Instead of watching actors on the stage, the theatergoers will be surrounded by the action, as Civic’s Firth J. Chew Studio Theatre is transformed into a VFW bingo hall, complete with real bingo games and real prizes.
Nestled in among the letter and number calling is a story of friendship, said director Scott Doughty. The play, with book by Michael Heitzman and Ilene Reid and music and lyrics by Heitzman, Reid and David Holcenberg, centers on a group of hardcore bingo players, some hard feelings, and a night at the bingo hall that changes it all.
Grudges can begin with the simplest things. For longtime friends Vern (Phedre Burney-Quimby), Honey (Marnie Rorholm), Patsy (Maria Crabb) and Bernice (Janice Abramson), a bingo jackpot is their undoing.
“On a dark and stormy night, truly, they braved the elements to go to their favorite bingo hall,” Doughty said. One of the group took home the top prize and for the next 15 years, it caused a horrible rift. “Tonight is the night they settle that grudge. … This will not be your typical show. It’s something very unique and very special.”
Back at Civic after a decade away, Doughty is directing for the first time on the Civic stage. He left Civic to work with Spokane’s defunct Actors Repertory Theatre, and pursued a graduate degree in directing from the University of Idaho. “Bingo,” he said, is precisely the kind of play he likes to direct.
“It’s silly, it’s fun and … it’s going to be a great night at the theater,” Doughty said.
New to the Civic stage is Moira Moore, as Minnie, and Charles Fletcher, in the dual role of Sam Wonnietski and Frank. Crabb is returning to Civic after 18 years and Abramson, a longtime Civic producer, is returning to acting for the first time after 10 years. They join veterans Burney-Quimby (Miss Mona, “Best Little Whorehouse in Texas”), Rorholm (“A Christmas Carol”) and Laura Chamberlain (“Thoroughly Modern Millie”) as Alison.
Getting ready for the audience participation aspect of “Bingo” has been a part of the rehearsal process, Doughty said. He’s had “hecklers” attend rehearsals to help the cast get ready for anything.
One thing for attendees to know? “When you show up, come ready to play. Dress in bright colors,” Doughty said. “Let them know it’s OK to be talking to the actors and yelling out, trying to win a bingo.”