote was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for his play “The Young Man from Atlanta.” Alsedek says that Foote doesn’t get the recognition he deserves.
“He is a delightful playwright,” he says. “What makes this play fun is the way Foote depicts the characters.”
It’s also an “Open Stage kind of play,” Alsedek states.
“If it’s a comedy, it still gets visitors to ask questions, open their minds, make connections and comparisons,” he says.
Kauterman agrees. “You might not know the show, but you will know these people,” he says. “You’re going to know someone in this play.”
And, he adds, you’ll be guaranteed to laugh—and likely feel better about your own life.
Producing Artistic Director Donald Alsedek directs a skilled cast that includes Anne Alsedek, Lisa Haywood, Kelli Kauterman, Dan Burke, Philip Narsh, Hallie Spencer Harmon, Mark Douglas Cuddy and Ann Rhoads.
“The Old Friends” runs April 15 to May 1. Tickets can be purchased online at openstagehbg.com or by phone at 717-232-6736 or at the box office. Open Stage is located on the street level of the Walnut Street parking garage in downtown Harrisburg. The street entrance to the theater is on Court Street between Walnut and Market streets.
April Theatre Events
At Harrisburg’s Professional Downtown Theatres
AT GAMUT THEATRE
An evening of improvisational comedy, featuring five of our area’s top improv theatre troupes
Popcorn Hat Players’ presents “Snow White”
April 8 to 10
Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m.; Sunday at 2:30 p.m.
Popcorn Hat Players present “Rumplestiltskin”
April 13 to 30
Saturdays at 1 p.m.
Wednesday and Thursday performances available for groups of 20+ in advance.
TMI Improv Troupe MainStage Show
Bar opens at 6:30 p.m.
Show starts at 7:30 p.m.
Pay what you will
Shakespeare’s Birthday Celebration
Annual Spring Fling to support Gamut Theatre!
4 to 7 p.m.
AT OPEN STAGE OF HARRISBURG
“The Old Friends”
A comedy by Horton Foote
April 15 to May 1
With these special events:
- 4/15 opening night with reception
- 4/21 & 4/28 Thrifty Thursday
w/limited $15 tickets
THE CAPITAL 10-MILER
A Run for the Arts
Saturday, April 2 at 9 a.m.
Registration begins at 8 a.m.