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The first thing that comes to mind when hearing “Van Choc Straw” probably isn’t family ties. In fact, it may sound a bit strange, but some may be able to make the vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, Neapolitan ice cream flavor-connection.
Ice cream aside, one would probably never guess that Los Alamos Little Theatre’s latest production goes by that name. The flyer description says it’s a “comedic tale about tenuous family ties and the often stronger bonds of friendship that lattice the final years of our lives.”
Consequently, family ties are not just part of the story line. They are a real-life factor in the production of “Van Choc Straw.” Mimi Adams is directing the play written by her friend, Mark Dunn, while her son, Sequoyah Adams-Rice, is serving as the assistant director and co-stage manager.
His role in the production is to walk the set and “get to know it.” He makes sure that everything runs smoothly. In addition, he sets up the stage and makes sure the props are where they should be.
“It’s really neat to be able to direct a play by someone I know,” Adams said.
Adams, who has been involved with LALT for seven years, has directed three plays for the regular season and one workshop production. She first got involved with LALT as a member of the stage crew, working on “How to Eat Like a Child.”
Adams said the process for putting together “Van Choc Straw” began in mid-November, with a few read-throughs, then rehearsals began after the New Year.
The cast is a mixed bag. Most are LALT veterans, but there are some new faces, as well. Stephen Fassel will portray Leif; Gwen Lewis will play Mattie; and Bronwyn Gordon will be Ina.
“Stephen is new and Bronwyn has done stage crew (duties) and was in ‘The Giver,’ (another LALT production),” Adams said. “Everyone wanted the part they were absolutely perfect in.”
As with any production, the potential for problems is always there, but it seems the obstacles they have faced with “Van Choc Straw” arose early. Adams said that she had some difficulty in recruiting the crew. They were unable to find a male to audition for the role of Leif, but after some searching, Fassel came through.
Also, in order to be able to propose “Van Choc Straw” to the LALT board for consideration for the season, Adams needed to have a producer in place — which she did not. John Gustafson, another LALT veteran, told Adams that she could use him as the producer, so she could submit her proposal. It was supposed to be a temporary fix until she found someone else, but that never happened, so Gustafson assumed the role.
“I adore John,” Adams said.
Gustafson and Adams have known each other for a while, but he’s never worked for her before this production.
“I have not produced a show for Mimi,” Gustafson said. He explained that his role as producer is to try and figure out what Adams needs from him and deliver that.
“I line up all the crew heads and turn them loose. If I get them filled in all the positions, my job is done,” he said.
In addition to having to learn the script for the regular production, the cast also has to learn a condensed version of the play for the American Associaton of Community Theater Fest competition.
“There are four days between the last show and ACCTFest,” John Gustafson said.
On a positive note, Adams said that there is a one-hour script already available, so they don’t have to shorten it themselves.
“The writer shortened it for a radio adaptation,” she said.
Despite the short turn-around time between the production and ACCTFest, Adams is confident that the production will be high-quality and will appeal to the masses.
She said the production is “not boffo humor. It’s really funny. The humor is about the human condition.” She also said the characters can speak to everyone.
“It’s about how people are connected,” she said.
Rice-Adams said the show has a “very interesting take on the characters that works very well … it’s very touching … terrible things can happen and it seems like nothing will work out. In the end, you see that it will work out.”
Gustafson describes it as a “very sweet story.”
Before the show is presented to the public, the crew will get to fine tune it. Dunn, the production’s writer, will attend some of the rehearsals.
Adams said, “it’s kind of cool that the writer will come to some of the rehearsals. I look forward to having him there to see what he thinks.”
The show opens at 7:30 p.m. March 1 and runs at the same time each Friday and Saturday through March 16, with a 2 p.m. matinee March 10 at the theatre, 1670 Nectar St.