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Auld Lang Syne KEENE SENTINEL

 

Peterborough Players’ production is part thriller — and BIG part comedy

 

By NICOLE S. COLSON Sentinel Staff | Posted: Thursday, June 21, 2012 12:15 pm

 

Adark and stormy New Year’s Eve. A knock on a lonely widow’s door. She knows him, but he doesn’t know her. She’s called him there for a favor on the most significant night of her life.

 

So begins Jack Neary’s “Auld Lang Syne,” part mystery, part drama and big part comedy, the first production of the 2012 season at Peterborough Players. The play opened Wednesday night to a half-full theater. Adding to the excitement was that it was a world premiere, and the production’s Boston playwright was sitting in the audience.

 

In the play, Mary Antonelli is the old acquaintance who was forgotten, a former schoolmate of Joe LaCedra. But on this night, she doesn’t call him to her home to reminisce. She has a mission, one she’s willing to pay him her life savings for.

 

And she believes Joe, an aging gangster at the bottom of his chain of command, would be the perfect man for the job.

 

We have no idea why this gruff, foul-mouthed man is standing in her living room with snow melting off his winter coat and boots onto the carpet. The suspense builds while waiting for Mary to tell her secret.

 

Joe LaCedra is played by Los Angeles-based Gordon Clapp, best known for his Emmy Award-winning role as detective Greg Medavoy on television’s “NYPD Blue.” Mary Antonelli is played by Kathy Manfre.

 

It’s a tough thing for two actors to carry an entire play — a thriller, at that — but the rapport between these two is riveting. Their banter, complete with flawless and familiar South Boston accents, is reminiscent of “All in the Family’s” Archie and Edith Bunker — but with even stronger language. At one point, Joe even calls Mary “Edith.” He’s the loud, opinionated one and she’s the kindhearted “dizzy broad,” and they develop the same kind of love/hate relationship.

 

It is a story of two vulnerable people brought together under very strange circumstances who form an unlikely bond based on shared experience who, in the process, teach each other how to live. More cannot be revealed, because the story’s strength lies in its surprises.

 

But what can be revealed is although Joe and Mary’s interactions are entertaining, the play deals with many serious themes — life and death, heaven and hell — but in such a way that you can’t help but sit back and enjoy the ride — until the ball drops in Times Square.

 

u “Auld Lang Syne” continues through Sunday, July 1, at Peterborough Players, 55 Hadley Road in Peterborough, with performances at 8 p.m., except Tuesday, June 26, at 7 p.m. and Sunday, June 24, at 8 p.m. and Sunday, July 1, at 4 p.m. Tickets are priced from $37 to $39, and can be ordered by calling 924-7585, or online at Peterboroughplayers.org.