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Sisters discover world outside their soup kitchen in ‘Seeds of Change’

Thu., May 9, 2013

From left, Marie Caprile, Mary Starkey and Kathie Doyle-Lipe rehearse a scene from Interplayers’ production of “Seeds of Change.” (Colin Mulvany)
From left, Marie Caprile, Mary Starkey and Kathie Doyle-Lipe rehearse a scene from Interplayers’ production of “Seeds of Change.” (Colin Mulvany)

The Miller sisters are a little behind the times. Brought up in the evangelical Nazarene church, Joy, Faith and Chastity are starting to get on in their years but have sheltered themselves from the modern world, operating a rundown soup kitchen and still adhering to their religious beliefs.

That’s the set-up for “Seeds of Change,” a two-act comedy by local playwright Craig Rickett, which is making its world premiere at Interplayers Theatre today.

Those changes hinted at in the play’s title are the impetus of its fish-out-of-water humor, as a new neighbor moves in down the hall from the sisters and brings chaos to their previously nondescript existence. Rickett describes the play as a kind of coming-of-age story, but for characters who are well beyond adolescence.

Rickett originally finished writing “Seeds of Change” in 2010, and it was workshopped through a series of public script readings in 2012. But watching the characters actually come to life onstage is a much more gratifying experience.

“You get a greater sense of the comedic potential of the play,” Rickett said. “The actors can bring something to a character that I didn’t see while I was writing. It seems like an entirely new play now.”

His vision has been brought to the stage by director Michael Weaver, who was immediately taken with the story. “I read the script, and I loved it,” Weaver said. “It was hilariously funny, and I loved the concept of the piece, the whole idea of why we change as human beings. I jumped at the chance to get involved.”

Rickett’s script, Weaver said, has found three particularly memorable comedic characters in the conservative Miller sisters. “They don’t dance, they don’t wear makeup, they don’t wear jewelry, and they’re lives are thrown out of whack,” Weaver said. “That’s the basis for great comedy.”

Both Weaver and Rickett have a long history with local theater – Rickett has taught and directed theater at Spokane Falls Community College and also appeared opposite Patty Duke in a production of “The Glass Menagerie” in 1999; Weaver is a former artistic director at Interplayers and has directed and appeared in numerous regional productions.

Weaver recently returned from a national tour of “Fiddler on the Roof,” where he played the Rabbi in 220 performances over nine months. The company performed in a wide variety of venues – from sold-out shows at the Providence (R.I.) Performing Arts Center to a cow barn in Crockett, Texas – but he says the transition back to smaller productions was an easy one.

“I’m used to working with plays on a more intimate level,” he said. “I haven’t directed a play at Interplayers in 10 years, but it’s fun to be back on this stage, working in a space that I know so well.”

Rickett is glad to have Weaver at the helm.

“Michael has a great comedic sense,” he said. “I’ve never seen him make a false move onstage.”

Although Rickett has personal connections with the themes of “Seeds of Change” – he was raised in the Nazarene church but no longer practices the religion – he says that the story is meant to be universal.

“It’s about not using age as an excuse to stop exploring, to take chances and break out of a well-defined shell,” he said. “Audiences can enjoy this as comedy, but they can also think about its underlying issues.”

Weaver points to those underlying issues. “I see it as a story about how people in a strict religious lifestyle deal with the world around them,” Weaver said. “It’s a fun, silly, wacky comedy, but all great comedy is really serious at heart.”

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