New Comedy Written As Classic Farce To Receive Northeast Premiere, Directed By Newtown Resident
BETHEL — Set in the 1940s, The Mayfair Affair is a richly comic tale of a man desperate to protect his fortune and reputation as threats of dissolution loom over his marriage and his once vast estate. An arts ministry of Walnut Hill Community Church in Bethel, Theater at Walnut Hill will have the honor of giving the farce its Northeast premiere, with four performances scheduled at the end of the month.
Newtown resident Deana Merchant is directing and acting in the production of Joseph Frost’s farce, which she calls “a really cute little comedy of errors and misunderstandings.”
Set in the 1940s, The Mayfair Affair is the story of a John Mayfair, who is desperate to protect his fortune and reputation. As John’s loyal butler, Miles, helps manage an onslaught of opportunists vying for the coveted Mayfair diamond, the one remaining asset in the family, detectives pose as John and his embittered wife, Samantha, in order guard the rare gem, only to reveal a more precious asset in dire need of protection.
“Mr Mayfair goes to his weekend house for an affair,” Ms Merchant explained. “The butler thinks it’s a love affair, but really, people will be there for a big party hosted by Mr Mayfair, who is trying to sell this diamond.
“Of course, there are surprise guests — people from his childhood looking for money and his wife, and of course, she doesn’t know what’s up,” the director continued.
Ms Merchant is playing Cassie Blaylock, one of the detectives hired by Mr Mayfair to keep an eye on the diamond all weekend. Because most of those who have been invited for the weekend haven’t actually met the homeowners, Mr Mayfair has the detectives pose as himself and his wife.
“She is ‘the fake Samantha,’” Ms Merchant says of her character. “She is very serious until the learns the man she is infatuated with also coming to the house that weekend, and then she becomes undone.”
Without giving too much away, Ms Merchant would say that The Mayfair Affair “is a very good story about love and commitment, with some good messages in it, along with comedy and laughter.”
There is, she promises, a happy ending.
For the director, the selection of The Mayfair Affair means she and the cast can focus less on changing scenery and more on their characters.
“We liked that the play has one set,” Ms Merchant said. “Everything takes place in one room, and you can focus on the characters and the actors.”
In addition to Ms Merchant, the cast for the Theater at Walnut Hill production includes Paul Bauman of New Milford, who is also serving as the assistant director; Julie Korogodon of Monroe (also dramaturge); Brookfield residents Rachel Ames, Brianna Bowman, and Bob Williams; Danbury residents Brian DeToma and Darryl Smith; Nik Jericho of Waterbury; and Amy Petrucci of Plymouth.
“We have people who are members of our congregation and members of the community,” Ms Merchant said March 15. Some of those cast in The Mayfair Affair have also acted in other community theater productions, she added, including Town Players of Newtown.
“It’s a beautiful blend of artists coming together,” she said.
Walnut Hill Church has a longstanding theater arts program, the director mentioned. The church is known for its Christmas shows. The Mayfair Affair is the arts ministry’s first foray into a non-holiday offering.
“We merged a few years ago with NewArts,” she said of the Newtown-based company formed in 2013 that provides professional-level activities — primarily full musicals for regional young adults — and interactive learning experiences. “That gave us the idea of how wonderful it would be to open our doors even further.”
The church’s drama team, said Dramaturge Julie Korogodon, “has come together with members of the greater theater community to present this Northeast premiere at a lower cost ticket price in order to welcome the community to the space and offer a fun farce.”
The Christmas shows at Walnut Tree Hill have encompassed dozens of people. The Mayfair Affair involves a cast of ten, which was another reason for Ms Merchant to be happy with the selection of the work.
“From a director’s point of view, that means much less stress,” she said, smiling broadly. “And for our first non-holiday foray — and our first non-musical — we just wanted to something different.
“We think everyone will be very happy with this.”
Performances of The Mayfair Affair are scheduled for Friday, March 29, at 7 pm; Saturday, March 30, at 3 and 7 pm; and Sunday, March 31, at 3 pm.
Walnut Hill Community Church is at 156 Walnut Hill Road in Bethel.
Opening night offers complimentary childcare to patrons with children K-6. Registration online at time of ticket purchase is required, as space is limited.
An optional audience/cast talkback will follow the Saturday matinee performance on March 30.
Tickets are $12 general admission. The performance runs approximately two hours, with a 15-minute intermission.
For tickets and more information, visit walnuthillcc.org/the-mayfair-affair.
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