The Dramateurs at the Barn Playhouse in West Norriton performed “A Little Night Music” Sunday afternoon, and we were there. It was marvelous, and well worth the $15-$17 a ticket. We cannot sufficiently stress that community theater in the suburbs offers affordable family entertainment, and it doesn’t require a trip into the city, or big bucks for parking.
Based on Ingmar Bergman’s “Smiles Of A Summer Night,” the play is a summer idyll about mismatched couples and the importance of seizing and appreciating life’s rare wonderful moments, because they are fleeting.
The music and lyrics are by Stephen Sondheim, including the wistful song, “Send in the Clowns.” Those familiar with the lyrics know the clowns don’t have to be sent in - they are here in the persons of us all.
Director Steve Arcidiacono writes in the program notes that he and his wife attended the play on Broadway two years ago when Bernadette Peters and Elaine Stritch were in the leading roles. He knew nothing about the play, but the song, “Send in the Clowns,” and found himself enthralled “with the beauty and power of the show, especially the music, which I feel is Sondheim’s strongest score.” On the ride home, he vowed to bring the play to life closer to home.
He has, and it’s a good thing. Arcidiacono, also president of Narberth Community Theatre and a director since 1981, has staged the play as a turn-of-century drawing room farce, complete with remarkable costumes.
In one picnic-on-the-green tableau, the whole cast appears in white - men in suits, the ladies in dresses and elegant hats and parasols - as if ready to have their photograph taken. Not only is the tableau gorgeous - it harkens back to a more genteel era when people dressed up, even for recreation, and manners were refined. Sitting in the audience with our iPhone in our lap after having handled a week of crime reporting, the elegance was refreshing.
The cast was great, but we especially liked Lauren Kerstetter as Desiree. She delivered a nuanced, tender “Send in the Clowns,” and the audience loved it.
The play runs Aug. 31 and Sept. 1, 7 and 8. The playhouse, which really is a renovated barn, is on Rittenhouse Boulevard in Norristown, PA 19403. For information, call 610-539-2276 or visit: http://www.barnplayhouse.org/