WILLIAMSVILLE — Rock River Players is finally getting to put on its newest production, “The Front Page,” a play full of detestable characters and nonstop laughs.
Bahman Mahdavi, director, said the group started preparing the show in September 2019 and was hitting a stride until rehearsals came to grinding halt when the COVID-19 pandemic hit in early 2020. Rehearsals started back up again in June, with some of the same cast members. Some were no longer available.
Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur’s “The Front Page” is a screwball comedy taking place in 1928 in a newsroom in a Chicago criminal court, where a man on death row escapes hours before his execution. The local show is being put on in Williamsville Hall, which was built in 1910.
Mahdavi said the cast of about 20 locals, mostly from the West River Valley, is larger than usual. Rock River Players’ first production, “Our Town,” came out in 2015 and that, too, had a large cast. The group also puts on cabarets and talent shows.
“Anyone who has an idea, we’re happy to try to make it happen,” said Mahdavi, who first started acting with Rock River Players before deciding he would like to direct.
Madhavi said the fast-paced story accelerates in roughly real time and includes “sensational journalists, opportunistic politicians, crooked cops, manipulative news editors and characters who wouldn’t be characterized as good guys.” He noted they all talk fast, similar to movies from that era.
John Moran, who plays an editor, said one subplot involves his character trying not to let a star reporter leave his job in the most amoral ways possible. He suggested the play will be especially enjoyed by reporters and politicians.
Moran, formerly a state representative for the Windham-Bennington district, has gotten back into community theater.
“This group has done some really good plays,” he said.
Mahdavi’s biggest challenge in community theater is enlisting volunteers. Some of the actors have lots of experience and others are first-timers. Rehearsals occur twice a week.
Madhavi said he’s seeing a lot “synergy” on stage. He credits the actors’ passion and dedication to the show.
“Things just fell into place, much to my delight,” he said.
Usually, the hall can host about 40 audience members. Due to COVID, shows are being capped at 40 attendees, who must wear masks and show proof of vaccination. The cast is fully vaccinated.
For this week and next week, Friday and Saturday performances start at 7 p.m. Sunday shows begin at 2:30. Tickets can be purchased at the show or at rockriverplayers.org/front-page for $10 each. Students and seniors pay $8.