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Molly Allen’s ‘On Shaky Ground’ set for Playhouse performance

Producer Ellen Travolta (top center) and the cast of “On Shaky Ground” (from left) Molly Allen, Billy Hultquist, Jack Bannon and Oskar Owens debuted the show in September 2016, and staged it as a benefit reading for Lake City Playhouse earlier this year. Bannon died Wednesday at age 77. (Courtesy photo)
Producer Ellen Travolta (top center) and the cast of “On Shaky Ground” (from left) Molly Allen, Billy Hultquist, Jack Bannon and Oskar Owens debuted the show in September 2016, and staged it as a benefit reading for Lake City Playhouse earlier this year. Bannon died Wednesday at age 77. (Courtesy photo)

A reading of “On Shaky Ground,” an original play written by Spokane radio host Molly Allen, looks to reinforce support for Coeur d’Alene’s Lake City Playhouse.

The show, set for 7:30 p.m. Saturday, reunites the talent behind the play’s sold-out run last fall at Spokane Valley’s Ignite Community Theatre. Allen, co-host of the “Dave, Ken and Molly in the Morning” radio show on 92.9 ZZU, stars in one act of the two-act production. Her stepfather, Jack Bannon, co-stars in the other act, and her mother, Ellen Travolta, will introduce the reading on Saturday night.

The performance is the latest showcase for the revamped Lake City Playhouse. In 2014, the Playhouse merged with Interplayers Theatre in Spokane, and the two theaters operated under the name the Modern Theater. After the Modern Theater Spokane closed in December, the Coeur d’Alene location restored the Lake City Playhouse name.

“Now that Lake City is back to a community theater situation, it really is important to support it,” Allen said.

“On Shaky Ground” is the story of disconnected people forced to communicate after being trapped in their homes following a natural disaster. Act One stars Bannon and Oskar Owens as a grandfather and grandson who have fundamental differences on technology. Act Two stars Allen and Billy Hultquist as a longtime couple on the brink of breakup.

While she has an extensive résumé of local theater projects, Allen had been dormant onstage for a few years. But she wanted to work with her longtime friend, Hultquist, and decided to write a project they could do together.

“I didn’t think of myself as an actress, but being with Billy, it gave me the confidence that I could do it,” Allen said. (She since went on to co-star in “Vayna and Sonia and Masha and Spike,” which just completed its run at Spokane Civic Theatre.)

She wrote Bannon’s part specifically for her stepfather, and the character is based on things she’s witnessed Bannon say and do in real life.

“He doesn’t like gadgets, and he doesn’t like people constantly on their cellphones,” Allen said.

On the original production, Allen enlisted Travolta to produce the show just after finishing the script.

“She calls me impetuous,” Allen said of her mother. “If I want to do something, I want to do something right away. She was so instrumental in getting the show done the right way.”

Travolta didn’t need much convincing. She fell in love with the play on first reading and calls Allen a “brilliant observer” of people and their interactions.

“The show is about communication and relationships – an older man and his grandson, and two lovers breaking up,” Travolta said. “Because of this occurrence, they are forced to stay and work out their problems. It’s poignant, and it’s very funny.”

Troy Nickerson, who serves as the interim artistic director at the Lake City Playhouse, originally directed Act Two of “On Shaky Ground.” He also didn’t need convincing to develop the project with Allen.

“Any time you get to do an original work, it’s a great opportunity,” Nickerson said. “I love her writing anyway. It’s witty and smart and a very dialogue-driven play.”

He said the script lends itself well to the “reader’s theater”-style presentation, and praised the original cast for returning to support the new direction of the Playhouse.

“It really is about saving the Playhouse, and they’ve stepped up generously to help us,” Nickerson said.

Travolta echoed the importance of getting audiences out to support the local arts.

“Theater in general in this area seems to be on shaky ground, so we need to support our community,” Travolta said.


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