Local acting studio to get 'Out of Sterno'

Palmer Stowe (left), Robin Burke and Laura Artesi “get their girl on” in “Out of Sterno.”

The title of comedian and playwright Deborah Zoe Laufer's 2009 play, "Out of Sterno," could be confusing.

Rather than referring to canned heat, it references a fictional town from which the protagonist flees.

Opening Thursday at the Charleston Acting Studio and Theatre on James Island, the comedy-drama delves into the life of a young woman, Dotty, who happily spends her days as a hausfrau placing smiley faces on hamburgers for her husband, Hamel.

Although for seven years Hamel has forbidden Dotty from leaving the apartment, this doesn't seem to bother her. But as director Robin Burke explains, "After receiving a mysterious phone call from a woman, Dotty finally is forced to leave, and once gone, never looks back. Instead, she befriends and listens to everyone she meets."

Burke also plays multiple roles, including a militant feminist and a pregnant woman.

Sheri Grace Wenger, artistic director of the theater, says, "Parts of the dialogue are hilarious; but the subtext is that the opinion others have of us doesn't matter; it's what we think about ourselves that saves us."

The play stars Laura Artesi as Dotty; Ricky Dunn as Dotty's husband; and Palmer Stowe as Zena, the tough-as-nails beauty parlor owner.

Additional performances are 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and March 3-5 and 10-12 at the theater, 915 Folly Road. Tickets are $17 for adults, $15 for seniors and $10 for students. Call 795-2223 or visit www.midtownproductions.org.

'Fat Pig'

Can any of us admit how we allow the opinions of others to rule our decisions? This is the question posed by playwright Neil LaBute, known for addressing shocking topics that are normally taboo.

First produced off-Broadway in 2004, "Fat Pig" starred Jeremy Piven of the HBO show "Entourage." The Broadway premiere of "Fat Pig" will be in April.

Meanwhile, it opens here Thursday at the Footlight Players Theatre. "Fat Pig" is part of the Late Night at the Footlight series that stages edgy new work.

With "Fat Pig," we enter the life of Tom, a young, hardworking junior executive who has lunch at a crowded cafeteria, where he sits next to Helen, a librarian.

Tom and Helen strike up a conversation and soon begin dating. The only rub is that Helen is extremely overweight. Tom, however, doesn't seem to mind.

But when Carter, a nosy fellow office employee, spots Tom and Helen together at a restaurant, he is disgusted at Helen's obesity. The next day, Carter harshly criticizes her to Tom, whose private life is also of interest to office secretary Jeannie, whom Tom once dated.

Playing Tom is Christian Self.

"I think that Tom truly loves Helen, who also represents proof that he can love a woman who doesn't meet society's traditional standards of beauty," Self says. "However, when he is criticized by his friends for dating Helen, he is embarrassed. If Tom stays with Helen, he will have to change a great deal."

"This play shows the emphasis society places on body images," adds director Robbie Thomas, "making someone's appearance the most important thing."

Playing Helen is Sarah Coe, with Noah Smith as Carter and Sierra Garland as Jeannie.

Additional performances are 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday and March 3-5 at the Footlight Players Theatre, 20 Queen St. Tickets are $10 on Thursdays and $15 on Fridays and Saturdays. Call 722-4487 or visit www.footlightplayers.net.

'Long Time'

If life gives you lemonade when you want orange juice, you must first quench your thirst with the lemonade, and then plant yourself an orange tree, says Joy Vandervort-Cobb, explaining the message of the P.J. Gibson drama "Long Time Since Yesterday."

The show opens Thursday at the College of Charleston.

It is populated by six black women, close college friends who, years later, are unexpectedly reunited when their friend, Jeneen, commits suicide.

Following the funeral, these successful women gather at Jeneen's house, where, through several flashbacks showing Jeneen alive, they ponder the reasons for her death.

"This play is not just for African-Americans nor just for women, says Vandervort-Cobb, who directs the play. "The issues these women discuss are universal."

As Jeneen, Michal (My-kell) Johnson explains: "Although Jeneen is a schoolteacher who is married to a doctor, she feels she has only lived to please her parents and her husband, but has not lived for herself."

Others in the cast are Alanda Parker, Rashida Beach, Liza Dye, Belaun Boston and Martina Kelly.

"Long Time Since Yesterday" will be performed at 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, Feb. 28 and March 1, with a 3 p.m. matinee Feb. 27 at the college's Robinson Theatre.

Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for C of C students, faculty, staff and seniors. Call 953-5604, or purchase at the door.

Reach Dottie Ashley at dottie ashley@gmail.com.