Shadowland in Ellenville launches summer season

Shadowland is nearing completion of a two-and-a-half-year, $1 million upgrade, with the auditorium expanded to 186 refurbished seats.

Shadowland is nearing completion of a two-and-a-half-year, $1 million upgrade, with the auditorium expanded to 186 refurbished seats.

Shadowland Theatre will be bigger, better-looking and more active than ever this season, its 29th. The Theatre itself is nearing completion of a two-and-a-half-year, $1 million upgrade, with the auditorium expanded to 186 refurbished seats, which are much more comfortable than the old ones. It has also undergone an elegant makeover that’s modern yet has Art Deco and industrial touches that perfectly complement the historic 1920s former vaudeville theatre. There are also now proper dressing rooms for the actors.

The Ellenville-based Theatre has also acquired another building, donated by a fan and located around the block, which is being used for rehearsals and classes for kids. Eventually, Shadowland hopes to upgrade the 5,300-square-foot storefront space into a 99-seat theatre, said artistic director Brendan Burke.

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These improvements to the facility complement the quality plays and productions that have made Ellenville a theatre hot spot. The high point of this season’s offerings is a new play by John Cariani, a Tony Award-nominated actor whose play Almost Maine – produced at Shadowland in 2009 – is the most-produced play in the nation, according to Burke. Love/Sick “is the dark cousin to Almost Maine,” he said. “We’re privileged to be the second theatre in the county to develop the play: a real coup.” Burke described the play as a “bittersweet romantic comedy” that consists of “ten little slices of life on one particular evening.” Love/Sick will be performed Thursdays through Sundays from June 21 through July 7.

The season opens on May 31 through June 16 with another new play, The Outgoing Tide, by Bruce Graham, a Philadelphia-based playwright, which chronicles a family’s last days of summer on the Chesapeake Bay. “It’s a wonderfully written play about aging gracefully and family forgiveness,” said Burke.

The Outgoing Tide will be followed July 12 through August 4 with a 1960s farce, Boeing Boeing, in which an American businessman carefully coordinates his visits to three different flight attendant girlfriends in Paris: a scheme that falls apart with the invention of a new, faster jet engine. A 2008 revival of the play was nominated for a Tony, and the Shadowland production will use the same updated script.

This year’s musical will be The Marvelous Wonderettes: Caps and Gowns, the sequel to Shadowland’s 2010 hit. “It broke our box office records,” Burke said. The girls of Springfield High belt out hits of the 1950s and ‘60s, reviving the irresistible harmonies and rhythms of girl groups from the period.

Following The Marvelous Wonderettes, which plays from August 9 to September 8, is a play about the birth of Alcoholics Anonymous in 1935, titled Bill W. and Dr. Bob, by Samuel Shem and Janet Surrey. The award-winning play plumbs the fascinating chemistry between these very different men, one of whom was a doctor in Ohio and the other a New York stockbroker. AA was born after the two men “ended up in the same hotel room and started chatting,” Burke said. Their wives created Al-Anon. Bill W. and Dr. Bob fulfills the bill for the season’s socially conscious play. It will run from September 13 to 29.

The Outgoing Tide, May 31-June 16, Thursday-Saturday 8 p.m./$35, Sunday 2 p.m./$30, Shadowland Theatre, 157 Canal Street, Ellenville; (845) 647-5511, www.shadowlandtheatre.org.