Professional and community theater companies whose high standards approach the professional level are proliferating in the mid-Hudson Valley, and the latest addition is BeatTheater. Founded by Pam Tate, an actor, playwright, singer and producer who heads a summer cabaret program at Yale University, and Marianne Matthews, a theater actor trained at the Actors’ Studio Drama School (the two women, who have worked together for 25 years, are both based in New York City and own weekend homes in New Paltz), BeatTheater presented its first production, Behind the Mask, written by Tate, at Stella May Theatre last June.
Its second production, A. R. Gurney’s Crazy Mary, will be performed at Unison Arts on Friday and Saturday, January 27 and 28 and Saturday, February 4 at 8 p.m. and on Sunday, February 5 at 2 p.m. Reserved tickets cost $18 general admission, $14 for Unison members and $12 for seniors on the Sunday matinée performance only. Call (845) 255-1559 to make a reservation. Tickets at the door will cost $2 more.
Matthews, who stars in the production with Tate – it will be directed by Sean Marrinan – said that the play is a crowd-pleaser, offering lots of laughs yet tinged with real poignancy beneath the humor. It’s about the descendent of a wealthy family from Buffalo and her college-aged son, who pay a visit to their long-lost cousin Mary in an attempt to cash in on a family inheritance. It turns out Mary has been confined to an asylum, and in order to get through to her, mother and son have to resort to various radical tactics. The play premiered Off-Broadway in 2007, starring Sigourney Weaver and Kristine Nielsen.
Matthews said that this production switches the gender of one of the roles, and it is staged in such a way that the audience is immersed in the action, with people having to walk through the set to get to their seats. “It’s going to be fun,” she said. “They’re going to feel part of it.”